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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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THE PERFECT STITCH

Photo Credit: Courtesy of C.H. Holderby Co.

Recently I have been getting enquiries about troubleshooting with regards to machine-stitching, so I thought this may be a good opportunity to discuss creating the perfect stitch.

Sewing-machine manufacturers want their machines to consistently produce a perfect stitch. Machine needles are the most changeable part of your sewing machine and they can control how your machine performs stitches. Understanding how the sewing machine needle contributes to the assembly process will help you choose the correct size for the fabric and thread you are using. Its configuration is engineered to manage thread and fabric to reduce the likelihood of skipped or flawed stitches. When constructing the perfect stitch, select the needle type by the task at hand. Each needle type produces a stitch by using a uniquely designed groove, scarf, eye, and/or point to enable the needle and bobbin hook to meet perfectly (see the diagram below). How smoothly the thread draws though the needle’s eye is also a factor in producing even, regular stitches. Thread should pass easily through eye of needle, so if you have trouble threading the needle and problems with the stitches, the thread and needle are not matched correctly. Lay your thread in the needle’s front groove; it should “snuggle” in.

The needle selection, its point and size, depends primarily on the characteristics of the fabric being used in the handbag construction, as well as the thread, seam type and stitch type.

NEEDLE POINTS

The needle point is determined by the fabric weight and its structure.

Round points have a conical shape designed to spread the yarns without breaking them; they are used for most woven materials and are known as Sharps or Universal needles.

Micro point needles have come to be with the invention of microfiber fabrics and coated materials. These are built with sharper points and more slender shafts to pierce the yarns of finer woven fabrics. Perfect to use with lightweight faux suede, neoprene, and other such synthetic microfibers, etc. Micro points will also work well on slick materials such as plastics, and will create nice even stitches for edgestitching.

Cutting points have sharp cutting edges; they are used to slice through the material such as natural leathers, suedes, and vinyls.

NEEDLE SIZES

The needle size can be as small as 60 (0.6 mm) or as large as 250 (2.5 mm). The metric size (Nm) describes the diameter of the needle blade in hundredths of a millimetre. The needle size is determined by the the thread size (thickness).

If the needle is too fine, it will abrade the thread, bend, break, affect the loop formation, and cause skipped stitches. If it is too coarse, it will damage the fabric, produce an unattractive seam, cause the seam to pucker, affect the loop formation, and cause skipped stitches.

Generally the best choice is the smallest size that will accommodate the thread being used without skipping stitches.

TROUBLESHOOTING

Changing the machine needle is the first step to solving most sewing machine problems. Know about the choices there are in needles and solve your stitching problems faster than you ever dreamed possible!

(A) Ideal needle choice for most fabric handbag styles.

  • Use: Sharp or Universal needle
  • Medium to Heavy-weight Fabrics: 16/100 or 18/110
  • Configuration: Has slightly rounded point and elongated scarf to enable almost fool-proof meeting of needle and bobbin hook.
  • Troubleshooting: When fabric is not medium-weight woven, consider needle specifically suited to fabric. For example, size 18 universal needle works on heavy denim, but size 18 denim needle works better.

(B) Sewing microfiber, neoprene, synthetic leather; and precisely-stitched edges on plastic/vinyl fabrics.

  • Use: Microtex  needle
  • Medium to Heavy-weight Fabrics: 16/100 or 18/110
  • Configuration: Has an acute point.
  • Troubleshooting: Essentially trouble-free, but fabric may require a roller, or even/dual-feed presser foot.

(C) Ideal for sewing natural leather, suede, buckskin

  • Use: Leather needle / Wedge Point 14/90 or 16/100
  • Configuration: Has slight cutting point (almost like an arrowhead).
  • Troubleshooting: Use a longer stitch length to prevent perforation and heavy-duty synthetic thread to sew leather. On synthetic leather, unless it’s very heavy synthetic, cuts rather than pierces stitch hole and can tear leather. Most synthetic leathers require a Microtex or Sharps needle. A Teflon foot may help to prevent drag.

(D) For heavyweight upholstery fabrics, denim, duck, canvas, faux fur, artificial leather, and vinyl.

  • Use: Denim (jeans) needle 16/100
  • Configuration: Has deeper scarf, acute point, and modified shaft to sew without pushing fabric down into needle-plate hole. Goes through fabric and meets bobbin hook better on dense woven fabrics.
  • Troubleshooting: If stitches skip when sewing very heavy fabrics, try larger needle and sew more slowly or use a even/dual-feed presser foot attachment, often known as a “walking foot”.

In the end, most sewers just want to get professional-looking results. Knowing more about needles brings you closer to that goal, since needle choice greatly affects your outcome. For every correctly chosen, new needle you put into your machine, you should have eight to 12 continuous hours of trouble-free sewing.

