Instructions to Make a Purse With Recycled Metal Tape Measure

tape measure image by Alison Bowden from

Things You'll Need

  • Purse pattern
  • Metal tape measure
  • Scissors
  • Pattern paper
  • Straight ruler
  • French curve ruler (optional)
  • Tape
  • Colored pencil
  • Fabric
  • Scissors
  • Thread
  • Sewing machine
  • Iron
  • Duct tape
  • Handles, sequins, buttons, paint or other decorative elements

Recycle a metal tape measure to make a sturdy closure for your home-sewn purse. The tape measure is hidden by the top seam, but its shape creates a crisp visual line and provides structure for the bag. Heavier tape measures work best for this project; lightweight tape measures produce an effect that is too floppy. For the purse itself, choose sturdier textiles, such as cotton canvas, heavy velvet or corduroy, for durability or more delicate fabrics, such as cotton quilting fabric, for a lightweight look and feel.

Select a purse pattern to modify with the tape measure closure. Look for patterns with long straight openings, such as basic clutch or tote bag shapes. Avoid patterns with flaps that will cover the opening.

Design your own simple purse pattern. Draw back and front purse pieces using pattern paper and straight and curved rulers. Make these pieces exactly the same size and shape with a long opening at the top where you will insert the tape measure closure. Include a 1/2-inch seam allowance all around the bag except at the top, where the seam allowance must be 1/4-inch wider than the tape measure. Add another 1/4-inch to the top seam allowance so that you may fold under the edge of the channel for a neat finish inside the bag.

Modify an existing pattern by using pattern paper and rulers to draw an addition. Measure a seam allowance that gives you space to fold the top seam on both sides of the purse over the tape measure with a 1/4 inch of room and an additional 1/4 inch for folding under the channel for a neat finish inside the bag. Tape this addition to the existing pattern.

Trace the pattern pieces onto the wrong side of the fabric using the colored pencil.

Cut the fabric along the pattern lines.

Sew the top seam of the fabric where you will insert the tape measure. Fold the top edge over 1/4 inch for a neat finish and iron it. Then fold the top seam over so that it will cover the tape measure with 1/4 inch of room. Do not yet insert the tape measure. Sew, then iron the two top seams.

Cut the tape measure to 1 inch less the width of the top seam. Round the edges so that sharp corners will not tear the fabric. Use duct tape to cover the tape measure's cut edges for additional protection against tears.

Insert the two pieces of the tape measure into the channel at the top seams of each side of the bag.

Place the right sides of the bag together and stitch along both sides, using a 1/2-inch seam allowance and being careful not to catch the tape measure in the stitching. Press the seams.

Turn the bag right side out and press. Notice that the tape measure now creates a closure, snapping together when you pull it apart.

Add decorative handles, trims, painted designs, sequins or buttons if desired.


  • Find tape measures to recycle by searching yard sales, old tool boxes and asking friends and family. One tape measure produces plenty of material for several bags.


About the Author

Sarah Lariviere's debut novel The Bad Kid (Simon & Schuster) is a 2017 Edgar Award finalist. She has taken college courses in landscape design and permaculture, and is an avid gardener.

Photo Credits