Tips for a Professional Finish from Nicole Mallalieu + The Better Bag Maker

on May 23 | in Sewing + Quilting Tips | by | with 227 Comments

Nicole Mallalieu from You Sew, Girl! shares tips and tricks for a professional finish from her latest sewing book, The Better Bag Maker. Nicole’s new book focuses on bags but these tips apply to all types of sewing; her advice ranges from important info about cutting and seams, to a focus on machine features, topstitching tips and more.

The Better Bag Maker features one simple pattern with 10 skill-building projects to help you create a great variety of professional, stylish bags (totes, backpacks, handbags and more!).

Comment with your own favorite tips for a professional finish and you could win a copy of The Better Bag Maker!

Tips for a Professional Finish

People often comment on the fine finish in my sewing work. It’s something that I have striven to constantly improve upon over the last 25 years or so of working professionally within the fashion and crafts industries. This is partly because when something has my name attached to it, I don’t want it to have obvious flaws or scruffy edges. The other reason is that I’m a complete sewing geek, who gets a huge rush of excitement every time I discover a better way of doing something.

Throughout the instructions in my YOU SEW GIRL sewing patterns, my books and classes, I give lots of tips and tricks to teach how to achieve the level of finesse that elevates “home-made” to “hand-crafted.” Some sewing techniques take time and practice to perfect. With others, it can be a matter of a simple trick or gadget (an “ah-ha moment”) that revolutionizes the process or improves the finish. And then, there are rules of thumb… The basic underlying principles that can help everyone sew better, faster and with more confidence.

I’ve covered these principles (as well as the tips and tricks) in my new book, The Better Bag Maker. Although the book is all about bag-making, much of it can be applied to other sewing projects. Without giving too much of the book away, I’d like to share a few of the things that you can do to improve any sewing project.

1. Interfacing
Whether for a garment, hat, bag or other sewn project, use a quality interfacing, and make sure that it gives the structure that is required. If possible, find the interfacings that are recommended by the designer of any pattern that you are using. Otherwise, get to know your interfacings so that you are able to substitute.
Both my books You Sew, Girl! and The Better Bag Maker have chapters on interfacings, and include a run-down of the various types and a comparison of similar products. The Better Bag Maker focuses on bag-making interfacings and You Sew, Girl! is more general. The books are good resources, but really, the best advice I can give you is to test all the different interfacings you can find, and build up your own personal understanding of what they can do for you. Take the time to look through the range at your local store. Buy small samples of thing you don’t recognize and test them, test them, label them and use them as a resource for future interfacing decisions.

Avignon Traveler from The Better Bag Maker

2. Cutting
Don’t cut corners, so to speak, with cutting. It really is not a shortcut to be slap-dash with cutting. It’s far from it, in fact. Sloppy cutting changes the shape of the cut piece, which makes you lose sight of the required seam line. This makes it difficult to fit pieces together accurately as you sew, and that causes very “home-made” puckers in the seams as you try to fudge them together. If you cut accurately, you can keep an even seam allowance and the whole thing will come together without fuss. That saves a lot of unpicking or fudging time!

Take time to cut your paper pattern pieces out accurately, and then take care to cut the fabric as closely to the outer edge of the pattern piece as possible.

Block-fusing interfacing to the fabric before cutting is a more efficient, accurate way to cut any piece that requires interfacing. This means that you fuse a roughly-cut piece of interfacing (a bit bigger than the pattern pieces) to the uncut fabric length, and then cut out the individual pattern pieces. You can then rip off the excess interfacing from the fabric so that there is no fabric waste.

This may seem confusing at first, but since block-fusing means that you only have to cut carefully around the pattern piece once (not for each layer of fabric and interfacing), it saves cutting time. Also, all the shrinkage or distortion that can happen to fabric when it is pressed and fused happens before cutting, so once cut, the piece remains accurate and stable. This saves sewing (fudging and unpicking) time.

Toronto Convertible Tote + Backpack from The Better Bag Maker

3. Seams
Accurate seams matter. Really. If you fail to sew along the stitching line, you are changing the shape of the pattern piece and the project won’t fit together smoothly.
It should go without saying that it’s important to stick to the designed seam allowance for each particular project that you make, and keep an even distance from the edge of the fabric. It’s also important to keep the edges of fabric aligned with each other, so that the seam allowance is even on both pieces.

I’m often surprised by how little attention some people pay to sewing accurately (even those who are experienced and confident sewing machine users) because they think that it’s easy to fudge seams together and it’ll “all come out in the wash.” This might be true on large, unstructured garments, but on smaller or more structured things, there is nowhere to hide a pucker or stretch in the fabric and all the wonky bits are on display. Very unprofessional!

To keep an even seam allowance, use whatever means you can to help you. This might be a seam guide on the sewing machine, lining the edge of the presser foot up with the cut edge of fabric, or even drawing in the seam-line on the fabric before you stitch. Whatever method you use, make a point of taking care to sew where you’re supposed to sew. Also take care to keep the edges of the fabric aligned (which is easy if the pieces are cut accurately!).

The more that you practice taking care, the better your “eye” becomes for keeping an even seam allowance, and the less conscious concentration it takes to do it. It’s worth the effort.

Basic Bag with Alternative Straps from The Better Bag Maker

4. Get to Know Your Sewing Machine
Experiment with the presser feet and functions on your sewing machine. These days there are loads of bells and whistles on sewing machines that can take a lot of the hard work out of sewing.

Many people own machines with a knee-lift lever for the presser foot, which means that they don’t have to take their hands off their work when they need to lift the presser foot, and many people don’t use this feature! I’ve never understood that. If you can control the machine without taking your hands away from the fabric you have, well… more control. It also saves time. Why do you think all industrial sewing machines have knee or foot-controlled presser feet? If you have a knee lift on your machine, try getting used to using it, and then you’ll understand what I mean.

Edgestitching Foot

There are presser feet that help you to sew over thick lumps and bumps in fabric, feet that help you stitch an even row of topstitching or edgestitching or ditch-stitching, walking feet, roller feet and zipper feet of various design and many others. There is the ability to change needle position or foot pressure on some machines, and the ability to set needle-up or needle-down (or presser foot up or down) every time you stop. There are myriad gadgets and gizmos. I outline a few of them in my books, but it’s best to get to know them on your particular machine.

These and all other features and gadgets need to be explored and understood, so that when sewing isn’t going well on a particular part of a particular project, you know what to try that might make it better (“Perhaps if I try increasing the foot pressure… Or maybe use my ¼ inch foot…?”). You’ll know the right tool for the job, and an alternative in case that doesn’t work… And possibly even a “Plan C.” You’ll get the most out of your machine and produce better work.

6. Topstitching Tips
Topstitching can serve decorative, structural or constructional purposes. Whatever the purpose, it’s always visible, and getting it right can make the difference between professional and amateur finishing.

Topstitching with a Zipper Foot

As I mentioned earlier, there are presser feet to help keep an even stitch or an even distance from an edge, and it’s important that you get to know your own machine well enough to choose the right one for the project and fabric at hand (sometimes it’s a walking foot, other times a denim foot, edge-stitch foot, quarter-inch foot or the usual, normal presser foot). The rest of even topstitching is about practice, so just keep doing it until you get good at it.

Until you are absolutely sure that you can sew straight (and you will be able to, if you keep practicing), use a thread color that matches your fabric. Don’t go for contrast feature stitching if your stitching is going to be wonky; you’re only going to make a feature of the fact that you’re a beginner. Thread that blends in can hide a multitude of stitchy sins.

Topstitching + Structure

If you are using topstitching to hold one piece of fabric to another (for example, a patch pocket or folded bag strap), stitch as close as possible to the folded edge of the piece that you’re attaching. I’m talking 1-2mm (1/16 inch), which is pretty close! This will hold the edge flat and reduce the likelihood of any seam allowances fraying and poking out at a later date. To make the whole thing look very flat and sharp, stitch a second row, 6-10mm (1/4 to 3/8 inch) from the first, to trap the seam allowances within the topstitched area.

