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How to Make a Clutch Bag
You don't need any previous experience to make this clutch bag - just heaps of enthusiasm. Even a sewing machine is not essential, although it does speed things up enormously. My instructions are based on the assumption that you have a sewing machine, but you could handsew the seams if you choose.
If you have a machine, the only handstitching you will need is slipstitching and basting. All 3 of the clutch bags shown in the photo are made in the same way. For each of them you will need a rectangle of fabric 450mm x 250mm (18" x 10") in the main fabric, the backing fabric and wadding.
For the backing fabric, which forms the lining of the bag, I have used black as this is the most
common colour for a bag lining. As well as the rectangle, you will need a strip of black fabric
65mm (2.1/2") wide by about 1400mm (55") long for the binding.
For the main fabric I have used silk for the green and the pink bags, and cotton for the blue
patterned bag. It can be any fabric you like, to match an outfit or a pair of shoes or just because you like the fabric.
Many people feel that it is always best to prewash the fabric. I didn't do this for 2 reasons: first
because I wasn't sure about washing the silk and second because I made these to give as gifts and there is something special about the smell and crispness of brand new fabric.
You will need a decent, sharp pair of scissors for cutting the fabric. Dressmaking scissors have long blades which obviously make cutting quicker and neater. Keep your fabric scissors separate from any household scissors so that they are not blunted bybeing used on paper and such like. It is also useful to have a smaller pair like embroidery scissors or even nail scissors to cut off all the trailing bits of cotton at the beginning and end of each seam. There is less risk of cutting the fabric itself with a small pair and you can get closer in to the fabric to cut the cotton.
I wouldn't be without my rotary cutter, ruler and mat, but it is probably worth waiting until you are making a larger project before deciding whether to buy them. See article on rotary cutters under Articles on navigation bar.
Starting with a clean, straight edge to your fabric is important. When you buy fabric it generally comes folded in half lengthways. The edge may look straight but you'll be amazed at how often it is not.
If you have a rotary cutter and mat then line up your fabric with the lines on the mat and trim the edge. If you don't, then line up the fold of the fabric against something straight like the edge of the table and put a piece of paper at right angles to it along the cut edge of the fabric. Trim if necessary.
Try to set aside somewhere for sewing so that you don't keep losing the particular piece that you were working on. Often easier said than done in a busy household, but it does it make it easier if you can just pick up where you left off each time.
I have used black thread for all 3 of the bags as both the lining and the binding are black. It's always worth having a spare reel of whichever colour thread you are using. There is nothing more irritating than running out of thread just before you have finished an item - or just after the shops have shut!
The most important point of all: prepare to enjoy yourself. I love sewing and find great satisfaction in the things I make. I hope you will too.
MAKING THE BAG
Take the black rectangle of fabric and lay it flat on the table. If it has a right side, have that facing down to the table. My fabric was the same both sides (it's all to do with how the fabric is dyed) so it didn't make any difference.
Lay the wadding on top of the black fabric and the main fabric on top of that with right side facing up.
Line the edges up so that you have a neat sandwich of the 3 layers.
Smooth gently and pin the 3 layers together.
Quilting pins are ideal as they have a curve to hold the fabric without bunching it. If you don't have these,
ordinary pins will do. You just have to be more careful not to stab yourself.
Rather than using set patterns, I like to try and improvise with whatever is available.
For the 3 bags I have shown, one has a curved front flap, one has a triangular front flap and one
has a rectangular front flap. To make the curved front flap, I used a dinner plate to mark the curve.
If you have a fabric marking pen, it's always best to use it. In this particular case any marking will not show so you can use pen or pencil. Mark the top curve of the plate. In effect you are marking to cut off the top corners of the rectangle.
Now fold the rectangle in half lengthways. Although you have marked both corners to be cut off, I still feel it is safer to cut both corners at once. That way you know that the curve is definitely the same on each side.
Cut the curve along the line you have marked.
For the pink bag with the triangular flap the idea is very similar. Mark a straight line from a point about 100mm (4") down the side of the rectangle to the centre of the top edge. Fold the rectangle in half lengthways and cut the 2 top corners off as above.
For the blue bag, just leave the rectangle complete.
Now that we have the required shape, we need to baste the 3 layers together to hold them in place.
Long stitches all the way round the edges.
Then trim any edges where the 3 layers are not quite flush with each other.
The next step is to bind the edges of the bag.This is where the long strip of black fabric comes in.
Fold the strip in half along its length and press.
Lay the binding along the bottom of the rectangle - the opposite short side from the one we cut the corners off. Place the binding on the top fabric with the fold facing in to the middle and all the raw edges together.
Stitch 6mm from the edge and trim to the edges of the fabric.
Now flip the binding over and slipstitch to the lining (the black fabric). This tidies it up and hides the raw edges.
Next comes the fun part where your bag begins to take shape. Lay the fabric green side down. At a line about 125mm (5") from the bottom fold the fabric up. This bottom section will be the bag and the top section will be the front flap.
Fold the front flap down just to check that it comes down as far as you want it to.
Adjust if necessary by moving where you have folded to make the front flap bigger or smaller.
Baste the sides of the bag to hold them in place.You now have 2 lines of basting along the sides of the bag but that's okay because you can unpick any parts that show when you've finished binding.
The next step is to bind the rest of the bag. Turn the bag over from the photo above. Starting at either of the bottom corners, lay the black strip of binding around the top 3 edges of the bag, fold towards the middle, raw edges together.
Leave about 12mm (1/2") extra at each end so that you can finish the ends neatly.
Begin to sew from the left hand corner, as that way you will have the bulk of the bag to your left on the machine. The first part of the seam is quite bulky as you have 2 layers of bag and I find it better to use a 12mm seam so that you can be sure that all layers are caught in the stitching.
The angles at each top corner need a little extra care.When you reach a corner, stop sewing about 12mm (1/2") from the corner. Fold the binding up so that it is in line with the next edge of the bag.
Then fold it down along the side of the bag, pin in place and start sewing again from the edge. This gives the extra length of binding for a neat corner.
Just one last stage now. Flip the binding over and slipstitch to the lining. At the beginning and end of the binding - the 2 bottom corners - tuck the raw edge inside the binding before sewing it in place.
Originally I bought some magnetic buttons to fasten the bag but they felt too heavy for such a small bag. I am using mine without any fastening, but I would suggest 2 small Velcro circles if you want to have a fastening on your bag.
Well done. You have just completed a lovely designer clutch bag that would complement any outfit.
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