Bag Making TIPS

I've been making handbags for the past 8 years and just like any beginner, I knew nothing at the start and what I have learned is by trial and error, learning from others, from fellow bag makers and from being a bag pattern tester.  I don't profess to know it all but I hope these tips will help you in your bag making journey.  If you have a question not answered here, please feel free to drop me a message and I'll do my best to help you

BE ACCURATE
Printing your pattern correctly is the first step to a successful bag.  All patterns have a printing tester box, normally 1" square which you should measure to make sure your pattern pieces have printed to the correct size.  In your Printer settings, make sure the "Actual Size" box is checked or you are printing at 100%

Make sure you stick to the seam allowance required by the pattern  

Cutting out your pattern pieces accurately is very important, cut on or outside the black lines not inside them


FABRIC CHOICE
After settling on a bag pattern, choose your fabric based on what the bag is going to be used for, the more use a bag gets, the heavier the fabric required, e.g. choose a decor weight fabric for a holdall or nappy bag or a quilting cotton for a shoulder bag, clutch or pouch

Also, consider what fabric your sewing machine can handle, when you put a bag together, the layers of thickness soon mount up and there's nothing more frustrating than not being able to fit the bulk underneath your sewing foot or getting skipped stitches because the fabric is too thick

Colours are important too, pick out a colour from your exterior fabric to use as an accent fabric or lining.  While linings are on the inside of a bag, they are just as important, I love a bright, cheerful lining


WHAT INTERFACING SHALL I USE ?
Interfacing or interlining products strengthen and provide structure to your fabric and your bag making projects.  If you want your bag, purse or pouch to be soft and squidgy then a fleece type interfacing would work best however if you want your bag to have structure, to stand up on its own then foam interfacing is the way forward

USE A ZIG ZAG STITCH TO ATTACH SEW IN FOAM TO FABRIC
Using a zig zag stitch within the seam allowance, baste foam to your fabric, using a zigzag stitch compresses the foam and reduces bulk in your seam allowance

PRESS WELL
Pressing at every stage of the bag making process is integral to a good finish

Press seams open or up, depending on a pattern's requirements
Use a pressing cloth to prevent your fabric becoming shiny
When a bag is complete, press it thoroughly, inside and out, it will make all the difference to the finished product, using a tailor's ham to press without using your ironing board is a great tool, it allows you to press edges and round corners - I made mine, it was easy and satisfying

Use a Tailor's Clapper, it's brilliant for making straps and wristlets to achieve sharp, crisp edges

HOW TO AVOID FABRIC WRINKLES
Some wrinkles are inevitable particularly when it comes to turning your bag making project right side out.  I've found that if I fuse woven interfacing to all pieces exterior pieces before applying foam or fleece, then wrinkles are greatly reduced and iron out more smoothly

WHAT SEWING MACHINE IS BEST FOR BAG MAKING ?
I'm not sure that the perfect bag making machine exists and have come to the conclusion that two machines would be ideal, a domestic and an industrial.  Domestic sewing machines these days or even a semi industrial like the Janome HD9 which I own are great for bag making and can handle quite a lot of layers but I really do think when it comes to sewing with vinyl and or leather, an industrial sewing machine works best, I have a Juki DU1181N and for the most part I love it however if I had my time all over again I would likely buy the Juki 1541 because the foot lift is higher.  If you are budget driven then I would seriously consider getting a Vintage Singer 201K, I have one and it's a real work horse, you can buy them reasonably cheaply on ebay or you may even find one in your local charity shop

TUTORIALS AND LEARNING RESOURCES
Like so many people, I'm a visual learner so rather than picking up a book (for which there are many bag making books available), I turn to YouTube.  There are so many free video tutorials available and my favourites are SiahSwag, Sew Sweetness and Country Cow Designs, all 3 ladies go into incredible detail, making bags from beginning to end, sharing tips and tricks to make great bags to a very high standard  

DON'T BE HARD ON YOURSELF
Remember, your bag is handmade, not mass produced.  If it isn't perfect, give yourself a break, slight imperfections are part and parcel of handmade and make your bag unique, I'm sure it will be greatly appreciated by whomever receives it, whether you give it as a gift or sell it to a customer