Move over, Givenchy: how to sew high-end handbags (+ giveaway!)

So, you say you’ve surfed a sea of free bag patterns on the web—and they’re all starting to look the same? If you’re ready to discover how to sew handbags with superior structure, luxury details, and designer style, it’s time you meet Sara Lawson—a.k.a. the Bag Lady.

Projects from Big-City Bags

With Sara’s expert guidance in her new book Big-City Bags (see her Sew Sweetness blog for a taste), you’ll quickly find what’s missing from most free patterns online. For Sara, it’s all in the details. She’ll teach you the ins and outs of installing zippers, stitching adjustable straps, and adorning bags with roomy pockets, pretty pleats, and much more. (Not to mention revealing the pure magic that transpires when you use the right Pellon interfacings—see Sara’s explanatory video below.) Once you learn Sara’s how-to-sew-a-handbag basics, you’ll never buy another off-the-rack bag again.

Sara is at Stitch This! today to share her backstory: how a passion for designing cute handbags led to her debut book. And although Sara’s much too modest to admit it, we’ll call it as we see it—she was the darling of Fall Quilt Market. Welcome, Sara!


PellonOur friends at Pellon have put together a special package of all the Pellon products you’ll need to make the “Miss Independent Bag” (below) from Sara’s book—and they’d like one of you to win it!
Learn how you can win the Pellon package, plus a copy of Big-City Bags, at the bottom of this post. Be sure to visit the Pellon blog today for another special Big-City Bags giveaway!

Miss Independent Bag
Miss Independent Bag details
The winner will receive enough yardage of Pellon Deco-Fuse fusible interfacing, Pellon Shape-Flex fusible woven interfacing, and Pellon Fusible Thermolam Plus fleece to make the “Miss Independent Bag” and companion laptop case—PLUS a copy of
Big-City Bags!

Sara LawsonHello everyone! Today I’d like to talk a little bit about the proposal process and how my book came to be! I first had a glimmer in my head about writing a book about bags back in January 2012. I thought I didn’t have a big enough body of work produced yet (I think I only had about four free bag tutorials out at the time), but I felt like I had a good handle on writing directions to make bags.

One of my friends, Elizabeth Dackson, was in the middle of writing her book called Becoming a Confident Quilter. She referred me to her acquisitions editor with Martingale, Karen Burns. I sent Karen an email, asking if there would be any interest in a bag book. She said that she’d check with the editor-in-chief and let me know in a few weeks. About an hour later, I had a reply. They would be interested in a bag book, and they would like me to send photos of a couple of projects that could be in the book! I was ecstatic!

Sara Lawson
Here’s a photo I sent along with my book proposal.

That’s when the work began. I wrote patterns for two projects that would later appear in the book: the “Miss Independent Bag” and the “Wonderland Bag.”

Miss Independent bag
“Miss Independent Bag”

Wonderland bag
“Wonderland Bag”

I filled out Martingale’s proposal packet, which included questions about the direction of the book, etc. I also had to write down which other books on the market were the biggest competition for my book idea, which was a bit scary—the books that I wrote down were pretty iconic books in my mind.

Go-Go bag
“Go-Go Bag”

Meringue Clutch
“Meringue Clutch”

I turned in my proposal at the beginning of February. Right before I went to Quilt Market in May 2012, I heard back that my book had indeed been accepted! These were exciting times for me, but I deflated a bit when I realized that when I got home from the trip, I’d have only five months left to finish the book. I felt very panicky about how much I had to accomplish in that small amount of time, but everyone assured me that I could do it. I had no choice but to calm down and start working.

It was a happy day when I finished the pattern writing, pattern testing, and sewing of the bags, and shipped everything off to Martingale on November 5, 2012!

Picadilly Circus bag
“Picadilly Circus Bag”

Honeymooner Suitcase
“Honeymooner Suitcase”

Bee Sweet Bag from Big-City Bags

I’ve loved working with Martingale every step of the way, and it was really special for me when I visited their offices in Bothell, Washington, for the photo shoot (that’s me with my “Bee Sweet Bag,” right). I feel like I got to know everyone that worked there a bit better, and it was great having that extra personal connection with all of the people that worked on my book.

Big-City Bags includes 12 exclusive sewing patterns, as well as a very detailed chapter on bag-making techniques, such as installing purse hardware, using different zipper techniques, and attaching leather handles. There is another six-page chapter devoted to interfacing, with in-depth descriptions of many different kinds of Pellon interfacings that I use when making bags. I provide a short explanation of each in the following video.

Watch Sara’s video “How to sew handbags: interfacing tips” on YouTube

I feel like the chapters on bag-making techniques and Pellon interfacings are very important, and they can also be used when sewing other bag patterns. These two chapters alone should make this book an important addition to your sewing library!

Snaps, clips, and straps
Snaps, clips, and straps

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little behind-the-scenes look at my book. I had so much fun working on it and I hope you’ll love it!

Big-City BagsSara, thank you for stopping by—your bags are truly big-city worthy!

What techniques have you been timid to try when it comes to bag making? Zippers? Handles? Hardware? Interfacings? All of the above? Share your story in the comments and you’ll be automatically entered to win a copy of Big-City Bags PLUS a special package of interfacings from our friends at Pellon! We’ll choose a random winner one week from today and let you know by email if you win. Good luck!

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The winner of the giveaway is Elizabeth, who writes:

"I am wanting to try different interfacings rather than just fusible fleece types but have not found enough info to give me confidence to try others. Hope I win the book and the special pkg of Pellon interfacings to try something different! Thanks for this fantastic giveaway!"

Congratulations, Elizabeth—look for an email about your prize.


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