Category Archives: Design Insight



Proportionate pattern-making is another way to create cutting patterns for  various fashion bag designs using their geometric shapes as the basis of the styling. While each pattern template is a different shape, they all share a common measurement or dimension, which more often than not, is its depth or gusset side length. Other times, one can use a known increment of measure from a given detail or embellishment used in the overall styling of the bag. This comes in handy to know if you only have access to limited bag supplies, as you always want to work with what is available to you. Of course this is all so abstract in approach though I like to think of it as being creative; the mathematics behind this concept is solid as a designer is utilizing proportional reasoning and spatial skills to create endless versions of favourite bag styles and shapes that share a common element that they can be put together to form interesting shapes.

This means that the areas of the shapes are proportional, a relationship that supports the illustration of various mathematical concepts. Proportionate bag pattern blocks offer a hands-on way to apply foundation grids and the Rule of Thirds, geometry, patterns, ratios, proportions, congruence, similarity, lines of symmetry, and more, in keeping with the basic principles and elements of design, that all designers use whenever they are working on a new collection, whatever may it be.

Balance is the concept of visual equilibrium, and relates to our physical sense of balance. It is a reconciliation of opposing forces in a composition that results in visual stability. Most successful bag designers achieve balance in one of two ways: symmetrically or asymmetrically. Balance in a three dimensional object is easy to understand; if balance isn’t achieved, the handbag tips over. To understand balance in a two dimensional composition, we must use our imaginations to carry this three-dimensional analogy forward to the flat surface. This is known as spatial reasoning (see post on developing spatial skills).

Symmetrical balance can be described as having equal “weight” on equal sides of a centrally-placed fulcrum or axis. It may also be referred to as formal balance. When the elements are arranged equally on either side of a centerline, such as ‘cutting-on-the-fold’, the pattern is mirrored and the result is Bilateral symmetry. This axis may be horizontal or vertical. It is also possible to build formal balance by arranging elements equally around a central focal point, resulting in radial symmetry.

There is a variant of symmetrical balance called approximate symmetry in which equivalent but not identical forms are arranged around the fulcrum line.

Asymmetrical balance, also called informal balance, is more complex and difficult to envisage. It involves placement of objects in a way that will allow objects of varying visual weight to balance one another around a fulcrum point. This can be best imagined by envisioning a literal balance scale that can represent the visual “weights” that can be imagined in a two dimensional composition. For example, it is possible to balance a heavy weight with a cluster of lighter weights on equal sides of a bag style; this might be a cluster of small compartments balanced by a large compartment on a backpack. It is also possible to imagine objects of equal weight but different mass (such as a large mass of feathers versus a small mass of jet beads on an evening clutch) on equal sides of a imaginary centerline. Unequal weights can even be balanced by shifting the fulcrum point on our imaginary scale.

Ratios and Proportions

A ratio is a comparison of two elements. Proportion refers to the relative size and scale of ratios used in a bag design and the issue being the relationship between objects or parts of a whole. This means that it is necessary to discuss proportion in terms of the context or standards used to determine proportions. Also keep in mind, the use of appropriate scale in surface design is also important. For example, an overly large textile design can overwhelm the form and appearance of a small to medium-sized handbag. A surprising aspect of proportion is the way ideal proportions can vary on the human body itself. Styles change in bags as they do in clothing.

In the example below, the pattern for this weekender travel bag is a basic rectangular shape and subsequently, sub-divided into smaller parts. In other words, it is boxy with plenty of room to pack a jet-setter’s weekend wardrobe. All bag dimensions relate to each other as all are subjected to the value chosen for ¨X¨. The scale is represented by X. Every time one changes the scale, all the bag’s dimensions change. This contributes to the congruency and similarity in design. Similar bag styles have the same shape, but may be different sizes. For figures to be congruent, the lengths of corresponding sides must have the same ratio. The shapes within the bag pattern are said to be ¨to scale¨ with each other, when all measurements are based upon X (note: there are no seam allowances added to the working pattern, so you will have to true each tracing that is made and add seam allowances).



For example if X = 2 inches, which is a good estimate of how wide the struts on this travel bag are, then the dimensions of this particular bag would be 16 inches tall (model height), 18 inches wide (model width), and 8 inches deep (model depth), with a 26-inch zipper opening. As one side of a shape grows, so do all the other sides of that shape.

