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This is part four of a bag making series from Christine Down. Christine loves making bags and purses so much so that she used to run an on-line shop selling everything you need to make to make your own bags.  She has since retired. 


Bag Making Techniques

Bag making techniques for beginners

If you missed the previous parts of this series find them here:

Tools and equipment used for bag making

Fabric, interfacing and patterns

Handles, frames and closures


So now you’ve got your fabric, interfacing and fittings and you’re raring to go.  This part of the guide will walk you through some of the common techniques used in bag making and will get you eager to complete your own bag.  I’ll be talking about width and depth in this part.  The width of a bag is the size side to side, and the depth of a bag is the size front to back.  Click on the words in capitals to view tutorials for the different techniques.

How to make the bottom of your bag

In order for a bag to be useful it has to be shape that will accommodate your things.  This can be achieved by squaring the ends, gathering, pleating, darts and a gusset and so on.  Square ends are probably best on a rectangular boxy bag and there are few ways to do this.  We are going to look at two types. 

Bag Bottom Shaping





Pleating and gathering will also add space to the bag body.


Using pleats and gathers in bag making


There are a number of really good bag closures from magnetic snaps to zips.  Here are some of ways you can keep your bag closed.







One of the things I love about making my own bags is that I can have as many pockets as I like, as big as I like and where I like.  We are going to look at two types of pockets here, the slip pocket and a zipped pocket.  The zipped pocket can be used in the lining and also on the outside of a bag. 




Straps and handles

For some bags, webbing makes a great shoulder strap and can also be used for tabs to take the strap hardware.  Leather and faux leather handles can lift a bag, giving it a professional look.  Acrylic and wooden handles also “finish off” a bag.  There is quite a choice of these ready-made handles and you can also reuse any in a good condition from old bags and charity shop finds.  A £3.00 charity shop bag with good handles is cheaper than buying new leather handles. You can often find more bits on a bag to re-use too.  You can also make your own handles from fabric.  They’re easy and of course they will always match the bag when made out of the same fabric.



Handles and fittings for bag making

Assorted handles and metal fittings


Frame Bags

The final area I am going to look at is making the bag bodies for frame bags.  The frames I particularly like using have a channel in the frame for gluing the bag body into.  These come in sizes from very small purses to large handbags.  Other types of frames are “hex” frames – two straight pieces of metal that are sprung so they open wide and snap shut.  The bodies for these frames are made with a channel at the top (like an elastic casing) and the frame pieces are fed through that and clip together at both ends.

Bag frames

 Hex frames in a glasses case and a clutch

Gathered bodies onto frames that have a straight metal rod and integral handles are very easy bags to make and can be made with a boxed base.  The bag body has a channel at the top and the metal rod is fed through this.

How to sew a framed bag

 The tutorial below for the frame bag is for a small frame but the principle is the same for bigger bags.  There are plenty of patterns for specific frames and tutorials for drafting your own patterns.


Frame Bags


Draft your own bag patterns


Over the four parts of this beginner’s guide to bagmaking we have covered the basics of tools, equipment, fittings, fabric and techniques.  Of course guides like this can only be a start.  What you need to do now is make a bag, there is no substitute for experience.  The beauty of making your own bag is that if you make a mistake and cut it out wrong or forget to pocket in, you will be the only one who knows!  So what if it doesn’t look like the picture?  What you’ll have is a unique, one of a kind bag.  What you’ll have learned will take you forward to your next bag.  I hope you enjoy your bagmaking.


If you are now raring to get bag making why not browse our selection of free bag projects

Free bag patterns UK