Get Started: How to Sew a Bag (Start Simple)
Ever wonder how to make a bag – hand bag, tote, or even a back pack? Sewing bags is a great place for a beginner sewist to start. It doesn’t require the fitting and pattern alterations of clothing and there is a huge variety of patterns available. Plus, bags are fun to sew and useful! I love creating a bag that is unique and beautiful – and a fraction of the cost of a designer bag.
This post keeps it simple and provides an intro to how to approach a bag-making project. We’ll keep the detailed tutorials in a future post.
Planning Your First Bag Sewing Project
When planning your very first bag making project, gathering inspiration is a good first step. You can find inspiration in a lot of different places – online and in your day-to-day life. Search online clothing and accessory shops for bag styles you like. Save different bag patterns you love. Sketch down ideas based on bags you’ve seen (and loved) in real life.
Once you’ve gathered up some good inspiration, you should have a sense of the styles you’re drawn to. This means it’s time to choose a pattern for your first bag making project!
5 Beginner Patterns
For your very first bag, it’s a good idea to start with a simple pattern that doesn’t require a lot of hardware or advanced techniques. However, make sure to choose a style that you actually love. It’s no fun to sew something you don’t like just because it’s “beginner-friendly.”
Here are 5 awesome bag patterns to get you started in your search for the perfect beginner bag making project.
- Zip It Up! Zipper Organizer from By Annie
- Back to Basics Tote from Sallie Tomato
- Stowe Bag from Grainline Studio
- Making Backpack from Noodlehead
- Emblem Duffle Bag from Sew Sweetness
What Do You Need to Get Started with Bag Making?
Many of the techniques and tools involved in sewing bags are the same as those used in other types of sewing. However, there are some tools and supplies you’ll need specifically for bag making.
As you probably know, you’ll need a sewing machine to sew bags. But you may be wondering if your sewing machine needs any special capabilities. Really, the answer is no – as long as your sewing machine can sew a straight stitch, it can be used for sewing bags.
However, there are a few nice to have features for a good bag-making sewing machine. For one, a machine with a powerful motor is your best bet for sewing through thick layers of fabric. A free arm is another great feature that is very useful for bag making. In addition, if you plan to sew large bags, a machine with lots of throat space is a major asset.
For most bag making projects, standard all-purpose polyester thread will work just fine. However, in some heavy-duty bag sewing projects, you may need to choose a sturdier thread, such as Gütermann TERA 40.
You’ll likely use a range of different types and sizes of needles for sewing bags. Having universal needles, leather needles, and denim needles on hand in a few different sizes is very useful.
When sewing bags, you’ll be using a variety of materials, from cotton, to leather, to vinyl. Sewing pins are great when working with most fabrics. However, in some materials, such as leather and vinyl, pins will leave permanent holes. This means you’ll want to have both sewing pins and clips available to you.
For cutting, you’ll need a good, sharp pair of tailor’s shears as well as thread snips. A rotary cutter and mat will make cutting easier and faster, but you can get by without them.
Many bags require you to apply hardware such as snaps or eyelets. These need to be set into the fabric using a setting tool specific to that piece of hardware. You will also need a hammer and an awl to use with the setting tool.
Choosing Fabrics for Sewing Bags
One of the best things about sewing bags is that there are so many different styles and materials you can use. The most important consideration when choosing fabric is the strength of the material and the intended use of the bag.
Make sure to choose a very sturdy fabric such as heavy canvas, cork, or leather for bags that will receive a lot of wear and tear. This includes duffle bags, luggage, and backpacks. For lighter-use bags, such as tote bags and purses, select a good medium-weight fabric. Light-weight fabric is almost never durable enough to use when sewing bags.
Interfacing for Bag Making
Interfacing is an absolutely essential material in bag making. It provides your handmade bags with the structure, strength, and padding they need to look professional and last over time.
A medium-weight woven interfacing, such as Pellon SF101, is a great choice as an all-purpose interfacing for bag making. You will also want to have a good heavy-weight interfacing option, such as Pellon Decovil 526, in your stash for bag making.
For some bags, you may need to use fusible fleece or flex foam to add both structure and thickness.
Where to Buy Bag Making Supplies
There are a lot of wonderful sources for quality bag making supplies and hardware. Here are a few of our favorites.