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DESIGNING BAG INTERIORS

bag interior
“What Should I Consider When Designing a Handbag Interior?”

Clutches, satchels, hobos, buckets, shoulder-drops, slings: all are names for different types of handbag styles. Yet, each has one thing in common… an interior that is perfect to hold all your necessities, while catering to your fashion consciousness. Every woman is unique in her tastes and needs, and the handbag market reflects this. You, as the designer, have total control.

One of the first things to consider when designing a handbag interior is need. What does the user need the handbag to do? Keep in mind: bag size/proportion, occasion, time of year, climate. Yet functionality need not limit your creativity. Aesthetics are important too. Interiors should look beautiful. An easy and simple way to achieve this is through fabrication and colour. Take this opportunity to get away from conventional materials and colour schemes. Here is your chance to use high-quality luxurious fabrics, rich patterns, textures, and colours… all of which will reflect your own personal tastes. Or perhaps the fabrication must multi-task? Not only should your choice be based upon its appearance but possibly its properties too. Consider using thermal linings, waterproof linings, stain/mildew-resistant linings, plush linings, padded/quilted linings as part of your design specifications.

Organization is another important consideration when designing a purse interior. There should be compartments for storage and security. Think how the handbag is used, picked up, opened, looked through. An enclosed space or compartment for the things carried the most often is what you want to include in your design. Is the pocket, pouch, slot accessible? Is it positioned comfortably to reach in and retrieve objects? Compartments and their placement can be customized to your own preferences. Does it need to be secured? Inset zippers, dome-snapped flaps, elasticized openings, gripper straps often add security features to your interior styling.

If your aim is to design a handbag unlike the high-end designer handbags found in the marketplace, do use better quality hardware such as high-quality zippers for pocket openings and employ better sewing techniques. Often times while exteriors are fussed over, their interiors are slapped together poorly and quickly. They will not endure for long, the inner lining materials tear easily and they end up having “swallow holes”.  Swallow holes are those empty spaces in the lining of a handbag where small items like coins drop into the space between the lining and the exterior of the bag. There should be even, smooth machine-stitching with no skipped or broken stitches. One of the suggestions I often make is to reinforce the lining fabric with a Knit-fuse interfacing or back the lining material with a flannel interlining to stabilize and strengthen the interior lining. In handbag designing, an impeccably executed bag interior will only complement a well-constructed handbag exterior.

The final consideration is to put your personal “stamp” on your handbag design. Custom features such as monogramming, placeholders for key-rings or pens, coordinating wallet or eyeglass holder, or telescoping umbrella are just some ideas you may want to include in your interior styling to complete your total fashion image and add uniqueness to your handbag design.

Handbag interiors are as individual as the women carrying them and should be designed for beauty as well as necessity. Their style, materials, features and workmanship will all be factors in the overall design of the perfect handbag. Most women, however, just find them indispensable.

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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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KEEP AN IDEABOOK

Photo Credit: Moleskins

Inspiration is in every direction. With no limits to creativity, let the shapes, colours, and textures around you contribute to the bag designs in your mind. Fashion need not be inspired only by fashion. Fashion designers often get their ideas from current events, entertainment, art, the environment, or cultures around the world. Brainstorming, imagery, awareness, and observation can be very powerful in any of your artistic endeavours. This way of seeing is ideal for enhancing your creativity. Next, you need a method to capture and remember your creative visions.

Keep a Fashion Idea Sketchbook

Sketch, sketch, sketch – There’s no risk involved in a sketch. If it doesn’t work out, just turn the page of your sketchbook and start again. Not much of an artist? Use a grid template. A grid template is a linear layout of intersecting horizontal and vertical lines. Use them to sketch your bag design’s stylelines and overall appearance while maintaining accurate proportions and dimensions. Graph paper makes a good template so that you always have copies of this grid to draw your designs. Gather newspaper and magazine clippings, photos, drawings or make photocopies of favourite bag styles as well as ideas and details for colour palettes, fabrications, etc. and paste them in your sketchbook. Your ideabook will be constantly evolving just as fashion does. Update it often, removing those ideas that aren’t as inspiring and adding new-found creative ones. When “shopping the shops” make a note of any details or design ideas you discover in the marketplace. Look closely at the construction, shapes and proportion of the details. Draw/sketch, and write down as many notes as you can remember for later use. Sketch the detail over and over again, varying the shape and design to improve on it. Make it your own and let it generate many more great ideas.

