When Melissa of Melly Sews asked me to consider writing a guest post around the topic of upcycling purse hardware, I had a "why didn't I think of that first" moment! Ever have one of those? Well, it is a great topic, and one that I was excited to write about and share what I discovered with you all. I hope you'll discover a new thing or two by reading my Tips for Upcycling Purse Hardware.
If you enjoy sewing your own bags and purses, then you know all too well how expensive and sometimes difficult it is to find good, quality purse hardware, especially at local stores. This dilemma is what prompted me to begin salvaging good, quality hardware from used purses to upcycle on new bags that I sew.
First of all, where should you look for purse hardware to upcycle?
Here are my three main go-to sources:
The closet. Search your own closet for old purses, bags, and belts that you haven't used in ages. I found this old wooden handle set from a purse that was mine when I was a kid. I traced the old fabric cover and sewed a new, reversible one for my daughter to use with the handles. Read my story about this bag and how I made it HERE.
Thrift stores. Shop thrift stores for inexpensive used purses, bags, and belts. My area has a Goodwill Outlet Store where you sift through giant bins in search of great items and pay by the pound!
Yard sales or estate sales. One man's trash is another man's treasure!
Second, what should you look for when searching for purse hardware to upcycle?
To show you some real examples, I went on a little shopping trip to the Goodwill Outlet Store.
How many reusable hardware components does the bag have for the price? In my case, I was paying for the used bags by the pound, so I stayed away from large, heavy leather/vinyl bags that may have had only one desirable piece of hardware to upcycle. Instead, I searched for lighter weight bags with multiple items such as straps, magnetic snaps, metal rings, zippers, swivel hooks, etc. all on one bag.
Can the hardware be removed easily and quickly? Can the hardware be removed without damaging it? In roughly an hour, I was able to dissemble 6 bags with just the basic tools shown below.
It's important to note that when removing magnetic snaps and twist locks, be extra careful bending the metal prongs that hold these items in place. Make sure you keep them as straight as possible and that you don't forget to save the metal plates that slip over the prongs. As I am removing small pieces like these, I immediately place all the components in small plastic zip lock bags. If I loose a small screw or a metal plate, then the hardware becomes useless.
Here are two examples of bags that could not easily and quickly be dissembled--this woven synthetic bag with vinyl handles and these vinyl straps with metal rings. The bag fabric and vinyl were both too thick and difficult to cut through with regular scissors. Although this bag has several good components that could be reused, it wasn't worth the time and effort to try and salvage them. At some point, my husband may tackle tearing it apart with some more industrial type tools.
Also, I didn't notice at the store that the metal o-rings on this bag feed through two metal grommets. Although I could remove the grommets from the fabric, I will need to use metal snips or some metal cutting tool to remove them. I tried to pry apart the metal ring enough to slip the grommets off, but I was unsuccessful.
What is the condition of the hardware? Does the finish show wear or have scratches? Are there broken threads in the stitching? Can the hardware be cleaned or polished?
Is this hardware necessary for a specific project or is it likely you will actually use it in the future? Honestly, I didn't have any specific projects in mind at the time I shopped for these used bags, but finding some of these hardware pieces made me think of purse patterns that I have not tried that they may work on. Now I have several purse projects on my list of things to make!
The first piece of purse hardware I upcycled from the bags I purchased at the Goodwill Outlet was the black leather strap I used to make my new Echino fabric purse of my own design. Read all about it HERE.
Is the hardware unique or unusual? Sometimes you may find metal hardware in a color or finish that is difficult to find new. Also, consider looking for leather or fabric belts to use for purse straps and handles.
Third, why should you upcycle purse hardware?
Save lots of money. I bought 9 bags, 2 belts, and a strap for $7.14 and recovered over 14 purse hardware items to reuse. I estimate the cost to buy the same hardware items new would have been close to $150!
These last two items (13 and 14) were in excellent condition and could be used as is! My daughter found both of these bags and loves carrying her toys around in the woven basket bag.
More variety. In my experience, you can find varying sizes and styles of latches, magnetic closures, metal rings, leather or vinyl straps and handles, buckles, etc. from used commercially manufactured bags than by buying new purse supplies at local fabric and craft stores. You can also upcycle leather from used handbags to make small wallets, a handle or strap, or other detailing for a new purse.
Helps the environment. By upcycling materials from used purses and bags, you are keeping perfectly good and usable items from being disposed of at the landfill.
It's fun! If you enjoy getting a great bargain or the thrill of the hunt, then you'll have a blast searching for great reusable purse hardware. You might even find a few other amazing treasures along the way. Plus, it's rather therapeutic to tear apart and cut up old bags for their hardware! You also might learn a thing or two about bag construction when you cut into the seams of those commercially manufactured purses!
Have fun sewing!