Category Archives: Design Ideas

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.

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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.

eco4_fotorfolding_fotor

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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ANATOMY OF A BAG

lowes 2

Photo: Fashion Media Group

Ever think to yourself,”What does it take to design your own handbag?”.

In an ongoing series, CRFashionBook (Carine Roitfeld/Fashion Media Group) deconstructs fashion’s most iconic accessories to tell their story.

Beautifully photographed by Ulysse Frechelin, with words by Christopher Bartley, and edited by Shiona Turini, this peek into handbag style & design is truly insightful and inspirational.

The Loewe Amazona by the numbers

39 – Number of leather pieces used

24 – Number of individual linings used

21 – Number of pieces of gold hardware (not including zippers)

11 – Square feet of suede required to construct a single bag

6.5 – Hours of craftsmanship required to realize a single bag

– Number of specialized craftsmen employed in the process of preparing, cutting, sewing, and assembling each bag.

 loews am

http://crfashionbook.com/post/58242355263/loewe-bag

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CREATING PROTECTIVE LININGS

quilted lining_incase
Credit: photo by Incase

Designing a protective bag collection needs to be produced with three things in mind – conveyance, organization and co-ordination. Begin with a super durable fashion fabric for the exterior so that the bag will take you through your travels and beyond. It should be spacious and the perfect size for urban commutes and easy air travel. Remember some airlines have weight and size restrictions for carry-on baggage. Leather, suede, vinyls, waxed canvas are ideal choices as they are rugged and durable.

For the inside of the bag, the interior layer should be a soft-textured, moisture-resistant bonded fabric for easy sliding and ensures good protection against water and dust. Waterproof fabric make it suitable for swimwear, sun creams and conventional shopping. While, a padded interior made with a soft-textured quilted lining fabric or reinforced middle padded layer will provide superior protection against impact and leakage. Typically, the middle layer is foam or batting of 1/4 inch (6 mm). Between the exterior and interior layers (lining), this middle layer has a dual purpose: to protect the item(s) from scratches, bumps and smudges; and, in order to add structural body to the bag and its outward appearance.

On the practical side, you want to guard sensitive electronics with anti-scratch, smudge-free surfaces such as sueded microfibre polyester or neoprene as a smart addition. Use  high-quality nylon Riri® zippers to ensure a smooth operating yet scratch-free closure. You may want to include dedicated compartments for storing travel adaptors, cables and wires, as well.

When creating a bag style for carrying or storing fragile items, try to design a dedicated tote for that item, meaning that the dimensions of the bag is based upon the dimensions of the item being stored or carried, such as bag shapes found for laptop bags or casserole carriers.inserts In other cases, you might consider a padded lining or a flexible padded insert for the interior. Removable padded linings will allow you to customize the shape and division of the interior compartments to hold different or odd shapes, such as found in styles for gadget bags and keepsake storage, while keeping the exterior portion of the bag fixed yet roomy-in-scale.

Construction seams should be doubled for extra strength and durability, yet hidden for aesthetics and easy access. I often like to add adjustable and detachable carrying straps to the bag styling. This provides the flexibility of transporting your belongings truly “hands free” while en route.

When selecting fabrics for bag interiors, you may want to choose napped fabrics as their textures are characteristically a soft hand textile and will prevent scratching and make sliding of the item, easy. There are many upholstery napped fabrics with bonded foam backings to provide a cushioned surface, as well.

Pre-quilted fabrics are ideal for protective handbag making. They are conventionally fabricated in cotton and cotton blends with 100% polyester batting. They make perfect padded bag interiors while adding body to the exterior of the bag. Many pre-quilted patterns are offered in double-sided or reversible styles, and thermal or reflective styles making them perfect for simplifying bag construction and keeping it lightweight.

needle_punching

Batting is often constructed of different types of fibers held together using a variety of methods, so that it does not clump within the lining or break apart. Batting comes is different thicknesses: Low loft is thin (most popular for quilting), and High loft which is thick (commonly used in upholstered furnishings).

