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Lush & Plush Trends from Fabric.com: Trendy Faux Leather Handbag

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Red Leather. Read that out loud three times fast. (Go ahead... I'll wait) Hard to do isn't it? Now try Red Faux Leather. Much easier, isn't it? Not only is it easier to say, faux leather is much easier to sew with than the real thing. We really enjoyed designing and creating this elegant handbag project out of the faux leather provided by our friends at Fabric.com. It's part of our Lush & Plush Series sponsored by Fabric.com, which ran all last week and is continuing this week, giving you tips, projects and product reviews surrounding the lush-est, plushest, trendiest fabrics or Fall and Winter. Our Red Calf Faux Leather bag is a perfect crossover tote. It's clean and casual enough for the office, but still posh and pretty, and in a manageable size, so it works perfectly for a night on the town.

A real leather bag would have the seams glued open, hammered flat and top stitched. If your faux leather is soft enough, like our Fabric.com choice was, you can skip the glue and hammer and go straight to topstitching. Sew slowly, carefully and evenly; this detail is what makes the faux leather look like the genuine article.

Take a read through our tutorial on Sewing With Faux Leather for more details about working with this specialty fabric. For our handbag, we felt the three most important things to remember were: 1) choose a Teflon® or Ultra Glide type of foot for the topstitching detail, 2) use clips not pins to hold your layers together, and 3) double stitch the seams – this bag's seams need to hold up under stress, but when you fold out your seam allowances and topstitch, all the stress is now placed directly on the threads holding the seam together; two lines of stitching are better than one.

Our thanks to Fabric.com for helping us bring this Series to you. If you've never visited their site, you're missing out! Their selection is endless: from the latest designer quilting cottons to heavy canvas, sheer organza to cushy fleece... and just about everything in between. They also carry thread, notions, patterns, machines and more. They've been a delight to work with, and have put together a super Great Giveaway to round out the Series - be watching for that!

The finished size of the bag is approximately 13" wide x 9" high, excluding the handles.

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

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Getting Started

  1. From the fabric for the bag exterior (Red Calf Faux Leather in our sample), cut the following:
    TWO 11½"high x 17" wide rectangles for bag body
    TWO 5" high x 4" wide rectangles for handles
  2. From the fabric for the bag lining (Innocent Crush Sateen in our sample), fussy cut the following:
    TWO 11½" high x 17" wide rectangles for bag body
    TWO 5" high x 4" wide rectangles for handles
    TWO 11" high x 8½" wide rectangles for the pockets
    NOTE: If you use a directional print as we did with our pretty stripe, it should run horizontally.

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

Create the inside pockets

  1. Find the two 11" x 8½" pocket pieces.
  2. Fold each piece in half, right sides together, making each 5½" x 8½".
  3. Pin along both sides of each piece.
  4. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch both sides of each piece. Clip the bottom corners.
  5. Turn right side out. Push out the corners so they are nice and sharp. A chopstick or long knitting needle works well for this. Press well.
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Mark the lining for the pocket and the bottom corners

  1. Lay one of the 11½" x 17" lining pieces right side down on your work surface.
  2. Find the center point across the width (8½" from each raw edge). Using your fabric pen, draw a vertical line at this center point. Make a notch at the center top.
  3. Measure ½" from each raw edge and draw a line. So you have four intersecting lines, like a frame.
  4. Measure 1½" up from the bottom ½" drawn line and draw a parallel horizontal line (2" up from the bottom raw edge).
  5. Measure 4" up from this line you just drew and draw another parallel horizontal line, but this one is only 7½" in length and that 7½" inches is centered side to side on the center line. This is guide line for the bottom of the pocket.
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  6. At each bottom corner, use your see-through ruler to make two squares. One 2" x 2" square, and inside that, one 1½" x 1½" square. Then, draw a diagonal line connecting the inside corners point to point.
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  7. Repeat to make all these same markings on the other 11½" x 17" lining piece.

