Bagmaking Tips – how to make better bags!

Making bags and accessories is such a fun, rewarding thing to do! Not only do you get to pick out gorgeous fabrics but you also get to make something that’s looks good and is practical too! However, if the finish of your bags isn’t quite what you’d hoped for and you’d rather stick it away in the wardrobe, than show it off, read on for some simple tips. You’ll be making the best bags ever, before you know it!

Press as you go: Never skimp on pressing fabrics before using them and keep pressing each part, as you sew, to set in the stitches and give a neat, crisp finish. Also ensure you neatly press any folds or pleats, during construction. Always you a clean pressing cloth to avoid shiny marks or dirty residue off the iron.

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Cut accurately: it goes without saying that if you’re squares and rectangles are all wonky then you’ll not be able to achieve a good finish. If you find it difficult, or you just want to save time, invest in a rotary cutter, acrylic ruler and cutting mat! You won’t regret it and they’re well worth the cost!

rotary cutter mat ruler large

Interfacing: Although it takes up extra time and patience, it’s so important to use suitable stabilisers when making bags. Stabilisers are the hidden layers between the outer and lining fabrics, which offer structure, stability and enduring strength. They come in different weights, thickness, softness, fusible or sew-in; interfacing, interlining or fleece options. Remember to use good quality stabilisers, they really are worth the extra money. I use Vilene products which are readily available in the UK and Europe and I also like the USA Pellon brand which is an equally fantastic product. This is available from most good fabric/sewing stockists across America as well as being available from some sellers in the UK too.

Vilene Interfacing and Fleece for bag-making

Machine baste: I always use the machine’s longest stitch length to baste within the seam allowance. It’s faster than hand-basting, doesn’t need removing and strengthens the seams as well. So if you have a 1cm (3/8”) seam allowance, baste approx. 5mm (1/4”) from the edges. Once you’ve machine-basted pieces in place, the pins can then be removed which makes sewing up a project so much less fiddly and it saves time, rather than doing it all by hand.

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Double-sided basting tape: make inserting zips a breeze and achieve a professional looking finish by using basting tape. This is an amazing invention! You just need to attach the tape along the edges of a zip and this will hold the zip in place while you sew, instead of using pins or having to hand-baste! It can be sewn through, without leaving a sticky residue on the needle, and there’s no pins to try avoid sewing over! Win, win!

Pins versus sewing clips: when the layers you’re sewing together are getting too thick for pins, the best thing to use instead are sewing clips; the type which are normally used by quilters. They are essentially like mini bull-dog clips but they are made with flat, wide clip parts so as to hold layers of fabric securely without leaving marks or indentations. They’re fantastic when you’re sewing together layers of fabric, lining, interfacing and fleece and you just carefully remove each one as you sew up to it.

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So there you have it, some easy-to-follow tips for making your bagmaking projects more enjoyable to make and more pleasing to finish. I hope you find these tips useful. If you’d like to have a go at making any of my bags and accessories, head on over to my Etsy shop SusieDDesigns Sewing Patterns and start planning your next project!

Happy Sewing! 🙂

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