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Creativity is in the Bag: Preppy Wave Tucked Handbag

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Wave tucks are a fun and unique way to add a textural focal point to any size bag. Before you start to panic, this technique does not require a bathing suit or a surfboard; all you need is your sewing machine... and a desire for style! First, check out our amazing step-by-step Wave Tuck Tutorial. Then, come back and try out your cool new skills on this very cute, very preppy handbag with its gorgeous contrasting wave tucks on both the front and back.

We chose Michael Miller Fabric's Cotton Couture collection for this project, which features 90 solids in 100% quality cotton. For most of history, cotton has been a luxury fabric, something worth hauling by caravan out of the middle east and all the way to Europe. For some manufacturers, like Michael Miller, cotton is still a luxury fabric. From selecting the cotton variety to processing to dyeing, their goal isn't to make the least expensive fabric possible, but the best. We started with the perfect preppy combo of bright orange and hot pink... or in Cotton Couture language: Tangerine and Fuchsia. Then we paired these solids with one of the popular Michael Miller Ta-Dot prints (Bumblegum).

Our friends at Fat Quarter Shop have a lovely selection of Cotton Couture.

The bag finishes at approximately 10" wide by 8" tall (excluding the handles) with a 3" wide base and sides.

Sewing Tools You Need 

Fabric and Other Supplies

  • TWO coordinating colors from the Cotton Couture collection by Michael Miller Fabricswe used Tangerine and Fuchsia 
    ½ yard of the Tangerine for the main body of the bag and the handles
    ⅓ yard of the Fuchsia for the main body of the bag and the top accent band
  • ½ yard of ONE coordinating print for the bag lining; we used Bubblegum Ta-Dot – Tangerine dots on a Fuchsia background
  • 1¼ yards of 20" SEW IN heavyweight interfacing/stabilizer; we used Pellon Heavy Weight 50 stabilizer
  • 1 yard of ⅜" piping cord
  • One magnetic purse clasp
  • For the optional accent bow: One yard of 1½" wide ribbon, One ½" - ¾" decorative button (we used a rhinestone button for extra bling), seam sealant
  • All purpose thread to coordinate with fabrics
  • See-through ruler
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • Fabric pen or pencil
  • Seam gauge
  • Seam ripper
  • Straight pins
  • Hand sewing needle

Getting Started

The cuts below are listed by the fabrics within our sample. You can certainly substitute your favorite Cotton Couture colors and a coordinating print.  

  1. From the Cotton Couture Tangerine, cut the following:
    TWO 3¼" x 10" rectangles 
    TWO 3¾" x 10" rectangles
    TWO 4½" x 21" rectangles
    SIXTEEN 2" x 10" strips 
  2. From the Cotton Couture Fuchsia, cut the following:
    FOUR 2½" x 14" strips 
    EIGHTEEN 1" x 10" strips
  3. From the MMF Bubblegum Ta Dot, cut the following:
    ONE 8" x 10" rectangle
    TWO 10" x 14" rectangles  
  4. From the heavyweight sew-in interfacing (Pellon 50 in our sample), cut the following:
    FOUR 10" x 14" rectangles
    TWO 1½" x 21" strips
  5. Cut the piping cord into TWO 16" lengths. Wrap a piece of tape around all four raw ends, like the ends of shoelaces.

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

Create the contrasting strip panels

  1. Find all the 10" pieces. Lay them out on your work surface in the following order, working left to right. Each panel (front and back) will use EIGHT 2" Tangerine strips, NINE 1" Fuchsia strips, ONE 3¼" Tangerine block and ONE 3¾" Tangerine block. 
  2. The order is as follows (left to right): 3¼" Tangerine block, 1" Fuchsia strip, 2" Tangerine strip, 1" Fuchsia strip, 2" Tangerine strip, 1" Fuchsia strip, 2" Tangerine strip, 1" Fuchsia strip, 2" Tangerine strip, 1" Fuchsia strip, 2" Tangerine strip, 1" Fuchsia strip, 2" Tangerine strip, 1" Fuchsia strip, 2" Tangerine strip, 1" Fuchsia strip, 2" Tangerine strip, 1" Fuchsia strip, 3¾ Tangerine block.
  3. Place the first two pieces right sides together. Pin and stitch along one 10" side.
  4. Stitch together, using a ¼" seam allowance. 
  5. Repeat to add the remaining 17 pieces together in proper order. 
  6. Press all seams towards the Tangerine.
  7. Repeat with the remaining pieces to create an identical 19-piece seamed panel for the opposite side.

