The Mama Clutch

Well friends, I’ve been sewing again. It seems that every project motivates me to try something else, and so here I am again with something I made for myself. For Mother’s Day, Jim and the boys gave me a beautiful linen tote bag from Fabric and Handle (they were tipped off, I’ll admit–but the best gift is one you really want, right?). It’s made of dark blue linen, lined with black canvas, and has adjustable leather straps that pop right off when a sippy cup explodes inside your bag and you need to wash it in a hurry. Fantastic, no?

I’ve learned, however, that when schlepping kid gear in a tote bag, it is absolutely essential to have a place inside the bag that is only for mom things. Things like lipstick and a little brush and a phone that one does not want curious, rummaging hands to find or goldfish crumbs to penetrate. And it helps if this little “place” looks nice enough to be used sans tote on the rare occasion that I can leave all the stuff in the car, or even check out for an hour while Jim’s home on the weekend–because who wants to take the time to change bags when you’re on the clock? So I made a spunky little purse for storing my things, and I’m calling it my Mama Clutch.

It’s a fairly basic design, except that it closes with both a snap and a zipper, to keep little hands at bay.

And it’s lined with a contrasting fabric (just for fun) and features two pockets for credit cards, so that you can leave your wallet at home as well.

The best part, though, is that it’s fun and pretty, and pulling it out to easily find a clean tube of lip gloss is SO much more satisfying that rummaging for ten minutes in blazing heat, only to find that you’ve lost the top to the gloss and sticky, slimy goo is smeared all over the bottom of your bag, not to mention that the remaining lipstick has been hopelessly glutted with crumbs. Perhaps your life is not like this, but mine is, and so I’m loving this cute new clutch and the beautiful bag that contains it. I love it so much, in fact, that I made a few extra for some special friends who celebrated their mutual birthday this weekend. And more are in the hopper. Hopefully my friends will enjoy them as much as I have.

Now, before I move on to the tutorial, a final note. Given that this is a “Mama Clutch,” and intended to live inside a diaper bag, and given that the diaper bag tends to be the epicenter of all kid-gear disasters, I wanted to make it virtually indestructible. To that end, I purchased an iron-on vinyl adhesive that effectively turns fabric into oilcloth and made my first clutch with a plastic-like exterior. The verdict: not a fan of vinyl. This might have been obvious to you without experimentation, but I was surprised to find that plastic coatings don’t hold up to much maneuvering. One piece became so wrinkled when I turned it inside out that I had to abandon it entirely. And so I decided to can the spill-proof design and go with naked fabric. I’d be curious to know whether oilcloth would have performed better. I’ve never used it. So let me know if you end up with a hardier version of the clutch–I’m always excited to make a project better.

So far, the all-fabric clutch has survived and thrived without hint of stain. And even though it can’t be wiped off, the lack of vinyl makes it machine washable, which is perhaps far better than a coated creation anyway.

And with that, I give you the Mama Clutch tutorial. Read on after the jump (meaning click the text that says “read more” below the StumbleUpon icon) for full instructions.

Happy Monday, friends!

p.s. Fabric and Handle offers my new tote, as well as other designs, in a variety of gorgeous colors. Go poke around on their website–I think you’ll be shocked by how pretty and reasonably priced they are. If you don’t instantly succumb to temptation and buy one, check back. Fabric and Handle just might be appearing here on Growing Home next month with a giveaway!]


1/2 yard outer fabric (I used Moda Its A Hoot Eggs Twill in Cherry from Whipstitch. It doesn’t seem to be available in their Etsy store today, but check with them before you pay more at–I found it at the Atlanta store.
1/2 yard lining contrasting fabric (I used Kona Cotton by Robert Kaufman in Earth, from Whipstitch)
1/4 yard Pellon sew-in stabilizer
1 snap (I couldn’t find a magnetic snap on short notice, but that would be preferable)
9 inch zipper
basic sewing supplies, including a machine with a zipper foot attachment
disappearing ink fabric pen

1. Cut fabric. From each of the two fabrics and the stablizer, cut:
One piece 9.5″W x 7.5″H for the flap
Two pieces 9.5″W x 5.75″H for the body of the clutch
At this point, you should have six pieces of fabric and three pieces of stablizer. Now, from the exterior (cherry) fabric, cut two pieces equal to 4.75″x3.25″ to form the credit card holders.

2. Fold the edges of the pockets up 1/4 inch and press.

With a 1/8 inch seam allowance, stitch the entire outer edge of the pockets.

Pin hemmed pockets onto one 9.5″W x 5.75″H piece of lining fabric, about 3/4 inch from the bottom, and then re-stitch the sides and the bottom (skip the top!) to create two credit card sized pockets. Note: for a more polished look, you could sew only the top edges of the pockets by themselves and then stitch the sides and the bottom directly to the lining fabric the first time.