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THE PLAITED HANDBAG

Here is a simple tutorial I have designed for a woven “plaited” handbag made with flat braid. Any type of non-fraying, flat-surfaced medium may be used, such as leather, suede, upholstery webbing, vinyl stripping, or straw plaiting to name a few. You may cut your own slats for weaving or purchase pre-cut ones by the roll. The shape and size of the woven handbag will depend on the scale of the slats you use. For the weaving, the wider you can cut the strips, the wider the size of the bag; and the longer you can make each strip, the more height (length) you with achieve to the bag. You will have to work with what you have available yet the style of weave is up to you. The uniqueness of this design is that no two bags are alike, as a wide variety of patterns can be made by changing the size, colour, or by placement of a certain style of weave.

Dimensions: 16″ high / 15″ wide / 2″ deep with a 42″ [1.1 m]  shoulder strap. [40.5 cm x 38 cm x 5 cm]

Construction Method: Plaiting  – this method may be recognized by noting the checkerwork: two elements are woven over and under each other at right angles, resembling a checkerboard pattern.

Material Used: 100% cotton drill, 54″ wide and 100% cotton flat braid, 1″ wide. Interior lining is 100% cotton percale.

You will need:

  • 24 yds. [22 m] of flat braid, 1” wide [25 mm]
  • 6 yds [5.5 m] of flat braid, ½” wide [12 mm]
  • 1/2 yd. [0.5 m] of upholstery fabric, 54” wide [ 137 cm]
  • 1/2 yd. [0.5 m]  of lining fabric, 45” wide [115 cm]
  • 1/2 yd.[0.5 m]  of fusible interfacing, 45” wide [115 cm]
  • 1  handbag zipper with O-ring pull
  • india stay tape, ¼” wide [6 mm]
  • alligator clips or clothespins
  • string
  • kraft paper

Designer’s Notes:

For the prototype, 12 yards each of black and white flat braid was used to show the over-under action of the weaving. Coloured weavers can add visual interest to the weave, as well as the placement of the weavers to create a pattern in the weave. Choosing a single colour for the plaiting is equally elegant.

CUTTING

Cut 20 strips of flat braid for the total weave; 10 slats and 10 weavers. Make them about 1” wide and 42” long. [25 mm x 107 cm]

For the shoulder strap, cut 4 lengths of narrow flat braid, about 54” long [137 cm].

For the bag opening, cut 2 solid panels with interfacing (front and back) following the pattern.

For the interior lining, cut 2 pieces equal to the height and width of the finished bag. Additional pieces may be cut for patch pockets and other compartments.

Design Note: If you are cutting your own weavers, use a metal yardstick and a rotary cutter (with a new sharp blade), and cut long, narrow strips for the slats.

PATTERN

Whether trued or free-form, the bag design will need a bag opening with a closure to attach to the woven section. The woven section of the bag will need to be completed first before the bag’s top pattern can be drafted to determine the parameters needed. For the bag closure, I am using a handbag zipper. At each end of the zipper, I will attach the 2-inch wide braided shoulder strap.

click on image to magnify

To draft the pattern, measure flat across the width of the woven bag section minus twice the width of the  shoulder strap. This is the length of the zipper needed.

Draw a rectangle on kraft paper to equal the zipper length plus the shoulder strap width across and two-thirds of the zipper length, up and down (you may wish it increase/decrease this vertical measurement to suit your own design). From the top corners of the rectangle, measure down one-eighth of the zipper length and square a line across the paper. On this line, measure half of the shoulder strap width from the sides of the rectangle. Join these points to the centerline at the bottom edge of the rectangle with a straight line.

Add seam allowance to all sides; label it CUT 2X FACE UP.

PREPARATION & ASSEMBLY

BRAIDING THE SHOULDER STRAP

Using the 4-strand braiding method, braid 4 lengths of narrow flat braid (½” wide [12 mm]) following the diagram below. Stitch across the ends of the braided strap to secure. Set aside.

WEAVING THE BODY OF THE BAG

Weave the flat-braid strips over-and-under one another (plaiting) using 10 strips of the same colour across and 10 strips of the same colour, up and down.

Keep the weave tight, squared (90º) and centred. If you have to join strips to get the desired length, do so with a scant 1/4-inch seam. When weaving, hide the seam by positioning it under a corresponding perpendicular slat in the weave, if possible.

Once the base is woven, make a keeper row with thin string using the twining technique. This will keep the base centred and fixed (the string will be removed later in the assembly). You need enough string to go around the base a little more than twice. Take the length of string and fold it in half.

