Designing a handbag is a lot more than just putting a few pieces of leather or fabric together. You have to first have an idea. This idea can come from something in you or something that has inspired you. Once you have an idea, you have to put it on paper. Draw out what you see in your mind. Now your design is, in a sense, tangible. When you draw out your design you can add samples of fabric and hardware that you might use. Allowing you to touch, feel, and see on paper, what this one handbag can be.
A good handbag isn’t just about the design, though. A good handbag design holds up through the good times and the bad times. It can take a “beating” and still look as if it is brand new. A part of that comes from how the bag is designed and put together. Another part is what’s underneath giving the outside material (leather/fabric) support. In the sewing world, we call that underneath support stabilizer and interfacing.
Stabilizers help your handbag stand up right on their own.
There are many types of stabilizer’s and interfacing’s along with different brands. In this post, I am going to share what I use for the designing of my handbags and accessories, specifically.
Let’s start with what the difference is between the terms stabilizer and interfacing. They both provide support to the material of choice. A stabilizer is used for the outside material, to help support the structure of the handbag. Interfacing is used for your lining material, to give the lining fabric body.
The two brands used for my handbags are Pellon (purchased from Joann’s or Walmart) and Luigi Carnevali (purchased from Rocky Mountain Leather Supply). Starting with Pellon, there are 4 different types of stabilizer’s and interfacing’s that I use. Three of those are stabilizers, 40 midweight (very light weight), 50 heavyweight (medium weight), and 926 extra firm (heavy weight). All of these stabilizers are sew in (iron on is available for Pellon stabilizers). This is preferred because the look this option gives the fabric from sewing in rather than iron on, is a lot different. In my opinion, the sew in option is a lot cleaner. Also, when it comes to leather, you cannot iron on stabilizers. That will ruin the leather. But, you can sew on a stabilizer or you can use a piece of vegetable tanned leather, depending on what type of handbag you are designing and the look you are going for. Okay, going back to Pellon. The fourth product I use from Pellon is SF101. This product is an interfacing and is used to give your lining body. If you haven’t guessed from my previous statement, the interfacing is used for the lining of the handbag. This is something that has to be ironed on. There is no sew in option for SF101. Now, keeping that in mind, you will have to test the interfacing with the fabric you have chosen for your lining. SF101 is great for cotton fabric (quilting fabric). I have also had success with using it on satin fabric.
The stabilizers that I personally make the most use of are the 50 heavyweight and 926 extra firm, with the latter being my go to. 926 gives great body to the outside of your handbag while still being flexible enough to have the shape you desire. The 50 heavyweight is great for fabrics that already have some sort of stabilizer to them, such as vinyl (varies depending on the brand of vinyl). It just gives it a little something extra, which will also help your handbag last a long time.
Now, let’s take a look at Luigi Carnevali. Prior to Rocky Mountain Leather Supply carrying this brand, it was not available to us small business owners and makers. I love all of the products that are currently available, so far. I would actually prefer to use this for all of my handbags, the cost is just a lot more than Pellon. (Pellon is still great!) The two products I have used from LC is the Brio Reinforcement and Oslo “Quilting” Memory Foam. Brio is stiff and great for bases of bags or wherever you need structure. I like to use it in my wallets. Oslo memory foam is the product you see in designer bags with crosshatch stitch designs or similar designs. It gives your design a 3D look and a soft appearance. Luigi Carnevali is offered in different thicknesses, again depending on the look you are going for, as well as different length options, depending on how much you need.
Well, ladies and gents, there you have it. This is a little something to help get you started or expand your knowledge on stabilizers and interfacings. Remember to share your projects with me on IG: @jchristinehandbags!