Friday, 23 July 2010

Every bag begins with …

“The letter B, mummy!” chimes my ever-helpful 8-year old reading over my shoulder. No dear – thank you for your input, but no.

I was referring to fabric.

In one of my recent posts, a reader named Megan asked a very pertinent question:
“What type of fabric do you use? I am so clueless when it comes to what is what but I have a really nice sewing machine and am trying to learn. I made a few cute (and simple!) aprons and am about to attempt curtains, but don't know about the correct type of fabric. Do you ever discuss fabrics?”

Great idea, Megan! I thought today I’d share a few things about fabrics with you. When I started making bags and looking into the numerous tutorials in the vast blogosphere, I soon came to realise that almost any kind of fabric can be used to make bags – ok, maybe not the very thin super floppy stuff . But pretty much everything else.

I mostly use quilting cotton – oh how I LOVE quilting cotton! There are a gazillion prints and colours out there. I live near a quilting shop and it’s like walking into a candy store every time I go in there. I have to stop myself from drooling. The colours, the prints and patterns .... *sigh* Quilting cotton is all over the internet – you can find it on Ebay, Etsy and tons of online fabric stores. There is soooo much choice.

Here’s one of my bags made from quilting cotton.

And here is a purse made from quilting cotton.

You can also use linen and sturdier dressmaking fabrics like wool too. This next bag is a combination of decorator weight linen and quilting cotton.

I use decorator weight fabric a lot too – this is the heavier stuff for making curtains, cushion covers and upholstery with. You can get a pretty neat range of home decorator weight fabric these days. There are a few curtain shops in our neighbourhood and they sometimes put out baskets of remnants outside the shop at really marked down prices. This basket bag was made from curtain fabric.

As was this bag.

And this one too.

I’ve never made any bags with dupoin silk – but I have seen some fabulous clutch bags made from dupion silk.

I’ve also recycled tablecloths, bedsheets and old clothing into bags. And somewhere in my stash is a fabulous IKEA fabric shower curtain waiting to be turned into several bags!

If I’m making a bag, I normally prefer to line it so you have an outer shell and an inner layer too. And in between the two layers, there is yet another layer (or more). This kind of reminds me of a Saint Augustine quote which says:
“Do you wish to be great? Then begin by being. Do you desire to construct a vast and lofty fabric? Think first about the foundations of humility. The higher your structure is to be, the deeper must be its foundation.”

A bag’s shape is defined by its foundation layers – the interfacing and if you prefer, wadding / batting too. I think the more shaped a bag, the more you have to think about using interfacing to ensure that your finished bag holds it’s shape.

Lisa Lam of U-Handbag did an absolutely terrific series for newbie bagmakers on her blog.

Part one was all about sewing terminology

Part two was all about fabric and interfacing

She’s also done a guide to interfacings and stabilisers here

Part three is about needles.

Do check out Part 2 and the guide to interfacings if you're keen to read more about fabrics. I am sure you’ll find them as useful as I did. I thought Part 3 about needles was terrific too.

I hope this helps a little with your search for information on fabrics for bag-making, Megan. You will probably find, like most of us who sew, fabric is hugely addictive! I think half the fun of making a bag is picking the fabric for it.

How about you, my other readers? What fabrics do you use or have you used to make bags from? If you have time, do leave a comment about your fabric choices.

Have a great weekend friends.


  1. super cool bags, Ady! love them all!

  2. I like a more structured bag and therefore I often use cotton duck (a heavy weight cotton canvas) for many of my larger bags. I still use interfacing though and sometimes batting to give extra structure. Linings are almost always cotton. The heavier the fabric weight, the more bulky the seam allowances can be - so clipping is essential, changing to a sturdier needle when sewing through many layers - especially those bag straps - is useful and I have a little plastic gadget called a jean-a-ma-jig that helps with the seams too. Indispensable!

    There should be a health warning for all new sewers - fabric is totally addictive and my stash keeps growing. You need an understanding partner who doesn't want to know the exact purpose of every metre you buy!!!! I've got some delicious prints in my stash - heaven knows what I'll make with them, but I just couldn't leave them in the shop! Many are way too large for bags ... but they'll find a purpose at some point.

  3. Ady...thanks for your sweet comments on my blog. You make the prettiest bags!!! I just bought some heavier fabric, not sure what it's's a decorator fabric for sure. Can't wait to make a bag with it. Thanks for the inspiration!

  4. Love that little animé purse! You are such a clever cookie!

  5. Thank you for your kind comments, HLin, CountryMouse and Clair.

    Fiona - I like cotton duck too - it's a good sturdy fabric for bags. Thanks for the jean-a-ma-jig tip - I must go look for one.


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