Bag Construction Tips and Tricks

Here are some great tips from a short article on bag construction by Katrina Loving that originally appeared in Stitch Fall 2011: 

Always think about how
your bag will be used.


Organize your bag
by adding pockets!

Handbag, purse, clutch, tote, or carryall, you just never have enough of these useful accessories! Use the following tips the next time you feel inspired to stitch up a bag.

Consider the Stress Points

Think about how your bag will be used. Will you be toting heavy loads? Will you be storing the bag by hanging it from a hook? Make sure that your stitching is strong enough to withstand the wear and tear of everydayuse. Here are some techniques to strengthen your tote:

–Double stitch (stitch the first seam, then stitch again within the seam allowance, 1⁄16-1⁄8"  from the first seam line) and/or topstitch seams (catching the seam allowances in the stitching) to add strength. Try using a contrasting thread to make topstitching an eye-catching design element.

–To attach exposed straps or handles, topstitch a square on the strap/handle, then topstitch an X shape through the middle of the square.

–Bartack or use a short zigzag stitch at the top corners of patch pockets to reinforce the attachment.

Organize Your Essentials

Most of us have lots of little things we carry around that can easily become lost in the depths of a handbag. If you plan to use your bag to carry things such as a cell phone, pens, makeup, and other loose items, consider adding pockets, so you can easily find what you need. Here are some tips to make sure your pockets serve their purpose well:

–Topstitch lines from the top to the bottom of a pocket to quickly create divided slots for multiple items that are about the same length.

–Create a separate pocket just for your cell phone. Measure the length, width, and depth (thickness) of your cell phone and record the measurements. To ensure that your phone will fit into the pocket, you'll want to add about twice the depth measurement to the width. This is the spacing you'll need between the stitch lines attaching the pocket to the bag. Remember that you'll also need to fit the length of the phone between the bottom stitching on the pocket and the top of the pocket.

–In the side seam near the top edge of the bag, sew a length of sturdy cord or trim to create a small loop. Use a key chain clip to attach your house or car key.

For more ideas and techniques on sewing bags, along with a wealth of construction tips, check out the 24-Hour Digital Sale (30% off!) in the Sew Daily Shop.

Do you have any clever tips for constructing bags? Do tell?

Happy stitching!


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About Amber

Amber Eden is the editor of Stitch and She LOVES sewing and editing Stitch and She also loves dance, yoga, iced decaf triple espressos, and her two golden retrievers. She divides her time between Boston and New York.

15 thoughts on “Bag Construction Tips and Tricks

  1. My clever tip for constructing bags is adding a pull out strap with some sort of clip, to attach your keys to. This way you just reach for this strap (which is sewn on the inside lining) and you can find your keys quickly! No more digging around for them.

  2. Instead of using the bag fabric for the bottom of the bag, I use nylon packcloth–Cordura or a similar heavyweight, rugged fabric–the bottom of the bag holds up much better using the heavy fabric.

  3. Cut a duplicate of the bottom from a heavier fabric. Stitch only the long sides into the seam allowance. Cut a slightly smaller bottom of hardboard, (pegboard without the holes) or something else to give reinforcement. Turn the bag inside-out and slip that into the sleeve created on the bottom. This insert can then be removed when one needs to wash the bag.
    My experience came when I made a jeans bag with a size 52 pair of jeans!! I could carry all my substitute teaching needs and files!

  4. Like Bietris, I like something solid in the the base of my bag. I cut the shape out of old ice cream containers, or old plastic containers. This way it can be washed.
    Great ideas by everyone.

  5. I’ve made a number of shopping bags using an actual large brown paper bag as a template. I cut 2 of different fabrics (denim, upholstery fabric, etc.). I make two handles as long as I want, usually around 10″ and insert the raw ends between the layers of the bag and sew around the top a couple of times. They are very cool and as varied as the fabric you use. And they stand up very well with repeated use. I’ve gone one I made 5 years ago and it’s still going strong. Make great gifts too.

  6. Fantastic ideas! Thanks!
    Anyone got an idea of how to construct a bag for knitting projects? Ideally it would have a big opening and not too much deapth. The closure is a problem as a zipper would not be ideal, velcro is out of the question and a draw string would distort the bag, expecially not great when using straight knitting needles.

  7. To catarina3……You might snaps. They are fairly easy to do depending on the heaviness of the fabric & wouldn’t get your yarn all messed up. It would be closed yet not closed so you wouldn’t even have to undo the snaps in order to knit/crochet except to get the actual project out.
    I like the wooden knobs on the bottom idea. Fantastic!

  8. To Catrina3. Make an outside pocket of clear plastic for your pattern book. and a couple of long pencil like sleeve’s for you spare knitting needles. A pocket on the outside with a zipper to hold all those extra’s eg. sissors is another way of keeping things from tangling up in your wool. Happy Knitting. Nola.

  9. To Catrina3: I bought a big vintage knitting bag on a wood frame at a church rummage sale for $1. You know those old ones that the frame folds up to close the bag, then when you open the frame it holds the bag open and sturdy?
    Well, I took off the old fabric (the thread of the seams was so old it just came apart without a seam ripper) and separated each piece. Then I used the pieces as patterns for the new fabric I chose. The original lining had pockets on one side, but I added some to the other side too (and a big pocket for books and patterns behind the smaller ones). I added extra sturdy fabric inside the upper edge that attached to the top bar of the frame and inserted a couple magnetic snaps. It works great! I got the space and sturdiness I wanted without the ugly fabric! :)