OMG, you guys. This is probably my favorite DIY that I’ve ever done. It’s three of my most favorite things (cats, leather, and purses!) all in one adorable little package. I will say that this is a little more advanced of a sewing project, but I still consider myself a beginner to purse making, so if you don’t feel like an expert either but enjoy a challenge, then you should totally go for it. I mean, look at the results! So worth it.
-2 colors of leather/faux leather for the body of the purse (I chose silver and grey)
-pink and black leather/faux leather for the face and ear details
-standard size zipper (at least 10″ long)
–binder clips (big and small sizes)
-metal ruler and rotary cutter
-leather needle and non-stick sewing foot (the non-stick foot is optional, but it does give a more even stitch)
-craft paper for templates
First you’ll want to make a 9″ wide circle template out of craft paper for the front of your kitty face. Cut out the template and trace half the circle onto another piece of craft paper. Slide the circle straight up 2mm, and finish tracing the circle so you have a circle that is slightly elongated in the center. This will be your back piece, and this extra room is your seam allowance for your zipper so it makes a perfect circle again once the zipper is installed. Mark across your back piece template where the extra 2mm of space is placed (divide it in the middle so an extra 1mm will be on each half once you cut the circle in half). Trace both your templates onto the back of your leather, and use the fabric scissors to cut out your shapes. You’ll cut your back piece in half so you can add your zipper to the middle.
Place your back pieces right side up, and use the fabric glue to lightly glue the edge of the right side of the zipper face down onto the bottom half of your half circle. Try and line up the zipper and leather edge as well as you can. Once the glue dries, use a zipper foot on your sewing machine (with a leather needle) to attach that side of your zipper. Fold back the seam allowance edge of the leather so the zipper is now face up, and lightly glue in place. When the glue dries, sew 1/4″ next to the the zipper to hold that folded-back leather in place so the zipper will lie flat and right side up.
Repeat the process to attach the other side of the zipper in place, and again, sew across the leather 1/4″ from the zipper to keep the seam allowance lying flat. Zip your circle up, and at this point you’ll want to measure this back circle against your front circle and make sure they are the same size. If your back circle comes out a little too tall, just trim the back a bit to match the front circle.
Make a paper triangle template for your ear that is 3″ long at the base and 2″ high. Add an extra 1/2″ of length at the bottom of your triangle for a tab that will be glued onto the inside of your purse. Use this template to cut out four ears from the silver leather (don’t forget to cut two ears backwards if it’s not a symmetrical triangle so they will match up when facing the right way). Cut out two smaller triangles from the pink leather for the inside of your ears (you won’t need extra for a bottom tab on these).
Glue the pink inner ears onto the top of two of your main leather ears, and let the glue dry. Slowly sew around the very outside of the pink leather with your no-slip foot on your sewing machine (this is optional since we already glued it, but I like the look it creates). Glue the matching back of your silver ear in place, and starting above the 1/2″ bottom tab, sew as close to the edge as you can on the left and right sides of your ear. Leave the bottom 1/2″ tab open on the sides and bottom (you’ll see why in a future step).
Using your metal ruler and a rotary cutter, cut a strip of grey leather that is 27.69″ long and 1 3/4″ wide. Why is it 27.69″ long you ask? Well, it’s because our circle is 9″ wide and we are allowing for a 1/4″ seam allowance all the way around the circle. So, our finished circle will be 8 1/2″ wide, and the circumference of an 8 1/2″ circle is 26.69″. We are adding 1″ to that for 1/2″ seam allowance on both sides of our grey strip, and that’s why it’s 27.69″ long. Just measure as close as you can to it and you’ll be fine.
On the wrong side of the leather strip, mark the middle point of your leather strip, and make two 3″ long lines that are both 1/2″ from the center mark (these are where your ears will go). Mark another small vertical line 1″ away from the end of each ear marking (this is where your purse chain loops will go). Use scissors or an X-Acto knife to cut a slit where the ear and chain loops are marked.
To make the chain loops, cut two small strips of grey leather that are 1/4″ wide and 2″ long for the purse chain loops. Fold the strips in half, and sew across the middle of the folded strip to make a loop at the top.
Slide the ears up through each slit until you get to the bottom 1/2″ tab we left unsewn. Fan out the ear tabs against the bottom of the leather strip, and glue in place (you can use large binder clips to hold these in place while the glue dries). Do the same thing you did with the ears by pushing the loop up through the top of the loop slits until only the tabs are sticking out the bottom. Fan out the tabs, and glue those in place on the bottom side as well. In the photo above you can see what the underside of your strip should look like once the tabs are fanned out and glued in place.
To keep the shape of the bag from caving in, we are going to glue a strip of bag stiffener to the inside of our long grey strip. Cut a rectangle from the bag stiffener that is 26.69″ long (again, just measure as close as you can to that) and 1 1/4″ wide. Glue this onto the bottom of your grey strip so that you still have a 1/4″ seam allowance on top and bottom and 1/2″ seam allowance on the left and right sides.
Keeping your grey strip inside out, join the two ends that have your 1/2″ seam allowance, and sew them together. Flatten the seams outward, and sew them down flat (this is the same process we used to flatten the zipper seam allowances as well).
Now that you have the outside circle of your purse complete, take the front silver circle we cut at the beginning and place it face down on top of your inside-out outside grey circle. Use small binder clips to carefully line up the edges of your front and outside pieces, and glue and clip the edges in place. I found it easiest to clip all the way around first and then remove 2-3 clips at a time to add a little glue to the edge before returning the clips.
Once the glue is dry, remove 5-6 clips and put the zipper foot back on your sewing machine. We need to sew all the way around the 1/4″ seam allowance, getting as close to the bag stiffener as we can. This part is a little difficult because the bag stiffener doesn’t have much give (duh!), but it works best to try and flatten out a few inches of the stiffener at a time and then sew that section before readjusting the stiffener and flattening it out again. It feels a bit like you are crushing it, but it’s pretty resilient stuff, and it will bounce back when you are done.
Once you have sewn all the way around it, repeat the process of clipping and gluing with the back side of your bag. Make sure your zipper edges are trimmed and the zipper is placed straight across the back of the bag. You’ll also want to unzip it a few inches so you can get into it to turn it right side out later. This side is the hardest one to sew since the bag is less flexible than it was now that both sides are secured, but keep flattening out the stiffener a few inches at a time, and you can do it! Once the back side is attached, unzip the zipper and flip the bag right side out. Again, it will feel like you are destroying the bag stiffener in the process (and technically you are a little bit), but it will still give your bag a much more sturdy shape in the end.
Once the bag is right side out, you can finish your kitty purse by cutting out and gluing on some eyes, nose, mouth, whiskers—whatever you like! It would also be cute to sew on some of the details with yarn or thread—whatever you like! Once your features are glued, you can add your chain to your chain loops, and you’re done!
I decided to make a grey and silver purse so it would look like my pretty fur girl Charlie, but of course, you can customize the colors to represent any special kitty in your life. Although this is a bit of a challenging project, and it took me a lot of prototypes to figure out the best way to make it, it really was so fun for me to finally get it right.
I did just realize that this should be called a “Leather Cat Purrrr-se DIY,” right? Oh well, at least I got it in there somewhere. Let me know if you make one; I wanna see it! xo. Laura
Credits// Author: Laura Gummerman, Photography: Laura Gummerman & Sarah Rhodes. Photos edited with Stella from The Signature Collection.