In another scenario, you might have based the value of X on the width of the nylon webbing used in the bag strapping. Nylon webbing is sold in 2-inch width off of continuous rolls in a variety of fashion colours. However, your supplier is sold out and only has the 1-1/2 inch width available. By substituting 1.5 for the value of X, one can keep the relationship between the bag strapping and other bag parts, and also as a whole. In this case, the bag’s dimensions becomes 12 inches high by 13.5 inches wide by 6 inches deep. It is a smaller travel bag in size yet all parts relate with one other, in individual details and collectively as a whole. This method also works for metric measurements.

If a change in bag size does not work in your favour yet you want to retain the bag styling, choose a different component of the design to determine the value of X, such as the hardware measurements (inner diameters) or something else which is tangible within your design. Many times I will base the scale of my bag pattern on its finished depth as this particular measurement often reflects what I wish to carry in the bag cavity. In the example above, the depth amount would need to be divisible by 4, as half of a gusset equals 2X. A quarter of my desired bag depth would equal X. The choice is yours to make as you are the designer. The only time this method may not work well is if you want to replicate a favourite handbag, then you must work with the other designer’s measurements instead of your own. However you do have a finished sample in front of you, so all you need do is measure each element with a tape measure and plot out your pattern-draft.

In spatial reasoning, using such visual clues is much like using a ruler. What are the dimensions of the bag? What are the sizes of the bag details? There is no right nor wrong answer as long as all parts relate to one another. In the example given, the assumption is that the strip of material that make up the bag strut is approximately 2 inches wide. You can then visualize how many times you can ‘fit’ the strut piece into the height of the bag or the base of the bag or the exterior pocket and so forth.

Partitioned elements can now be traced off the main pattern such as the zipper facing, exterior pocket, and the handle struts. It is very accommodating. As designers, we value this harmony in our creations. It is the difference between a professionally-designed bag and a homemade one.



Filed under Bag'n-telle, Design Insight, pattern-making



Fashion purses and bags come in all sorts of sizes and shapes. The permutations are endless, but they have one thing in common. They begin in the form of a simple geometric shape, usually a derivative of a rectangle, square, circle, or cylinder. When you manipulate this shape by slashing and spreading, then adding gussets and darts, the magic begins. There are no reasons why anyone cannot draft their own patterns to make uniquely custom bag designs.

You only need to understand the various bag shapes, know how a bag is put together, and have the proper pattern-making tools and supplies on hand to get the job done. Once you are familiar with the basics, you will be able to analyze any style of bag and expand on and embellish it to suit your vision. The materials that your bag is made from can make or break its style and panache. Many newbies to bag design are intimidated by working with novel materials such as leather and plastics, but it is actually very simple to handle if you follow a few guidelines. The thought of painting leather edges may be daunting, but it’s a straightforward process when you are equipped with the right tools and have a comfortable, properly set up workspace. If you are just starting on your handbag-making journey, read through this post and gain an understanding of the basics and make sure you have a few essential tools to draft your patterns. If you already have experience and the necessary equipment, go ahead and pick a bag style and start creating.

When you take from one plane and add to another, the cubic area does not change, as shown in the three distinct silhouettes below: a cross-shape (1), an I – shape (2), and a T shape (3). When folded, they are all the same size. You can design a multitude of bag shapes using these three simple grid formations. Think of these as possible slopers, or master templates, for your bag and its shape. Each pattern has 6 planes: top, bottom, front, back, and 2 sides. In bag design-speak, we call them: top, base, front, back, and 2 gussets. The visible differences are in the seaming. You  can shift seams for simpler construction, ease of handling, or pure aesthetics. For instance, in the cross-shape bag style assembly, the seams are vertical in all four corners of the bag. For the I-shape bag style, the seams are one vertical one down the centre of each bag gusset and one across the gusset at the base of the bag. And for the T-shape bag style, the seams appear on the two vertical front corners and one horizontal seam along the bottom of each gusset at the base of the bag. Labour-wise, all require four passes under the sewing machine foot.




Once you establish your framework, the next step is to alter it to your design specifications. When you manipulate the edges of one or more surfaces by adding, subtracting, or shaping, you transform the box into the unique design of your handbag (see post on invisible grid).