Start in the center of the weave and lace the loop end of the string around a flat-braid slat. For right-handed people, work the doubled string from left to right. Both end-pieces of string are sitting above the surface of the woven base. Take the string length most to your left and twist it under the next strip to your right. Now the string length that was to the right is now on your left. Both strands of string stay above the surface. Take the string on your most left and twist it under the next strip of braid to your right and repeat until you get to the corner of the base. Keep the string tight, bring it close to the weaving. Once you get to the corner, wrap that bottom string length around the corner good and tight. The remaining strand of string gets twisted under the slat going the opposite direction at the corner. Keep it tight. Once you are around the corner rotate the entire base 90 degrees. Continue wrapping the string from left to right as before, keeping the string strands always above the woven base. At the corner, bring the bottom string length around the corner and keep it tight and take the top thread and wrap it under the perpendicular strip. Continue working the string most left under the next slat on the right. Each will create a half twist of the string. Keep the base squared. When you have gone around the base, tie the ends through the beginning loop and tie off. If you had to join strips to get the desired length for your weavers, adjust the slats horizontally and vertically to hide the join under a flat-braid slat wherever necessary.

Now that the keeper row is in place, turn the base 45 degrees and fold the lower point of the base to the upper point of the base with face side up. You are now ready to start a 3-dimensional weave.

At corners of the base on the left and right, begin to weave the flat-braid strips from front to back on each side. Use alligator clips or clothespins to hold the strips while weaving. While the weaving remains a simple under-over operation, now you are weaving one flat-braid strip from the ‘front’ with one strip from the ‘back’, which is a little more complex. Pay attention that you do not twist or mis-align the flat-braid slats. As always, keep the weaving tight and build the sides of the weave, alternating back and forth. Use alligator clips to hold the intertwining slats in place. Continue the weaving until you can go no further. Repeat this process on the opposite side of the woven base.

Baste across the ends of the flat-braids to hold the 3-D weave. You now have the “body” of the handbag. Carefully snip the string and remove the keeper row.

Along the top edge of the woven section, you can use a stay-tape to stabilize the woven edge and prevent the weave from stretching. You can square up the top edge of the bag and cut away the excess, or you may want to follow the shape of the top edge as I did to “keep” as much of the completed plaiting as possible. In this case, the bag sides are built up yet at the center of the front and back sections, it dips because I have run out of weavers. In many cases, you can premeditate a conceptual plan yet be prepared to be flexible to “allow” the design to develop as you style the weave pattern.

Measure the dimensions of your plaiting and draft the solid portion of the handbag (zippered opening).

MAKING THE BAG TOP OPENING

Iron fusible interfacing to the back of the upholstery fabric, following manufacturer’s directions, to stabilize the front and back panels of the bag opening. Cut out the desired shape from the pattern.

Turn under the top edge of the front and back panels and press along the fold.

Attach the bag zipper. On the interfaced static solid portion of the bag opening, center the zipper FACE UP. Using a zipper foot, topstitch the panels to the zipper.

Next, attach the shoulder strap. Place the ends of the shoulder strap across the ends of the zipper and stitch across the width of the strap. Carefully clip the fabric at a 45º angle between the shoulder strap and the front and back section (see diagram), stop at the outer edge of the shoulder strap.

At this point, bring the front and back sections, with FACE SIDES together, to sew up the gussets (side seams). Stitch up side seams and open flat. Fold the side seams back onto the zipper end with the strapping sandwiched between the two layers to create the gusset. Sew across the ends to mitre the corner and secure the shoulder strap in place.

To complete the bag, attach the top section to the woven base. Open the zipper and turn bag opening wrong-side-out. With FACE SIDES together, align and match the raw edges of the solid panel with the woven edge and stitch together, easing wherever needed. Turn right-side-out when completed and topstitch along the seamline.

INTERIOR LINING

For the interior of the handbag, you will need a strong fabric to support the contents of the bag. Suitability for a given purpose is my rational for using laminated or bonded fabrics for linings in my handbag designs. The woven section of the bag will not be strong enough to hold contents securely, so a reinforced lining is necessary. Some fabric choices are percale, faille, or moiré, which are tightly woven, then bond them with fusible interfacing. This special treatment gives the interior bag lining its strength and durability, while taking the strain off the plaiting.

For this design, I have chosen the drop-in lining method as it’s the easiest to make. Basically, you are making it separately from the outside of the bag. These lining pieces are more or less square grids with the bottom corners cut out. This gives a lining the same size and shape as the body of the bag before being inserted into the bag cavity and attached to the opening. You may decide to add interior pockets to the lining interior for security and organization, as I did.

For the lining, iron a light-weight interfacing to the back of the lining material. Mark out two rectangles equal to the height and width of the finished bag. Add seam allowance. Cut each of the bonded fabric pieces out.

For the lining pockets, cut 2 rectangles equal to 2 times its width, for the length with seam allowance.

Fold each patch pocket piece, with FACE side together, to form a square. Stitch on all open sides, leaving a small opening to turn out the fabric. Turn right-side-out and press square pocket flat. Slipstitch opening closed. Align each patch pocket to center of lining piece and secure in place by topstitch along sides and bottom of the square, then sew up the middle to create compartments.

Turn under the seam allowance along the top edge of the lining pieces and press flat. With FACE sides together, match and align the perimeter edges of the lining and stitch the sides and bottom. Insert the lining into the cavity of the bag and slipstitch the top edge of the lining to the back of the zipper tape at the opening of the bag.