Redesign – redraw – renew.

I’ll let you in on a trade secret. Sometimes designers are fortunate enough to develop a “runner” in their collections. A runner is marketing jargon for a style that is an instant seller and is reordered over and over again by the retailer. Whenever a runner is developed, designers do not discard it at the end of the fashion season; we alter it slightly… perhaps changing the hardware or possibly re-fabricating the popular style in a new material for the next season. You can do the same. If you have developed a bag design that you really enjoy, do not start over from square one; instead sketch it out and re-work it with new hardware, new colour scheme, or new materials. Let one single good design idea morph tenfold.

Visual Cues

It is said that “a picture is worth a thousand words”. Use this philosophy in your sketching. Often there is no “real” pattern-drafting needed to produce a basic bag silhouette. Draw out your design based upon its specifications. Patternless designs (a simple block grid) can be plotted directly onto your material as long as the fabric is square and on-grain. Once the design specs are communicated visually, you are ready to cut out the shape, sans pattern.

Simplification of Ideas

If you’re happy with your first attempt, well done. I would caution you however, do not expect perfection for your first trial or you might end up disappointed with the end results. I often find novices put too many of their ideas into one sketch. My advice is take your original design and simplify it by redrawing the concept eliminating any parts of the design that cannot stand on its own. Keep simplifying each progressive sketch until you can no longer simplify it without changing the prime concept. Often it is that sketch of the bag style that should be put into production. Designing is a evolutionary process, so practice make perfect. If you continue to keep on sketching and improve it for every new attempt, soon enough you will have a collection of bag styles in your repertoire worthy of the production stage.

Drawing your design ideas takes concentration. A defined work-space and a preplanned time frame are often helpful. Try to plan sketching time every day, or whatever time is available to your lifestyle to sketch. Planning a time frame in a space where you can concentrate will help slow down your ideas and draw them out so you can actually be productive with them.  If you’re in a hurry or if the ideas come too fast, it’s difficult to convert them into a good design.

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DESIGNING BACKPACK STYLES

Photo Courtesy of Millican

Back to school is just around the corner, and with all those new school supplies is often the most forgotten but most important part of a student’s back-to-school wardrobe – the backpack.

The simplest form of backpack, also known as a rucksack/knapsack, is a cloth sack carried on one’s back and secured with two straps that go over the shoulders and below the armpits. The shoulder is better suited for bearing heavy weights for long periods of time than the hand, so backpacks are often used for that purpose. Students these days are provided with more and more materials they need to bring on a regular basis. College and university students are often carrying laptops in addition to their daily course texts.

Modern backpacks and rucksacks are essential totebags for everyday use; whether it be for carrying your gym kit in, the student using a backpack for school or on your travels with your gear on your back; people use these packs everyday!  There are a wide range of rucksacks and backpacks of various sizes to fulfill your needs when on the move and are ideal for everyday use as well as during active use such as cycling and hiking.

When it comes to backpacking, size does matter. Mini rucksacks usually have around a 5 – 10 litre capacity.  These rucksacks are usually suitable for young kids to use as schools bags,  to carry sports gear, or simply to use as a lunch bag.  Small to medium sized rucksacks and backpacks are usually between 12 -15 litres and then 20 – 25 litres. This size is ideal for the older child or teen as a all-purpose carryall. Small rucksacks are the perfect size to use as school bags or lap top bags as well as useful for storing everyday gear or a gym kit in.  Medium size bags are just that extra bit larger to use for everyday use.   Medium to large size range of packs are suitable for long walks, hiking trips and treks or simply use as a weekend travel bag. All this back toting can mean a recipe for pain, so remember pack it light and wear it right.

