Easy-to-Make Sail Bag Purse

20151001_150537I decided to make a new purse. I miss a little variety in my wardrobe now that we live aboard full time.  I don’t have the selection of purses that I had when we had a home with walk-in closets for storage and where leather wouldn’t mold. I liked the purse I had made before, but it was showing wear and tear and was a tad bit small.  So whip up another.  But how about a new design?  How about a changeable handle at least for variety?  Easy enough. The shoulder strap snaps on the hooks in the grommets.  This basic design can be adapted to many sizes and styles.  We are only limited by our ideas!

Sail Bag Shoulder Purse with Changeable Straps


Time:  Estimate 3 hours (planning/cutting/marking – 1 hour,  sewing – 1 hour, and grommets/webbing/snaps – 1 hour)

Cost:  Estimate less than $20 (hooks – $8, webbing ~$5, nickel grommets ~$2, velcro ~$1, sail – free)

Finished unlined bag:   ~10″ h x 10″ w x 2″ base depth

— ~ 1 yard of clean, recycled sail cloth

— Heavy thread (v46 and appropriate needles ~#18)

— 2 – 7/16” grommet sets (size #3) and installation tools

— 1″ webbing 48-55″ long or as desired
— 2 – 1″ snap hooks
— Velcro hook and loop for closure
— Adhesive insignia sail fabric for design and templates as desired

Plan and cut:

1.Using a square or metal measuring stick, cut one piece of webbing ~48 long. (Try measuring across your shoulders or measure a purse strap you like then add about 5″ for the snap ends.) Seal ends with hot knife or fire starter. Use a metal blade putty knife on a safe surface such as marble or wooden cutting board. Ends will be hot for several seconds.

2.  Select an interesting section of recycled sail. Is there a detail that would look interesting on the flap? Is there stitching or a logo or sail number to position on the front of the bag? Will you add a design to the flap?

  1. Cut one rectangular piece of sail cloth the length of the flap, back and front plus hems. 30″ x 11″ is what I used. It is a bit easier if you make a paper pattern. If you don’t cut with the hot knife, use it to carefully seal the edges. (You could cut three pieces and allow for top and bottom seams, but why? With one piece you just sew the hems and side seams, no top and bottom seams. Ok the alternative idea is pictured at the end of this post.)  This size allows for 1/2” side seams, 2” top flap hem, 1″ for the inside edge hem and 2” for the bottom depth. The bag is 8″ high in front. The back is 10″ allowing for the inside opening considering the 1″ grommets at the top.

  2. Mark side seams and hems and 1” at base corners outside the seam allowance with washable pen or chalk.

  3. If you want a pocket, cut 4.5″ x 11”. You can stitch it into two pockets with a line of stitching to divide the pocket.

  4. Cut any design or numbers. Remember to reverse pattern so sticky side is on the back if you mark on the underside of the insignia fabric which has pattern lines (alternatively just lay out the design on the front of the insignia).


  1. Carefully place design on the outside of the bag taking into consideration the side seams, top hem and base depth. With zigzag on widest stitch, “embroider” on design.

8. Add the pocket if desired lining it up at the fold for the bottom. Baste seams in place inside seam allowance. Fold bottom up right sides together (bottom becomes the front inside of the bag. Stitch 1/2” side seams. You could finish the seams with a zigzag, hot knife or trim. The sail cloth doesn’t seem to ravel too much. Stitch down the sides of the top flap 1/2″.20151001_173347

  1. Turn under top flap edge 1”.  Zigzag. (I turn the seams towards the back panel.) Then turn under another 1″. Mark. Stitch from outside before turning bag right side out. I turned in the corners of the front flap as a decorative trim. Allow 1 ¼” to 1 ½” space for grommets. Consider if you need to reinforce the points where the grommets will be either with a piece inside or canvas sewn on the outside which could add design trim. It depends on the section of the sail chosen for that area and how firm it is. I like more than two layers of plain sail to hold the grommets if the fabric is thin.

  2. To stitch corners and add depth: Take corner at diagonal creating a triangle by 1″ beyond the seam. This creates a 2” depth. Mark corners 1” each way if you haven’t already. Carefully line up the angle and stitch across about at 1/2″. You can sew down the corner after gently pushing out the corners to give a bit of stiffness or trim the excess off.

  3. Turn the bag right side out.


  1. Mark grommet placement by measuring the top across about in thirds. (Sailrite offers a pdf with details on installing grommets.)
  2. Use grommet tool/drill bit to mark/cut hole. Need very hard surface if you are hammering the hole with the grommet tool. May need to cut opening with sharp scissors very carefully if a clean hole isn’t punched. Drill tool makes short work of cutting the hole. Insert the male grommet piece with neck from the outside in with the smooth side facing out. Use female circle washer inside. Place on round grommet holder base. Hold grommet tool at base and hammer to turn the male neck center under around the inside washer.

  3. Add snaps to the webbing handle. Turn under the edge. Place both snap female buttons matching on the outside of each end at about 2″. Mark the male inside piece up about 1″ allowing enough space the webbing to go through the snap hook and come up around to snap.

  4. Add a velcro closure to the front flap as desired. This can be the stick on velcro or sewn on velcro.





Here’s an alternative idea if you don’t want the interchangeable strap…Sew on the top flap instead of including it in the one piece construction.  Don’t forget to allow an 1″ for the seam.  Sew the webbing into the seam.  It will look like the small bag in this picture.

20150810_Sail Bags_ABaker



3 thoughts on “Easy-to-Make Sail Bag Purse

    1. Sure, Jamie. Try a marine consignment shop, a sail loft for remnants or check around marinas (especially after storms 🙁 Good luck with your bags. -Annette

Leave a Reply