I could go on and on with tips large and small here, but I may get in trouble for giving away the content of my books. If you want a chance to win your own copy of my book The Better Bag Maker, you can leave a comment here with a little tip of your own… Perhaps a gadget, technique or an area of concentration and care that made a difference to the way that you sew. (The publisher will send the winner a softcover copy within the USA, digital elsewhere.)

Seoul Handbag from The Better Bag Maker

If you’re interested in following up with more of my tips and techniques for bag-making, you can find The Better Bag Maker wherever you find Stash Books sold, including lots of fabric and book stores, specialist craft-book sellers and all the usual online bookstores.

My sewing patterns are available through these stockists and my book You Sew, Girl! is available (in a somewhat limited fashion outside Australia) in stores around the world.


Nicole’s tour for The Better Bag Maker is just beginning! Check out these other stops for more:

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227 Responses to Tips for a Professional Finish from Nicole Mallalieu + The Better Bag Maker

  1. Trudie says:

    I L-O-V-E my walking foot. And Wonder clips! They make bag making so much easier when you have layers of fabric and interfacing and fleece! My new favorite thing to add to bags is Rivets. Especially on shoulder straps when it gets pretty thick. I think they look more professional and they are SO easy to put in. And I couldn’t live without my fabric glue stick. I’m still learning all the places I can and should use it. I never put in a zipper without it!

  2. sj kurtz says:

    This post and the comments are getting bookmarked on my desktop and my blog! My ‘wish I did and always forget’ hint is: match your hardware (zips AND rings and buckles), always testdrive the topstitching, and don’t be afraid to look in the hardware store (the screws and bolts aisle) for that something extra. Best welded rings live there! Also nylon washers, good grommets and bead chain! So glad I read this! Thanks!

  3. Joyce in NM says:

    Loved reading this post and thanks so much for the chance to win the book! I don’t think I have any tips that really would add to all the great ones here. But here goes! I do always make a bag pattern first with leftover fabric to check on how it will hang etc. Sometimes my trial run turns out to be a favorite bag! I always size my inside pockets to fit my own goodies. I make all my linings in light and bright fabric that helps me to find things in my bags. I always add a phone pocket on the outside of the bag even if the pattern did not have one. I also like to hang my keys on the outside of the bag or have a pocket for them. So I either add that extra pocket or make sure there is a loop or zipper pull that I can hook my keys onto. Thanks!

  4. Maryann says:

    Great tips! Also, Use the correct needle and thread for the project/fabric you are using. Will make a Huge difference!

  5. Ally says:

    If I am trimming the seam on a curved edge, I use pinking shears to notch the fabric before I turn it out. It helps to cut down on the bulk and helps everything lay flat when pressed from the outside.

  6. Even though this might seem obvious, I think your tip is a good reminder that you want to be confident in how you are using your favorite fabric. I used a new pattern with some favorite (and hard to find fabric) and wasn’t happy with how the pattern turned out. I was sad I used my favorite fabric on it!

  7. Great tip about using the main fabric at the top of your lining fabric. I haven’t thought about how easy it would be to do this!

  8. I agree with this one! It’s hard to keep things clean, but things go much better when you have space to spread out for some of the more complicated steps.

  9. Yes! I also use clips. It also prevents me from getting stuck with a pin :).

  10. Loved your blog post and the tips you gave. I am going to try ironing the interfacing on first and then cutting – I can see why that will give you more accurate pieces.

    If you make a lot of bags, I suggest you purchase a steam press. This makes ironing interfacing much easier. First, it goes a lot faster and second, you can avoid getting bubble/bumps/wrinkles in the fabric. I get a smooth finish everytime!

  11. +Jennie says:

    I am a somewhat beginner sewer. I had been cutting out my patterns huntched over on a card table. Until I came up with the idea to use risers under the legs. It has been a back saver. You can get them in different heights. I ordered mine. During back to school! Time you can find them in the stores.
    I also when I have to stop on a project I always mark on the directions where I left off. Makes it easy to pick back up where I left off.

  12. Mom C says:

    I appreciate your tips.I think accurate cutting and watching the seam allowances are critical to having an article turn out the way you expect it to. The other tip I have is don’t fight your machine. Stop, take a breath and figure out why it isn’t doing what you want it to do and then gently try again. It could save you an expensive repair and time in the shop. Thanks.

  13. catharine says:

    Iron, iron, iron. I slipped this step so often when I first started seeing years ago and it really is crucial. Beautifully pressed fabric and seams can make a project go from pretty good to amazing.

  14. Karen Z says:

    I learned to sew from my mother and she can make “a silk purse out of a sow’s ear”. She always emphasized pressing, pressing, pressing and taking your time – it is supposed to be fun.

    I love reading all the tips – especially using the glue sticks.

    Looks like a fabulous book.

  15. KT says:

    My tip is to always measure twice and then double check the pattern before cutting! I also get best results when I press everything well.

  16. darci says:

    Pay attention to fabric grain and print direction. Match prints patterns where.possible, center the print on the pattern piece. Increase stitch length for topstitching, press as you go. Stop when you are tired or frustrated and try again later.
    Your book sounds great, I love knowing how to do things the proper way.

  17. Suzan says:

    Note to self: Clear the decks of all other projects, put a clean cover on the ironing surface, check the iron base plate is clean, new blade in the rotary cutter, label the cut shapes for placement and direction….how many times have I wished I’d done all that first!

  18. Terri says:

    My favorite tips have already been mentioned, but here’s an extra vote for them-
    Try changing the needle first if there a problem.
    Always use the wonderful edgestitch foot for top stitching.
    Use a fabric ham inside a bag for pressing curved seams.
    Good hardware makes such a difference in a quality finish.

    Your book looks awesome- thanks for the chance to comment.

  19. Linda says:

    1. Use a ham to press those special seams.
    2. Basic hint. Start each project with a new needle
    3. listen to your sewing machine as you sew. It will tell you if it needs something Before it eats some of your project.

  20. Marion says:

    I purchased and downloaded this book this morning. The amount of well written information is fantastic. I love making bags and now have the tool to raise my bag making to the next level. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

  21. Kim Lambertz says:

    Can’t agree more with the tips to press all fabric especially before cutting out and use Best Press spray. Would love to win your book!

  22. Lynn says:

    Interfacing is key to making the bag not droop!!! I love to sew and quilt but my passion is bags and I have a collection of bag books but these details that you’ve included here will be why I will be looking for the book soon!!! Thanks for the details.

  23. Probably this is totally obvious (though I just realized it), but I drop pins on the floor a lot when I’m sewing. I just hold my magnetic pin holder above the dropped pin to pick it up instead of picking them all up by hand individually.

  24. Donna says:

    I like to make sturdy straps using headliner. It is 1/4″ foam with a fabric backing. To add extra padding to shoulder straps, I add might add extra headliner, but only in the area needed–say 8″ in the middle of the strap, the part the goes over your shoulder. It isn’t necessary to use it on the entire strap because you don’t want all that bulk when attaching the straps to the bag. I could not sew without a good iron and Best Press. I use the edge joining foot constantly for perfect top-stitching. Would love to win your interesting book!

  25. Donna says:

    Read the pattern through and take your time. The sounds great. Thanks for the chance to win!

  26. Ronni says:

    If you don’t have long stretches of time available for a project, remember you can break it down into short fifteen minute segments.
    Start by Choosing your materials and trims. If you are unsure of colors and textures…lay them out and “audition” the combinations. Follow your first instinct for combinations. It seldom changes.
    Once you have all your supplies on hand read and retread instructions, making notes as you read. Breakdown the project into attainable goals.
    Sew in simple steps…one at a time in case you need to stop sewing for a while. Don’t overwhelm yourself with over ambitious steps all at once.
    Remember KISS..keep it simple “stupid”…..so you won’t get bogged down. Be willing to start and stop the project as necessary. Work carefully and try to be neat. There are wonderful hints in this blog…cut and paste them into your own sewing hints book, catalogued so you can locate the best advice.
    Happy Sewing!