Tips for designing and wearing the backpack right

Here are a few simple steps to provide for worry-free carrying through thoughtful design and styling.

1. Ideally, a properly designed backpack should include:

  •     well-padded shoulder straps – the shoulder straps should be at least 2 inches wide and should not fit too snugly around the arms, straining muscles and affecting nerves.
  •     a significant hip belt is always a plus – a strap or belt can take as much as 50-70% of the weight off the shoulders and spine.  The belt must be worn at hip bone level and will transfer the weight load to the pelvic bone and through it, down to the legs, equalizing the strain on bones, joints and muscles.
  •     compression straps to keep the pack tight together – on the side of the pack they help to keep a less full pack from shifting weight backwards and away from the body.
  •     sized-to-fit the torso of the person (adult or child) wearing it – the top of the backpack should not extend higher than the top of the shoulder and the bottom should not fall below the top of the hipbone.

2. Properly weighted backpack should be:

  •     designed to pack heavy items close to the body
  •     bag capacity (volume) should hold no more than 15% of body weight for teens & adults and 10% for children
  •     designed with lots of compartments to keep contents from moving around while walking

3. Properly worn backpack should:

  •     have heavy items close to the body helps keep the weight close to the body’s center of gravity
  •     be worn with both shoulder straps – slinging a pack on one side causes strain and a lean to the person wearing the pack
  •     be put on with the pack on a table or desk – helps from straining the low back twisting to put on the pack

Here is a simple design to create based upon rucksacks of yesteryear.

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OLD SCHOOL BACKPACK

“OLD SCHOOL BACKPACK”

Around campus or across the country, make the journey more beautiful with this vintage-inspired backpack.

Dimensions: approximately 14” high X 12” wide X 7” deep (35.5 cm x 30.5 cm x 18 cm) with grab handle with dual adjustable 17” (43 cm) shoulder straps for versatility and exterior flap and zip pockets at the front and sides.

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. Topstitching adds a decorative element while reinforcing all seams for durability.

Material Used: 100% cotton denim canvas, 54″ wide; trim: pigskin leather; lined-interior features a back wall zip pocket and front wall slip pockets, made of 100% cotton ticking.

You will need:

  • 1 yd. (.90 m) canvas or upholstery weight fashion fabric, 54” wide (137 cm)
  • 3/4 yd. (.70 m) heavy-weight lining fabric, 54” wide (137 cm)
  • 1/2 pigskin leather hide for trim
  • 3/4 yd. (.70 m) fusible interfacing, 60” wide (153 cm)
  • 1/4 yd. (.25 m) transfer web, 36” wide (91 cm)
  • 2 ¼ yds. (2 m) cotton/polyester webbing, 2” wide (50 mm)
  • 8 metal grommets, ¾” dia. (20 mm)
  • 2 metal zippers, 7” long (18 cm)
  • 1 nylon zipper, 8” long (20 cm)
  • 1 metal dome snap set, ” dia. (15 mm)
  • 2 metal buckles, 2” inner dia. (50 mm)
  • 2 metal square rings, 2” inner dia. (50 mm)
  • 1 metal O- ring, 2” dia. (50 mm)
  • 2 connector rings for zippers, ¼” dia. (6 mm)
  • 1 hook & loop fastener, 1” wide (25 mm)
  • heavy-duty all-purpose thread
  • double-sided mounting tape
  • rotary cutter
  • hole punch
  • awl
  • kraft paper

Design Tip: Match the hardware and zipper metals in colour and metal finish for a sleek unified look. Colour coordinate your choice of trim with the bag strapping to achieve further harmony in your design.

Pattern

The draft and formation of this backpack is based upon a simple flat grid, which fits into a square or rectangle, of which the size depends on the drafting scale.

** Add seam allowances to all pattern pieces, except pocket flap and bag flap.

Draft Body Pattern

Drafting scale = the depth of the bag; in this case, 7 inches (18 cm)

click to magnify

On kraft paper, plot a straight line vertically from A to B; AB = 2 X scale minus 2″ (5 cm).

