Sometimes all it takes to spark an idea is one great element. For this modern bag, we spotted a unique buckle and built outward from there. We used two different upholstery style faux leathers – one textured and one smooth. Of course, we’ve included lots of good tips and tricks for working with a vinyl substate to help you create the trendy look of our high-end boutique bag.
Working with a non-woven substrate with a “sticky” surface presents a few challenges, but all can be easily overcome with the right tools. Be sure to review our two full tutorials for all the specific tips: Working with Faux Leather and Handling Laminates. In particular, remember to opt for clips over pins, and to try a Teflon® type presser foot for topstitching, such as Janome’s UltraGlide foot.
Vinyl based faux leathers are much thicker than the micro-suedes and other lightweight leather-like fabrics generally used for garment construction. Because of this, it’s always important to keep layers to a minimum. For this bag, we used flat cut layers whenever possible. These raw cut edges can be touched up with a permanent marker to create a clean finish.
Another key to a good finish with faux leather is careful topstitching and edgestitching. Starting with a new, sharp needle and lengthening your stitch are important as is picking a presser foot that can help you keep your stitching straight and true. We like the Janome Edge Guide foot and the Janome Bi-Level foot. You can stitch over the surface with these specialty feet! If you experience any “drag” try slipping a sheet of wax paper between the foot and the surface of the vinyl. For other tips, don’t forget to review our Sewing with Laminates article.
For versatility, we include both handles and a detachable cross-body strap. The handles are long-enough to slip over your shoulder. If you would prefer a shoulder strap to a cross-body strap, simply reduce the strap cut length from our recommended 52″ to 40″-42″.
The available variety in both textures and colors of upholstery vinyl is wonderful. Browse your favorite store or website for ideas.
Our bag finishes at approximately 12″ high x 15″ wide with a 3½” base and sides. It features 8″ high handle loops and a detachable 50″ cross-body strap.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing Machine and standard presser foot
- A new 100/16 Denim Needle or 80/12 Sharps Needle
- Zipper foot; optional but helpful for stitching alongside the buckle
- UltraGlide foot or similar Teflon® type presser foot; optional, but helpful when working with vinyl
- Edge Guide foot; optional but helpful for precise topstitching and edgestitching
- Bi-Level foot; optional but also helpful for precise topstitching and edgestitching
- Walking or Even Feed foot; optional but helpful when working with slippery/heavy fabric layers – or, if possible, you could engage your machine’s built-in fabric feeding system, such as the AcuFeed™ Flex system we use on many of our Janome studio models.
Fabric and Other Supplies
- ⅓ yard of 54″+ wide textured faux leather or similar for the center exterior panels
- ½ yard of 54″+ wide smooth faux leather or similar for the top accent band and facing, base accent band, buckle straps, handles, and cross body strap
- 1 yard of 44″+ quilting weight cotton for the lining
- 1 yard of 20″+ foam stabilizer; we used Pellon Flex Foam
- Scrap or ¼ yard of 20″+ mid-weight fusible interfacing (you need just a 5½” x 9″ rectangle); we used Pellon Décor Bond
- ½ yard of ⅝” ribbon for the D-Ring loops; we used ⅝” grosgrain ribbon in black
- ONE apx 5″ x ½” metal buckle
- SIX ¾” D-rings
- TWO ½” swivel hooks
- Heavy thread to match exterior solid fabric; we used Coats Heavy Thread in Black
- All-purpose thread to match lining fabric
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Iron and ironing board
- Pressing cloth
- Clips for working with the faux leather and vinyl
- Straight pins
- Sharpie® or similar permanent marker in a color to match the faux leather for the accent band, handles and strap; we used a black Sharpie®
- Low tack tape, such as masking or painter’s tape, to help hold pieces in place during construction
Getting Started and Pattern Download
- Download and print the Buckle Strap pattern.
IMPORTANT: This pattern download consists of ONE 8½” x 11″ sheet. You must print the PDF file at 100%. DO NOT SCALE to fit the page.
- Cut out the pattern piece along the solid line.
