There are countless different construction techniques and hardware materials that can be used to embellish your DIY handbags, enhancing their texture, colour, and overall design. Hand and machine stitching, gluing, fusing, and more can be used to add zipper closures, connecting D-rings and O-rings, and even creating bag handle strapping.


Here are a few ideas to use on your next handbag design:

1) Basic D-ring tab: While this piece of hardware is very simple in its construction, it is a bit “fiddle-y” to make up, which often baffles people as to how to approach making one. Let me begin by saying, you have to make two — they often are needed as a pair set. The size of the tab is determined by the diameter of the D-ring used. You can cut your own* or use a woven flat ribbon tape (webbing is ideal) to make this connector. The width of the tab is equal to the diameter of the hardware and is twice the finished length plus ¼ – inch [6 mm]. Basically, you thread the D-ring onto the tab and fold the tab in half allowing for a ¼ – inch extension on one end. You, then machine-stitch as close to the D-ring as possible using a zipper foot attachment to secure the hardware in place. To attach the tab to the bag, align it up-side-down beneath the placement location on the bag and stitch across the ¼ -inch extension. Flip the tab upward into position and make an X-stitch through all layers of the tab or secure in place with rivets.


* when making your own tab, use non-fraying materials like leather or plastic so as not to have to turn under edges.


2) Rouleau: This is a type of passementerie cording with a rope filler. I often use rouleau for self-trimmed bags to create straps though it works great as a contrast trim as well. To make up, cut strips of leather to desired finished length and three times the width of your filler. I’m going to use 1/4″ nylon rope inside the strapping as a filler. Take advantage of double-sided seam tape. One piece on the edge, and one piece on the center. Remove the release paper and stick the rope on center without any twists. Here again, this is the real trick to making these up successfully (try to do this some other way and see what happens). Then, fold the leather straight over and press the edges together.

Now lets sew it together. A roller guide is one of my favourite tools for this job when I make it in leather but you may use a cording foot as well. The leather and rope are controlled by the seam tape as they feed between the foot and the guide for a straight tight seam.

After trimming off the excess to the stitch line with an X-acto knife, you have the completed rolled leather rouleau to use for bag handle straps. The rouleau ends can be lashed down by hand with harness stitching thread, and then covered with a patch tab. (Note: this operation may have to be done while there is easy access.)

3) Inset zipper installation: Inset zippers on a bag look complicated but are very easy to do. Some precision with measuring along with a bit of patience is all you need.

Here’s how! Start by measuring your zipper, from the closed stapled end to the slider stops. This will be how long to make the zipper opening. Often I reinforce the zipper placement area on the body of the handbag with a fusible interfacing like Knit-fuse® to stabilize the material since it will be covered by a bag lining. Next, center and align a rectangle of interfaced cloth over the placement area with FACE SIDES together. This rectangular patch of cloth (facing) should be slightly longer than the length of the zipper tape and about four times its width.

Stitch the outline of the zipper opening in the center of this patch, ensuring to create true right angles (90º) in each corner. Opening = length of zipper.

Slash through center of outline and clip diagonally at corners. Push rectangular facing piece through opening. I like to neaten the corners and press the opening at this point (if the material you are using cannot take heat then use a crease presser on the seams).  Next, center the zipper FACE UP behind the opening. Topstitch around opening to secure zipper.

On the facing piece (back of zipper), stitch either a lining to it or attach pocket bags to complete the installation.




Filed under Design Techniques


  1. thanks for your fantastic tutes. Great to hear from you…

  2. Dee

    OMG! I have done the zippered pouch every which way so that the tape of the zipper is hidden by the lining. All of them much more difficult than sewing the lining to the zipper tape. How very stupid of me! I seem to have a habit of over-thinking and not keeping it simple. Thank you!

    • Don

      Thx Dee… another way I often do it is by making the facing piece (the part that creates the ‘window’) the full width of the bag and that way I can attach the lining to it. It provides a neat finish all round.

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