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Beginner Bag Making Month: All you need to know about Fabric

Hi Everyone!

Welcome to another post in what I’m calling “Beginner Bag Making Month“.  This month on my blog, I will be addressing some board topics on bag making that will help you get your feet wet if your a beginner, and that you still might find interesting to read if you are an experienced bag maker 😉

The series includes the following topics:

Fabrics are important as they are what make your bag look pretty!  There are so many different fabric types that are great for bag making, today I will discuss the following:

  • Quilting Cotton
  • Furnishing fabrics
  • Denim, Duck & Canvas
  • Wool

Quilting Cotton

These are one of my favourite types of fabrics to use in my bag making, this is because there are so many colours and designs to choose from so I can usually find something that appeals to me.

Depending on what interfacing your pair the Quilting Cotton with you can pretty much make any type of bag, including making handles and straps for your bags! Quilting Cotton is pretty durable, its also easy to cut and sew. It can be a good idea to wash your fabric prior to making it into a bag, however I usually only do this if I think the dye will run…mainly because I’m impatient and lazy 😉 But seriously, if you will be gifting the bag or selling the bag and you think the new owner might put it through the wash (I do not recommend this by the way as it can damage your hardware – you are far better off spot cleaning or hand washing your handmade bags!) its better to be safe than sorry. You can also spray Quilting Cotton with protective spray (once your bag is complete) like Scotchguard, this will help keep the fabric cleaner and therefore increase the live of the bag.

Quilting cotton is generally 112cm (44″-45″) wide, and 100% cotton which means you usually only need a 1/2m (1/2 yard) for smaller bags or 1m (1 yard) for larger bags – for enormous bags you will need more 😉

The Hippo Hobo made in Quilting Cottons by Susie

Furnishing fabrics

I don’t sew a lot with furnishing fabrics, and I’m not really sure why?!  Many bag makers have great success making bags in Furnishing fabrics as they are extremely durable.

Because there are so many different types of Furnishing fabrics available, you need to make sure that the one you choose is suitable for the bag you are making.  If the fabric is as thick as carpet (some are!), you need to keep that in mind and ensure your machine can handle the thickness of the seams – remember some seams in bag making are more than 2 layers of fabric!  If the fabric has sequins or is beaded will the bag you choose stand up to the test of time?  Does the fabric fray easily? Wider seam allowances will be necessary if this is the case.  Some Furnishing fabrics might have and embroidered design – this may be fake and just a surface decoration, which is not very durable and therefore this might be a bad choice for an everyday bag that gets a lot of wear and tear…but it may be perfect for an evening bag!

The Run & Play Bag made in Furnishing Fabrics by Maria

I recommend that you choose a Furnishing fabric that is a heavier weight cotton as it is perfect for bag making.  Remember to use your Jeans needle and your good to go!

Denim, Duck & Canvas

The Ingenious Tote made in Canvas by Melisa

I love making bags from Denim and Duck!  Both these and Canvas are great for making a really strong bag for everyday use or even for making a backpack. Did you know the first (large) bag I ever made was made from Denim and Duck?  I chose these fabrics because I wanted the bag to last, and last it did!  It’s still going strong 😉 Denim, Duck and Canvas are typically 100 percent cotton fabrics.  Canvas is often used to make ship sails but it is the perfect medium for creating simple and very durable bags and accessories.

The Rubenesque Hobo made by Susan using Denim Accents


Wool is another fabric I don’t personally use much in my bag making – the main reason for this is because it makes my skin crawl…yep, I’m allergic to wool so to spend all day sewing it up I’d need to wear gloves and then what do I do when I want to wear the thing?  Walking down the street with a bag that makes you feel like you have bugs bitting you everywhere is not my idea of a good time – LOL!

The Ingenious Tote made in Wool by Lossie Made

BUT…I love how these bags look! Wool is a strong fabric that can be used in many projects.  When Bag making with wool I recommend you use a heavy interfacing, which does make the layers quite thick, but it will help with the longevity of your bag.  I also recommend a Jeans needle and a walking foot to help sew through the thickness.

You can buy Wool in tones of pretty colours, or in tartans and tweeds.  If your into reducing waste check out the Mens blazer section of your local op shop (thrift store), there are some Wool gems to be found in there 😉

The Hippo Hobo (flap-less) made by Susan H in Wool

Today I haven’t addressed some of my favourite fabric types, namely Leather, Faux Leather, Vinyl, or Cork as I believe you should test the limits of your sewing machine and actually learn how to make bags prior to trying these more difficult fabrics.  This is not to say you can’t use these fabric types on your bags if your a beginner, you certainly can!  I just feel that these fabric types are tougher to work with and a beginner should master bag making as an art form prior to trying these more challenging materials.

I hope you have enjoyed todays post in the “Beginner Bag Making Month” series!

Happy Sewing!

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  • Reply
    March 21, 2017 at 3:36 pm

    Thanks for this informative post. I currently am looking for some printed canvas. Your posts have been so helpful.

    • Reply
      March 23, 2017 at 10:06 am

      I’m so glad to hear your enjoying the series!

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