Success With a Curved Gusset

gusset The Colette Bowler Bag tutorial vinyl

A curved gusset can present a challenge to both beginner and more experienced bag makers alike. Let's take a look at the directions and pictures from The Colette Bowler Bag pattern, along with comments and added tips. While the pictures are showing vinyl, this can also be used with heavy cotton fabric. Armed with this information, you'll be ready to take on a curved gusset with confidence!

Pattern Pieces:

The small gusset is rounded in the corners, straight at the bottom edge, and straight at the top where it joins with the zipper placket. The overlays have long straight edges to attach to the curved corners.  Accuracy in piecing all seams up to this point and following the pattern instructions, along with patience, will help you get the look you're dreaming of. First, here are the pattern pieces (not to scale) for shape context:

TIP: After you have fused your interfacing to the gusset pieces, take the time to mark the seam allowance. This can be very helpful when you are sewing as you are trying to maneuver the piece and keep track of the seam allowance at the same time.

Ready to attach - verify seams if needed:

In this picture, the gusset piece has been added to the zipper placket, and top-stitched. The wrong side of the gusset has a piece of foam stabilizer, inset 1/2" from the edge to keep out of the seam allowance. This assembly is now ready to attach to the bottom and the side. Personally, I like to verify that my seams on the outside of the bag joining the bottom and placket are 3/8". I don't want to find it out AFTER I've clipped it all together! It's easier to fix at this point!

Snip curves to help in easing:

At this point, make small 1/8” snips in the curved part of the exterior gusset every ¼”. This will help open it up to ease the seam allowance against the straight edges. 

Clip the gusset to the bottom and sides:

With the added foam and the rigidity of vinyl/faux leather, you will have to "manhandle" the bag in order to get this area to lie flat. With the gusset pieces on top, the pattern instructions are as follows:

"Make sure your lining is clipped out of the way (purple fabric). With RST (right sides together), pull down your exterior GUSSET to match up the center mark with your exterior BOTTOM center mark. Make sure you do this first and pin or clip together. 

Second, align the exterior GUSSET seam and the top of the corner OVERLAYS on the sides. If the required SA allowances have been followed throughout the pattern, they should line up on either side. Note: You can use a small regular stapler to hold the pieces together by stapling within the SA. They will be trimmed away after stitching. This helps a lot with curves!"  

If using a stapler, I suggest doing this away from your sewing machine, like over a trashcan. We all know that sometimes we miss the edge and a staple goes flying! 

TIP: If you choose to use a stapler, the mini handheld is best for control. I attempted using a small desktop stapler and it was too awkward. This is the best size:

Pattern directions continued:

"Continue clipping around the side until you reach the top corners. If you have not used staples, baste in place at 1/8” first, so you can check and adjust if anything shifts. I strongly suggest basting these sections first before stitching the entire seam so they do not shift. After basting, peek inside the bag to verify that your overlay and gusset seams match."

TIP: Even if using staples, I like to baste the gusset/overlay intersection to secure that seam together. This is a focal point of the bag when viewed closely. Baste the bottom first, then baste the sides to secure. 

"Then stitch at 3/8” SA. You can carefully run another line of stitching right next to the first, within the SA to reduce tension on the first stitches so they don’t show on the front when turned. Note: I found after making multiple test bags, that stitching the bottom curve of the side panel first, and then stitching from the curve to the top corners on the straight sides works well if you don’t have the option to use staples."

"Trim SA to ¼”, avoiding the top 1” on either of the top corners. We will need the long SA there later. Repeat Steps 1 – 4 for the other exterior side. Reach into the bag through the lining opening and look inside to make sure everything is aligned and not puckered before moving on." 


Later, when you turn your bag right side out and before stitching the lining closed, you'll want to work the seams with your fingers on the outside and maybe with your hand on the inside helping to push to get a nice finished look. I chose not to top-stitch my gusset in the picture above due to both machine and beginner issues, but I really think it gives a more finished look to the gusset. 

If you need a video look at this process, check out Kassiah Schern Myers' YouTube video on Siah Swag. The gusset starts at 1:25:00. Note that Kassiah mentions cutting the actual bag sides with the small snips. Patricia recommends cutting the curved gusset. As a bag maker, you will find what works best for you.

Kassiah Schern Myers - The Colette Bowler Bag

These tips should have you feeling more confident about sewing a curved gusset. Give it a try, and be sure to share your makes with us on our Facebook Pattern Group!

Whether you are a beginner or an expert bag maker, we'd love to have you join our Facebook Pattern Group. Ask questions, give guidance and encouragement, share your makes. Patricia is always quick to answer questions, and loves your feedback. 

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