How to make a bag out of fabric
These days, the glossier kind of women's magazines are full of designer handbags that cost an arm and a leg - and I don't just mean nudging three figures, but a price tag the size of some people's monthly salary. While many of these bags look beautiful and will last for years, for me personally it's hard to justify spending that sort of money. In fact, such is the economic climate at the moment, that many of us are having to think very carefully before spending any money on clothes and bags.
If you're like me you'd almost rather go without a bag than buy something cheap and nasty. But what to do if you can't afford a good quality handbag or purse? If you've got some basic sewing skills and a bit of imagination, a good solution is to make your own! This hub will hopefully provide you with a few suggestions based on the bags I myself have made at home. There won't be too many detailed instructions, but it will point you in the right direction and maybe spark more ideas.
How to make a messenger bag
My favourite type of bag is the messenger bag - it has a long strap, so all you have to do is sling it across your body and do up the zip - no need to worry about it slipping off your shoulder every 30 seconds, and considerably less risk of it being grabbed by some random bag snatcher. The bag in the pic is one I made myself from a piece of woollen tapestry. Before you ask, I didn't embroider the tapestry myself - I bought it for 50p at my local church jumble sale! The backing and strap are made from green corduroy bought in a charity shop, and the lining is nylon jersey. (Get used to trawling boot fairs, charity/thrift shops and jumble/rummage sales, because they will be a far cheaper source of material than anywhere else! I also make a habit of buying things like zips and thread in charity shops. Alternatively, you can salvage zips from old cushion covers and clothing.)
On this bag - as with several of my others - I used pieces of soft leather for the corners and the edge, to stop eventual wear and fraying. Simply cut out four right-angled triangular pieces of leather (with sides about 6 or 7 cm long) and sew them onto the corners of your material, before sewing the material together. I would also recommend using quite thick corduroy for the backing/strap (it doesn't have to be corduroy though - canvas, denim or velvet would also be fine). The strap is made from a double thickness of corduroy, sewn together.
While we're on the subject of denim, if you've ever wondered what to do with those old worn-out jeans, why not make them into a bag? The knitting bag in the picture is made from pieces of denim from several pairs of jeans; I've alternated dark and light colours so that the pattern stands out more. If you're doing a chevron patchwork of this kind I would strongly recommend making paper pattern pieces first - get some newspaper and fold it in half so that the fold corresponds to the central vertical "axis" of the bag. Then draw half of the outline of your bag, and cut it out. Unfold it and check the shape - if necessary, fold and cut again. Once you're happy with the overall shape, fold the pattern back in half and cut the paper into chevron pieces. Fix the bits of material onto each piece with pins, and cut them out, leaving about 1.5 cm (half an inch) to fold over. If you've ever done patchwork quilting before, it's exactly the same idea as that. You will then need to sew the bits together by hand. Alternatively you can bypass the folding stage and try machining the bits together.
As with the messenger bag, I used nylon jersey for the lining - although an acetate lining would have been just as good - and D-shaped plastic handles. You can buy handles from your local craft store, or from eBay or Amazon. I also made another knitting bag from the sleeves of a vintage Welsh wool coat. This time I used leather patches at the corners. This particular bag is my favourite and has received several compliments!
© Empress Felicity March 2010
Available on Amazon.com
More by this Author
A description of the two main types of ambiguity and how to avoid them in spoken and written English
A reassessment of kitsch plastic furniture and tableware from the 1970s - it actually wasn't that bad at all
A quick and simple recipe for making chicken curry, using Patak's mid curry paste