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Four Purse Projects
Tapestry and Needle/Pin Weaving Techniques

A Beadwrangler Workshop

Wallet Purse

Wallet Purse

Victorian Purse

Victorian Purse

Southwestern Purse

Southwest Purse - Side ASouthwest Purse - Side B

Label Purse

Label Purse

Purses, purses, purses! What is it about little containers that are so mesmerizing? I continue to create new designs for purses, baskets, jars and other containers. I want to share my designs with you. This is just a few of many to come. The instructions are for those who already know how to tapestry weave or needle/pin weave and have some basic experience in beading. The next fiber project I offer will be super easy with no experience necessary. Watch for the Fiber Drum Necklace project coming soon.

Sources for Learning Pin/Needle and Tapestry Weaving Techniques

If you do not know how to needle weave you can teach yourself with the aid of Beads and Threads, a book authored by Diane Fitzgerald and Helen Banes, ISBN 0-9620543-5-6. This book is a melding of beads and fiber through tapestry weaving and has very good instructions. It includes incorporating beads directly onto the warp threads. Beads and Threads can be purchased at most of your local bead and book stores. Threads Magazine published an excellent article in their February/March 1990 issue titled Fiber Jewelry by Susan Pence Beaudry and Helen Banes. This article has step-by-step instructions and graphics to learn needleweaving. Handwoven published an article titled Tapestry Weaving on a Pin Board by Ronnie Bohannan in their March/April 1988 issue. This article gives instructions for making a tapestry belt and those techniques can be used for making purses. Handwoven's article, A Beaded Butterfly Necklace by Lois Fronk, can be found in their May/June 1995 issue. This is a how-to project for needleweaving a butterfly and incorporating beads. Threads Magazine published a how-to article on pin weaving, Making Custom Fabric by Diane Ericson, in their February/March 1994 issue. There are instructions for making a vest using pin weaving techniques and graphics are included. There is also a wonderful out-of-print book titled Shaped Weaving by Nik Krevitsky and Lois Erickson, ISBN 0-442-22321-8 (paperback) and -4 (hardback) that has a wealth of information on needle and finger weaving techniques if you can get your hands on a copy. Handwoven Magazine published two articles in their May/June 1995 issue by fiber artist David Johnson. The first is titled Small Looms to Make or Adapt For Tapestry which includes adapting an inkle loom for tapestry weaving. The second article, How to Weave a Tapestry Pendant, offers many tapestry techniques.

You can also learn these weaving techniques at local organizations such as weaver's guilds, embroider guilds, bead societies and bead stores. If they do not teach these techniques, they can probably offer a source.


I use Silamide thread for all bead embellishment. The Conso thread used for warp threads in your loom can also be used in the strap of the purses. I use fine quality Czechoslovakian and Japanese glass seed beads in my work. Size 11 seed beads were used for the Victorian Purse with the exception of a size 8 where noted. Size 6 and 8 seed beads, 8mm and 12mm beads were used in the strap. Fibers are noted in each purse description. I work with many fibers, some thick and others thin. Most of my pearl cotton is equivalent to DMC 3, 5 and 8. I often use found objects to incorporate into my pieces. I use all kinds of beads in larger sizes including unusual plastic beads and forms if the color is permanent. I use English sharps and beading needles for seed beads. Tapestry needles are used for weaving the fiber. Sewing needles can be used to sew finished woven purse parts together. I use my bead sharps needles size 11 or 12 or size 12 quilting between needles to sew the pieces together; whichever is nearest when I am ready to sew.

Patterns for Weaving Purses

These patterns are basic outlines to use and design your own creations. They are set up for grids with 4 squares to the inch. You can use a grid with more squares per inch for a more intricate pattern, however, it will take longer to weave.

Wallet Purse

The Wallet Purse is a very basic one piece that can be folded into three parts; the back, front and flap. You sew the two sides together up to where the flap starts on each side. Leave the flap open for folding over; the purse will look square. You can use a snap, small frog or other closure. If you attach a button, you will have to plan the button hole slot on your flap prior to weaving. I used pearl cotton and rayons for this purse. If you look at the image of the purse I designed from this pattern, you will see many textures can be achieved on a small surface. I did not want beads on this purse. I wanted all the fiber textures to show. I did not put a closure on the purse. Instead I have a tie tack and two pins available for the closure. The purse has many different visual appearances depending on which one I use. I put the tie tack or pin on the flap only; the weight keeps the purse closed.

Victorian Purse

The Victorian Purse pattern is a more organic shape. I came up with this design after looking at several antique purses in books. Victorian Purse Pattern with flap is also designed to be folded in three parts like the Wallet Purse. The second pattern, Victorian Purse Pattern without flap, is rounded off in an oval shape at the openings and does not need a closure. Look at the image of the purse I made and you will see the rich combination of handspun silk, metallic and rayon yarns combined along with beads that just happily cling to the fiber. If you use the pattern with the flap, you would sew the two sides together after you have finished weaving and leave the flap open. Then you would make a closure just as noted for the Wallet Purse. If you use the pattern without the flap, you could put a snap inside if you wanted or even a zipper; I fiberjest you not. You could leave off the strap and use this little purse inside a larger purse. You would not want to have a lot of wavy bead fringe if you did this. They would catch on everything unless you have a special section for the purse. You could make an edging with the button hole stitch with one or two beads between and keep the thread snug or just leave the beads off and add metallic thread around the edge.

