Book Review: Big City Bags

Big-City Bags: Sew Handbags with Style, Sass, and SophisticationBig-City Bags: Sew Handbags with Style, Sass, and Sophistication by Sara Lawson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love Sara’s Petrillo Bag pattern and have made two of my own. She also has a very sweet tone to her blog and I like reading it. I couldn’t resist this book in hopes that she would have more of the fun shapes and clever construction methods I found in the Petrillo Bag.

Several months ago, I picked the book up to read and review, made a bunch of notes and then put it down for a long time. Why? I don’t know. This is a great book and I should have reviewed it RIGHT away. If you only read through page 19 and never look at the projects, you will learn techniques that will be useful in other patterns and projects.

First, there is a whole section on interfacing. She explains the properties of and uses for various types of interfacing. This section also has a conversion chart from American brands to Vilene. This expands the usefulness of the book and patterns to our European friends. US readers can also use this chart when making European patterns that refer to Vilene in the materials list. I was considering making a needle case from a pattern where one of the supplies listed was Vilene. This chart would have been useful.

Throughout the book, Sara also gives hints. Such tidbits as what to use to reinforce magnetic snaps, along with other tips and tricks, are scattered in little boxes throughout the book.

After the chart, Ms. Lawson provides a narrative that includes more detail on each interfacing mentioned in the chart. She tells what she likes about each one and how she uses it. Sometimes a tip or trick on adhering the particular product to fabric is provided.

Next, there is a section called “Bag Making Techniques” (pg. 12). In this section, Sara gives detailed lessons on installing zippers. I have installed zippers, but, boy, am I glad I read the section of this book. In one part of this section she gives me the perfect way to deal with those stupid zipper ends. I don’t know why I didn’t think of  her method before. Lawson also goes over making the same kind of pocket included in the Petrillo Bag pattern. By showing it separately, she gives readers the skills and provides space for the imagination so we can include it in projects of our own.

Magnetic straps, purse feet, O rings, D rings and lots of other hardware are also discussed, evaluated and defined with the same completeness as the zippers.

Sara also discusses leather handles, a topic I have never seen before. These are included in some of the projects, so tackling their peculiar requirements is prudent. I think these are an interesting addition to the patterns. I also think the manufacturers have not come out with enough colors. Many of the projects in this book, which use leather handles, have black handles rather than a color matching the fabric. It could be that Sara likes the black against some of the modern fabrics.

After explanations and diagrams concerning the the leather handles, the projects start. This book includes 12 projects: all bags of different sizes and shapes. The projects have wonderful names and are made from fabulous (modern) fabric. This section has some excellent attributes: there are at least two colorways shown for each bag. Also, the patterns, while not full-sized, are right after the directions, thus easy to find. I also like it that the finished size of the bag is included at the top of the pattern.

I would have liked to have read more about the inspiration for the bag with the pattern, but, perhaps, I am the only one who cares about such a thing.

There is no question in my mind that Sara is a genius when it comes to bag patterns. Her patterns are practical and fun. This book is beautiful to look at as well as useful. The strength of this book lies in the information before the patterns including installing zippers and how to use interfacing. As I read those pages (pg.8-19), my creative juices really started to flow.

I think you would appreciate this book. Go out and buy a copy!

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