Sewing patterns can be hard and sometimes instructions just aren’t clear enough (though we do our best to make sure they are, and welcome feedback). This post has been written to help you sew your In Spite Clutch Purse, considering issues that you may encounter when using thicker materials such as leather. We have also given a some tips to help you get a better result with some really cool tips and tricks such as how to do top-stitching really easily, and much more.
Test and Prep
Test Your Leather and Fabric
It’s common belief that you can’t pin your leather as it will leave unsightly pin holes. But this is not always the case; some leathers and faux leathers are “self-healing” to a degree, leaving pin holes barely perceptible even when you are looking for them. So on a scrap piece of leather, test if you can use pins as sometimes the tasks really are made much easier when you can pin.
If you are using fusible interfacing, testing iron and steaming it onto your leather pieces at different temperatures. Some faux leathers can’t handle high heat and will melt – so be careful! Alternatively consider sew in interfacing.
Test any other notions that you might use, such as fabric glue, double-sided tape or clips. Make sure that it holds your fabric in place and doesn’t leave marks.
Also quite importantly test your sewing machine walking foot. You can opt to use your normal presser foot, but chances are that the leather will be too thick and cause uneven tension; resulting in your bottom layer of material shifting more than the top layer.
Go ahead and sew some stitches into your scrap leather. Add some interfacing – if your leather will have interfacing – and any other layers that will be commonly used in your project. For the In Spite Clutch Purse I have joined two layers of leather and one layer of interfacing together.
Notice my brown leather; the stitches on the right show that I need to adjust the tension on my sewing machine to work with the thicker fabric.
Prepare Your Materials
Cut your fabric, leather and interfacing as per the pattern. Ideally you should use a rotary cutter, mat and pattern weights. Why? Here’s why:
- You can cut your materials faster, as explained in our post 5 Tips To Sew Faster and Get More Done: Prepping Your Projects.
- Using pattern weights to hold your pattern in place will help save you from using pins (that may damage your materials).
- The slanted shape of scissor blades can cause weakness points on leather, risking your leather ripping in weak spots. A rotary cutter’s blade isn’t shaped as much as scissors.
Next you will want to attach your interfacing. If you are using sew-in interfacing you should follow the general sewing instructions and sew the interfacing in as appropriately (in most cases stitching inside the seam allowance will be fine).
Even after a night of leaving my interfacing held flat by weights, I found that it kept trying to curl up on me before I could steam it in place. My solution was to use a few pins placed into the seam allowances – as close to the leather’s edges as I could get – to hold the interfacing perfectly aligned whilst I ironed.
The Purse Flap
Step 1a: The Contrast Strip
Fold the seam allowances to the back of the contrast strip. You can use many ways to hold the seam allowances in place;
- fabric glue,
- double-sided tape,
- or clips.
I don’t suggest pinning the seam allowances back as this piece is a focus point and any marks might be noticed. I chose to edge stitch at this point to help hold the seams down, as well as to provide a guide line to stitch for the next step. You can completely skip the edge stitch here if you wish to.
Step 1b: The Alternative Contrast Strip
If your fabric is particularly thick you might need to alternate how you prep and sew the contrast strip. After several attempts as sewing my leather strip, I found it continuously poor stitching – I’m not very practiced as stitching leather with a walking foot.
The biggest issue that I had been the folded leather; even after attempting to super glue it down, it just kept bubbling! My husband suggested a great alternative: simply leave the edges raw and sew in place. You might be thinking: what about fraying fabric? The faux leather doesn’t fray, but you might not be using leather… Why not salvage your selvage – yes I said that – and sew that onto the edges of your fabric. The selvage might have a fray, but it’s a controlled fray. Plus, it will look like a great decorative effect!
Step 2: Join Contrast Strip With Exterior Flap
Place the contrasting strip onto the purse flap exterior piece. Use one of your notions to hold it in place. I chose to use pins at this point, carefully pinning through my earlier edge-stitching. If you didn’t sew the edge stitching in the previous step you can still place pins at your ideal stitching lines.
Stitch at 1/4″ from the edge.
Step 3: Edge Stitch
If you don’t have an edge stitching presser foot, don’t despair. Line up your standard presser foot as you normally would – just like in the last step – and then adjust the position of your needle. My needle generally sews at 3.00mm position, also known as centred.
I adjusted it to 7.00mm; as far right as it could go. This allowed it to absolutely perfectly fall at the very edge of the contrast strip, whilst allowing me to sew just as I normally do. I then repeated this for the other side, adjusting my needle position to 1mm (far left).
Step 3b: Attach The Snap (Alternative Closure)
Only follow this step if you want to have a magnetic snap closure and not a twist lock, attach it to your flap interior piece now.
Step 4: Join Exterior Flap Exterior and Interior
If you really want to make your flap look professional, trim 1/16 to 1/8″ off the interior flap piece. By removing this ever so small sliver of fabric, it will help hide your interior from view on the outside. This is known as favouring your exterior fabric.
With right sides together, stitch around the sides and top, leaving the bottom edge unstitched. Clip your curves and trim your seams, and then turn right side out.
Top-stitch around the edges.
