Your BAG guide to be obsessed without breaking the bank
I’m frugal BUT I absolutely love well-made bags, clothing, and shoes. There’s something about the craftsmanship that elevates my mood and confidence. When I started sewing and really examining designer bags … you know the ones I mean, those that cost in the hundreds and thousands of dollars. Then I realized with practice, patience, and the right materials I can make them too!
Some of our favorite bags are shared throughout this post.
A lot of the challenge comes from finding the materials and equipment as a small studio. So there are limitations, but I do want to show you some of the details that we can add to your bag to make it perfect for you WITHOUT costing thousands of dollars. (Sorry, I can’t help with the clothing and shoes. Let’s go shopping for those instead.)
The foundation: Exterior fabric
The exterior fabric is the core of the bag. For this, we use canvas.
The canvas used in these products is proprietary so we try to mimic the weight of the fabric by using 9.3 oz canvas. At the present time, we’re experimenting in-house with methods of waterproofing to try to give the benefits that the Goyard offers. We’ll let you know when that is achieved!
For cost reasons, we keep our colors to a minimum. Our light option is white in the spring and summer, natural for the fall and winter. On the darker side, we have dark grey all year round.
At times we’ll bring in an experimental fabric that we see used other places well or that we simply find on a buying trip. For example, right now I have a few yards of premium burlap and grain sack fabric. I’m not sure how I’ll use them, but I’ll let you know.
Btw, that’s another reason to subscribe to our newsletter. I update you on limited-run fabrics so you can order them. These aren’t often available to the general public. We’ve made it easy, just add your name and email below:
The trim: leather, canvas, or ribbon
The soft leather around the trim of the inspiration bags is actually capable of being sewn using the equipment we have in our studio. Some of the corners and techniques employed by the craftsman designer houses simply aren’t possible.
For our leather accents, we use lambskin for piping and binding. It creates a lovely accent to the canvas. In these small uses, the delicate nature of the lambskin is not a huge limitation.
If you’ll be using your bag in a rougher and more rugged way, canvas trim will be a better option.
For pretty accents, grosgrain ribbons are also a really nice touch and add personality with a touch of color.
The durability: straps and base
It’s surprising how many of the inspiration bags don’t significantly reinforce the base of the bag. To use, that’s a key component of the engineering. Ideally, cowhide leather is used as it will hold up really well to the elements and weight.
If price or humanity causes you to move away from leather, then we will use the 9.3 oz canvas.
In either case, we also reinforce with plastic mesh to add strength to the base. Brass purse feet are a nice bit of elegance if there are the base dimensions and budget to add them as well.
Then we get to straps! Not only pretty, but these are also a make it or break it component of the use of the bag.
For the most part, our straps measure between 3/4″ and 1 1/2″ wide with length dependant upon the style of bag. They are glued and stitched cowhide unless we get our hands on a really thick piece of leather that can still go through our machines.
We’re experimenting with hand-stitching as that adds a nice sophistication to the point of attachment. Not to mention the additional shapes that can be incorporated, such as in the Louis Vuitton Neverfull. Subscribe to our email list to see when such styles begin to be added to our Bag Design Library.
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If leather isn’t selected, then we’ll use either canvas straps we cut in-house, nylon webbing, or a combination of materials.
The bling: all that hardware
Hardware can make an ordinary bag turn into a showpiece. That said, it isn’t always necessary.
If you’re looking for a simple bag to take to the grocery store or to pack up in your suitcase, hardware can be more a hindrance than a help.
Some of the ways we do like to use hardware include purse feet, rivets, d-rings, and grommets.
Rivets can strengthen a strap or seam connection. They can also be added just for a pretty look.
D-Rings hold straps and can also be added for convenience, such as a handy place to clip your keys.
Grommets are basically donuts that allow for a pretty ribbon to close the bag together. They can also be used to hold a cord for a drawstring bag.
All of our hardware currently is either brass or a gold finish. The pieces that we buy are expensive and can add up quickly but it’s better than buying cheap components that won’t hold up to your wear and tear.
Closure: Without therapy
It’s funny, people have very strong opinions about the best way to close a bag. For security, zippers are best. For convenience, open-top is handy. Then there is the pretty touch of a ribbon pulled through gold grommets.
To try to help you get exactly what you want, we offer several options for bag closures.
We use metal zippers with gold teeth. Most of the time these are #5 YKK zippers with either closed or separating ends. That means they’re a little wider, which we like. Occasionally, we’ll pick up some higher-end zippers while in the Garment District of NYC (LOVE!!). These, however, don’t show up in our normal line up due to the cost. If you have a special request, let us know. We have an entirely separate zipper fascination that you have our permission to feed.
Magnetic snaps and twist locks are also available for you. They are a good middle-ground between open top and zipper if you’re not sure about your preference!
The interior: an extra or an essential
Many high-end designer bags use proprietary fabric that fuses the exterior and interior fabrics together. Many others, don’t use interior linings at all!
Depending on the use of the bag, we like interior lining with cotton fabric. Our standard is a ticking fabric that is truly timeless and isn’t so dark that you can’t see the contents of your bag.
If you want to add a different fabric, you can have it delivered to us but be sure we discuss the weight and quantity before you order it! Some fabrics, we’ve learned the hard way, are either a nightmare to sew or simply don’t hold up.
If you choose not to have a lining, then we can hide the seems or leave them exposed based upon your personal preference. Hiding is more work but if you have OCD tendencies, then the extra cost will save you mental anguish. (I totally get it.) Again, if this is a simple grocery store bag then maybe the exposed seems are just fine!
storage: style and function
Pockets, either slip or zipper, take a surprising amount of time to add to a bag. That said, they can add style and flair to an otherwise plain canvas tote.
A slip pocket has no closure and is great for separating small items out of the main compartment of a bag. A phone, keys, or chapstick are easily put in and pulled out without too much fuss.
A zipper pocket offers a bit more security so if you’re in a city or if you throw your bag around, then the contents won’t fall out of their special spot.
Finally, a credit card pocket system is also possible. This is mainly used just on clutches, wristlets, and small purses. If you don’t want to carry an extra wallet, then this is a handy feature.
Inside or outside, we LOVE pockets. Patch pockets have the edges exposed. Interior pockets have only the zipper showing. So many ways to go. Best bet, if you see a bag with a pocket you like then send us a photo so we can try to replicate it!
Not one for a pocket? Then you can add a zipper pouch, pochette, or envelope pouch to match your bag. That way, you can even remove it to use when you don’t want to carry the larger tote.
how to order?
First, you need to make the decision on what you want or need to carry. Measure the base dimensions and bag height. If you’ll have straps, then you’ll want to measure out the strap drop height as well.
Using a measuring tape, measure from where the strap will be held on your body (shoulder, arm, hand) to the top of the bag. Here is a guide:
Be sure to take into account your height, so if you’re very petite or taller than average you can account for that in this measurement.
Then you just need to complete the Bag Profile Questionnaire.
Contact us if you have any questions!
Do you have a question relating to bags? Let us know and we’ll write about it!Ali O’Dell, Creative Director
Need some more inspiration?
If you need inspiration, check out my boards on Pinterest. I keep adding bags to them all the time (remember, obsession!!)
I’ve also pulled up a few different bags on Amazon that have some unique looks and excellent ratings. They might get you thinking a little outside the box!
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