For instance, you can add to the basic template as shown above to alter its shape (Note: The red lines represent the new style lines). The front and back planes of the cross-shape style (1) have more surface area by curving the sides. Due to that curved lines are longer than straight lines, additional length need to be added to each gusset so that top edges will match up when assembled. The same can be said for removing surface area. In the diagram, the basic I-shape style (2) is transformed by shaping each half-gusset inward toward the top edges, then cutting away the excess thus altering its shape. Each style represents the bag body or cavity once it is assembled. You can turn the top section into a flap; replace it with a metal frame, zipper, or draw cord; or eliminate it entirely.

Also when modifying a basic template keep in mind the Rule of Thirds (see post on Rule of Three) as bag details and embellishments that appear in odd numbers are more appealing, memorable, and effective than even-numbered pairings. While it is easier to create symmetry by balancing elements in pairs, odd numbers helps shape more interesting concepts, enhances user-functionality and establishes a smarter balance. For instance, below, is an example of how the basic I-shape style is altered into 3 parts to create its gussets and creates better visual appeal to the bag style. The resulting style produces clean lines where the bag pattern folds on all sides and the bag is shaped by sewing up the gusset seamlines.


The next step is to execute a draft so you can see your creation in three dimensions. You can also draw on detailing, such as pocket placement and additional seams. Be certain to ¨true¨ all matching points and lines in your draft.

When designing a practical bag, keep in mind that you want a reinforced bottom, a secure top, an opening large enough for its contents, and pockets to keep everything organized. If you are always on the go and reaching for your bag, you will want handles that are long enough to throw over your shoulder, or one strap handle so you can carry the bag across your body to keep hands free.

As mentioned earlier, having the proper pattern-making tools and supplies on hand is a must to get the job done. Basic pattern-making tools and supplies are easy to find. You will need paper, first of all. I use kraft paper aka parcel wrap but any type of large format paper from newsprint sheets to rolls of professional ‘dot’ graph paper will do. Next, you will need 3 basic drafting tools: a grid ruler for measuring and drawing straight lines, a set square to construct proper 45 and 90 degree angles, and a French curve to draw smooth curved lines. Choose either imperial (inches) or metric (centimeters) for your units of measure but be consistent. You cannot mix and match measuríng units. 


That is about all you will need to start pattern drafting, though you may want to add a tracing wheel to your kit for tracing off or copying many mirrored pattern pieces from the main pattern-draft. Paper scissors, a glue-stick, scotch tape, and sharpened pencils are office staples that you probably already have on-hand. All these tools and supplies can be purchased online or at any art supply store.


Filed under Bag'n-telle, Design Insight, pattern-making




Here is colour/branding authority, PANTOME’s take on this coming year’s colour trend forecast in global design and marketing. It’s a dramatically provocative and thoughtful purple shade. Here’s what they had to say…

¨On the runway or the streets, Ultra Violet is an enchanting purple that provides a theatrical linkage for both men’s and women’s styles. True to the coupled nature of Ultra Violet, created by combining red and blue, Ultra Violet lends itself to unique colour combinations in fashion and is easier to pair with all colours on the spectrum than one might think. With golds or other metallics, Ultra Violet becomes luxurious and dazzling; with greens or greys it evokes natural elegance. Similarly, Ultra Violet takes on distinct appearances with different materials. Lush velvets in the colour suggest intrigue for evening, but are also unexpectedly modern in athleisure or sneakers. In accessories, jewelry, and eyewear, Ultra Violet suggests the complexities of natural gems, textures, and florals.¨


With colour on the catwalk as a key indicator of the colour pathways you can expect to see showing up across all areas of design and dare we say, with unexpected colour palettes, that encourages opportunities for self-expression, you may want to check out more colour trend forecasts from the Spring 2018 Fashion Week shows for inspiration, courtesy of Pantone.

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Filed under Bag'n-telle, Design Insight, Design Inspiration



Top-stitching is exactly as it sounds – a line of stitches, often decorative yet functional, that are visible on the face surface of your bag design. Technically you can use any stitch and thread to topstitch a bag exterior, but if you want professional results and a polished finish, it’s best to learn to topstitch like the pros. The addition of top-stitching to any bag will make it decorative while adding body to the bag structure and firm up the shape to the bag without adding any interfacing. Do keep in mind to keep the stitch-type and its length, consistent and uniform for a harmonious professional finished look.  A cluster of unrelated stitches will ruin the appearance of your bag design and denotes poor execution.