Square (90 degree angle) a horizontal straight line from A to C; AC = 20″ (51 cm).

Square across from B and down from C to locate DABCD is a rectangle.

1 from A = half the distance between AB; square across to locate 2.

3 from 1 = 2 X scale minus 2″ (5 cm).

Square up and down from 3 to locate 4 and 5.

6 from 2 = the scale

Square up and down from 6 to locate 7 and 8.

9 from 7 = 1/2″ (12 mm). Join point 9 to point 6 with a straight line.

10 from C = 1/2″ (12 mm). Join point 10 to point 2 with a straight line.

This is the pattern for the side lining. Label cut 2X lining.

11 from A = 1/2″ (12 mm). Join point 11 to point 1 with a straight line.

12 from 4 = 1/2″ (12 mm). Join point 12 to point 3 with a straight line.

Point 13 is located midway 11 and 12; square down to locate 14.

This is the pattern for the back section. Label cut 1X self.

The same draft may be used for the Front and Back Lining. Trace off and label, cut 2X lining.

click to magnify

Trace off the draft onto kraft paper.

15 from 6 = 2″ (5 cm). Join point 15 to point 2 with a straight line.

Cut on line 15-2 to create the Upper Side and Lower Side pattern pieces.

Label the Upper Side cut 2X self.

Label the Lower Side Cut 2X self and cut 2X lining (pocket bag).

Point 16 is located at the intersection of lines 1-2 and 13-14.

Point 17 = the distance between 1 and 16 minus 2″ (5 cm).

Point 18 = the distance between 16 and 3 minus 2″ (5 cm).

This is the placement line for the front bellow pocket.

Points 19 and 20 are located 3/8″ (1 cm) above points 17 and 18.

This is the placement line for the front pocket flap.

This completes the draft for the front pattern. Label cut 1X self.

Draft Bottom (Base) Pattern

On kraft paper, plot a straight line vertically from A to BAB = scale

click to magnify

Square (90 degree angle) a horizontal straight line from A to C; AC = 2 x scale minus 2″ (5 cm).

Square across from B and down from C to locate D.  ABCD is a rectangle.

1 from A = 1/2″ (12 mm).

2 from 1 = 2″ (5 cm).

3 from C = 1/2″ (12 mm).

4 from 3 = 2″ (5 cm).

Points 1-2 and 3-4 are the placement points for the connector ring tabs.

Point 5 is midway between B and D and marks the centerfront (CF) of the bag.

Draft Front Bellow Pocket Pattern

Trace off points 14, 16, 17, and 18 from Front pattern draft onto kraft paper.

click to magnify

Square down from points 17 and 18; and across from point 14 to locate A and B.

C-D is equidistant from 17-18; C-17 and D-18 = 1/2″ (5 cm).

E from 14 = 1″ (2.5 cm).

Square across from E to locate F at intersection of 17-A.

Square across from E to locate G at intersection of 18-B.

H from G = 1″ (2.5 cm).

I from F = 1″ (2.5 cm).

Join D-H and H-B with a straight line.

Join C-I and I-A with a straight line.

Draw a tangent line from G at a 45 degree angle.

J from G = 1″ (2.5 cm). Join J to B and H with a straight line.

K from F = 1″ (2.5 cm). Join K to I and A with a straight line.

This is the pattern for the bellow pocket. Label cut 1X self.

Mark placement location of hook & loop fastener (at center) about 1/2″ (12 mm) from point 16.

Draft Front Pocket Flap Pattern

Trace off points 16, 17 and 18 from Front pattern draft onto kraft paper.

Square down from 16 to locate L; L from 16 = 3/4 of scale.

Square down from 17 and 18; and across from L to locate M and N at the intersections of the lines.

Gradually round off the corners at M and N.

This is the pattern for the Front Pocket. Label cut 1X self and cut 1X lining.

Indicate the placement of the hook & loop fastener at center approximately 3/8″ (1 cm) above L.