  27. Elida says:

    I take pressing to another level. When I have stitched the seam that will be the edge of something, purse top, handles, etc. I press the seam flat, either open or closed. I make sure it is as flat as possible, some of the other parts will get wrinkled, then I make fold at the seam line. Using this method you will get a perfect edge which you can then top stitch.

  28. Sandra says:

    The best advice I could give anyone is press as you sew. This ensures a professional look every time.

  29. Laura says:

    When cutting using patterns, I like to trace my patterns with a pen and then cut them out. I know this seems like it adds a crazy amount of time but it’s the only way I’ve found to make a really accurate cut (rather than pinning the pattern and cutting alongside it). That being said, especially with bags, I do my best to use my rotary cutter as much as possible which makes it so much easier to cut accurately! Looks like a great book!

  30. Genevieve says:

    Just like in carpentry, measure twice and cut once. Also, have your iron ready with a damp press cloth. Stop working when you get tired or frustrated.

  31. Jan says:

    Great tips! Press, press, press. I always use my edge stitch foot and top stitch foot.

  32. K says:

    My personal tip is to iron, iron, iron. Every step of the way. Before and after you cut your fabric, after you sew first pieces together and in the end when the bag is finished. There’s a huge difference between after you iron. Iron, iron and iron some more.

  33. Sherry Poole says:

    I love all the tips but the one that I use mostly is trying to add something different to my bags… I may add an eyelet or a brad but instead of adding it last – sometimes it is — way over there — and my tools won’t reach them… I sew them before hand and if needed when sewing a seam… I use a zipper foot so that I can sew closer to the little “something” … I make a lot of my own patterns but when I do use a pattern I “always” read and even re-read the whole pattern until I understand…

  34. Tania says:

    NEVER EVER EVER attempt to sew when you are tired (that’s just asking for a date with the unpicker) & always read the pattern fully before starting. You may not understand it at the time, but as you progress through the steps they will be easier to understand.

  35. Citlalli says:

    My tip is to use bobby pins instead of regular sewing pins when trying to keep thick fabric and/or many layers of fabric together. It helps keep the fabric smooth when feeding it through the machine. It’s also great if you’re sewing with leather.

  36. Citlalli says:

    My tip is to use bobby pins instead of regular sewing pins when trying to keep many layers of fabric together. Bobby pins keep thick and or various layers of fabric together without them bunching up like they do with regular sewing pins.

  37. Stacia says:

    Press properly and I always press as I go for a crisp finish. I think it makes all the difference. Nothing says homemade more than poorly fused interfacing and wrinkles.

  38. Lynn says:

    Your bag making tips are so important for all sewing. I printed out a ruler for 1/4, 1/2……..inches on a piece of heavy card stock for pressing up a hem. It works well and is quite cheap. Just fold the hem up to the horizontal line on card stock and press.
    I have made a few bags, nothing fancy except the upcycled sweater that I embroidered and have lining with pockets cut that I haven’t yet finished. Your training is just what I need.
    Thanks for the opportunity to comment.

  39. You pretty much covered any tips I had. Mostly, I make sure to read through instructions all the way at least once before I begin and check to make sure I know what the seam allowance is supposed to be and mark when/if it changes in the pattern.

  40. Karen says:

    I have never made a bag, just quilts. I have a hard time finding bags that I like that suit my needs, so this book would be a huge asset to me! I also have 3 daughters and would love to make something else for them since they all have their own quilts.
    I learned a lot of great tips in the comments and will be trying to remember them for future use. I think that the only original tip that I can come up with is to have sufficient light. Even when you think you have enough light, turn on another task light and I think that your accuracy will improve!
    Thanks so much for the chance to win this great looking book! :)

  41. Stacey Robar says:

    Wow, ladies – great tips! i don’t have anything really new to share except my two favorite perhaps often over-looked tools in the sewing room. I would recommend that you keep a good, sharp seam ripper handy and another tool that I’ve found has become invaluable to me is the Turn-it-All for turning tubes. I LOVE that thing!! It is ingenious makes turning multiple sizes of tubes a cinch with minimal fuss.

  42. Gina S. says:

    I like using glue stick on my zipper instead of pins. The zipper stays nice and flat and comes out perfect every time.

  43. Sandi says:

    Read the whole pattern before beginning, and using the right interfacing for the job always help any project look better.

  44. Leafhopper says:

    I’ve been sewing for almost 50 years and still learn new things every day. That’s why I’m excited to take a look at Nikki’s new book, especially the parts about finishing details which make all the difference in a well-executed project. There are so many good tips here that I started taking notes! My tip? I use painter’s tape to define stitching lines in places where there are no other guides.

  45. Tammi says:

    My tip is basic- I use a stiletto or chopstick to feed tricky bits.. having once or twice found my finger and the machine needle in the same place- ow!

  46. CarolB says:

    I like to use glue-baste-it for “sticky” places. Thank you for the tips — I really want to change my slap-dash ways!

  47. Alli says:

    If you do end up with one piece of fabric larger than it ought to be, sew with the larger/stretchier piece on the bottom — even with a walking foot, you can put a little more pressure on the top fabric and let the bottom grippies ease in the excess. :)

  48. Tina C. says:

    Great tips!!! Interfacing was my tip but yours is so much better. I also think that ironing seams helps a lot. Thanks!!

  49. Bron says:

    Tidy as you go & keep your workspace clean. I don’t always manage this, but things are much smoother when I do.

  50. Nancy R says:

    All the tips are great. Don’t have any that haven’t been said. Practice, practice, practice is still important.

  51. Julie says:

    Great give away:)

  52. Tammie says:

    I really like the look of the Seoul bag and would enjoy a copy of your book. Thanks for sharing.

  53. Serena says:

    Try using the Clover Wonder Clips on very bulky seams. They’re so great.

  54. Sheri M says:

    The best tip I have put in use- every time you rethread your machine or change your needle, run a ‘test’ piece of fabric through for a few stitches. If any thing is ‘gummed up’ it won’t be your project!
    I love your patterns, Nicole!

  55. Megan says:

    I’ve been sewing for almost 50 years and am still learning. Lately, my favorite tip is to stay focused on whatever step I’m on. When I’m cutting, I cut…when I’m clipping curves, I clip curves. I get so much more satisfaction that way than when I think it’s all about getting to the end. And it would be such fun to have this book!

  56. martha says:

    As a beginning bag-maker, I was excited to find this blog and am looking forward to finding your book. I find it difficult to make my angled seams look well done, so my tip is to start with simple curved styles until you are more comfortable with turning corners and points. I recently tried a closure with a v-notch and it looked awful!

  57. Thanks for sharing these tips. Having sewn Nicole’s Shell Purse, I can vouch for how good her patterns are. My tip would be to use the correct needle for the job; eg, a jeans needle for sewing denim or thick fabric, a quilting needle for quilting.

  58. I have been sewing for 40 years and making bags for 8 years. You can always learn something new, no matter how long you have been sewing!

    I like the tip about experimenting with different interfacings- it is important to match the interfacing to the project to avoid wrinkles and lumpiness.

  59. Britney says:

    Take your time, clip and notch curves, and iron, iron, iron. Good prep work pays off.

  60. Vicki says:

    Thanks for all those tips. Your bags are amazing. I’m sure I don’t have any tips for better looking bags. So my tip is just have a go. Have a play and you never know what you can do. (Yes, I am talking to myself)

  61. Irene says:

    I always iron my fabric before cutting, and never iron it after cutting. Before cutting it takes out any pleats and wrinkles, but after cutting it changes the shape of the piece…

  62. Jill says:

    Thanks Nikki for motivating us to share our tips – they are all great.

