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Tips & Tutorials




Use Flex Frames to make super purses (or iPod, phone and glasses cases) using this quick tutorial....



Click here to learn how to make a children's backpack or library bag.


Make a brooch from your kid's art!

Use Fast2Fuse or Peltex and inkjet printer fabric to preserve little masterpieces forever.

You can also use inkjet fabric to transfer artwork to bags and purses. Photos can also be used to make personalised gifts.

Inkjet Fabric Brooch



Download Nicole's free LAPTOP SLEEVE TUTORIAL from Whip UP

This is to be made with the ever-so-handy "Clover" BIAS TAPE MAKER.






Sewing notions roll


Make this compact roll to hold the sewing gadgets you need for crafting on the go!

Tutorial HERE.


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VIDEO TUTORIAL - How to set in eyelets with a setting tool


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VIDEO TUTORIAL - Simple method for inserting purse feet.

VIDEO TUTORIAL - How to Use a Clover Quick Yo Yo Maker



This is an absolute must-read for anyone embarking on bag-making! It's based on all the mistakes I've helped to unpick in classes.



ALWAYS use interfacing on any bag piece where the pattern reads "cut [specified number] i/f". The facings and the underside of flaps ALWAYS have interfacing, as these are major structural pieces in the bag, and often carry closures such as magnetic clips, buttons etc.

Interfacing creates structure if it is used on the body of the bag - but is entirely optional here, and using it depends on the weight of the fabric and the finished look that you require.

By fusing interfacing to every piece of the outside of the bag you'll add a lot more structure and "OOMPH" to the fabric. Some fabrics won’t need it, but most medium-weight or lightweight fabrics will benefit from it.

You can interface the lining if you want a stiff lining, but it shouldn't be the main support in the bag. You don't want a saggy bag that is caving in around a structured lining (it's not a good look!). You usually only need medium-light interfacing on lining.

It's important to remember that by adding an extra layer of interfacing to a bag piece, you are also increasing the bulk of the fabric. Be careful when you are using heavy fabrics (Eg. denim), that your sewing machine will be able to sew through all the layers at points where several seams converge, or where the seam allowances of the flap sit between the facing and bag body.

Sometimes it takes making up a bag or two in different weight fabrics to understand the balance that has to be struck between the look you require and the capabilities of your sewing machine!

Click here to see the range of interfacings at Nicole Mallalieu Design

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There is a huge range of interfacings available, and this can be a confusing choice.

You need to match the type and weight of interfacing to the type of fabric you're using for your bag. You also need to keep in mind the finished look of the bag, and make sure there will be enough structure or drape (whatever look you require) in the fabric-interfacing combination to create this look. You might have to also use a layer of wadding, or a heavy interfacing such as Fast2Fuse. It's best to test scraps of fabric with different interfacings if you're uncertain.

Medium-lightweight woven cotton iron-on interfacing suits the broadest range of fabrics for most bags. It looks like a light cotton voile, muslin or lawn, with a layer of fusible material (sometimes shiny, sometimes grainy) on one side. The weave in the fabric of the interfacing supports and gives the fabric a natural flexibility - basically, it turns the fabric into a stable, heavier version of it's former self! Woven interfacing is also very durable, and will withstand the wear-and-tear that a bag endures.

Woven iron-on interfacing comes in several weights. The heavier the interfacing, the more heat and pressure required to fuse it to your fabric, so don't use heavier weights on delicate or synthetic fabric without the help of a RAJAH CLOTH! If you want to add more body to these fabrics, use light interfacing and wadding, or follow the instructions in the tutorial on How use sheer fabrics to make a bag.

A non-woven interfacing can be a cheaper alternative to woven interfacing, but will give the fabric a stiff "paper" look, and will not be as durable as a woven interfacing.

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Iron-on (fusible) or sew-in wadding can give extra structure to fabric bags, and are available in different weights and thicknesses. FUSIBLE WADDING is great for bag-making, because it sticks to the fabric and makes the pieces very easy to sew together, and it holds the shape of the bag beautifully, while being lightweight.

Like when using interfacing, by adding this extra layer to your fabric you are creating more bulk. You may have to check that your sewing machine will sew through several layers of the fabric and wadding before you proceed with making up the bag.

To use fusible wadding for bags, it is best to fuse a layer of medium-fine interfacing to the fabric first, and then fuse the wadding to the back of the interfacing. This smooths out a lot of the bubbles and wrinkles that would otherwise form on the surface of the fabric when the wadding is attached to it.

Experiment with your fabric, interfacing and different wadding to see which one creates the look you require.

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This interfacing is my new "favourite thing". It's an amazingly light and flexible fusible interfacing with incredible structure, and it's very versatile.

For Vilene S520 tips AND MORE, please visit the YOU SEW GIRL! blog.

Among its many uses - it's the perfect thing for fusing to the fabric of the bag where you're using purse feet or magnetic catches. It can be used to stiffen the bag itself and make "stand up" straps. It can be also be used in a variety of ways to create structure in the bag base.

Please request a free tutorial on how to add a structured bag base to a two-piece bag (and other tips for using this amazing interfacing) with your order. Apologies for taking this tutorial off this website - our monthly bandwith allowance won't allow the amount of downloads it inspires. Our web hosts keep taking us OFF THE AIR!!!

You can also attend a workshop or course to learn the finer points of using it to SHARPEN UP your bags!!

