This summer I've been seeing all sorts of embroidered tribal and boho-style bags; purses, clutches, totes--you name it. Unfortunately, most of them have been waaaaaayyy out of my price range. And since I almost never use a clutch, can't justify spending that kind of money on a purse that won't really be winter-proof, and already have too many tote bags, I just couldn't bring myself to purchase any of them.
First off: choose your bag! Hobby Lobby has lots of jute, canvas, and burlap bags, clutches, totes, and pouches...and they're sure to be on sale at least once a month. I found the above large clutch there on clearance + sale for $5.99 (originally $13.99)!
Next, choose some colors of felt to use for your design. I wanted bright, almost neon shades for my bag and had most of these colors already in my felt stash. One thing to note--I used the cheap polyester felt as there is nowhere near me to purchase wool felt (I live in a small town with little access to craft supplies, and Hobby Lobby--which is an hour's drive each way--doesn't sell wool felt). The poly felt colors are beautiful, but if you want to make a bag that will hold up to more wear and tear you'll probably want to invest in some wool felt. I rarely carry a clutch (they're too small to hold all the stuff I carry), so I figured I'd only use this bag on the rare special occasion and the lower quality felt would be fine.
Also, now is the time to make sure you have embroidery floss in shades to match each of your colors of felt. I have tons of embroidery floss on hand from various other projects so I was fairly set here. Tip: if you're into neons like I am, you can easily find neon embroidery floss nowadays. The best selection of neon colors I found was from Hobby Lobby in a multi-pack, although Michaels had some as well.
Before cutting any of your felt, figure out what sort of design you want for your bag. I knew I wanted one that would imitate the beautiful embroidered boho designs I've been seeing, so I googled 'boho embroidered bag' and used the images for inspiration. I took a couple of sheets of paper, taped them together and marked out the exact dimensions of the area I wanted to applique, and then sketched out my idea exactly to scale. I then made a few notations for color throughout my 'pattern' for reference, again taking some inspiration from the googled images.
Once the design and color scheme is sorted out begin cutting your elements out of the felt--in my case, flowers, leaves, and vines. You have a couple of options here--you can make a copy of your sketch/design and cut one up to use for pattern pieces, OR you can do what I did: freehand cut out everything. I'll be honest--I really hate dealing with patterns and exact dimensions and perfect lines and whatnot. So I just started cutting out pieces in the basic shapes I was looking for and it worked out fine. I did end up with a few throw-away attempts, but felt is cheap; the key is to have a little extra felt on hand (I only needed about one sheet of each color of felt, but I had two sheets of each color on hand). I also cut out all of the layers for each element all at once--so for the flowers where I wanted each petal to have three colors, I cut out all three layers, and so on for all the flowers and leaves.
Once all your pieces are cut out, start sewing together each individual element--first, stitch together all the layers of each flower petal or leaf, then stitch together all of the completed petals for each individual flower to actually form each whole flower, leaf etc. I used simple whip stitching for all of this; I knew the stitches would be visible so I just tried my best to keep them as evenly spaced as possible. This is supposed to look artisan hand crafted, and the visible stitches add nicely to that effect.
Know that it'll take a little extra time, but stitching all of the layers for each element together before sewing them onto the bag really makes things vastly easier in the end. Complete all of your layered elements before moving onto appliqueing the bag.
Once you have every layered element stitched together, it's time to lay out all of your pieces on the bag and start stitching them down.
I used my original design sketch as a guide to carefully lay out all of my pieces on my bag and make sure I liked the look now that I had it in color. I also used this opportunity to rearrange some of the leaves and vines for a more harmonious play of color.
Big tip: once you have your pieces laid out to your satisfaction, take a picture! I just used my iPhone camera so I'd have the photo handy when I needed it. Once you start stitching your individual pieces to the bag you'll have to remove the loose elements, so having a photo handy to use as a guide makes it much easier to ensure everything is going into the right place as you add and stitch down each new element.
As you start stitching down your pieces you'll want to make sure to first sew down any bottom pieces (pieces that have another piece overlapping on top of them), and then the top pieces (for example, first stitch down the small vine and leaf sticking out from the red flower in the bottom left corner that are under the teal flower bud). Don't forget to stitch down EVERYTHING. Every single thing. And that means Every. Single. Edge. There should be no felt edges left unstitched. This is the tedious part.
Once all of the felt elements are completely stitched down, you can add a little trim to your clutch to jazz it up and give it a more boho feel. I wanted a little trim to demark the area between the lower felt appliques and the burlap upper, so I played around with several colors and trims before finally settling on red pompoms, mini pink pompoms, and silver sequins. I was really torn though--the mini neon yellow pompoms were really calling to me. Tip: the silver sequins and red pompom trim I found with the fabric trims, but the neon pompom trims I found with the scrapbooking supplies.
To attach the trims I again used a simple whipstitch, but kept my stitches small and close together for security and durability. Once all of your trim is sewn down, you're finished! Of course you could also add tassels, or rhinestone chain, or all sorts of other trims. Whatever you want (and can easily be sewn down) goes.
And here is my finished product! (I ironed the top portion of the clutch after I took this photo--you can see that in the pic where the bag is hanging from a white hook. Looks much better after ironing!)
I love all of the colors against the burlap, and I LOVE how the hand stitching gives such an artisan, handcrafted feel to the clutch.
And just so you have an idea of the actual size of this bag (it's definitely a larger clutch), here it is next to my (size 7) shoes and some fun boho bangles for scale. I am definitely not a photo stylist.
Here's one last before & after shot of the bag:
Are you a fan of clutches? Do you like colorful embroidery? Have you ever tried to recreate something for a better price? I'd love to know!
Linking up with:
Friday Finds at Minted Strawberry
Link Party Palooza at Tatertots and Jello
The Creative Corner at Curly Crafty Mom
Fabulous Party at Lou Lou Girls
Show and Tell Link Party at Flamingo Toes
Worthwhile Wednesday at Crafty Allie
Your Whims Wednesday at My Girlish Whims
Idea Box - Thursday Link Party at Mila's Little Things
Frugal Friday at The Shabby Nest
Five Star Frugal at A Tray of Bliss