- From the exterior top fabric (the black in our sample), cut the following:
TWO 19½” wide x 4½” high rectangles for the top accent bands
TWO 19½” wide x 5″ high rectangles for the base accent bands
TWO 1½” wide x 19″ strips for the handles
ONE 1½” wide x 52″ strip for the cross-body strap
ONE 1½” wide x 9″ strip for the lining pocket band
ONE 2″ x 24″ strip for the long buckle strap
Using the pattern, cut one short buckle strap
NOTE: Use a clear ruler and rotary cutter for the cleanest cuts. It also helps to mark each piece to help keep track of which piece is which.
- Color the raw edges of all these accent pieces (the black pieces in our sample) with a Sharpie® or a similar permanent pen, and allow the ink to dry. This “edge painting” may be touched up further during construction.
- From the fabric for the center panels (the silver basket weave in our sample), cut TWO 19½” wide x 8¼” high rectangles.
- From the lining fabric, cut the following:
TWO 19½” wide x 12¾” high rectangles for the lining panels
ONE 9″ wide x 11″ high rectangle for the pocket; we fussy cut our pocket for an exact match against the lining panel.
- From the foam interfacing, cut TWO 19½” x 14″ panels.
- From the fusible interfacing, cut ONE 5½” x 9″ rectangle for the lining pocket.
- Cut the ribbon into SIX 2″ lengths.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Create the front exterior panel
- Our instructions show the exact Dritz Fashion Buckle we used. Other buckles would certainly work, you just might need to slightly adjust the size of the tab that loops through top and bottom of your buckle.
- Find one of the textured center panels, one top accent band, one base accent band, the short buckle strap, two D-rings, two lengths of ribbon, and your buckle.
NOTE: For our buckle, there was a specific top and bottom to the two buckle sections so they are easiest to buckle across the bag. The static bar piece goes on the bottom – on the short strap you cut out with the pattern. The clip piece goes on the top – the longer strap. You insert the clip over the bar while holding the clip at a 90˚ angle to the bar. It then rotates up into position.
- Slip the shorter strap through the bottom buckle piece. Align the raw ends of the strap. Place this tab at the exact center along the bottom edge of the center panel. The raw edges of the tab should be flush with the bottom raw edge of the center panel. Clip in place.
- Machine baste in place close to the raw edges.
NOTE: We are using the Janome UltraGlide foot, which is helpful when stitching on the right side of the vinyl.
- Slip a length of ribbon through each D-ring and align the raw edges of the ribbon.
- Center the D-rings along the top edge of the center panel with 6″ between the two ribbon tabs. The raw edges of the ribbon should be flush with the top raw edge of the center panel. Clip in place.
- Machine baste each ribbon loop in place.
- Find the top accent band. Place it right side up along the top edge of the center panel. This is not a traditional seam, but is rather a simple overlap seam in order to keep bulk at a minimum. Overlap the center panel with the accent panel by ½”.
- Clip in place at the sides and tape in place across the center.
- Edgestitch the accent band to the center panel, running the seam ⅛” from the cut edge of the accent band, removing the tape as you stitch.
NOTE: For all edgestitching and topstitching, we lengthened our stitch (we used 2.8mm – 3.0mm, but test to confirm your best length) and used a heavy thread with a denim needle.
- Repeat to overlap and tape the base panel in position along the bottom edge of the center panel.
- Secure the buckle strap in place by topstitching up both short sides and across the top. Remember to pivot at both top corners of the stitching.
- You could switch to a Zipper foot if you have trouble passing below the buckle.
Create the back exterior panel
- Find the remaining textured center panel, top accent band, base accent band, the long buckle strap, four D-rings, four lengths of ribbon, and the top half of your buckle.
- Align the one end of the longer strap at the exact center along the bottom edge of the center panel. The raw edge of the strap should be flush with the bottom raw edge of the center panel. Clip in place at the base and tape across the middle so the strap lays flat.
- Slip a length of ribbon through each D-ring and align the raw edges of the ribbon.
- As you did on the front panel, center the D-rings along the top edge of the center panel with 6″ between the two ribbon tabs. The raw edges of the ribbon should be flush with the top raw edge of the center panel. Clip in place.
