Caitlyn Handbag

Caitlyn Handbag

Here’s my post on making the Caitlyn Handbag, which I did back in a 2015 bag class at The Presser Foot. This cute little bag was fun to put together! I particularly enjoyed learning how to make the little peek-a-boo pleat details. The pattern is designed to upcycle vintage ties, or can be made with regular woven fabric. For this class, we used the “make new” directions with regular woven fabric. The Caitlyn Handbag is designed by Betz White. I’ve included a photo of the pattern:

Shopping for the fabric

When I shopped for bag fabrics, I found a pretty woven fabric that was mostly green, but there was also a subtle maroon thread in the weave. Green and maroon are on opposite sides of the color wheel, and weaving them together like this created a very interesting sheen. The combination of the color and sheen of this fabric struck me as so pretty! As you can see, I chose it for my main exterior fabric. For the lining fabric I found a floral print linen that picked up both the green and maroon in the main fabric.

Making changes on the fly

Instead of selecting two more contrast fabrics as the pattern says, I used the lining fabric as both of the contrast fabrics and the lining. Mainly I did this because I couldn’t find four different fabrics that I liked with the main fabric and lining I had already chosen! Once I had settled on these two, I just did not want to change the fabric I had already picked out.  I re-imagined the final look in my head while shopping, and re-calculated the right amounts of the fabric I needed. On the original pattern, the top band is a separate contrast fabric. The pleats, flap, and strap are meant to be the same fabric but different from the top band. The lining is meant to be a yet different fabric altogether.

The strap fabric

Comparing the pattern picture to the bag I made, you can see I edited the fabric details on the strap. Instead of the one fabric, I went with both the exterior fabric and the interior fabric. It isn’t difficult to make this small pattern adjustment. So – instead of one length of fabric at 4 inches wide, I used two lengths, each at about 2 and 1/4 inches wide. I used a quarter inch seam allowance when I sewed them together, to end up with the 4 inch width I needed.  Then I proceeded with the directions as printed.

The flap fabric

In the original pattern, the flap is made from the same fabric as the pleats, but I decided to make it out of both the exterior and lining fabrics, just as I did for the strap. This strategy gave the bag a little more visual continuity for the exterior, and the same for the interior. Also, I didn’t edgestitch as the directions said, but instead topstitched in about 3/8 of an inch (or about 1 centimeter). I think I did this to match the topstitching on the pleats.

The pockets

Another detail I changed is that I added a pocket. The pattern has you make one pocket for the lining, but I decided to make two, because I can always use more pockets. I made the second one exactly like the first one, and then just attached each one to a bag lining piece as the directions say. If there had been significant other features inside the bag, I would have let it be. For this bag there was space enough to add in that extra matching pocket.

Thread color

This bag as intended features a lot of visual contrast with the fabric. However, I lost a lot of the visual contrast effect when I reduced my fabric selections from four to two. I decided to add in a little bit of subtle interest with my thread. I used a maroon red thread to pick up the subtle sheen in the green fabric. To find a match, I looked at the cut edge of the fabric to clearly see the red in the weave. I really like how the red thread turned out!

Crop of picture to show contrast thread.
Magnetic snap on short flap

If you look at all the photos above, you can see that the closure inside the flap is actually a large snap – in this case, it’s magnetic. And, you can see in the photo above that the exterior of the flap shows a pretty button. As you’ve probably guessed, that button is decorative! The pattern shows a fabric-covered button, but I found a nice little mother-of-pearl button in my inherited button stash. I decided it had the right combination of colors and sheen to complement my fabric. You could also leave off the decoration entirely.

Where the flap attaches

The flap closure is sewn in at the back, and flips over the top. I found that the flap isn’t large enough to really clear the top of the purse when it’s closed. It presses into the band and squishes the top edge. I had mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, the pressure on the top of the bag gives it an interesting shape. On the other hand…it’s a little harder to close! You have to sort of stabilize the bag and make sure the snaps line up, rather than flipping it closed and having it just magnetically latch. If this were a regular snap, I’m not sure how easy it would be to fasten it.


If I make this bag again, I’ll probably try enlarging the flap pieces and see what it’s like with a little more clearance for the flap. Probably the bag won’t be as fully closed then, but since the bag already has an open top I’m not sure if that would bother me.

Though the highly contrasted look on the pattern is fun, I also like the way it looks with the two fabrics. It looks like the lining itself is peeking through the exterior! I wouldn’t mind a contrasting top band, but only if I found colors and prints that I really liked together. Using the “make do” directions would certainly be a neat way to use up old ties, if you had a stash of them! Overall, I think the Caitlyn Handbag is a very cute bag, it was a pleasure to make, and I would make it again.

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