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DIY Handbag Ideas – 10 Upcycled Bags you can Make Yourself

A lot of the fun of upcycling is seeing what you can transform into something entirely different. These DIY Handbag Ideas have this transformational element in spades. From Leather Boots to Suit Jackets you’ll be amazed what you can make fabulously original and unique handbags out of!

Handbags made from Old Books

clutch made out of an old book
Photo: HGTV

You may wish to debate this one – as in ‘should you really be destroying books to make handbags?’ Discuss.

However, we can imagine a scenario where you spilt a cup of coffee on the pages of an old book but the cover remained in tact…or perhaps a moth, mouse, goat, etc took a bite out of the pages, in which case it only makes sense to try to reuse what’s left.

Okay we’ll leave the moral dilemma on this one to you, but if you love this idea as much as we did, you will want to have a look at the short tutorial video we found from Curbly.

Here’s a hint – it involves a whole lot of fabric glue!

Shirt turned bag

Most shirts on their own will be too thin to make a bag out of, but if you add a lining you can make a cute and light tote bag for your bits and bobs like this lovely donut print bag.

Elizabeth Chaney from @iheartartstudioe made this tote handbag from an old shirt she found at a thrift store for $4.

She loved the print but the shirt didn’t actually fit her. So she took the shirt apart, and cut out the tote sides from the front and back panels of the shirt.

The pieces from the front of the shirt required a seam to create a rectangle large enough for the tote. 

Both sides of the tote are identical, the pockets were cut from the sleeves of the shirt.

Elizabeth already had matching pink cotton fabric in her stash and she used this to create the lining for the bag, pockets and the straps.

The bag measures about 16 inches wide and 13 inches tall. 

We think it is super sweet so we reached out and asked Elizabeth if we could share it – thankfully she said yes so here it is. You can find her on instagram here.

We’ve got lots more DIY Upcycled Tote Bag Ideas here – including another bag made from a man’s shirt!

Football (Soccer Ball) Designer Bag

handbag made from a soccer ball
Photos: PangaeA Bags

Thomas Casadei della Chiesa of PangaeA Bags creates these gorgeous bags from old footballs that aren’t any good for playing with anymore. He gave us an insider look into how they are made in his guest blog which you can find here. It includes an amazing time lapse video of the construction process.

Is this a genuine DIY handbag idea? We are not going to pretend these would be an easy one for you to recreate yourself, but perhaps it will inspire you to put your own twist on it?

Bags MAde from WRAPPERS

tote bag from crisp wrappers
Photo: Still No More

What better upcycle project than to use actual rubbish to make something amazing.

The examples above are candy bar wrappers (the woven one), crisp/chip bags, and the third one is dyed tetra pack packaging.

We thought the first one was especially intriguing, so we had a look to see if we could find someone who could explain how to make the links easily. We found this video by Retro Faerie Craft Tutorials that tells you everything you need to know to get started.

FROM Suit Jacket to HIPSTER BAGs

bag upcycled from a suit jacket
Photo: Pocketo

Who doesn’t love a classic wool or tweed bag? But that fabric if bought new is pretty pricey.

So what a genius idea to reuse old suit jackets as bags, either pretty much in tact – check out the Pocketo example above! – or in pieces, definitely the more subtle and understated way to go with this.

The obvious DIY tip for this is to preserve the pockets as you are cutting your fabric/suit jacket and reuse them in strategic places on your bag. Now all you have to do is convince the husband he won’t wear that one again and he might as well let you cut it up!

Bags Made From Belts

bag made from leather belts
Photo: Ting London
clutch made from leather belts
Photo: Christian pf

If you found a load of old belts in the wardrobe while you were hunting out suit jackets for that last one, you could try using them as the material for your new bag.

To do it use a drill or leather punch to create holes along the edges of your belts so you can sew them together. Then sew or glue a lining to the back side of your belts and use another belt (or two) for the strap.

Bag Made from Leather Boots

how to upcycle a leather boot as a handbag
Photos: Upcycle My Stuff

There are actually a lot of ways you can go with upcycling your boots into handbags.

Depending on the type of leather your boots are made up of you can actually make up to 4 purses or handbags with one pair of boots.

It all depends on what size you want your handbags to be. You can use the long calf section of each boot to make two narrow but long purses – the perfect size for a kindle, iPhone or ladies wallet. Or you could cut along the seam of your two calf pieces and attach them together to make a larger handbag. This method means more tough sewing through leather so we don’t recommend this method if you are working with very thick or rigid leather.