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HOW TO WEAVE A HANDBAG DESIGN: A Primer

Straw Bag Design: Rosa Cha

Woven handbag designs offer a sophisticated palette of colour, texture, pattern and scale for a truly unique fashion look. A wide variety of patterns can be made by changing the size, colour, or by placement of a certain style of weave. Many fashion designers feature woven styles of handbags in their Spring/Summer collections, with warm-weather favourites in neutral-coloured plaited straws and sisals, while supple tanned leather is a popular fashion choice for year-round use. Woven leathers are sold by the yard and are available in ten-yard rolls of various pattern styles, in 27-inch or 54-inch widths. Straw and raffia plaiting is sold by the linear foot and are available in 100-foot coils, in widths from 10 mm to 24 mm widths. Flat braids and ribbons, silk rouleau and cordings, and upholstery webbing are excellent materials to weave your own, as well.

You can make your own woven designs, using any non-fraying flat medium, employing the techniques described here. A rotary cutter and cutting mat will make easy work of it to create even-width uniform strips for weaving.

Another option is pre-cut garment-grade leather (3-4 oz. weight) strapping. It is commonly sold in 36 to 45 inch lengths and available in 20mm widths and 2 mm thicknesses. For a sturdier weave, try Latigo leather strips. They are made of oil-treated, tanned 8-9 oz. cowhide for belting and is available in lengths from 54 to 72 inches and range in widths from 12 mm to 50 mm.

Think basketry when thinking of bag construction. Rather than drafting a pattern and sewing it up, you are molding the bag like you would a sculpture. The parts of a bag cavity are the base, the side walls, and the rim. A bag may also have a flap, handle, or other embellishments. Like making baskets, most bag designs begin with a base. The base can either be woven or a static solid piece. A bag base can come in many shapes to make a wide variety of shapes of handbags. The ‘static’ pieces of the work are laid down first. In a round silhouette, they are referred to as ‘spokes’; in other shapes they are called ‘ribs’ or ‘slats’. Then the ‘weavers’ are used to fill in the sides of the body portion to create the shape desired.

Weaving techniques include virtually every possible way there is to attach one piece of material to another without using stitching, glue, or pins, although resins may be used to coat a bag’s surface to make it waterproof, or it may be cloth-lined to make it impervious.

Four basic weaving techniques are used in bag construction. Weaving, plaiting, and twining all interlace horizontal elements (wefts) and vertical elements (warps), but each technique brings to bag designing subtleties of design, colour, and form. On the other hand, coiling, used in making spiral-bound totes, is more like sewing, as the designer uses an awl to punch holes in the foundation through which sewing strands are drawn.

Each of the basic methods has numerous variations, and designers sometimes use several variations on a technique in a single bag style, or combine two or more techniques. Ultimately, the beauty of a handbag weave reveals the designer’s creative vision and technical adeptness at both preparing the materials and manipulating them into a ‘basket’ shape for the body portion of the design.

In looking at the common styles of weaving techniques around the world, I like to break them first into two categories – intertwined and spiral-bounded, and then further divide the lists into woven, plaiting, twining, and coiling (note: this is my own analysis for beginners, not a standardized ideal used by weavers).

I. Intertwined: using over-under techniques.

A. Woven: involves narrow strips overlapping one another, similar to the warp and weft on a loom.

1. Single/parallel strand woven: a single weaver goes behind one or more slats (ribs), then in front of one or more slats in an over-under pattern. The strands fill the space solidly.

a) Single strand/single spiral: a single strand goes around the whole circumference of the bag shape (or front to back) until it ends, then is joined or replaced. This is the technique used to create a seamless 3D-weave. It only requires that you use an uneven number of slats, so that each succeeding row of weaving goes over where the one before went under, so that the rows lock each other in place. Adding slats must be done two at a time to maintain the pattern. Often, the rib count will double at intervals, creating a design element as well as allowing the bag body to grow in size. The spacing between the slats is made as tight as possible to prevent large gaps in the weave, which small objects may fall through.

b) Multi-strand/multi-spiral: a separate strand starts behind each slat and spirals steeply upward paralleling its neighbour. Changing the slat count requires ending the weaving with a single solid row and beginning again. This technique has limited potential for use in bowl-shaped bucket styles, and is best suited to fill large straight-sided purse styles or basket-shaped panniers where the slat count is constant. A pannier shape can be achieved by using tapered weavers with the smallest end down. As the weavers get wider, they force the diameter of the “basket” outward. This same concept can be used in many of the woven techniques as an alternative to adding or subtracting ribs.

