Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Buying wisely - guidelines for purchasing a fabric purse or handbag on line.Part 5 - more on workmanship.

Continued from  part 4 - workmanship.

Above I wrote about reinforcing my purse bottoms with plastic mesh instead of cardboard. I would like to add that I take one more step to stabilize my bag bottoms, and that's wrapping the plastic mesh in a separate envelope of fabric and hand HAND stitching it to the bottom of the bag. The hand stitching assures that the plastic will not shift, and the fabric envelope cushions and protects the outer fabric. Even though I leave no sharp edges on the plastic, it's stiffer than the outer cotton fabric, and over time, the rubbing of the plastic against the cotton can weaken can and possibly wear a hole in the exterior fabric. I use upcycled synthetic fabric because the synthetic material is more resistant to wear than cotton, and also because it utilizes pre-used fabric. It's awkward to stitch that plastic "envelope" into the bag, but it assures that the reinforcement stays put!

*Lining: Is the lining interfaced, and does it fit closely against the bag like a "second skin"? Interfacing the lining gives it body and stability as well as keeping it in place - inside the bag, where it's supposed to be. I've seen a lot of linings that appear not to be interfaced, fit poorly, and are spilling out over the top of the bag. It's annoying to have the a flimsy and ill fitting lining come out every time you reach in for something. For me, it wouldn't take long get sick of and abandon such a purse.

Look closely and you'll see the row of topstitching along the top edge of the lining.

Also, does the lining appear to be stitched into place with topstitching around the top to hold the lining in place? Sometimes I finish the lining so that it's encased completely inside the bag and other times I bring the edge up and create a contrasting band around the top exterior. It all depends on what kind of a finished look I want. Either way, the lining is *always* secured to the bag exterior with a band of top stitching.

And, no matter what technique the seamstress has used, please check to be sure the side seams of the lining and outer bag are lined up. If the side seams of the lining and purse exterior do not line up fairly closely, you have a bag in which the lining is going one way and the outer fabric is going another. Again, this makes for a distorted purse. If the lining and outer materials are cut and sewn with precision, the seams should match fairly closely.

See how the seams of the outer bag and lining match exactly?

*Magnetic snap installation: This is a real bugaboo with me, and something that may seem incidental, but that I consider extremely important!!! I rarely if ever, see a magnetic snaps stitch reinforced on a handmade fabric bag sold on line - even the most expensive ones, and I'm sorry to say that it's a disappointment! On all my bags, you will see little squares of stitching around my snaps. This stitching is the last of 4 crucial steps in a well done magnetic snap installation, and this little square is proof and insurance that the snap is secured tightly to an extra piece of heavy duty interfacing behind the lining in such a way that it won't weaken or tear the lining fabric.

I sweat those snaps because they are tedious and time consuming, and one mistake and the lining is damaged or ruined. But, I assure you, my snaps are in there for the life of the bag and won't tear loose or strain the fabrics. When you don't see this type of installation on a fabric purse, you can be sure that the maker has cut corners for the sake of time. If you love your cloth purse and want to keep it for a long time, but don't see snaps installed with the reinforcing stitching, you run the risk that the stress on the snap will tear and strain the fabric, and eventually pull through the lining material, (even if interfaced).

Note the stitching around the snap as well as top stitching around the top edge of the lining.

Tomorrow - embellishments and all the pretty little extras!


  1. Again! Thank you so much! Passing along to my sister! She Loves reading these!

  2. : )
    You remind me of my mom, who would say exactly the same things...

  3. Thanks for the tips! Great advice!

  4. i very much like this series! beautiful work as well!