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This is part three of the bag making series from Christine Down. Christine sells instantly downloadable bag making patterns at 


Bag Making for Beginners - Hardware

Bag making frames, handles and closures


If you missed the previous posts they are here:

Fabric, interfacing and patterns for bag making

Bag making techniques and tutorials

There a few things that make a bag look professional, well-made and hand-crafted rather than home-made.  Of course straight sewing, and good finishing off count for a lot.  Who hasn’t seen a wonky, poorly executed bag and thought ‘I don’t want a bag like that’?  Attention to detail, good fabric, proper interfacing and methodical construction go a long way in the pursuit of a lovely bag.  But there are other things add to a project you’d be proud to carry. 

A lovely item can be spoiled by cheap fittings, or the wrong fittings for the job.  I once saw a bag made in gorgeous fabric at a craft fair.  It was well made but closed with a hand sewn press stud instead of a magnetic snap or other proper bag fitting.   Apart from appearance, a hand sewn press stud just isn’t strong enough for long term use. 

What fittings to use when sewing a bag

Always choose good quality appropriate fittings

If you are making a handbag or bigger bag consider leather or good quality faux leather handles.  Not only do they look good but they last longer than fabric handles.  They can be attached to the bag with leather tabs or tabs in the same fabric as the bag properly interfaced.

Using leather handles when making bags

For smaller bags, especially evening bags, chain handles are a good choice.  If chains with snap hooks are used, the handles can be removed and the bag used as a clutch.

What fastenings to use on small bags

  A chain handle with snap hooks can be removed

For messenger bags, across-the-body-bags, satchels and the like, cotton webbing is a good choice for the strap. You can use a slider and holder to make the strap adjustable and a lobster type snap hook to join the other end to your bag. Cotton webbing comes in a variety of widths and weights.  You need to choose a medium weight webbing as the thinner webbing is too light.  Webbing is also available in synthetic fabric which is usually stiffer than cotton webbing.


Cotton webbing used in bag making for making straps

 Cotton webbing with oval snap hooks and slider

All manner of purses and bags can be made using metal frames.  The frames can be external frames with a channel for the bag body to be glued into, external frames with holes to sew the bag body onto, internal frames that pull apart and snap shut (called hex frames) and frames that also have an integral metal handle, as well as some others. Don’t be put off using frames because you think they are too hard. With a good pattern/tutorial and some patience you can make a lovely project quickly and proficiently. Once you’ve done one you’ll wonder why you hesitated. 

Choose good quality frames without dents and scratches. Thermolam fleece is an ideal weight for frame bags and I only use Gutermann HT2 glue.  Some patterns say to “crimp” the frame instead of gluing.  Crimping involves going around the frame with a metal tool and press the channel together so the fabric is squeezed between the sides of the frame.  I have NEVER had a good result with crimping and I do not recommend it.  The frame can end up twisted and the crimping process generally leaves bumps and grooves even when you cover the frame and tool in fabric.  The only crimping I ever attempt is to crimp the very ends of the frame which stops the fabric pulling away.  I do this after gluing the entire bag body into the frame.


Bag frames from Sew Christine

How to choose a frame for your bag

Frames for bags

Hex frame bag

Some different frames in use; the one above is a hex frame








To close your bag you can choose from any number of good closure types. The simple magnetic snap can be applied to a flap, or to the actual front and back of the bag. Always reinforce behind both parts of the snap. A zipped top to a bag is good choice for security and much easier to insert than you’d think. Twist locks lend themselves to bags where a flap folds over the top of bag. For wallets and pouches Velcro does the job just fine, you can also use small flat magnetic snaps or metal or plastic snaps.  I love KAM snaps.  They come in loads of colours and are really easy to apply. 


Kam snaps used as bag closures

KAM snaps are great for purses


Using velcro as a closure on a wallet

  Velcro keeps wallets closed

Which bag fastening to use

Magnetic snaps are easy to apply

Zips in bag making - bag making for beginners

 Zips are secure and neat

Other hardware like D rings, O rings, snap hooks, bag feet and so on, are versatile fittings for jobs like joining handles to bags.  Look for good quality and functionality.


Beginner's guide to bag hardware

Variety of metal fittings

In the final part of this guide, mini tutorials will show you how to fit many of the fittings we’ve just reviewed and also look at some of the elements that go to make a professional looking bag.

If you missed the previous posts they are here:

Tools and equipment for bag making

Fabric, interfacing and patterns for bag making

Bag making techniques and tutorials