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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.