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Saturday, 23 January 2016

Free Pattern/Tutorial: Mini Retro Reticule

Mini Retro Reticule by eSheep Designs
Mini version of my Retro Reticule...
You can tell I've been immersed in the world of Pride and Prejudice for waaaay too long when I actually come out with a pattern inspired by vintage purse designs.

The word "reticule" — courtesy of Oxford — is "a woman’s small handbag, typically having a drawstring and decorated with embroidery or beading"; I originally encountered the word while reading P&P variations.

My latest creation, however, does not have a drawstring; rather, it has a wrist strap and zipper closure. I do not demand that it be decorated with embroidery or beading, but should you wish it, you can certainly do so to your heart's content. Style-wise, it's not so much of the Regency era as it is of mid-20th century. It was inspired by a design that I found in Emma Brennan's book, Making Vintage Bags.

Retro Reticule by eSheep Designs
Retro Reticule proof of concept by eSheep Designs...
My version is being packaged up into a pattern for sale, but I thought it would be fun to provide a tutorial for a simplified mini version of the bag — without all the bells and whistles — for free. (Yes, free is always good, I know!)

This little guy is quite small: good for cash, credit card and keys. You may actually just use it as a coin purse in your bag. (My Samsung smart phone is small in comparison to the big phones that are out there nowadays and you can see how it appears underneath in the picture at the top of this post.)

So without further ado... material requirements for this quickie sew are four rectangles of fabric (two for the exterior, two for the lining), each 5.5" high by 8" wide. A 7" zipper. Two strips of coordinating fabric, one 2" x 4" (the loop) and other other 2" x 10" (the wrist strap). You will need pieces of medium weight fusible for all of the external pieces and two pieces of fusible fleece for the two body lining pieces. You'll also need thread, pins, clips, and all the rest, yada, yada, yada...

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Since this is free, you will have to make the pattern yourself!

Take a regular sheet of 8.5" x 11" paper and fold it in half. (Again, apologies to the majority of the metric world. I learned imperial as a youngster and since our neighbours to the south are still in the dark ages with regards to metric, the sad result is that a lot of Canadians are trapped between the systems. My PDF pattern will have both measurements but here, I will be "talking" in inches.)

Draw a 5.25" x 4" rectangle on one side of the folded sheet, with the fold being the 5.25" length. Make a mark 2" away from the fold along the bottom of the rectangle. Make a second mark 1.5" down from the top right side of the rectangle.

Now grab a large bowl or plate, at least 8.5" in diameter, and use it to draw a curve that meets at both of those marks, as shown below.

eSheep Designs' Retro Reticle Mini Pattern Piece
Make your Mini Retro Reticule pattern piece...

Cut out your pattern piece, open it up and take a look at it. If you find that the curve turns too sharply (i.e., at that 2" mark), fold the paper back up and carefully snip away a small part of the template to smooth out the curve. (I ended up clipping off a "fingernail" shaped piece.) If you have something that looks like this, you're fine.

eSheep Designs' Retro Reticle Mini Pattern Piece
This will do fine... it's not an exact science!


Using your template (and you may want to keep the template folded and cut your fabric on the fold to ensure symmetry), cut two pieces of fabric for the exterior of your bag and two pieces of fabric for the lining of your bag. Cut two pieces of medium weight fusible interfacing also using the template.

Cut the rectangular pieces for the loop and wrist strap and then cut matching pieces in medium weight fusible interfacing.

Using whatever method you prefer, cut smaller pieces of fusible fleece for your two pieces of lining fabric. (How much smaller? I used a 3/8" seam allowance, so I went with smaller by 1/2" all the way around; whatever you want to use as your seam allowance, make your adjustment to the fleece accordingly.)

Apply all of your fusible interfacing to the appropriate pieces.

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The wrist strap and loop are both made using the simple "no turn strap" method.

Mini Retro Reticule Tutorial by eSheep Designs
Make the strap and loop...

Fold each piece in half lengthwise (with right side out) and press. Open up the fold and then press the two long sides in towards the centre crease. Refold along the original crease, encasing the long raw edges. Pin or clip together. Sew along the open edge and then on the opposite edge. The ends can be left as is since they will not be seen in the finished item.

Mini Retro Reticule Tutorial by eSheep Designs
Completed loop and strap...

Set these aside for now.


Place one of your lining pieces right side up on your work surface. Place your zipper right side up on top of it, centering and aligning it at the top edge. Pin in place.

