RFID shielded handbag: I’m calling it Gleam and the pattern is FREE

RFID shielded handbagI have been looking for the perfect shopping handbag.  After a lot of research, I now realize there is no such thing.  Unless you want to walk around with a safety deposit box as a handbag, there is not a completely secure handbag.  However, there are certainly a lot of things we can do to make our handbags safer, more secure and functional.  I took some of the ideas from our last bag, the Anti Pickpocket Bag, added a few details from your comments and came up with this new shopping handbag that I'm naming Gleam.

RFID shielded handbag

I have added RFID shielding fabric and made the bottom stronger.  I have kept the handles the same and added a removable pouch big enough for a camera.  The zippered internal pockets are hard for pickpockets to get to because they are hidden under the facing.  I am using a strong cotton fabric from Marimekko's latest collection and added some rhinestones for bling.

RFID Shielded Handbag

In the last project, I told you about my daughter being pickpocketed while we were on vacation and after being left with a $1,000 in roaming charges to Uruguay in addition to the lost iPhone, I was annoyed and determined to make a bag that can secure not only a phone and wallet, but also guard my electronic information as well.  Electronic pickpocketing is a growing problem in crowded places like shopping malls, concerts, public transportation and airports.  This new bag has two layers of RFID shielding fabric attached to the main fabric pieces as well as inserted as lining and making up the inner pockets.  My own tests have shown that this is the minimum amount required to stop the electronic reader's ability to get the information from my card.

Key Features:

  • RFID shielding fabric to protect from electronic pickpocketing.
  • Hidden zippered inner pockets for money and valuables.
  • Strong twisted fabric handles that will let you hold the bag securely.
  • Removable zippered pouch.




About RFID Shielding Fabric

This RFID shielding fabric is silver in color because it uses conductive metals, in this case silver, woven into and coated on the fabric.  This metal creates a mesh that conducts the electricity or electromagnetic radiation around your bag or wallet, rather than into it, thus preventing your cards from being read by a thief with a common RFID scanner.  The concept is pretty simple if you remember from your high school physics class, the concept of a Faraday cage, where a mesh of wires can shield a person even from lightning.  Click on the image or HERE for more info on where to purchase this kind of fabric.  You will need two linear feet to do all the double lining detailed in this tutorial.  You could do a single layer with one linear foot of fabric which would provide some protection.

RFID stands for Radio-frequency identification which is a very popular technology that uses electromagnetic fields to automatically read, identify and track tags containing electronically stored information.  These tags are very common now and you will find them in almost all credit cards, passports, student and employee IDs.

See next page for free pattern download.

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59 Responses to RFID shielded handbag: I’m calling it Gleam and the pattern is FREE

  1. Carolyn says:

    Nancy’s Notions in the USA has rfid material. Not as wide as 59″, but certainly can be used in smaller pockets specific to id/credit cards.

    I do not know at this writing if Nancy’s Notions ships internationally.

  2. Colorado Grammy says:

    Okay, you’ve gone and done it again – given us another FREE awesome pattern!!! You REALLY have to stop this or I’ll never get everything done for Christmas! ☺ I absolutely love this pattern and can’t wait to make it. In fact, I’m making the first one for ME so these may go on next year’s Christmas list! Well, maybe I’ll get a few made for others. ☺☺ Thanks again, Linda

    • So Sew Easy says:

      Good luck with the pattern. Glad you like it. Please share a picture of your work if you can. I’d love to see it. Happy sewing, Mayra

  3. Carol says:

    I plan to make it, but it looks like the pattern needs to be in landscape view. I can’t figure out how to do that in adobe. Otherwise, many of the pieces are run off the page.

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      I sent you an email Carol, but if you have not read it press print then when the printing dialog shows on the left side of the panel you will see portrait of landscape, then you can see the little window that shows you the view for both settings. Choose according to the pattern.

  4. Beverly says:

    Thanks so much for the free pattern!

  5. Roch says:

    You probably do not need to go through the expense of rfidblocking– sounds catchy but anyone with those resources is going to go for millions and not stand on a street corner, aluminum foil or metallic beverage/food cooler insulation works as well. Sending your card info wireless carries more risk.

    • So Sew Easy says:

      Hi Roch, thanks for this and your other comments which are great. As far as RFID, the card sniffing technology we referred to is relatively common and easily accessible here in Asia unfortunately. I suspect it would be too in the US and Europe. I do agree that other materials will work to block RFID as well.