    My tip is to invest in an adjustable zipper foot for your machine. It will make you so much more confident about inserting zippers. Also, use good quality fabric, thread and patterns (the You Sew Girl ones are fantastic).

  63. Lucy Pointycat says:

    The interface before cutting tip is brilliant! Thankyou!

    1) I use spray starch (the kind for ironing shirts with) on thin fabrics and knits to stabilise the edges before sewing seams. Makes it much easier to work with and washes out.

    2) I use Jeans needles for going through bulky fabric (bag corners)

    3) use masking tape to label your pieces – write on the tape then put it on the top edge on the wrong side of the fabric. Can also use it to mark grain line on the fabric, label fabrics in your stash (washed/ unwashed, what project they are for, material etc) and for marking out seam lines guides on the sewing machine.

    4) clip the corners before sewing and again before trimming the seams to avoid the risk of cutting through stitching.

    5) use steam a seam lite or ultra to temporarily position difficult pieces such as bag labels and zippers. It also strengthens the zipper seam.

    6) use a rotary cutter with a pinking blade for cutting out pieces with fray able edges (most cottons and other woven fabrics)

  64. Emma T says:

    It’s pretty basic but I find careful ironing at every stage of a project makes a big difference

  65. Brenna says:

    Love all your tips. My tip would be take your time.

  66. Kristen says:

    My tip is to read all the directions through and take your time.

  67. My tip is not to beat yourself up about the failures and goof-ups. Mistakes in craft (and life) are a great learning experience.

    :) Bea.

  68. Jake says:

    First, I like interlinings as opposed to interfacings. They add stability without the possibility of flaws. Second, I’ve found a HUGE difference in professional appearance by making the top few inches of the liner fabric match the main fabric. It’s amazing how many designers do not do this! Even if the pattern dies not account for this design detail, it is easy enough to rectify…simply sew a three inch strip if main fabric to your liner fabric before cutting the liner piece.
    Also, I can begin to tell you what a differece in style you will get if you build your main panels out of wool, repurposed from an old suit or blazer even! I made a simple clutch for a friend out of wool and I could not believe the difference between it and the other versions I had made out of home decor or quilting cottons!
    Also, for a pattern with lots if curves, I’ve found my open toe quilting foot works more accurately than a straight edged foot.

  69. Kylie says:

    The one thing that upsets me on hand made items is when the corners are round! I always make sure I trim the seam allowance and push those corners out as far as I can!

  70. Caroline says:

    Just go to one of Nicoles classes,you will have the best teacher & therefore the best result : )

  71. Yzo says:

    Stealing hardware from thrift store bags and top stitching with a longer stitch are some of my favourite tips. Slowing way down for curves, too. I love the tip someone gave about drawing the seamline on the curves so you don’t stray. I would live to read this book, if I don’t win, I’ll have to hunt it down!

  72. Kelly P says:

    I loved these tips!
    I always make sure I change my needle regularly. It can make a world of difference!

  73. Becki says:

    Love all your great tips. Especially the one about block fusing the interfacing to the fabric. Great idea. I like to put lots of pockets in my bags. HOWEVER, I have learned to put them down near the ‘base’ of the bag so that the sides don’t sag so much. Thanks for the tips and the opportunity.

  74. Sue says:

    I like to grade seams :)

  75. Angela says:

    Great tips. I’m a great believer in choosing fabrics wisely. High-quality fabric with an interesting color pallet goes a long way towards making a bag unique and beautiful.

  76. Susan K. says:

    I am so looking forward to this book! Some great tips here. I, too, love the edgestitching foor — it makes straight topstitching so much easier.

    I also like to customize the inside of the bags I make — cell phone pockets with Velcro flaps, key leashes, etc.

    Another thing I like to do, as a quilter, is use the bags as little samplers. They’re the perfect manageable size for trying different designs, whether it be inventive patchwork or appliqué.

  77. Nancy says:

    I have been away from sewing for 30 years and recently fell in love again with all the beautiful new fabrics. My problem has been knowing where to begin again…I think I found the door…..Thanks!

  78. auschick says:

    I’d say to make sure the straps are really strong by either using twill tape or really reinforcing them. My current bag is getting so torn up (diaper bag so used every day!).

  79. Nessie says:

    Loads of fabulous tips!
    I have a piece of stickytape parallel to the foot, as a seam allowance guide

  80. Amanda says:

    Binding clips make a great extra pair of hands; they’re not just for binding but will hold all sorts of bits and pieces together freeing your hands up.

  81. Christine says:

    My one tidbit of advice is to use the best quality fabrics and hardware that you can afford. A bag takes a lot of wear and tear.

  82. Kimberly says:

    I love all her tips. I also make sure I’m using the right needle. It takes so little time to switch out but a lot of people just use whatever is in their machine. The right needle can prevent skipped stitches, and just makes the whole process easier.

  83. Jody says:

    Your book looks lovely. I’d love to hear / read more about your tips and tricks. I love to use water soluble thread for turning back seam allowances neatly.

  84. What fantastic tips! Thank you so much. I always iron my seams so that everything is flat and pretty before the next step.

  85. Shula says:

    Love your work, Nic. x

  86. Christy H says:

    Iron fabric before cutting!

  87. Florence says:

    tips, especially regarding interfacing. I’ve found that using the right feet is crucial for me

  88. Sandy Ross says:

    My tip is just to take your time. Rushing to get something done is not the way to a quality finished project. I’m loving all the tips, would love to have the book since I’ve never made my own bag but can’t seem to find one with the size and pockets just how I’d like them.

  89. Dee says:

    One of best tips I got was to hold seam in a fold to feed thru to avoid uneven feeding. I’m one of those who hasn’t learned to use knee lift proficiently. Now on my “to do ” list

  90. Mary Ann says:

    I would say to always use more pins than you think you need. A little extra time pinning can save a lot of time later with the seam ripper!

  91. Pam says:

    My tip -Go to thrift store and purchase bags for the hardware re-use saves money and recycles!

    Pick me!

  92. Melissa Dessent says:

    When making straps I use heavy webbing and then cover them in my chosen fabric.

  93. sheila says:

    I cut out my pieces with a rotary blade on a quilting mat so that I can be sure to have perfectly straight edges. I’ll cut the rounded edges after. Also, I cut my interfacing/interlinings about 1/8″ smaller than the fabric to save trimming later.

  94. Krista says:

    I love the tip about ironing on fusible interfacing before cutting pieces. Does this make your seam allowances more bulky?

    I have two tips:

    1. Slow WAAAYY down over bulky areas such as seams where straps are placed. The slower pace results in more even stitching, sometimes I even take just one stitch at a time.
    2. If I have expensive or precious fabric, I make a test version with quilting fabric. It allows me to troubleshoot the pattern and find out where I might have difficulties. As a bonus, I usually have a gift or two lying around when I need one.

  95. Cindy says:

    For bags that I am making multiples of, I make a pattern out of a thin cardboard (think cereal box). It makes it very easy to accurately duplicate the pattern. Then I put them in a file folder for storage.

  96. Judy says:

    I use a wooden chopstick to “poke out” the corners after turning. Thanks for all the tips!

  97. jax says:

    My tip is actually read all the instructions before you get started. That way you have all the items needed and have a general of how all the pattern pieces come together.

  98. Nancy says:

    I use an awl to hold things precisely as I sew. With heavier fabrics it’s really helpful. I love your comments about care taken with cutting and stitching. Right on!

  99. Debbie D. says:

    When pinning seams, pin the far side so the unpinned goes under the needle first. Pause with needle down, foot up, and make sure everything is flat and ready to pass under the needle as desired! I can never find a purse I am totally happy with, this book is on top of my wish list!