Draft Top Flap Pattern

Trace off points 11, 12, and 13 from Back Pattern draft onto kraft paper.

click to magnify

Square down from 13 to locate P; P from 13 = scale amount + 2″ (5 cm).

Square down from 11 and 12; and across from P to locate Q and R at the intersections of the lines.

Gradually round off the corners at Q and R.

This is the pattern for the Top Flap . Label cut 1X self and cut 1X lining.

Indicate the placement of the clasp at center approximately 4″ (10 cm) above P.

Draft Drawcord Placket Pattern

Draw an oblong shape on kraft paper.

The length = 2 x (distance between 11 and 12 + distance between 9 and 10), from the body draft.

The width = 4″ (10 cm).

Label pattern, cut 1X self.

Cutting

Back and Front – cut 2X self; cut 2X lining

Upper Side – cut 2X self

Lower Side – cut 2X self; cut 2X lining

Bottom – cut 1X self; cut 1X lining

Bag Flap – cut 1X self; cut 1X lining

Front Pocket Flap – cut 1X self; cut 1X lining

Front Bellow Pocket – cut 1X self

Bag Placket – cut 1X self

Side Lining – cut 2X lining

Drawcord – cut strip 53” X 2” (135 cm X 5 cm) self fabric

Interior pocket – cut 2 squares lining, 11” X 11” (28 cm X 28 cm)

Assembly

Small Parts Preparation

Make shoulder strap from webbing. Cut 2 lengths of webbing 36 inches long (90 cm). Attach a buckle on one end of each length and turn-under the cut end. Stitch across the width of the strap to finish neatly. Set the pair aside.

Make drawcord. Cut a strip of fabric 53” X 2” (135 cm X 5 cm). With wrong sides together, fold strip in half lengthwise and press flat. Open strip and fold in long raw edges to the center of the fold. Press flat. Refold strip and stitch close along open edge. Set drawcord aside.

Make grab handle. Cut a length of leather using a rotary cutter (or x-acto knife) 12 inches X 2.5 inches (30.5 cm X 6.5 cm). Using an awl, score down the length on the wrong side of the leather. Place double-side mounting tape along the length of the leather strip on the wrong side. Peel off the paper coating from tape and fold the leather in half lengthwise. Machine-stitch (use a long stitch length) along the cut edge of the strip’s length. Set aside.

Make leather clasp. Cut 2 lengths of leather using a rotary cutter 8 inches X 1.5 inches (20 cm X 3.7 cm). On one of the pieces, make a centred hole using a hole-punch, 3 inches (7.5 cm)from one end of the leather strip. Attach the stud portion of the snap set (receiving end) and rivet into the hole, following manufacturer’s directions.

Place double-side mounting tape along the length of the leather strip on the wrong side. Peel off the paper coating from tape and place onto the other leather piece, with wrong sides together. Carefully round the short ends of the leather trim. Machine-stitch (use a long stitch length) along the perimeter edge of the trim.

On the end of the trim piece without the hardware, make a centred hole approximately 1 inch (25 mm) from the end and attach the remainder of the snap set, with the dome stem coming through the hole so that the socket is facing upward on the same side of the trim as the stud portion of the set. Set clasp aside.

Make ring tab. Cut 1 length of leather using a rotary cutter 6 inches X 3 inches (15 cm X 7.5 cm). Score along the length on the wrong side of the strip, 3/8-inch (10 mm) on either side. Place double-side mounting tape along the length of the leather strip on the wrong side. Peel off the paper coating from tape and fold the leather in half lengthwise. Machine-stitch (use a long stitch length) along the folded edge of the trim.

Wrap the leather trim around the O-ring and machine stitch across the trim’s width, as close as possible to the ring. Trim any excess from the backside of the leather. Set aside.

Click to magnify

Pocket & Bag Flaps

Iron on fusible interfacing to the wrong side of the front pocket flap and its lining piece. With face sides together, match and align the layers. Pin/baste along the straight edge of the flap and sew a scant 1/4-inch seam (6 mm). Press seam open.

Iron on transfer web to the wrong side of the exterior portion of the pocket flap, following manufacturer’s directions.

