As mentioned in my last post, I’ve been using a base shaper for my new work tote in order to even out the distribution of weight across the bottom of the bag and prevent stretching and sagging over time. For a good primer on purse base shapers, I really like Jean’s post here. Initially I thought about purchasing a base shaper online, but most sites I came across sold shapers for very specific designer brands and models (e.g., Louis Vuitton, Longchamp). Ordering a customized shaper that fit the internal dimensions of my bag would cost somewhere between $30 to $40+ depending on the site. That said, I decided to explore my DIY options first. I think I’ve come up with a pretty good solution, and better yet, it cost me less than $10 to make.
Customizable Bag/Purse Base Shaper
Materials and Tools:
- 16×20 poster frame (this is the exact frame I used, $5.99)
- Polypropylene placemat (this is the exact placemat I used, $1.99)
- Box cutter
- Heavy duty scissors
- Cutting mat
- Tape measure and ruler
- Marker and pencil
First, measure the internal dimensions of the base of your bag. The internal base dimensions of my Tumi Ana Large Double Zip Carry-All are approximately 5.5″ x 15.5″.
Next, use a pen/pencil and ruler to trace out these dimensions on the placemat.
Using the ruler and box cutter, score the lines you traced onto the placemat. Then cut along the scored lines with heavy-duty scissors. I used the rounded corners of the original placemat as a template to trace, score, and cut rounded corners on my newly cut placemat piece.
Take apart the poster frame– you should have four separate plastic slats (which comprise the border of the frame), a plastic surface cover, and a cardboard backing.
Trace the outline of the newly cut placemat piece onto the cardboard backing and cut it out with the box cutter and scissors. Then, use a marker to trace the outline of the placemat piece onto the plastic frame cover. Cut along the marked lines on the plastic frame cover using the box cutter and ruler. Note that since the plastic is somewhat thick, you will have to run the box cutter over these lines several times in order to cut all the way through the plastic. I didn’t use the box cutter to cut out any rounded corners– I cut the correct dimensions with the box cutter first, and then used scissors to round out the corners.
Take the plastic slats of the frame and cut them down to fit the four sides of the placemat, cardboard, and plastic cover. I didn’t cut the slats to fit the exact dimensions of my newly cut pieces for the base shaper. Instead, I cut the slats down enough to hold each side of the base shaper together while still keeping the rounded corners exposed (this way, I don’t have any pointed corners poking into my bag).
Smooth out the edges of the cut plastic using sandpaper. As an optional step, I also very lightly ran these cut areas over a candle flame to “melt” out any remaining rough edges.
Finally, put all the pieces together. The placemat is essentially the “photo” being held inside the cut frame, like so:
Here is what the base shaper looks like inside my tote… a perfect fit:
As it turns out, this base shaper is very lightweight but rigid. The plastic slats of the frame also provide additional reinforcement for the shaper so that it doesn’t bend under a huge amount of weight.
And now, the final test! Here is the before and after of the bag holding my bulky work-issued Lenovo, two notebooks, several files, a power cord, and a makeup bag:
As you can see, the base shaper keeps the bag nicely structured. I used the shaper while I was traveling this past week and it held up really well. Another benefit of this DIY: I still have enough materials left over to make another base shaper, so essentially, you can create two of these babies for about $5 each! Not bad, right?
Hope you’ll try this project out and let me know how it works out for you. Thanks for reading and happy DIY-ing!