Stitch the pockets in place

  1. Locate the 7½" drawn guide line on one of your marked-up lining pieces that represents the bottom of the pocket.
  2. Using a contrasting thread, run a line of stitching along this drawn line. This will allow you an accurate guide line to follow when working from the right side of the lining fabric.
  3. Flip the lining to the right side.
  4. Line up the raw edges of one pocket along the sewn guide line. Pin in place.
  5. Re-thread your machine with thread to match your fabric.Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch straight across to attach the bottom of the pocket. We stitched across the bottom twice for better security.
  6. When done stitching, clip back the corners at a diagonal.
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  7. Flip the pocket up into position, encasing the raw edge of the bottom seam inside the pocket, and edgestitch both sides in place. Again, we double-stitched our seam and back-tacked as well at the top of each side. This is a stress point for the pocket and it's smart to secure the seam well.
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  8. Repeat to attach the remaining pocket in position on the remaining lining piece.
    NOTE: We added a final vertical seam bisecting each of our pocket panels so we had two smaller pockets on each side rather than one large pocket. This is optional. You could leave the pocket wide or you could make additional seams to create even narrower pockets for a cell phone or pen.

Assemble the lining and box the bottom corners

  1. Place the two lining pieces with the sewn pockets right sides together, aligning all raw edges and sandwiching the pockets in between the layers. Pin in place along both sides and across the bottom.
  2. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch both sides and across the bottom, stopping the seams (and back-tacking) at the drawn points of the small inside squares at each corner.
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  3. Cut out each corner along the inside drawn lines and cut up along the diagonal corner line.
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  4. Using both hands, pinch and pull apart one bottom corner. Precisely match the two seams front to back. Pin in place.
  5. Stitch across on the drawn line.
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  6. Repeat for the opposite corner.
  7. Set the finished lining aside.
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Make the handle tabs

  1. Find the two 5" x 4" lining pieces and the two 5" x 4" faux leather pieces.
  2. Pair them up, lining to leather, right sides together. Pin in place along the 5" sides.
  3. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch along the 5" sides.
  4. Turn right side out and press.
  5. Topstitch approximately ¼" from the each sewn edge.
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  6. Set the handle tabs aside.

Assemble the bag exterior

  1. Find the two 11½" x 17" faux leather pieces.
  2. Place them right sides together, matching all the raw edges. Clip in place.
  3. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch both 11½" sides. Stitch a second time to secure the seam line.
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  4. Press the seams open from the back. Turn the sewn piece right side out.
  5. Re-thread your machine with the slightly darker topstitching thread.
  6. Increase your stitch length and topstitch ¼" to the left and the right of each seam. These will become the decorative center seams of the finished bag so be very careful to keep your topstitching straight.
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    NOTE: You will notice we also switched to a Teflon® or Ultra Glide foot. You need this type of foot, a roller foot or you'll need to insert a piece of wax paper between the faux leather and your regular foot. If you are new to sewing with faux leather, learn about this and other techniques in our tutorial on the subject.
  7. Turn the exterior wrong side out again and match up the topstitched seams so they are in the center front and center back and there is a folded edge along what will be each side of the bag. Clip together the bottom of the bag.
  8. Using your fabric pen, create corner markings similar to those you did on the lining. Draw one horizontal line ½" up from and parallel with the bottom of the bag. Then draw two rectangles in each corner. The outer rectangle should be 2" high x 1½" wide. The inner rectangle should be 1½" high x 1" wide. Draw a diagonal line connecting the two inside corners.
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  9. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch across the bottom of the bag, following the ½" drawn line, and stopping at the drawn line of the inner rectangle. Back tack well at the beginning and end of the seam. As you did above, stitch a second time to secure the seam line.
  10. Cut out the inner rectangle and clip up along the drawn diagonal line.
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    NOTE: Save these little squares of faux leather; we'll use them in just a bit to reinforce the magnetic clasp.
  11. Turn the bag right side out, and run a line of topstitching ¼" to either side of the bottom seam, just like you did with the center seams.
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  12. Turn the bag wrong side out again, and box each corner, following the same steps as you did with the lining's corners.
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  13. Turn the bag right side out.
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Attaching the handles

  1. Find the two handle tabs. Center one over each front and back seam.
  2. The faux leather side of the handle tab should be against the faux leather exterior of the bag (right sides together). One raw edge of the handle tab should be aligned with the top raw edge of the bag, the other raw edge of the handle tab should be hanging down.
  3. Clip in place.
  4. Stitch to secure approximately ¼" from the raw edges.
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Inserting the magnetic clasp

