I’ve never been one to take something at face value. I’ve written before about how we can get creative with our clothes – use a hatbox as a handbag, wear a belt as a headband, and dig into your earring collection as a means to spruce up your lapel. And I feel my eyes are always scanning for things to be used in a manner they were potentially never intended.
If you’ve been around the vintage block few times, you’ll notice that a covetable 1950’s wicker handbag in the shape of an adorable animal is known to pop up on occasion. From frogs to monkeys to rabbits, they are ohhhh so amazing and can fetch a hefty price. I love the idea of ladies in the 50’s walking around town with a menagerie on their arms. I’ve been lucky enough to claim a rabbit bag for my very own, but am always keeping an eye out for other whimsical options.
When I spied this wicker elephant on Trove Vintage Boutique‘s Instagram, my first reaction was to gasp; the second was to type faster than my two thumbs had ever flown before to see if she was still available. Thank my lucky stars she was! After Cyrena sent me a few extra photos of the inside, I started to ponder what she actually may have been used as in her former life. She had adorable round handles, but didn’t have a closure the way most handbags do. She had a sizable body cavity the right size for holding a small wallet and lip gloss, but also had an intentional hole where the “mouth” was, making me wonder if she had once been a wine bottle holder or even a planter.
But, my eyes only saw handbag. Was it originally meant to be a bag? Well, that’s completely irrelephant….
Once this beauty arrived and I scoped her out, I knew that turning her into my elephant purse of dreams was only a few stitches away. I just needed a small rectangle of fabric to make a drawstring bag that would sit neatly inside the “body,” letting me store my wares and protecting anything from falling through the hole.
I’ve made drawstring bags in the past, and they’re actually remarkably easy. You just need a small yardage of fabric in a print of your choosing and some medium weight cording. For me, I went with an adorable red and white polka dot print to bring out my elephant’s red-jewels eyes (plus, polka dots are my neutral) and a red cord I from JoAnn Fabrics, and I was off to the races!
To make the bag, I measured the length and width of the bag’s interior compartment and the height I wanted bag to be (remember to leave room for seam allowance!). Then I cut two rectangles out of my fabric and a square out the bottom corner of my two rectangles. This required a small bit of math. I wanted the height my bag to be 10″, the width 6″, and the depth 3.5″. So, I cut two rectangles that were 11 5/8″ x 7 1/4″ (which is the final size I want, plus the 5/8″ seam allowance on each side and the bottom and an extra 1.5″ seam allowance at the top). Next, to get the width and depth of the bag right, the squares need to be 2 1/4″ x 2 1/4″ each (1.5″ + 5/8″ seam allowance). It’s very important that the cutouts be a perfect square.
Once you’ve cut out the bag, you need to put the RIGHT sides of the fabric together and stitch the sides and the bottom together – making sure to start your stitching 1″ down from the top (this becomes important later). Then, you need to pull the corners that aren’t sewn together open, and pull the sewn edges towards one another, essentially so the two edges with your seam allowance are flush. You stitch this using a basic straight stitch and repeat for the other side.
Then, you turn the bag right side in and push the corners out, which should create a nice box shape. Voila! Now it’s starting to look like a bag.
For the drawstring, you then need to fold over the top edge at each side towards the WRONG side (ie, you want the fold to be so the wrong sides are together. Because you started your side stitches 1″ down from the top, this should mean that there’s a gap that allows you to fold down the edge. I folded over 1″ and stitched at 5/8″.
Next, you just have to thread your drawstring through each side. Essentially you take one piece of cording, loop it through one side of your folded over edge, and pull it through. You then thread it through the OTHER side and pull through, so you have both ends of the same piece of cording coming out the same side (see Diagram 1 for how to thread a single cord). You do the same with the second piece of cording, but you start on the OPPOSITE side (ie, your loose cord ends should now be sticking out on the side where you see the curve of the first cord). Once both pieces are through (Diagram 2), you tie a knot and poof! (almost)Instant drawstring bag!
Now that you have your drawstring bag complete, place it inside the body cavity. I opted to lightly stitch my bag in place to keep it all together. I just carefully hand stitched the drawstring bag in between the wicker slats of the elephant (which is also easy to remove at some stage if so desired). When stitching, I made sure to check how much room the bag needed at the top to close fully. What you don’t want is to stitch too close to the drawstring, meaning that when you close it you can pulled damage the bag.
Honestly, I was so happy with how it turned out. I love carrying this little guy around on my arm – he has certainly gotten his fair share of compliments!
So, given all of this dreary rain we’ve been having lately, I decided to just go all out and be a big polka-dotted ray of sunshine. This is my second Hepburn dress from The Pretty Dress Company, and I have to say I’m in love. It’s so nice to have dresses that are warm for winter, but are still exuberant in their print and color. As with my last Hepburn dress, I went with a size UK 10 in this beauty. She felt ever so slightly more snug, but the give in the fabric meant she wasn’t uncomfortable. She was also (as usual) a smidge short waisted on me, but I reached into my collection of belts and was good to go.
I also felt it was the appropriate time to trot out my latest What Katie Did hosiery – I mean, red polka dot seamed tights? Clearly we were meant to be together….
If there’s one thing that I love, it’s when all of the elements come together in an outfit and you just know you’re going to ROCK this day. Meetings? Bring ’em on! Impending grant deadlines? I leave ’em in my wake. Stress and science and student complaints are simply washing off my back today.
Because there is simply no denying that this dress is just so joyful. It’s almost impossible to have a bad day when you are practically exploding into color and sunshine. As one of my colleagues pointed out, I sometimes wear understated colors. But, this particular outfit walks into a room and BAM! WHACKS YOU WITH HAPPY. I’ll take it…
Been whacked with happy today?
Dress: Pretty Dress Company via Unique Vintage
Necklace: gift, Swarovski (similar)
Belt: Altar’d State
Handbag: Trove Vintage (similar here & here)
Tights: What Katie Did
Petticoats: c/o Modern Millie (yellow) & Malco Modes (blue)
Heels: Miss L Fire (similar here & here)