Manufacturers use these most common methods for holding the fibers together:

  • Fusible Batting: This is the fibre-fill that most quilters use in their projects. It can be used doubled over for a high loft, or pull it apart into a thin low-loft batting. It’s popular with the construct-as-you-go techniques and I have only ever used it for small projects. You can buy batting that already has the fusible applied so that just by using the iron it temporarily attaches the top, batting, and backing together, rather than having to baste or pin the layers. This is especially convenient for smaller projects (since you use a steam iron to fuse the layered “sandwich”).
  • Needle-punched: The fibres in the batting are mechanically felted together by punching them with thousands of tiny needles. This causes the batting to be stronger and denser while being lower loft. Because of the denseness of this batting it isn’t generally good for hand stitching. These types of batting will tend to migrate but will not bunch and shift if machine-stitched to the lining material.
  • Reflective Batting: Keep it hot or keep it cold with needled insulated/reflective lining (common brand names are Insul Bright and 3M Thinsulate). Manufacturers offer an easy-to-cut-and-sew form and the option to choose between waterproof/windproof and breathable/wind-resistant. Use in wine totes, casserole warmers, lunch bags and picnic totes. The hollow fibers resist conduction while the reflective metallic poly film resists radiant energy. The energy, hot or cold, is reflected back to its source.
  • Scrim: A thin stabilizer that is needle-punched into the batting to add strength, loft, and to prevent stretching and distorting. Most battings have a scrim backing.

Heat n Bond Ultrahold Iron-On adhesive is a paper-backed sheet of solid heat activated adhesive. It uses a low temperature & short pressing time so it allows for a wider range of materials that can be bonded. Use with fabric, foil, lame, denim, felt, suede, leather, wood and cardboard. It is machine washable. There is no steam or pressing cloth needed. It will not lift or pucker after washing. It’s no-sew bond is three times stronger than any other traditional fusible web. I find this product helpful in creating my own fusible fabrics.

wine toteUrethane foam is the material commonly known as foam rubber, which is produced by blowing gas into a heated, liquid chemical mixture. When it dries, the foam rubber is porous and spongy, and the gas trapped within the urethane foam gives it great insulative properties. This same material is used as cushioning for upholstered trunks, gig bags for musical instruments, and soft-sided luggage.

For handbags, a thin film of polyurethane finish is added to a polyester weave to create polyurethane laminate (PUL), which is used for its waterproof and windproof properties in wardrobe bags, camera bags, wine totes, and so forth.

MICHAEL-KORS-Neoprene-Ipad-Case-TANGERINE_92779_957f61af9db4f9f815dadb468640e1c3Neoprene has become a favourite material for lifestyle and other home accessories including padded handbags. In this market, it sometimes competes with LRPs (low-resilience polyurethane), which is a sturdier (more impact-resistant) but less-used material. LRPs are often molded to the shape of the item.

Neoprene resists degradation more than natural or synthetic rubber. This relative inertness makes it well suited for demanding applications such as a base for protective inserts and as padding in external metal cases to protect the contents while allowing a snug fit. This is ideal for laptop bags, tablet carriers, and mobile phones.

You should know the difference between a protective sleeve and a padded bag, as well as the variations, accessories, materials, and design choices. Essentially, bags are larger cases that offer more protection and more storage space than sleeves. Sleeves offer minimal protection, but are sleek and lightweight. Since most laptop devices are standard sizes, you should be able to create a sleeve or a bag with ease.

Still, designing a protective tote bag is a creative endeavour and has just as much to do with your lifestyle and the way you use your items, as it does with the size and shape of its fragile contents. Whether it is a tablet, casserole dish, bottle of wine, or any other breakable item, you will need the dimensions of that particular item to make a dedicated carrier. Length or height for the vertical measurements and width or circumference for the horizontal measurements are required to draft the pattern. To account for the depth or thickness of the item, plus the thickness of the type of padding being used, you must add ease into your pattern. This added ease will allow the item to slip into the carrier easily yet be snug enough to provide protection against impact or scratching. The thickness or loft of the padding used is usually determined by the degree of protection needed. Therefore, bag measurements will appear as such:

Height = length of item + depth of item + thickness of padding + 2 seam allowances

 

Width = width of item + depth of item + thickness of padding + 2 seam allowances

 

Depth = thickness of item + (2 x thickness of padding)

Storage compartments to hold auxiliary items such as chargers and cables, may be added to the exterior without compromising on the fit of the carrier. They can be designed as pockets with flaps or as pouch-style sleeves. The size of the bag will not affected.