If you look at the two images (front and back) of the purse I made from the Victorian Purse Pattern without flap, you will see the bead fringe has different color combinations on each side. You could wear the purse with either side showing for a variation in colors. Here is an easy formula to follow:

Fringe Formula for Victorian Purse

Imagine you have six seed bead colors to use and we number them Color One through Color Six.

Start your fringe on one side of your purse near the top opening where you stitched the two sides together. Pull your needle (with doubled thread and knotted) through your fiber. Then make a small stitch into the fiber and back out to make sure your thread is set securely in the fiber.

Note: all beads are size 11 except the 1 bead of Color Four which is a size 8 seed bead.

Put on 3 beads of Color One,
2 beads of Color Two,
2 beads of Color Three,
1 bead of Color Four,
2 beads of Color Five,
2 beads of Color Six,
3 beads of Color Four.

Take your needle and go into the fiber on the opposite side of your purse, again near where the two sides are sewn together; make three rows. You are actually making the fringe wrap around the area where you sewed the two pieces of the purse together.

Next make five rows:
3 beads of Color One,
3 beads of Color Two,
3 beads of Color Three,
1 bead of Color Four,
3 beads of Color Five,
3 beads of Color Six,
3 beads of Color Four.

Next make five rows:
3 beads of Color One,
4 beads of Color Two,
4 beads of Color Three,
1 bead of Color Four,
4 beads of Color Five,
4 beads of Color Six,
3 beads of Color Four.

Then make five rows:
3 beads of Color One,
5 beads of Color Two,
5 beads of Color Three,
1 bead of Color Four,
5 beads of Color Five,
5 beads of Color Six,
3 beads of Color Four.

Make five rows:
3 beads of Color One,
6 beads of Color Two,
6 beads of Color Three,
1 bead of Color Four,
6 beads of Color Five,
6 beads of Color Six,
3 beads of Color Four.

Make five rows:
3 beads of Color One,
7 beads of Color Two,
7 beads of Color Three,
1 bead of Color Four,
7 beads of Color Five,
7 beads of Color Six,
3 beads of Color Four.

Make five rows:
3 beads of Color One,
9 beads of Color Two,
9 beads of Color Three,
1 bead of Color Four,
9 beads of Color Five,
9 beads of Color Six,
3 beads of Color Four.

Make three rows:
3 beads of Color One,
11 beads of Color Two,
11 beads of Color Three,
1 bead of Color Four,
11 beads of Color Five,
11 beads of Color Six,
* 3 beads of Color Four.

Make 16 rows
3 beads of Color One,
13 beads of Color Two,
13 beads of Color Three,
1 bead of Color Four,
13 beads of Color Five,
13 beads of Color Six,
3 beads of Color Four.

Now you are three fourths across the bottom of the purse.
Go back up to the asterisk(*) and follow the number of beads to repeat the pattern back up the purse.
Your other choice is to put your fringe on both sides at the same time with two different needles and thread. Work a few rows on one side, then go to the other side and do the same number of rows.

I used fibers as follows: purple silk, lavender mix of rayon and metallics, and a lavender and green mix of rayon and metallics.

Glass bead colors were:
Color One - transparent gray,
Color Two - transparent rainbow sapphire,
Color Three - transparent matte lavender,
Color Four - transparent emerald (peacock) green
Color Five - transparent amethyst rainbow,
Color Six - crystal lined with purple.

Your fringe should be short at the beginning and slowly lengthen as you go towards the middle of the purse ( bottom edge) and then shorten as you go back up the other side. On one side of the purse I back stitched some lavender beads as an outline around the silk fiber to make one focus on the silk. I used a size 8 green seed bead for the middle bead of Color 4. It twinkles through all the rest of the size 11 seed beads in the purse. I also made loops of about 12 matte lavender beads at a time at the opening of the Victorian Purse by going from one side to the other with the groups of beads for accent.

Your will have to adjust your purse fringe depending on how close you space your stitches. You may need more or less rows of one sequence or another. Notice how each side begins and continues with three beads and the rest increase with the exception of Color Four in the middle. I have found this grouping of colors very attractive to the eye. Experiment with different variations in length of fringe and bead combinations.

