Metal framed handbags are the quintessential classic bag design for professional accessory designers and small leather goods manufacturers. Yet many new designers and craftspeople shy away from designing their own framed styles because the concept looks complex to produce, in addition to finding a source for the bag frames. Let me assure you that the design process for these traditional bags is quite easy to do and simple to sew. Making this purse style isn’t nearly as tricky as you might think.
The whole design of your handbag is based upon the metal frame. Before beginning to draft your pattern, you must select a bag frame. There are many collections of purse frames on the market for design-it-yourself projects. This hinged hardware come in a wide range of styles, rectangular or curved in shape, in various metal colours and finishes. You will find classic vintage frames with kiss-lock closures and intricate scroll details, to the versatile sleek modern metal frames with ball-lock closures which may or may not have a convertible carrying chain.
The size of the frame determines the size of the bag. Small frame widths (65 – 100 mm) are the right size for coin purses, while medium frame widths (1oo – 150 mm) make up wallets and pocketbooks nicely, and large frames widths (200 – 300 mm) are ideal for clutch bags and purses. The frames are attached by using clear-set bonding glue for adhering porous and non-porous materials; or, framing scrim, a dense twisted paper cord or pliable rubber filler that fills the frame channel; or, using a crimping tool that gently crimp the metal of the purse frame to the cloth.
Depending where you live, availability and selection may be a limitation but demand is making it a popular seller for retailers and availability is growing. Fashion accessory designers have the benefit of access to trade-only suppliers and often years in advance, before these raw materials become common in the marketplace. So, you will have to work with whatever is available through your favourite retailers. In larger urban areas you may find specialty retailers like MacDonald-Faber Ltd. that carry many of the items you will need, while in smaller towns you may have to depend upon catalogue mail-order, such as A Great Notion. Many suppliers can be found on-line through Etsy® , Ebay®, and the like such as Mikke, offering variety and quality, allowing you to eliminate the “middle man” by buying direct from the source.
The main reason why handbag patterns are not available for purse frames is because there are so many different purse frame shapes. This means you have to draft your own patterns. The design concept needs to have height, width, and depth to create a style. The size of the frame determines the width of the bag; height and depth can be whatever dimensions you wish.
Take your frame and draw around the outer perimeter, including the points where the hinges stop.
From the hinge points, square down vertically to the desired height of the bag.
To create the depth, you must add a gusset on each side. Extend the baseline outward on either side of center to half of the finished depth measurement and join to the top edge with a straight line. The pattern is now wider than the right angles of the frame. The wider the angle the more deeper your purse will be.
Next, measure the distance from the top corner of the purse frame to its hinge. Transfer this amount to your pattern draft plus add seam allowance and fit ease (this can be about 1 cm for the seam allowance and a few millimetres more from end of the purse hinge location). Indicate these locations with a notch.
This is where the purse hinges will sit on the fabric.
Label your pattern with cutting instructions and add a grainline for the marker.
Depending upon your fashion fabric choice, you may need to add interfacing. Interfacing creates structure if it is used on the body of the bag – but is entirely optional here, and using it depends on the weight of the fabric and the finished look that you require.
INTERFACING & INTERLINING
Interfacing adds “body” to the bag’s shape and using it depends on the weight of the fabric and the finished look that you desire. Bag facings and the underside of flaps are major structural pieces in bag construction and often carry hardware; they should always be interfaced. Framed clutch purses go great with evening gowns or dressy outfits. Since clutch purses are usually made from fancy fashion fabrics such as silk or satin, you’ll need to add interfacing to make the fabric more stable. By fusing interfacing to every piece of the outside of the bag you add a lot more structure to the fabric. Some fabrics won’t need it, but most medium-weight or lightweight fabrics will benefit from it. Also be aware that any fashion fabric with a nap, pile, or relief surface will be subjected to sew-in type interfacings only, as not to destroy the beauty of its surfaces with heat and pressure.
I like to interface the lining as well to strengthen it against wear and tear in use, but it shouldn’t be the main support in the bag. A knit-fuse type interfacing is ideal to stabilize it without adding stiffness.
It’s important to remember that by adding an extra layer of interfacing to a bag piece, you are also increasing the bulk of the fabric. In this case, this is a good thing as the layers will fill the channel of the purse frame. Be careful when you are using heavy fabrics, for instance canvas or denim, that your sewing machine will be able to sew through all the layers at points where several seams converge.
Sometimes it takes making up a “test” bag or two (see: making mock-ups) in different weight fabrics to understand the balance that has to be struck between the look you require and the capabilities of your sewing machine.
Whenever designing an evening bag with beading, sequins, sheer or lacy fashion fabric, the best thing to do is to interline it with a more solid fabric, and in turn interface the solid fabric (a stable, woven fabric is best as a base for sheer fabrics). You may or may not have to use Pellon®. First you sew or iron on the interfacing to the back of the solid fabric, then lay the sheer fabric over the top of the right side of the solid fabric. Stay-stitch the sheer fabric in place all the way around, and then make up the bag treating the layered pieces as if as one.
