Bag Making for Beginners: Tips and Tricks for Starting Your Bag Making Journey
by Swoon Patterns Team, April 25 2023
Bag making is a fun hobby that can be enjoyed by beginners and more experienced sewists alike. Whether you're a seasoned pro or just starting out in your bag making adventure, there are a few key tips and tricks that can help you get started with this rewarding craft.
"What sewing machine should I choose?"
A machine that is well-made and easy to use will make the process of creating a bag much smoother and more enjoyable. There are many different makes and models available, so be sure to do your research and choose one that is right for your skill level and budget.
The team at Sewing Patterns by Mrs H use Janome HD9 sewing machines (kindly provided by Janome UK for free), and some of our international team use Juki sewing machines. We all also have vintage sewing machines - like this Singer, for instance - and love these for sewing through thicker layers.
Although our team all love our machines, we tend to avoid pushing bagmakers towards particular makes or models as we believe that every bagineer's ideal sewing machine is unique to them. We believe that when you find your perfect sewing machine, it becomes like an extension of yourself.
So, when you are looking for your new machine, we would advise first reading online forums to get an idea of the machines used by other bag makers.
Then, get in touch with your local sewing machine supply store. Many sewing machine suppliers will let you try out their machines before you buy. Take with you some of the materials that you might expect to use in your sewing.
Finally, Mrs H aims to design her sewing patterns to be sewn on domestic machines, and all the Swoon Patterns designs were designed for domestic machines. However, the materials you choose can have an impact on how easy or difficult it is to sew your new handmade bag.
So, pay attention to the designer's recommendations about materials in the sewing pattern. And, if you have a new sewing machine or you've not sewn through a lot of layers on your machine before, consider sewing a test bag first in lightweight materials - such as quilting cotton - before you reach for potentially thicker materials - such as vinyl, leather, some faux leathers, and some canvas or tapestry fabrics.
"What bag making supplies will I need?"
Once you have your machine, it is time to start gathering supplies. This can be a fun and exciting process, as there are so many different fabrics, patterns, and embellishments to choose from.
You'll find lists of necessary supplies on each product page for our sewing patterns, and for the patterns from Sewing Patterns by Mrs H. This is so that you can think about what materials you might need before you decide whether to sew that particular bag pattern or purse pattern.
If you are sewing a bag using a pattern from another designer or supplier, then they may not provide a full list of supplies. So, briefly, some of the key supplies you will need are fabrics, thread, interfacing or stabiliser, and - of course - a sewing pattern!
We'll write more about fabrics in a future article. In the meantime, why not take a look at one of our online communities to get an idea of what types of fabrics are being used by other bagineers?
Swoon Patterns: www.facebook.com/groups/SwoonFans
Sewing Patterns by Mrs H: www.facebook.com/groups/SewingPatternsByMrsH
Bag of the Month Club: www.facebook.com/groups/bagomc
You can learn more about different types of bag hardware here: A Quick Guide to Bag Hardware
And, you can learn more about interfacing and stabilisers in this video from Mrs H of Sewing Patterns by Mrs H:
"Which bag sewing pattern should I choose? What are some good beginner bag patterns?"
Both here at Swoon Patterns and over at Sewing Patterns by Mrs H, you'll find many, many different bag sewing patterns to choose between - ranging from simpler designs aimed at beginner bagineers, through skillbuilding improver patterns, to more advanced bag designs.
If you are just starting out with bagmaking, then you may wish to choose a sewing pattern that is easy to follow and that has simpler bag making techniques.
Here at Swoon Patterns, you might start with something like the Bonnie Bucket Bag, Lola Domed Handbag, or Rosie Crossbody Bag.
And, over at Sewing Patterns by Mrs H, you may want to consider The Companion Carpet Bag, The Squiffy Sling, or The Happy Handbag.
When you're first beginning your bagmaking adventure, it is a good idea to start with a simpler pattern. Follow the instructions carefully, and take your time with each step. If you get stuck or have questions, don't hesitate to ask for help or advice in the online sewing communities we mentioned above, or send an email to us at email@example.com.
As you become more comfortable with bag making, you can start experimenting with new techniques and designs. Try adding embellishments like rivets, patchwork, or embroidery to your bags, mix and match different fabrics to create a unique look, or consider scaling your bag up or down to make the size better suit your needs.
"I've already made a few bags. What next?"
If you're already well along the way of your bagmaking adventure, it can be tricky deciding what to do next in the journey of developing your skills.
Many sewing patterns - particularly older ones - do not reference the skills used in the pattern, meaning you may meet with a new bagmaking challenge sooner than you had expected.
If this feels familiar to you, then you may benefit from additional support with your skillbuilding sews.
For instance, you may want to consider joining our Bag of the Month Club. This subscription-only Club runs twice a year, with each season featuring three sewing patterns aimed at practising or developing your skills - a beginner-level design in month one, a skillbuilding improver pattern in month two, and a more challenging skillbuilder in month three.
In addition to the carefully-designed sewing patterns, the Club features extra support from the pattern designers, their teams and testers, and the wonderful international community of members. You can find out more at www.bagomc.com.
Or, you may wish to go a step further, and join a dedicated skillbuilding community such as Bag Making Made Simple on Patreon. This learning channel has two subscription levels, so that you can choose the one that best fits your needs.
At Skillbuilder level, you have access to 2 skillbuilding videos each month plus occasional exclusive discounts for Mrs H patterns. Previous skillbuilding videos have included:
- Hardware installation videos, such as KAM snaps, flip locks, and long john strap anchors
- Sewing pattern modification videos, such as resizing a sewing pattern, creating a zip bridge so that you can add a recessed zipper to your bag, adding a credit card / lip balm pocket to any pattern, and adding mesh pockets to your bag
- How to sew different types of strap, such as a pieced strap, a multi-fabric feature strap, a two-sided fixed length strap, and a wristlet strap
- How to create embellishments such as a key fob, or a tassel keyring
And, at Skillbuilder Plus level, as well as the skillbuilding videos and discounts, you have access to a new and exclusive bag sewing pattern every other month, and a new and exclusive small project every other month. Previous patterns and projects have included:
- The Morgan Messenger Bag
- The Sophisticated Sling
- The Awesome Oval Bag
- The Midi Bag
- The Pickle Pouches
- The Quick Zip Trio
- The Tidy Tote
- The Project Manager Open Top Tote
Six patterns and projects from 'Bag making made simple' on Patreon. From left to right:
Awesome Oval Bag made by M Graham Sews, Morgan Messenger Bag, Tidy Tote,
Midi Bag made by That's Sew Nova, Pickle Pouches, and Sophisticated Sling made by M Graham Sew
You can currently try the Skillbuilder Plus level for free for seven days. So, if you're curious, visit www.patreon.com/bagineer to find out more.
Once you have your supplies and your pattern, it is time to start sewing. This can be a challenging process, especially if you are new to sewing. However, with practice and patience, you will be able to create beautiful, one-of-a-kind bags that are both functional and stylish.
Ultimately, the key to successful bag making is practice and experimentation.
Don't be afraid to make mistakes or try new things, always be willing to learn from your experiences, and be kind to yourself if things don't go quite as you'd expected the first times around. With time and effort, you can develop the skills and creativity needed to make beautiful, functional bags that you will be proud to carry and use.
Wherever your bag making journey takes you, please remember to take each day one stitch at a time!
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