Don’t Toss It! Fun Ideas for Upcycling an Old Handbag

My favorite handbag is a lot like my favorite pair of jeans: It fits comfortably, it holds what I need it to hold and on occasion, I find a bonus five dollar bill tucked in one of the pockets. But for the same reasons I have a hard time getting rid of those super-comfy jeans, I also hesitate to toss my beloved but threadbare handbag in the thrift store pile.

Sure, it may have some worn edges here and there, an impossible-to-scrub-out pen mark across one side and a shoulder strap circa 1983, but darn it, it’s the only thing that I can ever fit my “Costanza wallet” in. And honestly, it’s still a sturdy purse. It just needs a little updating here and there to patch the unsightly bits and bring the style into the present era.

So, after slipping on my favorite jeans, I started tearing through the many odds and ends floating around my house that may be nearing the end of their intended roles, but would be perfect in a second life as a handbag accessory.

From old buttons to ultra-dated pillow covers and even an old necklace, I put several random bits of tired household accumulations to work. In fact, I found so many scraps of awesomeness that I wound up updating a couple of handbags and adding them to my “front of the house” collection—you know, that lineup of purses always near the front door, ready to grab and go at a moment’s notice.

First, the Purse


Here she is, in all her worn out glory.

The first thing that had to go was the strap. After that, I knew I needed to do something about the scuff and pen marks. Fortunately, the stitching on ol’ trusty is still holding up incredibly well, so I didn’t need to break out the canvas stitching needle and thread.

Strappy Style

I considered a couple of different options for this one. First, I tried using a super-long necklace that I love, but never really had a chance to wear.


I loved this look—especially since it involved the chance to put some orange zip ties to use—but the beads can be a little rough on the shoulder, particularly since I often use this purse to carry heavy objects like umbrellas, books, and a laptop. So I went for another update option—in this case, involving an old pillowcase.


Here’s how to make it:

  • Cut the fabric wide enough to cover both sides of the strap and leave a little extra for the seam, long enough to leave about three inches or so extra on either end.
  • Turn the fabric inside-out and either use a strong glue to seal the seam or straight stitch it, leaving the fabric open on both ends.
  • Turn the fabric right-side-out and cover the strap. On this one, I folded the ends over and finished with a big button to cover the final seam.


Voila! I love this, and the fabric actually ties into the idea I had for covering up and updating the purse’s scruffy sides.

Definitely Decoupage

Taking the remaining pillowcase fabric from the strap, I cut out several of the larger floral decorations and set them aside.


Next, I painted the back of each floral fabric piece, along with some scraps of lace curtain panel I had lying around, with a strong glue and carefully placed them around the purse panels.

After letting the panels dry, I covered the whole kit-and-kaboodle with a few coats of waterproof Mod Podge.


Done! The fabric is sturdy, the finish is waterproof and the glue has yet to fail me.

Buttons and Beads

Like I said before, there was one more fun update I couldn’t resist doing on another handbag that I still use pretty frequently.

On a recent trip to an antique store, I found a booth with several mason jars full of old buttons. At $5 each, I felt that I would be remiss as a crafter and occasional stitcher not to buy one… or five. A handful of buttons from one jar resulted in a great update for this slightly dated orange handbag.

I used that same strong glue again to make sure these little bits of flair wouldn’t go anywhere, even if they got rained on and fell down a staircase at the same time.


Try combining these updates in different ways, too. Why not add an old belt and paint the panels before putting on some assorted buttons? Or finishing that fabric strap with a line of buttons along the top?

The ideas are as endless as your creativity—or at least, they’re only limited by the fun randomness you have hiding in your closets, just waiting for the chance to be repurposed!

Kristin Hackler writes about fashion, home and DIY topics for eBay, where you can find a number of handbags (here) to add your own personal flair to. Follow Kristin at eBay and on her blog, Cardboard and Cloth.


natasha p
Past Member about a year ago


Siyus Copetallus
Siyus C3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Jim Ven
Jim V3 years ago

thanks for the article.

Amy Cajamarca
Amy C3 years ago

Good idea

Sherry Kohn
Sherry Kohn3 years ago

Many thanks to you !

Jonathan Harper
Jonathan Harper3 years ago


Rose Becke
Rose B3 years ago


Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill3 years ago


Ba H.
Ba H3 years ago

loved the idea until we got to the weird glued on button pic, thanks

Jim Ven
Jim V3 years ago

thanks for the article.