  100. Marsha says:

    Love the tips and want to get this book. My tip is to perfect making and installing piping. This always adds a perfessional look, if its done well.

  101. Diana says:

    The best tip I have is to keep a sewing journal. It’s a great resource, and sew, mama, sew has recommended it before. Keep track of your projects, materials, alterations (most importantly) and changes you might want to make in the future. It’s such a great idea; I’ve had one for years.

  102. Janet Pess says:

    Pressing as you sew is important even in purses. Have a hammer handy for thick seams.

  103. Janet Pess says:

    Pressing as you sew is important even in purses. For thick seams be sure to have a hammer handy!

  104. Suzie Riggin says:

    I was recently introduced to a product called Soft and Stable by Annie and was able to purchase it at a local Tucson quilt shop. It is like no other stabilizer and makes wonderful bags and totes.

  105. Cheryl L says:

    To keep bag parts straight, especially when there are many close in size, I use those flower head straight pins with letters or numbers on them. Part “A” goes with interfacing piece “A” and batting piece “A”, all the “B”‘s together, etc. Works better for me than labels or post its, which my cats have a tendency to rearrange or munch!

  106. Dora says:

    Well, I read through everyone’s comments so far, and I have nothing new to offer. I would say however, that using clips instead of pins is one of my favorites, as well as adding little details, like top and edge stitching with a contrasting thread can really add to the design.

  107. Tracey says:

    I like to use a glue stick to help keep hard to sew bits of fabric together.

  108. Bree says:

    My biggest tip is to just take your time & try not to sew when overly tired/frustrated. It leads to more mistakes, & just isn’t worth your time if you have to redo it later anyways, or end up with sloppy work.

  109. rosa says:

    Thanks for the tips!!

  110. Mary Ehrhardt says:

    My tip is to use the best hardware you can find. The hardware can make the bag look cheap or designer. Sometimes you can find great bags with excellent hardware ( usually strap rings) from the thrift store that can be removed and re-used.
    Also, find the zippers that are especially made for bags, with the larger pull tabs.

  111. Katie Stevens says:

    Some great ideas and tips. I think when top stitching it’s better when you lengthen the stitch it looks more professional . I think I need to order the book!

  112. Katie Stevens says:

    Some great tips, have been sewing for 35 years and agree, taking time, practice and pressing definitely help. I find a longer stitch for top stitching always looks better too. Looks like a great book, think I need to order!

  113. Hillary says:

    Boy… all this food for thought. This will keep me busy this weekend!

  114. Sherrye says:

    This is going to seem like a “duh” but if I’m sewing a new pattern with fabric I absolutely love, I make a practice piece with fabric that I wonder what was a thinking when I bought this. That way I’m confident with my pretty fabric and not devastated if my first attempt is not what I imagined.
    Thanks for the giveaway!!

  115. Judy says:

    I have sewn for years and the best tip I can think of is whenever your thread keeps breaking change your needle. I can’t tell you how many times the needle eye is at fault rather than an adjustment on the machine

  116. RACHEL says:

    I’ve been making bags for two years now… and I’m still practising as I go along.

    1. Fabric type is also really important in bag making. It’s weight, thickness, weave and texture helps to design the ‘feel’ of the bag. I’ve used upholstery, canvas, cotton canvas and heavy linen to make bags. I may use the same cut and design, but the look and feel of the bag is never the same, when using different fabrics.

    2. Mix it up. I’ve learned to mix and match different materials together – leather, and canvas is a good combination. Mix it up for a different look.

    3. Even a seasoned seamstress needs her pins. Pins help to make sewing much more accurate!

    4. Details matter. Every stitch, snip, label and material counts to making your bag have a finished look :)

    That’s my two cents worth :)

  117. Sheri f says:

    My tip would be take your time! Don’t rush it, the end product is always better (and more satisfying) if you take your time.

  118. Linda says:

    I always size my cloth before cutting so adding interfacing would shorten a step for me. I have just started following your blog. Thank you for sharing some of your ideas! (Hugs)

  119. My favorite thing about creating a custom bag is to co-ordinate the fabric, with a matching zippered pouch, lots of pockets, sometimes a key lanyard, and always fantastic buttons. It is a constant learning curve to improve with each and every bag created.

  120. Justine Malinski says:

    Your tips are GREAT!! I have two tips:
    1)When I use fusible interfacing I fuse it to the bag lining only. If it gets fused unevenly to an exterior fabric (which is most of the time IMO) the finished product screams “amateur”.
    2)I love lots of pockets on the bag interior, so I cut pocket fabric (contrasting LIGHT color so you can see them when you open the bag) the width of the bag front and/or back lining pieces. Then I do all of the pocket insertion onto the lining and finish all of the pocket detailing BEFORE I sew the lining front and back together.

  121. cathy says:

    For any bag maker, I recommend ironing…. And a lot. Also use a ham or any other stuffed shape for ironing once the bag is starting to get it’s final shape. A flat ironing board will often out in as many creases as you are trying to take out!

  122. Suzanne says:

    I’m just learning to sew but I love making bags! I agree top stitching is key to a professional finish. And it does all start with the cutting. I’ve used a couple if things to help:

    1. When the fabric is thick I use binder clips instead of pins. They’re super easy to take off as you sew and hold the pieces together great

    2. When I have small pieces to sew – zipper tabs, adding on my tags., etc. – I use a washable glue stick instead of pins. This lets my place fabric exactly where I want it and glue comes off in the wash if you put a bit too much. I’ve found fabric moves a bit sometimes when you pin and the glue avoids that.

    3. When stitching curved edges I make sure I’m watching the distance from the needle to my guide edge not the front of the Presser foot. This makes sure the seam allowance stays consistent. Otherwise , I get larger seam allowances around the curve and it throws off the shape of the bag.

    Hope these tips help everyone-loved reading all the others.

    Thanks for the chance to win-book looks amazing!

  123. Sarah M says:

    I make a lot of wristlets, and making fabric tape for the zipper ends gives a much more finished look than if the zipper just runs down into the corners. Like Debra, I like to add extras, such as zipper pulls, coordinating key fobs, fussy cut interior pockets (it’s a cute little inside secret for the bag owner), matching coin or earbud pouch…the possibilities are endless. Also, don’t skip clipping corners or curves, so that edges and corners look as intended, whether that is slouchy or sharp.

  124. Jody Herbert says:

    Use a walking foot on your machine when sewing bulky fabrics. This was something I learned quite a few years ago now and haven’t looked back. It’s fantastic when making bags and also when quilting too.

  125. Julielorene says:

    Great tips. I have a little wooden tool, pointed at one end, rounded at the other, that I keep close by for turning & shaping corner. Makes all the difference, especially after I trim the corners before turning to reduce seam bulk.

  126. Yioula S says:

    Your tips are very interesting, useful and helpful. I will describe myself as a beginner fabric crafter and I have till now sewn mostly animal toys and dolls. Bags is something that I want to try next and yours look fantastic and tempting.

    I would love to win a copy of your book.

  127. Vivella says:

    Mini bulldog clips I love them as they leave no pin marks and don’t distort the fabric like pins do.

  128. Susan says:

    Clips work better than pins to keep thick layers of a bag together when sewing. I like to have lighter color linings so the inside of a bag is not just a dark hole. I also make pockets from a different fabric than the lining or just edge them in a different fabric so it’s easy to find the pocket when you look in the bag. Totes make great gifts.

  129. Pegcrescenzo says:

    I love sewing bags and the tips you have for so very helpful.Thank you.

  130. Heather Fox says:

    Hi,
    Thanks for all the tips. Just having a tips section is a brilliant idea because it answers so many problems we all encounter. Best investment is the right foot for the job – my walking foot solves many situations.

  131. meri says:

    All Nikki’s tips are great! For long I follow her tips in the blog but this book could be a treasure of tips and tricks on how to get a clean seam.

