Building a Better Bag - Straps and Pockets

Kristine Poor

This is part 3 of our Building a Better Bag series! 

 The ideas and techniques in this post are specifically geared towards the Novel Approach pattern. We are using the “A Novel Approach” bag pattern. This bag was designed to use those small novelty squares in the pockets. It is a quilted tote – pretty basic, but pretty useful!

I am using QT Fabric’s On Painted Wings panel combined with the Euphoria line. Love the bright and fresh factor of these fabrics! 

 Let’s start with talking about the panels on the pockets. The pattern instructions tell you to cut the panel blocks into squares. However, these panel blocks had very pretty “frames” around them that I would be cutting off. 

So I decided to to cut them wonky so that I could show a bit of that fun frame. I placed my ruler over the block to audition, then cut the square.

And the result - I think it looks more like a butterfly that’s flitting around:

Here are the wonky pockets (before stitching to the outside of the bag). Fun! If you are looking for a way to create interest with blocks from a panel  – why not give this a try?

There are so many possibilities for these pockets – border stripes, sample blocks, decorative stitches, trims – just use your imagination! We will be posting more options on Instagram and Facebook. Do you follow us? 

 Now – let’s build some straps. We are using Peltex for our straps – I like the fusible Peltex (71 or 72) but for this technique, it doesn't even have to be fusible. Why Peltex? I like that it keeps it shape over the long term. 

Our first step is to join the Peltex strips to create the straps. The most important thing to remember is that you don’t want to join strips in the center of the strap. If you need a 40” long strap, don’t join 2 20” lengths – that will result in a noticeable crease in the middle. Instead, join a 10”- 20” – 10” combination. That way the join is not in a conspicuous location! I join with a zig zag stitch. 

Then fuse the fabric strip to the Peltex strap. Our instructions tell you to fold over the other side of the fabric strip – that will be folded over later as you will see.

Wrap and press.

Clip in place.

Then topstitch, using your walking foot. Always use the edge of your foot or some other reference point while stitching, so that the stitches stay straight.

For the Novel Approach, the pocket panel is stitched in place on the outside of the tote base. Then the straps are placed over it. Now – the stackup of materials is getting pretty thick here. 

 Here are the layers: 

  • Fusible Fleece in the pockets  
  • Foam in the tote base  
  • Peltex for the straps 

The straps are laid over the pockets, which are already stitched to the tote base. But with these layers, there is little chance of pinning those straps in place! So all I do is clip at the top of the tote and yes, tape the straps down. Once you stitch one side of the strap, the tape is no longer needed. Look at my setup:

To topstitch the straps in place, make sure you use either a size 90 Jeans needle or a size 90 Topstitch needle and your walking foot! 

This bag is really starting to shape up! If you would like to see our previous Building a Better Bag posts, click below:

Next up: we are going to talk about bulky seams and some tricks that you can use! 

 Thanks for stopping by! -Kris


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