B. Twining

Twined work begins with a foundation of rigid elements, or warp rods—very often whole plant shoots—around which two, and sometimes three or four, weft elements are woven. The wefts are separated, brought around a stationary warp rod, brought together again, and twisted. The action is repeated again and again, building the cavity shape. Subtle and elegant patterns are made by changing the number of wefts (as in braiding and overlay), or the number of warps the wefts pass over (as in diagonal weaves). A weaver may use any number of twining variations in a single style. False embroidery, a technique in which a decorative element is wrapped around the wefts, on the outside face of the weave, is often seen on plain twining.

a) Single twined: two weavers alternate behind one rib at a time to create a basket-weave. Ribs can be added in at any time necessary to achieve the desired shape. Can be used to create open work patterns for lined bags and totes.

b) Double, or Diagonal Twined: two weavers alternate behind two ribs at a time, with succeeding rows offset like brickwork. To maintain the pattern, two ribs are added in on successive ‘stitches’. Patterning can also be achieved using a clockwise twist and giving an up-to-the-right pattern, or counter-clockwise twist to give a down-to-the-right pattern. Diagonal stripes are created when the two weavers are of different colours.

c) Three (or more) Strand Twining: three or more weavers alternate in a pattern such as over two, under one, giving a slightly raised texture and steeper slant to the weaving.

d) Overlay Twining: coloured strands are wrapped around the weavers to embellish the principle surface of the bag. Materials can be used that are too weak to use on their own, such as soutache braid and novelty yarns.

C. Plaiting

In plaiting, or checkerwork, two elements are woven over and under each other at right angles, resembling a checkerboard pattern. Twilled weave is much the same, except that the horizontal materials (weft) are woven over two or more verticals (warps). Plaiting works best with flat, ribbon-like materials. A common feature of plaited handbag projects is the formation of an edge by folding a strip at a 45-degree angle and sending it back in the opposite direction, forming a neat second layer for the bag opening. Plaiting also refers to flat braided strips (very long and narrow) used to make straw handbags and brimmed hats.

1) Simple Plaited: woven in ‘over one-under one’ pattern.

2) Pattern Plaited: woven in specific patterns such as ‘over one – under two’, which create various twill patterns, especially when different colours of weavers are used.

II Spiral-bound: working technique in the round.

a) Coiled/Spiral: a cordlike core is stitched in a spiral to the row below, creating a round or oval pattern that grows along its edge. Coiling begins at the center of a bag and grows upon itself in spiral rounds, each attached to the round before. Weaving coiled totebags is a sewing technique, as the bag-maker uses an awl to punch holes in the foundation through which sewing strands are drawn. These strands are single pieces of plant fibre, such as jute, hemp, or flax for example, that have been twisted to a uniform size. The foundation is made up of one, two, three, or sometimes more slender plant shoots such a bamboo, bundles of grass or shredded plant fibres, or a combination of grasses and sisals. In coiling, designs are not made by changing the weave, but rather by using a different colour sewing thread. Think of a braided rag rug configuration.

The shape and size of a woven handbag will depend on the scale of the slats you use. For the weaving, the wider you can cut the strips, the wider the size of the bag; and the longer you can make each strip, the more height (length) you with achieve to the bag shape.

Here is a simple tutorial designed to show the how-to’s for weaving a handbag, yet the style of weaving is up to you, as a wide variety of patterns can be made by changing the size, colour, or by placement of a certain style of weave.

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PAILLETTE EVENING BAG

A little sparkle for a night out.

Dimensions: approximately 15 cm high X 30 cm wide X 5 cm deep

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% polyester-backed paillette fabric, 112 cm wide; 100% polyester sateen lining; 100% polyester Pellon® fleece interlining, medium-weight; 100% polyester Knit-fuse® interfacing.

You will need:

  • 30 cm of paillette fashion fabric, 112 cm wide
  • 30 cm of sateen lining, 112 cm wide
  • 30 cm of needle-punched fleece interlining, 56 cm wide
  • 30 cm of knit-fuse interfacing, 75 cm wide
  • 1 metal purse frame with double loops, 30 cm x 6 cm
  • 1 metal purse chain, 50 cm
  • 2 metal jumprings, 5-6 mm dia.
  • 1 spool of coordinating thread
  • 1 tube of clear-set bonding adhesive
  • kraft paper

PATTERN

The size of the frame determines the size of this evening bag.

The width is equal to the width of the purse frame. The height is equal to half the width and the depth is 1/6 of the width. The dimensions of the purse frame used is 30 cm X 6 cm.

Take the purse frame and draw around the outer perimeter following its shape onto kraft paper, including the points where the hinges stop.

Square down vertically from the hinge points, and measure 15 cm from top of frame to base line for the finished height.

To create the depth, add a 25 mm gusset on each side. Extend the baseline outward on either side of center and join to the top edge with a straight line.

The distance from the top corner of the purse frame to its hinge equals 6 cm. Transfer this amount to your pattern draft plus add seam allowance and fit ease (this equals 1 cm for the seam allowance and a few millimetres more from end of the purse hinge location). Indicate the hinge locations with a notch. Label O. This is where the purse hinges will sit on the fabric.