  1. Find the lining.
  2. Press under the top raw edge of the lining ½" all around, creating a nice folded edge around the entire finished lining piece.
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  3. Remember those little leather pieces you cut out of the corners? Find the two of them. You'll use these to reinforce the magnetic clasps.
  4. Using the notch you cut at the center top of each lining piece... way back at the beginning. Slip a small square of leather under the folded edge of the lining at the front and the back and center it at this notch.
  5. Clip in place. Stitch in place around all four sides.
  6. Following manufacturer's instructions, insert one half of the clasp through all the layers at each center point.
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    NOTE: If you are new to using magnetic clasps, our Gypsy Romance Boho Shoulder Bag has good step-by-step photos and instructions.

Finishing the bag

  1. Turn the lining wrong side out and slip it inside the bag so the lining and the bag are wrong sides together.
  2. Align the magnetic clasps on the lining with the center front and back seams of the bag.
  3. Fold down the top raw edge of the back ½" all the way around to match the folded top of the lining. Use clips to hold the lining to the bag.
  4. The handle tabs are hanging free.
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  5. Find the plastic bag handles and slip one onto each handle tab. If your handles have a right side and wrong side, check to be sure the wrong side is facing in when you slip them in place.
  6. Wrap each handle tab over and slip the raw end down between the lining and the bag. The bottom of the plastic handle should sit just above the top folded edges of the bag.
  7. Reposition the clips to securely hold all the layers in place and topstitch all around the top opening of the bag approximately ¼" from the folded edges, attaching the lining to the bag. Make sure your machine is still threaded with the darker topstitching thread.
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Side pleats

  1. The top of the bag has a pleat at each side. To create these pleats, push the side in 1½". You've made a little "Z" fold and have three "pinch points."
  2. At each "pinch point" stitch a tiny horizontal seam to hold the pinch in place. Just a couple stitches or about ¼" is plenty. Sew your pinch point exactly in line with the topstitching seam and it will be barely noticeable. It's like a little bar tack at each point.
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Optional bottom-of-the-bag insert

  1. If you'd like your bag to have a bit more structure along the bottom, you can add a fabric-covered insert to the bottom of the bag.
  2. Cut a 2¾" x 12¾" piece of stiff cardboard or thin plastic.
  3. Cut one piece from the lining fabric 4" x 28".
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  4. Fold the lining fabric in half, right sides together, to form a long tube.
  5. Pin, and stitch together, using a ½" seam allowance, along both sides.
  6. Clip the corners and turn right side out.
  7. Slip the cardboard or plastic into the tube.
  8. Fold in the raw edges.
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  9. Topstitch the opening closed.
  10. Slip the insert into the bag to form and stabilize the bottom
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Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation: Kathy Andrews, What Sew Ever



Comments (82)

Jil said:
Jil's picture

This bag looks so beautiful! :) Do you suppose that the topstitching would be too bulky/difficult if the sides were longer than the 11.5"? 

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@Jil - glad you like our bag - it's always been super popular. I'm afraid I'm not sure which topstitching you're referring to - so you mean the little topstitching corners at the very top? In general, I don't see where length would make anything bulkier, but perhaps I'm not understanding your question. 

Jil said:
Jil's picture

Oops--sorry--the topstitching I was looking at was actually along the center seam (not the sides), so could be topstitched on the flat. I was thinking it was on the sides, and that one side could be topstitched on the flat, but the other side (since the front and back would now be sewn together) couldn't be, and that it might be kind of bulky if I made it a little taller. :)

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@Jil - ah ... okay. It sounds like all is well. Let us know if you make it and how it turns out. 

Mazeedah said:
Mazeedah's picture

A very beautiful creation plus it looks professional.. Thanks very much for the tutorial. Pls, how can I download the PDF?

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Mazeedah - Thank you! At the very top of our articles, directly across from the date on the right, are three buttons: one to print, one to email, and the third for a PDF.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@aby - Thanks. So glad to hear you like it. It is a classic style!