  132. Heather says:

    Thanks for the great bag tips and for the interesting book you have put together. Your bags all look beautifully made. I like to cut a piece of 2.5mm card, cover it and place it in the bottom of a bag that needs a stable base.

  133. Paula says:

    What fabulous bag making tips, thank you! When making bag straps or smaller swivel trigger clasp straps I use a bone folder to make the creases, it is quicker than ironing and works really well on fabric like denim. I also use a sewline glue pen or 505 spray for securely attaching zips before stitching elimating the need to use pins or basting. X

  134. Great tips! Have used Nicole’s patterns and they are really well written and easy to follow.
    I use a Jean-ma-Jig when I am sewing through lots of thick layers on a bag, it lifts the presser foot and keeps.it even, I cannot recommend it highly enough!

  135. Debbie says:

    Thanks for all the tips. I happen to love all the top stitching designs on hand bags.

  136. Samantha says:

    I keep track of what I have done so I can repeat the same bag for gifts.

  137. Linda says:

    I am a sewing instructor and also do custom projects. I believe there are 3 main components to a quality, handmade product: accurate cutting (with appropriate fabric and interfacing, accurate sewing, and accurate sewing. I also use a washable gluestick to temporarily hold trims and zippers in place for accurate top stitching. Your books sound wonderful and I would love to have one!

  138. Reena Kaplowitz says:

    I have made a lot of bags. Seems like I am reinventing the wheel with most patterns. I agree the proper interfacing is so important. But what I need help with is more with the handles and attachments. Thanks for the great tips…

  139. Laura says:

    Although I have made many different kinds of quilts, using different techniques, bags have eluded me. I’ve wanted to make a bag (to start with) but am a perfectionist and have never found clear, understandable instructions. Just the few I read in your tips have been clear and helpful. Thank you for the wonderful opportunity, but your book will definitely go to the top of my wish list! With five granddaughters, all teenagers or almost there, bags are very popular. I want very much to turn out a professional product that they (and I) can be proud of! Thanks again!

  140. Amber Howard says:

    Go slowly! I don’t always take my own advice. My top stitching always looks better when I do. For bags, my other advice is to splurge and use high quality fabrics. You usually need such a small amount and the difference is amazing.

  141. Jo says:

    Would love to win this book with all the tips in one spot-I have lots of Nicole’s bag patterns
    .
    My tip is detail, detail, detail. It is the special touch which individualises your bag. That may be a quirky zip pull like a beaded dangle, using recycled or salvaged materials, making the bag pop with a feature fabric or item, printing your own fabric.
    My current favourite bag is here, big and roomy: http://carlseapatch.wordpress.com/2013/08/16/crewel-work-finished/

  142. Christine says:

    My kind of sewer..Nicole. I’m such a perfectionist and pride myself in accurate sewing. I’ve sewn forever but really learned tiny accuracy when I was piecing quilts. And I LOVE my Pfaff that I’ve had for 25 years! so I really know my machine.

    Those tips were perfect and so true. The one that is really important (they all are!), but I’m sure most sewers don’t do, is the playing with interfacings. They are really inexpensive and it’s important to know how to do them correctly. You don’t want to learn on your project!

    When I started piecing quilts, I placed a thin piece of blue tape on the throat of my machine, for the quarter inch line.

    Another thing I do (which might be more important for the tiny pieces of quilts) is have my needle position about 1mm less than the actual seam allowance measurement…depending on the weight of the fabric.

    OH!! and a REAL GOOD IRON! that makes that job so enjoyable.

    If I don’t win this book, I am going to have to buy it. It will be a joy to read from a like-minded woman.

  143. Pamela says:

    Good quality thread and a new needle always make your stitching look better!

  144. Kere says:

    Oh, this looks like an awesome book! I love to sew bags!

    My favorite tip: top stitching….it makes a really nice finish on homemade items!!

  145. I’m so glad I stumbled upon this website. I love making bags out of tropical clothes that I find in thrift stores, consignment shops or EBay. I make handbags, totes and bags specifically made for yoga (i.e. long enough to hold a rolled up yoga mat with ties to hold it to the side)
    I’ve also made bags from fabric that’s supposed to be used for pillows or placemats. I have my own little labels that I bought off Etsy for my bags that I call Blackbearbags. (all one word, just as I’ve written it)
    Great website! I need the book! Thank you

  146. Ellen says:

    These are excellent! Thanks for the chance.

  147. Cindy Pilkington says:

    I like to use a couple layers of batting in my shoulder straps on bags and purses. It makes them so soft when on the shoulder!

  148. Qui says:

    I too have come to appreciate double sided tape for installing zippers and fusible webbing to baste pieces in place before stitching (such as patch pocket edges). Also clipping into corners and curves helps achieve crisp and smooth seams.

  149. Leah Corbin says:

    I love making bags, but I have only made a handful. I find it helpful to read and re-read the pattern and to think about where I’m sewing and how it’s going to lay when I’m done. Sometimes I’ll pin where I’m going to sew and fold the fabric over the pins to see what it will look like when I’m done and it’s all pretty and pressed. This has helped me a lot!

  150. Rebecca says:

    My tip is to take your time! It may seem obvious, but I know I need the reminder sometimes. And my work is always better when I am not trying to speed through it.

    This book looks amazing!

  151. Sharon says:

    Thank you so much for your article. Love your tip about interfacing before cutting. It stands to reason that establishing a good foundation ensures that the finished piece has the correct structure. My tip when sewing a corner that will be turned right side out to create a point, is to sew a couple of stitches diagonally across the point instead. When the item is turned out and pressed, the point is actually much sharper.

  152. Ann McNiven says:

    Slow down and enjoy the process.

  153. Amy says:

    This may be obvious, but it’s something I almost always forget to do: leave notes for yourself whenever you make a pattern the the first time. Clarify confusing instructions, note interfacing choice, or what alterations should be done next time. It will save time the next time around.

  154. Julie says:

    I love to make bags but am sometimes intimidated by more complicated construction ( read zippers) Your tips are great and will help me more confident and willing to try a more complicated pattern. Thanks!

  155. jenny says:

    I put tape on my machine parallel to the needle for keeping my sewing even.

  156. Jennifer says:

    Awesome tips! I recently learned to sew and have been focused mainly on bags. Your tips are very helpful! One of the things I learned recently is to change your needle with every project. I am finding this makes a big difference.

  157. Audrey says:

    1. Even with a machine that has auto tension setting, I find that adjustments must be made. Practice on scraps (once the pattern pieces have been cut) until stitches are even and seams lie flat with no puckers. If you see puckers, reduce needle or presser foot tension and try again.

    2. Slow down! Accuracy seems to be inversely proportional to speed.

    I can’t wait to see the book!

  158. Laurelle C says:

    Love your Tips. I have only made a couple of bags but loved the finished product . But I need practise as I am a bit of a perfectionist and want that professional looking finish! I think knowing how to perform all the steps properly would be a big key to achieving this so would really love your book :) My best tip because I am learning about bag making is, to go slow, especially when top stitching. When you rush you can really make a mess of things. Thanks for the chance to win :)

  159. Debby Saunders says:

    I have mad a few bags but would like to learn to make more complex bags. I think the right interfacing is important , also being precise in the finish work (types of clasps, rings, etc) makes the professional look.

  160. Cassandra says:

    This is a post I will definitely recommend!

    I believe that the time spent preparing to sew is as critical as time spent at the sewing machine. A couple tips which come to mind are:

    Prepare fabric appropriately prior to cutting out the pattern. Washable fabrics should be washed, dried, and pressed at the warmest settings the finished product will ever be exposed to. If the fabric cannot be washed, carefully and slowly press the fabric using a lot of steam. Preparing the fabric will allow any shrinking to occur before it goes into a project. Also read the directions for your interfacings, since you will occasionally come across some which require preparation of some type.

