Category Archives: Bag'n-telle

Secrets of the Handbag

chanel-bag-makingof-15-600x900

I love it when one gets privy to a peek at excellent design and quality workmanship

Chanel sent Trendland the exclusive insight of the making of their infamous 2.55. Here is the view of “The secrets of the Handbag” and its press release – “People often ask why CHANEL accessories never seem to age. It is because, having been influenced by the men in her life and even more by her own experience, Mademoiselle Chanel designed them to be practical and, except for a few decorative trimmings, always sensible. Above all, she was her own model: she imagined them, then wore them and finally added the finishing touches. Each detail was there for a reason. She endowed them with perfection and made them the emblem of luxury and elegance.”

http://trendland.com/chanel-the-making-of-the-255/

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Filed under Bag'n-telle, Design Inspiration

HANDY TOTE

cat6

A functional yet basic convertible bag design. A book bag, a market carry-all, the perfect everyday tote. Carry by hand when in use; then fold it into its zippered pouch and slip it in your coat pocket so that it is at the ready.

Dimensions: 18″ high / 16″ wide / 4″ deep, with an exterior zippered pouch pocket and nylon handles. [45.75 cm x 40.5 cm x 10 cm]

Construction Method: Turned finish – this method may be recognized by noting the lack of machine-stitching that is visible at points of assembly on the exterior side of the bag.  This is possible by placing the material, or parts, face to face, machining and turning right-side out. It is the most commonly used assembly process.

Material Used: 100% nylon ripstop, 60″ wide

You will need:

  • 1.25 yds. [1.15 m] water-proof nylon ripstop, 60″ wide [152 cm]**
  • 2/3 yds. [61 cm] nylon webbing, 1″ wide [25mm] *
  • 1 reversible zipper, 10″ long [25.5  cm]
  • 1.25 yds. [1.15 m] double-fold bias tape, 1/4″ wide [6 mm] (optional)
  • 1 spool polyester thread

** NOTE: If your fabric choice has a directional printed design like mine, you will need to cut the body section in half. With wide goods, you’ll only need half the required yardage as the front and back sections can be cut side by side across the fabric’s width. No allowance made for matching the print.

* NOTE:  Bag handles can be made as shoulder straps by increasing the yardage of webbing, as shown below in diagram.

eco4_fotor

PATTERN

The pattern itself is based upon a simple flat grid, which fits into a long rectangle, of which the size depends on the desired depth of the style (in this example, 4″). So the overall bag dimensions are 18” high (length) by 16” wide (width) by 4” deep (depth). This will give a roomy bag cavity volume of 1,152 cubic inches which should carry a reasonable amount of items and weight.

The exterior pouch is a zippered pocket that can be used to carry keys, wallet, etc. When not in use, the totebag can be folded into the pouch for storage.

Seam allowance (1/2″) or [12 mm] is included in this pattern-draft.

draft-3_fotor

CUTTING

  • cut 1X body (see note above)
  • cut 2X pocket
  • cut 1X pocket side
  • cut 2 bag handles from webbing, 12″ long [30 cm] (see note above)

CONSTRUCTION

Make the pocket pouch. With right sides together (RST), fold the POCKET SIDE piece in half lengthwise, and wrap around the end of the reversible zipper. Stitch across the short end. Repeat this step with opposite end of zipper.

pocket-side_fotor

Turn fabric right-side-out and press seams flat. Top-stitch across ends of zipper.

Align the “open” side of the POCKET SIDE to the edge of one of the POCKET pieces. The seaming of the zipper should be in the middle of the shorter sides of the rectangle. Pin/baste the POCKET SIDE to the POCKET piece. There is no seam allowance value on the zipper tape itself so stitch along the edge of the zipper tape when joining the two sections. Sew around the perimeter of the POCKET SIDE and clip seam allowance in the corners if the fabric does not lie flat. Grade the excess material in the seam allowance.

pocket2_fotor

Place remaining POCKET piece on top of the pouch assembly, with RST and match in the corners. Flip the whole assembly over so that the previous line of stitching is visible. Pin/baste perimeter of rectangles together. Beginning slightly inside the lower corner, stitch following previous stitches, around the lower corner, up the side, across the top, down the side, and around the last corner, leaving an opening to turn out the fabric. Trim diagonally at each corner to reduce any bulk. Turn pocket out through the opening and slip-stitch opening close. Set aside.

Apply pouch to body. Position pocket with zipper facing toward top edge of bag. Place it in the center of the front bag section, 7.5″ [19 cm] from the top edge and 8″[20 cm] from either side seam. Pin/baste in place. Sew along the edge of the folded fabric and zipper tape to install.

Finish bag opening. If using, open bias tape flat and sew onto top edges of bag. Wrap raw edges with the bias tape and bind. Otherwise, sew a narrow 1/4-inch double-rolled hem to complete the bag opening.

Add bag handles. Position each webbing strip, 6″ [15 cm] from each corner of the bag, on the inside of the bag (wrong side of fabric) to form a loop for the bag handle on each section and X-stitch in place to secure.

Complete totebag. Fold the fabric with WST, and match at corners. Sew French seams on both sides of the bag, by stitching a 1/4-inch seam allowance, then trimming seam allowance close to stitching. Turn bag inside-out and sew another 1/4-inch seam allowance along sideseams; press seams flat.