Center a 2-inch length of the hook side of hook & loop fastener vertically, on the face side of the lining portion, about 1/2-inch (12 mm) from the rounded edge of the pocket flap. Stitch in place.

Peel the paper coating from the transfer web and with wrong sides together, fold the pocket flap in half (on the seamline) and match/align the rounded edges. Fuse the two layer together from the lining side while working around the loop fastener. Stitch along the curved raw edge to secure.

Measure the curved edge of the flap and cut a 3/4-inch (20 mm) wide strip of leather equal to the measurement taken. On the wrong side of the leather, score down the center of its length and apply double-sided mounting tape. Peel off the paper covering from the tape and carefully wrap the raw edges of the flap. Machine-stitch in place using a long stitch length. Set pocket flap aside.

Repeat the same procedure for the bag flap except, instead of the loop fastener step on the interior lining, attach the leather clasp to the exterior portion of the flap once the bag flap is completed.

Set bag flap aside.

Front Pocket

Make up front bellow pocket. Turn under a 1/4 inch (6 mm) double hem along top of pocket piece. Press and topstitch down. Center a 2-inch (5 cm) length of the loop side of hook & loop fastener horizontally, on the face side of the pocket. Stitch in place along the completed edge of the pocket opening.

At each bottom notched corner, fold the pocket with face sides together and align seam. Pin/baste dart and sew each corner dart. Press seam to one side and topstitch along seam, face up to reinforce the darts. Turn under seam allowance and press flat. Set front pocket aside.

Click to magnify

Insert Zipper In Sides

Cut 2 strips of fabric, about 8 inches X 1 ¼ inches (20 cm X 3 cm) to make pocket welts. Fold each strip in half lengthwise, with wrong sides together, and press flat. With face sides up, align raw edges along side pocket opening and pin/baste in place. Stitch a welt to each the upper and lower side pieces. Grade seam allowances and press flat.

Next attach zipper in place using a zipper foot, but before doing so, modify the zipper head. In most cases, you will have available only a regular metal closed zipper to purchase. Using needle-nosed pliers, carefully remove the pull tab from the zipper head and insert a metal connector ring in its place. Cut a 12-inch (30 cm) length of leather 3/8-inch (10 mm) wide and loop it through the connector ring using a cow hitch knot. Repeat for the zipper on the opposite side.

To attach the zipper, center it along the welt of each side piece so that the zipper zips closed from the back of the bag downward to the front of the bag. Stitch in place.

Align and match the lower side lining piece to the outer edges of the lower side of the bag. Baste in place. Along the upper side welt, pin the zipper tape to the top of the lining and stitch together.

With face side up, topstitch along welt seams.

Repeat this procedure for the opposite side panels. Set both aside.

Insert Zip Pocket in Lining

Make interior zippered pocket. On the interior of the backpack, the lining on the back wall features a zip pocket. Start by ironing a strip of fusible interfacing to an edge of one of the interior pocket squares. Cut the interfacing 11” X 2” (28 cm X 5 cm) and fuse it to the wrong side of the lining fabric.

With face sides together, center the pocket lining onto the back lining portion, placing the pocket lining so that it aligns with the bottom edge of the back lining. Pin/baste in place. On the interfaced edge of the pocket lining, mark out an opening for the zipper about 1/4-inch wide (6 mm) and as long as the length of the zipper teeth. Stitch around this outline with neat squared corners, then slash through the middle of this outline and cut diagonally into each of the corners. Push lining through the cut opening and press opening flat to neaten. Align and center zipper face up behind the opening and pin/baste zipper in place. Topstitch around pocket opening to attach zipper in place.

From wrong side of the back lining portion, fold the pocket lining upward to meet with the top edge of the zipper tape. Pin/baste pocket lining to zipper and sew along the zipper tape to secure in place. Sew up each side of the pocket lining to create a “pocket bag” ensuring to stitch through the diagonal cuts at each end of the zippered opening. (see more about inset zipper method)

Attach Slip Pocket in Lining

Make interior slip pocket. On the interior of the backpack, the lining on the front wall features a slip pocket. Start by folding the remaining pocket square in half, with face sides together. Sew up each side of the pocket using a scant 1/4-inch (6 mm) seam allowance. Press seams open and turn pocket right-side-out; press flat.