Cut out pattern and label INTERIOR with cutting instructions for lining/interfacing and add a vertical grainline for the marker.

Trace draft onto a folded sheet of paper with the baseline aligned on the fold. Cut out pattern and label EXTERIOR with cutting instructions for paillette fabric/interlining and add a vertical grainline for the marker. Label the notches, X.

CUTTING

Cutting Tip: Do not use your best fabric scissors to cut the paillette fabric; the plastic will dull them quickly.

Exterior Bag: cut 1X the paillette fabric and the Pellon interlining.

Interior Bag: cut 2X the sateen lining and knit fusible.

Slip Pocket: cut a square from remaining lining fabric – 22 cm long X 22 cm wide

Sewing Tip: Use a roller foot attachment on your sewing machine for more control and less friction when sewing the paillette fabric. The metal roller will not imprint the fabric.

CONSTRUCTION

a) Preparation

Iron the fusible knit-fuse interfacing onto the wrong side of the lining fabric, following manufacturer’s directions.

Baste the sew-in Pellon® interlining to the back of the paillette fabric, by hand, around the perimeter.

b) Exterior

To construct the exterior of the bag, fold the paillette fabric FACE SIDES together and match the X notches. Sew from the X, down to the fold of the fabric, using a 1 cm seam allowance.

Create a flat bottom for the purse by mitering (see: mitering). Take one of the corners of the exterior bag and match the sideseam with the foldline of the bag. Flatten to form a triangle. Measure 25 mm from the tip of the triangle  and mark the line with chalk and pin. Stitch along the marked line perpendicular to the seam and trim the excess fabric 1cm from the seam to create a mitered corner. Repeat for the opposite bottom corner of the exterior. Turn exterior bag right side out.

c) Slip Pocket

Make a slip pocket by folding a square of lining fabric in half with FACE SIDES together. Stitch up sides from fold, using a 6mm seam allowance. Turn fabric right-side-out and press flat.

d) Interior

Center slip pocket on one section of the lining and match the raw open edge of the pocket to the base of the lining fabric. Edge stitch along the 2 sides of the slip pocket to attach the pocket to the lining. Stitch across the bottom of the pocket. (as an option, this slip pocket can be divided into 2 smaller compartments by stitching through the center of the slip pocket, if desired).

Place the 2 lining pieces, with FACE SIDES together, and align the bottom edges and the O notches. Sew from the O, down to the bottom corner of the lining, using a 1 cm seam allowance. Then, sew the bottom seam of the lining, using a 1 cm seam allowance, except you have to leave an opening in the bottom of the lining to allow for turning.

Create a miter by matching the side seam with the bottom seam on each bottom corner of the lining and proceed in the same manner as described above.

e) Assembly

Slip the exterior section in between the lining. The FACE SIDES of the interior bag and the exterior bag should now be touching each other. Match up the X and O notches. Sew the two flaps of the purse. On one of the flaps pin the lining to the exterior bag at the top and sides. Begin sewing where the stitching starts on the lining, sew all around the sides and top edge stopping at the stitching on the lining. Repeat with other purse flap. Clip ‘V’ notches at the X and O in the seam allowance to aid in securing a smooth edge and trim the excess Pellon from the seam allowance.

Gently pull the exterior of the bag through the opening left in the lining. Drop the lining into the cavity of the exterior section and smooth everything down with a wooden creaser, as a hot iron will melt the plastic paillettes.

f) Purse  Frame Attachment

To complete and before applying the glue, dry-fit the bag into the frame to check the fit. Check the bulk of the seam and trim seam allowance if necessary. The thickness of the layers at this point should fill the cavity of the frame nicely.

Then, remove from the frame and sew up opening in the lining closed. Stitch the gap in the lining closed by pushing the raw edges into the gap and edge-stitching close to the edge for a neat finish.

Apply clear-set bonding glue to the channel of one of the sides of the frame. Start at the hinge and work your way to the other hinge. Go easy on the glue and only do one side of the frame at a time! Use a craftstick (or something similar) to spread the glue around inside the frame. Don’t let it form “globs” or it will ooze out on your fabric. Allow the glue to become tacky for 5 minutes.

Insert the purse into the frame. Start by inserting the sides of your purse into the frame (hinge end first) then work your way up to the top corners. Use a pointed tool to poke and stuff the fabric evenly into the frame – a crease presser/turner is perfect for this job. After you have inserted the sides of the purse into the frame, start inserting the top edge of the purse into the frame working reasonably quickly before the glue dries. Turn the purse over to check that the lining side is also inserted evenly into the frame. Leave to dry for 15 minutes before tackling the other side of the frame and purse in the same way. Let everything dry for about 30 minutes or according to manufacturer’s directions.

g) Finishing

Add the purse chain to the double loops on the purse frame by threading the jumprings onto the chain links and the frame loops, then closing with pinch-nosed pliers.