Note: If using a directional printed fabric as in this tutorial, cut the body section in two and add a 1/2-inch seam allowance. Sew a French seam along the bottom edge of the bag before closing the sides. miter_fotor

Miter the gusset end by marking with a pin where the gusset end fold will come on front and back panels, (in this case, it is 2″ in and 2″ up from edges). Fold in the side turn at the pins, where the gusset fold will come; and, fold in the corner triangle to the pins. Press along the folds. Stitch across side seam from pin to pin to create each gusset for the totebag.

The tote bag when flattened, folds vertically into thirds towards the centre, then the layers fold horizontally two times from the bottom and two times from the top, both resting on top of the pocket pouch,  which is itself reversible and wraps around the stacked layers. To contain the tote bag, the pocket zips closed. The smaller unit can now fit easily into a coat pocket or purse, ready to be used when needed.

folding_fotor

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Filed under Bag'n-telle, Design Ideas, Design Techniques

THE PATTERNED PURSE

purse-3If you plan to use a fabulous fabric with a printed design or textured motif, you will need to match the print when doing the seam construction in making up your bag.  First you must determine the height of the pattern repeat which is called a vertical repeat.  Simply measure from the top or base of the motif in one spot, down to the same spot in the design, when it appears again in the length of the yardage. That distance will be the vertical pattern repeat and is an integral part of the fabric design. For every cut-length of fabric required for your bag design, you will need to add 1 vertical repeat (amounts vary so measure the repeat) to the overall yardage. The distance of a repeat can often be indicated on the fabrics selvedge by dots or crosshairs. There are times when matching the repeat in a fabric pattern isn’t crucial such as a small print or a geometric one. Though you do cut into a pattern repeat, it is not “lost” when you sew two pieces together. You still get the tiny daisies or the polkadots. The same may be said of “abstract” styles. When cut pieces are sewn together, it still looks abstract in appearance and scale. However, when you follow your pattern-draft and cut through a sizeable motif or image printed on that fabric’s surface, say the large butterfly or cabbage rose, ideally as designers we want the other half of that butterfly or rose to align with its counterpart to regain the whole motif of the surface design to make the final product’s appearance, a harmonious one and pleasing to the eye. This tutorial takes a look at using a patterned fabric to create a soft-sided purse and how to go about using the fabric and its patterned surface to its best advantage to create unity and harmony in your design.

Featured fabric:

fab4

The fashion fabric used in this tutorial is a beautiful textured chenille upholstery fabric made up in a jacquard weave on a stylized twill background. In the dominant motif of the pattern, the chenille yarn is used to create a stylized lily set within a hexagon leaf border. The vertical pattern repeat is 9-inches [23 cm]. The over-all pattern arrangement is a half-drop repeat.

The Creative Dilemma:

pattern-repeat_fotorAs handbag designers, we love working with textile prints and textures. Upholstery fabrics are thick wide goods textiles that lend themselves well to fashion bag designing. In this particular selection, the fabric is wide (54” / 137 cm) and the pattern repeat is 9” / 23 cm in length. The bag dimensions are 13” H x 18” W x 4” D (33 cm x 46 cm x 10 cm). The stylized “lily” is about 6” x 6” (15 cm x 15 cm). Nine inches will fit within a area of 13 inches top to bottom and 18 inches side to side. Then, what is the dilemma?

If the bag styling required a front and back section cut in one-piece, there would be no need to match the surface pattern as the vertical pattern repeat could not be disrupted and being that the cloth is wide, each section could be cut side by side across the width of the fabric, therefore only requiring approximately half-yard of goods for front, back, and base of the purse.

However, there is more to the bag design. There is an exterior pocket on the front section. A patch pocket sized to make best use of the 6 x 6 flower would accommodate the motif yet would not appear very polished style-wise. So the exterior pocket is styled as a pouch pocket on a centre panel positioned between two mirrored side panels (see the Rule of Three). This pocket style is sleeker in appearance and sits flatter on the front plane. However, it cuts through the surface pattern and the motif is lost.

The Creative Solution:

After you have determined the vertical repeat, add that amount to your overall yardage required for your pattern-draft, even if you are able to get more than one section width from the fabric’s width as most upholstery textiles often are wider than most fashion fabrics. The larger the shape of the bag or the more intricate the pattern design is, the more waste there will be.

Begin by designing the exterior pouch pocket on the center front section of the bag. When cutting the fabric, you would not know where the motif or pattern repeat began nor ended on the pocket. The only thing you would know is that you want the motif or pattern to be centered on the pocket. Therefore you would cut the pocket first, then the remaining top portion of the center panel to size all the while aligning the missing part of the motif, plus an added extension for the pocket opening.

Then, cut the side panels a bit larger than the center panel section. This will allow you to travel upward or downward along the seamline to align the overall pattern. It is best to sew the panel widths together first and then trim the excess from the panels to your desired length and width in accordance with the pattern-draft. Remember to cut mirrored images. Most decorative fabrics are made so that the print matches at or just inside the selvage.  If you line up the print on each width of fabric at the selvages and stitch right along or just inside the selvage, the print should match (just like you may put up wallpaper). 

Once the front section is complete, use it as a guide to cut out the back section all-in-one. Clever planning will allow you to use the waste part of the the un-used fabric for facings, handles, and other similar details in your design.

Dimensions: approximately 13 high / 18 wide / 4″ deep with a 12” wide base; 24″ [51 cm] fixed strap handle and 16” zippered opening,

Construction Method: Turned finish – this method may be recognized by noting the lack of machine-stitching that is visible at points of assembly on the exterior side of the bag.  This is possible by placing the material, or parts, face to face, machining and turning right-side out. It is the most commonly used assembly process.

