As you might imagine the design considerations for making a tote bag out of stiff heavy canvas to carry groceries are quite different than those for a dainty evening bag made of soft velveteen fabric with a lot of beaded trim. Sometimes we have to skive, cement, fold, split and bind. There are zippers as well as fasteners to install. Several layers of fabric in one place have to smoothly flow into one layer without producing unsightly lumps that jam under presser feet when sewn. The parts must be capable of being assembled in such a way that the operations can be done easily and accurately time after time.
Besides the design considerations that pertain to the actual making of the product, there are other factors to consider. The product must be designed to meet the needs of the maker. In other words, the bag design needs to be functional and not only pretty. What is it going to carry? Is it for daily use or only for special occasions? Does it have one purpose or multi-faceted? It helps to know how you intend to use it. What is important to you about a handbag – light-weight, security, organization, etc? Make a wishlist about what you want this handbag to do for you. These requirements need not limit the degree of sophistication of the finished product nor the quality of the components. You can work to produce the best-looking fashion accessory for your own needs, within the given constraints.
I often make bags from cotton duck or canvas accented with leather, but there are many other possibilities for handbag fabrication. With my exposure to high fashion materials as a designer, I became convinced that other fabrics could make a superior product when combined with leather than simply cotton duck or canvas. Most of the equipment and supplies used for do-it-yourself projects and general sewing can be used to sew handbags. Some extra tools are needed, but none are expensive and the use of them will ensure the success of your project and simplify each step of the process. It may not be quite Louis Vuitton or Hermes but the finished details look very professional and attractive. You can do the same.
There is a practical aspect to all this. You get one-of-a-kind styling with all the key features and details you desire; in the fabric, texture, and colour to compliment your wardrobe and lifestyle.
Other limitations that may occur is the availability of supplies. Fashion 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. Having said that, the availability of supplies is growing. In larger cities you may find specialty retailers that carry many of the items you will need, while in smaller towns you may have to depend upon catalog mail-order. Many suppliers can be found on-line offering variety and quality, allowing you to eliminate the “middle man” by buying direct from the source.
I can tell you that before a single sketch is drawn or any pattern drafted, fashion designers source out and pre-purchase materials and supplies to sample at tradeshows. Here is where they find their creative inspiration from the abundance offered in colour, texture, and pattern. It simplifies the design process. Your fabric selection will dictate the shape and function of your design. It is ideally more practical and time/labour saving to work with the resources available to you, rather than design a product, then go search for its parts and components. For instance, say you wish to have a buckle on your shoulder strap. If the only buckle available to you has a 2-inch inner diameter, then you draft a 2-inch wide strap pattern to ensure the proper fit in assembly.
Do as the experts do, search and acquire your materials and supplies before beginning to design and simplify the process.
The design and formation of any designer bag is based upon simple body shapes when laid flat, fit into a square or rectangle, of which the size depends on the final shape and parameters of the pattern. Here are some basic considerations to keep in mind in planning your bag design and supply sourcing:
- every bag has some kind of focal point: often it is the top or the ‘opening’ that adds this interest; it can be a flap, a frame, a zipper, or a draw-cord detail.
- the ‘body’ will have 5 planes: front, back, bottom, and 2 ends.
- begin by drafting the pattern (square or rectangle) into a grid and plan out the body of the design.
- the next step is to create a top finishing for the design and to allow seam allowance for its attachment (this may be incorporated as a single unit onto the body or its parts).
- also consider the type of closure and hardware desired and its best application, and the type of seaming techniques that are appropriate for the design.
- a lining, either drop-in or fixed, can be added to the interior of the bag for support and appearance.
- pick a strap style: will it be a fixed or adjustable length? will it be attached to front and back or from side gussets? will it fit in the hand or over the shoulder?
You are well on your way to designing and creating your own fashion bag.