In the case of photography or musical equipment, where the padding is loftier and denser, you may need a liner for the interior of the carrier bag as its exterior is often larger in volume to accommodate the individual inserts and various flexible configurations for transport. The contents should not jostle while being transported.

vony toteIn the case of wine totes and casserole/picnic thermal carriers, temperature is a factor to be considered, as well as protection. Keep it hot or keep it cold with an insulated/reflective protective lining. The hollow fibers resist conduction, meaning the fabric is breathable or wicks to keep interiors dry, while the reflective metallic layer resists radiant energy. The energy, hot or cold, is reflected back to its source.

In all cases, have durable carrier handles/straps to protect the contents and your hands, and make transporting your belongings easier.

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ETUI BAG

‘Etui Bag’

This compact bag design is ideal for small items like a cellphone, camera, wallet, or other articles of daily use you may carry.

Dimensions: 6” high x 4” wide x 2” deep [15 cm x 10 cm x 5 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: polyester-backed polyurethane leatherette

Design Tip: Match the colour and surface finish of the metal zipper head with the metal bag hardware.

You will need:

  • 1/2 yard [0.5 m] of polyurethane leatherette, 54” [137 cm] wide
  • 1/2 yard [0.5 m] of nylon coil zipper chain, 5 mm wide
  • 1½ yards [1.4 m] of plastic piping cord, 3mm thick
  • 1 yd. [0.90 m] of webbing, 3/4” [20 mm] wide
  • 2 zipper slides, #5
  • 3 D-ring, 1/2” [12 mm] diameter
  • 4 swivel latch clasps, 3/4” [20 mm] diameter
  • 1 slide buckle, 3/4” [20 mm] diameter
  • 8 rivets, 3/8” [10 mm] diameter
  • 1 spool heavy-duty/upholstery thread
  • 1 roll double-sided seam tape, 1/4” [6 mm] wide

Designer Note: Coil molded nylon zipper chain allow you to make your own zipper lengths. Coil zips are more flexible making them excellent for going around corners. The slides run smoother than VF zippers. Use #5 Coil zippers for small handbags and other applications where a small coil zipper is what you need. #5 Chain is 5mm across the coil when closed.

PATTERN

This is a patternless design (simple block grid). The pattern shapes can be measured and plotted out directly onto the leatherette or drawn on kraft paper to keep as a permanent record, then traced out on the fabric. Keep the corners rounded as this will allow for easier construction and stitching. You may follow the prototype’s proportions or use your own measurements based upon what you will carry in the bag (seam allowances are not included in the pattern).

click on image to magnify

dimensions in  illustration are imperial measures (inches)

CUTTING

Designer’s Note: For smooth precise cutting, use a metal straight-edge and a sharp X-acto knife to cut the imitation leather. Only use scissors to cut round corners. This will provide a professional look to your project. Remember to add seam allowance to your pattern pieces.

Cut one (1X) of each pattern piece except for gussets, cut 2X and for D-ring tabs, cut 3X.

Also, cut a long strip of leatherette for a self-piped trim, 54” long x 1” wide (seam allowance is included in the width).

ASSEMBLY

a) Small Parts Preparation:

Make Piping with Plastic Filler – To make up, cut a long strip of leatherette and of plastic cord to desired length plus a bit extra for finishing. Use double-sided seam mounting tape for the trim construction as pins will leave a trace. Place one piece of tape on the fabric’s long edge (WSU), and one piece down the center. Remove the release paper and stick the plastic cord on center without any twists. Then, fold the leatherette straight over and press the edges together.

Sew along the edge of the filler. A cording foot is one of my favourite tools for this job to get professional results but you may use a roller foot as well. The leather and filler are controlled by the seam tape as they feed between the foot and the guide for a straight tight seam. Set piping aside.

Make D-ring Tabs – To make up, place a piece of double-side seam tape down the center of the wrong side (back) of a leatherette tab. Slip a D-ring onto the tongue of the tab. Fold the narrow strip over the ring and peel away the release paper on the seam tape. Then, fold the leatherette straight over and press the layers together. Using a zipper foot attachment, stitch as close as possible to the D-ring across the top of the tab.

