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7 Bag Making Tips that WILL help you make better bags…

Hi everyone

The new year has only just begun…and who can believe January is already half finished! To start off the new year well, I wanted to share some bag making tips that will help you make better bags, 7 of them to be exact 😉 Some you might already know about, others might be new to you…either way all these tips will be helpful in your bag making and after implementing some of these, you will be creating better and more professional bags!

1. Choose the BEST FABRIC for the TYPE of bag you are making

There are so many different types of bags, and I love this chart that shows some of them…


Whatever the type of bag your making, you will have an idea of the specific uses it will get once made.  If you choose the best fabric for the job…your bag WILL stand up to the test of time…


For example, if your making a traveller, (like Vivian from Swoon*), it will get lots of use, it will have to carry lots of stuff, and it will get tossed around in the boot of a car or in the overhead bin of an aeroplane!  So you will be better off making it from a heavier fabric that will stand up to the rough treatment it might receive…if it was me I’d choose to make it from denim, home decorator, vinyl, leather or canvas – these fabrics are much stronger and tougher than cottons.


Where as if you make wristlet or a a clutch, (like the Emma Clutch Tote from Ladybugs & Daisychains), it won’t be used everyday and therefore you could make it form a more delicate fabric like, cotton, or even add a lace overlay – the perfect pattern for a lace overlay is the Statement Clutch by Two Pretty Poppets* by the way 😉


2. Stabiliser and interfacing…Why these are the most important ingredient when bag making!

Some bags will require more stabiliser and interfacing that others, for example a bag that requires a lot of structure, like Emmaline Bag’s Totes-Ma-Tote wouldn’t have the same look or feel if you didn’t use the suggested foam stabiliser (along with the required interfacing) when making it – it just wouldn’t stand up on its own!  Other bags will just look silly with too much stabiliser and interfacing applied, they need less structure to look good, like Mrs H’s Reversible Hobo would look pretty silly if it wasn’t slouchy 😉


(Source)                                     (Source)

 Often you will find that a pattern asks for one layer of interfacing AND one layer of stabiliser on the external fabric pieces, this is so the external section of the bag is able to more easily maintain its shape as well as add strength to the fabric to ensure the longevity of the life of the bag.

If you are asked to apply one layer of interfacing and one layer of stabiliser on the external fabric pieces, I would suggest that you clip or cut the stabiliser so that it is at least 3/8″ – 1/2″ (1 – 1.2cm) smaller than your external fabric.  One reason for this is that all the layers will be very difficult to sew thorough, and so by reducing the bulk inside your bag, your sewing machine might be able to handle the bag more easily.  Another reason I suggest that you reduce the size of your stabiliser is that by doing so your bag will also keep the planned shape it was designed to have – extra bulk can pull the bag out of shape – and the edges of your bag will look better and more professional too 🙂


Any good pattern will tell you what type of interfacing and stabilisers (some might even include alternatives) to use for the best results (in the opinion of the designer).

This is an example of my materials section for my Run & Play Bag.


Notice that I also include a couple of alternatives of the Stabilisers and Interfacing’s

required in my patterns, as I know from experience that here in Australia at least,

it is often really hard to find the stabiliser and interfacing that some designers ask for 😀


It can be fun to experiment with interfacing and stabiliser combinations to find out what YOU like best in your bags too – sometimes you will like and prefer different combinations to the designer of the pattern and that is ok too!  A while ago I experimented with the Laney hobo pattern by Swoon, I used different stabiliser to what was asked for in the pattern and I was very pleased with the end results 🙂

Have you experimented with interfacing and stabiliser before?  What did you find?


3. Do you have saggy and baggy linings? Lets fix that!

There are a few ways to avoid saggy and baggy linings in your bags…

1. Sew the seam allowance of your lining to the seam allowance of your exterior – this stitching will be hidden and no-one will ever know it was there! If you want to see some photos of how to do this, I recommend this tutorial*. This technique is usually easier to achieve if your bag has a drop-in-lining, but it is also possible to achieve on a bag that you turn/birth, it just might be a little more fiddly and you will need more patience 😉

2. Sew your lining with a slightly larger seam allowance, eg. if your external bag is sewn with a 3/8″ (1cm) seam allowance, then sew your lining using a 1/2″ (1.2cm) seam allowance – but make sure you taper out to the 3/8″ (1cm) seam at the place where you will join the lining to its exterior!  If you find it still too large, take it in a little more…

This photo has been used with the permission of Liz from Moments blog.

See how Liz took her lining in little by little?  She repeated this process until she managed to get a good fit too 🙂

4.  How to ensure your handles stay handles and aren’t the cause of your bag breaking…

Some bags can get HEAVY!  Often like to pack our stuff, and then pack more stuff and then even more stuff into our bags…this can make them very heavy and put added strain on the handles!

So when you are attaching the handles to your bag (you could also use this technique for any tie or closure too) within 2 layers of fabric make sure you leave at least an 1/2″ (1.2cm) overhang past the fabric edge.

If you place them on exactly on the fabric edge, they are more likely to tear off with any excess weight or over stuffing the bag might receive.