Material Used: chenille brocade upholstery fabric; percale lining fabric

You will need:

  • 1 yd. [0.90 m] patterned upholstery fabric, 54” wide [ 137 cm]
  • 1 yd. [0.90 m] high-thread count lining fabric, 54” wide [137 cm]
  • 1/2 yd. [46 cm] coordinating fabric (for contrast trim & handles)
  • 1/4 yd. [23 cm] ripstop nylon fabric, 54” wide [137 cm] (for exterior pocket lining)
  • 1 yd. [0.90 m] knit-fuse interfacing, 60” wide [152 cm]
  • 1/4 yd. [23 cm] heavy-duty Pellon interfacing, 45” wide [115 cm]
  • 3/4 yd. [ 69 cm] ban-roll buckram, 1” wide [25mm]
  • 1.5 yds. [140 cm] single-fold bias tape, 1/2″ wide [12 mm]
  • 1 closed-end pocket zipper, 16” long [41 cm] x 1” wide [25 mm]
  • 1 closed-end pocket zipper, 10” long [25cm] x 3/4” wide [20mm]
  • 1 spool all-purpose thread

PATTERN:

draft3_fotor

Scale = X = 2 inches [ 5 cm]; the prototype is 4″ deep [10 cm]

The draft and formation of this prototype is based upon a simple flat grid, which fits into a square or rectangle, of which the size depends on the  desired depth of the style (2″ or greater).

** Add seam allowances to all pattern pieces.

The following is the proportionate pattern-draft. Enter any value for X you desire.

draft4_fotor

Front section of the purse including gussets

draft5_fotor

Base & Back section of the purse including gussets

lining_fotor

Lining pattern & patch pocket

CUTTING:

Fabric yardage will be dependant upon width of goods and number of vertical pattern repeats needed, the type of block pattern used, and the type of pattern match required. Remember to add seam allowances before cutting fabric.

  • Cut one piece of fashion fabric for each exterior pattern piece. Read pouch pocket instructions below before attempting fabric cutting.
  • Fuse interfacing to back of lining fabric following manufacturer’s directions. Cut two pieces of fashion lining fabric for the interior lining and one piece for the interior patch pocket.
  • Cut one rectangle of lining fabric: 12″ x 3″ [30 cm x 8 cm] for interior pocket facing.
  • Cut one square of lining fabric: 12″ x  12″ [30 cm x 30 cm] for pocket bag.
  • Cut two pieces of ripstop nylon fabric using the POCKET pattern piece.
  • Fuse interfacing to back of contrast trim fabric following manufacturer’s directions. Cut four pieces of contrast trim fabric: 19″ x 2″ [49 cm x 5 cm].
  • Cut two pieces of contrast trim fabric: 26″ x 2″ [66 cm x 5 cm] for purse handle.

ASSEMBLY

Exterior:

Making pouch pocket. When cutting the printed or patterned fashion fabric, you want to match the pattern yet you do not know where the pattern repeat lies on the exterior pocket. The only thing you do know is that you want the motif to be centered on the pocket. Therefore you would cut the pocket first, then the remaining top portion of the center panel to size. Note: You want to make up the front center panel first before cutting any other parts of the purse’s exterior.

Using the POCKET and TOP CENTER PANEL pattern pieces, overlap them 1″ [25 mm] at the top edge of the pocket opening and securing with paper clips. This is the entire front center panel. Lay the pattern on your fabric and align the pattern to the center of the motif. Do this in the middle of the fabric’s width; reserve the selvedge edges for the front side panels.  Using tailor’s chalk, mark the four corners of the POCKET pattern piece. Now remove the paper clips and align the POCKET pattern only to the chalk marks and add seam allowance all around. Set aside.

popocket_fotor

Next, cut two pieces of ripstop nylon using the POCKET pattern in the same manner as described above. With right sides together (RST), place 1 nylon piece with the pocket piece and sew across the top of the pocket. Press the seam open and grade the ripstop nylon’s seam allowance. On the right side of the ripstop nylon, under-stitch the nylon to the fashion fabric’s seam allowance. Fold the fabric along the pocket opening and press flat. (You may add top-stitching to the folded edge if you wish).

Now, position the sewn pocket piece onto the fashion fabric and find the missing part of the motif. Align the sewn edge of the pocket to match that of the motif. Chalk the upper corners of the pocket and remove the pocket piece. Using the TOP CENTER PANEL pattern, set the bottom corners of the pattern piece on the chalk marks and trace out the pattern and extend 1-inch below the pocket opening (bottom edge of pattern) to create an overlap. Add seam allowances all around. Before cutting out, recheck pattern match with POCKET section.  When ready, cut out FRONT TOP PANEL. With RST, place remaining nylon piece with the TOP CENTER PANEL piece and sew across the bottom of the panel. Press the seam open and grade the ripstop nylon’s seam allowance. On the right side of the ripstop nylon, under-stitch the nylon to the fashion fabric’s seam allowance.front-center-panel_fotor_fotor

Make the front center panel. To complete the center panel, layer the POCKET section on top of the TOP CENTER PANEL section and match up the print. Pin together and measure distance from top of panel to the pocket opening. Each side should be equally distanced. Baste within the seam allowance, from the pocket opening to the bottom of the panel to catch the layers of ripstop underneath. This will create the pouch cavity. Set aside.