Repeat 2 more times for the remaining hardware and set aside.

Make the anchor pad – To add additional support to the hardware, reinforce the D-ring tabs by mounting it onto an anchor. Equally space two tabs apart onto the pad with both D-rings facing up and machine-stitch around the curved edge of the tabs.

With the anchor FACE UP, secure a rivet through all layers below each D-ring to hold the thickness of the fabric together. Set aside.

Make zipper – Cut a length of zipper chain equal to the length of the gusset (including seam allowance). Thread 2 zip slides onto the end of the zip chain, one after the other with the heads facing each other. Zip up the zipper to the other end of the chain (be careful not to slip off the coil as there is no stop). Then reposition the sliders to the center of the zipper. (The zipper should now be able to open and close in either direction). Tack across each end of the coil by hand to secure temporarily. Set aside.

Make Hand Strap To make up, place a piece of double-side seam tape down one side of the wrong side (back) of the hand strap. Peel away the release paper on the seam tape and fold the leatherette straight over and press the layers together. Topstitch around the perimeter of the strap. On each end of the hand strap, place a swivel latch clasp and fold over the fabric approximately 1 inch [25 mm]. Secure with 2 rivets through all layers to complete, following manufacturer’s directions. Set aside.

Make Adjustable Strap – Slip the slider buckle onto the webbing, and then draw the end of the strap through the bracket of the swivel latch. Return the end of the webbing back through the slider and secure in place.

On the other end of the strap, attach another swivel latch clasp by wrapping a remnant piece of leatherette, cut-to-size, around the hardware and sandwiching the webbing between the 2 layers of leatherette. Use double sided seam tape to hold in place and topstitch around all sides of the leatherette, finishing with an X-stitch across the tab. Reinforce the strap with a rivet in the center of the X-stitch. Set aside.

Slip Pouch Prep – Trim the opening of the slip pouch by sewing a length of self-piping to the opening of the pocket (face sides together). Grade the seam allowance and turn under. With FACE UP, edgestitch along the piped edge of the pocket. Set aside.

b) Slip Pouch/Pocket Construction – With FACE SIDES UP, align and match pocket on top of front section. Baste around three sides of pocket.

Then, add self-piping around the perimeter of the front section. (see notes on piping)

c) Mount Hardware to Back – With FACE UP, position anchor pad onto placement line with the aid of some double-sided seam tape. Edgestitch around perimeter of the anchor pad.

Next, align the remaining D-ring tab to its horizontal placement position with the hardware nearest the seamline and tape in place. Edgestitch around the curved edge of the tab. Secure a rivet through all layers below the D-ring to hold the thickness of the fabric together.

Then, add self-piping around the perimeter of the back section. (see notes on piping)

Set aside.

d) Gusset Construction – Insert zipper between the 2 gusset pieces and topstitch in place. Next, align and match the short ends of the zipper assembly to the short ends of the base section, with FACE SIDES together. Stitch ends to create a large continuous loop. Grade seam allowances towards the base section. On FACE SIDE, topstitch along the seam on the base to secure the ends of the zipper coil. Set aside.

e) Attach Gusset to Front & Back – Begin by opening the zipper (this is how you will be able to turn the bag right-side-out). With FACE SIDES together, align and match the gusset to the back section. The base on the gusset should be below the sole D-ring tab. Follow the edge of the piping and stitch the 2 layers together. As the leatherette will not fray, you can clip into the corners to release the seam allowance if needed. You may wish to grade or sew together the seam allowances if desired.

Next, repeat the procedure for the front section. The opening of the pocket should face the seamline in the same direction as the anchor pad on the back.

Gently turn the exterior of the bag out through the zipper opening and close the zipper.

g) Finishing – Latch the swivel clasps to the D-rings on the anchor section. There are several combinations how the hardware can be used, in tandem or singly, for the Etui Bag:

  • each end of the Hand Strap attached to a D-ring on the anchor
  • each end of the Adjustable Strap attached to a D-ring on the anchor
  • each end of the Adjustable Strap attached to a D-ring on the anchor and both ends of Hand strap attached to a D-ring on the anchor (shown in photo)
  • one end of the Hand Strap attached to a D-ring on the anchor and the opposite to the bottom D-ring
  • one end of the Adjustable Strap attached to a D-ring on the anchor and the opposite to the bottom D-ring
  • each end of the Hand Strap attached to the bottom D-ring.

