Have you fallen in love with the art of Bagmaking? No matter where you are in your Bagmaking journey, there are always new tricks waiting to be learned that will elevate your skills! Our team of Bag Designers wanted to share a few tips and tricks that we have learned over the years that helped grow not only our skill level, but confidence as well!
Our first tip may seem too obvious to be considered a "tip", however, we know from personal experience that it is worth pointing toward being sure you read through a pattern prior to beginning your project. In the first few pages you will find your seam allowances, recommended fabrics, and notes from the designer. If you are sewing a pattern where the seam allowances change, which happens often, it is helpful to know what your base seam allowance is, and this is often at the top of the tutorial that we sometimes overlook in our excitement to sew.
Now, whether you are working on one pattern at a time, or several, bagmaking includes many, many pieces. Those pieces include the pattern pieces themselves, interfacing & stabilizers, hardware, and more. Every person will find a system that works best for them, but we have found that keeping all pieces together in bins or gallon-sized bags works extremely well! Work through the pieces and hardware in your bin piece by piece until the project is complete! (I personally like to save those hardware and mesh bags the shops send to hold my smaller pieces!) TSM patterns feature cut labels (found within the tutorial) which help us tremendously with keeping pieces organized and ensuring we have what we need right from the start.
Another great way to both organize, and become familiar with fabric combos is to use a project planner sheet. TSM offers a free one in our Facebook group files, and I know this has been a wonderful tool for myself! Our designer, Alex Soelke, keeps her project planner sheets in a three-ring binder to reference later on. This is a wonderful way to reference back to what you found worked well, and maybe what you would change on a future project!
As we get into the sewing process, one of the key problems that can cause us to fumble is bulk. If you are someone early in your bagmaking journey, it is important to learn how to beware of the bulk! There are several factors that go into creating bulk, but becoming familiar with different fabric bases, interfacings and stabilizers, and what your machine can handle is invaluable. A great way to become familiar with different fabric combinations before sewing is to check our Tester Round-Ups! The Exterior fabric, Interior fabric, and hardware a tester used is listed alongside their tester-bag photos.
What are a couple easy ways to combat bulk? One is to keep interfacing and stabilizers out of our seam allowances. Our designer, Danielle Allen, draws the seam allowance lines directly onto the wrong side of her fabric before adhering her stabilizer to ensure no stabilizer will be caught once she begins sewing.
Using a walking-foot is another way to combat bulk. Our designer, Sierra Wohlers, noted that a walking-foot is invaluable when you have thick seams or what your machine considers a "sticky fabric". It is also helpful when approaching a thicker area to slow your machine down, and sometimes even hand-crank through a section. The extra time taken to hand-crank will be well worth the effort when finishing with a clean seam line!
Are you sewing a pattern with zippers and zipper windows? We've got a couple tips to get those windows as clean as possible!
Before edge coating your vinyl zipper window, quickly pass a lighter over the back (wrong side) of your vinyl to remove fuzz. This is a quick way to clean up those edges, then you can dive into painting!
Have you experienced adding a zipper to a window and at the end of sewing you notice the teeth at one end are not together? An easy fix is after you have added the zipper pull, simply press the teeth back together in front of the pull. Admittedly, this takes a little bit of practice, but once you get the hang of finger pressing the teeth together, it is a quick trick and leaves you with a perfect zipper in your window!
Have you ever had a zipper window where the stitching didn't catch at the corner, and you ended up with a curved topstitch instead of that straight point you had planned? As you approach the edge of your window, stop your needle. pivot your fabric as if going right into that next line, but before moving forward slowly hand-crank your machine to ensure the bobbin thread catches. Some have found that lifting the presser foot helps this, personally on my machine I leave the presser foot down, but still hand-crank and can see and feel that bobbin thread catch. Then continue to sew as normal until the next pivot point. (This technique is also helpful on design elements needing to be topstitched that have sharp pivot points)
If you like the look of zipper windows that do not have a backstitching line, we have an easy fix for that! Before you begin topstitching your zipper in place, ensure the tails of your thread are long and DO NOT backstitch as you begin. Sew around the window. Once you reach the end DO NOT backstitch again. Instead, leave the tail of the thread long at the ends. Use a thin hand sewing needle, and pull the threads through to the back. Tie off the threads with a double knot to secure. For extra security, you could use a drop of super glue on the double knot. Finish sewing your pocket as instructed.
Another trick we learned along the way was how to minimize our stitches showing through the seam lines once our bags had been turned right side out. A matching thread is extremely helpful in this, to camouflage what may show through, but also sewing a secondary line of stitches helps! This secondary line of stitching should be sewn just next to the seam as noted in the pattern, but on the outer edge (the edge closest to the raw edge, not the right side of your bag.) This secondary line of stitching takes on a bit of the stress from the bag, thus allowing the noted seam allowance to not be pulled against as much during the turning process and use of the bag.
RIvets are often found in bag patterns for function and decoration. Removing a rivet that doesn't set properly, or replacing a rivet that has popped out during use from not being set properly can feel defeating. A great way to reinforce a spot where a rivet will be placed is to use a piece of Decovil Heavy or Peltex as a washer, essentially. Cut a small square of scrap Decovil Heavy or Peltex and place it on the wrong side of where the rivet will be added. This will provide reinforcement to the area and help with successfully setting your rivet!
Do you love the look of a webbing strap? There are so many times where webbing can come in handy! We love being able to compliment a fabric with the perfect shade of webbing. Sometimes, though, hardware and webbing can vary a bit, and the webbing slips and slides through your slider, or you just don't love how the end sewed. That is why we love the Sage Strap Ends freebie so much! Adding a Sage Strap End to the bar of your slider hardware is not only a beautiful way to seal the end of your webbing, but also will provide a little extra friction to the webbing as you wear your bag! Thus, keeping your strap in place where you intended it to be!
Mesh pockets can be great for function and a sporty look in a bag! Sometimes sewing the fold over elastic to the upper edge can be a pain, though! Even with all the clips, laying the elastic and the mesh 'just right', sewing slowly, etc etc the elastic stretches and becomes distorted. There is a trick to getting it to regain its original shape, though! Once your elastic has been sewn, take the mesh pocket to your ironing board and simply hover the iron over the elastic and allow the steam to snap the elastic back into shape! It is important to test a piece prior to your sewn pocket. Elastic and mesh can be finicky with heat, and you do not want to melt either! But, that quick blast of steam from above can help your elastic immensely!
Another trick I have found in sewing elastic is to leave a tail of elastic jetting out of the back of the presser foot as you begin to sew the elastic to the mesh. This will help the elastic not get pushed into the plate of your machine. More than once I have had to pull balled elastic out of the tiny opening in my plate, and it is not a fun task! The tail of your elastic does not have to be long, just enough to set behind your presser foot so the machine glides easily across the length of the elastic needing to be sewn into place.
The final tip we have, is not hands on, instead it is to allow ourselves a little grace. Not one of us started our bagmaking journey perfect, and we are all in different places of that journey! Allow yourself that room to grow. Disappointments will come, but incredibly proud and satisfying moments will come as well. Allowing ourselves the room to grow is so important, because with grown comes the ability to flourish and create something truly unique. Truly beautiful. Truly and perfectly you.
We hope these tips and tricks are things that can help you! Or a resource that may help friends just starting out! We so look forward to seeing your creations. Please be sure to share your amazing TSM makes in our Facebook group!
Thank you for reading along with me!