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Interfacing is a hidden component. It’s the magic in the middle. It adds body to the bag shape.
Choosing just the right interfacing is key to your handbag’s appearance and performance. In a handbag, purse, or tote bag, it can make the difference between a project looking professional and wearing well, rather than tired and homemade. If you use an interfacing that is too firm, it can make your handbag stiff, rigid, and uncomfortable. Without the right interfacing, your handbag can be limp and lifeless.
Interfacing may also be described as fusible or sew-in. Fusible interfacing has an adhesive on one or two sides, which will be activated by the heat of your iron. The choice between a fusible and a sew-in interfacing depends on the chosen fabric, the tactical texture of its surface, and the degree of firmness desired. Fusibles are great time savers. They’re easy to work with and compatible with most fabrics. They will make a fabric slightly crisper than a sew-in interfacing of comparable weight. Fusi-Knit® is ideal for reinforcing and stabilizing weaker fashion fabrics without adding stiffness, especially thin fashion linings which will fall apart through “wear & tear”.
Some fabrics simply cannot be fused. The fibre content or the finish will not allow the adhesive to penetrate. Other fabrics may be too sensitive: the heat, moisture, and pressure needed might damage them or flatten its surface texture. A sew-in might be preferable so as not to mar the beauty of the fabric. Generally, Pellon® interfacings do not need to be preshrunk.
Always pretest any fusibles before starting your project. We recommend pre-washing your fabrics if possible to preshrink as well as to remove any finishes that may be on the fabric and could interfere with the fusing process.
To pretest, cut a 4 x 4-inch (10 x 10 cm) piece of fabric. Cut a 2 x 4-inch (5 x 10 cm) piece of interfacing. Fuse only half of the square per the manufacturer’s instructions included with the fusible. Allow the fabric to cool. The interfacing should be firmly attached to the fabric. If not, more heat, time, or pressure may be needed. Evaluate the surface of the fabric. It should be smooth/unchanged. If not, the interfacing may be too heavy for the fabric or the iron may have been too hot during fusing. If the fabric seems too crisp or heavy, change to a lighter weight or consider a sew—in. If the fabric seems too limp, consider a crisper interfacing or add a second layer of interfacing.
BAG BOTTOM REINFORCEMENT
In bags that have a flat base it is a good idea to add a firm bottom. Cardboard can give you the right amount of firmness but will fold and buckle over time and disintegrate when wet. A better alternative is plastic canvas grid. This is light weight and can be cut to size. Because it made of plastic it is more durable than cardboard and the grid makes adding bag feet a breeze. It is sold in craft shops, sewing shops and hobby shops.
INTERFACINGS FOR BAG MAKING
The following list includes some Pellon® interfacings and interlinings handy for use in making handbags, tote bags, and purses:
- 65 Pellon® Heavyweight Stabilizer: This stable sew-in non-woven is great to use in bags where you need a touch of firmness.
- 70 Pellon® Peltex® Ultra-Firm Stabilizer: This ultra-ﬁrm sew-in non-woven has the weight of cardboard but bend and wash like fabric. It is great to use two Iayers in the bottom of a bag or in the handles to give ﬁrmness and stability. It’s also great for fabrics that you not want to fuse.
- 71F Pellon® Peltex® I – 1-Sided Fusible Ultra-Firm Stabilizer: This one-sided fusible ultra-firm stabilizer can be used either on the outer fabric or fused to inner fabric to give you stability and a crisp exterior. When multiple layers are fused together, it will give you a very firm, stable product.
- 72F Pellon® Peltex® II – 2-Sided Fusible Ultra-Firm Stabilizer: This two-sided ultra-firm stabilizer can two fabrics together while giving wonderful firmness to your bag—and it can be a time saver. As with the 70 and 71F, multiple layers will give you more stability firmness yet will still be washable and dry cleanable.
- NR-3102 Pellon® FusiKnit ® Tricot Fusible Interfacing: Fusible, lightweight tricot knit interfacing/underlining with crosswise stretch for soft shaping and tailoring.
- 926 PelIon® Extra-Firm Stabilizer: This product is also a ﬁrm, stable sew-in product. It has a slightly softer hand than the Peltex series, and you might prefer this in bags you want to slouch a bit.
