Once I’d finished sewing my Janet costume I knew that I also wanted to carry a cactus.
Not just any cactus, though– a cactus-shaped purse. Stylish *and* practical!
While there are a few cactus-shaped purses floating around the internet (some more expensive than others), I didn’t really like any of them– particularly as none featured pots, which I saw as being part of the gimmick– so I had to make my own. I decided to make a barrel-shaped cactus with a drawstring top for maximum storage capacity. Something shaped kind of like this:
I started off with a plastic 5″ pot to form the base of the purse. It was actually hard to find– usual sizes are 4″ (much too small) and 6″ (too big)– but I needed that size because I wanted to be able to fit my phone and a few other bits and pieces inside, but didn’t want it to be too bulky.
I measured the circumference of the top and bottom of the pot (15″ and 12″, respectively) and sketched out a general idea of how I expected the panels to fit together. I figured that with ten ridges to my cactus I would make each of the 20 panels 1″ wide (before seam allowances) at the top, and about .75″ wide at the bottom, curving each panel to emphasize the rounded shape once the drawstring was pulled tight. I eyeballed the height of each panel to be 10″. I added a 5/8″ seam allowance to each side and cut a quick mockup out of some orange felt I had lying around.
Kind of looks like a cacao pod, doesn’t it?
Anyway, the mockup was obviously stiffer than the real fabric would be, but the proportions looked about right so I went ahead.
I took two different colors of green fine-wale corduroy and cut out 20 panels– 10 of each color, with one color cut as mirror images of the other. I trimmed the convex seam allowances with pinking shears for extra texture.
I stitched them together, alternating the direction of the seams to make the accordion-shape I was looking for. The easiest way to do this was to stitch all of the inner curves first to make V-shaped panel pairs, and then stitch the outside curves afterwards. It turned out that the outer seam allowances were too wide at 5/8″ to look good, so I trimmed them down to about 3/8″, which worked a lot better. I trimmed the inner seam allowances down to 1/4″ to make the inside of the bag neater.
While I’d originally planned to simply fold over the top edge of my cactus to make the drawstring channel, the seam allowances complicated matters somewhat. I ended up trimming them down (inside and outside) to a scant 1/4″ before folding the top edge over. Then, to preserve the ridges I machine-stitched the channel only between the outer ridges, backstitching before and after. It was kind of tedious, stopping and starting all the time, but it worked.
Of course, once I’d stitched a channel and run a length of cording through it, the folded-over corduroy was just too bulky to cinch down properly– there was a huge hole in the top of my cactus! Instead I had to stitch thread bars out of green embroidery thread on the inside of the cactus, one on each inward-facing seam allowance, and run the cord through them. That worked better, though the top still was a bit more open than I’d have liked, and it kept falling further open because of the lack of friction between the cord and the thread bars.
But then I was hit with an inspiration– elastic shoelaces! I found the perfect pair on Amazon. They’re basically lengths of paracord with a spring-loaded cord lock to keep them tight– once I’d tightened my drawstring I could just lock it in place and tuck the lock out of sight into the center hole. They were even available in green.
To fit the cactus into my pot I cut out a circle of corduroy and stitched it into the bottom of the cactus, forming a flat base. I trimmed the outside seam allowances down to 1/4″ for the lower half of the cactus– the part that would be covered by the pot– in order to have the cactus fit the inside of the pot more closely. T
hen I used hot glue to attach the bottom and sides of the cactus firmly to the inside of the pot (which also helped enforce the rounded shape of the cactus), and used upholstery thread to stitch through three of the six drainage holes in the pot to fasten it even more securely.
Why only three of the six holes? This particular pot came with a detachable bottom that snapped into the other three drainage holes, so I just popped it back on and my thread was protected from fraying or other damage. I didn’t sew through those holes because I was concerned that the plastic snappy bits would rub against and eventually fray the thread.
And here’s my fully functional cactus purse!