I’m dishing all about bagmaking supplies. Sewing is a deep deep craft, and it’s one of those things where very often the devil is in the details.
What makes a project go from meh to holy cats, that’s amazing can be in all the extras you add to your star fabric.
Here is a list of bagmaking supplies like hardware, specialty interfacings, special fabrics, sewing tools, and other notions. These are the things that will make all of your handmade bags just sing.
So let’s break it down.
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Interfacing: bag guts!
Interfacing is the true secret of many a sewing project. It gives bags their shape, collars their snap, and waistbands their support.
For bags, there’s a couple that are truly lovely for their all-purpose nature. There’s many more than these, but these are my favorites mostly because they’re easy to find and to work with. No exhausting fabric wrangling needed!
Pellon Decor Bond (#809)
Pellon makes a ton of fusible interfacings, and they’ve got some great choices for bags.
Decor Bond is a medium weight interfacing that gives a lot of shape to a bag. If you hold it in your hand, you’ll notice it almost bends itself into a kind of lampshade like shape. That kind of shape will help lighter weight fabrics stand up when you’re making a bag. I love Decor Bond because while it gives bags some oomph, it doesn’t get crazy bulky.
Use it inside of fabric straps, outer bag pieces and loops. Place the fusible side (the rough side) on the wrong side of the fabric and fuse it to your fabric with steam.
Fusible fleece is another great supporting interfacing. It makes for a bag that’s soft to the touch, but still creates some shape. If you want to quilt a bag, fusible fleece is your best friend!
Use it on the backside of outer bag pieces. Actually, pro tip, it’s so soft and lofty that you can make shoulder pads from it for jackets! I personally get grumpy when my fusible fleece goes low just for this reason!
Apply fusible fleece to the wrong side of your fabric, fusing it with plenty of steam.
Denim or canvas
Denim and canvas are sew-in options for your bags. I really like them because they’ll bulk up the outer look of a bag without changing the feel of the fabric. The fabric will still keep some of its original drape.
To use them, simply stack your outer fabric on top of the denim or canvas and baste the two layers together close to the edge.
I like both of these as an underlayer under fusible interfacings when I want a little heavier bag or on their own for something like a 7 minute DIY zipper bag.
You know those old school crafts where you wove yarn through plastic canvas? Turns out, that stuff is actually really great for adding some hefty structure to the bottoms of bags.
Best yet, it’s wicked cheap and you can find it at any craft store. Insert into the bottoms of bags or into some ribbon jewelry pulls for zippers.
This category of bagmaking supplies are surprisingly versatile. Think of them as add-ons to make any bag interesting.
Mesh can make for a lightweight bag or pockets. It’s incredibly strong, yet lightweight, making it a fabric you can add to even the chunkiest of bags.
I love this nylon Mesh by Annie. The bright happy colors are fun to sew, and for being a fabric made up of holes, it’s remarkably easy to stitch.
Iron-on vinyl lets you add a water-resistant surface to any outer fabric. Best yet, it does all this without adding any extra weight to the bag. If you’ve ever been frustrated by trying to find water resistant fabrics like oilcloth in patterns and colors you like, iron-on vinyl is a must have.
It’s worth noting that you want to look for Heat n Bond Iron-on vinyl. Cricut and other cutting machines use a different type of iron-on vinyl that is not the same thing.
There’s a couple of specialty tools you’ll find really useful as you start sewing your bags together. Use these bagmaking supplies to help keep your sewing experience a little less stressful.
I have strong opinions about not using pins when I sew. I think they slow you down, but dang it all, these Clover Wonder Clips have brought me to the Dark Side (where indeed they do have cookies).
Bagmaking requires holding together sometimes a lot of layers of fabric. These little clips are perfect for keeping multiple layers held together while you sew. Even better, they’re champions when you’re working with leather or slippery vinyl covered fabrics.
Nothing fancy here, but a chopstick can really help you tease out the corners of your bags. Use them in conjunction with your fingers, and you’ll have some corners and zipper edges that’ll be looking sharp.
Bags usually require a lot different layers between outer fabrics, interfacings and linings. A good pair of scissors or a rotary cutter can help you cut things quickly and efficiently.
A rotary cutter like this Olfa rotary cutter gets my personal vote over scissors. Very often, bagmaking requires cutting straight edges, and rotary cutters are perfect for such a task.
Bagmaking supplies: Notions
Notions are all those extra bits you add to your projects to make them what they are. It’s a little catch-all category of bagmaking supplies that’s a little confusing. It includes things like needles, zippers, thread, but also ribbons and elastics.
Sewing Machine Needles
Universal needles work well for most bag projects. The heavier your fabric is, the higher the number you’ll need on the bag.
For most bags, an 80/12 or 90/14 universal needle is great. If you’re using denim or leather, be sure to use either a denim needle or a leather needle.
