Flashback: Needlepoint Purse

Flashback: Needlepoint Purse

By Danielle Thompson
I really love the look of vintage needlepoint (especially needlepoint handbags!) from the 50s, 60s, and 70s, and wanted to try my hand at needlepoint myself. So I grabbed some plastic canvas from the craft store, got to stitching, and soon realized: needlepoint is pretty easy! Even the simplest stitches produce a beautiful effect. A lot of people associate ugly designs from the 80s when they think of plastic canvas, but it’s a great way to introduce yourself to the gorgeous world of needlepoint. The canvas is easy to use – it has a large weave so projects work up very fast, and it’s not finicky like fabric canvas can be. I’ve put together a tutorial for making a stylish needlepoint purse with a design that’s a modern twist on this favorite from the past.


(2) 13 1/2″ x 10 1/2″ plastic needlepoint canvas
Plastic canvas needles
Worsted-weight yarn in various colors
(this is a great stash buster)
1″ button cover kit; you’ll be making 3 buttons
Wool felt: (2) 8 3/4″ x 4″ pieces; (2) 13 1/4″ x 8 3/4″ pieces; scraps for felt buttons your choice of colors
Purse handles
See the supplies/resources guide at end of this tutorial for tips to help you find these items.

Download PDF Download the Needlepoint design PDF
Right click to save the PDF to your desktop. Directions on downloading PDFs.


Step 1: Trim your plastic needlepoint canvas down with scissors. For a 13 1/2″ x 10 1/2″ piece, cut off 12 horizontal plastic threads at the bottom and 1 vertical plastic thread off one side. Be careful to cut down the last nubs of plastic fairly close, while being careful not to cut into the next thread. When I made this purse, I cut down my canvas after I finished my needlepoint design – it’s up to you if you want to do it before or after.
Step 2: Get stitching! Only the front panel of the purse is created using needlepoint. You can download the needlepoint design PDF (above). The Continental Tent Stitch and Crossed Corners Cushion Stitch are used. These are very simple stitches. The Crossed Corners Cushion Stitch is great because it covers a large area quickly. And the weave on plastic canvas is so large, the piece works up fairly fast. As you can see, the arrangement of four Crossed Corners Cushion Stitches together creates a pretty pinwheel effect.
Here are some diagrams on ending and starting threads for needlepoint that directly relate to this purse project.
Step 3: Add your felt covered buttons. If you don’t have a button-covering kit, some large-sized vintage buttons would be a pretty addition. Make your buttons according to the instructions in the image above. To attach the buttons to your needlepoint, knot one end of a length of yarn, pull your needle through the middle of one set of four Crossed Corners Cushion Stitches, pull the yarn through the shank of your button, and then insert your needle back into the same hole through the back. Secure your thread and cut. Add three buttons down the front center of the purse.
Step 4: Cut out the remaining pieces of your purse according to the image above.
Step 5: You can choose to back your needlepoint with felt or not, but I thought it was important to protect the back of the piece from whatever you’re putting in your purse. Place your needlepoint backing on top of the wrong side of your needlepoint piece. Anchor the four corners of the backing to your needlepoint piece so that it stays in place while you stitch the two together. Stitch all the way around as shown above. Use a yarn color that blends in well with your plastic canvas. I used blue so that you could see the stitches well for this tutorial, but ended up using a dark brown to match my canvas.
Step 6: Stitch all parts of the bag together as shown in the above image, in this order:

  1. Whipstitch A to B.
  2. Using a running stitch, stitch A to C, C to D, D to E, and then E to A. Leave approximately 1/4″ of a seam allowance (keeping this to the inside of the bag). You could also use a sewing machine to stitch C to D and D to E to save time.
  3. Carefully flip the bag inside out. Whipstitch B to the bottoms of C, D, and E.

Step 7: Attach the purse handles. For the front side of the purse, anchor a length of yarn (use a color that blends in with the color of the purse handle) to the top of the needlepoint panel, loop through one end of the purse handle opening, and then back through the needlepoint canvas. Continue doing this wide whipstitch to connect the two together until you get to the end of the purse handle opening. I wanted the look to be thick, so I doubled my stitches through the weave of the canvas, as shown above.
Step 8: Attach the other purse handle to the back panel. Since it’s the back, I didn’t care too much how it looked so I didn’t double up my stitches. Since the back panel is felt, I wanted to reinforce where the handle will be attached, so I stitched a small piece of plastic canvas to the top using a running stitch, and then attached the handle using a whipstitch (see the above image).
Step 9: Pinch the tops of the side panels and secure with a small stitch. You’re done!
Supplies/Resources Guide:
Plastic canvas (brown): Joann craft store
Wool felt (12″ x 18″) in Butterscotch, Mint, and Grapefruit: Giant Dwarf
Wooden purse handles: Joann craft store (Everything Mary Brand, RN #128183)
Button cover kit: you can find at your local craft store or on Etsy
Stitch Step by Step is a fantastic needlepoint/stitch guidebook
About the Author:
Danielle Thompson is a graphic designer, crafter, blogger, collector, thrifter, and scout of all things vintage. She lives in Atlanta, Ga. with her two boys and husband. You can follow her on her blog, Twitter, and Facebook and see her designs at Kitschy Digitals.

5 thoughts on “Flashback: Needlepoint Purse

  1. Aminah says:

    This is dope! Gonna make one for my sister as bday gift. Thx!

  2. Havok says:

    Ohhhhh so want this! And have to make it for sure! Because who *doesn’t* need a vintage-y purse?!

  3. A Glance Back To The 70s Style - Beauty Crowd says:

    […] The bag of choice in the 70s was large and bold. The needlepoint bag shown below, with its geometric pattern, is fitting of a bag that could have been worn in this period. Create your own following this helpful tutorial from makezine.com. […]

  4. Le joli sac | Vert Cerise says:

    […] tellement il est « joli », que tout est expliqué sur le blog de Craftzine, juste ici, pour le « faire soi-même », que ça n’a pas l’air aussi […]

  5. 10 Unique Needlepoint DIYs | Darby Smart Blog! says:

    […] (via MakeZine) […]

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Haley Pierson-Cox from Red-Handled Scissors is a maker of crafts, a lover of cats, an avid swearing enthusiast, a cross-stitch book author, and a general purveyor of quirk. She's also sometimes an irritable cartoon named Tiny Cranky Haley. https://www.redhandledscissors.com

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