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DESIGNING A CLASSIC

Metal framed handbags are the quintessential classic bag design for professional accessory designers and small leather goods manufacturers. Yet many new designers and craftspeople shy away from designing their own framed styles because the concept looks complex to produce, in addition to finding a source for the bag frames. Let me assure you that the design process for these traditional bags is quite easy to do and simple to sew. Making this purse style isn’t nearly as tricky as you might think.

Here is an easy tutorial for a framed evening bag.

SOURCING

The whole design of your handbag is based upon the metal frame. Before beginning to draft your pattern, you must select a bag frame. There are many collections of purse frames on the market for design-it-yourself projects. This hinged hardware come in a wide range of styles, rectangular or curved in shape, in various metal colours and finishes. You will find classic vintage frames with kiss-lock closures and intricate scroll details, to the versatile sleek modern metal frames with ball-lock closures which may or may not have a convertible carrying chain.

The size of the frame determines the size of the bag. Small frame widths (65 – 100 mm) are the right size for coin purses, while medium frame widths (1oo – 150 mm) make up wallets and pocketbooks nicely, and large frames widths (200 – 300 mm) are ideal for clutch bags and purses. The frames are attached by using clear-set bonding glue for adhering porous and non-porous materials; or, framing scrim, a dense twisted paper cord or pliable rubber filler that fills the frame channel; or, using a crimping tool that gently crimp the metal of the purse frame to the cloth.

Depending where you live, availability and selection may be a limitation but demand is making it a popular seller for retailers and availability is growing. Fashion accessory designers have the benefit of access to trade-only suppliers and often years in advance, before these raw materials become common in the marketplace. So, you will have to work with whatever is available through your favourite retailers. In larger urban areas you may find specialty retailers like MacDonald-Faber Ltd. 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 such as Mikke, offering variety and quality, allowing you to eliminate the “middle man” by buying direct from the source.

PATTERNDRAFTING

The main reason why handbag patterns are not available for purse frames is because there are so many different purse frame shapes. This means you have to draft your own patterns. The design concept needs to have height, width, and depth to create a style. The size of the frame determines the width of the bag; height and depth can be whatever dimensions you wish.

Take your frame and draw around the outer perimeter, including the points where the hinges stop.

From the hinge points, square down vertically to the desired height of the bag.

To create the depth, you must add a gusset on each side. Extend the baseline outward on either side of center to half of the finished depth measurement and join to the top edge with a straight line. The pattern is now wider than the right angles of the frame. The wider the angle the more deeper your purse will be.

Next, measure the distance from the top corner of the purse frame to its hinge. Transfer this amount to your pattern draft plus add seam allowance and fit ease (this can be about 1 cm for the seam allowance and a few millimetres more from end of the purse hinge location). Indicate these locations with a notch.

This is where the purse hinges will sit on the fabric.

Label your pattern with cutting instructions and add a grainline for the marker.

Depending upon your fashion fabric choice, you may need to add interfacing. Interfacing creates structure if it is used on the body of the bag – but is entirely optional here, and using it depends on the weight of the fabric and the finished look that you require.

INTERFACING & INTERLINING

Interfacing adds “body” to the bag’s shape and using it depends on the weight of the fabric and the finished look that you desire. Bag facings and the underside of flaps are major structural pieces in bag construction and often carry hardware; they should always be interfaced. Framed clutch purses go great with evening gowns or dressy outfits. Since clutch purses are usually made from fancy fashion fabrics such as silk or satin, you’ll need to add interfacing to make the fabric more stable. By fusing interfacing to every piece of the outside of the bag you add a lot more structure to the fabric. Some fabrics won’t need it, but most medium-weight or lightweight fabrics will benefit from it. Also be aware that any fashion fabric with a nap, pile, or relief surface will be subjected to sew-in type interfacings only, as not to destroy the beauty of its surfaces with heat and pressure.

I like to interface the lining as well to strengthen it against wear and tear in use, but it shouldn’t be the main support in the bag. A knit-fuse type interfacing is ideal to stabilize it without adding stiffness.

It’s important to remember that by adding an extra layer of interfacing to a bag piece, you are also increasing the bulk of the fabric. In this case, this is a good thing as the layers will fill the channel of the purse frame. Be careful when you are using heavy fabrics, for instance canvas or denim, that your sewing machine will be able to sew through all the layers at points where several seams converge.

Sometimes it takes making up a “test” bag or two (see: making mock-ups) in different weight fabrics to understand the balance that has to be struck between the look you require and the capabilities of your sewing machine.

Whenever designing an evening bag with beading, sequins, sheer or lacy fashion fabric, the best thing to do is to interline it with a more solid fabric, and in turn interface the solid fabric (a stable, woven fabric is best as a base for sheer fabrics). You may or may not have to use Pellon®. First you sew or iron on the interfacing to the back of the solid fabric, then lay the sheer fabric over the top of the right side of the solid fabric. Stay-stitch the sheer fabric in place all the way around, and then make up the bag treating the layered pieces as if as one.