With face sides of the fabrics up and the raw edges of the slip pocket facing upward, center-align the pocket onto the front lining portion, placing the folded edge of the pocket so that it matches with the bottom edge of the front lining. Pin/baste raw edge of the pocket in place. Stitch along the raw edge, using a scant 1/4-inch (6 mm) seam allowance. Trim seam allowance, if needed. Fold pocket up and press flat. Topstitch along the outer edges of the slip pocket leaving the folded side open. If desired, you can divide the slip pocket by stitching through its surface to create compartments for smaller items like cellphone, sunglasses, or wallet.

Lining Assembly

Iron fusible interfacing to the wrong side of the bottom lining piece, following the manufacturer’s directions.

With face sides together, pin/baste the base of the front and back lining sections to each long side of the bottom lining. Ensure that the zip and slip pockets are facing upward. Stitch each seam and grade seam allowances towards the front and back lining sections. With face side up, edgestitch the seam on the front and back interior portions.

Next, add sides to interior; match and align one side section to each side of the lining to create a bag. Pin/baste and sew up side seams. Press seams open. Set interior lining aside.

Bag Assembly

Iron fusible interfacing to the wrong side of the bottom bag piece, following the manufacturer’s directions.

Cut 2 lengths of webbing, 4 inches (10 cm) long. Thread each length of strapping through a square connector ring and fold webbing in half. Stitch across the width of the strap to secure ring neatly. Attach each ringed tab to one long edge of bottom section, face up, and approximately 2 ½ inches (6.5 cm) from each short end. Baste in place. Set bottom section aside.

Center the front pocket so that its opening aligns with the zip openings at the side of the bag (in this case about 6″ (15 cm) from the bottom of the front bag section). Pin/baste turned edges of the front pocket to the front of the backpack and edgestitch in place.

Next, attach ringed leather tab. Center the leather trim on the backpack front section, about 1/4-inch (6 mm) above the front pocket opening. Machine-stitch leather tab in place with the ring facing upward.

Add pocket flap by placing it lined side up, approximately 1/4-inch ( 6 mm) above the front pocket opening and ensuring that the cut end of the ring tab in sandwiched under the pocket flap to encase it. Double stitch along the straight edge of the pocket flap to secure in place. Fold down pocket flap.

With face sides together, pin/baste the base of the back exterior section to the long side of the bottom of the backpack, with the connector ring tabs. Stitch the seam ensuring to catch the tabs in the stitching of the seam. Grade the seam allowance toward the bottom section and on the face side, edgestitch along the seam on the bottom section.

With face sides together, pin/baste the base of the front exterior section to the long side of the bottom of the backpack. Machine-stitch the seam. Grade the seam allowance towards the bottom section and on the face side, edgestitch along the seam on the bottom section.

Add sides to exterior; match and align one side section to each side of the backpack, with the side zipper pockets positioned to close in the direction of the front of the backpack. Pin/baste and sew up side seams. Grade seam allowances. Edgestitch along side seam, on front, bottom, and back sections to reinforce the seam.

Click to magnify

Attach Placket to Bag Opening

Iron fusible interfacing to the wrong side of the placket piece, following the manufacturer’s directions.

Match and align the short ends of the placket, with face sides together. Stitch together to form a loop of fabric. Press seam open. Fold placket in half, with face sides out, and match up raw edges. Baste together and press fold. Edgestitch along the folded edge of the placket.

With face sides together, align and match placket to body of bag along the raw edges. Pin/baste placket to bag opening.

On back section of bag, thread webbing straps through the ringed connectors, then drawing though each buckle end of the strapping. Attach the cut end of the strap to the placket, approximately 4 inches on either side of center on the back section. Pin/baste in place.

Between the two webbing straps, place each end of the grab handle next to the webbing and pin/baste in place.

