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Turn a Purse into a Padded Camera Bag


Do you have a digital camera?  Is it a point and shoot?  A DSLR?  Or maybe you still use film?  Or still enjoy your Polaroid camera?


The nice thing about those little point and shoot digital camera’s is that they’re small.  And they fit into a purse/bag easily.  Plus, they don’t require extra lenses and accessories.  However, I don’t use a little point and shoot anymore.  I have a big ‘ol fatty DSLR camera.  It photographs a lot better than my old point and shoot and of course I love how in control I am of my camera.  But………….it’s bulky.  And takes up tons of room.  And I can’t just throw it in my regular purse without being nervous of it being knocked around.  There’s just not enough padding in a regular purse either.  And, well, that’s why they make camera bags.  However, all of the affordable ones seem to lack color.  And design.  I know, there are some seriously darling camera bags out there……but dang it, they are pricey little suckers.  (Most are well over $100)


So I decided to find a clearance purse (I found mine at Target)……..and then added my own camera bag foam inserts.  And saved a few (or, okay, many) dollars.






The insert can be taken out, in case you want your regular old purse back.  But mine is staying put.




Now I don’t have to worry about my poor camera/lenses getting thrown around.




And what’s cool, is that there are little velcro inserts that divide your camera and supplies.  And are adjustable so that you can create the right sized compartments for all of your stuff.  (This concept is not my own.  Many camera bags are made this way.)




And I can move the insert out of the way and still have access to all of the regular pockets for my keys/phone/etc.




Oh, and maybe you’d like to have a camera bag/diaper bag/purse combo??  This bag works for that too.  You can change up your dividers and put all of your regular purse items in one section……but then leave enough room for a padded camera section.  Just change it up how you need it.





Yeah, sometimes I can’t stomach a hefty price-tag.





So I love when it’s something that I can figure out and make work for me.




Do you have a purse you’d like to turn into a camera bag?



**The quantity of your supplies will vary, depending on the size of purse you’re converting.

  • A purse
  • 1/2 inch wide foam (I bought mine at Hancock Fabric.  It cost me $8 for a huge piece.  Probably enough for 3 purses.)
  • Fabric of choice (I used about 1 yard…..and I think I found it at Joann’s)
  • 1 1/2 inch wide industrial velcro (or any width……just make it work)
  • hand sewing needle and thread
  • sewing machine/scissors/thread/etc……..of course.



First, you’ll need a purse.  Use one of your old ones or buy a new one.  You’ll need one that has one large compartment and is a larger in size, if you want to be able to section it off with the dividers.  Or you could use a smaller purse if you just want to add padding to it and forget the dividers.  It’s up to you.


To begin, you need a piece of foam for the bottom of your purse.  Turn your purse over and check out the shape of the bottom of the purse.  Then cut out a piece of 1/4 inch foam (I found mine at Hancock Fabric for about $8 for enough for about 3 purses) that is the same size as the very bottom of your purse.


Then place your foam down inside to make sure it fits.  Adjust if necessary.  Then measure from where the foam is at the bottom of the purse, up to how high you’d like the foam sides to be.  If your purse is nice and tall (like mine is), you may not need the whole height of the purse.  You may just be wasting foam.  All you need is for it to be high enough to protect your camera and lenses. 


I decided I wanted my foam to be about 8 inches tall.


So I cut a strip of foam that was 8 inches tall and was long enough to go around the piece that fits in the bottom of the purse.  Measure around the top of the piece of foam…….not around the sides of it.


Then you’ll have a nice strip of foam that will make the walls of the foam insert.  However, cut about an inch off of one end because after you add the fabric, you’ll be sewing those two ends together with their extra fabric ends.  And you don’t want to have to sew through foam. (This will make more sense in later steps.)


Next, time to cut the fabric.


**You will need to add extra fabric along all the edges to account for the thickness of the foam……so be sure to add a little extra to your seam allowances.


For the bottom piece of foam, you will need 2 layers of fabric that are a 1/2 inch wider than the foam piece, around all edges.  (A 1/4 inch is for the seam allowance and another 1/4 inch is for the foam thickness.)  Just lay the foam down and cut around it.  For the long strip of foam, you can either cut 2 pieces of fabric and sew them together into a strip (but then you’ll have 2 seams) or you can cut one strip of fabric and fold it over into a tube of fabric and sew it, resulting in only one seam.  I only wanted one seam, so since my foam is 8 inches tall and is 1/2 inch thick, I needed my fabric to be 18 inches tall to wrap around the foam. (8 inches tall on the front + 8 inches tall on the back + 1/2 inch foam thickness at the top + 1/2 inch foam thickness at the bottom + 1/2 inch seam allowance + 1/2 inch seam allowance).  My foam strip was about 37 inches long but I added another 2 inches at each end, so that I could later tuck the ends in and sew the foam into a tube.  So cut my large fabric strip 41 inches wide by 18 inches tall.  (Below it is folded in half under the foam.)


Next, place the two bottom pieces together (with right sides together) and sew all the way around with your 1/2 inch seam allowance, leaving a few inch opening on one side.


Turn it right side out and put your foam inside.  You’ll have to fold it in half to wriggle it in there…..but it will get in there eventually.  Promise. :)


Then tuck the raw edges inside and hand-stitch the opening closed.  (Need help with hand-stitching?  Click here.)