Wave tucks

  1. Pinch and fold along each Tangerine/Fuchsia seam to create a pleat. 
  2. Pin all pleats to the left, securing them at the top and bottom. Press the pleats in place.
  3. Find one of the 10" x 14" interfacing panels.
  4. Lay the pleated and pinned panel on top of the interfacing. Lightly pin the two panels together.
  5. Measure 4½" from the top raw edge and mark a horizontal line. 

    NOTE: We used pins to mark our measurements; you could also use a fabric pen, pencil or chalk. However, you are marking on what will be the exterior of the handbag, so make sure your marks can be easily removed. 
  6. Stitch along the drawn line. 
  7. Remove the pins along the top and bottom and fold the pleats to the right (at the top and the bottom). 
  8. Edgestitch across the entire panel at both the top and bottom to secure the pleats.
  9. Repeat to create matching wave tucks on the remaining exterior panel.
  10. If you are new to making wave tucks, we have a full tutorial here.

Create the bag exterior

  1. Place the wave-tucked front and back exterior pieces right sides together and pin together along both sides and across the bottom. 
  2. Be very careful to precisely match up your wave tuck seam lines, and align the tucks themselves across the bottom as best you can.
  3. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch together along both sides and across the bottom. Remember to pivot at the corners. 
  4. With the exterior bag still wrong side out, the next step is to box the bottom corners.
  5. Using both hands, pinch and pull apart one bottom corner.
  6. As you keep pulling, the fabric will begin to make a little peak with the corner point at the top and the side seam lines running down the middle. Repeat for the opposite corner. 
  7. Our bag is sized to have 3" sides and base. To create this width, you need to figure your boxed corner seam at half that finished width. Therefore, in our sample, we measured 1½" from the tip of each corner peak. 
    NOTE: The corner size is adjustable up or down should you prefer a slightly narrower or fuller handbag. Simply remember the rule about the measurement from the peak being one half the finished width of the corner.
  8. Draw a horizontal line at each side at the 1½" measurement.
  9. Pin your folded peaks and stitch along the drawn lines.
  10. Stitch back and forth along the line two or three times to reinforce. Trim away the peak on each side to about ¼" from the seam line.
  11. Turn right side out and push out to form the boxed corners.
  12. Set the bag exterior aside. 

Create the bag lining and inside pocket

  1. Find the two 10" high x 14" wide lining rectangles (Bubblegum Ta Dot in our sample) and the two remaining 10" x 14" interfacing rectangles.
  2. Place a lining piece right side up on each interfacing piece. Machine or hand baste the two layers together. Set aside. 
  3. Find the 8" high x 10" wide pocket piece. 
  4. Fold in half, right sides together, making it 4" x 10".
  5. Using a ¼" seam allowance, stitch along both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners. 
  6. Leave an approximate 2"-3" opening along the bottom for turning.
  7. Clip corners. Turn right side out. Push out the corners so they are nice and sharp. A chopstick or long knitting needle works well for this.
  8. Fold in the raw edges of the opening so they are flush with the sewn seam. Press well. 
  9. Pin the pocket in place on one 10" x 14" lining piece. The pocket should be centered side to side (3½" from each edge), 2½" from the top and 3" from the bottom. 
  10. Edgestitch the pocket in place along both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners and with a generous backstitch at the beginning and end of the seam, ie. at the pocket top. This is a stress point for the pocket and it's smart to secure the seam well.  
  11. Place the lining piece with the sewn pocket and the second lining piece right sides together, aligning all raw edges. Pin in place along both sides and across the bottom.
  12. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners.
  13. Following the same steps as described above the bag exterior, box the bottom corners of the bag lining.
  14. With the bag exterior right side out and the bag lining wrong side out, insert the lining into the bag exterior. The two are now wrong sides together. Match up all the seams and bottom corners. Set aside.