You can embellish with topstitching and it can be machine-stitched with a polished topstitching thread or hand-sewn with waxed linen thread.  If I do decide on hand-stitching, I often pre-punch holes whenever I use leathers or plastics by ¨walking¨ an unthreaded needle in my sewing machine by hand, using the flywheel instead of the foot-pedal to keep control, along the edge that will receive the top-stitching. Then, I just follow the guided path with my hand-needle. This gives me a smooth, even appearance and makes it easy to sew. You can also use the same method to create a laced-edge effect on your design. Your stitch line should be slightly longer in length than a construction stitch when you are topstitching. After all, if you’re going to put in all that extra labour and time, you want everyone to notice it.


Design-wise, you can use top-stitching to create in part the style of the bag, such as in quilting or trapunto. This type of embellishment uses a padded backing or interlining that can add extra body to the structure of the bag. Also, be aware that, the more  machine-stitching you apply to the fabric’s surface, the stiffer the fabric will become. In other words, you don’t even need interfacing to make your bag’s exterior more rigid while at the same time keeping the bag light in weight.

Think like a designer and be creative with the thread colour pathway and use a fun contrasting colour. This can bring a pop of style and pizzazz to your finished product.  Add piping or cording for extra impact.


Lastly, I like to do topstitching by way of the saddle-stitch on hard-to-sew cut edge styles and for simple leather bag handles. This simple hand-stitch denotes high-quality workmanship on any bag design and is a very professional-looking embellishment and finish.

Here are some professional tips when topstitching:

  • Top stitching thread is heavier gauge (weight) than conventional sewing machine thread; you use this thread in the top load of your machine and use regular sewing thread in the bobbin.
  • 90/14 is a special needle sized for top stitching; it has a larger eye to accommodate the thicker thread gauge.
  • Sometimes your project might work better with a different thread & needle for topstitching; make certain you choose your needle wisely.
  • Take your time and test on a piece of scrap fabric first. Make sure you use the same number of layers in your test swatch as you’ll have in the finished project, and test out a few different threads, needles, and stitch types/lengths before you decide on the real deal. Taking the time to do this step is the difference between homemade and handmade.
  • Top-stitch spacing from the edge is extremely important when applying. Consider using a seam guide tool for consistency. Speaking of consistency, to be harmonious in your overall design, your top-stitching should not be a hodgepodge of different stitches nor stitch lengths. Choose one style of top-stitching and use it throughout your design.
  • Depending on the thickness of fabric layers, the tension may need adjusting. This is especially important with thicker materials such as canvas/leather. Again, it’s always important to do a test piece first. 
  • If you are using topstitching thread in the bobbin as well, you might want to get a second bobbincase dedicated solely to the heavier gauge thread. Your sewing machine dealer can help you with that and set the bobbin tension for you.
  • If you’re using a thicker fabric or a lot of layers, position some scrap fabric under the back of your presser foot before you begin to sew. This allows the presser foot to remain straight, horizontally, so that it doesn’t have to “climb uphill” to begin sewing the bag.
  • Don’t backstitch – at least, not in the traditional way. Instead of stitching back and forth a few times to begin and end your topstitching, first shorten your stitch length to something very short; backstitch just once back and forth, then lengthen your stitches and sew as normal. This creates a more subtle way to anchor your stitches.
  • When you’re finished sewing, pull the top threads to the bottom or back of the work and tie them in a knot with the lower threads, then trim away loose ends.
  • Stabilize fabrics as needed. Use tear-away stabilizer under the material and then tear it off when you’re finished sewing. Another option is to add a layer of interfacing between the fabric layers.
  • Trim seam allowances before topstitching. This reduces the bulk of the fabric under the stitches, making it easier to get a smooth, even finish.
  • Lastly, throw away the rule book and experiment with your decorative stitches!


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


bag strap 4_Fotor

While bag straps details are a small style component in bag designing, choosing the right strap for your bag design is important when you are designing a handbag collection. In the manufacturing world, most bag handles and other bag fittings are bought through wholesale suppliers but when it comes to the actual bag strapping, much of it is made in-house. When deciding on a strap style for your creation, it’s important to consider the length and width because each has their own characteristics which change the look, comfort, and the way the bag is carried.