Next, open up your strip of fabric and sew some strips of velcro to one half of the strip.  Be sure that you aren’t going down too far to be caught in the seam allowances…….and leave 2 inches free on each end to stay out of the way of each end seam too.  I used 1 1/2 wide industrial strength velcro (I found it at Hancock Fabric) which worked great for this.  I only needed 2 strips to cover a good majority of this half of the fabric.  (If you can’t locate any really wide fabric, sew several narrow strips of velcro to this section of the fabric.)  You just want enough velcro here to keep your dividers nice and secure.  **Make sure and use the SOFT side of the veclro here so that the velcro not in use will not scratch your camera.


Then fold this fabric in half length-wise (with right sides together) and sew into a tube (using your 1/2 inch seam allowance).  Then turn it right side out and maneuver your foam inside.  Like I mentioned before, folding the foam in half and then sliding it in there works best.  But then wriggle it around in there until it’s nice and flat and the side seam is along the bottom of the foam.


Then, tuck each end under about a 1/2 inch and then sew each end closed, then sew another seam, nice and close to your foam, creating a little flap on the end.  Do the same thing to the other end.


Next, fold your fabric covered foam strip into a circle, overlap the ends, then sew them together.


Then, place the bottom together with the circle and pin them in place.  Then hand stitch the bottom right to the sides……to keep the pieces together.  (Need help with hand-stitching?  Click here.)



Next, you need little inserts.  I didn’t want mine quite as tall as the foam sides…..only 7 inches instead of 8.  And as far as how wide…….you may want them wider than the base of your purse like I did.  Once you put your foam base down into your purse, the sides kind of open up with the shape of the purse.  If I wanted my foam walls to be rigid and just go straight up, I probably would have only cut my little inserts 5.5 inches wide.  But I wanted this foam section to open up a bit, giving me more room inside of it, so I cut them 7.5 inches wide.  So each of my little inserts were 7 x 7.5 inches. 


I cut 2 pieces of fabric for each insert that were 1/2 inch taller on the top and the bottom and 2 inches wider at each side.  So I cut 2 pieces of fabric for each of my 2 inserts that were 8 inches tall and 12.5 inches wide.  I sewed 2 of the fabric pieces together, with right sides together, along the top and the bottom.  Then I turned it right side out and placed my foam inside.


Next, I turned the ends in a 1/2 inch and sewed them closed with 2 seams, just like I did above with the bigger foam strip.  Then I cut some of the other half of the 1.5 inch wide velcro strips, into more narrow strips to fit the flaps on each end (about 3/4 inch for me).  Then I sewed the velcro right onto each end flap of the foam insert.  Both on the same side of the insert.  Do the same thing with your other foam insert (or more if you decide you want more inserts).



And that, my friends, is all you need to do.


Just place your foam inserts into your purse and load it up with all your gear.  And you’re all set!






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This post is sponsored by:

Ashley Johnston
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Ashley Johnston

Owner at Make It & Love It
Ashley Johnston is a professional DIY costume maker, sewist, crafter, and owner of Make It & Love It. She is a mom of 5 and a wife to a very patient (with the craft clutter) husband. In case you’re wondering, she always chooses crafting/sewing/designing over mopping/dusting/wiping base boards……but bathrooms/laundry/full bellies are always attended to. Whew!
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  1. Medhelpsis.Com says:

    I hope you liked this post on how to create a DIY camera bag purse. Please share with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Thanks for reading!

  2. Combined Camera and Laptop Bag says:

    this is really good to have a camera bag by my own hand.

  3. Eileen says:

    Great tutorial. I can’t wait to make this. Thank you.

  4. Savannah says:

    This is awesome and really helpful, but for your hand stitching do you think a ladder (hidden) stitch would work just the same?

  5. Michelle says:

    Has anyone tried this with 1″ foam? I cannot fine 1/2″ foam anywhere local and have had a hard time finding it online anywhere without spending a ton on it. I bought some 1″ foam the other day at the store thinking I had finally found the right stuff! But then I came home and checked the instructions and realized I had remembered wrong. Wondering if it might still work…

  6. Tanya says:

    perfect! I have boon looking for a detailed tutorial like this! thanks for sharing and for your detailed instructions and photos!

  7. Kim W. says:

    Thank you for the inspiration! Mine turned out beautiful! My 1st ever sewing project and I DID IT!! Woo-Hoo!!

  8. deepa says:

    A great post and explanation. You should consider starting a store. Shared on all sites.

  9. Michele says:

    I used a leather bag that I carry every day for this project. My camera was getting beat up in that bag until I made this. I sewed a small pocket on the outside of this liner to hold my lens cap and lens cloth. LOVE IT!

    I also made a camera strap (from your tutorial) from the same materials so my camera matches my bag liner.

  10. sara says:

    Grrr.. getting so frustrated, I’m trying to make one right now but when I bought my foam from my fabric store it was by the yard so the lady cut it. Needless to say she cut it uneven and I can’t get it even to get a correct measurement all around (on the 8 inch high piece) and unfortunately they charged an arm and a leg for the foam ($18 a meter!! )which is now cut up in pieces that can’t be used :( HELP!!!!

  11. PJ says:

    I will be doing something like this with an old duffle bag. As a man, I don’t have a lot of purses laying around, but I do have some old backpacks, gym bags, etc that are in great shape but don’t get used. I’m starting to end up with more and more gear, slowly but surely of course, and I need different sized bags for different shoots so this idea is great. Why should I spend 100’s on a pre-made bag that really isn’t any higher quality than what I can make myself? Exactly, I shouldn’t. :) thanks for this great idea.

  12. zendeb says:

    This is just about the coolest idea ever, I love it! Thank you for posting this – especially since it is so well laid out and detailed with step by step instructions and photos. AWESOME! Thank you, thank you!!

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Hi, I’m Ashley—the DIY-enthusiast behind this crazy blog!

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