Building A Better Bag - Handling Bulky Seams

Kristine Poor Building a Better Bag

Have you ever run into those bulky seam intersections when making a bag? Then this post is for you! We’re diving into techniques that help you make a better bag – scroll down to link to other posts in our Building a Better Bag series!

The ideas in this post can be applied to any bag that might have some bulky seams. We are using the Novel Approach pattern as an example; it’s a quilted tote – pretty basic, but pretty useful!

Our tote features QT Fabric’s On Painted Wings panel combined with the Euphoria line. Love the bright and fresh factor of these fabrics! 

Let’s get started with the tools you will need to use to handle thick seams:

  • Walking foot
  • Tailor’s clapper (optional, but if you are making a lot of bags, it might be helpful to have)
  • Hump jumper (or sometimes known as Button clearance tool or Jean-A-Ma-Jig)
  • Water mister
  • Needles for the job (size 90 Jeans needle or a size 90 Topstitch needle or even Size 90 Microtex Sharp)

Side Seams

The side seams on this tote will be bound, as it’s a quilted tote. Stitch together using a walking foot for even feed.  To minimize thickness of the seam allowance, press the seam allowance only with the side of your iron, using pressure. Avoid pressing into the quilted body of the tote to maintain the quilting texture.

When the seam is still warm, apply additional pressure with the clapper. This creates a nice flat seam.

Bind the seam using your walking foot. To reduce bulk when boxing the corner, consider applying a single fold binding, instead of double fold.

­Boxing Corners

When boxing the corners of the tote, there are a lot of bulk. The intersection includes 2 layers of foam and many layers of fabric. This is a perfect time to use the hump jumper. 

 Why? Sewing machines are not built to stitch “uphill”.  A hump jumper helps by lifting the presser foot to the same level as those thick layers. 

 Before boxing the corners (note the bound seams which will now be part of the boxed seam):

Bring the sides and bottom seams together; alternate seam allowances to minimize the thickness. Clip in place.

Position the hump jumper tool behind and under the presser foot. It lifts the presser foot so it can do its job.

Once you have sewn over the thick part of the seam, you can slide the tool away. 

If you don’t have the tool shown above, a stack of sticky notes under the back of the presser foot will do the job and lift it to the height you need. I am using the stack of notes during the binding of that boxed corner.

When binding the short, boxed seam, cut the ends even with the ends of the seam and use seam sealant like Fray Check to prevent fraying.

Binding the Top

The final finish of this bag is a binding. Bind from the outside, as you would a quilt. Then bring the binding to the inside about 1/8th of an inch past the binding seam and clip in place.

Top-stitch the binding on the outside, just below the seam to catch the binding (below is inside of bag).

Use the hump jumper here as well, for stitching over the side seams.   

And with a quick press, our bag is done!  

If you would like to see our previous Building a Better Bag posts, click below:

   Building a Better Bag – Fusing Foam

   Building a Better Bag – Easy Quilting 

   Building a Better Bag – Straps and Pockets

I’ll be back with more tips for building a better bag! 

 Thanks for stopping by! -Kris

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