    • PattyP says:

      Roch, the threat is actually more common than you think, along with card readers that overlay a normal card reader to steal your info as yoiu swipe. I’ve had very small amounts stolen, like a dollar here, a dollar there, always less than $10 each, and never more than one or two per month. The theives run thousands of cards like this, taking only a small amount from each, hoping no one will notice or contest the small charges. Each of my fake charges went through with a WalMart or Kohl’s merchant ID, two places I do shop. Even small time theives can make card readers and are keen on steling without being noticed. Large fraudulent charges are far too easy to spot. Small repetitive charges slip by many people.

  6. Paula says:

    I received my yard of fabric, and plan to make an “insert pocket” that will hold my wallet with credit cards, and my 6+Edge Android phone, since these are the items that I carry that have the Wi-Fi symbol or access. I may do some “testing” to see whether a single or multiple layers of the fabric are necessary for complete blocking.

  7. shirley cmpion says:

    Hi Mayra, I think this is a great idea and I am all for safety, I have just been on line to see if I could purchase some of this mesh here in the U.K. but only came across wallets and purses already made. I have been using foil for linning in the pouches that I have been making but ofcourse this has a limited life use;and I am notcertain if it is effective regarding security.

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      I am not sure if this is available in the UK, I have put a link to amazon, hopefully the supplier can deliver to the UK.

  8. Diana says:

    What a delightful pattern. Thankyou so much Mayra, you are very generous. I am rummaging in my fabric cupboard as we speak as I had some fabric I ve been keeping for this very bag, it will be perfect..

  9. Gisele says:

    Ladies pls am a beginner in sew my question might be silly but take it easy with me.my question is isn’t when u download a pattern say any one it only comes out on a small A4 paper? So how do I make it big in order to get the size cuz my think is that the. A4 paper is just a small piece of paper. I need some explanation plz.cuz I have two lovely girls and I really want to make lovely things for them.thank you.Gisele.

  10. Sarah Rathjen says:

    I love the tutorial! Love the RIFD concept! Thank you so much for the beautiful and very useful bag! My niece is going to travel and I can’t wait to make her this bag!

  11. candy a berg says:

    Thank you Mayra for your kind and helpful not only tutorials but free pattern. Squeeeee. Who doesn’t love a free pattern. Especially when it saves us from the baddies out to take our hard earned monies. I do appreciate all your hard work and you have still have been most generous enough to gift us with this wonderfully beautiful bag which I am quite certain a lot of people have already made by now. I know I am planning on a cruise in the next spring months and will endeavor to make one for that very trip. After all, with your generosity we can afford to make one to match each of our trips…Right ladies? Sincerely. Candy B.

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Hi Candy, I would love to see you with a handbag on the deck with a stunning see background, what do you say?

  12. Janea Knight says:

    Which pieces are the side gusset and which piece is the bottom gusset? Also which pieces are for the internal pouch?

  13. Really great idea…thanks so much! Where did you get the Marimekko fabric?

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      I bought the fabric in Helsinki when I went to meet the PR manager for the company, I have an article coming up soon. There is a link in the blog for the e-store they have.
      Kind Regards,

  14. Jennifer Abernathy says:

    Love this and thank you for making it free.

  15. Jean p says:

    I don’t think the mesh protects from lightening but I can understand it could protect from lightning (typo spotted).

  16. Nelly Ward says:

    Thank you for the beautiful bag pattern and for trying to protect us. For some who can’t afford the material & thread, you can get credit card sleeve, wallets and other supplies less expensive and still make the bag. In the meantime, while I am waiting for my supplies, I understand foil can be used. Not as nice, but better safe till you get supplies and your bag made. Even standing in line at stores or anywhere you are at risk.
    I always look forward to your next creations.

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Yes, Nelly I am in the process of testing other alternatives to RFID fabric, and drafting smaller patterns I will let you know what I come with. But definitely make the bag is very functional.