                                           front center panel                                                                      

Adding the side panels. Most patterned fabrics are made so that the pattern matches at or just inside the selvage.  If you line up the print pattern on each width of fabric at the selvages and stitch right along or just inside the selvage, the print should match.

Using the left selvedge of the fashion fabric, fold under the fabric just inside of the selvedge and press flat. Match the pattern drop to the right side of the center panel. Pin the pressed edge of the cloth to the seam allowance of the center panel section. Mark and cut the fashion fabric slightly larger than the RIGHT FRONT PANEL pattern piece (about 1″ all around will do). This will allow you to slide the fabric up or down along the seam to match the print. Repeat this step for the LEFT FRONT PANEL section, using the right selvedge edge of the cloth to mirror the image along the left side of the center panel section. It is best to slip-baste the seam lines carefully together with the face side up to match up the pattern motif and sew the panels together first with right sides together. Press the seam allowance toward the side panels and grade the bulk from the seams.

front_fotor

Then, chalk out the RIGHT SIDE and LEFT SIDE PANEL pieces onto the fabric, adding seam allowance. Trim the excess from the side panels to your desired length and width in accordance with the pattern-draft. Top-stitch along both vertical seams to create the pouch pocket. Set aside.

Make the back panel. Using the completed FRONT section, lay it on your fashion fabric and duplicate the look of the matched surface pattern. Using tailor’s chalk, mark the four corners of the FRONT section. Now remove the FRONT section and align the BACK PANEL pattern piece to the chalk marks and add seam allowance all around. Cut out the BACK section and set aside.

Make the base. By now you have a lot of fabric waste. Find a cloth piece large enough to mark out the BASE pattern piece and add seam allowance. Cut out the base section and set aside.

INTERIOR

Prepare the lining fabric to receive the pocket detailing by ironing Fusi-Knit® fusible interfacing to the back of the fabric following manufacturer’s directions. This will stabilize and the reinforce the lining for inserting pocket compartments and protect it from wear.

There will be two interior pockets: 1) a zippered inset pocket on the back section of the lining for security; and 2) a self-lined patch pocket on the front section of the lining that can be divided into smaller compartments for organization.

With RST, fold the lining fabric with selvedges matching and lay the BACK pattern on the cloth on straight-grain. Mark out its shape and add seam allowance. Cut 2X lining. Set aside.

Make the patch pocket. Mark out the patch pocket pattern onto the lining fabric and add seam allowance. Cut out the pocket. With RST, fold the pocket in half and match the corners. Stitch each side of the pocket from the fold to the bottom edge, leaving the bottom open for turning out. Grade the seam allowance. Turn pocket right-side-out and press pocket flat. Top-stitch along the fold of this self-lined pocket.

With the pocket held upside-down, align the open edge of the pocket to the placement line indicated on the lining pattern and pin into place.  Stitch across the open edge to close the pocket. Trim the seam allowance close to the stitching line. Next, fold the pocket up towards the top of the lining and press flat. Top-stitch close to the edges of the patch pocket to attach it to the lining. This is a large pocket compartment that will get a lot of wear and tear when in use, so add narrow bartacks to the top corners with your zig-zag setting. This pocket may be divided into smaller compartments as desired by sewing vertical rows of stitching on the pocket face (I did a narrow column along one side to hold my pen).

Make inset pocket. Cut a rectangle of lining fabric: 12″ x 3″ [30 cm x 8 cm] for interior pocket facing. Mark the outline of the pocket opening on this piece based upon the zipper chain length (I used a 10″ closed zipper).

With RST, place the facing piece on the remaining lining piece and align the outline to the placement line indicated on the lining pattern and pin into place. Sew around the outline.

Cut down the center of the outline stopping 1/2-inch (13 mm) from each end, then cutting a diagonal angle into each corner of the rectangle, as shown. You will be cutting through both the facing and lining pieces. Pull the pocket facing piece though the opening and press flat.

With the lining facing up, place the zipper behind the opening, centering it then pin/baste in place. Top-stitch around all edges of the opening close to the turned edge of the opening.

Cut a square of lining fabric: 12″ x  12″ [30 cm x 30 cm] for pocket bag. Pin the back pocket bag section to the pocket facing section (1), folding the right side of the back to the wrong side of the front portion to create a pocket bag (2). Keeping the pocket bag free, stitch around all sides of the pocket bag (3).

pocketbag_fotor

Stay-stitch the inside corners of each of the lining sections. Fold and align the edges of each bottom corners on the lining sections and sew together.  Set aside.

Make the bag handle. Begin by cutting 2 fabric strips from contrast cloth that have been fused with interfacing. The cutting dimensions for the purse handle are 26″ x 2″ [66 cm x 5 cm]. Set aside.

Place a strip of basting taping down the center of a 1-inch wide [25 mm] strip of ban-roll buckram; remove the protective backing from the basting tape and center the buckram strip onto the back of one of the contrast fabric strips and flatten down. There should be a half-inch of fabric visible of either side of the ban-roll. 

handles_fotor

bag handle layout

Place another strip of basting tape down the center of the ban-roll strip. Fold the edges of the contrast fabric over the edges of the ban-roll strip and press flat. Remove the protective backing from the basting tape and adhere folded edges to the ban-roll strip. Press flat.