The strap length is measured from one end to the other, including the attachable hooks/hardware. Please note that “strap length” is different from “drop length” which measures the distance from the top of the strap to the top of the bag, when being worn. Measure all straps by their length (from end-to-end) because the drop length depends on the type of bag, what type of clothing you’re wearing (a heavy coat for example), your height, the position the bag is worn and so forth. By using the end-to-end length method, you can select the length that works best for your personal needs.

drop length_Fotor

The standard strap lengths listed below should work for most people, however I’ve found that it is really a matter of personal preference. Only the user knows the strap length that makes carrying a bag comfortable and a pleasure. Here’s how you can find the right length.

To determine the length of strap needed, dressforms get used in my studio often, along with a tape-measure to help determine my desired strap length or drape it on my assistant (I’m certain you can find a volunteer live and willing) in the design studio. As well, I can recommend using a piece of cord or flat ribbon, attached to your mock-up sample, with it adjusted until the length is as desired. Measure the ribbon from end-to-end to determine your strap length. Another method that often works well is to find another sample bag you have produced that has the strap length you’re looking to replicate. You have already done the design work so odds are the strap length will be a good choice. If possible, attach it to the mock-up to see if it will work for the length you’d like to achieve on your new prototype.

I have categorized 7 typical uses and lengths of handbag straps:

  1. Wristlet (6 to 10-inch range)
  2.  Short Handle (12 to 20-inch range)
  3. Shoulder (30-inch range)
  4. Long Shoulder (40-inch range)
  5. Crossbody (50-inch range)
  6. Extra Long (60-inch range)
  7. Adjustable (22 to 60-inch range)

Wristlet Straps:

Wristlet straps fit around the wrist then attach to the bag, making them a great choice for smaller bags that need to be kept close, like a clutch or billfold. Wristlet straps have an approximately 6-inch opening for your hand to slip through. They are designed to fit most handspans, while still being “snug” enough when placed on the wrist that it won’t easily slide or fall off.

A wristlet strap can also be used as a lanyard or even as a large zipper pull for larger totes.

Short Handle Straps (12 to 20-inch range):

Short handle straps are used to carry handbags either as a top-handle carried with your hand or over your arm, or as a tight-fitting hobo-style strap. If you’re a petite person, a 20-inch strap may work well to hold the bag tightly under your arm.

Keep in mind, when attaching a short handle strap to a hobo-style handbag, the weight of the contents will change the shape of the bag and increase the drop length quite a bit (sometimes double) so be sure to test this on your mock-up bag.

Shoulder Straps (30-inch range):

Shoulder straps are generally in the 30-inch range and are typically used to carry bags closely under your arm and close to the body. This is a popular bag strap length because the strap can also function as a top-handle for other bag styles, such as a tote. Many people like this length because it allows you to hold the handbag by the handle while you carry it on the shoulder, yet you are allowed to let go and be hands-free while commuting.

The beauty of detachable/attachable straps is the freedom to carry the bag any way you want. Simply attach the strap of your choice and go!

Long Shoulder Straps (40-inch range):

Longer shoulder straps are generally in the 40-inch range and allow the bag to hang down near the hip area when worn over the shoulder (depending on how tall you are, of course). For the petite person, this length can often be used to wear the bag across the chest, or often referred to as the “cross body” position.

When using as a cross body strap, this will have the top of the bag style sitting near the natural waist, depending on your height, weight and clothing. 

Crossbody Straps (50-inch range):

Crossbody (sometimes called “chest straps”) straps are generally in the 50-inch range. This type of strap allows the bag style to be worn securely over the head so that the strap rests on the shoulder and the bag crosses the chest then sits around the hip area on the opposite side of the body.

This style is very popular because it allows the bag style to be worn securely in busy areas while commuting or travelling, etc., frees up your hands to carry other things, and generally provides the most comfort. Even if the bag style wasn’t designed for cross body wear, it is usually possible to convert it using a longer attachable crossbody strap.

Extra Long Straps (60-inch range):

Extra long bag straps have many uses and are a great choice if the user is a tall or plus-size person, wear heavy clothing like a winter jacket, or prefer a low-hanging bag. This longer length is designed to provide a similar drop-length as the 50-inch crossbody straps, but for those that fall into the scenarios just mentioned.

It is possible to go longer than 60-inches, but the strap materials quickly become limited. Due to genuine leather hide size limitations, it is often not possible to go longer than 65 to 70-inches or some kind of hardware connection is needed. Other materials, like imitation  leather and nylon webbing, can be made into very long bag straps because they are yard goods available on large rolls.

