This is a review of The Better Bag Maker by Nicole Mallalieu. What a great book – as a regular bag maker with a number of books on the subject this book compliments my mini library perfectly has become the star on my shelf.
It's subtitled “An Illustrated Handbook of Handbag Design” and I would whole-heartedly agree with that. If you would like to be able to design your own bags, this book is just jam-packed full of the information you need to be successful and create great bags.
A short introduction gives us an insight into the author and their desire to teach through the book. Her aim is to make you a better bag maker. The book starts with chapters on tools, materials, key skills, and bag making techniques, before moving onto 10 projects to teach key bag making techniques, step by step.
The chapter on tools and materials is invaluable – it covers different types of sewing feet to help you deal with bulky seams. Although familiar with using my walking foot for this I became distracted by my sewing machine manufacturer’s website – surely they make a denim foot for my machine?! The chapter on interfacing is very helpful with a useful reference chart for different types of interfacing, fusible fleece, etc.
Moving onto key skills – This chapter covers how to choose interfacing, fuse interfacing, tips on reducing bulk in seams, how to keep the ends neat, and lastly stitching sharp edges and smooth curves. Personally I have learned so much from this chapter alone. It had never crossed my mind to remove interfacing from the seam allowance once the seam is stitched, Nicole gives three different methods for doing this.
Bag Making Techniques – as you would expect this is clearly written with good diagrams, several types of pockets are demonstrated including a divided zipped pocket that I've not seen before. Plus bag bases, and zippered gussets. The section on how to create a zippered pocket in the lining is fascinating and I've got to try it soon. Love the idea of creating a super-neat opening with a facing.
As you would expect from an expert like Nicolle, there are great instructions, illustrations or photos for all of the techniques you learn.
The 10 projects
The ten projects – these are stylish fun bags you will want to make. Many are photographed with a model that helps give a sense of scale.
The first project ” Basic Bag” covers a slip pocket, handles, facing and inserting a lining – perfect for a beginner or for those wishing to hone their skills with her tips and hints. Suggestions are made to take this bag to the next level if you are a seasoned bag maker.
The projects quickly build in complexity by project four “The Avignon Traveller” you are sewing an overhanging zipper closure on a structured bag with feet.
By the end of the book, you are sewing a bag which has convertible straps that can be moved and adjusted to make a backpack or a long- or short-strapped shoulder bag, the Toronto Convertible Tote-Backpack
“It has a drawstring and a magnetic closure, which allows the shape of the bag to convert from square to triangular. It’s adaptable, comfortable, and the sort of bag you’ll carry everywhere with you. This project includes a lot of functional design details. For instance, a gusseted, zipped pocket on the front of the bag is fully lined and bound, and there is an exposed zipper on the back of the bag (a secure exterior pocket if the bag is worn as a backpack).” Wow – I would love to have the skills to make this bag, and with this book, I soon will have!
This book is truly inspirational – if only I was retired and could work through every project!! It makes a brilliant gift for experienced bag makers and aspiring beginners.
How to get the 10 projects and all these new bag-making skills
You can buy this book as a physical book or an e-book download at: