Staci from Fiber Space Designs posted some amazing placemat handbags in the Dollar Store Crafts flickr pool so I just had to ask her for some more info about her creative process in designing handbags with placemats.

But first, the project breakdown! You can make a placemat handbag with one placemat or two (or more, especially if you use another kind of placemat for lining!). You can get handbag handles by purchasing an already-made purse from the dollar store. I bought one the other day that had hoop handles I plan to use on a placemat purse. The handles are made of plastic, and not very fancy, but I thought I could jazz them up by crocheting around them. Just an idea.

Project Materials:

  • Placemat(s), $1-4
  • Handles, $1
  • Ribbon, $1 or on hand

Total cost: $2 and up

And now, the interview:

Where do you get your inspiration for the purses?

I get my inspiration anywhere I can find it, actually. I look at what other crafters are doing, and I look at mass produced bags to understand structure and how the parts go together.  When I see fabric in any form — placemats, sheets, tea towels, table lines, curtains, bandannas, etc. — I think about what it would look like as a bag or some other project. I’m a huge fan of thrift stores — Goodwill is my favorite — and I look for things I can strip for parts. I buy nice wool skirts for my future rugmaking endeavors (I haven’t actually learned how to do that yet, but I’m stashing already!), and I buy wool sweaters for felting. Leather skirts are great, too, for bags and pouches or sometimes for handles or straps — you can also cut up leather belts for that.  And don’t forget to save the zippers if they’re still in good shape. I always skim the scarf bin and the linens. Old prom dresses are good for lining fabrics.  There’s just no end to the things you can do with thrift shop finds! The craft supply table is always my first stop, though. I once got a bag full of 8 skeins of gorgeous Froehlich wolle yarn for $5.00. Retail, it’s about $7/skein. It’s also a good place to scavenge vintage buttons and costume jewelry.

Where do you get your inspiration for the interesting details you add to your purses?

I’m a fan of earthtones and things that are found in nature — shells, wood, bone, stones, etc. — and my friend likes bright colors and flowers so I try to think about what would appeal to lots of different people. There are a lot of teenagers in my life, too, so I try to think of things that appeal to them, as well. If you’ve seen the emo/goth wristlets on my blog or in my flickr page, I guess it’s pretty obvious they were meant for some teenagers.

I also knit, spin, and dye and my husband does knotwork and woodworking, so I get lots of ideas for details.  Using ribbon for handle loops was sort of an accident.  I was making prototype bags and I needed something to make the loops — the only thing I had handy in the right color was ribbon, so I used it, and everyone seemed to like it.  I wouldn’t recommend it for a bag that’s meant for everyday use, though — it’s just not tough enough.

Do you have any advice for working with placemats?

As far as advice for working with placemats, I recommend having different sizes of needles handy for your sewing machine for the different textures and weights of the placemats. I learned my lesson the hard way. I use a heavyweight needle that is meant for denim when I work with placemats. If they are hemmed, I cut the hems off. The seams just become too bulky when you’ve got the placemat and the interfaced lining. I also keep in my car some placemats and lining fabrics that don’t have mates yet. When I shop, I take them into the store with me and use them to find matching placemats and linings.  Be sure to take your receipt with you, though! My local stores all know me now and are used to me doing this, but when I started, I did have to dump out my bags a few times to account for everything! Fabric stores are used to seeing people do this, but dollar stores and thrift shops and other retail places not so much.

Do you have any advice for finding handles?

I’ve been buying my handles at my local Joann Fabrics and I just got a UMX catalog, but I’ve also been know to cannibalize other bags for parts, too.  Someday maybe my husband will have the time to make me some wooden or knotted ones.