1 In Bag/ Bag Making Tips/ Blog/ Sewing/ The Best Of Emkie/ tutorials

How to choose the perfect fabric, to make your perfect bag…

Hi Everyone,

Today I want to talk about fabric – oh how I LOVE Fabric! Do you have trouble working out what fabric combinations to use when it comes to making your bags? I think we all go through this dilemma regularly – well at least I know I do 😉

Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 11.46.54 am

Anyway, today I want to show you the process I use when choosing fabric combinations for my bags – this process might not be right for everyone, however it works for me so I don’t see why it wouldn’t work for you too!

How to choose fabric

1. Choose the fabric you want to use for the main part of your bag.

I start by choosing the main fabric for my bag. This may be a fabric with a print or a plainer fabric – it really depends on the “look” I’m after for the bag.

This part of the process seems easy, but sometimes it really isn’t if your not sure of the “look” you want for your bag…so it is often helpful to think about HOW the bag will be USED as this can often help.

Will this bag be used only for special occasions?
Will this bag be used everyday?
Will this bag be used for going to work?
Will this bag be for a child?

I’m sure you can all think of a number of different activities that you use your handmade bags for…but lets have a look at how I use my Ingenious Tote

This is the bag I use everyday.

Let me tell you what I carry in there:

  • Nappies, change mat, wipes a change of clothes hand hand sanitiser
  • Food for my children
  • Drinks for my children
  • Small toys for my children
  • My wallet, keys and phone
  • In summer I also carry hats and sunscreen.

This is A LOT – which is why I use (and designed) a big bag.

HOWEVER…If I were to make another Ingenious Tote I would choose a darker fabric as this bag has been used EVERYDAY for almost a year now and it is looking a little worse for wear…Day 1

If I was making myself another, I would choose a darker main fabric – this would be less likely to show the dirt 😉

So to help you start to think about the types of main fabrics you might choose, lets have another look at those questions I listed earlier…

Will this bag be used only for special occasions?
If this is the case you might want to choose a colour that you are able to match with lots of different outfits…

Will this bag be used everyday?
If you are running around after children (like me), I really suggest you choose a darker fabric as your bag will spend a lot of time dumped here or there while you chase your kids around 😉 If you are not one to run around after little ones, you could choose a lighter fabric if you wish. But in terms of print, you may want to choose something plainer that will match more of your outfits, think about the colours you wear regularly, maybe choosing a fabric with one of these colours in it would be best.

Will this bag be used for going to work?
If your bag is for work you need to think about what your workplace is like, I know when I was a teacher if I had taken a bag with naked men/women on it that this wouldn’t have been a good idea and I would have found myself in the principals office getting a stern talking too – lol 🙂

Will this bag be for a child?
If your bag is for a child maybe you need to think about fabric that the child would like…I semi-recently made T a backpack, the main fabric I chose for it was black, as I knew he would not take care of it well – he’s 4 and has grown up with mummy made toys and bags, so doesn’t really appreciate the value of handmade (lol) it’s all normal for him and he thinks if he wrecks it I’ll just make him a new one ;D


(Bag made by me, pattern by Mrs H)

2. Choose a coordinating fabric/s.

When it comes to choosing the coordinating fabric/s for your bag, I usually like to get out a number of fabrics that I think will coordinate with the main fabric due to them sharing a common colour.

Then I think about the bag I’m making, where the fabrics will go once the bag is made, how much of the print will be seen or not seen and then choose whichever is my favourite or whichever stands out the most for me. I usually also choose a coordinating print for the lining – I see the lining of a bag as an important part as it can help to tie the whole bag together.

You could also use coordinating fabrics from the same fabric line – then the hard work has been done for you and all you have to do is choose the prints 😉

3. When and how to add leather/faux leather to your bag.

When it comes to choosing when and how to add leather/faux leather to your bags I usually choose to do so in the following ways…

a) Accents – This is a great way to add a little bit of a “professional” look to your bags. Usually you don’t need to invest as much money in your materials for an accent fabric on a bag as the area is usually small eg. like the base panel on the Freesia bag…

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 1.17.39 pm

(Source: Bag made by The Cloth Albatross, pattern by Blue Calla)

b) Handles – This is another fabulous way to add a more “professional” look to your handmade bags! You can purchase ready made handles for your bags or you can make your own…

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 1.20.16 pm

(Source: Bag made by Mitzi of Mitzi’s Pretties – her own design)

Some good places to buy some pre-made leather/faux leather handles are:

Handbag Hardware Australia


3 DAN Supplies

If you want to make your own faux leather handles, I recommend these tutorials:

  • For faux leather I suggest you follow this fantastic tutorial written by Janelle of Emmaline bags.
  • Liz from Moments has a few really great tutorials too, she even has some for a couple of different styles!  you can find them here, here, here and here 🙂


I don’t know about you…but I feel like looking at some pretty bags…so let’s have a look at some amazing bags using some beautiful fabric combinations…

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 12.50.38 pm


Kristy from Rock Baby Scissors made this gorgeous Rock Star Bag (pattern by Sew Sweetness), she has paired Cotten and Steals Petite Plus, Alison Glass Ex Libris and Handcrafted Indigo – such a lovely combination of fabrics, I could stare at this bag all day!

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 1.00.07 pm


Danielle from Paisley Avenue made this beautiful Everyday Tote Bag (pattern by Emkie Designs), using beautiful Japanese Fabric, paired with Linen and the most perfect faux leather handles – don’t you just love how the aqua matches perfectly with the aqua in the fabric!?!

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 12.55.37 pm


Melisa from Melisa Jane made this beautiful set! She has used gorgeous Jennifer Paganelli fabrics and has paired the fabrics in the different colour ways perfectly!  The patterns Melisa has used are, bag by Blue Calla and wallet by Emmaline Bags.

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 12.56.34 pm


How perfect is Susie from Twirl Girl Boutique‘s Ingenious Tote Bag?!  She has paired some beautiful Rosewater fabric with tan leather and a pink lining.  I really love how this combination is so pretty and classy at the same time 🙂


I hope you have found this post helpful! If you use a different technique when it comes to choosing fabric I’d love to hear about it, so please leave a comment or send me an email (emma at emkiedesigns dot com). If you would like to use a # on Instagram so we can all start to help each other when it comes to fabric choice, I’d love it if you used #choosefabricwithemkie 🙂

In other news…I have a new pattern currently with my testing team and it is AWESOME! So if you want to be one of the first to be notified when my new pattern is released early next month I highly recommend you join my newsletter 😉

Happy Sewing!


You Might Also Like

1 Comment

  • Reply
    2016 The Year that was…
    December 7, 2016 at 8:35 pm

    […] How to choose the perfect fabric to make your perfect bag […]

  • Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    This website is using Google Analytics. Please click here if you want to opt-out. Click here to opt-out.
    Website legals from Law For Websites