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CONVERTIBLE SLING BAG

Go out in style with this fashionable sling bag! This triangle-shaped sling bag sports a dual pocket front and the versatile zippered shoulder strap converts to either a one-shoulder or two-shoulder carrying strap. The bag comes with two zippered storage compartments and the aforementioned mobile phone pouch pocket.

Dimensions: approximately 15″ high / 14″ wide / 6″ deep with a 40″ [1 m] separating shoulder strap; an 8” [20 cm] zip front pocket and an 11″ [28 cm] deep front pouch. [38 cm x 35.5 cm x 15 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 except for topstitching. 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. The back section has a turned-edge finish. Skiving the seam allowance pares down the thickness of leather, along the outer edge to reduce bulk and/or allow for turning. A pocket lining is used to cover the interior of the front pouch for added support and a neat appearance.

Material Used: tanned cowhide leather with corded piping; 100% cotton pocket lining.

Design Tip: Other kinds of leathers may be used for this bag design as long as you select a fairly light-weight (think 2 to 3 ounce average, 1/16 inch thick) choice such as goatskin or pigskin. There are also many synthetic choices as well as durable woven fabrics in the marketplace that may be “easier” to handle other than genuine leather. In all cases, you may have to check that your sewing machine will be able to sew through several layers of the fabric before you proceed with making up this bag.

You will need:

  • 1 pair of metal square buckles, 1” dia. [25 mm]
  • 1 pair of metal grommets, ” dia. [10 mm]
  • 1 nylon coil separating zipper, 28” long [71 cm]
  • 1 nylon coil closed zipper, 14” long [35 cm]
  • 1 nylon coil closed zipper, 8” long [20 cm]
  • 1 cowhide or garment leather skin, 4-10 oz. (approx. 8 sq.ft)
  • yd. [0.3 m] of pocket lining, 24” wide [60 cm]
  • 2½ yds. [2.4 m] of pre-cut fusible interfacing, 1” wide [25 mm]
  • 1½ yds. [1.4 m] of cable cord, ¼” dia. [5 mm]
  • 1 spool of polyester heavy-duty thread
  • Double-sided mounting tape, 10 mm. wide
  • Leather punch
  • Leather brayer
  • Leather skiving knife
  • X-acto knife
  • Kraft paper

PATTERN

Draw a rectangle and label it, A-B-C-D.

A-B = 21″ [53.5 cm].

A-C = 14″ [35.5 cm].

Square down from C and square across from B to locate D.

D-E = 6″ [15 cm].

Square across to locate F.

B-D-E-F is the base of the bag.

Find the mid-point of line A-C; label point G.

Square down from G to locate H.

A-G-H-F represents the front section of the bag.

1 from G = 4″ [10 cm].

Join F to 1 with a straight line.

2 from G = 3″ [7.5 cm].

Square 3 from 2 = 4-1/2″ [11.5 cm].

Square 4 from 3 = 3/8″ [1 cm].

Join F and 4 with a straight line.

5 from 2 = 2″ [5 cm].

6 from 5 = 4″ [10 cm] or half the desired zipper length (optional)

7 from 6 = 3/8″ [1 cm].

This is the front pocket with inset zipper.

Square down from 7 to locate 8 on base.

9 from 8 = 1″ [2.5 cm].

This is the buckle placement.

1-G-H-F is the bag front.

G-C-E-H represents  the back section of the bag.

10 from G = line G-1.

Join E to point 10 with a straight line.

Draw a 45º angle line from E; on this tangent line measure 1″ [2.5 cm] from E.

Arc a curve to pass through this point and lie on lines E-10 and E-H.

Measure the length of 10-E + half of B-D.

Measure this distance from 10 to curve at E to H (and beyond) to locate point 11.

Join G to 11 with a straight line. Square from this line (12) to blend smoothly into curve at E.

