This is the third and final installment of the "tools of the trade" for successful handmade bags. If you missed the first two parts, check out Your Bag Making Tool Kit - The Sewing Machine: Part One and Your Bag Making Tool Kit - Measuring, Marking, and Cutting: Part Two. (I have provided some links to suggested tools, but Kaya Papaya Design is not affiliated with nor endorses any of these items listed unless noted).
Your bag is cut out perfectly, and your sewing machine is optimized and awaiting bag assembly. Before you sit down at the machine, take the time to set up your pressing area.
As with any tool, you can find a steam iron at different price points. The important thing is that it steams. A long cord, long cut-off time, and a large water reservoir can be nice features, too. While the iron is essential, the tools to use with it are just as important to protecting your fabric and making sure you do a great pressing job.
To protect your fabric, and in particular vinyl, faux leather, or cork, use a pressing cloth or a Teflon sheet. These are helpful when applying interfacing - place the sheet over the interfacing to protect your iron, and when you flip the fabric over, place the sheet under the fabric to protect your surface. When using a pressing cloth, there may be times when it needs to be dampened, so be sure to keep a nice leak-free spray bottle close by. (For more on interfacing, check out Make Your Bag Shape Up!) Additionally, I have a magnetic strip on the wall above my pressing area with all the different directions for the various interfacings and stabilizers. I have also found that a good light source is helpful.
As for the ironing surface, a wool mat is wonderful for holding heat and making the pressing go quicker. And because it and the steam are painfully hot, get some silicone finger caps and a silicone spatula. Both are great when making straps and skinny pieces of trim. The finger caps obviously protect your fingers, and the spatula can be used to hold down fabric in front of the iron. (Not sure why in this picture they come in 12 pieces!?)
When you're ready to give your seams a press, a tailor's ham and a sleeve roll can be very handy. I've also used a rolled up towel.
There will come a time when you are rushing and accidentally lay the interfacing adhesive side up. Be sure and keep some iron cleaner at your pressing station.
The pressing area is ready to go. Let's make sure you have the proper tools for holding things together.
When we discussed cutting out in Part Two, I mentioned that it is best to either not use pins, or to make sure they are secured within the seam allowance. Don't get rid of your pins - there are times when they'll be needed. But in addition to them, you'll definitely want a good supply of wonder clips. Some bag makers also use binder clips, but they have such a strong grip, be warned that they can leave a mark on vinyl or other fabrics that can't be heated enough to remove. A very happy feature of using clips - it is really hard to sew over them and break your needle. Clips also make easing fabric at curves a faster task than pinning.
In most of Kaya Papaya Design's patterns, we list notions - some as optional. These products will help make the job faster and skip the frustration of trying to get thick fabrics to behave or hold zippers in place. Double-sided tape (DST), fabric glue, and washable wonder tape will be your friends you never want to be without once you've used them once. Be aware that some double-sided tape brands will gum up your needle and cause stitching issues - a real nightmare when you are going for perfect top-stitching on a strap. Quilter's wash away tape may be an option, as it is rated for sewing, but may not be strong enough to hold heavier fabrics like vinyl in place.
You're fully into assembling your bag and it is shaping up well. Let's cover the tools necessary for finishing up with a beautiful product.
Prior to assembling overlays, straps, and strap connectors cut from leather, non-fraying vinyl, or faux leather, you may want to finish the edges. Edge Kote comes in a variety of colors to match your fabric, including neutral which is clear. You can use a small paintbrush or a cotton swab to apply. A bottle lasts a long time. This needs to be allowed to dry for a few minutes before proceeding.
Many times in a handbag pattern you will need to turn out a pocket or other piece and finish it with a nice square edge or point. A variety of tools can be used such as a wooden or plastic point turner, a chopstick, stiletto, or knitting needle. I have found the wooden point turner to be the most useful as it will not poke through the corner and you can run it along the seam edge to get it to roll out nicely. Of course, a tube turner can be a sanity saver when you have a small tube to turn. Also, a 1/2" dowel can be used for turning strap handles.
Of course, the sewist's mascot, the seam ripper, is indispensable. I was surprised to learn that these actually need replacing as the sharp end will get dull over time. I only replaced mine when I lost it! I also learned that a tiny seafood fork is quite helpful at pushing down fabric in front of the presser foot. I found this cool 4-in-1 tool on Amazon.
The last additions to your Bag Making Tool Kit is Fray Check and a variety of hand needles. Fray Check is excellent for the slits at magnetic snaps. Be warned that you don't want to apply it to a visible area as it is shows after it dries. And as much as we try to not have much, if any, hand stitching on Kaya Papaya Design patterns, sometimes you may want to add a decorative feature or do a repair that requires handwork. Needles suitable for thick fabrics will be good to have on hand.
This three part series covered both essential and "nice to have" tools that will insure that you're prepared to make beautiful, handmade bags you'll be proud to share. Do you have any particular tools that you have found to work well?
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