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How to Fix a Broken Bag Handle

Posted on 18 July 2016

Overloading a handbag is the most common cause of a broken handle, but even the most cared-for bags may eventually break with continued use. Fixing the purse takes a bit of finesse, but it is completely doable – the method depends on how the handle was originally attached. For handles that are sewn directly to the bag, you can re-sew them on; the key is to use the right needle and take your time with stitching. A sloppy sew job won’t hold up. When your bag’s handles are attached with hardware, you’ll need to find new hardware that matches the existing and replace it. Once hardware breaks off, you can’t reattach it.


Check craft stores for new hardware – there’re usually plenty of options.

Hardware Free Bags

Canvas, leather and polyurethane handles reattach pretty easily with a needle and thread, although fabric glue can be used in a pinch. Just keep in mind that the latter won’t hold up nearly as long as sewing, especially if you continue to overload the bag. Use fabric glue for canvas, an all-purpose glue for polyurethane, or an adhesive from a leather repair kit for leather. If you have a mixed media bag, i.e. a canvas bag with leather handles, use an all-purpose product that’s suitable for both materials.


A leather needle has a unique tip that prevents tearing the material.

Sewing

  1. Snip any fraying off of the handle with small nail scissors.
  2. Positon the handle on the bag and pin it in place. 
  3. Thread a straight upholstery needle, for canvas and polyurethane, or a leather point needle for leather handles, with upholstery weight thread in a color that matches the stitching on the rest of your bag. 
  4. Starting from the inside of the purse, push the needle through the bag and the handle’s base. Lock the stitch and then do a series of small running stitches around the perimeter of the handle’s base. For the best results space the stitches about 1/8-inch. When finished, lock the stitch again. 
  5. Repeat this process on the opposite side of the handle if/as necessary. 


Try to line up the new stitches with the old.

Glue

  1. Snip any frays off the handle. Wipe the handle and canvas where the handle attaches with a damp cloth to eliminate any dirt. Let the fabric dry.
  2. Apply a small amount of liquid thread/permanent fabric glue to the handle’s base. Press it firmly in place on the bag. 
  3. Clean up any glue that spreads outside of the handle base immediately. A damp rag typically works, although a small amount of rubbing alcohol may be necessary if you don’t catch the excess in time or you’re using certain types of glue. Read the glue insert to determine the best way to clean up any messes and have the supplies handy. 
  4. Set the bag flat and arrange a heavy object on top. Wait 24 hours to give the glue time to dry.

Replacing Broken Handle Hardware

If a piece broke off of the bag’s buckle, carabiner, or snap/rivet, you can replace the hardware and give the purse new life. Pick out a new set of hardware from your local craft store or order the same hardware from the handbag manufacturer. Then, grab your tools and get started.


Cap rivets work with a variety of bag styles, and they’re pretty easy to install.

  1. Remove the existing hardware. These are usually held in place by rivets. Carefully push a flat head screwdriver between the purse’s fabric and the rivet to create some space, wiggling up gently to loosen the rivet as much as possible.
  2. Remove the rivet head with a pair of pliers, taking care not to scratch the material.
  3. If the handle loops over a ring and the fabric is torn, resew it into a loop. See the sewing section above for tips on needles and stitching. 
  4. Install the new hardware according to package directions. This will vary depending on the bag, however: re-attach handles with fresh rivets, preferably using the existing holes; attach a new buckle or buckles to the purse and weave the handle back into place; or, attach a new clasp on the handbag and run the purse strap through a new carabiner or snap. 
Keep in mind that it’s important the bag’s new hardware matches the existing; for example, the updated rings should coordinate with the bag’s buckle closure. If you need to buy a new set, take the bag with you when shopping so you can find the perfect match.

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