    Clipping and grading seam allowances is worth the extra time. This helps keep edges smooth, particularly when dealing with corners and curves. Under-stitching is also your friend, particularly in situations where you don’t want to have visible top stitching.

    If I need to mark a different seam allowance on my sewing machine, I cut off the sticky part of a post-it note and use it to temporarily mark the distance from the needle. It stays put for the duration on the project, but comes up without any residue when I’m finished.

    Cassandra

  161. cynthia shanley says:

    great tips, thanks so much! Take the extra minute and change to the correct size sharp needle on the machine, it makes a world of difference,

  162. Fran says:

    You have covered so many great tips, I would love to read the rest! I think my best tip is that using the right sewing machine foot for a specific job makes sewing so much easier.

  163. Thanks for sharing some great tips. I find that my walking foot is very helpful when stitching several layers of fabric and interfacing together.

  164. Carol says:

    This sounds like a great book. My tip is to use your iron. Pressing as you go makes a huge difference in the final product

  165. Martha Sturgill says:

    I have just started making my own purses and I find taking the time to attach my walking foot when sewing several layers gives me a much nicer seam line. I like using fusible fleece too. Great tip on fusing before cutting

  166. Pam says:

    Use good quality thread and a fresh needle (appropriate size) for each project. It can make all the difference especially in top stitching

  167. RedSetter says:

    I’m a novice so frankly I’m absorbing advice rather than able to give it.

    My favourite tools are the rotary cutter as I cannot scissor cut straight for love nor money and a little magnetic edge guide which I can put beside the sewing foot to keep me on track.

  168. Cat says:

    I use a Frixion pen for marking fabric, easy to use on cotton and just disappears when ironed.

  169. Anneliese says:

    Thanks a lot for the tips. I need to focus more on a neat and clean finish. The last steps are always the hardest as I start to rush to finish.

    I do not have any tips as I am still experimenting with interfacing, fabric weights and supplies. It is not always that easy to get the stuff in local shops and ordering online can be really tricky

  170. Michaeleen says:

    I love all the tips shared here. My tip is to use washi tape to mark the seam allowance on my sewing machine to keep it constant. I also use it to mark my grid ruler when I am cutting quilt squares. Less room for cutting errors.

  171. Maggie says:

    I love making tote bags and want to try more complicated patterns but am a little hesitant in case I make a mess of it! I think I’ve already made the decision to buy this book! I NEED this book!
    I’m’big’ on pressing your project as you go. It can be time consuming to be jumping up and down but it makes the construction and presentation so much better. Precise cutting is another one I’m strict on. As you said, how do you know where the seam allowance is if you don’t have neat cutting lines! Details matter!

  172. Cecilia says:

    Thank you for all of your tips! I’m in the process of sewing a complicated bag right now and I’m grateful for your advice. After many mistakes, my advice would be to follow the instructions that come with your interfacing closely and to practice on scraps if you’ve never used that type of interfacing.

  173. Sheri Andresen says:

    Great tips! interfacing is crucial, I would add start with a fresh sharp needle and don’t rush.

  174. Julia says:

    This book sounds really awesome! I’ve only ever sewn one bag–it was a tote bag that I made as a kid with a ridiculous mishmash of music and instrument-themed fabric without a pattern. It turned out WAY too big to be useful, and I think I used some pink striped Victoria’s Secret ribbon for the straps, which of course were super flimsy and fell apart in no time. It would be awesome to try my hand at bag-making again with a more reasonable approach and the right techniques.

    My favorite sewing tip (which isn’t really a tip, admittedly) is using a rotary cutter. It had honestly never crossed my mind to cut with one until my husband got me one for my birthday along with a self-healing mat. All of the pieces I’ve cut with it have been so much more accurate and even than before.

  175. Karen B says:

    This seems like a great book. I can’t wait to see the other tricks you’re keeping from us! My precision sewing could use quite a bit of work, but one thing I have tried (that’s worked well for me) is basting by hand before machine stitching, especially around strange shapes. Using patterns that avoid strange shapes in the first place might help, but I have yet to try that. :)

  176. Mary says:

    I love a handmade bag and like to use a new Denim or sharp needle to get through the bulk of the seams. I like to use a thicker top stitching thread to in a double row. My final tip is to clip carefully and press well things like straps and flaps. Then find lots of friends to give bags too cause I have enough!

  177. Marilyn says:

    Here are 2 of my tips:

    Press well as you sew. Pressing can make a big difference in the end product. It makes the bag look professional and neat.

    Use double sided tape to hold things that are difficult to pin like a zipper to fabric for sewing. The tape holds everything in place until you sew.

  178. Jen v says:

    Thanks for the tips! I like to sew all kinds of things but bags always get me the most excited. One can never have too many bags, right?! I reay need to get better about documenting my fabric & interfacing choices and outcomes. It is so crucial to have the right body to the bag.

  179. Danielle says:

    I really love to top stitch and edge stitch where I can. It definitely makes things looks more polished, and with the little doll clothes I make, it often helps create structure that would be difficult otherwise on that scale. That and disappearing ink for a stitching line! I’ve done a little dabbling in making my own bags, but the interfacing tips I could definitely use some pointers on!

  180. Suzie K. says:

    Kristin Link got me to start sewing with her bucket bag and zipper pouch and tote tutorials. Now I can’t stop! After I invested in a walking foot, it makes it a lot easier sew bags because the regular foot used to make the fabric not line up well and my bags looses it shapes after I keep trimming them so the edges match. I find your tips so helpful because I’ve run into all those problems!

  181. Terri in BC says:

    Thanks for the tip about the interfacing! I plan on trying it this weekend as I start a new camera bag. My tip is don’t be afraid of your seam ripper! It’s better to redo a seam now then have regrets later.

  182. Lucy says:

    Excellent tips, I am very much a beginner and quite slapdash, mostly because the only time I get to sew is after the kids are in bed and I’m already tired, and I want to get things finished so I can enjoy them! I am trying to take more time and care though. My main tip would have to be practice and you will naturally improve on many techniques :)

  183. Ann says:

    Great tips. Never thought about interfacing and then cutting but I am going to do that for sure. On bags I do think good hardware makes it look professional. Either ordering nice hardware or finding thrift store bags where the hardware looks nice and taking it from there works for me.

  184. Tammy says:

    My grandma taught me that whenever there was a curved edge or edge that was difficult to align with the presser foot, to draw the stitching line on the fabric. It really helps!

  185. Amanda says:

    I always mark my seams with chalk (although makes a dutsy mess) or dissapearing ink pen to help keep everything straight.

  186. SuziQ says:

    I love making all kinds of bags, purses, clutches! I always trim curved seams with my pinking sheers or my rotary cutter with a pinking blade.

  187. Karen says:

    Nice tips, I’ve learned a few things “the hard way”, but am fully on board with learning it “the easy way” too.

  188. Sherry S says:

    Lots of great tips here. My only tip is to take your time and enjoy the process. A great looking project is your reward. Looking forward to the book and fingers crossed that I win one.

  189. Lainie says:

    Two things that are an absolute must for me, whether making a bag or a garment, is to press everything really well all along the way and to use the shortest stitch possible for top stitching. Oh! And for garments, under stitching is often the better choice over top stitching.

  190. Jessica says:

    So helpful, and just what I need. I can’t wait to read!

  191. Margaret says:

    Great tips! I love making bags of all sorts. Spray starch and clips are some of my best friends for the job and I use washi tape to lay down my first quilting line, and usually work out from there. I have started adding a stiff bottom insert to some of my bags too- gives them a bit more shape. I’d love to win a copy of your book and learn how to make even more bags. Thanks for the chance to win!

  192. tania says:

    Definitely a book I want to add to my sewing library!
    One thing I’ve learned is that using my iron while I sew to press as I go along finishes a garment or bag to the point where it looks clean and professional. I love my iron, it gets used as much as my sewing machines.

