Ugly Thrift Store Skirt into Cute Tote Bag

I found this faux-suede-ish skirt at the Goodwill near my house a few weeks ago, not sure what I would do with it when I got it home. After I washed it, I discovered that it fit alright and debated just cutting off the extra length to make a knee-length pencil skirt and using the excess to make a bag but decided against it. I decided I would never wear it as a skirt because I really don’t actually like the fabric, and there wouldn’t be enough fabric left to make a very big bag.  I thought that the ugly skirt fabric looked great with this bright floral fabric so I scrapped the pencil skirt idea and turned it into a cute tote bag instead.

I began by gathering:

  • skirt ($1 at Goodwill)
  • ~ 1/2 yard floral fabric (~$1.50)
  • scraps of interfacing from previous projects (free!)
  • bag handles (~$3 on sale at the fabric store)

1. The first step was to close up the slit in the back of the skirt, continuing along underneath the original seam. 


2. I then cut off the bottom 1.5 or 2 feet of the skirt, taking into account that the finished bag would wind up shorter after boxing the bottom edges and hemming the top.

Making sure it’s all even
 3. As I ironed out the floral fabric, my little helper decided he’d relax on the skirt fabric.
My constant companion, always finding his way onto my fabric!

After I displaced his little highness, I laid out the skirt fabric and used it as a template to cut a piece of the floral fabric to create the lining.

Measuring up
4. After the floral piece was cut, I turned the skirt inside out so the right sides faced each other, pinned the bottom of the skirt shut, and stitched it up. 

Stitch, stitch

5. Next, I boxed the edges so the bag would wind up with a flat bottom.

6. After the bottoms had been boxed, I moved on to the attachment loops for the handles…but I didn’t feel like making the straps themselves. I remembered I had a set left over from when I bought the materials for this project so pulled them out and kept on going. To make the loops, I cut four small squares from the skirt and four ~1″ wide strips of interfacing to give them some strength and bulk.

Two of the fabric strips
I used the rings on the straps as a guide to make sure the loops were the right width
Stitching up the sides
Securing the ring into the loop

7. Before I stitched the loops and handles to the bag, I ironed interfacing on to the skirt fabric to reinforce it since it’s pretty thin. After I attached the handles to the bag, I was ready to move on to the lining.

Lined and ready to add the handles
Attaching the loops to the bag
8. I then folded the big strip of floral fabric in half with right sides together and stitched up the sides and bottom to create the bag lining, leaving about 4 inches in the middle of the bottom of the bag open (in order to flip the bag right-side out later on).  I boxed these corners, too, so it would fit well within the outer layer of the bag.

It’s even pretty on the wrong side!
9. Once the outer part of the bag and the floral lining were finished, I moved on to the inside pocket. I began by cutting a long strip of the floral fabric and used it as a template to cut a piece of medium-weight interfacing to fit behind it.

The beginning of the pocket flap
After I ironed the interfacing onto the wrong side of the fabric strip, I folded it in half, ironed the crease, and top-stitched just below the crease. I then made a fold a few inches below the crease (see below), pinned along the sides, and stitched up the sides to create a small pocket in the front of the flap.
The beginning of the inner pocket

10. Next, I repeated the step above to create another, larger pocket directly behind the small one. 

Working on pocket #2

The finished version of the pocket flap includes 2 pockets with plenty of excess at the top for stitching it into the bag.

Pretty, floral pocket
10. All that was left to do at this point was to put all 3 pieces together, so I basted them together to make sure everything was situated properly before making it final. So, with right sides together and inside pocket sandwiched between the two layers, I stitched the 3 pieces together.
First, I basted the pocket flap to the inside of the floral lining to keep it in place
I then slipped the floral lining into the skirt fabric, right sides together, and pinned

I basted with orange thread in case things didn’t line up right and I had to rip it out to start over
Finished basting

11. After the bag was basted together, I turned it right side out by pulling the entire bag through the few inches of unstitched (open) fabric at the bottom seam of the inside lining. I found that the lining and pocket flap fit perfectly inside of the outer skirt layer.  So, I pinned up the top edge to go back around and top-stitch around the bag opening, giving it more of a finished look.

Top-stitching to keep everything in place
12. Before I stitched up the hole in the bottom of the floral lining, I added a magnetic snap closure.


All finished! I think this just might be my favorite of all the projects I’ve completed for this blog so far.  Almost two weeks have passed since I made the bag, and I love it even more now. I’m so glad I cut up the ugly skirt instead of trying to force myself to like it!  It’s much better looking as a bag than it ever could have been as a skirt.  I love the look of the floral fabric against the neutral faux suede.

The inside of the bag
Full shot of the inside
Close-up of the pockets
Full shot of the outside of the bag

Time: 3 hours
Cost: ~$6

Thanks for reading about this transformation!


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