Square from G a curve to meet point 10.

13 from G = 2″ [5 cm].

square 14 from 13 = 1″ [2.5 cm] for the grommet placement.

G-10-E-12 is the bag back.

Draw a rectangle and label, H-I-J-K.

H-I = 1-F.

Square down from J and square across from I to locate K.

H-J = half of B-F.

M is the midpoint of line H-J.

Join M to K with a straight line.

For the front portion of the gusset, round off the point at K with a curved arc (as shown).

Square at M on line M-K to line H-M to locate N.

N-M-K-I is the gusset of the bag.

Draw a square and label O-P-Q-R.

O-P and O-Q = 6″ [15 cm].

This is the collar ring (neck) for the bag.

Trace off the following sections on pattern paper:

BASE = F-E-D-B.

COLLAR = O-Q-R-P.

SIDE GUSSET = N-M-K-I.

BACK = G-10-E(rounded)-12.

Fold pattern paper in half and align centerline (G-H) on foldline:

FRONT = 1-G-H-F.

FRONT POCKET = 3-2-H-F-4

Add seam allowance to all pattern pieces except for top of gusset pieces and cut out pattern.

CUTTING

Tip: Use a rotary cutter or X-acto knife, along with a metal ruler to cut leather.

         Remember to “flip” pattern pieces to mirror image.

FRONT – cut 1X leather

FRONT POCKET – cut 1X leather

BACK – cut 2X leather (mirrored)

FRONT GUSSET – cut 2X leather (mirrored)

BACK GUSSET – cut 2X leather (mirrored)

NECK COLLAR – cut 1X leather

SHOULDER STRAP – cut 2X leather ( 40” long x 3” wide) [100 cm x 7.5 cm]

BUCKLE STRAP – cut 2X leather (10” long x 3” wide) [25.5 cm x 7.5 cm]

POCKET LINING – cut 1X pocketing

PIPING TRIM – cut 2X leather (approx. 24” [61 cm] long x 1½” [4 cm] wide

ASSEMBLY

For all pieces: Bevel the seam allowance with the leather skiving knife on each leather piece to reduce any bulk when turning.

a) Small Parts Preparation

Making Leather Piping with a Cord Filler – To make up, cut 2 strips of leather to desired length and twice the width of your filler, plus seam allowance. (I used a 1/4″ cable cord inside the piping 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 cording on center without any twists. Here again, this is the real trick to making up piping trim 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 cording foot is one of my favourite tools for this job when I make it in leather but you may use a roller foot as well. The leather and filler are controlled by the seam tape as they feed between the foot and the guide for a straight tight seam. Set piping aside.

Making Buckle Strap – To make up, cut 2 strips of leather to desired length and twice the width of the inner diameter of your buckle, plus seam allowance. (I used a 1” diameter metal buckle with a prong).

Once again, make use of the double-sided seam tape. One piece of tape on each long edge, and fold each side towards center. Remove the release paper and stick the wrong sides of the leather strip on center without any twists. Press the folded edges with a nylon hand brayer to set the fold.

Topstitch around the perimeter of the strap. A roller foot is my favourite tool for this job when I make it in leather. Use a leather punch to make a hole in the leather for the buckle’s prong. Attach buckle into place and secure it by stitching across the ends of the strap. Repeat for second buckle and set aside.

Make Shoulder Strap – To make up, cut 2 strips of leather to desired length and twice the finished width of inner diameter of the buckle, plus seam allowance. Bevel the seam allowances with the skiving knife on each leather strips to reduce any bulk when turning.

Cut 2 lengths of narrow Knit-fuse® interfacing (I used pre-cut tape sold by the roll) equal to the length of the leather straps. Iron on fusible interfacing to back of leather strips on one side of center.

