Lately, I’ve been drawn into tackling handbags. It’s funny because I’m not much of a handbag carrier. I just enjoy trying my hand at designing and making them.
My latest project is a Messenger bag. I love this bag because I was able to add a few special touches to create a really beautiful and not-so-ordinary take on a classic bag shape.
NOTE: I used See & Sew pattern #B4583 from Joann fabrics as the basis for this project. As you’ll see, I tweaked it along the way for more personal customization.
I think the most striking thing about this project is the wonderful embroidery on the flap.
Hmm, and that’s precisely why a certain little girl in my house claimed this bag for herself as soon as it was finished. Now I have to figure out how to get it back.
While I work on that plan, allow me to walk you through the easy steps to create this great bag.
First of all, I found a great fabric called polysuede. It actually looks like suede but as the name suggests, it’s a polyester blend but it still has that suede look. It’s a bit softer and a much lighter fabric to work with than 100% suede.
For the lining, I used a wonderful cotton with a paisley pattern that also contained the same taupe coloring as the main fabric. I found both of these fabrics at Hobby Lobby craft store. I love how these two textures look together.
If you add any embroidery to this project you’ll have to apply that first before any actual construction on the bag begins.
If you’re going to add embroidery to your flap, I suggest you cut the fabric about 1/4-inch larger than the pattern all the way around. This will accomodate any shrinkage that will likely occur during the embroidery process. You can always trim the flap down to size once the embroidery is completed.
In the photo below, you can see the slight puckering around the rose design. That’s the slight shrinkage I was talking about and it’s often created when stitching out very large designs. When using really large embroidery the fabric tends draws inward a bit as the embroidery is stitched out.
The additional 1/4-inch of fabric all the way around, should be just enough to make up for this shrinkage.
The rose embroidery designs I used for this project are from an embroidery collection called Roses for Mary by Jenny Haskins . Haskins is well known in embroidery circles for her complex and elegant designs and projects. Her website also has quite a few beautiful free embroidery designs for downloading too.
If you have an opportunity to pick up her corresponding Roses for Mary quilt book, you’ll be amazed at how she weaves these beautiful embroidered roses and buds from her collection into a spectacular quilt. It’s total eye candy.
The lucious picture on the cover prompted me to buy this book along with the embroidery disk at first sight. I have yet to tackle this incredible quilt project but perhaps one day I’ll get around to it.
If you’re interested in seeing more of Jenny Haskins’ fabulous designs, she publishes a fabulous quarterly Austrailian magazine called Creative Expressions and it’s available at numerous locations including Barnes and Noble book stores and Joann’s Fabrics to name a few.
The cover photo below is from the latest issue. Isn’t that heart pillow just beautiful? It’s so delicate. Trust me, there are loads of delicious projects in this issue. I generally buy the magazine just to drool over the extraordinary and intricate embroidery.
Getting back to the messenger bag project, each embroidery pattern has a matching vellum template which depicts the design and can be easily printed out. This template will help you place the design exactly where you want it on the fabric.
It’s actually fun to plan out a big project like this with multiple embroidery designs. Just play around with the vellum sheets turning them sideways and upside down to see what overall design best suits your eye.
If you are using multiple designs, you definitely need to plan out how all the designs will be arranged on your fabric. For example, in some cases you may want a particular design to overlap another. If that’s the case, it makes a big difference in which pattern you stitch out first.
Advance planning will help ensure a more satisfactory arrangement of the ultimate design.
Because of the various overlaps in design in this project, I had to jump around to various areas of the fabric to stitch out each design. As long as you clearly mark your fabric, it’s pretty easy to keep track of all the different design assignments.
The benefit of using polysuede is that it’s wonderfully washable. Just remember to always use a water soluable marker when marking your fabric.
Here’s a look at the unsewn flap with the finished embroidery. I ended up arranging six different rose designs to complete this final large rose pattern.
If you look closely you’ll see that I did end up with a few gaps in the branches. That’s the kind of detail I hope to perfect the more I practice my design placements and positioning. Despite this flaw in my stitched-out design layout, I’m still pleased with this first-time effort.
Gently wash the markings from the fabric and let hang dry completely. Be careful not to over-wring the fabric to prevent damaging the embroidery.
After fabric is dry, iron flat and resume construction of the bag.
You can’t see them in this photo, but the straps for this bag are already sewn into the sides of the bag. Remember to add strength and reinforcement to the straps by stitching their seam multiple times.
Most of the pieces needs fusible interfacing to add stiffness and that’s the white material you see on the outside of the project in the photo below.
For the pockets I cut two pieces of lining fabric measuring about 7-inches X 10-inches.
With right sides together stitch all the way around leaving a small opening in the seam to turn inside out.
After turning, press the resulting rectangle with a good steam iron. Then stitch across the top edge about 1/8-inch. Fold this stitched top down about 1/2-inch. Stitch again across the top of this folded down piece about 1/8-inch.
This creates a nice finished edge and mini flap for the top of your multi-pocket.
Determine the pocket placement on the right side of the lining. Stitch the rectangular pocket to the lining down both sides and across the bottom, leaving the entire top edge of the rectangle open.
Once this rectangle is secure, double stitch down the center of the rectangle to create individual pockets. I did this to two separate areas of the rectangle to form three pockets.
I also included a stiff base for the bag using some mesh canvas.
You can find this mesh canvas at most sewing stores. It’s pretty easy to work with and comes in various sheet sizes.
I created a small pocket on the bottom of the lining by stitching a matching fabric strip directly onto the wrong side of the seams already in the bottom of the lining.
After cutting mesh canvas down to the desired size, simply slip it into the pocket. This will be completely concealed once the bag is turned inside out because the mesh will be sandwiched between the wrong side of the lining and the wrong side of the bag.
It really does give the bottom of the bag some much-needed extra support.
The large front flap of the bag is already basted across the back of one right side of the bag at this point. The lining uses the same pattern pieces as the bag itself so it’s basically a duplicate of the bag. After adding the mesh base, simply pin the lining to the bag portion with right sides together.
Stitch all the way around to attach lining. Remember to leave an opening large enough to turn inside out.
Gently turn the bag inside out bringing all the pieces to the bag through the opening in the lining attachment. With only a few pattern pieces to deal with, this Messenger bag takes shape very quickly.
Press the top edge where the bag and lining meet with a good steam iron and then topstitch all the way around about 1/8-inch. This not only closes up the last opening, it also gives the edge a nice finishing touch.
Here’s a look at the inside multi-pockets in the photo below. I like the idea of having lots of little compartments for various storage and you can see this was a very simple effect to create.
I loved working on this project and tweaking different elements to create a more unique, original bag.
While I added machine embroidery to the flap, you could also apply hand embroidery for an equally stunning look. I think just about any embellishment would be a nice touch.
There are loads of possibilities. ♥
Thanks for stopping by.
See you back here next time. ♥