Sew around opening of the bag, catching the grab handle and webbing straps in the stitching. Turn the placket facing upward and edgestitch along the seam on the body portion of the backpack.

Mark a placement location 1 ½” (4 cm) on either side of each vertical seam (8 in total) in the middle of the placket width and insert grommets (2 on each side), following manufacturer’s directions.

Position bag flap along turned placket bottom edge, centred between the back sideseams, and double-stitch in place, through the seam allowance.

Finishing

Insert the lining by dropping it into the cavity of the bag. Align it so the interior zip pocket is on the back wall of the backpack and the side seams match up. Slipstitch top edge of lining to base of the placket to enclose the raw edge.

Lace the drawcord through the grommets and tie a knot at the ends of the drawcord.

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IMPORTANCE OF CREATING MOCK-UPS

Photo Credit: Dave Lloyd

Mock-ups or samples of the prototype are almost always required on high fashion and commercial projects by the designer before bag construction can begin. For a DIY project, you can use these same quality-assurance methods to ensure a superior product and meet your expectations.

Mock-ups ensure that the finished product will meet the designer’s vision, and are used as a benchmark to gauge the quality of the workmanship and materials once the pattern-making is completed. All too often on design-it-yourself projects, this “check and balance” system is overlooked or considered to be an unnecessary option. For a novice DIYer, investing a little time up front creating a mock-up of the bag design, can be the difference between a successful hand-made project or a “homemade” job with much disappointment.

“How do you meet ‘high-standard’ expectations?” The answer is simple: you create them.

When conducting classes and workshops I like to ask the question, “How do you meet your own creative expectations?” The answer is simple: you create them. The best way to do that is to execute the finished product before any real work is done. This gets the pattern making and the assembly process “on the same page”. If the designer does this front-end work and job planning correctly, then meeting any high-standard expectation is a simple process of recreating what has already been demonstrated. This goes a long way toward ensuring successful results. In the long run, it saves labour, time, and money.

One important consideration is to value mistakes….believe it or not, mistakes can be beneficial. They cause us to search for a different, and often better way. They facilitate experimentation with new materials, techniques, or styles. Mistakes or challenges (as I like to call them) are an important part of the design process because they provide unique opportunities for creativity. Always make a mock-up of the bag design to test your pattern before cutting into your expensive or perhaps, limited material. Don’t be disappointed if it does not ‘turn out ‘ on the first attempt as planned; that is what sample mock-ups are for. Make as many attempts as needed to achieve your desired goal. These mock-ups allow you to modify the end result, correct the pattern, and work out the sewing/assembly process.

Unlike large-scale commercial projects, creating mock-ups for single bag designs can be pretty painless. With the products, tools, and techniques available today, DIY can produce samples quickly and affordably. If you have a limited quantity of material available or your material is costly to experiment with, making up a sample in a cheaper fabrication is acceptable. A good example would be using the saddle-stitched leather handbag tutorial made up in thick wool felt. The felt is similar in weight and texture as cowhide leather yet inexpensive to purchase. Felt has similar characteristics as leather, such as it does not fray when cut and there is no directional grain to the material. The wool felt is marked and cut the same way the leather is worked, then applying the saddle-stitching by hand, inserting the zipper closure, adding hardware and strap handle to complete it. A finished bag design mock-up [upper left] is created that can be easily be reproduced in the high-quality tanned cowhide leather [lower left]. 

Once the mock-up was made, it was scrutinized and deemed that a shorter extended zipper was needed and that the strap handle should be tightened up in its overall length, as seen in the final prototype. Keep in mind, all mock-ups must be constructed using the same weight and texture as the final material(s), with the same hardware, and assembly methods that will be used on the final project.

Remember, it is always better – and more affordable – to know that you are knowledgeable with the construction of the proposed project before the work begins than to find out you are uncertain how to execute or finish your project.

Enjoy the Process! Don’t forget the reason why you’re doing this mock-up, regardless of what materials you choose or the size of your budget, even if your concentration is on the end product, . . .  don’t forget to have fun with the process of designing your own handbag.


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