Step 5a: Attach The Twist Lock Top
Simply attach the twist lock according to manufacturer’s instructions. For me, that involved opening up my twist lock and marking the holes that would need to be cut to place. You will need to cut just outside the lines marked, but take your time so that you don’t cut too large of a hole.
Since my pattern design is called In Spite (Of The Heart), I chose to use a gorgeous heart-shaped twist lock.
The Purse Exterior
Step 1: Apply Interfacing
If you haven’t already done so, attach your stiff interfacing (like Peltex) to the purse exterior where the twist lock will be attached. It’s important to apply the main section of interfacing before the extra reinforcement piece, otherwise you will end up with a shape showing to the outside.
Step 2: Attach The Closure Base
Attach the other half of your closure onto the exterior of the clutch exterior piece, using your manufacturers instructions. If you didn’t mark the location from the pattern, then find the centre of the material and measure up from one side by 2.5″.
Now this is important: you need to attach your main interfacing prior to attaching the extra interfacing to help stabilize the bag opening. If you don’t, you will get a weird shape showing through to the outside. The pictures below will show you what happens if you do it in the wrong order, compared to the correct order.
Step 3: Join Interior and Exterior Pieces
If you have particularly thick material, it might help to stitch the flap to the exterior piece first. This will just hold everything in place whilst you stitch. Find the centre width point of the flap and clutch exterior pieces, and align them together. Note that the closure base should be on the opposite side of the flap.
Stitch around the entire outside, leaving the bottom edge unstitched so that it can be turned right side out. Trim and clip prior to turning.
Step 4: Edge Stitch The Purse Corners
Edge stitch around the entire purse, including the opening we left in the last step. If you need to, carefully pin along the edges where you will end up stitching.
The Card Slots
This can be a particularly tricky part to sew if you are working with leather or thick fabric, like I am. I’m going to give some really helpful tips on how to sew the card slots differently to the official instructions.
Step 1: Sew The Card Slots
The Alternative Interfacing
Mark all your fold lines as per the notches on the pattern. Also find the centre point, which should be 4.25″ from any side.
Firstly, if your fabric is really thick, consider only applying the interfacing along the centre line. Also apply it directly to the crease, having the interfacing button up against the edge of the crease.
Folding the other material out of the way, stitch the centre line along the inside of the pocket pieces. If done right, you will only be stitching through two layers of fabric at a time. The only difference is that you won’t see a centre front stitch line from the front of the pattern. For extra strength apply a small zigzag stitch at the end of each inside stitching line.
You can trim the inside seam allowance down for the card slots. Just leave a little flap near the top of each card slot.
Step 2: Join Card Slot Exterior to Card Slots
With right sides facing together, sew the top and bottom edges. Turn right side out.
Top-stitch around the entire card slot section. Important: the left and right edges will be left raw for the moment. They will be sealed later on.
The Zipper Pocket
Step 1: Sew The Zipper
Place the zipper lining right side facing up. Place the zipper on top of this, lining the top edges together. Finally place the zipper exterior right side facing down. Stitch the zipper in place.
Step 2: Top-Stitch
Fold the seam allowance back. If you need to pin to hold it back in place, do so where you plan to stitch. Top-stitch at about 3/8″, so that you stitch the seam allowance down in place.
Step 3: Sew Edges
The zipper pocket is designed to be smaller than the card slots. Now would be a good time to measure them; mine were 7.5″ in width. I choose to make my zipper pocket to be 7″; that way I have .25″ spacing on the card slot either side. Mark the ideal width of your zipper pocket measurements on your zipper exterior.
Sew the lining and side edges of the zipper exterior. Finally fold the bottom edges of the zipper exterior inside and edge stitch closed. Remember when you are stitching to stitch inside of the marked line; that will be your stitch line.
Step 4: Trim
Cut along the line you marked. Check the width against your card slots.
The Purse Interior
Now that we have completed each section of your purse, it’s time to join the interior pieces together.
Step 1: Measurements
Find the centre of your zipper pocket, length wise. Mark. Line the centre mark with the centre seam line of your card slots.
Measure and mark 1/2″ up from that line, and then 1/2″ below that line.
Step 2: Stitch
Stitch along all three lines.
Putting It all Together
We are finally at that point where all your hard work merges together and you will get to see your gorgeous purse in it’s finished form.
Step 1: Determine Interior Position
Measure the end of your purse flap; mine is 7.5″. You want the other side of your purse to be the same size, and be directly opposite to the flap. Mark two lines to the other side of the purse.
Once you have your position, line your purse interior edges up with these lines.
Step 2: Fold The Corners
Carefully fold the corners of your purse exterior over the interior of the purse. Use a clip to hold your fabric in place; don’t you just love my little men clips?!
Step 3: Fold the Excess Flap To Hold Zipper
Sorry, I forgot to take a photo at this point! What you will need to do is to figure out where you want your zipper pockets to sit when you open your purse at it’s fullest, and clip the outer leather to hold in place. Stitch the leather in place. Just be aware that it will be next to impossible to stitch all the way down to the base of these curved sections, so just stitch as low as you can.
If you managed to get this far, then you managed to finish your amazing purse!