I know this is contrary to what you have heard of leather care yet you CAN heat press leather. Now, this may seem like the exact opposite of good care treatment, but “fusible knit interfacing” that tailors and seamstresses use, will add body to thin layers without stiffening the leather. It has an extremely thin layer of dried adhesive on one side of it which you activate with heat without much pressure.
Now here’s the part that the leatherworks will get up in arms about — fuse some of the Knit-fuse
® to the leather, meaning you stick it under a press (like a 30″ long iron, with the option of using steam), sandwiched in-between layers of brown paper (I used brown kraft paper aka parcel wrap). So the sandwiched layers are: bottom of the press, then brown paper, then leather (FACE SIDE DOWN), then fusible interfacing, then the top layer of the brown paper, then the top of the press. The sandwich is heat-pressed for say 10 seconds (you might want to trial-test your timing on a scrap piece). You can also do this operation using a hand-iron but you will need to pin the leather to an ironing board to prevent it from shifting, and use a low-setting on your steam iron. Ok, that said, I wonder if anybody out there wants to scream at me that applying heat to leather is not advisable? Do remember that the grain side of the leather is not ever touching a hot surface — just the back side gets the heat. Although this leather isn’t thick, do not rest your iron for more than 10 seconds at a time, keep it moving in a up-and-down direction. (That is why the 30” press is a better option; the leather will not move). Most importantly, allow the fixed leather to cool down completely before going to the sewing machine.
This operation is done frequently in mass-production, and it does not damage the leather, and the fusible interfacing adheres marvellously to the wrong side/suede side of the leather, lending just the amount of body that one would want to stabilize the shoulder straps to apply the long zipper.

Make use of the double-sided seam tape to attach the long separating zipper, with one piece of tape on each long edge of the zipper tape. Allow approximately 10 inches from the end of each leather strip and align zipper to edge of leather. Remove the release paper and stick the zipper, FACE SIDE UP, to the FACE SIDE of the leather strips which has the applied interfacing. Sew in place, using a zipper foot attachment. Turn in the sewn edge and press the seam with a nylon brayer to set the fold. Use more double-side seam tape to hold the rolled seam down.

Next, turn in the seam allowance on the opposite edge of the leather strap and press it down using the hand roller and double-sided tape.

Fold the leather in half lengthwise, with wrong sides together, and align the turned-edge along the zipper teeth. Use double-sided seam tape to keep the layers together. Press with hand roller to neaten the turning.

Topstitch around the perimeter of the shoulder strap, using the roller foot attachment for this job when making it in leather. Use a leather punch to make several evenly-spaced holes in the leather, on the free end of the shoulder strap, for the buckle. Repeat this method for other side of the separating zipper and set aside.

b) Front Pocket Construction

Cut 2 strips of fusible interfacing tape equal to the width of the front pocket piece. Using the same procedure described above for heat pressing leather, iron 1 strip of fusible interfacing to the top edge of the front pocket; and the second, over the zipper opening on the back of the leather.

Mark the placement of the zipper opening onto the back side, using tailor’s chalk. Carefully cut out the outline of the opening, with the aid of a metal ruler and sharp X-acto knife.

Align the zipper, FACE SIDE UP, from the back of the leather so that the zipper is centered in the cut-out window. Use double-sided seam tape to secure the position.

Topstitch around the outline of the opening to attach the zipper, using the roller foot attachment.

Layer the front pocket and the pocket lining, with FACE SIDES together, matching the top edge of the pocket. Stitch lining in place. From FACE SIDE of lining, understitch lining to leather.

On the wrong side of the leather, lightly score a line parallel to this seam, 1-inch away [2.5 cm]. Fold leather on the scored line and turn under facing. With FACE SIDE UP, edgestitch along top of folded edge of pocket. Machine-baste sides of front pocket with lining. Set aside.

c) Gusset Construction

Take 1 front and 1 back of the gusset pieces and lay them with FACE SIDES together. Stitch center seam and press seam open with hand roller. Grade one of the seam allowances and fold the wider seam allowance over the graded one. With FACE SIDE UP, edgestitch along the center seam to catch the seam allowances underneath the layers. Set aside.

Take the remaining pair of gusset pieces and attach closed zipper in the center seam. Do this by, taping the zipper, FACE SIDE DOWN to the center seam on the FACE SIDE of the leather and from the bottom of the seam. Sew in place, using a zipper foot attachment. Turn in the sewn edge and press the seam with a nylon brayer to set the fold. Use more double-side seam tape to hold the rolled seam down. With FACE SIDES UP, topstitch on both sides of the zipper to secure, using the roller foot attachment to prevent drag on the leather. Set aside.

d) Back Construction

Take the pair of back pieces and lay them with FACE SIDES together. Stitch center seam and press seam open with hand roller. With FACE SIDE UP, edgestitch along both sides of the center seam to catch the seam allowances underneath.