My way results in a double stitch on the sides and bottom of the pockets, but I figure that I’ll never see that anyway.

2. Now construct the body of the bag and insert the zipper. Make two identical sandwiches from the 9.5″x5.75″ pieces. Each should include one piece of exterior fabric and one piece of lining fabric, with one piece of stabilizer sandwiched in the middle. Wrong sides of fabric should be facing the stabilizer. One of these sandwiches will include the piece of lining fabric to which you just attached pockets.

Line up the two sandwiches so that the two pieces of exterior fabric are facing and pin.

On the long edge that is farthest away from the pockets, machine baste the whole thing together with a seam allowance of approximately 1/2 inch. A basting stitch is a temporary stitch that can be pulled out easily–so don’t worry if it feels loose!

Press open the basted seam.

Open your zipper and place it face down on the pressed seam with the bottom facing away from you. Pin the right side of the zipper to the right seam allowance. The zipper coil should be immediately to the right of the seam.

Using a zipper foot, machine baste the right side of the zipper to the right seam allowance. Then close the zipper and baste the left side of the zipper to the left seam allowance. Here’s how things should look at this point (sorry, you have to strain to see my white basting stitches):

Now, switch back to a straight stitch and, starting about two inches below the zipper pull, sew a rectangle down the length of the zipper, about 1/4 inch below the bottom of the zipper, and up the other side, ending about two inches below the pull.

Next, pull the zipper down about 2.5 inches, pin the top section together, and finish the top half of the rectangle.

Use a pair of scissors to carefully extract the basting stitches and admire your beautifully inserted zipper. Hooray you!

3. Sew the top section of your snap to the right side of your 9.5″W x 7.5″H piece of lining fabric. The snap should be centered width-wise and about two and a half inches from the bottom edge of the fabric. Use a doubled length of thread. I find hand sewing to be an enormous pain, but this doesn’t take very long–and you can park yourself on the sofa to do it!

4. Make a pile of your three flap pieces. Place the right sides of your lining piece (the side with the snap) and your exterior fabric together and place the matching piece of stabilizer on the outside (sandwiching in the snap).

Pin and sew the outer edge of the sandwich with a 1/4 inch seam allowance, leaving a two inch gap in the seam.

Use the gap you left to turn the flap inside out. Pin the unstitched edges inward (to imitate the stitched edge) and press.

Topstitch three sides of the flap with a 1/4 seam allowance. Exclude the side opposite the snap.

Pin the not-topstitched edge (opposite the snap) to the body of the clutch as shown below and sew the two together, creating the final length of topstitching in the process. I wanted my flap to extend all the way to the bottom edge of the clutch, but you can pin yours however you like. I sewed my flap on about 1.5 inches from the zipper.

5. Use your attached flap to measure exactly where the bottom of the snap should go and mark with your disappearing ink fabric pen. See my tiny dot?

Now, pull out your needle and thread again and sew on that silly snap. Breathe. Least favorite part is done:).

6. Stick your flap straight through the open zipper and pin the body pieces of the clutch together, exterior (cherry) pieces facing.

Sew the sides and bottom of the clutch, including the ends of the zipper tape. Adjust seam allowances to match the edges of the flap. You might have to close about an inch of the zipper to sew all the way over the ends of the zipper tape.

Now clip the corners and flip the bag inside out through the open zipper. Hooray! You have a Mama Clutch! Go stuff it with all three or four of the things in your crazy bag that belong to you and you alone, and enjoy it!

I hope that finding a Mama Clutch hiding in your mom bag will bring a welcome moment of calm and happiness to your day this summer. If you make one, I’d love to see it!

Posted by Elisabeth at 10:02 PM
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Labels: bags, diy, sewing, women’s clothes
inthiscityatl said…
Very cute! Have you considered trying indoor/outdoor fabric? Forsyth has some cute ones.

May 23, 2011 10:55 PM
Elisabeth said…
That’s a great idea. It would give the clutch additional stiffness, too–although the stabilizer helps with that. Thanks, J!

May 23, 2011 11:54 PM
Jessica said…
Great looking clutch. I always have one tucked in my diaper bag, but I’m getting sick of mine- you’ve inspired me to make a new one!

May 24, 2011 12:40 PM
Elisabeth said…
I have my material picked out, I will send you a picture as soon as I make mine! (even though I’m not a mommy)

May 24, 2011 4:12 PM
Elisabeth said…
Mine did not turn out quite like yours – the snap was too high -OOPS! I recovered by adding a button, still not quite my favorite, I’ll probably try again.


May 26, 2011 1:57 AM
Suma said…
I’m not a mommy. But I’m surely making this. Thank you for sharing this.

June 6, 2011 3:57 AM
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