- Machine baste the base of the strap and both D-rings in place close to the raw edges.
- Overlap the base accent band across the bottom of the center panel ½”, just as you did on the front. Clip and tape in place.
- Edgestitch in place through both layers. Make sure your stitching is ⅛” from the cut edge of the accent band, just as it was on the front panel.
- Repeat to overlap, clip, and tape the top accent band in place. Fold the strap down and out of the way.
- Again, you could switch to a Zipper foot if need be in order to pass above the D-rings with a nice, straight line of topstitching.
- Slip the free end of the strap through the top half of the buckle.
- Fold the strap back on itself and clip in place.
- The cut end of the strap should end extend beyond the bottom edge of the accent band ¼”.
- Pull the strap away from the center panel. Topstitch the folded back edge in place. Make sure your seam is ¼” from the cut edge so this topstitching seam line with line up with the topstitching seam along the bottom of the accent band.
- With the buckle half still slipped up and out of the way, flatten the folded end of the strap. Find the strap pattern. Fold the pattern in half and align the fold line on the pattern with the actual folded end of the strap. Clip the pattern in place.
- Carefully cut out the two half circle notches.
- Find the permanent market and color the raw edges of the newly cut-out half circles and touch up the edges of the free end of the long strap as needed. Slide the buckle down into position and clip together the layers along both free sides.
- Edgestitch through both layers across the bottom end as close to the buckle as possible, and up both the free sides.
- When done, lay the strap flat across the top accent band and stitch across through the two layers of the strap and the layers of the accent band and center panel. Run your seam directly on top of the band’s topstitching seam to hold the folded-back raw end of the strap in place. Your new seam should go right over the top of the existing seam and be directly in line with the topstitching on the accent band. You are only stitching across the band.
- Keeping your seam exactly in line with the topstitching on the free end, topstitch along both sides of the bottom end of the strap through the center panel.
- Find the remaining two lengths of ribbon and the two D-Rings. Slip a ribbon through each ring and place the rings along either side of the back panel, 1″ below the bottom edge of the accent band. Machine baste the two tabs in place.
Add foam panels, stitch front to back, and box corners
- Find the two foam panels. Clip one panel to the wrong side of each exterior panel. Align the side edges and the bottom edges. The top accent band should extend 2½” beyond the foam at the top edge.
- Machine baste in place along both sides and across the bottom of each panel, staying close to the raw edges. Do not stitch across the top.
- Place the front and back exterior panels right sides together and clip along both sides and across the bottom.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch along both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners. Remember to stitch all the way up the sides past where the foam ends to the top edges of the accent band.
- Our bag is designed to have a 3½” base and sides. To create this width, we figured our corners at 1¾”. Cut a 1¾” square from each bottom corner. We drew in our stitching line ½” from the cut corner.
- Flatten and double stitch the corners, using a ½” seam allowance or stitching along your drawn guideline.
NOTE: If you are new to this technique, check out our tutorial: How To Box Corners.
- Turn the bag right side out, push out the corners.
Create the lining
- Find the two lining panels, the pocket panel, the pocket interfacing panel, and the pocket band in the solid faux leather.
- Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse the interfacing to the wrong side of one half of the pocket panel.
- Fold the pocket panel in half right sides together so it is now 9″ x 5½”. Pin along both sides.
- Re-thread the machine with all-purpose thread to best match the lining.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch along both sides. Clip the corners.
- Turn right side out. Push out the corners so they are nice and sharp. A chopstick, long knitting needle or point turner works well for this. Press flat.
- The folded edge is the bottom of the pocket. The raw edges are the top of the pocket, which will be covered with the pocket band.
- Fold the top band in half lengthwise, right sides together.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch both short ends only.
- Trim back the seam allowance to ⅛”. If you haven’t already, touch up all the raw edges with the permanent marker.
- Turn the band right side out and gently push out the upper corners. Slip the band over the top raw edges of the pocket and clip in place.
- Edgestitch the band in place. Go slowly and run your seam ⅛” from the cut edge, making sure you are catching both the front and back of the band in the one seam. We used our Janome Edge Guide foot.