- 808 Craft-Fuse® Iron-On: This thin, crisp iron-on lends support and stability without extra weight for smaller handbags or purses.
- 809 Décor—Bond Iron-On: Originally introduced for the home decorating market, bag designers have taken a liking to its crisp but light support for tote bags and purses.
- 987F Pellon® Fusible Fleece: This lightweight, low-loft fusible fleece is perfect to add some stability and firmness to a purse, backpack, or tote bag without adding too much fluff. An absolute favourite of designers!
- 988 Pellon® Fleece Interlining: This lightweight, low-loft, sew-in ﬂeece can add a small amount of loft to your project. Used by itself, it will keep your small clutch soft, but if you add a stabilizer like 70 or 71F or 72F you will have firmness with low loft.
- TP970 Thermolam Plus®: This heavily needled, sew-in fleece is wonderful for use in small luggage, back-packs, large tote bags. anywhere you prefer a little extra loft. Use it in conjunction with a stabilizer like 808 or 809, and you will get a great result.
- TP9Z1F Fusible Thermolam Plus®: The fusible version of the heavily needled, polyester fleece is great for all kinds of bags. Use it alone or with another stabilizer for extra firmness with body.
- SF101 Shapeﬂex® Woven Fusible: This 100 percent cotton woven fusible is great for light- to medium-weight fabrics. Fused to the outside fabric, it gives a light firmness to your purse without being too crisp.
Photo Credit: Sew News
Celebrate summer with fresh sewing patterns and techniques from Sew News magazine! From wearables to stylish home décor projects to innovative techniques to take your sewing to the next level, the experts have got your summer sewing needs covered.
Inside on page 74, you’ll find my Simple & Chic Camie project with full instructions to draft your own, along with step-by-step construction methods. The June/July 2015 issue is available now online digitally or at your local newsstand.
Leather can be a very forgiving material to work with in bag-making projects. It is supple yet durable and hard-wearing. However it does required a different approach than that of sewing cloth. Depending on what type of leather you use and how thick the sample is, it may be a task to manipulate it into the right size and shape for your needs. For the most part, smaller animal skins means the leather is thinner, making it appropriate for sewing with a conventional home sewing machine yet it also means the square area is often not large enough to cut out one solid piece for big projects and joining is required to make the final size required for your design. This is particularly true when trying to create bag strapping.
Skiving is the process used in bag-making to reduce the thickness of leather, especially in areas that are to be bent or folded and which must be pliable without becoming weakened. It is usually performed on the “flesh” side of a piece of leather rather than the “finished” side, and results as a “bevel” on the leather’s thickness to thin it out and reduce bulk.
Generally it is most often done along the edges of the leather where joins are formed, at the end of straps to allow for a better fitting of buckles or where handles are to be sewn into place and if done carefully, can even thin a very small area of leather around a punched hole to allow for a depressed hidden rivet. The latter can also be used to allow a secure set-up for a snap fastener or a bag clasp that would otherwise be slightly too thick for the length of the snap post.
- Be careful when working with extremely sharp blades.
- Use new blades with each project; a razor sharp edge on your knife is essential.
- Granite slab or glass works best for a hard smooth cutting surface
- Work on an uncluttered solid flat surface that is well-lit.
- Use woodworker’s safety tape on your fingers if desired.
- This is not a process to engage in when you are distracted or tired.
Choose the appropriate tool for the job. For skiving an edge along which a stitched or riveted join will be done it is probably most easily achieved with a straight skiving knife (aka a skife) or a Mackay knife. You will find that a sharp utility blade will work as well. Whatever type of blade you use, make sure it is extremely sharp. Place the leather face down, with the fleshy side up. Bevel your edges by holding your skiving blade at the angle you need for your bevel – for shallower bevels, hold the knife more horizontal to the surface of the leather, for a deeper bevel, hold it more perpendicular. Slide the blade along the edge while placing tension on the hide with the fingers of your non-cutting hand. Push the back of the blade with the index finger of the same hand for a smooth edge.
“skife (above); Mackay knife (below)”
With the skife, simply place the leather on a flat work surface and hold firmly in place. Hold the leather firmly down on a hard and clean surface such as granite. Choose a work surface that is smooth and cannot be damaged if your blade slips and cuts into it.