If you add extra overhang this will also allow you to sew a few extra lines of stitching joining the handles to the fabric of your bag within the seam allowance to add some extra strength to those handles!


In the image above, you can see the sewist has left an overhang of handle fabric, (shown within the pink circle).  Once the lining of this bag has been attached and the bag finished, this overhang will no longer be seen.

Below you will find another example…


See here how it would be easy to add a few extra lines of stitching within the seam allowance for added strength!

This might be the small adjustment you need to ensure the longevity of your handmade bag 🙂

5. For a professional finish you really should use facings on any welt zip pockets…

Welt zip pockets can look scary – but I promise they aren’t…although, they can take a bit of practice to get looking neat and professional 🙂

Don’t know what a welt zip pocket is?

Often welt zip pockets appear on the external part of a bag, but many designers use them in the lining as well to create a hidden zip pocket, like this one below…


Many designers however (yes me included – sorry about that, I will try to rectify this in all my patterns from now on!), don’t include instructions on how to hide the zip tape once the zip is installed….this can often look quite armature and messy.

No facing on zip…(Source)

The best way to fix this to get a more professional finish is to create a facing for your zip, like the one pictured below…

Facing on zip…(Source)

This tutorial is a great one to follow if you want to make facings for your welt zip pockets 🙂

6.  Press your seams out, clip your curves and baste those tricky bits 😉

When making bags, the internal seams can become very bulky, sometimes your choice of interfacing and stabiliser has something to do with this and other times you have some many sections of the bag joining at one point and that is what causes the bulkiness.
To help with the bulk that accumulates in bag making you should press your seam allowances out.
This can sometimes be difficult to do on some bags, but try your best 😉  It would also be benificial for you to press pockets and pocket edges, these don’t need to be pressed open, but for nice clean and crisp corners on pockets, pressing is a must!
After your bag is completed you really should give it a final press.  It can be very tricky to press something that is 3 dimentional, so luckily out seamstress ancestors invented some great tools for us to use.
A tailors ham and sausage are great as you can stick them inside your bag and they will help you press your bag without burning yourself on the iron.
If you want to make your own, I suggest you follow this great tutorial or this one – I like to give you some choice 😉
Another great tool is a Sleeve Ironing Board…
I don’t have one yet…but it is on my list of “one day” items.  If you would like to make one yourself, I have found two tutorials that you might find helpful…this is the first, and this is the second.


Next up on my list of must do’s for this section is clipping the curves.  This is a MUST do for all curves and corners!  Clipping the curves and corners will help you get a nice clean and finished look for your bag once it is turned.  If you don’t clip your curves the fabric once turned will wrinkle – and after you have spent many hours on making a bag, who would want to ruin it with some wrinkles that you can’t iron out!

This is what clipping the curve looks like…it takes a tiny bit of time, but it will give your bag a really great finish once its completes, so its definitely a step in the bag making process not to skip!

And now let me talk for a short time about basting those tricky to sew bits

Pins and wonder clips do a great job of holding two pieces of fabric together, but sometimes they space you have to work with is too small, or the fabric you are working with is too slippery for the pins/clips to hold it in place…this is where basting comes in to play.

It may seem like hand basting the seams is extra work, but in the long run it is worth the extra time as whatever you baste wont move and you will find moving it through the sewing machine much easier too.

Some people like to baste their zips in place before they sew them, my preferred method is glue basting them – its quicker than hand basting and gains the same results.

7. Topstitch for a professional finish

Topstitching not only makes your bag look good (ie. more professional), it adds strength to the seams of your bag too.  You should NEVER skip topstitching for this reason…all the parts of your bag should be topstitched, eg. zippers, top edges, handles, pockets, you get the idea…


(Source)                                          (Source)

I hope you found these tips helpful!  I’d love to know which of these tips you find most useful, and which you might implement into your bag making in the future, so please feel free to leave a blog comment, or contact me on FB, IG, or T

And don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter, so you don’t miss out on any of my awesome stuff…Hint hint…So make sure you are signed up for that, you don’t want to miss out!

Happy sewing


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  • Reply
    Tracy HoltE
    January 19, 2016 at 7:57 am

    Brilliant! Totally agree with all of them! Do you mind if I share this?

    • Reply
      January 19, 2016 at 9:22 am

      I’m really glad you like it! Of course I don’t mind 🙂 Share away 🙂

  • Reply
    January 22, 2016 at 1:02 am

    So many great tips, thanks!

    • Reply
      January 22, 2016 at 1:13 am

      I’m really glad you enjoyed my post 🙂
      Hopefully some of these tips will help you in the future 🙂

  • Reply
    June 20, 2016 at 12:04 pm

    Thank you!
    Last year, I had to learn the hard way about fabric choices and stabilizers!

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  • Reply
    May 11, 2018 at 7:46 pm

    I am still learning about stabilizers and interfacing. But the best tip for me was the saggy baggy linings. I have tried the method of narrowing my lining but love the idea of sewing it to the seam allowance. I have also tacked them to the bottom before. I am just not usually happy with my large bag’s linings. Thanks for the help.

  • Reply
    Grady Elliott
    July 7, 2018 at 5:24 am

    Nice tips you share on this blog. It’s very helpful tips. Thanks!

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