As a fashion design student, I’m always looking for fresh ideas, and Bag Bazaar: 25 Stylish Bags to Sew in an Afternoon immediately piqued my interest.
Avery’s background is quite interesting. She didn’t attend design school and, in fact, majored in television and radio in college. Avery became interested in making bags because she couldn't afford designer prices, so with little sewing experience, she began making her own. Seven years later, she has her own studio, M Avery Design, where she teaches "Make Your Own Handbags" and other sewing workshops.
This compact, concise (120 pages), and colorful book is broken up into three sections. In the first part, Avery explains basic bag-making and sewing techniques, such as how to put in a zipper, topstitching, and making gussets. In the second part of Bag Bazaar, readers are given a dozen delightful handbags projects, and in the third section Avery provides instructions for several interesting specialty bags, like a yoga mat bag and a wine tote.
The best way to experience a craft book is to attempt some of the projects. I chose two bags with different levels of difficulty: the Alice shoulder bag (labeled as easy) and the Meredith flap closure shoulder bag (labeled as intermediate). Avery provides the pattern dimensions of each bag along with the list of supplies you will need, including the type and amount of fabric to use. For both bags, I used cotton pique fabric and tag board for the pattern.
Because I've been sewing for many years, I didn't follow Avery’s directions completely. For instance, I used the pattern to cut out the interfacing and fabric pieces first; Avery has a different technique where you fuse the interfacing on to the fabric first and cut out the pieces of fabric using the edge of the interfacing as guide. This is a small difference, and I'm going to try her technique in the future. For creating the gussets, I had to read the directions several times before I understood how to proceed, but after that the bag was a breeze to make.
How did my bags turn out? The flap for my Meredith bag seemed bigger than the purse base—something I will have to work on—but overall, both the Meredith and the Alice were adorable.
Avery’s directions, both written and visual, are easy to understand, and the supplies she recommends can be found at your local fabric store. For someone who has never worked with a sewing machine, Bag Bazaar might be a bit challenging. That said, for someone who has been sewing for awhile, this is a great book for furthering your creativity.
Review by Su Lin Mangan