Design-It-Yourself Handbag Website Gets Personal with Clients

In eCommerce, What's New by Jeff Prine

Design your own handbag in three steps is the motto of

Somerville, MA—Although she and her team have made thousands of handbags over the years, Emily Worden has never made the same handbag twice.

It’s not wonder, her website,, specializes in custom fabric handbags where consumers can select among more than 100 fabrics—ranging from organic cottons to canvas to upholstery fabrics—and more than a dozen handbag and small leathergoods silhouettes to create their own designs.

“We’re amazed by all the different variations our clients come up with,” says Worden. “So much so that we added a Design Gallery showing some of their creations that handbag lovers can buy as is, or modify them as they choose.”

Worden, who has been sewing professionally for more than 20 years, settled on specializing in handbags in 2008. “Handbags are such a personal matter, that’s what makes them so interesting.” Originally she launched her create-it-yourself e-commerce site as, but recently the site underwent an upgrade and expansion and is now called simply eThreads.

Made in USA to Client’s Specifications

The concept is deceptively simple: shoppers first select a handbag silhouette (prices range from an $18 card pouch to a $148 ruffle tote), then select swatches for the body, straps etc. Then what color hardware finish, lining color even zipper color. All the way along, a prompt takes the do-it-yourselfer through the process.

Designing the bag and creating them is the easy part, Worden says. “Creating the software to accommodate the growing variations was the hard part.”

Client Eric surprised his girlfriend by having eThreads turn one of her favorite vintage T-shirts into a handbag.

All the bags are handmade in Somerville, outside of Boston, using fabrics sourced from U.S.vendors. “We wanted to keep it in the United States.” After a quality control check—and a handwritten thank you note that’s  inserted into each bag—the shopper usually receives her handbag creation in three to four weeks.

The new website also has a “rePurpose” offering, allowing clients to send in their own fabrics to be used to make the handbags. Worden has received everything from baby blankets to a ripped high school T-shirt a mom wanted turned into a bag for her daughter. Worden says rePurpose bags cost about 30% more to make but “the sentimental value of the handbag goes way up.”

The cross-body style, "Zippy Purse," is one of eThreads' bestsellers

Thanks to the wonders of the World Wide Web, Worden gets inquiries from across the country, and even abroad. “When people get us on the phone, they often are surprised we aren’t some big company.” Instead eThreads is more of a cottage industry with a national reach.

Worden is looking to expand fabrications, possibly into nylons and ultimately adding leathers and suedes.

For the less creative, Amazon also sells an array of ready-made eThreads bags.


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