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.
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:
I bought the book based on your review, as I want to learn more about bag making, and it’s just what I was looking for. I’m interested in using water resistant / waterproof fabric for some of the bags. Have you already written something on bag making fabrics, or could you guide me on the best fabrics to choose, as there is quite an array if I Google on the subject. Thanks so much. Love your website.
Thank you for the information! I love the patterns you produce and especially the bags! I have learned a lot. I would like to support your site for all the good work that you do. Could you add Amazon Canada to your purchase options so that I can purchase through them and also support you? Thanks!
Hi Sheila, thanks for your feedback. We have a plugin running that is supposed to direct any clicks to the relevant local Amazon store. When you click on the US link, does it take you to the Amazon Canada page? It should. Please let me know. Kind regards, Mayra
I just got the kindle book and am excited about the bags I can make for friends, family & myself.
I received this book as a gift a while ago. I began tracing one pattern, and forgot about it. After reading your review , I really think I will go back to it. Thanks!
Just purchased the book thru your link. Thanks for featuring it.
Thanks Linda. Good luck with the projects in the book. Let us know how you go and happy sewing, Mayra
I really like some of the techniques in this book – I don’t know why I didn’t think of them myself!! But, I am having a problem with the instruction or the zippered pockets. Page 35, instruction 1 and 2 are very confusing. If anyone has photos, videos or more clear instruction, please post it.
Linda…did you ever figure this out? I am totally stumped! HELP!
Hi Rosemarie – yes I did figure out the problem. I applied the zipper facing on the pocket piece instead of the lining piece. I love love love this book and have made 6 of the bags so far and with each one of them have learned something new and have improved the techniques.
I hope this helps and happy seeing!
Linda -Thanks for the response…just to clarify..should the zipper facing (and therefore the zipper) be put on the pocket piece and not the pocket lining? Right now, I have the zipper installed on the lining piece and I think from what you said, that is incorrect. I have two ibizia bags in process ..And to this point..look great! I don’t want to ruin them now. Many thanks for your prompt reply!
No – the zipper and zipper facing are applied to the lining – not the pocket piece. I was going to message you again to clarify that. Dreamed about it last night and knew I didn’t make it clear.
Hi Rosemarie – I have a comment to make about the Ibiza bag. The instructions for the Exposed Zipper (page 37) says to place the facing within 3″ of the top of the lining. I found this was too low and would suggest putting it at 2″ from the top of the lining. It may just be a personal preference, but when I finished my bag I made a note in my book to go for 2″ on my next one.
My original question about the zipper was posted when I was making the Basic Bag and it didn’t have the exposed zipper – it had the basic zippered pocket (page 31) so that’s why I was a little confused with my original response to you.
Good luck – and post a picture of your bags!
I have the book and a few concerns with it. I started with the basic bag. The cutting directions say cut pieces 1, 2, 3, 6, etc. in the sewing directions they call the pieces bag sides, bottom, etc. instead of using pattern numbers. I missed the pocket direction because there were directions in a lower corner and referred you back to page xxx. I didn’t notice it until I’d passed the step.
IMO the pattern pieces should be printed so you don’t have to trace them. Square or rectangular pieces could be listed as cut 2 pieces this size by that size instead of tracing patterns. I can’t comment on the slashing technique because I haven’t used it.
I realize this is a skill building book which starts easy and works to more difficult techniques but having to page back and forth between bag directions, pocket instructions, zipper insertions, etc is frustrating.
The edge stitching creates a nice crisp line on faced pieces.
I will go back to this book to learn more techniques but right now I’m sewing volume for a craft sale, I can’t devote the amount of time required for going back and forth for various steps in construction. The people who saw the basic bag all thought it was a grocery tote. It’s too much work for a simple tote IMO.
Love the Seoul bag and will make it one day.
Thank you Condo for your opinion, do post pictures of the Seoul bag when you have the chance!
I love Nicole’s book! I have made the Basic, the Seoul, and the Galapagos bags so far, and they look very professional. The techniques section, and the instructions for changing the pattern pieces into different sizes of bags are wonderful, as are the directions for removing excess bulk from the seams. The variety of pockets, which can be mixed, matched, or eliminated, also are impressive. I highly recommend!
I have the book and I have made the Seoul handbag – not the easiest of the lot! I had to writer her for help. She recommended starting with the basic bag and if I were to do it again, I would do that.