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My method of inserting a template plastic base is included in some of my older pattern instructions. It's the way that I've always done it, but I've found that some people find it a bit tricky. Click here for a simplified method.

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Note: See "Interfacings and Waddings" on the Supplies Page for Fast2Fuse

Fast2Fuse makes a firm, yet pliable base for bags. It is a softer alternative to Template Plastic. Here's a free tutorial on how to use it in place of Template Plastic.

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Using the 6mm "Clover" Bias Tape Maker, you can EASILY make button loops to match any bag you're making.

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These will be in the next revision of the pattern instructions.

1. Go easy on the glue! (I've put this in the instructions, but I have to emphasise it again in case you're an instruction-skimmer!). Use a matchstick (or something similar) to spread the glue around inside the frame. Don't let it form "globs" or it'll ooze out on your fabric!

2. Just use a clear-setting craft glue that will hold fabric and metal. If you follow all the kit instructions for constructing the purse and crimping the frame it will hold in place forever. I've read about using very strong glues and NOT crimping the frame, but are yet to try it and carry a purse for years to test it....

3. You don't need a special Purse Frame Crimping tool for these purses*. (There are instructions for using purse frame crimpers in the kits for people who already have this tool, but you don't need to go out and buy one). Purse Frame Crimpers are an added expense and personally I find the other method in the instructions more effective.

4. Follow all the "TIPS" in the instructions for the easiest, best finished purse you can make. Read all the instructions - don't just skim and look at pictures!

*NOTE: Some purse shapes require the use of purse frame crimpers, but the 75mm to 200mm range doesn't. The new 300mm bag can be made without crimpers if the hard base is put in to the purse AFTER the frame is crimped.

Click here to view the range of Purse Frame Kits

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Q: "...I was wanting to make an evening bag with sheer expensive fabric with one of your patterns. What would be the best way to go about it in terms of the lining should I cut sheer fabric/interface it and then use iron on pellon? The last time I tried this, the sheer fabric bubbled once I ironed on the interfacing? What could I have done wrong? Is there a particular type of Interfacing for Sheer fabric? I used a light weight interfacing..."

A: If the fabric is sheer, the best thing to do is to layer it over the top of a more solid fabric, and interface the solid fabric (a stable, woven fabric is best as a base for sheer fabrics. You may or may not have to use the pellon. First you iron on the interfacing to the back of the solid fabric, then lay the sheer fabric over the top of the right side of the solid fabric. Stay-stitch the sheer fabric in place all the way around, and then make up the bag using the layered pieces as if they were a normal piece of fabric...

This is how I made this version of the evening bag. The outside fabric is chiffon with fluffy spots in it. I used those metal handles that you can put beads on (only I didn't use the beads). It was very quick and is really effective.

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Q: "...The bit that is still a bit confusing … is the end part when you attach lining in the bag and sew all around, it then goes on to say back stitch..."

A: It IS an awkward thing to do - that's why the difficulty rating is level 4. Don't feel bad - feel clever for being able to tackle it!

You have to backstitch the facing (and the top of the lining of the gusset) to the seam allowances, working through the opening in the lining at the bottom of the bag. It's easiest if you leave the bag inside out, and just line up the seam/seam allowance under the needle wherever you can see it most easily. You wont be able to see the whole seam. As you start to sew, you just follow the seam with the needle - keeping the seam allowances to the facing side, and stitching 2mm from the seam to keep them in place... until you come back to the point where you started. It's a bit tricky, but just take your time with it and keep those seam allowances facing in the same direction all the way around and you should be ok.

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Q: Using a pattern from [a named book], I made a bag with a long rectangle gusset that went around the sides and bottom of a bag with rounded corners. It fitted to the front, but when I sewed it to the back it was too short, and the bag ended up looking twisted.

A: Y ou need to put registration notches (nicks) in the GUSSET and the front and back BAG pieces to mark points where they should meet, and check that your seam allowances are even and consistent.

1. On the front/back pattern, measure along the STITCHING line (not the outside cutting line) and mark a point somewhere around the bottom corner of the bag. Fold the pattern in half and trace this notch point to exactly the same point on the other half of the front/back pattern. Note the distance of this point from the top of the bag (accuracy to the mm is important).

2.Now measure along the gusset STITCHING line the same distance from the top, and put a notch at this point. Check that the rest of the gusset pattern matches the rest of the bag pattern, and notch the gusset on both sides (where it will meet the front and the back pattern pieces) and at both ends (left and right sides of the bag).

3. Sew the bag together at EXACTLY the right seam allowance depth, carefully matching notches. If you vary the seam allowance, the two pieces wont match. Watch that as the fabric travels through the sewing machine that it doesn't stretch the top piece and gather the bottom piece of fabric (this always happens to some degree, but you can control it by pinning or holding the two pieces firmly in place).


When you're making the FLAP for the Baguette pattern, you need to reduce the bulk of the seam allowances before you turn it through to the right side.

After you seam the flap pieces together, you can either clip away the seam allowances in little triangle shapes OR backstitch the seam allowances to the underside of the flap, and trim off the excess seam allowances. Very sorry not to have put that in the notes.... If you're a "level 4" sewer, you'd have probably worked it out for yourself by now....

Correction for 2009 version - Unless you cut the lining gusset on the crosswise grain, please allow 55cm for the lining fabric.

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