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Making a Straw Purse in Nassau


 straw purseLadies from all around the world are known to love, admire or own a straw purse of some sort. Many want to know how to make a straw purse. An agent for change in the straw industry in The Bahamas is none other than the Plait Lady herself, Mrs Claire Sands. Claire spawned a turn in the industry with her new and innovative approach to the art of making straw purses.

Another trendsetter in the field of straw purses and handbag design was the late Harl Taylor, who in his brief lifetime influenced and caused the upward mobility of the straw industry by creating cutting-edge designs with a bold, trendy flair. Harl's amazing handbags have made their way to celebrities and other well-known persons.

Most nations have their own distinctive style of straw that is unique to their country or region. The Bahamas is no different; having oodles of varieties of what is locally known as plait. This plait is harvested from the silver top (palmetto fronds) plant which is stripped and processed then hand-woven to create unique designs.

Some of the more well-known plaits designs include: Peas n' Rice, Jacob's Ladder, Soursop, Bahama Mama and Fish Pot. There are a number of variations to these designs and even more variables as colours are introduced through a form of plait dyeing.

For years tourists have flocked to the world-renowned Bay Street Straw Market to purchase their piece of The Bahamas in the form of a straw bag. What was once considered an art reserved for the older generation has now been transformed into a modern accessible treasure for young, creative designers.

When the straw is in hand, the other items needed to create a straw bag are: purse handles, chipboard, purse feet, fabric lining and a closure of some sort. Once the chipboard is cut in the desired pattern, sewing is the next step. This task is quick and easy once the basic techniques are learned. The key is to stitch the straw together on the chipboard with a sewing machine. The straw should slightly overlap until the pre-cut chipboard is completely covered.

When complete, the straw must be secured at the edges so that it does not fray or break away from the chipboard. This is done by stitching around the perimeter of the chipboard. The excess straw can then be trimmed away and the hardware and lining added. Once this is done the purse, which is typically made of four separate parts, can now be framed with straw and then assembled by hand stitching the elements together for a beautiful hand-crafted straw purse.

* About the Author: Teri M Bethel specialises in teaching people how to create textured painted fabrics and purses. Teri has been involved in manufacturing painted garments and handbags for over two decades. She is the designer of Teri Monique Handbags, a line of custom art purses for ladies. Contact Teri at: Tel: 676-4474, e-mail: or visit her at and on Facebook.


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