Mini Retro Reticule Tutorial by eSheep Designs
Pin zipper to the right side of a lining piece...

Take one of your exterior pieces and place it right side down on top of the zipper. Ensure that it is positioned evenly and then pin it to the zipper and lining. (I find it works quite well to pin on top of the previous pinning and then remove each bottom one as I go along.)

Mini Retro Reticule Tutorial by eSheep Designs
Pin on top of the existing pins...

Sew to secure your zipper, using anywhere from a 1/8" to 1/4" seam allowance. Whatever you can manage is fine, as long as you stay consistent.

Open it up so that the right sides of your fabric are showing. Press and then topstitch if you want.

Mini Retro Reticule Tutorial by eSheep Designs
Half of your zipper is in place...

Place the other lining piece right side up on your work surface.

Take the whole assembly that you just created with the zipper attached (exterior fabric facing up) and place it on top of the lining piece. Center it from side to side and ensure that the top of the zipper tape is even with the top edge of the lining piece underneath. Pin in place.

Mini Retro Reticule Tutorial by eSheep Designs
Pin completed zipper on top of the other lining piece...

Take your remaining exterior piece and place it right side down on top of this. Check for even placement all around and then pin to the zipper as you did before.

Sew to secure the other side of your zipper, using the same seam allowance you used before.

Open it up and press. (Topstitch if desired.)

Mini Retro Reticule Tutorial by eSheep Designs
That wasn't hard, was it?

Open up the zipper fully.


Arrange the assembly so that the right sides of the exterior are together. Ensure that edges are even and pin.

Mini Retro Reticule Tutorial by eSheep Designs
Pin along the edge and sew to the dots...

Sew almost all the way around. (The little dots I made there are about an inch away from the zipper tape; that's where I am going to sew to.)

Mini Retro Reticule Tutorial by eSheep Designs
Notch the curves...

Clip the curves and then repeat the process with the lining pieces, except remember to leave a turning gap along the bottom of the lining.


With raw edges sticking out, insert the loop and strap between the two exterior pieces at opposite sides, just under the zipper, as shown.

Mini Retro Reticule Tutorial by eSheep Designs
Insert loop and strap at opposite sides...

Ensure that the zipper tape ends are folded to the side of the lining as shown here.

Mini Retro Reticule Tutorial by eSheep Designs
Make sure zipper tape is folded to the lining side...

Sew together, matching the stitching lines that were used to sew the sides together. Reinforce by sewing on top of the same line a few times. Snip off the excess zipper tape when you are done.

Turn right side out.

Mini Retro Reticule Tutorial by eSheep Designs
You're almost done... just close up the gap...

Close up the bottom seam of the lining, stuff it inside and there you have it!

Mini Retro Reticule Tutorial by eSheep Designs
Fabrics used were Babble by Brandon Mably for Westminster Fabric & Free Spirit (exterior)
and an unknown paisley print from Kitty and the Muse (interior and trim)... 

It's a bit different from the main pattern that will be for sale (of course!), as the corners of the regular bag are "boxed" so that the loop and strap are at right angles to the top edge. But I thought this would be a fun way to introduce and drum up some interest in the project.

Come back next week when I will be unveiling the pattern for the full-size Retro Reticule.


If you are "sew" inclined, feel free to make and sell as many Mini Retro Reticules as you care to; I only ask that you credit me and this blog by attaching the following card to the item.

eSheep Designs swing tag


  1. Love the kitty and the Muse fabric....that Brandon Mabley fabric....urgh...still trying to give that crap away! Cute little pouch for change or other small things!
    Glad to see you are still crafting away.

    1. So why did you buy it in the first place?? It's not bad at all, really, colour-wise. (I'm publishing this comment to let others know that you didn't just stop by to disparage my fabric choice... and that both fabrics were actually very generous gifts from you last year!) ;-)

  2. Rochelle, I love this little gem! I have been consistently looking for new little patterns to try out and see what sells.
    Thank you for sharing and I'll try to look up your blog and post an image of one that I just might make today to try it out!!

    1. Thank you for your enthusiasm! I would love to see the result of your efforts. There is not a mechanism to post a photo here but you can always email me with one. (Use info@esheepenterprises.com)

  3. Hi Rochelle,
    I just couldn't wait to make one of these. I made it and am sending you a pic via email!!! LOL this one is going to my only grand daughter for her 2nd birthday. Really easy and fast to make!
    Thanks so much for sharing!


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