Tuesday, July 29, 2014

She's Crafty | Handbag Designer 101

Handbags are a major weakness of mine. If I see a unique design or a new decorative twist in construction, I tend to examine the bag until it's settled in my mind that I have to take it home. Over the years I've built quite a collection, but my most treasured piece is a simple patchwork cross-body hobo bag I made myself.

My first handmade handbag.
My love for bags started early in life when I would save what little cash collected on some flashy new purse. As my collection grew, I began implementing various rules regarding the purchase of a new bag. It either has to fill a specific function or it has to stand out in some way. This might entail a small cross-body bag to wear to a theme park or a handbag using hardware I adore or a captivating division of interior space. Then it has to pass the wear test. If it fails getting onto my shoulder and staying there, or feels awkward across my body or on my arm, then no matter how unique it looks I leave it at the store. On the other hand, when it comes to reusable shopping bags there are no rules and I will usually buy on sight.

Some of her details.
After realizing early on that I might have a handbag obsession I started to think about the possibility of making my own bags. At the time I made my first bag I was already dabbling in making alterations to clothes and learning how to sew so I had piles of fabric scraps and a few pairs of jeans lying around just waiting to be re-purposed. I set my heart on making a slouchy hobo bag since it was the trend of the moment. I started with a back pocket from a pair of jeans as the front focal point and the waistband from the jeans became the bottom and sides. The design flowed on from there and I remember having a blast exploring all my creative options. Years passed and though I had fun making the first one and I still have it, it remains the only handbag I've ever made.

At my first Renegade Craft Fair a few years back I met a woman who had just released a new line of handbags. We talked about how she got started, creating designs, textiles and more. It got me thinking about designing and making handbags again. Luckily, a new book had just appeared on the shelf at the library, Handbag Designer 101 by Emily Blumenthal. I checked it out and my knowledge of handbags and handbag construction exploded! I was so impressed and excited, I went out and bought the book. I collected more books, a few patterns, analyzed what I liked about various handbags and even drew up a few designs of my own. Yet, I still have not made an additional bag.

While I'm not sure what psychologically compels me to spend so much time NOT doing what I clearly enjoy doing, I think I'm over it and feeling like I have to create another handbag!

If you would like to learn more about handbag construction and how to sew your own designs, I highly recommend these two books, which we have at our library:

Frame style handbag from Handbag Designer 101.
Again, I mention Handbag Designer 101 by Emily Blumenthal. What an amazing book! Blumenthal goes over each basic style of handbag from clutch to backpack in detail. She includes measurements and layouts for basic pattern pieces and discusses details that make a bag a certain style. Each style type also includes inspiring pictures of examples done by designers to get your creative gears turning. Handbag Designer 101 even has a section of information on how to market and sell your designs. How I can own this book and not have made a ton of handbags by now boggles my mind!

Zippered Wristlet from Sew What! Bags.
After checking it out from the library, I also went out and bought, Sew What! Bags by Lexie Barnes. Sew What! is a great book to learn how to sew various bags, not just handbags--in fact, this book is more about making simple pattern-free bags and organizers like a tool tote and an artist's roll than strictly handbags. Functional and pretty, Barnes's projects are perfect for beginners and lend themselves well to exploring creative use of textiles and tailoring a basic idea to specific needs.

Both of these titles give you the crafty know-how to make whatever bag you just can't live without. Best of all, they encourage the reader to explore outside of the basic designs featured in the books to make the best bag, with the right amount of pockets, the right size compartments, with the perfect combination of fabrics and the most spectacular hardware EVER!

Need more books? Here's a handy list of what we have on our shelves for anyone interested in making a
Duct tape purse!
Even the The Duct Tape Book by Jolie Dobson has a few bag projects!

Malia & Kaye


  1. I love this! I have to confess, I didn't make the hobo bag that I carry nearly every day, but I love it, because it has character.

  2. Great information. Thanks for providing us such a useful information. Keep up the good work and continue providing us more quality information from time to time. Designer Handbags Collection