Create a custom bag: Introduction to pattern drafting

Hello, my crafty friends!
If you’re reading this, you’re probably interested in learning about pattern drafting. It’s a topic I get asked about quite frequently, so I’d like to give some insight into pattern drafting and how to get started.

For those who may not be familiar, pattern drafting is the process of creating a template or blueprint for a bag or purse design. This process involves taking measurements of the desired bag, creating a sketch of the design, and then transferring that sketch onto paper or computer software to create a pattern. This pattern is then used to cut out the fabric pieces needed to construct the bag.

The pattern drafting process is essential in bag design and construction, ensuring that all necessary pieces are cut accurately and in the correct proportions. It involves a combination of math, creativity, and attention to detail.

Whether you want to create a one-of-a-kind bag for yourself or design a line of bags to sell, having the ability to draft your own patterns will give you the freedom to create whatever you can imagine.

Parts of the bag

To be a successful pattern maker, it is essential that you understand the basics of bag construction. Most bags have a few basic components, including the body, lining, handles, crossbody straps, closures, and other features such as pockets or embellishments.

  • The body of the bag is the main part that holds everything inside and can be made from various materials, including faux leather, vinyl, cork, waxed canvas, and other fabrics.
  • The lining is the inner part of the bag, protecting the inside and giving it a finished look. It’s essential to choose a lining material that is durable and easy to work with, such as cotton or waterproof fabric.
  • The handles are what you use to carry the bag. They can be made from various materials, including leather, fabric, rope or webbing.
  • Crossbody straps come in many lengths and styles and can be made from leather, fabric, or webbing materials. They can be attached to a bag using rings and clips and adjusted to fit different body sizes and styles. They keep your bag close to your body and allow you to have your hands free to do other things.
  • The closures are what keep the bag closed, and they can include zippers, buttons, turn locks, or snaps.
  • Pockets are very functional and can be sewn in various shapes and sizes. They can be added to the interior or exterior of the bag.
  • Embellishments such as beads, sequins, or embroidery can add a unique touch to your bag.

Tools and Materials

Before you start drafting your first bag pattern, you’ll need to gather a few tools and materials. These include:

Types of patterns

There are several different types of patterns that can be used in bag pattern cutting, including:

  • Full-scale patterns are created at actual size, which means you can use them to cut out the fabric pieces for your bag without making any adjustments.
  • Reduced-scale patterns are patterns that have been scaled down from their original size. These patterns are helpful when you want to test out a new design before cutting it at full scale or when you want to make multiple copies of the same pattern.
  • Graded patterns have been created in a range of sizes. This allows you to make bags in different sizes without creating a new pattern for each size.
  • Block patterns are basic templates that are used as a starting point for creating custom designs.

The process of drafting a bag pattern

Now that you understand the parts of a bag and have gathered the necessary tools and materials, it’s time to start the process of bag pattern drafting. Here are the steps you’ll need to follow:

  1. Determine the size and shape of your bag and create a detailed sketch. This should include all the features and details you want, such as handles, closures, pockets, and embellishments.
  2. Measure your bag’s width, height, and depth, draw an outline on paper and add additional pieces for your design, such as a flap, pocket or gusset.
  3. Transfer your draft onto tracing paper. This will allow you to create a more accurate and precise pattern. You can do this by simply holding the tracing paper over your draft and tracing the lines with a pencil or pen.
  4. Add seam allowances to your pattern pieces. Seam allowances are the amount of fabric used to sew the pieces together. A standard seam allowance is usually between 5 mm (1/4”) and 1.5 cm (5/8”). You may need to use a wider seam allowance for certain areas of your bag, such as handles, hems or closures.
  5. Label each piece with its name and the fabric it will be cut from, and mark grainline, any darts, pleats, or other details.
  6. Cut out your pattern pieces. 
  7. To test your pattern, sew a prototype with a cheaper, more readily available material such as calico. This will allow you to make any necessary adjustments to your pattern before cutting into your final fabric. Be sure to cut out any additional pieces for structure, such as interfacing or cardboard.
  8. Once your bag is assembled, try it on or fill it with items to see how it fits and functions. Make any necessary adjustments, such as adjusting the handles or adding additional pockets.
  9. Once the pattern is finalised, you can make your bag in the desired fabric.

Bag pattern drafting can initially seem intimidating, but with a bit of practice and patience, it is a skill that anyone can learn. It is a great way to create unique, customised bags tailored to your style and needs. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced bag maker, learning how to draft your own bag patterns is a rewarding and fulfilling process that can lead to endless creative possibilities.

Bag design: Fundamentals of pattern drafting

Are you ready to learn how to design and create your own bag patterns? If so, you should check out my online course, Bag Design: Fundamentals of Pattern Drafting.

In this 7-week course, I will walk you through the bag design process from concept to construction.
You will learn how to create three-dimensional bags using two-dimensional shapes, add seam allowance, create design lines, manipulate the pattern, and draft various styles of pockets.

By the end of the course, you will be able to draft patterns from scratch and sew a mock-up to test your designs.

This course is perfect if you are a beginner looking to learn a new skill! So don’t wait – check out Bag Design: Fundamentals of Pattern Drafting today and start creating your own beautiful and functional bags.

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