With the wrong side of the handle facing up, place a strip of basting tape along both long edges of the handle, while avoiding the every edge where you will be stitching. Adhere single-fold bias tape as a decorative trim along the long edges of the handle. Have the bias tape slightly visible beyond the folded edge. Set aside.

Take the remaining contrast fabric strip and turn under long edges so that the raw edges meet at center. Press flat.

Place another strip of basting tape down the center of the back of the handle. Remove the protective backing from the basting tape and with WST, adhere the second contrast strip to the handle. Be certain to match up one strip directly upon the other. then, press flat. Top-stitch along either long edge of the handle piece to complete. Trim away the excess material at the short ends.

For a 6.5″ drop [17mm] on this bag style, cut the handle length to equal 24″ long [61 cm]. Note: The drop measurement may be lengthen or shorten depending upon how the purse is worn.

Completion of the Purse Exterior. Being that a contrasting fabric was used to make up the bag handle, the designer should incorporate the contrasting element at least two more times within the bag design to create a unified and harmonious appearance, as outlined in the Rule of Thirds.

Cut four pieces of interfaced contrast trim fabric: 19″ x 2″ [49 cm x 5 cm]. Two strips will be used as a top-stitched 1-inch wide [25 mm] appliqué along the bottom edge of the front and back bag sections, while the remaining two strips will be used along the top edges as a Hong Kong finish to the zippered bag opening.

With right sides of the lining to wrong side of the zipper, sew the top of each lining section to the back of the zipper tape. Press the seams away from the zipper and under-stitch lining to zipper tape.

repeat

With right sides of contrast trim to right side of zipper, sew the top of each exterior section to the zipper tape. Press the seams away from the zipper and stitch-in-the-ditch along the contrast trim to create the Hong Kong finish detail.

Clip diagonally (45 degrees) into the stay-stitched top corners of the exterior sections and sew short ends of the handle (face up) onto the ends of the zipper tape.

With RST, fold the exterior sections together and match up the contrast trim at the bottom of the bag, along the side seams. Sew up side sides and press open. Perpendicular to the side seam, fold the side of the bag on top of the zipper ends to enclose the bag handle in between. Sew across each end to miter each corner. Set aside.

Note: Before attaching the bag’s bottom section, open the zipper.

Baste a stiff piece of heavy-duty interfacing, cut to size, to the back of the base section. Pin/baste the base section to the bottom edges of the exterior sections. Do this by starting in the middle of each piece and working outward to the sides; allow for the seam allowance at each end. Sew base section in place. Trim away excess interfacing in seam allowances. Clip diagonally (45 degrees) into the seam allowance up to the end of the stitching at each bottom corner at the base section.

Perpendicular to the side seam, fold the side of the bag on top of short ends of the base section to create wide gussets . Sew across each end to miter each corner. Trim any excess interfacing from seam allowance.

Completion of Bag Interior. With RST, align and match up lining sides and bottom together. Sew up side seam and pivot at bottom corner and continue sewing up to 1 inch beyond the corner on each side.

Turn bag right-side-out through the zipper opening and through opening in lining. With WST, match up lining bottom at opening and edge-stitch closed. Drop lining into the cavity of the purse.

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Filed under Bag'n-telle, Design Ideas, Design Techniques

MAKE IT SO (sew!)

patterndesign

Factors that may influence a person’s decision to buy-it rather than design-it can certainly make a case for itself when you are considering time and budget. Most of the time, the “buy-it or design-it” decision includes lack of design expertise, small volume requirements, desire for multiple sourcing, and the fact that the “creative idea” may not be reason enough for its execution. I suppose that is why I often get requests to purchase the items I design for this blog. However, in my line of work that is known as a conflict of interest. As a designer, manufacturers hire me to develop and produce lines for in-house collections and private label. Unless I start my own manufacturing company (and I don’t – I’m a terrible boss), I cannot create and sell a product in competition with my employers.

However, I am also a design educator and train many people who wish to build a career in fashion designing. This blog’s purpose, in fact, is to show people that designing isn’t a elusive talent as the fashion world would have you believe. It is a constructive transferrable skill that can be easily developed and used in converting creative ideas into reality through professional engagement and technical execution. My goal is to show you how easily it can be done.

Similarly, factors that may tilt your decision towards designing-it-yourself thus superseding the commercialism of fashion world include the uniqueness of your creativity, better quality control, or proprietary ideas that needs to be protected. In short what I am trying to say is… “it is not rocket science” – enjoy the process of creating and owning it. YOU are the designer!

Now, I can hear some of you saying, “I don’t have any good ideas”. “I have no access to special equipment”. “I don’t know how to do that”. “I’ll only make mistakes”. “My things look so home-made”.

Let me tell you, all the above are true when you are a designer. There is a lot of trial and error. There is a lot of re-makes and re-dos. There are plenty of mistakes made in the process, but as designers we call that “research and development”. In fact, if you are not making mistakes, you are not trying hard enough. Value mistakes … believe it or not, mistakes can be beneficial.  They cause us to search for a different and often, a better way.  They facilitate experimentation with new materials, techniques, or styles.  Mistakes challenge you and are an important part of the design process because they provide unique opportunities for creativity. Regard them as design challenges, not mistakes.

Channel your creativity by setting goals. Let your goals grow as you grow in your knowledge of designing your own fashion. Perhaps your goal is to resolve a particular design challenge or to redesign a fashion detail and integrate it into your next prototype. Know that learning to draft your own patterns will eventually free you of “cookie-cutter” fashion and develop a personal made-to-measure style. One technique that I always use is to begin each project with a list of “what do I see” when I look at sketching up a new design. This will set up your thinking as to how to proceed with your creative project.

