HOW TO USE THIS BOOK 4
TOOLS AND MATERIALS 7
• Sewing machines • Needles • Presser feet • Fabrics for bags • Interfacings for bags • Adhesives • Hand tools • Fabric markers • Pressing equipment • Cutting equipment
KEY SKILLS 18
• Interfacing and fusing • Reducing bulk • Corner rule • Starting and stopping and keeping ends neat • Stitching sharp edges and smooth curves
BASIC BAG-MAKING TECHNIQUES 25
• Altering patterns • Pockets • Flaps • Straps • Bases • Closures
BASIC BAG 66
The Ibiza Bucket Bag 80
The Osaka Pleated Handbag 86
The Marrakesh Overnighter 94
The Avignon Traveler 104
The Seoul Handbag 114
The Galapagos Boho 124
The Barcelona Satchel 138
The Lahti Flight Bag 148
The Melbourne Weekender 159
The Toronto Convertible Tote-Backpack 175
ABOUT THE AUTHOR 191
I’m a self-confessed sewing geek, obsessed with improving my own skills and learning new and better ways of making things. My other passion is sharing that knowledge and watching skills and confidence grow in other people.
I’ve designed this book to help you become a better bag maker—expanding your repertoire and improving your ability to achieve a professional finish on all your sewing projects. Each project in this book uses the same basic pattern and teaches you a range of techniques for adjusting the proportions of the pattern, as well as constructing pockets, straps, flaps, and bases. Using this variety of techniques, you can transform the basic design into endless different styles. I’ve merged the skills and tools that I’ve picked up from working in fashion production, making handcrafted leather goods, dressmaking, quilting, and developing products in the specialized area of handmade fabric bags.
My approach is always “the shortest route to the best finish,” and I’ve included a lot of tips to help you find that path in your own sewing. My tips are often lessons that were hard-won by my own mistakes, or simply by the sheer number of times I’ve made some parts, always looking for a way to do it faster and better. (My biggest tip, when using this book, is to read the tips!)
You get no reward for doing things the long way with sewing, but you can win praise, appreciation, sales, and awards for making fabulously well-finished fashion accessories. Most important, you can take pride in your own work and enjoy the creative buzz when projects come together quickly.
Through teaching classes in my areas of expertise, I’ve gained insight into a broad range of learning styles and seen that, given the right pace and clear technique-by-technique instructions, people can improve their skills and confidence and sew better than they ever imagined they could. I’ve seen the results and I’ve seen the pride on people’s faces. And I believe that I’ve started more than a few bag-making addictions!
Now it’s your turn!
HOW TO USE THIS BOOK
To most effectively learn from this book, start with the first project and become familiar with the basic construction techniques. The projects are ordered by degree of difficulty, each with at least one special technique to gently guide you on to more challenging design features. You can pick and choose your projects or work your way through all of them, as a kind of self-paced bag-making course.
I’ve graded the skill levels Beginner, Advanced Beginner, Intermediate, and Confident, and some of the bags bridge these levels.
If the instructions look a bit lengthy, it’s not because they are complicated, but because they are broken down into tiny steps to guide you through unfamiliar sewing territory. The first time that you make any particular project or bag component will take longer than any other time, and as you repeat the processes, you’ll find that you need less guidance and that you’ve improved both the speed and the quality of your sewing.
You’ll notice that many of the techniques are repeated throughout the projects, but each project has another set of techniques to learn. I suggest reading through the instructions first and bookmarking the relevant pages in the Basic Bag-Making Techniques section. As you become increasingly familiar with the basics, you’ll spend less time reading these pages (eventually not needing them at all). You can then focus on extending your bag-making repertoire with the new techniques, design ideas, and finishing techniques of the more advanced bag designs.
My method of teaching is to take you slightly beyond your comfort zone, and then to gently guide you to success. If you follow the instructions as you work through each step, I’m sure you’ll be amazed at the quality of the work that you can achieve. However, if you’d rather slow down the sense of being “thrown in at the deep end,” feel free to substitute any of the more complicated design features with one of the more simple techniques from the Basic Bag-Making Techniques section or another project.
After you’ve made the projects in this book, you’ll have a whole new bag of tricks and design features that can be swapped and changed between projects and also applied to any bag-making project of your choosing. Most likely you will also find that the skills and tips are useful in all sorts of everyday sewing.
Start with small challenges and build up your confidence as you move on through the projects.
Pretty soon, you won’t be able to stop making fabulous, fashionable new bags!
If you’re in the market for a new machine for bag making, don’t be seduced by the number of decorative stitches a machine has. A good motor and strong feeding mechanism are the most essential features. You’re better off buying a simple, high-quality machine (even if secondhand) than a less capable machine with bells and whistles that you’ll rarely use.
Other handy features are the ability to move needle position, to set the needle to finish in a needle-up or needle-down position, and to change pressure on the presser foot. A knee-operated lift for the presser foot means that you don’t have to take your hands away from your work, which gives you greater control over fiddly or unwieldy bag components, and a wide “throat” on the machine (the gap between the needle and the body of the machine) makes it easier to manage large bags and stiff interfacings. (Making bags involves a variety of fiddly, large, stiff, and unwieldy bits!)