Veronika said:
Veronika's picture

Hi, thanks for the great tutorial. It was very easy to follow! I just add little metal feet to the bottom and made two longer handles which I found more practical. Great bag and the size is just about for A4 folder. Perfect!

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Veronika - So glad you love the bag - it is one of our favorites on the site. We hope you'll be back to try more projects.

Awenthomas said:
Awenthomas's picture

Great Tutorial. The way of presenting the information is too good. I really appreciate your post.The bag is also beautiful. Thanks!!

Critifur said:
Critifur's picture

Is there any reason I could not make this from real leather? I often find leather coats at the thrift store for a few dollars, and the leather could easily be repurposed. I would just need to use some sort of fusing for additional structure?

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Critifur - You could certainly make this from real leather. The bag isn't designed to be super rigid, so you may not need any additiional stabilization. It would really depend on the leather you find. The only challenge might be to find areas large enough to cut the pieces from - again that will depend on what you can find to re-purpose. If you want a more rigid bag, consider adding one of the foam interfacings. Pellon makes one we like and use a lot: 


cori said:
cori's picture

This is my next bag to make, already made one from your  site. Love

your projects. Thank you!

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Cori - Thanks! Sounds like you're on a roll!

handmaidhazel said:
handmaidhazel's picture

Just made this bag in navy with polka dot lining - i love it!  Pockets are a little high but will adjust next time - i will definitely be making another!

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ handmaidhazel - ohhh - polka dot lining, sounds great. We'd love to see a pic of your finished project. You can email us at info@sew4home.com or share it with us on Instagram.

Katherine slack said:
Katherine slack's picture

ive made more bags than I can count and have never seen a pattern with different measurements for the corners of the lining and the outer fabric. Very confusing. 

I love the look of the bag!

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Katherine slack - the measurements are different becuase the "side" seams of the exterior are actually at the center front and back not the side, but on the lining, the side seams are truly along the sides. This is what accounts for the 1/2" difference between the two measurements. So glad you love the bag - we hope you'll give it a try!

Bennie said:
Bennie's picture

I love this bag. can't wait to make it. I think I will use the cardboard base and I will also, as I always do, add four metal feet to the botom. thanks for sharing your bag.

Virginia Cuda said:
Virginia Cuda's picture


I have been wanting to make this bag for a long time but cannot purchase the handles anywhere in Australia. Is there a different option for handles that I could do? Do you think it would work with handmade long handles?

linneke said:
linneke's picture


I finished my first handbag last week, everybody loves it!

This first one is in green faux leather, the next one will be red like your example!

Because I could not find the same type of handles you have (I live in belgium, and I see often lovely things to make, but I can not allways find the materials) I bought big round bamboo handles.

Anyway, I want to thank you for this great tutorial, and I will check out the rest of your projects, this is all new to me.

Kind regards,





Lee Anne Fredericks said:
Lee Anne Fredericks's picture

Just finished making this bag for my grandmother for up coming mother's day.  She loves red.  I had a pair of red beaded handles so used them with a flowered lining.  The pattern worked up so nice.  Everyone wants me to make them one, too.  Thank you for this great pattern & Tutorial.  The only thing I would change is the pockets on the inside are a bit on the high side I will drop that down on the next one. 

Decorating Divas said:
Decorating Divas's picture

I am having trouble with the markings at the bottom of the lining. (A pity the photograph doesn't show the markings very well) Do you mark the 2 inch square from the raw edges or the 1/2 inch lines previously drawn. On the photo it looks like it's from the raw edge and yet the box is aligned with the line that is 2 inches from the 1/2 inch line. It doesn't seem possible to me. Can you clarify?

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Decorating Divas - in the lining section there are two photos side by side directly below step #6. Are you seeing these? If so, they show good pictures of the squares being drawn with a see-through ruler - the outer square at 2" x 2" and the inner square at 1" x 1". If this photo is not appearing, please try reloading the page. 

Decorating Divas said:
Decorating Divas's picture

Yes I see the photos, that's why I'm confused. In a previous step you have us draw a line, 2 inches up from the 1/2 seam allowance (making this line 2 1/2 inches from the raw edge. On the corner photos you show the 2 inch box being measured from the raw edges AND YET, it aligns with the 2 inch line drawn previously. Do you see  my problem?

