Sewing tips

Upcycling Old Raincoat New Purse

When my single-layer raincoat started to fall apart, I knew it was time to retire it. I decided to salvage as much of the fabric, zippers, and other hardware as I could. There was enough exterior fabric to sew a purse. This post describes upcycling an old raincoat into a new purse.

Pink raincoat hanging on a white door
Pink raincoat

Upcycling involves salvaging old materials in order to turn them into something new. It reduces the amount of materials that ends up in the landfill and reduces that amount of new materials that are needed to produce goods. Instead of sending my old raincoat to the landfill, I decided to take it apart, salvage the materials, and sew a purse.

Before I committed to taking my raincoat apart, I needed to make sure I had enough fabric to sew a purse. I expected my single layer coat to contribute the fabric for a purse’s exterior. If the coat you were taking apart had a lining, you could use the coat’s lining for the purse’s interior.

Step 1 Select Pattern

You can use any bag or purse pattern for this project. Compare the area of your coat with the area of your pattern pieces to determine whether or not you have enough fabric. I have sewn several So-Sew-Easy Cross Body bags in different sizes. An 80% size SSE Cross Body Bag pattern best fit the fabric area available in my youth-16 sized coat. I’ve written a 2-part series on how to re-size PDF patterns: Re-sizing PDF Patterns Part 1, Re-sizing PDF Patterns Part 2.

To sew the SSE Cross Body Bag, you will also need interior fabric, fusible fleece, interfacing, zippers and a bag closure. If you want an adjustable strap you’ll need some plastic or metal hardware. You can make a fixed-length strap without any hardware. If you like the style of the SSE Cross Body Bag, but don’t want to sew you own, I have some available for sale in my Etsy Shop: SewnByTanya Etsy Shop

Step 2 Disassemble Coat

For best results when laying out any pattern, you want your fabric to be flat. If your coat is lined, I recommend separating the lining first. You can either cut along the seam lines of your coat or use a sharp pair of seam rippers to rip the seams. Repeat for the coat’s exterior.

Once I got started it was fairly easy to rip the seams. The sections of my coat that were no longer lined were fragile and tended to tear. Similarly sections that had a lot of stitching were also more fragile.

Back and side panels of coat


Step 3 Cutting

I avoided placing my pattern pieces over any damaged sections or previous seam lines.

Interior closeup of pink raincoat with peeling grey waterproofing
Closeup of damaged waterproof lining

I cut my bag front and sides panels from the side and pocket panels of the coat, my bag’s pockets and front flap from the coat’s back panel, and pieced together my bag’s straps from the coat’s sleeves. My raincoat had zippered pockets so I used one of the pocket zippers for the bag’s exterior zipper. I’m saving the hood, main zipper, other pocket zipper and the plastic toggles for other projects.

I used pink broadcloth for the interior and applied fusible fleece to the indicated pieces. I wasn’t sure how well fusible interfacing would stick to the waterproof coating on the inside of my coat fabric so I omitted it from the main pieces.

Pink, white and grey pieces for a purse on a grey background
Materials: Coated nylon (grey), broadcloth (pink) and fusible fleece (white)
Step 4 Exterior Front

I sewed my mini cross body bag with 1/3” seam allowance and top-stitched 1/8” from the seams where indicated in the original instructions.

Pink square front panel on a grey background
Front exterior
Step 5 Exterior Back

My narrow zipper foot made it easy to sew the zipper. I sewed the sides of the zipper pocket before sewing the zipper pocket to the other back panels. This reduced the likelihood of any of the layer slipping out of position.

Square pink back panel on a grey background
Back exterior
Step 6 Front Flap

I used my plinking shears to trim the seam allowance of the front flap. I top-stitched the flap with a ¼” seam allowance and the lining side up so that I could see my flap hardware and stitch slowly near it.

Rounded pink front flap on a grey background
Step 7 Assemble Exterior

I boxed my corners by sewing across the bottom seam, matching the side seams to the bottom seam and then drawing 1.5” long stitching lines across the corners. After I cut the excess fabric from the bottom corners, I zigzagged over the raw edges.


Pink bag exterior with the flap open on a grey background
Completed exterior
Step 8 Interior

I omitted the interior zipper pocket and made 2 interior patch pockets instead. My interior panels were identical but you can omit one or both pockets or place your pockets at different heights.

I used the same method to box the interior corners. You can either leave a turning gap along the bottom seam or baste the centre of the bottom seam with a long stitch. I prefer to baste then rip the stitches when it’s time to turn the bag right sight out.

Pink bag interior on a grey background
Completed interior
Step 9 Strap & Tabs

I cut 4” wide strips from my coat sleeves in order to create a 1” wide adjustable strap and tab. I pieced together the long strip, interfaced the tab and strap, pressed them in half along the long edges, opened them, pressed the long edges along the centre fold line, pressed them in half then sewed along all four edges with a 1/8” seam allowance, beginning with the open edge.

Pink strap with black hardware on a grey background
Adjustable strap
Step 10 Final Assembly

I basted the ends of the tab and strap onto the exterior, placed the exterior into the interior with right sides together and then sewed around the top. I finished my bag with some top-stitching and by using the ladder stitch to close the turning gab.

Here are some photos of my finished bag:

Closed pink purse on a grey background
Front view
Open pink purse on a grey background
Flap open
Back of pink purse shwoing zippered pocket on a grey background
Back view

I successfully upcycled an old raincoat into a new purse. I credit that success to carefully choosing a pattern that would maximize the amount of salvageable material from my rain coat and carefully laying out the pattern pieces to minimize waste. Having to work around the damaged portions of the coat made it a little more time consuming to do so, but I feel it was worthwhile to get the best final product I could. The coated portions of my raincoat were still waterproof, so the panels of my purse are also waterproof. The numerous holes from sewing means the finished product is only water resistant. That being said, it still provides more protection from wet weather than a purse made of untreated fabric would.

Have you upcycled an old raincoat? What did you make? Did you like this upcycling an old raincoat into a new purse post? Comment below and/or Pin me for later!


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