  17. Elizabeth Barnett says:

    I like the idea of an RFID-protected bag; however: http://truthiscool.com/rfid-blocking-wallets-too-good-to-be-true

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Hi Elizabeth, thanks for that. I think everything in the first part of the article is probably correct, although quite dated. The fabrics out today are newer and likely better than anything around in 2011 which was when the referenced tests were done. They use silver, which doesn’t seem to be mentioned in the article. In any case, who knows what was actually sewn into the various tested items since they’re talking about some sort of finished wallets. But as the article said, the author was able to create an RFID shield with duct tape and aluminum foil. That would probably work today too, but would be difficult to sew into a particularly elegant looking bag which is what we’re trying to do. The bit at the end of the article about just turning your cards around to avoid them being read seems a bit unlikely to me though.

  18. trifles says:

    Thanks for making a free pattern available, and good to know the dimensions of the bag are 16 x 9. It’s a good looking bag and I can’t wait to try making it! If I’m just trying to protect the chip in my credit cards and/or passport, I’m thinking less RFID fabric is really necessary – and my understanding is that when multiple RFID cards are carried, they effectively create a confusing signal that can’t be read by scanners. So the fabric makes sense to protect one card, but is it necessary when carrying multiple cards? And you mention that your testing indicates that multiple layers of the fabric are required for safety – can you elaborate on that please?

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Hi Trifles, yes, you can certainly make do with less RFID fabric. I don’t really know whether multiple cards would scramble anything. It is just information and my sense is that the reader is going to read any cards that it can. In the end, it isn’t a large volume of data being transmitted from each card, just very important data.

  19. MimiB says:

    I like the idea of using RFID fabric in a bag, but I wonder if the material will make it through airport or court house security scanners? Or will one wind up having the bag hand searched? That’s generally something to avoid if possible.

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      The fabric is quite thin so the x-rays would certainly pass right through it. I’ve never heard of any issues with this nor can I find any commentary online that would suggest this causes any problems. I’ll definitely test it out on my next trip but I don’t think there is an issue.

  20. trifles says:

    The RFID fabric is 59″ wide, but you still need 1.5 yds? And it’s sold by the foot, so that would be 4.5 feet at $30 per foot. So just that piece of fabric alone costs $135. Is that correct?

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Hi Trifles, thanks for pointing that out. I had forgotten the fabric is so wide. You will need two linear feet to do everything suggested in the post. You could make do with one linear foot if you wanted a single layer and you would get some protection. I have updated the post to reflect this.

  21. Corinne says:

    Great bag!! I would like to let people know that by putting your phone inside something wrapped in an rfid blocking fabric could make for some confusion! Just be aware once inside you wouldn’t get service…no calls text or wifi. Have a great day!

  22. rblhb says:

    Will this RFID fabric pass those security checks?

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Yes, I have never heard that it won’t. The fabric and silver threads/coating itself is quite thin. Please see some of the other comments.

  23. Sara P says:

    I found the RFID fabric is very expensive. I was thinking of just lining the pouches or maybe one layer in bag and two in pouches. I haven’t printed the pattern yet to see what what the dimensions are. Sorry if you put the dimensions in the pattern….I must have missed them. Did you use regular thread or the RFID thread? This is a great pattern. Thanks

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Hi Sara, In that case do line the pockets 16″ x 9″ are the dimensions, in the pattern this piece is on the fold. You need double layer for each. The important thing is to protect the information in your cards.
      No, I did not use RFID thread but now I am on the hunt. Let you know with another project if I find it.

  24. Rhonda R Platten says:

    Thank you for this pattern and the RFID idea!

  25. Kristal says:

    This is awesome idea.

  26. Donna says:

    Love it. Love your fabric. Going to try to make something to fit in a man’s wallet made with RFID fabric for his credit cards. You have great projects.

  27. Anne says:

    Very pretty and stylish handbag (and safe!). Looove the Marimekko fabric and embellishments! Well done! I have also seen some anti theft bags (pacsafe) insert lightweight, stainless steel wire in the handles/straps for added security.

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      I love Marimekko too, I am planning to use more of their fabrics, I got just the thing in my mind, hope you will like it.

  28. Roberta says:

    I really like this and plan to make one for someone who is taking an international trip.
    How is the bottom on this bag made stronger than the “Anti Pick Pocket Bag” which I really like also.

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      I used Kraftex and thick wool felt which is really hard to cut through, you could even glue some wires in between the fabric, and the Kraftex piece, no one will know they are there.

  29. PatriciaBB says:

    Lovely bag, great instructions! I’ve been thinking about adding RFID pouches to my bag and this inspires me 🙂

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