How to Make a License Plate Purse

Laura Lee Cascada
license plate purse

Upcycling is a great way to breathe new life into seemingly useless objects. If you've always wondered what to do with that special set of license plates from your first car that you can't seem to throw out, consider upcycling them into something you'll use every day. Turning your plates into a purse is a fashionable and eye-catching way to cherish and show off those old memories. All it takes are a few tools and materials you can probably find around your home and a couple hours of your time. As long as you are comfortable working a drill and sewing machine (or hand sewing), you'll be well on your way to owning your own license plate purse.

What You'll Need

Materials:

  • A set of license plates
  • Two old purse/bag straps
  • Two types of fabric (one for the exterior of the purse and one for the liner)
  • 20 screws (1/8 inch width) with matching hex nuts
  • Thread to match your fabrics
  • Clasp of your choice

Tools:

  • Soap and scrub brush
  • Drill with 1/4 inch drill bit
  • Safety goggles
  • C-clamp or locking pliers
  • Scissors
  • Ruler or measuring tape
  • Sewing machine or hand sewing kit
  • Permanent marker

1. Prep Your License Plates

After assembling your materials, scrub, rinse, and dry your license plates to get them clean. Then, use your permanent marker to mark six dots on each plate: one at each of the corners, one at the top in the center of the plate, and one at the bottom in the center. You'll mark each dot about 1/2 inch from the edge of the plate. Clamp the first plate to a hard work surface with the C-clamp or locking pliers, leaving a dot hanging over the edge.

prep license plate

Use the drill to create holes at each dot. Don't forget your safety goggles! Move and re-clamp the plate as you work to cover all the dots. When finished, you should have 10 total holes in each plate: six drilled by you, plus the original four holes in the plate.

drill holes

2. Cut Your Fabric

Now you're ready to cut the fabric that will be the base of the purse. You will need to create 10 separate pieces that will be sewn together. First, select which fabric you'd like to use as the exterior and which will be the interior liner of the purse. It's best to choose a durable, thick material for the exterior, such as vinyl or corduroy. However, if the material is too thick for your sewing machine, you'll need to hand sew the purse.

Trace the outline of the license plate on the back of both of your fabrics and then allow a 1/2 to one inch margin around it. Cut out two pieces of this size for each fabric. These pieces will be the front and the back of the purse.

cut fabric

Next, cut the side panels of the purse. You will also need two side panels per fabric, or a total of four. Make them the same height as the front/back pieces (about seven inches) but only about six inches wide. Finally, cut out the bottom pieces, making just one from each fabric. These should match the length of the front/back pieces (about 13 inches) and the width of the side panels (six inches).

cut side panels


3. Sew Your Purse

Start with the exterior fabric and sew all the pieces together to create a shell. To do this, first take the front piece and match up one of the short edges to the long edge of one of the side pieces. Sew these two edges together inside out, placing your stitch along the outline of the plate that you traced. Then sew the back piece to the other edge of the same side piece. Join the front and back sides together with the second side piece. At this stage, you should have a ring of fabric, as pictured.

sew purse

Finally, sew the bottom on. Repeat this process with the liner pieces. When finished, you should have two shells, both inside out. Flip the exterior piece so that the seams are now on the inside, and then drop the liner into the exterior shell.

sew bottom of purse

To finish sewing, flip the raw edges of both the liner and the exterior into the space between the two pieces. Match up the edges and use pins to set them. Sew all the way around this top edge. For the final touches, pinch in the two side panels toward the inside of the purse and put a small stitch in where you pinched each side. You can also hand sew a few tacks at the corners of the purse to keep the bottom of the liner in place. At this point, sew on your button or clasp of choice if you'd like to be able to close the purse securely.

4. Attach Your Plates

Now you have the body of the purse, and you're ready to add the license plates. Line the first plate up with the front of the purse and use your permanent marker to put a dot where each hole is on the fabric of the purse. Then, use your scissors to punch out all of these holes. Push a screw through each hole in the plate and fabric, except the top two original holes in the plate. Screw a nut onto each screw to secure the plate and repeat the process for the other side of the purse.

5. Add Handles

The final step is to add your handles. Punch a hole about a half inch from each end of both handles. Then, stick each end between the plate and fabric, lining up the holes in the handle with the final remaining holes in the plate and fabric. Push the final four screws through these holes and secure the nuts.

add handles

Show off Your Purse!

Finally, your upcycled license plate purse is complete. Fill it with your wallet, keys, and other essentials, and head out. Be prepared to pull out all those old memories about your former vehicle, whether you took it on an unforgettable cross-country trip or learned to drive in it, because your new eye-catching accessory is sure to attract lots of attention.

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How to Make a License Plate Purse