TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Wallpaper Purse: Candywrapper Weaving Technique

I made this!!!

Dimensions: 11" wide x 7" high x 2" deep, strap 12"
Metric: 28 x 17 x 5 cm, strap 30 cm

I worked at Home Depot for awhile and while I was there, they got rid of their wallpaper department. They were going to throw away their sample books, so I asked and got as many as I could carry. It's gorgeous, thick paper- a shame to throw away. I debated for awhile what to do with them, then remembered these folk art purses I had seen made out of soft pack cigarette wrappers, mostly made by prisoners. I had always wanted one, but they are usually a fortune, so I decided to try my hand at it.

I had no idea how they were constructed, but after some research online, I found a couple of blogs that had helpful instructions:

Wrapper Purses has detailed photos on how to fold and construct rows of woven paper which are then sewn together into a purse. She used potato chip bags. Candy wrappers are also a popular choice. Here is one of her rows and her finished purse:

Mylinda's instructions were very helpful, but there are some tricks you learn as you do it that are hard to describe online. If you want to try this technique yourself, her blog is the place to start.

The Purse Project also had helpful information. Barb Lawrence, of San Diego, has the following great drawing that shows the folding process clearly:

She also lists several organizations and businesses marketing purses made using this technique and has some great photos of purse examples. Between these two blogs, you should be able to make your own purse.

Like all good things, making a purse like this takes time and lots of it! I'm estimating mine took about 40 hours. But, there was a learning curve there, too. It's a mindless operation for the most part, a good way to keep my hands occupied when I was too mentally fatigued to do something that needed some thinking. I sat in the kitchen folding and folding while I listened to a book on tape.

The wallpaper worked well in the sense that it folded easily, was sturdy, didn't crack and was pliable. The problem is the thickness. Although I think the purse resulted in a gorgeous product, it's not the best functional piece in terms of weight.

I have not seen any other examples that used beads. For my piece, the beads added texture, depth and really finished it off. The white ones are carved ostrich egg shell and the dark ones are coconut shell, both from Africa. They are held in place by clear glass seed beads.

Inside of purse:


I had it listed on Etsy for a bit for $250. But, I took it to my monthly fiber art meeting and my friend, Pam, fell in love with it. She is a long arm quilter, so we traded for a quilting job that I needed completed. I would like to try a couple more variations on this technique, now that I know how to do it.

One of our group members also suggested that flat wall pieces could be made using color to make an image, rather like a cross stitch pattern. That would be an interesting experiment!

Note: This post has been the most searched of all the ones I've written. I'm now working on my second purse, made out of dog food paper bags. It's coming along nicely, but taking forever! The paper is much easier to work with than the wallpaper as it is thinner and has the coating on it which makes it slick. I will post an article on it when it is finished.

This wallpaper purse ended up as an exchange for a quilting project I needed done. If you are interested in one of these, they will be in the $300 range.

Update November 2008: See my dogfood purse, "Snow":

How about you? Have you made any? Leave a comment with your progress or questions!



  1. Wow, this is beautiful. I'll link back to you--you've done an inspiring work of art here.
    Barb from the purse project

  2. omg.. i havent seen these since i was a kid. we use to make them out of juicy fruit gum wrappers! beautiful use of the technique

  3. Your did a great job on your purse. Can I add your purse pictures and blog page on my blog page. I'm not sure if you have to e-mail me the pictures or if I can pull them off your blog page. I think the thickness of your wallpaper purse is about like the one I tried making with my old photos. It was just a little to thick....but the idea was awesome.
    Great job and thanks for sharing with me.
    Mylinda from candy wrapper purse

  4. Mylinda is cool, I learned the basics from her by reading something she had posted on Crafters.Org or someplace similar.

    I helped her set up her blog last summer, and she has had tremendous traffic. A lot of which comes my way by her link, if you want more visits to view your work, let her put your purse and a link to you on her blog, that is if you haven't already done so, I didn't check.

    Visit Emeadke too, he has some tips and if you haven't already seen the thread joining tips or examples of flat bottom purses and you might like to try your hand in those, visit me too. Great job!

  5. Your bag is gorgeous. I remember when we used to make those chains out of chewing gum wrappers - probably in junior high school. Do they even have junior high school anymore? Or "Home EC" - which is where I learned how to use a sewing machine, in seventh grade!

  6. Great to find someone else who found the great value in those books. I have made so many things with wallpaper. 3-D pictures, paper roses, used it in making handmade cards. The list goes on and on. But I think that you have found one of the best uses. When I take out of a book what I will use then i give the rest to the local grade school.

  7. Sure brings back memories of the Spearmint and Juicy Fruit wrappers. I used to make miles of these! You've done an amazing job of taking the technique to a new level. Big congrats!!

  8. Your purse is exquisite! I remember making dozens of gum wrapper chains in middle school. For some reason, we called them "boyfriend" chains--I don't remember why. When I make my next blog post, I'll link back to your post!! I'm sure everyone will love it! Are you aware of any instructions on the web for making the purse flaps?

  9. Barbara, the flaps are just a continuation of the back "wall". To make it pointy, you just add less in each row. Another purse I made had a square flap, so it's just up to you.

    Thanks for all the great comments, everybody!

  10. I'm 14 and really getting into making purses out of recycled material. I love this idea and am going to try it and see how it goes. Thanks for the great explanations to it!


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