Let me give you an example of the thought process involved in creating and how to go about executing your vision. Designing is basically problem-solving. List what your need/want is (the problem); list what you have or know (the variables – the givens); list what results you want to achieve (the goal/outcome). Then, decide how and what methods you will use to achieve your goal.

In my case, I need a new bag (as with many professionals in my field, I suffer from a severe case of “the cobbler’s children”). Although I am a designer of fashion bags and I’m surrounded by plenty of bag styles all day, whenever I need a re-usable cloth bag, I never have one available at that moment to use. I also want something that is serviceable… functional and durable yet low-maintenance and attractive. I want something at-the-ready.

There, the want/need (the problem) is stated. Next, you want to examine the variables involved in achieving the need or want (what you know or have – the givens).

In my case, the bag needs to be made from a durable, easy-to-care-for fabric. I would look at fabric made from a synthetic fibre such as polyester or nylon. Either selection would provide a strong, durable choice. Should it be water-proof? Often I use a tote bag if the weather is inclement. Maybe I’ll check into plastic fabrics such as synthetic oilcloth or latex too.

A functional bag needs to be multi-purposed; something that can carry almost anything. I carry library books, groceries, extra clothing, my design tools. In other words, the bag needs to be large enough and strong enough to tote my things when needed. And how will I carry them? In hand, or could I carry more weight if I used my shoulder or across my chest? I would need a strong, sturdy strapping. Perhaps look at a polyester or nylon (strength) webbing to use as handles or shoulder/chest straps. Another option might be a sturdy nylon cording. It could be used to draw the bag-opening closed or act as a shoulder/chest strap a-la sling bag styling.

Should I be concerned about security or separating items? Look into inserting a zipper into the bag-opening or perhaps only on a pocket within the bag for keys and wallet. Do I need the bag to have pockets or compartments externally or internally for other things?

A bag at-the-ready. What do I do when I’m not carrying anything? Do I carry around an empty bag? This is a bit more difficult to work out. Perhaps the bag needs to roll up or fold up when not in use to make it more handy to keep it in reserve. Something that might fit into a pocket or purse (Wait! I don’t carry a purse. Ok, it will have to fit into my coat pocket). To roll up or fold up, this bag needs to be soft-sided and its material fairly thin to reduce bulk. What if the bag, when not in use, folded up into its own pocket? It may work to keep the bag contained and minuscule when not in use. A convertible tote bag! (I’ve reached my goal). Now that I’ve solved the “problem”,  it’s time to plan its execution and assembly.

Possible design ideas

Time now to go shop-the-shops. Wait, I haven’t made any sketches yet or drafted out a pattern, you ask? You could by all means, sketch up a few bag ideas based upon your wishlists and even make up a pattern to take along with you when you go search for the right fabric but keeping in mind time and budget from above; I suggest you go source your raw materials first based upon your lists instead. Sourcing is often a challenge. Availability isn’t always certain and it is easier to design for a fabric and notions in-hand, rather than hunt for something that is out-of-stock or priced out of your budget. Also remember, time is money; don’t tie up your valuable time hunting for an elusive material.  Stick to your lists yet keep an open mind when shopping.

Depending where you live, availability and selection may be a limitation but demand is making attractive fabrics for bag-making and bag fittings a popular seller for retailers so availability is growing. Fashion accessory designers have the benefit of accessing trade-only suppliers and often years in advance before these new bag-making materials become easily available at the retail level. So, you will have to work with whatever is available through your favourite retailers. In larger urban areas you may find specialty retailers like JoAnns Fabrics & Crafts 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, offering variety and quality in small quantities while allowing you to eliminate the “middle man” by buying direct from the source.

Once you have your raw materials, sketch a few drawings of your prototype bag with all the features and styling you planned from your lists and based upon your purchases. This will provide a visual record of your ideas for as they say, “a picture is worth a thousand words”. It will also be beneficial when drafting the bag pattern and its assembly. For instance, I decided to use a thin synthetic fabric (water-repellent nylon ripstop) to make my bag durable yet foldable for storage. To further strengthen my bag-styling so that I can carry hefty items, I planned to use French seaming in my construction as each seam is double-stitched adding more strength to the seams and the seam finish is neat on the interior as well on the exterior. No need to line the bag and the stitching keeps everything flat (think thin), making it easy to fold up. My final acquisitions were a reversible zipper for an exterior pocket and thick nylon webbing for the bag handles.

Also, an important reminder to true your pattern-draft and proof your idea by making up a mock-up of your design. This will give you time to practice the assembly of your bag and find any flaws in its design. This step in the process is even more paramount if you’re limited in raw materials.

The pattern itself is based upon a simple flat grid, which fits into a long rectangle, of which the size depends on the desired depth of the style (in my case 4 1/2″). So my overall bag dimensions are 17 1/2” high (length) by 16” wide (width) by 4 1/2” deep (depth). This will give me a roomy bag cavity volume of 1,260 cubic inches which should carry a reasonable amount of items and weight.

