Monday, January 4, 2016

Book Review! The Better Bag Maker

If you are into making bags and really want to make better, retail worthy bags, this book by Nicole Mallalieu is for you. She is the Better Bag Maker and this book is about using better skills to get better results. From the book, Mallalieu is "obsessed with improving my own skills and learning new and better ways of making things". When's the last time you heard a contemporary sewist with a book deal say that?  Her passion for sewing and for sharing her knowledge is very evident throughout.

I got this book through my library's interlibrary loan system. You can get nearly any book that way and our system extends nationwide. Almost always, however, I am able to get books from the surrounding counties so no long wait. It is really worth getting familiar with your local library. You can save dollars and they can get you nearly anything.

This book is the bag maker's version of the Vogue Sewing Book. I've read a lot of bag making books and followed sites and blogs of some of the better known bag makers. None come close to the skills and understanding of the craft like Mallalieu. This is no "make a bag in an hour" type of book. The knowledge shared is high quality and shows the experience of the author. You really get the sense of her personal vision, throughout, and not what an editor somewhere thought might sell. She takes her teaching very seriously yet there is always a sense of fun and lightness about her lessons.

The Book starts with an in depth discussion of what you need to make bags, the first being sewing machines. She explains, details, and names types of interfacings, presser feet, adhesives and so much more. You will not have questions. It's all covered in depth. But her writing is light  and so easy to understand.

After discussing the tools necessary, she gets into the sewing skills needed. These include how to actually alter bag patterns to get the design you want, pocket making of various types, zippers, facings, linings, straps and so much more. Then and only then she starts you on making really nice projects, nothing with that just made at home for the first time look. There are ten bags to be made, each adding to and building on previous skills. She grades them with skill levels from Beginner through to Confident. I like that Confident designation, instead of using something like advanced or expert. She explains that the most challenging bags are for those who are most confident in their skills. I really like that philosophy.

The photography is gorgeous with the paper being heavy and satin finished.  The technical drawings are very clear and easy to understand. Her prose is professional, clear, and genuine. Each of the bag projects is very stylish and she has no hesitation teaching you challenging skills. Like any great teacher, she knows you can do it! She knows that if you follow the program you will get to that "Confident" designation.

If you enjoy making bags or want to know more about their construction, if you are looking for inspiration as well as excellent, high quality content, and if you really want to learn to do things right from someone who truly is an expert, buy this book. Now that I have read it I want it as a reference. Every home bag maker needs this book and no other in her sewing library...........Bunny


  1. Wow! That is quite an endorsement! Thanks very much for your thoughtful, honest review. Does the author discuss using leather?

  2. How coincidental - I checked this out of the library last week but have yet to crack it open. If it's as good as you say, Bunny, I'll be purchasing it in the long run.

    1. Hope you like it. I was just impressed with her knowledge and skills. She is passionate about her subject matter.

      I'll admit I am comparing to two other "big name" bag designers and there books. This is leagues better. It seems the information is just easier to absorb in this book.

      By the way, there is no affiliation here. When it is slow at the library I work in, I look up and order sewing books from all over. Anything really worthwhile I like to share with my readers.

  3. I'm so happy to see your review! I LOVE this book, and refer to it every time I make a bag. I use it for her techniques, more so than for the patterns -- she has these tiny little tricks that make seams neater, corners cleaner and squarer, and so forth. I know I am not alone in taking your reviews very seriously, so I am delighted that this book gets the Bunny Seal of Approval.

  4. You are so knowledgeable, a great report on the book.

  5. Thanks for the review, Bunny. I've been looking for the perfect bag-making book. I'm going to look for it.

  6. Thanks for the review Bunny. I've just requested it from my library!

  7. Bunny, Thanks so much for taking the time to review this book...I love your book reviews! This one is very timely for me, since I recently acquired quite a few bolts of wonderful home dec fabric at auction and planned to make purses and bags with it. I've purchased several bag making books of late, and was sorely disappointed. So many seem to be rushing their books to print, and the end result is not impressive. I already know how to turn out a decent bag...but I'd like to know how to expand my skills beyond the basics. Thanks again, this book is definitely for me! Linda S.


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