Bag Making 101: A Quick Guide to Bag Hardware
written by the Swoon Patterns & Sewing Patterns by Mrs H Team, last updated January 15th, 2023
We're so lucky to have access to such an amazing wide range of purse supplies, including bag hardware. With modern bagmaking supplies stores stocking a wide variety of different finishes of bag hardware in many different sizes, you can pick and choose which styles of purse hardware will best suit the type of purse or bag that you're sewing.
But so much choice can sometimes feel overwhelming - particularly if it's a piece of purse hardware that you've not seen before.
What is the bag hardware used for? What types of bag would you sew using that purse hardware? And where are the best places to find good quality bag hardware?
We hope to answer some of those questions in this post and in more posts to come, and - whether you're a beginner bagmaker about to sew your first purse, or a more experienced bagineer - we hope that you find this series of posts useful.
Snaps are a type of closure that you can use on almost any type of bag. You might use snaps to secure the flap of your bag, to secure the top edge of your bag, to secure a slip pocket either on the front of your purse or inside, or perhaps you may use them to secure tabs - such as for a removable keyring holder.
Mostly, purse patterns call for magnetic snaps. These are circular metal snaps, mostly, and are usually available in a standard size and in a slim size. Some may have a decorative button or design
Magnetic snaps are installed using the prongs on the back, and so we strongly advise covering those prongs with a scrap of material or some duct tape during installation, to prevent them rubbing a hole in your beautiful bag over time.
Half Moon Magnetic Snaps
If you're using a magnetic snap for your bag flap, you may want to consider using a half moon magnetic snap. These have a decorative trim that fits on the edge of your flap, and a circular snap that is installed against the body of your bag.
Invisible Magnetic Snaps
This type of magnetic snap is usually sewn into the bag. Sometimes one half of the pair of snaps may have a decorative button or design that is secured on the outside of your bag. Our team do not commonly use this type of snap, so unfortunately we have no examples to share with you.
KAM snaps are plastic popper snaps, often used to secure coin purses. These are usually fitted with a snap setter or using a rivet press with a setting tool.
Mrs H demonstrates how to fit a KAM snap to the Pickles Pouch, part of 'Bagmaking made simple' on Patreon.
You likely won't be surprised to learn that locks are another type of closure - used to secure the flap of a wallet, purse, or bag.
Many different types of locks are available, including:
- Turn locks
- Flip locks
- Press locks, such as tongue locks, and button locks
Nora Doctor Bag (made by Monica Ann Bernstine from Castine Handcrafted), showing an example of how you might use a turn lock
Harriet Expandable Tote Bag (made by Lynn Potts from She Wears Red Feathers), showing an example of how you might use a flip lock
Rings and Sliders
Sliders are used to make adjustable straps, and rings are typically used to attach straps or handles to bags and purses. Sometimes rings may be used for decorative purposes.
You'll generally use rings with purses, handbags, totes, and backpacks. Occasionally, you may use them with smaller clutch bags or wallets.
Among the different types of rings and sliders available, you'll find:
- D rings - these are shaped like a capital D
- O rings - circular rings forming an O shape
- Rectangle rings - also known as rectangular rings, these may have curved corners or 90-degree corners
- Triangle rings - triangular in shape with a slit along the longest side, and a circular hole at the point above the slit. Attach to your bag with a strap or strap tab through the long slit, then clip a swivel hook through the hole.
- Gate rings - usually (but not always!) o-shaped, gate rings can be opened up to fit through grommets or eyelets in your bag. We've seen clip versions, but prefer screw together gate rings for that extra bit of security
- Strap Sliders - rectangular rings with a fixed bar across the middle, available in different shapes and sizes - including wide-mouth sliders for when you have thicker straps
- Adjustable Strap Sliders - rectangular or square shaped rings with a movable bar across the middle
Bonnie Bucket Bag (made by Alicia Miller). The straps are attached to the bag using O-rings
Swivel Hooks and clips
Most often, you'll use swivel hooks or clips on the ends of a removable strap. This is particularly useful for some styles of convertible bag where the strap is clipped to rings at the top of the purse when worn as a crossbody bag or shoulder bag , and clipped to a different set of rings when in backpack or sling bag style.
Close-up of the Betty Bowler Bag (made by Monica Ann Bernstine from Castine Handcrafted), showing a rose gold swivel clip
You could add a swivel hook or clip (or a ring) on a ribbon or tab inside your purse as a way to keep your keys safe, or as a way to clip your wallet inside your bag for extra security.
