Camera Sly: My DIY Purse Camera Bag

Camera bags aren’t known for being pretty. In the past few years more companies have caught on to the fact that people want stylish bags for their tech gear, but purse camera bags tend to be expensive. If you know how to sew, (or even if you don’t), it’s not hard to adapt a purse into a custom purse camera bag, and that’s exactly what I did this weekend.

How to make your own purse camera bag

Last year I upgraded my camera to a bigger DSLR (a Nikon D7200), but the new one didn’t fit my old camera bag. (If you’re wondering how I took photos of my camera, that’s my smaller old one.) So whenever I needed to take my camera somewhere, I either wrapped it in something and stuffed it in a bag, or cradled it on my lap. It was very awkward, and it made me not want to take my camera anywhere. Thanks to this camera bag insert, now I have a purse camera bag to take it out with me when I need it.

Step one is to find a bag that will fit your camera, plus whatever lenses or other gear you want to put in the bag. I happened to have this big old purse that I haven’t used in forever, but which was the perfect size for my camera.

Step two is to sew an insert for your bag. You can also skip the sewing entirely and buy a camera bag insert, which is a great option if you don’t sew. If you do want to sew your own insert, keep reading. Here’s the insert I sewed for my bag:

How to make your own purse camera bag

This isn’t a full tutorial, for a couple of reasons. For one thing, I made it up as I went along, and designed it to fit my camera and lens situation. Most people probably won’t need the exact dimensions I used, so you can and should adapt the idea to your own needs. I consulted several different tutorials (this one, this one, and this one) to figure out the best way to construct the insert for my purse camera bag, and I’ll give you a rough idea of how I constructed mine, but I didn’t take photos of the process.

For another thing, I only used materials that I happened to have on hand. Several months ago I happened to be near a neighborhood upholstery shop when they were having a sidewalk sale, complete with a big pile of free fabric. I took home a full garbage bag full of batting, and tons of fabric scraps, including a bunch of wool felt. (I kept trying to leave, and they kept urging me to please take more, so I obliged.) The body of the purse insert is made entirely out of batting and wool felt from the free pile, except for the bottom cushion which is made out of 2-inch thick foam. Scavenging for materials is why parts of the insert are slightly different shades of gray. It also means that the one thing I’d change if I were to make another one of these would be to use 1/2-inch or 1-inch foam for the sides and divider, instead of batting.

How to make your own purse camera bag

Basically, I measured the bottom of the bag, and cut a rectangle with those dimensions. Then I cut two long strips to go around the perimeter of that rectangle, with a width of the height of the insert, plus two inches. I sewed the strips together along one long edge, and then the short edges, to make a loop, and inserted a long strip of batting between the two layers. Actually, before I put in the batting I added velcro strips for dividers, and extra pieces of wool for pockets. Then I added the batting, and sewed it in place around the bottom. I sewed the now-padded loop to the bottom rectangle so that the seams would be on the interior of the insert. Next I sewed the bottom cushion. It has the same final dimensions as the bottom insert rectangle, but it has a piece of 2-inch-thick foam inside. Finally, I sewed a divider with the sticky velcro strips on the ends.

How to make your own purse camera bag

It all fits in this purse, and holds my gear perfectly snugly.

How to convert a purse to a camera bag

With the bag closed up, you’d probably have no idea what’s in there unless you tried to pick it up–it’s heavy! So my last piece of advice for making your own purse camera bag is to start with a bag sturdy enough that you can trust it with your camera equipment.

How to make your own purse camera bag

2 thoughts on “Camera Sly: My DIY Purse Camera Bag

  1. Wow, your patience and creativity are so inspiring! And I can’t believe your luck with the fabric scraps! Kuddos to you for waiting to find the perfect project to use that material.
    The result looks so professional, I would totally buy one from you!

    • Thank you so much, Chloe! Oh, and the fabric scraps were from Revive PDX in Kenton, so totally keep an eye out if you’re ever nearby. I still have a bunch, so if you can think of a use, maybe we could collaborate on something 🙂

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