  193. Vernita says:

    I like to slip in a few extra accessories when I make a bag for someone. Maybe a key fob, tissue holder, eyeglass case, coin purse, or even a wallet. And adding a surprise extra zipper pocket or a D ring tab to clip your keys on is just fun:)

  194. YC says:

    I agree with the feet — the edgestitching foot makes such a big difference for me, especially on straps. You can get really close without trying nearly so hard.

  195. Michelle Fuller says:

    I loved all the tips in this article. I’ve been going thru all my feet and trying to figure out their proper use.
    My tip is something I picked up from my Grandmother. She suggested to me when sewing small pieces to use an AWL to guide the fabric right up until it hits the foot. It has helped me tremendously while I am sewing doll clothes. The awl holds the fabric flat closer then what I can do with my fingers and keeps those tiny pieces in place without pins. Thanks!

  196. Malinda Lloyd says:

    The iron is your best friend! If you don’t iron your seams as you go, there is no way to make a sewn piece look finished, polished and professional.

  197. I love the block-fusing cutting tip! That was such an “aha” moment for me. I have no tips to share (at least for sewing bags), which is why I would want this book! :)

  198. Mel P says:

    I’m a “wing it and see what we get” sewist and that leads to lots of wonky results but I’m always thrilled with how simply top stitching something can pull it together and make it look finished.

  199. Margo says:

    I second the tips about using different presser feet. Using my stitch in the ditch foot and adjusting needle position, and using the 1/4″ foot can really help! I also like to use a slightly longer stitch for top-stitching purposes (3.0), I like the way it looks and I find it can also handle the bulk better of whatever I’m sewing over.

  200. Margy says:

    For this long weekend, I will try to make a bag with an inset zipper for the first time. A tip that I have is in terms of resources. The local craft does not sell a huge variety of purse supplies like d rings or rectangular rings. If they do, it’s always just one size and one color. I found many supplies on Etsy. Another tip for resources is to check out you tube. There are so many instructional videos out there. If there’s something you don’t know how to do, you will most likely find it on you tube. Would love to win the book as it would make a valuable resource as I learn to make more bags.

  201. Susan says:

    My tip is not just for bags! When you sew a lining to the top of a bag, for example, press the seam open before you turn inside out to top stitch. It makes the edge fold over nicely and the top stitching will look better. This works on any seam like this. It works!

  202. Melva says:

    I like using clips instead of pins. Taking your time,I always make mistakes when I’m rushing!

  203. Great tips, I would love to have this book as my bag making knowledge is slim but a tip I love is using the clover clips rather than pins for all those bulky layers.

  204. Tessa Burt says:

    I would love a book but I really don’t have tips to offer just to go slow when doing curves and corners. Also before you alter a pattern make sure you’ve read the whole pattern and knows what each step means. If you make alterations in the wrong place it could ruin the whole project.

  205. Gill says:

    Great tips – thanks!
    I would suggest choosing the right fabric for the pattern too – I’ve just finished a bag with fabric I loved but it really wasn’t suitable for the pattern!!

  206. diana says:

    I’ve ordered her book! Looking forward to good tips to making better bags!

  207. Becca says:

    Great tips! One thing I do to understand how to sew better is to look at the sewn bags and garments I already own… I try to compare them to ones I have made and try to understand what makes them look more polished. If I am throwing something away sometimes I deconstruct it just to try and understand how it was put together. Topstitching makes a big difference in looking more professional, and so does using interfacing. Thanks for the chance to win your book!

  208. Lynda H says:

    If you know the person you are making the bag for, pay attention to the items that they carry in their bags, for instance, if you are making a pocket for a mobile phone, what size pocket you should make depends on the phone. I always like to add an inverted box pleat on pockets to give them a bit of room. You can never have too many pockets. I always try to make interiors with light fabrics to make it easier for one to see what is inside.

  209. Katie says:

    Wow; great tips! The only other thing I can add is I press with my iron constantly! Nothing will look professional if it is not pressed. And I love to use starch to help with small spots or anything on the bias.

  210. Norma says:

    I love making bags. Thanks for all the tips. My tip or recommendation for everyone who makes bags is to use your iron. Don’t ommit pressing when necessary. The final result will be a more professional look. Knowing your interfacings is also a must.

  211. Elizabeth L says:

    My favourite tip is to trim the interface to be smaller then the fabric piece so none of the interfacing is in the seam allowances. My machine doesn’t do well with bulky seams so this saves me!

  212. Sharon says:

    My finishing tip is to prewash the fabric, if possible. I made a handbag as a gift and the recipient later accidentally set the bag down in grease. She threw it in the wash (hot water, even!) and, thankfully, it maintained it’s shape and came out fine!

  213. ParisGrrl says:

    I use a hemostat to grab/hold/turn really thick fabrics.

  214. Juliana says:

    Understitching! I learnt it and you never leave it :)
    Thank you for the chance to win your book.

  215. Kim B. says:

    Great tips. I forget to try different feet, which can help with more even stitches. I think one other thing I find helpful is to keep the iron handy for pressing.

  216. Mandy Robinson says:

    I also use chopsticks! I have several placed around my sewing room, I love that I can use the wider end or the smaller end in different types of corners and edges, they really come in handy (not to mention one might get stuck into my bun while I’m sewing away!)

  217. Mandy Robinson says:

    I love these tips, I already know a couple of them, but hardly put them into to use and I now feel motivated to do so!

    One of my favorite clever things I came up with to help me sew:

    I had some striped washi tape lying around, I taped it horizontally on my sewing machine, going from the needle plate and to the right, when I need to I can use this striped tape as a guide for seam allowance, over time the tape has peeled up and I just replace it. You could also make your own tape by sitting down with a ruler and marker and making some precise lines.

    ~Mandy

  218. Candra Sowder says:

    You are so right about the feet! A good edge stitch or evenly spaced parallel line can make or break a project. Thanks for the tips!

  219. Terry says:

    I really enjoy making bags but don’t do it enough, so every time it feels like I am learning all over again – especially when it comes to zippers! I’m looking forward to getting this book (and of course wouldn’t mind winning a copy!) to see if it can help me get over that beginner’s hump.

    I don’t have too many tips to share, but can say I am grateful to sew on a Pfaff machine that has an IDT foot – meaning there is always a walking foot on, I don’t have to stop and put it on when I need it. I also use my 1/4″ foot a lot, it gives me consistent seam allowances and I love that!

    Thanks for the chance to win!

  220. Oooh, lots of very helpful tips here! Thank you for sharing!

  221. Chantal says:

    Hi. Very interesting, and very precise explanation. I made a quilted bag 20 years ago, with no ruler, no interfacing (maybe in the handle), no pattern… It was full of mistakes but I carried it until it falls all apart. Maybe it’s time to try again.

  222. Lauren h says:

    Wow these are great. I love the interfacing tips. Cutting out bag patterns take so much time since there is so much to cut out. Thanks.

  223. Kim says:

    Chopsticks are a bag makers best friend. I keep a set with my sewing tool box for turning out edges and corners. I know some people who also use a bone folder (typically used in various papercrafts) for this purpose as well.

  224. angie s. says:

    I love the idea of placing the interfacing in the fabric before you cut. Never thought about that.

  225. Lainie says:

    I have found that the best thing for any sewing project, especially intricate ones, is still practice, practice, practice! I do love having a foot (feet?) that give me accuracy, and if you continue to practice and attempt accuracy at all levels, you will eventually become skilled and rise above the beginner level.

  226. Lynne says:

    One thing that’s helped me is, instead of pining things together as I sew, I use clips instead. The fabric sews smoother and I don’t have to worry about my needle accidentally hitting a pin.

  227. Debra says:

    My personal tip is to add little details that make the bag custom to me. For example, I always add a key fob to the inside of my bags, so I can just clip my car keys and they don’t get lost down in the bag. I found some really cute heart-shaped key rings to put on the fobs and that really makes the bag my own!

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