Or, sew our Tonia Mini Moto bag pattern and clip your bag to your belt loops using Swivel Clips.
Tonia Mini Moto (made by Chanova Alcala Mabry from Nova's Knits), clipped to belt loops.
Della Wallet Clutch (made by Chanova Alcala Mabry from Nova's Knits), with a wristlet strap clipped to the wallet.
Brooklyn Handbag (made by Brandy Gilbert Jackson from Bean's Bags), showing the swivel clip feature.
In the past, buckles have mostly been used as flap closures, such as with our Camille Camera Bag, however we're now seeing bagineers experimenting with buckles in other ways - including using them to attach straps to a purse.
They may be rectangular, circular, or another shape altogether.
Buckles with the push-in section at either side are typically known as side-release buckles.
Camille Camera Bag (made by Lynne Baldwin from Lynne's Selections), with side-release buckles securing the flap
Frame buckles have a moveable pin that slots into strap holes.
They may be single-sided (a square or rectangle with the pin attached to one side), or double-sided (a square or rectangle with the pin attached to a central bar).
Betty Bowler Bag (made by Chanova Alcala Mabry from Nova's Knits), with buckles added to the straps
Atlas Rucksack (made by Chanova Alcala Mabry from Nova's Knits), with buckle straps
Strap Anchors / Connectors
Strap anchors are used to connect your straps to your bag. The range of different types of connectors available grows with every season, so it's worth keeping a watch for new designs in bagmaking supplies stores. Some of the strap anchor types currently available include:
- Diamond Strap Anchors
- 'Long John' Strap Anchors
- Bridge Connectors
- Strap Clips with D-Rings
- Bridge Anchors
- Chain Strap Connectors
- Decorative Strap Connectors
Nora Doctor Bag (made by Chanova Alcala Mabry from Nova's Knits). The bag features decorative strap anchors.
Bag Bases and Purse Feet
Adding a base inside the bottom of your bag can help not only with stability but also with keeping the bottom of your purse nice and firm over long-term use. Adding bag feet then helps protect the base of your bag when you set it down on the ground.
Although you can buy bases designed to be used in bags and purses, anything firm but thin may work as a base. We like to use the cheap plastic cutting boards you can find at dollar stores or pound stores. Some of our friends use foam core board, which is typically available from art stores.
Brooklyn Bag, (made by Kimberly Cummins from MyDani Bags, showing the purse feet at the base of the bag
Betty Bowler Bag (made by Monica Ann Bernstine from Castine Handcrafted), showing the purse feet at the base of the bag.
Grommets and Eyelets
These are the small circular ring-shaped hardware that is pressed into the material, and have many potential uses.
Some bags use eyelets to add a drawstring feature to a bag.
For some designs, the strap or handle clips to a gate ring threaded through a pair of grommets at each end of the bag.
You can use grommets as a decorative feature for your purse. Or you can add one as a functional feature for a knitting bag or crochet bag - thread the yarn through the grommet and you've got a portable yarn bowl, so that your yarn won't roll around while you work.
Grommets and eyelets come in different sizes and styles, so you may want to experiment with different types to see which best suit your style.
Drawstring Bonnie Bucket Bag (made by Monica Ann Bernstine from Castine Handcrafted), showing the eyelets used for the drawstring feature
Rivets are one of our favourite types of bag hardware, and have many uses. Use rivets to reinforce straps, handles, or pockets. If your materials are a bit thick and you're struggling to stitch through them - for the end of an adjustable strap, say - then add a rivet. And you can also use rivets to decorate your purse or bag.
If you've never used rivets when sewing a purse, start with the video below from Mrs H. Mrs H gives a great overview of the types and sizes available, as well as demonstrating how to fit rivets using a hammer and anvil, and how to fit rivets using a rivet press.
Lola Domed Handbag (made by Lynne Baldwin from Lynne's Selections) in blue Harris tweed. Pre-made handles are riveted to the bag
There's lots we've not mentioned in this post, such as strap ends, pre-made handles, purse frames, and even zippers - which we'll write about another time.
For now, if you'd like to know more about different types of bag hardware, we'd advise visiting our friends who can give you lots of tips and advice on using and installing different types of hardware. Many have videos too!
Where to find bag hardware
Below you'll find links to the bagmaking supplies stores that are either currently used by our team or have been highly recommended to us by our friends and followers.
If you're on a budget, you can also sometimes reclaim reasonable quality bag hardware from thrift store purses - so please do check your local thrift store too!