Hold the blade at a low angle with the tip against the edge of the leather. Slice in a fluid motion to bevel the edge of the leather. The tool should be towards one end of the leather, protruding over the edge and resting at a slight angle as illustrated.
Apply enough pressure for the blade to bite into the leather and carefully draw the tool towards you, trimming the edge as you go. The depth of the cut (and therefore the thickness of the leather remaining) is dictated both by the amount of downward pressure exerted and by the angle at which you hold the knife itself; usually between 30 and 45 degrees.
To use a Mackay knife or utility blade, the action is pretty much the same as the skife except you are pushing the blade away from you rather than drawing towards you. Also there is no guard or other guiding fence on how deep you cut; it is purely down to your own control over the blade itself and holding the leather firmly. One slip and it could easily ruin your leather piece and possibly your fingers. Little and often is the key here. You can always keep going over the leather, removing thin strips each time. Remember, you can always take it away but you can’t add it back on. Repeat the skiving motions all over the surface of your leather until you have thinned your piece down to the thickness you wish.
There you have it. Bevel those edges and keep a steady hand.
Bag straps are the backbone of any fashion handbag. They are often the ﬁrst element you think about when you begin to design. Ask yourself if you will carry the bag over your shoulder, across your chest, in the crook of your arm, or in your hand.
Do consider how sturdy and resilient the handles need to be, whether there will be one or two straps, if they will be made from the same fabric as the bag, whether they will be structured or soft, and if they will incorporate a chain or other hardware.
Your design decisions will inﬂuence how and where the straps attach to the bag. Strap styles vary greatly. They can be part of the bag body, as in a hobo style, or made separately out of self-fabric, leather, Lucite®, bangles, beaded strands, simple utilitarian nylon webbing, or basic chains in everything from ordinary metals to more ornate and precious ones. Strap lengths can vary widely, and they can be adjustable. They can attach side to side, as in an east-west formation, or you can have double straps with one attached to the front and one to the back. Be sure to consider comfort when deciding on a strap style. For example, a metal chain can be a beautiful choice, but it’s neither comfortable nor practical to use on a bag that will hang from your shoulder all day. Try to create options in how the strapping is configured to your bag design to further enhance its versatility. Design at least two strap choices for every handbag so that you have the option of carrying the bag in several ways, such as integrating the first strap into the overall design concept and make the second one, inconspicuous and perhaps detachable.
HOW TO MAKE A BASIC LEATHER BAG STRAP
Cut two strips of thin leather in 2-inch and 1-inch widths to the desired length. Set aside the 1-inch strip, which will become the facing (the brown piece shown in the photo). Working on the wrong side of the 2-inch strip, lightly brush with leather rubber cement. Wait a few minutes, until the cement becomes tacky to the touch. Fold both long edges so they meet at the center. Press firmly. Place the strap on a hard surface (granite works best) and roll flat using a seam brayer. Next, add the facing to the strap. Spread the cement on the backs of the facing strip and strap. After it becomes cloudy and tacky, align the long edges and press the strips together. Roll the strapping flat with a seam brayer. Let the glue settle and dry, then topstitch the strap with parallel rows of stitching. To hide the thread ends, use a hand needle to draw the loose ends into the layers and trim. Use a leather hole punch to pierce holes for connecting bag hardware.
Fuse the narrower strip to the wider turned edged strip for a clean finish and topstitch
Using the correct needle size makes all the difference. When sewing heavy canvas-type fabrics use a size 16 or 18 needle. Use a denim needle when sewing denim and a wedge leather needle for leathers. To allow for the extra thickness of fabric, you should also lengthen your stitch length to between 3 and 4. You need a longer stitch to accommodate the thicker fabric; using a smaller-sized needle and a shorter stitch may cause your machine to jam or the needle to break.
When shopping for glue to attach the back facing to the strapping, check the label on the bottle or tube to make certain that the product you purchase works well on a variety of handbag materials including fabric, metal, and plastics.
Photo: Courtesy of Fine Leatherworking
Thought I’d share with you some insight on leather crafters.
I absolutely concur with his advice to “refine, refine and refine more until you think you can do no better; then get your work out there.”
Oh, by the way, I am not the polite gentleman LOL!
P.S. Take a look at his product line in the Store section too.