Beginner Class preparation – materials needed

I have just viewed Lesson 1 in it’s entirety and am ready to get started but have a few questions regarding the materials.

1. I prefer to work with leather and have been using Tandy Leather Contact Cement to date.  Do I need to switch to Rubber Cement?  I was previously told that the sewing needle passes through Contact Cement better than rubber cement, but maybe that information was wrong, please advise.

2. I could not find Oaktag Paper anywhere so I purchased a pink material from Tandy Leather that makes a good pattern, but it is too thick to utilize your methods of scoring and bending.  Where can I order the proper pattern material?

3.  When using leather, how much smaller should I make the lining?  I’m sure it depends on the thickness of the leather being used, but I thought you might have a rule-of-thumb (i.e. for 2-3 oz leather make lining 1/4″ smaller, etc)


Thank you and I look forward to getting started!

Cheri Riva-Heffren


Mockup Your Patterns

Mocking up your bag pattern is the best way to make sure your pattern is fitting and allows you to make changes to your design before you start cutting and sewing. It’s also cheaper then sewing your handbag pattern and finding out you made mistakes and a lot less frustrating.

I like to use a medium weight felt or some other cheap material but you can also use your pattern if you score it properly. Making a handbag pattern mock up also helps you think about one of the most important aspects of pattern making and constructing a bag and that is how am I going to sew it!

Sewing sequence is critical when making your bag, in many cases if you have only a flatbed, the sewing sequence will determine how your bag will fit and look when completed. If you have a lot of top stitching on your bag, again the sewing sequence will dictate where the top stitches cross and end in relationship to each other. This relationship can add to the overall design of your bag or take away from it.

Here are a couple of examples of mocking up your pattern


Trial bag with Decovil

by Bonnie Stillwell – Saturday, 25 April 2015, 7:58 AM 

I have just finished a trial bag using Decovil.  Decovil is a fusible nonwoven interfacing with a leather-like (suede) feel which is fusible. I cut windows in the Decovil thinking that the gusset would fold inwards – that didn’t happen so won’t do that on the next bag.

I did find that it held quite well even with turning the back right side out after stitching the side seam but, you can see from the closeup that it started to pull away slightly near the window


Re: trial bag with Decovil

by Bonnie Stillwell – Friday, 1 May 2015, 8:22 AM


Thanks for all the comments. Sorry I have taken a while to answer but I wanted to check out the decovil.

There are 2 qualities of Decovil – firm and light. I wasn’t exactly sure which I had used so sent for a couple of sample pieces and I have taken pictures and measurements.

The bag was made with the firm I was able to turn it without any creases so am sure that the light will do the same, will try it out next week.

The light is on the left

The measurements are in inches .0045 for the light and .0205 for the firm== metric .11mm and .48mm

I will see if I can work out how much it might be to supply this to fellow students, as always it will probably be the carriage charges. I will do some more research.

While looking on the internet I came across this blog about of Decovil from a bag maker

3 more bags using Decovil 1
by Bonnie Stillwell – Tuesday, 9 June 2015, 11:57 AM

I have made 3 more bags using the same pattern as my last trial. I did not use any windows instead I scored the fold lines for the base. I actually turned these bags and no crinkle.

Bag w/ decovil
I found that the adhesive did come away in a couple of places so I used a damp cloth and pressed the bags when they were finished. I am really pleased with the final result.

Bag w/ decovil 1 -7Bag w/ decovil 1 -9Bag w/ decovil 1 -8Bag w/ decovil 1 -10


I love Decovil. I learned about it through a Facebook group. I even was able to fuse it onto leather. I covered the entire piece of leather with the Decovil and used my iron on low heat. I trimmed the seam allowance after it was fused. It does come off at points. I used rubber cement for those places.

I order it from Amazon. It ships from Germany.


Have you ever wondered how to get your handbags in magazines, how to brand yourself?

Today everything is social media, but believe it or not people still read newspapers and magazines, that’s why they still sell them! Here is something else to consider, every magazine has an online edition!
Have you every wondered who picks those bags in a magazine or the online additions and how? Well it’s the same person who picks the fashion for T.V shows, movies and the fashion pages of your local newspapers…it’s the stylist! Stylist will go to sale reps showrooms and view what’s new in the marketplace. Their job is to find new emerging styles, trends and new designers, including handbag designers!
Did you know that if you look inside your favorite fashion magazine on the first page they tell you who the stylist is? Did you know they also have their contact info? Did you also know that they will look at your work? Guess what if they like it, you can end up on the cover? Here is proof!
All the press we had came from either reps or sending pictures to the stylist! Those bags appeared in magazines from McCall’s to Moda and newspapers across the country. It really boils down to what you want to accomplish. While people can make a comfortable living selling online, that’s not branding. Branding is about your work and company being around long after you are gone.
Designers have a window of creativity, the ability to stay relevant doesn’t last forever, the taste in each generation changes, to keep up great designers look for younger great designers, they called them design houses. Like Gucci, Chanel, Louie Vitton, Hermes and Coach are all design houses. By putting their name on new designers they stay relevant and expensive and live 100-150 years in the future.
You can’t do that on the internet, you need someone famous or you need tradition marketing to carry you to the next level. Why can’t you? There are simply too many people selling bags on the internet and it’s hard to find the pony, the star, the next big thing, the fashion forward.
Your marketing has to stand out, just like your designs and fabrication to build a brand. It’s better to lead the herd then to follow the herd, less dirt get’s in your eyes.
Branding is far different then just selling bags.