On the back of the leather, mark the placement points for the grommets. Iron on a small square of fusible interfacing at these 2 points, as directed above, to stabilize the area.

Using a leather punch, make a hole at each location (if the hole is too small for the stem of the grommet, carefully clip into the outline of the hole to release it slightly). From the FACE SIDE, push a grommet into each hole and secure, following manufacturer’s directions.

e) Body Construction

Lay the Front Pocket, FACE UP onto the Front section of the bag. Match the bottom corners of the Front Pocket to the bottom corners of the Front (at point F) and align the raw edges at the sides to create a slight ease at the top of the pocket (the top edge of the pouch will bow slightly). Machine-stitch the Front Pocket to the Front piece.

With FACE SIDES together, layer the Base piece on top of the Front section and match the long seam.

Machine-stitch the seam and press seam open with hand roller. Grade the seam allowance of the Base piece and fold the wider seam allowance over the graded one. With FACE SIDE UP, edgestitch along the seam on the Base piece to catch the seam allowances underneath the layers.

With FACE SIDE UP, align and match piping trim to outer edges (sides) of the Front-Base section.

Machine-baste in place.

With FACE SIDES together, align and match a gusset to each side of the Front-Base section. The gusset with the zipper is located on the right-hand side of the bag. Sew each seam following the stitch line of the piping trim. Clip into the seam allowance if necessary to release any puckering of the seam

At top of each gusset, fold the gusset, with FACE SIDES together, and sew across top with a slant 1/4-inch seam allowance (this seam will be hidden inside the bag).

Three sides of the bag are complete. Once again, making use of the double-sided seam tape, tape the open edge of the partially completed bag. Remove the release paper and stick the wrong sides of the leather edge (seam allowance) toward the inside of the body, without stretching the leather (you may clip the seam allowance if needed). Press the folded edges with the hand brayer to set the fold.

Repeat this step on the back section. You will definitely need to clip the curved seam allowance at the top of this section and at the corners. (I often find it easier to use shorter lengths of tape on curved seams for more control when turning the leather).

Now, carefully match and butt the folded edges together (FACE UP), align the seam along the outer edge of the back section (I find paper clips or clothespins are ideal for holding the layers together).

Before edgestitching the layers together, slip the shoulder strap between the 2 grommet holes, and center-align the shoulder strap over the centerback seam with the zipper FACE SIDE UP. Machine-stitch the curved seam to the Front section, tucking in the gusset tops on each side.

Along the bottom edge of the back section, locate the placement positions for the buckles. Slip the bucket strap between the 2 layer at each location (the buckle prong should face up). Edgestitch the outer edge of the bag along the sides and bottom.

f) Finishing

Make up the Neck Collar – Start by, taping 2 opposite edges on the wrong side of the Neck Collar piece. Remove the releasing paper and turn under the edges (seam allowance). Press the folded edges with the hand brayer to set the fold.

With FACE SIDES together, fold the Collar piece in half lengthwise and sew up the raw edges. Press the seam open with the hand roller. Turn Collar piece right-side-out.

Now, fold the Collar piece width-wise, with FACE SIDES OUT, and align the folded edges together. Tape open side close, if desired. Edgestitch along the turned edge to create a collar ring.

Slide the Neck Collar onto the Shoulder Strap and pull it down to the end of the Shoulder Strap (as shown in the front view of the bag) to cinch up the top of the bag. Alternatively, you may leave the Collar off and allow the top of the bag to lie flat (as shown in back view of the bag).

Make a Grip Handle – Construct a leather “cord” by folding a scrap piece of leather over a cord filler and stitch it as a leather cord. Thread each end of the leather through the grommet holes. Knot each end of the leather cord to prevent the grip from sliding out (do this by going into the cavity of the bag via the side zipper opening).

Attach the loose ends of the Shoulder Strap to each of the buckles. (if you plan to adjust the Shoulder Straps often, you might want to reinforce the holes in the strapping with metal eyelets).

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