USING WADDING OR FLEECE INTERLINING ( PELLON® )
Iron-on or sew-in wadding (Pellon®) can give extra structure to fabric bags and is available in different weights and thicknesses. This plush needle-punched fleece interlining is great for bag-making because it sticks to the fabric and makes the pieces very easy to sew together, and it holds the shape of the bag beautifully, while being lightweight. Similarly like when applying interfacing, by adding this extra layer to your fabric you are creating more bulk. You may have to check that your sewing machine will sew through several layers of the fabric and wadding before you proceed with making up the bag.
Cut out your fabric pieces. From your pattern, cut: 2 pieces each of the fashion fabric, lining fabric, and fusible or sew-in interfacing. Iron the fusible interfacing onto the wrong side of your exterior fabric, if using.
To construct the exterior of the bag, create a “sandwich” with the fashion fabric (FACE SIDES together) in the middle and the sew-in interlining on the outsides. Pin/baste all layers together. Starting from one of your hinge markings sew the sides and bottom of the exterior finishing at the other hinge markings.
Create a flat bottom for your purse by mitering (optional) or round off the tips of the triangle to create nice curved corners. To miter, take one of the corners of your exterior bag and match the side seam with the bottom seam line. Flatten to form a triangle. Measure the desired depth amount down from the tip of the triangle mark the line with chalk and pin. Stitch along the marked line perpendicular to the seam and trim any excess fabric 1cm from the seam to create a mitered corner. Repeat for the opposite bottom corner of the exterior. Turn exterior bag right side out.
Sew up the lining. With FACE SIDES together, mark the flap opening/hinge bit on the lining to match the notch made on the exterior bag. Sew the lining bag in the same way as above except you have to leave an opening in the bottom of the lining to allow for turning.
With FACE SIDES OUT, slip the exterior section in-between the lining. The face sides of the lining bag and the exterior bag should now be touching each other. Sew the two flaps of the purse. On one of the flaps pin the lining to the exterior bag at the top and sides. Begin sewing where the stitching starts on the lining, sew all around the sides and top edge stopping at the stitching on the lining. Repeat with other purse flap. Clip ‘V’ notches in the notch locations and any curved areas of the seam allowance to aid in securing a smooth edge.
Gently pull the exterior of the bag through the opening left in the lining. Drop the lining into the cavity of the exterior bag and smooth everything down, press if necessary.
To complete and before applying the glue or framing scrim, dry-fit the bag into the frame to check the fit. Check the bulk of the seam and trim seam allowance if necessary. The thickness of the layers at this point should fill the cavity of the frame nicely. If the seaming is thin or not sufficiently bulky, use framing scrim to fill it out.
Then, remove from the frame and sew up opening in the lining closed. Stitch the gap in the lining closed by pushing the raw edges into the gap and edge-stitch close to the edge for a neat finish.
A clear-set bonding glue designed for adhering to porous (fabric) and non-porous (metal) materials is used to attach the frame to the cloth bag. Read manufacturer’s instructions for glue application of adhesive. Apply the bonding glue to the channel of one of the sides of the frame. Start at the hinge and work your way to the other hinge. Go easy on the glue and only do one side of the frame at a time! Use a craftstick (or something similar) to spread the glue around inside the frame. Don’t let it form “globs” or it will ooze out on your fabric. Allow the glue to become tacky for 5 minutes.
Insert your purse flap into the frame. Start by inserting the sides of your purse into the frame (hinge end first) then work your way up to the top corners. Use a pointed tool to poke and stuff the fabric evenly into the frame – a crease presser/turner is perfect for this job. After you have inserted the sides of the purse into the frame, start inserting the top edge of the purse into the frame working reasonably quickly before the glue dries. Turn the purse over to check that the lining side is also inserted evenly into the frame. Leave to dry for 15min before tackling the other side of the frame and purse in the same way. Let everything dry for about 30 minutes or according to manufacturer’s directions.
Framing scrim, a dense twisted paper cord or pliable rubber filler for frame purse-making, can be used for thin fashion fabrics in conjunction with the bonding glue. It is ideal for standard-to-wide channeled purse frames or purses with thin fabric layers. Using the framing scrim strengthens the bond between the fabric and the frame and fills the channel of the frame. Insert the scrim between the exterior bag portion and the lining side of the purse using a pointed tool, such as a wooden creaser, and push it up into the channel to secure the top of the bag onto the frame before closing up the opening in the bottom of the lining. The thickness of the scrim will plug up the channel and stabilize the edge of the cloth.
Some purse shapes require the use of purse frame crimpers, but the 75mm to 200mm range of frames available on the market do not require this tool. The crimpers gently squeeze the metal around the top edge of the bag encasing the fabric into the frame. There are often instructions included in the kits outlining how to use the crimpers so follow manufacturer’s directions for using this tool.