Totoro, that fat,happy, animated Miyazaki forest spirit, has always been a favorite of mine. To match my hoodie, beanie, and various stuffed animals, I decided to make a Totoro-themed purse to a hold a Polaroid camera that was recently gifted to me.
I decided to make my purse from upholstery fabric because 1. it’s super durable and looks like leather and 2. it was on sale and I’m cheap.
Going into this project I was a little worried that my sewing machine wouldn’t be able to handle the heavy fabric. Luckily, it managed… but just barely.
I used a magnetic closure that I salvaged off of one of my mom’s old purses. I decided against a zipper because I was feeling a bit lazy that night, and I really hate sewing on zippers!
My plan was to make the purse out of three rectangles: one for the front, a longer one for the back and foldover flap, and then a skinny one in between. I would then line the purse with simple white cotton so all the junky seams and threads would be hidden. This was the plan, but I can’t say I stuck to it all the way.
I wanted the body of the purse to look like Totoro’s tummy and the foldover flap to have Totoro’s face. I had some serious issues sewing on the tummy piece because the fabric had a tendency to shift in place no matter how much I pinned. After seam-ripping twice, I decided to just let the tummy piece be crooked and that I would compensate by sewing the bag at an angle.
The face part went more smoothly, though next time I think I will glue on the face so that the seams won’t show through.
Using some leftover blue chambray scraps, I added an inner pocket that could hold film and extra batteries for my camera. Sadly, I ended up sewing on the pocket upside-down, so there was some more seam-ripping because of that. After properly sewing on the pocket, I thought the back piece was finished. But then I realized to cleanly attach the back piece, the rest of the purse needed to be sandwiched between the back piece and the lining, so once again I had to seam-rip. Oops!
At this point in the process, I was pretty exhausted by all the seam-ripping… and then I realized I forgot to attach the rest of the lining. To save myself some major frustration and my sewing machine some major struggles, I seriously contemplated just not lining the purse. But all the loose threads made the inside of my purse look like a gutted fish! I ended up coming up with a compromise of sorts; I added a lining that did not attach to the back of the purse, so I ended up with another pocket, which was fine by me.
The final step was to add a strap, and once again I had problems with the fabric sliding out of place. I just couldn’t get the pieces to line up properly! In the end, rather than trying to sew together two pieces, I folded an extra wide piece in half and sewed up both sides, which led to a nice, clean result. For maximum security, I attached the strap to the sides of the bag using a box with an X in the middle. My machine was struggling through 3-4 layers of upholstery at this step, so it was really no surprise when the needle fell off. Luckily, it didn’t break and I was able to put it back in and continue sewing.
I am overall pretty pleased with how the purse turned out. It isn’t the super well-made, but it’s cute and functional. I used it on a family beach vacation, and it was easily able to hold my Polaroid, a beach book, and sunglasses. I also didn’t feel too bad throwing it around in the sand because hey, it cost less than 5 dollars!
However, there are also some things I would definitely change the next time I decide to make a purse. First, I would shorten the strap, since the Totoro purse hits a bit lower than I would like. Second, I would plan out the lining better to make the purse look neater overall. Really, just more planning in general because I do despise seam ripping.
I’m excited to see what other purses I can make! I really like how I can customize the size to suit my needs, and Toto’s cute little face just makes me very happy. I had so much fun using both my Totoro purse and the Polaroid during my travels, and I feel rested and rejuvenated for the new year!