Let’s explore how to adjust bag patterns, there are so many ways to change the look of your finished bag, from adjusting the size to changing the hardware, creating bag panels, bag fastenings and bag handles.
It can be really helpful to sketch out the design of your finished bag, this will help you work out size and scale, hardware, fastenings and so forth. A bag is generally made in the following order:-
- Plan shape and size
- Cut out fabrics and interfacings
- Apply any interfacings to the reverse of the bag
- Add any exterior pockets to the exterior fabric
- Construct outer bag
- Add any pockets to the lining
- Add bag closure (magnetic snap, recessed zipper, button loop)
- Construct lining
- Attach handles
- Insert bag into lining, stitch together
- Add a hard bottom
- Close lining
- Finish handles
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There are many ways to change a bag without changing the pattern – it is easy to change the handles, add external pockets or change out the closure of the bag. This project bag is the same basic pattern, adjusted in a variety of ways to achieve a different look, merely by changing the fastenings and handles. I have written this project bag pattern to cover all options which is available for free – Free project bag three ways. Personally I like the look of leather handles as I feel it takes a bag to a professional level.
So back to the core question adjusting a bag pattern.
How do you adjust the size of a finished bag? One way is to compare the size of the bag pattern finished bag size to the size of the handmade bag you are aiming for. Do you want your bag to be wider and/taller than the bag design or smaller? By how much?
There are a couple of ways to reduce or increase the bag pattern. If you are printing a PDF bag pattern you can change the print size when you chose to print. Normally when you print your pattern as the pattern states, you will choose print settings “Actual Size” or “Custom Scale: 100%”. But you can change this setting by clicking custom scale and increase or decrease the pattern. Please take note that your seam allowance will stay the same, and you may need to adjust the hardware – if you have reduced an over large bag to a medium bag you may reduce the size of the hardware for the straps to be in proportion.
An alternative is to alter the measurements of the bag pattern. You may find this process easier if you wish a specific size for your finished bag. Using this method it is helpful to start by asking yourself three questions:-
- What are the finished dimensions of the pattern you have?
- What are the finished dimensions you want?
- What is the difference between these two?
For instance, if your desired bag is 2″ wider you could cut the pattern piece in half centrally and add a strip of paper 2″. Likewise if narrowing the width of the bag you can cut a 2″ strip from the center of the pattern. Doing this centrally is important if the bag has curves. Using this method you change a messenger bag into a laptop bag by simply increasing the overall width of the bag.
You can change the depth of a bag with boxed corners. Reduce the depth of the bag by reducing the size of the corner when you box the corners of a bag. This will make your bag higher and wider. Or you can increase the depth of the bag by increasing the corner, this will make the overall bag shorter and smaller width.
You can adjust your bag pattern pieces to keep the width and depth the same, for example, if you add 1/2″ to your boxed corner making the bag wider you can add 1/2″ an inch to the width and height of the pattern to keep the rest of the bag the same size.
Another way to alter bags is to create panels in the front of the bag. This is the same project bag featured above, with panels. As you see it totally changes the feel of the bag.
To create these panels I printed the pattern off, then cut the pattern into three pieces. If you use this method do not forget to add a seam allowance along your newly created edge when cutting out your bag pattern pieces. If you wish to do the same with this pattern I have cut from the corner of the box corner at the bottom up to a point 4 1/4″ in from the edge.
I have written a detailed post talking you through how I have made this denim tote bag to a smaller size denim tote. I appreciate it can be really helpful to see how to alter a bag in reality.
Not only have I changed the size, but also changed the bag handles, and the stitching design which results in a completely different bag.
I hope this post has talked you through various ways to customize a bag pattern and truly make it your own.
Personally I am rather passionate about bag making – if you are new to bag making I have the perfect Beginners Bag Making Course for you which covers so many essential skills for bag making, and includes many free bag tutorials. If you prefer I have an Ebook Bag Making for Beginners
Warning you may become bag obsessed, noticing people bags as you are out and about, never mind researching shapes and sizes in a department store.