Adjustable Straps (28 to 65-inch range):

Adjustable bag straps offer the ultimate in flexibility. Adjustable straps come in two forms: with the popular tri-glide “slider” hardware for precise tuning of strap length, or with “punched holes and a buckle” that have fixed adjustable lengths.

Adjustable bag straps range in lengths from 28 to 65-inches. Many customers elect for the 55-inch adjustable strap because its range can be changed quickly from 34-inches to 55-inches, making it seamless to convert the bag style from a shoulder to crossbody style.

A bag strap with a slider mechanism or buckle will alter not only the strap length but the drop length of a bag too. With an adjustable bag strap, the user has the freedom to carry or wear the bag exactly the way they want, on the shoulder hanging low to the hip, across the chest, or tightly under the arm.  This design detail makes any kind of bag styling much more versatile, therefore saleable, when presenting a new collection.

bag straps 2


The strap width is the portion of the strap that rests on the shoulder or in the hand (if used as a “top handle”). Generally speaking, the larger the bag strap width, the heavier a bag that can be supported. This is because the contact area of the bag strap increases as the strap width increases, which allows for improved weight distribution and comfort. This is particularly useful for anyone with sensitive shoulders (due to arthritis, for example). You could add a shoulder shield to the strap to prevent narrow straps from cutting into the shoulder and pad them a little bit to add additional comfort when carrying heavier loads.

Also interesting to note, a slender strap usually hugs the shoulder better, helping to prevent the bag from slipping or falling off. As a rule of thumb, smaller bags generally use smaller width straps, and larger bags generally use larger width straps. It makes common sense!

So the challenge becomes finding the right balance between usefulness (do I need to carry a large and heavy bag, or small and light weight bag?), comfort (will I be carrying the bag for extended periods of time and does it fit my body?) and appearance (does the strap look balanced with my bag?).

I have categorized handbag straps into 7 widths and uses:

  1. Extra Slender & Drawcord Straps (3/8-inch)
  2. Slender Width Straps (1/2-inch)
  3. Standard Width Straps (3/4-inch)
  4. Classic Width Straps (1-inch)
  5. Wide Width Straps (1½-inch)
  6. Extra Wide Width Straps (2-inch)
  7. Chain Straps (varying in width from ¼-inch to ⅝-inch)

Extra Slender & Drawcord Straps (3/8-inch):

An extra slender or drawcord bag strap is great for a minimal look on small bags. Drawcord straps do not come with attachable hooks (extra slender ones do, however) because they are designed to be knotted at the ends and looped into or through the bag’s hardware, or used on a bag style with a traditional drawstring closure.

Slender Width Straps (1/2-inch):

Slender bag straps are great for smaller bags, clutches, envelope bags, slender billfolds or if the bag styling is seeking a delicate or minimal visual look to your handbag collection. Slender straps tend to stay on the shoulder with less slippage. For bags designed to carry a lot of weight, choose the more apt “classic” or “wide” bag straps.

Standard Width Straps (3/4-inch):

Standard width straps provide good carrying capacity for small to medium sized bags, and offer a good balance between the minimal look of a slender strap and the wider/larger look of a classic strap. These straps are comfortable to wear and are double-stitched to provide good carrying strength.

Classic Width Straps (1-inch):

Classic width straps provide great comfort and carrying capacity for medium to large size handbags and purses of all types. This is the most popular selling width and can carry heavier bags with ease.

Wide Width Straps (1½-inch):

Wide width straps offer excellent strength and comfort for large tote bags, brief cases, diaper, camera or weekender bags. These straps are great for carrying a lot of weight because they distribute the weight of the bag, easing stress on the shoulder.

Extra Wide Width Straps (2-inch):

Extra-wide width straps offer excellent strength and comfort for large shoulder bags, sports bags, duffles and other travel bags. These straps are great for carrying a lot of weight because they distribute the weight of the bag, easing stress on the shoulder or across the body. Often extra wide widths are top-stitched with multiple rows of machine-stitching which adds body and strengthen the strap. 

Chain Straps (varying in width from ¼-inch to ⅝-inch):

Chain straps range in width from ¼-inch to ⅝-inch. Most chain straps are metal making them impossible to cut by thieves and can carry a good amount of weight depending on the chain style and thickness. You can find plastic chains as well though they are used for making more of a fashion statement rather than for practicality. Remember though, carrying a heavy bag on your shoulder with a chain strap can quickly become uncomfortable. I don’t recommend carrying heavy bags on the shoulder with a chain strap due to the increased pressure. A wide fabric bag strap or a thick chain with leather shoulder/handle, is better suited for this scenario. That said, chain straps are great for communicating elegance, sophistication and class, which generally translates to fashion/style rather than function.