Create the straps

  1. Find the two 4½" x 21" strap strips (Cotton Couture Tangerine in our sample), the two 1½" x 21" interfacing strips and the two 16" lengths of piping cord.
  2. Press a Tangerine strip in half lengthwise to set a center crease.
  3. Press in each long raw edge ½".  
  4. Unfold flat so all three crease lines are visible. 
  5. Fold the strip right sides together. Measure 3" in from each end and place a pin. 
  6. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch from each pin mark to the end of the strip. So you now have a strip with a 3" seam on each end.
  7. Press the seam open, then continue pressing the length of the strip, following along your original ½" crease lines.
  8. Slip a strip of interfacing inside the strap sleeve. Adjust the interfacing so the ends of it are flush with the ends of the sleeve.
  9. Slip the end of the cording into the sleeve. The end of the cording should be approximately ½" below the seam stop. 
  10. Hand stitch the cording in place. You just need a few tacking stitches.
  11. Repeat to secure the opposite end of the cord in the same manner. Make sure the cord lays flat prior to hand-tacking the second end.
  12. Fold the entire sleeve in half so the folded edges meet. The cording will slide to one side, allowing you to pin the edges together. 
  13. Edgestitch the along the length of the sleeve, starting and stopping at the ends of the cording or approximately 2½" from each end. 
  14. Follow all these steps to create the second strap. 

Create and attach the top accent band

  1. Find the four 2½" x 14" accent band pieces (Cotton Couture Fuchsia in our sample)
  2. Separate the strips into two pairs. Pin each pair together along both 2½" ends to create a loop. Stitch both ends, using a ½" seam allowance. 
  3. Fold up one long raw edge of each loop ½" and press.
  4. Place the loops on your work table with the folded edge down and the raw edge up. 
  5. From each seam (of each loop) measure 1½" to the left of the seam and 1½" to the right of seam. Place a pin at each of these points.
  6. From each pin, measure 1¾" and place another pin.
  7. You should now have four sets of pins along the top raw edge of each loop. These pins are marking the openings that will be left to allow the handles to slip into place.
  8. Place the two loops right sides together, one loop inside the other. Carefully line up the side seams and the sets of pins. Place additional pins to hold the two loops together.
  9. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch the two loops together. Start and stop your seam at either side of each marked handle opening. Remember to lock your stitch.
  10. Find the assemble bag. Slip the accent band over the top raw edge so the accent band's seam sits along the top edge with one folded side of the accent band to the inside and one to the outside. Lightly pin the outside of the band in place.
  11. Find the center front and center back of the bag. Insert one side of the magnetic purse clasp at each of these points, centering the clasp top to bottom within the inside accent band. 
  12. The insertion instructions that come with the magnetic clasps are very easy to follow. In addition, you can look at our Gypsy Romance Hobo Bag tutorial, in which we used them, for additional step-by-step instructions and photos.
  13. Find both finished handles. Spread the bottom flange flat and slip one end into each opening. 
  14. The end of the flange should be inserted approximately ½" - ¾" below the top of the accent band. Pin the handle ends in place. 
  15. Pay attention to the seams of your handles. They should be facing in and the bottom flange seam should be centered within the band opening. 
  16. Hand baste the accent band in place all around. We used a contrasting thread to hand baste the bottom of the band first to the lining and then along the outside. By using the contrasting color and making sure our basting lines matched, it was easier to insure our topstitching would catch both sides.  
  17. Using a contrasting thread (we used Tangerine), topstitch along both the top and the bottom of the band.

    NOTE: We used our Janome walking foot for this step to keep all the layers from shifting. If you have trouble stitching past the magnetic clasp, you can stop the seam on either side of the clasps, then change to a Zipper foot, which will allow you to get closer to the clasps to complete the seam. 

Optional bow

  1. For an ultra preppy look, we made a pretty chartreuse bow with a rhinestone button. We attached a safety pin to the back so the bow could be removable.


Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Debbie Guild


Comments (12)

Diane Tyrrell said:
Diane Tyrrell's picture

I have followed all the directions and measured everything correctly, but when I make the pleats, the side of the bag ends up measuring 12" instead of 14", the size of the interfacing.  what have I done wrong?

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Diane Tyrrell - It is hard to trouble shoot long distance, but it sounds like you are taking up a bit too much with your pleating. Did you check out the wave pleats tutorial as well? I've included the link below. Your 19 strips start out at 32", that reduces to 27.5" after seaming with 1/4" seam allowances. There are then 9 pleats, each of which takes up 1.5" or a total of 13.5", resulting in a finished width of 14". http://www.sew4home.com/tips-resources/sewing-tips-tricks/how-make-wave-...

Diane Tyrrell said:
Diane Tyrrell's picture

I have just ironed all the pleats so that all the fuscia is inside the pleats and only the tangerine is showing.  The next step was to lay in on the interfacing, but the interfacing is 2 inches wider than the fabric.  I measured all the pieces carefully, but it does not come out to the same size as the interfacing.  What could I have done wrong?  Please let me know at DTyrrell1@cox.net

Stephanie F said:
Stephanie F's picture

Very good tut! I am in the middle of making this. I'm just about to make the second panel, and I was wondering if I should flip the tucks in the opposite direction for the other side?

On the cording, it is easier to tape the cord before you cut. Just tape enough cord for both halves, then cut in the middle of the tape. Prevents unraveling that way.

I also wasn't able to figure out how to fit all 6 pieces of interfacing onto one 20" x 36" piece - I ended up having to buy a little more since the pieces for the handles needed to be 21" but the interfacing is only 20" wide.

Thanks again, a really georgeous pattern!

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Stephanie F - glad you're having fun - thanks for your interfacing note, we've adjusted the yardage to add a quarter yard. Yes, the panels are designed to go in opposite directions front and back - you can see that best in the shot at the top that shows the bottom of the bag.

Stephanie F said:
Stephanie F's picture

Thanks for responding! I have the top band pinned in place. But my handles don't look like yours in the picture.

First, the handle instructions do not state to turn the handles right sides out after stitching the 3" ends, before pressing and inserting interfacing and cord, but I assume I need to do so?

Next, in the step where it says to fold the entire handle in half, bringing the folded edges together, which folded edges is it referring to? The inside folded edges where the fabric is turned in 1/2 inch? Or the outer edges - which makes a very tight casing, one I am not sure I can get under the presser foot? Or, am I supposed to match up one inner fold and one outer fold? This seems to be about the same size casing as in your pics, but the ends then don't look like yours. 


Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Stephanie F - I'm sorry, but I'm not quite understanding where things are going wrong for you. You are right, you do need to turn the handle sleeve right side out as shown in the picture. Then follow the steps to insert the interfacing and insert and secure the cord. Then fold the sleeve in half as shown in the picture. I'm sorry the "folded edges" is confusing, I simply wnat you to bring the two outer sides together. As the step says, "The cording will slide to one side, allowing you to pin the edges together." This should also allow you to get the sleeve under your presser foor. You could also switch to a zipper foot to help you get in closer. I hope this helps. Without actually seeing the trouble for specifics like this, it's hard to toubleshoot long distance. 

Stephanie F said:
Stephanie F's picture

Finished it! Love it! I added card slots inside since I don't like to carry a separate wallet.

I ended up having to whip stitch the handle casings by hand - wasn't enough fabric there to do it by machine. I double-checked, and the strips were cut at exactly 4.5" and the raw edges were pressed under 1/2".After pressing it open, the casing was 1.75" wide. The 3/8" cord had a circumfrence of 1.5", so maybe the strip needs to be cut at 5"?

Here are the pics if you'd like to see! Thanks again for sharing the pattern!


sisterchick said:
sisterchick's picture

Sooo cute!!!!  I'm going to give it a try when I have time.  Possible Christmas gifts! :)

jangoins said:
jangoins's picture

I love it! Thanks for sharing such a great tutorial for a fun bag!  I already have plans...