On Handbag Making

 First, thanks to those who commented on the corded buttonhole post. There were some terrific ideas to make this job easier and the commentary is well worth reading. If you haven't read them just scroll down to the corded buttonhole post previous to this one and make sure you click on comments  to check them out.
     I finished the raffle bag. I am pleased and will show your more in a sec. While making this baby I had many thoughts about handbag making in general that I'll share.
     First, I would really encourage all of you to try it. This is simple sewing, usually all straight lines. While you can do zipped bags with zipped pockets inside you don't need to go to that effort to get a great looking bag. It is all about the fabric and embellishment. You can be really crazy creative here. Your creativity will really liven up other garments you wear. This is opportunistic sewing at its best. You can show off those skills you may not normally use on a garment you might make. Take stipple quilting. That's a technique I love and have used much in my long ago quilting history. I probably won't make any more quilts and doubt I would put in on my clothing but I could stipple quilt my brains out on a bag. Get the picture? Here is a closeup of the handles and faux leather work I did on this bag. It's hard to see in the photo above.
   I just love the combo of the linen-y fabric, the faux leather, the lacquered rattan handles. Bags give you the option to try out textures and colors and not commit a project to being your life's work. A couple of afternoons and you've got your bag.

Also while bag making I thought I would show what I have found to be its only challenge.
Challenge =Bulk. Yup, you have simple straight lines to sew, but man, do you have the bulk! The way I make my bags with fusible fleece topped with stiff fusible Decor Bond they take on a life of their own. I grapple and twist and pull. But that stiffness is what keeps it from having BHS, or Becky Homecky Syndrome so don't hesitate to over interface your bags. You don't want to make a bag that looks wonderful then collapses in a lump after you have used 3 times. Here you can see one way I dealt with it.
Here I am sewing the lining to the bag at the top edge. The handles are connected with the leather straps to the bag and they are inside between the two. At CF and CB you have the magnetic closures I put in, also very bulky. I can't tell you how many times I underestimated on a bag and put those magnet thingies too close to the seam allowance. Wherever you think they should go, put them back further into the bag. You will need clearance from them to sew your top edge seam.  It totally helps  to have a free arm machine but even that isn't enough. Remember, this is one stiff puppy. So, I turn my machine to be over the edge of my counter. You can't see it but the ironing board is to the left and when the weight of the bag pulls the SA out of whack I have the ironing board to rest it on as I sew. Complicated? no? grunt work? kinda.
Here you see my topstitching the top edge. You can see how you can be concentrating on the stitching closely, as well you should be,  and  that you don't see that your handle is getting caught on the machine, as above, and the next thing you know, you are sewing and making nests not stitches and nothing is moving. Your eyes need to be everywhere, just like with your little ones.
So those are the downsides. Lets get back to the good stuff.
Here you can see the lining, pocket and facing band. See that magnet? The bulk of the seam gives it some strength. It is also back with more decor bond and another piece of the faux leather to prevent show thru and give more strength.

Now some words on the faux leather. Wonder Tape is your new best friend here. I used it many times in this process and here is an example. I needed the facing bands to match exactly on the side seams. I put down a  small piece of WT,  crossing the SAs. Now I can match up the seam allowances. Believe me, without the tape you will match and sew the seam at least 3 times before it is right. Here is what the tape does:

Gotta luv it. Also with faux leathers, use a size 14 stretch needle. I rub a barely there coating of Sewer's Aid on my feed area, the underneath of the presser foot, and right on the vinyl. This helps tremendously. . That needle recommendation is straight from the Sandra Betzina book and it really makes a difference.

What's up next? On the table is my little bishop dress for my Canadian friend and then get going on a muslin for the Channel Jacket, which I will just call the CJ from now on. I also want to make myself  a new bag, something uniquely embellished. More to come.........Bunny


  1. Fab bag! I agree, not properly interfaced and they might look great for a little bit, but then it really shows.

  2. Lovely work! I have several fabrics set aside for "that perfect handbag" but I do fear the bulk and the inevitable layers of interfacing. So I stick to floppy totes for now!

  3. That's a very expensive looking bag. I would have trouble giving it away.

    You are my heroin! I've made a LOT of bags. Always, I struggle with all the bulk. It never dawned on me to turn the machine head at a right angle to the counter! I just knocked myself on the head and said "well, duh"! Thank you for posting that. Wow!

  4. I dunno, Bunny. You make a pretty compelling case here but I still think my machine would have a temper tantrum if I made a handbag.

  5. I don't think that my Viking would go through all of those layers. When I make bags which I often do for gifts, I use my Juki industrial machine which goes through those layers in a flash. Your bag is beautiful. Gita

  6. Love the combination of fabrics and handle. Looks very smart.

  7. I like to put the magnetic snap in after I've sewn the lining to the shell and top-stitched it. I just mark the center points with a pin, and stick my hand through the whole in the lining that I left for turning.

    This way, the snap can be as close to the top as possible ad the lining doesn't get pulled up every time you open the bag.

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  9. Do you ever use a teflon foot? Or does the coating of Sewer's Aid allow the faux leather to slide under the foot well enough? I've been reading books and articles on sewing leather because I've been wanting to explore leather bag making, but I think I should get an industrial machine for it. I have a Viking Sapphire and when I made a bag for my son it had a tough time with the bulky seams. The bag was only made of flannel that was interfaced with fusible fleece (and it had a flannel lining). If my machine had a tough time with that I can't imagine it would be fun to sew a leather bag with it. Luckily, industrial machines aren't very expensive when you see them on Craigslist!! I don't have room for another machine, though. *sigh*


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