Friday, January 21, 2011

From Pattern to Purse: Phase One, Sketching and Graphing

 You've seen my purses I'm sure.  The ruffle bag.  The fat quarter ruffle bag.  You may have seen some of my other purses.   I know that I don't post down loadable PDF patterns like a lot of other crafters do, and many of you probably haven't tried making my purses because of that.  Honestly,  there's a lot of reasons I don't do printable patterns, but mostly it's because I think anybody can create a purse pattern.  If you can dream it up, you can make a pattern for it.  Purse patterns are much simpler than clothing patterns.  Most of the time a purse is a modified rectangle or a simple oval.  You just make changes to a basic shape to get what you want.  

Have you ever looked at a purse and thought "that is almost what I want, but it should have  . . . ."  Ever dreamed up the perfect bag and couldn't find a bag or bag pattern anywhere that would work for you?  Make the pattern yourself.

I'm going to walk you through the steps to making a bag pattern all the way through the actual finished bag.  There will be a new post in the series every Friday until we're done.  It should be three to four posts.  My example bag will be a slouch bag for my 15 year old.  (I think my girls are really benefiting from this blog.)

Start with a sketch book.   No fabric.  No pattern paper.   Just your sketch book and a pencil.  Make a quick drawing of what you want.  Just suggestive lines, basic shape, hint at detail.   Now decide how big your bag needs to be.   Is it a shopper?  a small just essentials bag? a medium bag?   What will you use it for?  Write down the answers to these questions.

For the slouch bag, I've decided to make it larger so it's going to be 15" tall by 12" wide.  I want top stitched straps up each side and in the center with a strap that wraps around from the back to close the bag.  The closure will probably be a clip of some kind. I need to look at notions to decide for sure.  The strap will be shorter than the bag to help create the slouch shape.    There will be pockets in the lining, the standard pencil, cell phone, and extra pocket as well as a zippered pocket that will divide the interior in half.  I'm thinking a solid colored bag with a super bright lining like hot pink or lime green. 

Now get out your graph paper.   If you don't have graph paper on hand, you can print your own.  I used a graph paper PDF from a site called Incomptech.  Make a rectangle the size of the outside dimensions of your bag.  Fill it in with a large, detailed sketch.  Do full front and full side sketches as well as a 3/4 view, just like house blueprints. You need to fill in where stitching lines will be and what you want the hardware to be.  Draw in pockets, ruffles, patches, etc.   Color it if it helps you visualize better.   Keep your sketch in proportion.   That's what the graph paper is for.  Use it.

Notice on the front of the bag I've marked that the straps will be 1 1/2" wide and extend the full length of the side of the purse.  I've also shown that I'm considering a 3" clip assembly.  It feels in proportion to me.  I've also marked the top stitching on the straps.  Notice that the bag is a basic rectangle.   I've also noted in the corner that I'm using two squares to equal an inch. 
On the back of the slouch bag I've written down that I want the center strap to be shorter by about 3" to create the slouch shape.  I've marked where the strap should be sewn down to the bag and where it should start hanging free.  You'll also notice that I've drawn in the fact that the handle strap will be attached with D rings.  These little details really help when it's time to start creating the pattern.

When you draw the bottom of your bag you need to decide if you are doing a separate bottom or just extending the fabric for the bottom.  Whichever you choose should fit the style of bag you are making.  Look at manufactured bags online or in person to get a feel of how each type of base works and what it does for a bag.  It's your choice but don't be intimidated by separate bottom pieces.  They are super easy and can really add structure to a bag.   I wrote a quick tutorial on sewing separate bottom pieces in purses if you need a refresher.

For the slouch bag, I wanted to soften the base.  I've planned an oval base that is too small all the way around the bag.  This will create gathering and curve the profile at the bottom of the bag.  I've also included top stitching and purse feet.  (oh purse feet, how I love them.)

On to the lining!  This is where making your own bag gets really, really fun.  Manufacturers do not understand the needs of modern women.  Most bags have a single zipper pocket barely big enough for your once a month emergency supply.  There's nothing in there to separate your keys from your cell phone from your lotion.   I always add pockets.   At the very least there will be two pen pockets, a cell phone pocket, and an extra pocket across one side of the bags I make.  Many bags have more than that.  My daughter's book bag has 15, although that was her choice and I'm still just a teensy bit bitter about it.  15 is a bit excessive. (In age and number of bag pockets.)
For this bag, I'm putting in the pockets along one side and a key clip near the top.  I've even got marked off where the sewing lines will be to separate the pockets.   I've also marked down the finished dimensions of the zipper pocket divider. 

Now you need to decide how many pieces of fabric you need to build the purse.  Does it have a separate bottom and side pieces?  What do these look like? How will you attach your strap?  How long with the strap be?  or are you using a manufactured handle?  How will it close? Zipper? Snap? Clip?

The Slouch bag, as I've noted will have D rings to attach the strap which will be 20-24" long.  I will only use a clip to close it so The Girl can get in and out quickly.  (Which is just an excuse to avoid the zipper issue.)

For the slouch bag we need:
2 large rectangles for the outside
1 oval base
2 straps for the sides (measuring longer so we can attach the D rings)
1 center strap finished measurement about 7 1/2"
1 center strap that will wrap from the bottom back of the bag all the way around to the front
1 handle, 20-24"  (gotta ask the girl what she wants)
3 D rings
1 clip or metal closure of some kind

For the lining:
2 large rectangles
2 zipper pouch pieces
1 pocket piece
1 12" zipper

Next week we'll take all this information and build our pattern.   This is where the graph paper comes in very handy.   You'll want to have pattern tracing fabric on hand.  You can buy either the blank fabric or the fabric with the 1" grid on it.  Which ever works best for you.

So get started sketching and then move on to the next step in Phase Two:  Pattern Construction.
When you've got your pattern you can start Phase Three:  sewing the lining

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