The difference between making a leather bag and a fabric bag.

Here is a tidbit about the difference between making a leather bag and a fabric bag. I don’t know if any of you are into making leather bags, but here goes.

Thickness is the enemy of the bag maker! In leather to overcome the thickness of a turned edge leather bag, the leather must be skive no matter what type of machine you have. If raw edge then thickness becomes less of a problem, yet will remain a problem depending on the weight of the leather. The weight will determine if skiving is necessary.

If you don’t skive the bag will have a bulky homemade look. If you look at a high quality bag the edges are thin and have a refined look. This happens even when using heavy fabric to avoid this look and give your bags a better look, consider flatten the seams. The closer the stitch is to the edge will also give you a more professional look.

If skive properly and you have a walking foot attachment, you can make a complete leather bag on a home machine, yes it’s possible I did for the longest time. The purple leather bag below was made on Linda’s little Singer 221K if you google it you can see how tiny it is, she got when she was a teenager. Remember though I have been making and designing bags for 25 years, so don’t try it but it can be done.

When buying a machine and working on leather the machine must be a walking foot, so the leather is fed from the bottom and the top.

When thinking about buying a machine for leather you can kill two birds with one stone by buying a cylinder, with the adjustable table that also allows for the cylinder to work like a flatbed. With this combo you get two machines for the price of one and save thousands of dollars. The cylinder will allow you to close your bag much easier and it allows you to make structured handbags two which are sewn completely different.


Let’s Talk Handbag Patterns and the Gusset

One of the most important parts of making your handbag design and handbag patterns are the gussets. It enhances the look of your handbag and creates dimension, expansion and functionality. You can have the same front and back on a handbag and change the type or shape of the gusset and you have a totally different design.

Did you know that all gusset development really starts with three simple techniques? Everything else is called designing!

  1. There is the "U" shaped gusset the "wrap around gusset" and the T-bottom! The "U" allows for you to design frt/bk and the bottom, the gusset determines the shape.
  2. The wrap around allows for the frt/bk to determine the shape. the gusset is measured around the front/back.
  3. The "T" allows all the different parts of the bag to come together. The front-back-bottom and gusset, add the flap, a complete one piece constructed bag.


Wrap Around Gusset

T- Bottom Gusset

Understanding gussets takes you one step closer to becoming the handbag designer you want to become! Each has it's own unique function, your job is to take these techniques and tell us who you are and why are you different? Conquering the gusset will set you apart, up your game to another level as a designer and pattern maker.

Handbag Construction Conversations

Learning how to sew handbags is dependent on knowing how to design gussets, they even can dictate what type of sewing machine needed to complete the bag. When looking at handbags as you shop through department stores or search online always look at the gusset, it's like the seasoning on a good steak or if you are vegan, like a great sauce on seaweed it can bring the handbag you design alive!


Look at how Adona (advanced student) developed her gusset to create the compartments in this stunning wallet! This is an example of a triple gusset that allows the wallet to fold flat and expand in a simple yet beautiful way! Middle dividers in handbags are created and attached to the gusset or the gusset lining, creating a better organized handbag. 


Here is a gusset created to add a "V"  to the gusset and how you make the gusset determines how high or low this "V" will sit, changing the whole look of the bag.


Great Bag by Elaine

Great bag by Elaine Ezell !

Elaine Story

Elaine is one of our newer student and this is her 6th assignment in Beginning Handbags 1.

This is a great bag, she designed it starting with a sketch and then made her pattern and made her bag. It turned out great, it's very professional and well made.


"Take a look at what I'm working on for my shop--a production run of my Saddlebag!  I may have spent the summer focused on your beginner course but now I have amazing patterns to call my own!"


We asked Elaine about herself and what her goals were for the future, she was kind enough to give us a peek into what she wanted to accomplish!

" daughter and I created Sew Nerdy Bags in October of 2015.  Our Bags are Sew Nerdy. Sew Fun. by SewNerdyBags

For me I think it's about creating a legacy for the next generation-- and I know it's a bridge to my relationship to my 30 year old daughter who never sewed in her life before she saw me making handbags last summer.  She became hooked and she pushed me to open an Etsy shop in Oct. 2015.  Megan is a self declared "nerd" and I find it fun and a bit of a challenge to combine her enthusiasm and interest in Pop Culture and combine it with my traditional style.  The results have been exhilarating, fun and exciting.

We are pursuing an opportunity to open a shop in our hometown and I look forward to pushing my creativity and purse making skills in ways still undefined.  Since I'm basically self taught I want to continue to take courses, learn from others that inspire me and just have fun with it."

Thanks Elaine! At HMDH, we do all we can to help our students achieve their dreams!

Visit Elaine's Esty store and show your support!


Visit SewNerdyBags

I don’t know

I was thinking about doing our take on a bowling bag! Do you think this would be a class someone would like to take? If so let me know, if I get enough likes I do the class!

I posted a few pictures of it being made, let me know if it's cute enough?
One of the things I like is to show anyone can make a great bag at home just by knowing a few techniques.