USING WADDING OR FLEECE INTERLINING ( PELLON® )

Iron-on or sew-in wadding (Pellon®) can give extra structure to fabric bags and is available in different weights and thicknesses. This plush needle-punched fleece interlining is great for bag-making because it sticks to the fabric and makes the pieces very easy to sew together, and it holds the shape of the bag beautifully, while being lightweight. Similarly like when applying interfacing, by adding this extra layer to your fabric you are creating more bulk. You may have to check that your sewing machine will sew through several layers of the fabric and wadding before you proceed with making up the bag.

CONSTRUCTION

Cut out your fabric pieces. From your pattern, cut: 2 pieces each of the fashion fabric, lining fabric, and fusible or sew-in interfacing. Iron the fusible interfacing onto the wrong side of your exterior fabric, if using.

To construct the exterior of the bag, create a “sandwich” with the fashion fabric (FACE SIDES together) in the middle and the sew-in interlining on the outsides. Pin/baste all layers together. Starting from one of your hinge markings sew the sides and bottom of the exterior finishing at the other hinge markings.

Create a flat bottom for your purse by mitering (optional) or round off the tips of the triangle to create nice curved corners. To miter, take one of the corners of your exterior bag and match the side seam with the bottom seam line. Flatten to form a triangle. Measure the desired depth amount down from the tip of the triangle mark the line with chalk and pin. Stitch along the marked line perpendicular to the seam and trim any excess fabric 1cm from the seam to create a mitered corner. Repeat for the opposite bottom corner of the exterior. Turn exterior bag right side out.

Sew up the lining. With FACE SIDES together, mark the flap opening/hinge bit on the lining to match the notch made on the exterior bag. Sew the lining bag in the same way as above except you have to leave an opening in the bottom of the lining to allow for turning.

With FACE SIDES OUT, slip the exterior section in-between the lining. The face sides of the lining bag and the exterior bag should now be touching each other. Sew the two flaps of the purse. On one of the flaps pin the lining to the exterior bag at the top and sides. Begin sewing where the stitching starts on the lining, sew all around the sides and top edge stopping at the stitching on the lining. Repeat with other purse flap. Clip ‘V’ notches in the notch locations and any curved areas of the seam allowance to aid in securing a smooth edge.

Gently pull the exterior of the bag through the opening left in the lining. Drop the lining into the cavity of the exterior bag and smooth everything down, press if necessary.

To complete and before applying the glue or framing scrim, dry-fit the bag into the frame to check the fit. Check the bulk of the seam and trim seam allowance if necessary. The thickness of the layers at this point should fill the cavity of the frame nicely. If the seaming is thin or not sufficiently bulky, use framing scrim to fill it out.

Then, remove from the frame and sew up opening in the lining closed. Stitch the gap in the lining closed by pushing the raw edges into the gap and edge-stitch close to the edge for a neat finish.

FRAME ATTACHMENT

A clear-set bonding glue designed for adhering to porous (fabric) and non-porous (metal) materials is used to attach the frame to the cloth bag. Read manufacturer’s instructions for glue application of adhesive. Apply the bonding glue to the channel of one of the sides of the frame. Start at the hinge and work your way to the other hinge. Go easy on the glue and only do one side of the frame at a time! Use a craftstick (or something similar) to spread the glue around inside the frame. Don’t let it form “globs” or it will ooze out on your fabric. Allow the glue to become tacky for 5 minutes.

Insert your purse flap into the frame. Start by inserting the sides of your purse into the frame (hinge end first) then work your way up to the top corners. Use a pointed tool to poke and stuff the fabric evenly into the frame – a crease presser/turner is perfect for this job. After you have inserted the sides of the purse into the frame, start inserting the top edge of the purse into the frame working reasonably quickly before the glue dries. Turn the purse over to check that the lining side is also inserted evenly into the frame. Leave to dry for 15min before tackling the other side of the frame and purse in the same way. Let everything dry for about 30 minutes or according to manufacturer’s directions.

Framing scrim, a dense twisted paper cord or pliable rubber filler for frame purse-making, can be used for thin fashion fabrics in conjunction with the bonding glue. It is ideal for standard-to-wide channeled purse frames or purses with thin fabric layers. Using the framing scrim strengthens the bond between the fabric and the frame and fills the channel of the frame. Insert the scrim between the exterior bag portion and the lining side of the purse using a pointed tool, such as a wooden creaser, and push it up into the channel to secure the top of the bag onto the frame before closing up the opening in the bottom of the lining. The thickness of the scrim will plug up the channel and stabilize the edge of the cloth.


Some purse shapes require the use of purse frame crimpers, but the 75mm to 200mm range of frames available on the market do not require this tool. The crimpers gently squeeze the metal around the top edge of the bag encasing the fabric into the frame. There are often instructions included in the kits outlining how to use the crimpers so follow manufacturer’s directions for using this tool.


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