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Decorating Divas - I see - yes, it should be 2" from the bottom raw edge, 1-1/2" from the drawn line. I have adjusted above. Sorry for your confusion. 

Decorating Divas said:
Decorating Divas's picture

"4. Measure 2" up from the bottom ½" drawn line and draw a parallel horizontal line"

I think perhaps this instruction is wrong and we should be measuring 2 inches up from the raw edge. From this line we measure the line for the pocket placement and looking at what I've already done so far, I feel my pocket is placed too high on the  lining.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Decorating Divas - see my note above. It is just a 1/2" difference, but interior pocket placement can certainly be adjusted to your preference if you feel it is too high for your liking. 

Titianmom said:
Titianmom's picture

Good ole' vintage sewing machines, all metal-- 1.0 amp motor, will sew through just about everything (short of metal cans) with ease and are a lot less expensive than the new ones with a million stitches you'll never use. I have a Kenmore 1753 from 1970 and I love it. 

D said:
D's picture

What kind of sewing machine did you use that is heavy duty enough for these materials?

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ D - Janome is our sponsor and is our preferred machine in the Sew4Home studios. For this tutorial, we recommended the Janome HD3000. However, many models will sew through the new faux leathers with ease. They are actually quite soft and supple... and not as thick as you might think. Most important is having a Teflon® type foot. But we do also give you some alternatives above. Also take a look at our general article on sewing with faux leather:


Simply wonderful ! said:
Simply wonderful !'s picture

Very nice bag , ( I love it ) , very nice work , very professional , and such a well made tutorial !!!!

Sheila said:
Sheila 's picture

Hi I am in the process of making this bag and loving it your instructions are so clear but just one thing I am having trouble attaching the lining to the bag I am finding the handles are getting in the way and it is hard to sew in that area and still get a neat finish is anyone else having this problem other than that I love the bag even my husband reckons it looks good

Lynn S said:
Lynn S's picture

I know this question was a while back, but you might try using a Teflon zipper foot to do the stitching at the top of the bag.  I've found that easier than using a regular foot.   

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Sheila - I'm not sure if I'm visualizing your exact problem. Are the handles not fitting through the machine? Perhaps they are bigger than the ones we used. If the bed space on your machine is narrow, I could see how it might be an issue. You could try stitching from the other side. Scrunch up the bag itself and stitch with the handles to the left of the needle. It will be a bit trickier to keep you seam allowance true, so you might want to mark it, but at least the bag would be a bit more flexible that the handles to fit through the machine. Best of luck. Glad you like the project!

Bowling Bags said:
Bowling Bags's picture

I’m so lucky today that I was able to read your post which gives me a lot of ideas that I’ve been looking for. With this, I can use it to my site…I hope to read more of your future post. Thanks a lot.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture
@ Daina Chavez - So glad you liked the tutorial. It's one of our absolute faces smilies/grin.gif - thanks so much for sharing your own creation!
Daina Chavez said:
Daina Chavez's picture
Hi there! I absolutely loved this purse and i made it myself, all i added was a bow and some feet at the bottom! Thanks SO much for your easy to follow Instructuions! I loved it!

you can see my version of this purse on my blog:


Thanks again!

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture
@ Michail - We're sorry, but we are unable to create revisions to our patterns or projects for size or usage variations. It's a challenge to change dimensions long-distance, especially without access to the item and/or person for whom the project is being adjusted. We would feel awful if we gave you inaccurate advice that caused your finished project to turn out less than successful. Our standard recommendation is to measure your item and/or person and compare those measurements to our original dimensions. Do the math to make adjustments and scale the original dimensions up or down. Then use these new measurements to make a prototype out of a muslin or another inexpensive fabric you have on hand. This is often the exact way we determine our own patterns and instructions. It is not only a good way to re-engineer a project, making a prototype is also a great practice run through the steps of construction.
Michail said:
Michail's picture
I would like to make to fit a 15.8" laptop. What would you suggest I cut the pieces. No room for error. smilies/sad.gif. Please help
ayThe gambia said:
ayThe gambia's picture
Really lovely projects .Thanks for all the little details and tips.adding to my project list. thanks for sharing.