Strap Formula for Victorian Purse

Start on one side of the purse (where the two pieces are joined next to the opening) with double thread on your needle and string 12 size 6 seed beads, 1 size 8mm bead, 1 size 8 Color Four, 1 size 12mm glass bead, 1 size 8 seed bead , another 8mm purple fossil bead, 15 size 6 seed beads, 1 size 8 green seed bead, 1 size 8mm purple fossil bead, 1 green size 8 seed bead, 15 size 8 seed beads, 1 green size 8, 1 oval size 10mm to 12mm pink glass bead, 1 green size 8 bead, 15 size 6 seed beads, 1 green size 8 seed bead, 1 8mm purple fossil bead, 1 green size 8 seed bead, 15 size 6 seed beads, 1 green size 8 seed bead, 1 purple 8 mm fossil bead, 1 green size 8 seed bead, 110 size 6 seed beads and then start back down the strap with the same equivalent as the beginning side. When you have all the beads on, take your needle into the fiber on the opposite side. Then weave through your fiber until the thread is in tight. I would go back through the strap with double thread two more times if possible for strength if using Silamide thread. If you are using Conso thread that will not be necessary.

Southwestern Purse

This purse has geometric lines that step up and down much like those in some Native American designs. You need to make two pieces and then attach them together. Try one side with gold yarns as major lines and the other side with silver yarns. Then when you make the bead fringe, put silver beads on your fringe on the side with silver and when you work around to the fringe for the other side use gold. You will have a purse with a silver motif on one side and a gold one on the other. You can mix silver and gold beads in your strap with fiber or beads or both. See my Label Purse image for ideas.

Label Purse - The Angel and The Flapper

Look at the two images for my Label Purse. Each side offers a completely unique mood. This purse is not hand woven; it is created with clothing labels. I included it so you could see how various motifs can be combined in one piece. Various fiber techniques can accomplish real mood grabbers. I used the label of a 20's Flapper on one side and the same label on the other side but with an angel label on top of it. By placing the angel label over one of the flappers I keep part of the black lines with the angel motif, thus keeping the color elements on both sides. The side with the angel has silver lined crystal (Color One), opal Ceylon gray (Color Two) and pink transparent rainbow (Color Three) size 11 seed beads; giving a light warm aura. The beads on the side with the Flapper has black opaque (Color Five), gold silver lined (Color Four) and part of the pink transparent rainbow size 11 seed beads; lending a bolder mood. You could easily use two woven pieces with strong motifs and obtain the same results. The Angel Label has gold and silver threads incorporated into the piece and the Flapper has gold threads worked into the label. This all makes the piece very harmonious even though there are two very different themes presented.

Making the Label Purse

First you need to obtain some labels. You will probably have to go to specialty fabric stores or sewing centers that offer lots of classes such as quilting and stitchery. They always seem to have designer labels. You may also find them in fiber related catalogs. If anyone knows of a catalog source please share it with me and I will list it on my web page. The Flapper labels are 2½" long by 2¼" wide and the Angel label is 1¾" long by 1 ¾" wide. I never use a sewing machine; I make everything by hand. That means I don't do linings unless I have to. I have so much electricity in my body I jam all sewing machines I have used. I fiberjest you not. So here is my answer. First I tacked the Angel Label down on top of one of the Flapper Labels. Then I got some fusible interfacing and fused one to the inside of each of the Flapper Labels. Fiber-Do! Lining! Then I bead edged around the Angel Label so it would stick out from the label it was attached to. Next I stitched the two labels together leaving the top open. For the opening you can make a decorative stitch around it and tack down edge of the interfacing at the same time or you can make a bead edging. I used a bead edging stitch; however, you could easily put three size 11 seed beads on doubled thread and go into the front side of the opening and then around to the inside of the opening and back out, then take another three beads and go from front to back making a spiral of three beads around the opening. When finished, take your needle and go to the edge of your labels where they are sewn together and tie off. Next you would make fringe with beads much like the Victorian Purse. The bead fringe is much longer on this purse because each group of beads includes the same number instead of the first and last group staying three beads like those in the Victorian Purse. The longest length at the bottom middle is 13 beads of Colors One through Five. The purse strap is an intermingling of seed beads and larger beads. If you just string a strand of seed beads and then when you get to the second strand stop occasionally and take your needle into the original strand and back out, add a large bead here and there, continue with other strands, pretty soon you will have a designer beaded strap. You could also make fiber straps on any of these purses. You can braid, crochet, knit or macramé straps. I have made several this way and highlighted some with a sprinkling of beads.

If you know how to bead edge stitch you can duplicate my design on the Label Purse by using basic peyote edging with one bead between each stitch. You can learn basic edge stitching on fiber in my book, Medicine Pouch Jewelry ($6.95+$2 S/H). This is a step-by-step book of bead embellishment on fiber for beginners.

Enjoy and experiment! That is what we are all about.


Wallet Purse Needleweaving Pattern Setup
Wallet Purse Pattern

Victorian Purse Closeups
Victorian Purse - Side A Victorian Purse - Side B

Victorian Purse Needleweaving Pattern Setup

With flap
Victorian Purse Pattern with flap

Without flap
Victorian Purse Pattern with no flap

Southwestern Purse Needleweaving Pattern Setup
Southwest Purse Pattern

Label Purse Closeups
Label Purse - Side A Label Purse - Side B

When you make copies of these instructions to share with your friends, please tell them you got them at Beadwrangler's.