- Measure to find the exact center of the pocket and draw in a vertical guideline dividing the pocket in half.
- Find one of the two lining panels. We fussy cut our pocket and so picked the panel that matched the pocket.
- Place the pocket right side up on the right side of the lining panel. The pocket should be centered side to side and 3½” up from the bottom raw edge of the lining panel. Pin in place along both sides and across the bottom.
- Edgestitch the pocket in place along both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners and with a generous backstitch at the beginning and end of the seam, ie. at the pocket top. This is a stress point for the pocket and it’s smart to secure the seam well. Finally, stitch along the drawn dividing guide line.
- Place the two lining rectangles right sides together, sandwiching the pocket between the layers, and pin along both sides and across the bottom.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners.
- As above with the exterior, box the bottom corners, measuring the corner at 1¾” to result in a 3½” finished box.
- Double stitch the corner and trim back to ¼”.
Assemble lining and exterior
- With the lining still wrong side out, find the exterior bag, which should be right side out. Slip the lining inside the exterior so the two are now wrong sides together.
- Push the lining all the way down into the exterior bag. Line up the bottom corners and the side seams. The pocket side of the lining should sit against the back of the bag exterior.
- Fold the top band of the exterior down into place on the inside of the bag. There should be 2″ of the band showing against the exterior and 2½” of the band folded back to the inside of the bag, which means the inside cut edge of the band should fall ½” below the outside cut edge of the band. This is important as it will make the final topstitching to secure the band much more accurate. Clip the facing in place all around.
- The lining should extend under the band by approximately ½” – ¾”. We pinned the lining to the foam interfacing to keep it securely in position during the final stitching.
- Edgestitch through all the layers along the bottom of the accent band. As with the other stitching, your seam should run ⅛” from the cut edge. We used both our standard presser foot as well as our Janome Edge Guide foot for this final topstitching. At the bottom, you should be stitching right on top of the original seam that secured the top band to the center panel.
- Slow and steady wins the race here because you are stitching through a lot of layers – especially over the side seams. You could even stop and hand walk over the thick seams if necessary. The key is to keep the the stitching on the front as straight and even as possible as it will be highly visible. If you have any issues with “sticking” try a Janome UltraGlide foot or other Teflon® type foot. Or, you can place a layer or wax or parchment paper between the foot and the vinyl as well as between the vinyl and the needle plate. For more hints and tips, see our tutorial on working with laminates and other “sticky stuff.”
- Go around a second time along the top folded edge of the accent band. This seam helps flatten the band so you don’t have the “bubbling” for which vinyl can be famous.
- On the inside of the bag, use a pair of sharp scissors to trim the cut edge close to the seam. This is what is left from that extra ½” you positioned to the inside of the bag. Even when your seam looks great from the front (most important), it can waver a bit on the inside. By having that extra fabric on the inside, you can be sure to catch the inside all around then trim to an even edge when finished.
Make and attach the handles and cross-body strap
- Find the two handle straps and the long cross-body strap. Fold all three strips in half lengthwise, wrong sides together, and clip in place. If need be, use the permanent marker to touch up all the cut edges.
- Edgestitch along both long sides of each folded strip. The ends remain unstitched.
- Slip each raw end of the cross-body strap through a swivel clip. Pull through 1″ and clip in place. The clips snap into place on the side D-rings. The strap is then fully detachable.
- Slip each raw end of each handle strap through the D-rings along the top front and top back of the bag. Pull through 1″ and clip in place. You are slipping through from back to front, which means the folded back ends will lay against the band when the handles are up in position. When they handles are up, you see the clean finished side of the strap. When the handles drop down, you see the folded back edge. Also, the raw cut edges are the inner arc of the handle and the folded edge is the outer arc.
- Double-stitch across the folded back ends of all the straps. On the handles, this means you will need to pull the handle away from the bag to best maneuver it under the needle.
- You should end up with two short lines of stitching on each strap end. Again, make sure any cut edges are touched up with the permanent marker.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Leah Wand