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Final Prototype & how it folds into its pocket

The convertible aspect of my bag design is achieved by using the Rule of Thirds and attaching a small reversible-zippered pocket to the exterior of the bag. The pocket does double-duty by providing a secure pocket for house-keys and wallet while acting as the storage compartment for the tote bag when not in use. The overall dimensions of the pocket are 4 1/4” (h) by 5 1/4” (w) by 1” (d) and is centered on the front section of the bag. The tote bag when flattened, folds vertically into thirds towards the centre, then the layers fold horizontally two times from the bottom and two times from the top, both resting on top of the pocket which is itself reversible and wraps around the stacked layers. To contain the tote bag, the pocket zips closed. The smaller unit can now fit easily into a coat pocket or purse, ready to be used.

When you consider your time and budget, influencing factors like design expertise, small production runs,  sourcing and availability, plus the actual making of the product are all but small parts of the overall design process. Resolve each part, one at a time, and then make an informed decision to either buy-it or design-it-yourself.

To see the make up of this bag design idea, click here.

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FABRIC PATTERN REPEATS

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As handbag designers, we love working with textile prints and patterns… and, surface prints for use in fashion and home decor fabrics offer glorious opportunity for expanding your styling creativity and establishing a marketable skill-set.

Fashion bag designers can utilize the same methods used by textile designers to produce dynamic patterns and textures for their bag designs that will eventually turn into a beloved tangible item of beauty. To get ideas flowing let’s use the possibilities of fabric patterns and prints that focuses on some of the popular pattern repeats and how to match them to create unity and harmony in your designs.

Types of Fabric Patterns:

Here are three basic pattern repeats that textile designers use. With these basic repeating pathways, many hybrids of pattern design are created by combining two or more in unique ways.

For my demonstration, let’s use the motif of the fleur-de-lis (sometimes spelled “fleur-de-lys”), a stylized lily (in French, fleur means “flower”, and lis means “lily”) that is used as a decorative design or symbol, at one and the same time, religious, political, dynastic, artistic, emblematic, and symbolic”, especially in French heraldry.

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The Block Repeat

The block repeat is the simplest style of repeat. It is simply formed by stacking the original repeat in a basic grid:

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The block repeat can have an amateurish look if used in the wrong situation yet it can look great with simpler, more geometric motifs.

Brick/Half-Brick Repeat

Next up, we have the brick/half-brick repeat. You’ll notice that the motifs are arranged like bricks on a house – they are in a horizontal row, and then the next row is offset to create a staggered look. The terms half-brick and brick can be used interchangeably unless the offset of the later rows is not exactly half of the preceding row’s motifs. In that case, you would just use the term, brick.

Here’s a simple example of a half-brick repeat:

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Brick/half-brick repeats are used very often in fabric design. The motifs can be exclusive of each other (as shown above) or have some overlap when they are organized.

Drop/Half-Drop Repeat

The drop or half-drop repeat is very similar to the brick/half-brick, but the motifs are offset vertically instead of horizontally, like so:

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As with the brick/half-brick, the terms drop and half-drop can be used interchangeably unless the offset isn’t 50% of the original motif. You will most often see 50% offsets, but smaller or  larger ones certainly aren’t unheard of.

Drop/half-drop repeats are another very common type of repeat in fabric and surface design.

MATCHING REPEATING PATTERNS ON FABRICS

Figuring the Vertical Repeat:

If you plan to use a fabric with a printed design, you will need to match the design when you join two or more widths together.  First you must determine the height of the pattern repeat which is called a vertical repeat.  Simply measure from the top or base of the motif in one spot, down to the same spot in the design, when it appears again in the length of the yardage. That distance will be the vertical pattern repeat and is an integral part of the fabric design. For every cut-length of fabric required for your bag design, you will need to add 1 vertical repeat (amounts vary so measure the repeat) to the overall yardage. The distance of a repeat can often be indicated on the fabrics selvedge by dots or crosshairs.

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Keep in mind that the overall pattern on all bag designs should match on front, back and on gussets. 

Cutting the Panel Widths:

After you have figured your vertical repeat, you need to determine the cut-length of all of your section widths. Luckily if you are using upholstery-weight fabrics to create your bag design, often you are able to get more than one section width from the fabric’s width as most are on average about 54-inches wide. The larger the shape of the bag or the more intricate the pattern design is, the more waste there will be. Clever planning will allow you to use the un-used fabric portions for facings, handles, and other similar details in your design.

When matching most pattern repeats, your cut-length per section will be larger than you actually need.  This will allow you to travel upward or downward along the seamline to align the overall pattern. Once the seams are sewn, you can trim the excess fabric away. However, it is best to sew the widths together first and then trim the panels to your desired length. For instance, say you want to design an exterior pouch pocket on the center front section of the bag. When cutting the fabric, you would not know where the motif or pattern repeat began nor ended on the pocket. The only thing you would know is that you want the motif or pattern to be centered on the pocket. Therefore you would cut the pocket first, then the remaining top portion of the center panel to size.

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The diagram shows the pouch pocket and the top panel section with an extension along its bottom edge

Then, cut the side front panels a bit larger to match with the center panel. Remember to cut mirrored images. Sew your widths together, making sure you align and match the vertical pattern repeat.  Most decorative fabrics are made so that the pattern matches at or just inside the selvage.  If you line up the pattern on each width of fabric at the selvages (right sides together) and stitch right along or just inside the selvage, the pattern should match.

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The diagrams shows the pocket in the center panel with the left selvedge on the right, and the right selvedge on the left.

You may trim the excess from the bottom or the top of the panels or cut to size and shape required. The actual matching of the pattern motif can be aligned in a variety of ways. In the examples below the solid line represents the seam join.