Another ideas is to use one of the calf pieces to make a foldover style purse like we’ve done with the one pictured above – click here for the tutorial.

We are also experimenting with ways to use the shoe part of the boot to make some smaller clutch handbags. But that’s for a future post so make sure to subscribe for updates if you are interested in that one.

Bags made from old Jeans

bucket bag from old blue jeans
Photo: Welke
clutch made of blue jeans
Photo: Jeans Time
bag made of old blue jeans
Photo: JOD

Don’t fancy sewing through leather? Do you think you could handle denim?

There are loads of DIY handbag ideas using denim and old jeans! Who doesn’t have a pair of ripped or ill fitting jeans sitting around they couldn’t try this with?

We even found this site that has measurements for the panels needed to make different shape bags.

So cut your jeans up one seam on each leg, lay them out flat and then cut them as if they were any other fabric.

Denim is strong so you can use it for the straps as well.

You can go patchwork, add some lace, or combine more than one pair of jeans too.

We love the example above from with the two waist bands, which as a bonus means two sets of outer pockets! You could also add a fun print to the lining inside to make it extra unique to you.

You can find our full tutorial for the bag in the top image (with the grey & yellow tree fabric) here – it uses an upcycled leather belt as well as old jeans and scrap fabrics.

You can also find our tutorial for the bag in the last image of a large handbag made from an old denim skirt here.

Coffee Sacs Transformed into bags

coffee sac handbag
Photo: Yo Bag

Coffee Sacs and Burlap are a trendy option these days for a lot of craft projects. And we think these bags look lush.

The trick for these ones is cutting and sewing the sac/burlap so it doesn’t unravel.

Painted Furniture Ideas has some tips for this here.

A lining fabric for these bags is essential and you can find some tips for bag linings and internal bag pockets here.

The bags in the last image were made by a fab upcycling business Moorlands Upcycling. You can find more brilliant upcycling businesses in our Business Directory.

Cardboard Bags!

bag made of cardboard
Photo: Pinterest

We are warning you right now for this DIY handbag idea that if you don’t varnish or otherwise coat this one it will not stand up to the rain! But how fab to make a handbag out of the scads and scads of cardboard that end up in your recycling bin every week?

There is a brilliant how to guide here, although it didn’t mention what kind of varnish to use. We think this one would work.

We reckon you could decoupage these bags as well to make them even more personal and to make them unrecognisable as cardboard. ….So many ideas, so little time!

We hope you’ve enjoyed these DIY Handbag Ideas, if you are looking for more upcycling inspiration check out our bumper post on what upcycling is and what you can upcycle – it’s organised by all the different ‘stuff’ you can upcycle so it’s a great jumping off point for your next project.

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Vicky Wilmot

Wednesday 17th of August 2022

You are so talented thank you for the ideas!??

Kristen Hubert

Tuesday 23rd of August 2022

Glad you liked the post - hope you have fun with the ideas!


Thursday 17th of February 2022

Love some of your ideas for totes!

Kristen Hubert

Tuesday 22nd of February 2022

Thank you!


Thursday 14th of October 2021

I really want to try the belt bag idea. i just need to figure out what I can use for a liner. Thank you for the ideas.

Kristen Hubert

Wednesday 27th of October 2021

Fab! Glad you found something to try!

Marizelle Watridge

Monday 21st of December 2020

Ji there, brilliant ideas you have and sharing with us...just a great thanks! I was wondering if you know how to work with cement bags...I saw products made from cement bags, but I'm unable to find anything to get the last cement washed out & how to upcycle it from there to able to make different bags from it....could you please assist if you have an idea, even if its just about who to contact or a website that could help me with a couple of steps in this process.

Thanks for your help???

Kristen Hubert

Monday 4th of January 2021

Hi, I haven't used cement bags myself but I have a friend who is an expert in all things DIY & cement so she might know - her name is Ellen and she runs Good luck! Kristen


Sunday 4th of October 2020

I love up-cycling too! I up cycle as much as possible. The ball (soccer, football, etc) purses are awesome! This is my first time here, but I will be back. So many fabulous ideas here and on other post of yours that I’ve read.

Kristen Hubert

Sunday 4th of October 2020

Oh fab! So glad you are enjoying the site! You are more than welcome to come back anytime:) Do let me know if you are looking for a tutorial for anything specific and I'll do my best to help!

x Kristen

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