Easy bags to sew + how to sew purse straps

Posted by on April 8, 2013, in quilting & sewing,

French Market ToteA 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.

Bird-Watcher Messenger BagHow to make a messenger bag out of fabric perfect for YOU

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.

This week only downloadable ePattern $4.00 $2.99eBook only $16.95 $10.17Book + free eBook $24.95 $14.97

Jelly Roll Tote BagHow to make a tote bag out of fabric—precut fabric, that is

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.

This week only: eBook only $14.99 $8.99Book + free eBook $22.99 $13.97

Sashiko Clutch Purse

How to make purses out of fabric you love—in styles running the gamut from practical to frivolously fun

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.

This week only: eBook only: $13.95 $8.37 │ Book + free eBook $21.95 $13.17

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.

Purchased Handles

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

Pocketbook Purses

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″
• Iron
• 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.

Stitch the long edges together

2. Turn the casing right side out. Press, centering the seam.

Center the casing seam

3. Layer two batting strips, fusible sides together. Lay a press cloth on top and press to fuse.

Layer 2 batting strips

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.

Stitching the strap

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.

Make a diagonal cut

2. Align the ruler with the cut edge to cut a strip to the desired width.

Align the ruler with the cut edge

3. Trim both ends of the strip on the lengthwise grain of the fabric.

Trim both ends of the strip

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.

Press seam 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!

Projects from The New Handmade
From The New Handmade

Sew the Perfect Bag
From Sew the Perfect Bag

Bag Boutique Collage
 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!

8 Comments (leave a comment)

  • Those are very cute bags and thanks for the how to’s on the bag. Thanks for sharing God Bless.

    —julie on April 8, 2013
  • No one has one like the one you made-in your favorite
    colors and fabrics!!!

    —Judy on April 8, 2013
  • The best thing about making bags has been designing them myself using free designer fabric samples.

    —Linda Christianson on April 9, 2013
  • I always make my own. They are exactly the fabric, style and compartments I want! The best part is using them…

    Linny on April 12, 2013
  • The best thing about making you’re own bag is You can make a different bag for every week of the year if you want. You can change the fabric types and combinations, add fun embellishments, give them away, make some more, let it lift your creativity, compliment an outfit, make for gifts – even men carry bags!

    Karen Owen on April 15, 2013
  • I make bags for a breast cancer surgeon, who gives them to her newly diagnosed breast cancer patients. The patients use them while they are receiving treatment. It makes me happy to share a bag with someone who is going through a difficult time. I love looking for new patterns. I have been able
    to use some of my stash.

    —Judy on May 22, 2013
  • I make bags for a battered womens shelter. It is fun to use the
    different big prints. Color I think is important I hope it gives the
    women a smile .

    —Darlene Joyner on July 19, 2013
  • Bags are fun and should remain fun. I bought a pattern from Ouiltmaker for a "mondo bag". Without a doubt it was the worst project I had ever attempted. Directions are critical when one buys a pattern.The directions for this darling "big" bag were so unclear it was like trying to solve a mystery. I commented on the directions on their page and lo and behold several others had the same issue. Make sure the directions are clear for any pattern you use before starting. Save yourself a lot of upset and stress. Would never make this bag again ever though I know how. lol. Just saying, glad I found this site.

    —ebarker on November 15, 2014

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