Random Match

A random match is one in which the pattern matches no matter how adjoining panels are positioned. This means you can cut and stitch each panel of fabric without having to match it up horizontally across the cloth.

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Straight Match

A straight match is one in which the design elements match on adjoining panels. Every cut panel will start and end at the same point within the pattern repeat.

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Drop Match

A drop match is one in which there is a vertical drop between the matching design elements. The number of panels cut before a panel is repeated is dependent on the type of drop match. or crosses.

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So there you have it…. fabric patterns and basic ways of matching the repeating surface design. There are times when matching the repeat in a fabric pattern isn’t crucial such a small print or a geometric one. Though you DO cut into a pattern repeat, it is not “lost” when you sew two pieces together. You still get the tiny daisies or the polkadots. The same may be said of “abstract” styles. When cut pieces are sewn together, it still looks abstract in appearance and scale. However, when you follow your pattern-draft and cut through a sizable motif or image printed on that fabric’s surface, say the large butterfly or cabbage rose, ideally as designers we want the other half of that butterfly or rose to align with its counterpart to regain the whole motif of the surface design to make the final product’s appearance, a harmonious one and pleasing to the eye. Use these design pointers for matching surface patterns of your favourite fashion fabrics and expanding your styling creativity to create truly beautiful handbags.

To explore how you might use a patterned fabric to its best advantage, see this tutorial here.

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CRAFTSY 2.0

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Craftsy is getting a makeover! How they grow up so fast!

Craftsy released a brand new site relaunch today, with a sparkling new site & brand identity.

Craftsy has evolved quite a bit since my start with them as an affiliate in 2013. They were are my solution to all my followers who were asking for design books or videos authored by me. Craftsy made it possible for me to deliver regardless of my hectic schedule.  And now with hundreds of classes to choose from, Craftsy has decided it too needed its site’s original platform to be a better fit for the crafting community at-large. So today, we see a new Craftsy… a Craftsy 2.0!

WHY?

The Craftsy group is lucky to have incredible followers who inspire with their passion and creativity. In speaking with many of their members, Craftsy realized that by integrating project ideas, learning, and supplies in one place, they could make it easier and more fulfilling for members to get down to what they love to do: to create and make!

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WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR YOU?

Think of Craftsy as the hostess of the world’s largest crafting party.

As a Craftsy affiliate, I want you… to create! Maybe it’s a sweater, maybe it’s a quilt, maybe it’s just a great big beautiful leather tote, like the one I demonstrate in “MAKING LEATHER BAGS with Don Morin(shameless plug 😀).

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That creative itch you can’t ignore? They can help scratch it. My Craftsy colleagues and I are here to fuel the joy of self-expression — to share ideas and help your unique creativity bloom. We speak the language of colour, design, texture, flavour and above all, inspiration — and we want everyone in on the fun. Because when you create something you never thought possible, we’re just as excited as you are.

So join in! Let’s celebrate their new look and make something amazing together.

If Craftsy were a person like me, we would be…

Inviting: We like to look at the world as one big craft-along, and everyone’s invited.

Excited to Learn & Share: We love discovering the next new pattern, the next new colour, the next new recipe, the next new beautiful idea. And lucky for you, Craftsy is big on spreading the word.

Encouraging & Empowering: The best creative adventures usually involve a few messes and mistakes — so go ahead and enjoy ‘em. You will only be the wiser.

Creative & Original: We live for colour, flavour, texture, pattern and design — and it shows in everything we do.

Lighthearted & Playful: Ultimately, Craftsy is in the business of fun. So they never take ourselves too seriously.

Knowledgeable: Craftsy instructors have got lots of experience, so you can count on us for smart tips, tools and troubleshooting.

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COME ON IN

Along with the many creative crafts offered, I enjoy reading the Craftsy blog. There are so many wonderful freebies to treat you to your passion. Be the first to enjoy new tutorials, resources, contests, giveaways & more. It’s all free!

And lastly, this one is probably my most-favourite — the makers’ gallery, where I get to see all the wonderful things you’ve have made.

Whether you’re a crafting newbie or a seasoned professional, come make yourself at home. Try a class, start a new project or just look around if you’re curious. You’ll find many of my favourite Craftsy classes on my STORE page with my personal links to them all and you can follow them anywhere, anytime…. they even have a Craftsy App for iOS and Android. Furthermore, if you are not completely satisfied with your selection, Craftsy will return your money — guaranteed. Either way, we’re pretty sure you’ll find a friend. Have fun with the new Craftsy, create and make something amazing!

https://www.craftsy.com/

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SEPTEMBER is SEWING MONTH

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September is National Sewing Month.

National Sewing Month is a great time to invigorate your sewing passion or to introduce yourself to sewing if you’ve never had the opportunity to try it before. My design blog contains lots of great sewing instruction from the basics to high-fashion and it shares many professional techniques from the factory floor. Magazines like Threads and Sew News, books such as Vogue Sewing, and on-line videos offer additional instruction and inspiration are available at your local library and bookstore. 

If you’re new to sewing and want to find an instructor or  class, try the Craftsy crafting community database or join the American Sewing Guild. It has chapters and neighbourhood groups all across the country where members meet to share their ideas, projects, and passion for sewing, and often schedule experts to teach their group. Local adult education programs often include sewing instruction, and many fabric stores hold classes as well.

There are many opportunities to learn to sew, or to improve your sewing techniques, and September is the perfect time to get started!

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