You might be surprised by the addition of foldover elastic on a list of bagmaking supplies! Foldover elastic is a great way to add a lot of color to bound edges of your bags. It’s soft, and easy to sew, and unlike most other elastics, it’s pretty enough to hang out on the outside of a bag.
Use it to trim edges, for soft drawstrings, or even simple ribbon pulls for your zippers.
Ribbons can add a lot of personality to your bags without a lot of extra work on your part. Stitch velvet ribbons to your outer fabric or use jacquard ribbon to create whimsical custom pulls for your zippers.
Such Good Supply on Etsy is a great source for velvet ribbon. Also, Tula Pink’s ribbons for Renaissance Ribbons are some of the coolest jacquard ribbons I’ve found!
Angelus Leather Paints
It’s not everyday when you find leather that’s in exactly the color that you want. If you’re not a person who lives in the world of neutral, Angelus Leather Paints are your new best friend.
I could write many poems about how much I love these paints for their ability to transform leather into a kaleidoscope of awesome. Yet, I won’t wander into Vogon territory, and instead, I’ll point you to my Rose Tyler Jacket where I turned a weird gray into a spicy purple.
This base set of Angelus paints will give you a lot of color-mixing options. Small though the bottles may seem, they go a surprisingly long way. Be sure to add a large soft watercolor brush when you paint your leather. It will make for the smoothest finish. Look for a brush with super soft, fine bristles that feels sturdy in your hand.
Zippers for bagmaking
Zippers get their own category because they (and hardware) will MAKE your bags on their own power. Always use nice zippers!
Nylon zippers are great all-purpose zippers. They’re wonderful for when you’re just learning to sew with zippers. Use them on anything from simple zipper bags to pockets or just about anywhere really.
They’re easy to sew and come in every color under the sun. Bonus: if you accidentally nick the end of one with a needle, you probably won’t break a needle.
Zippers are rated in number by the width of the teeth, and a good name brand is YKK. These #4.5 zippers are a good all-purpose size for bags, but I also like #3 nylon zippers too. And know that buying longer zippers is always a good idea because you can shorten ANY zipper.
Metal zippers are great any time you want to add a little extra polish to the look of your bag. Look for brass #5 zippers like these ones from YKK.
Zipper by the yard
In the past several years, we’ve seen a lot more droolworthy zipper by the yard come around. Think multicolored teeth in easy to sew nylon. It’s a great option when you need an ultra flexible zipper that’s an odd length.
When you buy zipper by the yard, you’ll also need to buy pulls that have the same number. So if you buy a #5 zipper tape, you’ll need to buy #5 zipper pulls.
Hardware is really going to add some serious class to any handmade bag. This is one area where investing in good hardware is totally worth it.
But I have a secret: you can reuse hardware from old bags. It’s one of my top categories of 15 unusual sources for sewing supplies.
Most hardware is in fact reusable. If you have old handbags, or you go thrifting for them, you’ll notice that even if the bag is in awful shape, the hardware is probably in near perfect condition. Bonus: hardware from designer (or even cheapy Target) bags is often much nicer than what you’ll find in fabric stores. You might find styles or metal finishes you might not otherwise find. Combine that with the fact that you can often pick up an old bag with multiple buckles, clasps, rings etc for a buck or two, and this is big winning territory.
On to the types of hardware you’ll need for bagmaking supplies.
D rings are all purpose rings that’ll help you add things like straps. There’s standard D rings and some fancier screw in D rings.
Swivel hooks are fantastic for adding detachable straps. Plus they look cool!
Buckles can be great closures for larger style bags like messenger bags. They can also help you create adjustable straps or simply be added for style.
Magnetic snaps are invaluable for creating secure closures inside your bags. There’s standard magnetic snaps that work like clothing snaps and also hidden magnetic snaps.
Twist locks are another closure type hardware piece. They can be an alternative to magnetic snaps, and they’re often decorative. They create highly secure closures.
Types of twist locks you can find:
So that’s a pretty complete list of all the bagmaking supplies that are really going to help you make beautiful bragworthy bags. And while not every bag is going to use all of these things, this list will help you build a stash of supplies the next time you want to stitch up your favorite bag pattern.
Want to sew some quick and easy bags?
7 Minute DIY Zipper bag
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Endlessly useful for gifts and holding all your stuff, and you can stitch one up in no time
Elizabeth Farr is the writer behind the Elizabeth Made This blog where she shares helpful sewing tips, step by step sewing tutorials and videos to help you explore your creativity through sewing. She has written sewing Eguides and patterns, been a featured teacher at Rebecca Page’s Sewing Summit and Jennifer Maker’s Holiday Maker Fest and her work has appeared in Seamwork and Altered Couture magazines. She also created a line of refashioned garments for SEWN Denver. When her sewing machine isn’t humming, she’s playing and teaching violin, and hanging around a good strategic board game with her husband and 4 kids.