A constellation of family birthdays is approaching. Your relatives appreciate handmade…but you’ve already given them seven quilts each. When you’re looking for variety in your handmade gift giving, what’s a quilter to do? Sew bags!
If you’ve only ever made quilts or perhaps a few garments, the books and patterns we’re featuring today show how easy sewing bags, totes, and carryalls can be.
In fact, learning how to sew a handbag looks a lot like fun. And in our roundup of DIY bags, we’ll show just how diverse the options are, with everything from delicate pocketbook purses to sturdy travel totes and diaper bags. Plus, we’ll get a quick intro to handbag handles from Amy Barickman, along with instructions for stitching your own bag straps. Knowing how to sew purse straps allows you to substitute fabric handles for purchased ones in all the handbag designs you stitch.
You’ve probably seen them in canvas and leather, but how about stitching a customized messenger bag out of fabric that reflects your style? If you’re looking for both practical and pretty, Cassie Barden’s got you covered with her "Bird-Watcher Messenger Bag" from The New Handmade.
For her feminine take on the tote bag, Nancy J. Martin turned to 2½" Jelly Roll strips. Wouldn’t it be fun to haul your latest quilt blocks to a guild meeting in your own version of this duffle bag?
This week only: downloadable ePattern $4.00 $2.99
How to make a clutch purse out of fabric embellished with Sashiko stitching
For this purse we go to the experts at Sew News and their book Sew the Perfect Bag. Been wondering if you should just discard that last scrap of your favorite print? Why not hold on to it—in the form of a clutch? Or maybe there’s a gorgeous piece of silk dupioni you’ve been eyeing at the fabric store. Pair it with colorful Sashiko stitching, as shown here, for a gorgeous special-occasion purse.
Amy Barickman of Indygo Junction sure knows pretty, doesn’t she? Her bags feature shapes both classic and new, and the silhouettes are frequently enhanced by well-chosen embellishments. Following the patterns in Bag Boutique allows you to experiment with elegant fabric pairings, playful embellishments, and your choice of purchased or hand-stitched handles.
Bag Handles and Straps
Excerpted from Bag Boutique by Amy Barickman
The handle styles on our bags fall into two categories: purchased handles and fabric straps, including shoulder straps. Each type has its own look and characteristics.
Almost any craft or fabric store has purse handles available for purchase. Most handles are made of hard plastic or plastic made to look like wood or bamboo. Tabs or casings connect the handles to the bags. If you are uncertain which connector to choose, find a bag with a similar handle in the book and follow those instructions for making your tabs or casing. As long as you are careful about centering the handle on your chosen bag, you have a lot of choices for your bag shape.
Fabric Handles and Straps
Many of our bag patterns can be made with fabric handles or shoulder straps instead of purchased handles. To make a flat, padded shoulder strap, like the kind you see on many purchased fabric handbags, you will need extra purse fabric (or contrasting fabric) and fusible batting. After you sew the straps, pin them to the bag and adjust the length to your liking. You can easily customize the instructions to make shorter or longer handles or a wide single strap that attaches to the bag at the side seams. Another design option, featured in the “Pocketbook Purses” at left, is to use bias-cut fabric strips for the purse trim and handle. On curved edges, bias strips provide the necessary give and stretch that a straight-cut binding strip cannot. Plaids and striped fabrics cut on the bias take on a new design dimension.
Making Shoulder Straps
To make shoulder straps, you will need:
• 2 strips of fabric, 3″ x 29″
• 4 strips of fusible batting, 1¼" x 29″
• Press cloth
• Safety pin
• Sewing machine
1. Fold a fabric strip in half lengthwise, right sides together. Stitch the long edges together using a ¼" seam allowance.
2. Turn the casing right side out. Press, centering the seam.
3. Layer two batting strips, fusible sides together. Lay a press cloth on top and press to fuse.
4. Attach a safety pin to the batting strip and draw it through the casing by pulling on the pin. Remove the safety pin, and adjust and straighten the batting as needed.
5. Stitch down the middle of the strap and ¼" from each long edge. Repeat to make two straps.
Making a Bias Strip
To make a bias-fabric strip suitable for purse trim or handles, you will need:
• Square or rectangle of fabric, at least 18″ x 22″
• Rotary cutter, ruler, and cutting mat
• Sewing machine
1. Starting at the bottom left corner of the fabric, measure an equal distance along the bottom and left edges and make a mark on each edge. The distance you measure will depend on the size of the fabric. Align the ruler on the marks. Run the rotary cutter along the edge of the ruler, making a diagonal cut across the fabric.
2. Align the ruler with the cut edge to cut a strip to the desired width.
3. Trim both ends of the strip on the lengthwise grain of the fabric.
4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 to cut multiple strips as needed. Sew the strips together end to end, using a ¼" seam allowance. Press the seam allowance open.
Thanks for the pointers, Amy! For even more inspiration, check out the fun bags below. And remember, they’re all 40% off this week only!
From The New Handmade
From Sew the Perfect Bag
From Bag Boutique
What about you? Have you stitched your own bags—or do you want to? What’s the best part about making bags? Tell us your story in the comments!