Luxury chain straps have the look and feel of fine jewellery and come with connecting hardware that are ready to attach to your bag. Chain straps are available to match with almost any bag design detail, whether it be: hardware, material, or colour, making them an excellent and elegant styling choice.


It goes without saying that if you are designing a bag fabricated in a certain material that the bag straps are made from the same material. However, thinking like a designer, there are other options you may want to consider. We want the bag strap to be durable yet comfortable to wear. We want the bag strap to appear balanced with the rest of our bag design to unify our design concept. We want the bag strap to be useful and support the weight we are carrying. Therefore you may want to consider other choices for making bag strapping apart from the fashion fabric.

Furthermore, by designing an attachable bag strap you can:

  • Add or replace a strap on the bag so you don’t have to replace the whole bag
  • Convert a purse or other bag into a cross body with an adjustable or long cross body strap
  • Restore your favourite handbag that is no longer usable with a new genuine leather strap or chain handle

Genuine leathers and imitation leathers are classic materials used to make bag straps as they are very durable and look great as a contrast detail. They are available in many traditional and fashion colours, and surface finishes. The only drawback is conventional sewing machines are not powerful enough to sew through thick layers of leather so hand-stitching may be required.

bag straps 3

Nylon webbing is incredibly strong, sturdy and durable. Cotton canvas webbing is sturdy, soft to the touch and complements many bag types. Webbing straps are also a low-cost alternative to a genuine leather strap. Adjustable O-rings and D-rings can be used as connectors and set in place with rivets. Webbing is available by the roll in a variety of solid and patterned colours.

Luxury chain straps have the look and feel of fine jewellery, are metal with a gold-tone, nickel, gunmetal or antique brass finish, and connecting hooks are available in matching metal colour/finishes that can be attached to the chain lengths. This material works well for making replacement bag straps for existing daytime bags and adds a lightness and sparkle for evening bags.


Now that the design dimensions of the bag strapping has been decided, connecting hardware needs to be chosen. There is plenty of choice in the marketplace but attachable hooks/attachable O-ring metal hardware seems to be the favourites among designers. These attachable connectors are ideal to making replacement bag straps for existing bag designs, as well. They are available is many different metal colours and finishes, from classic silver and gold with polished finishes to antique brass and gun-metal with brushed finishes.


Tri-glide sliders are popular for precise tuning of strap length and offer the ultimate in flexibility when designing adjustable bag straps.

Metal buckles can be used in your bag strap design that allow for fixed adjustable lengths to the bag strap by way of adding punched eyelet holes to the strapping.

Measure the inner diameter of the hardware to ensure the strap fits into the hardware without buckling or allowing any slack.

Also think design harmony within the styling of your bag. Try to match or compliment other bag fittings such as bag feet and bag zippers to the metal colour and finish of the connecting hardware you are using on your bag straps to create a unifying look. These little touches makes the difference between a homemade and a handmade bag.

Design Your Bag the Way YOU Want and Make the Style Your Own

With the right choice of bag strap, you have the freedom to design your bag exactly the way you envisioned it. There is no need to worry about how a bag will look or hang with the strap it came with as length and width have been well-thought out. Now, that choice is yours in the styling, with a strap that fits the user’s needs, mood or style!


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



Craftsy just sent me some exciting and exclusive news: DVDs are (finally!) coming to!

They have carefully selected a set of classes for the first round of DVDs … 60 titles are available on since May, and hope to add another 60 titles by the end of June. How wonderful!

Selling Craftsy class content in this format I think will provide a unique hands-on way to introduce the crafting community to Craftsy and its company of talented instructors through crafting publications & catalogs, libraries, other online retailers as well as brick & mortar retailers.

I’m really excited about this opportunity, and today they are all on sale!

Bring your favourite Craftsy classes to the big screen. Craftsy is putting all of their DVDs on sale at $19.99USD each – today only.

All DVD Craftsy Classes at $19.99 USD each. Sale ends June 13, 2017 at 11:59PM MT.


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

MAKE IT SO (sew!)


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.


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.


Filed under Bag'n-telle, Design Ideas, Design Insight, Design Inspiration