Tuesday 20 September 2011

New Skills Festival - Bag Making with Emma

Today the lovely Emma other wise known as Bagladee is going to answer some bag making questions for us. I think Emma and I connected through Sarah at paper-and-string and have become good bloggy friends.

Hi Emma, I was hoping you would share some tips and tricks for bag making, so to start with what kind of fabric is best for bag making?

There is a huge choice of fabrics when it comes to bag making and you can pretty much use just about anything. Upholstery fabric and heavy weight cottons are ideal for bigger bags (weekend or travel bags) or bags that you want to hold a certain amount of weight. Linens and quilting cottons are great for general bag making, but you can also use anything from satins and silks to oilcloth. Quilting cottons are extremely popular for bag making due to their versatility and the wide range of yummy designs that are available.

What is interfacing and what do I need it for?

Interfacing has many uses, it is a material that can used to strengthen fabrics, make collars and cuffs more rigid and for lighter weight fabrics it can be used to give them more substance. In the case of bag making it can be used to give support or add 'puffiness' and more importantly increase the life of  your creation especially if its something that will get a lot of wear. I personally couldn't live without interfacing, its what gives my bags the body to stand up on their own, even when I'm using quilting weight cottons. 

For some of the bags I make I like to use both fusible and sew in together, this is especially effective if you are using box corners. The fusible gives the strength and support to your fabric and the sew in gives a lovely fuller shape to the overall look to your bag. Again I would say this is down to personal preference.

photo credit: Sussies and such

I went to the store to get some interfacing but there are all different kinds, what is the difference between them, what should I buy?

There are different types of interfacing and it comes in fusible and sew in form. Fusible is ironed to the 'wrong' side of the fabric and sew in is sewn in between two layers of fabric eg. the main bag body and the lining. It is available in both black and white for light or dark coloured fabrics and in different weights. Now don't feel intimidated when you go into a haberdashery shop and you're faced with a wall full of different types and weights. You can use either or both when creating but there are a few rules that if you follow you shouldn't really go wrong. Most experts will advise you that your fusible interfacing should always be lighter than your fabric to prevent 'creasing' however I would always suggest that you try out different weights to see if it gives the desired effect. Light weight interfacing can be used with most, light weight cottons, organza, silks, light weight satins etc. Medium/standard weight can be used with heavier satins and silks, fine linens and quilting cottons. Heavy/firm interfacing can be used on upholstery weight fabrics, heavier linens and denims.

So what is stabilizer then?

Stabilizer is interfacing its just a term used in the US. 

Now, what about thread, what kind of thread do you recommend?

reel cmyk
Photo Credit: 74 Lime Lane

OK now threads, you have cotton, synthetic (polyester/nylon) and combination (cotton & polyester mix). Cottons are the most common types of thread used and are probably the best for sewing with machines. They are less durable than synthetic thread but give a nice top stitching finish. They can be used on a wide variety of fabrics.

Synthetics, which are typically polyester or nylon were developed specifically for synthetic fabrics and can withstand a considerable amount of wear. I personally prefer combination threads, which are a cotton and polyester mix, they give the look and feel of cotton thread with the added strength of the polyester. Occasionally I use Gutterman cottons if I am wanting a nice finish top stitching, which is ideal for quilting.

How about needles, are some better for bag making than others?

Sewing Machine Needles 2
photo credit: the justified sinner

There are three types of sewing machine needles in regards to the shape of the point. Regular, ball point and chisel. Regular point needles are mainly used for parting threads of woven materials and have the finest point. Ball point needles are used for knits which wont snag or snap the fibers and chisel point needles are generally used for leather as they are capable of punching a hole as they go. 

Wondering what the numbers on the packets of your needles mean?
The smaller the number the thinner the shaft of the needle. If you are sewing through lighter weight fabrics like sheer fabrics or light cottons you would need to use a thin needle, if you were to use a thicker needle it would leave holes in your fabric. If you were to sew heavier weight fabrics such as upholstery weight with a thin needle it would bend or break. However you can use a thicker needle on lighter fabrics if you are using a thicker thread for top stitching. I would advise testing your needle/thread combination out on a scrap of your intended fabric to make sure it is the right combination for your fabric.

When a bag is finished it looks all wrinkly how can I get it looking nice and shop like?

All bags once turned in the right way will always need a good press with an iron. Make sure that your iron is on a medium setting and the steam is off, this will ensure that any fusible interfacing you have used doesn't lift from your fabric.

Do you have any other tips or tricks to share?

If you are unsure about interfacing, thread or needles always test them out on a scrap piece of fabric.

It's important that when using fusible interfacing you press onto the fabric rather than iron, use a press down motion rather than moving the iron around. This will stop the interfacing stretching and distorting your fabric.

If when stitching your machine misses a stitch it can sometimes be your needle, to eliminate any machine problems replace your needle with a new one.

Thank you Emma, I hope that has cleared up some of your bag making questions, as you know, one can never have enough bags (my husband doesn't agree, but he is a man, what do they know?)

Emma sells her beautiful handmade limited edition bags through her website and Etsy Shop and you can read what she is up to on her blog.

*all photos are Emma's of Bagladee unless otherwise stated.

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