Friday, 9 June 2017

How to Easily Reinforce Bag Handles for Added Structure

I like to reinforce bag handles to give them a little structure, even if the pattern or tutorial doesn't call for it. Adding structure doesn't alter how the bag functions - I just prefer the look, and it doesn't increase sewing time by much.

Learn how to reinforce bag and tote handles for added structure ~ Threading My Way

I almost always add interfacing of some sort if it's not specified in the pattern, and I often sew lines of stitching along the length of the handles. That's all there is to it.

Sometimes this enables the handles to stand up by themselves - a handy feature on the grocery bag above. In this case the stitching is wavy lines. You can't go wrong with wavy lines, as the distance apart doesn't matter.


Here's one of the first bags I ever made - in my first month of blogging. You can see how limp and creased the handles are - no interfacing or stitching - just two pieces of fabric sewn together. And... you can't see it, but the pocket inside is sewn upside down, so it can't really be called a pocket.

Despite its flaws, I love this bag!!! My daughter painted the picture at Pre School, when she was four years of age - our family standing in front of our house. I'm the one with the big smile and the polka dot dress. Standing beside me is my daughter, sporting a blue hair do. Next in line is Mr TMW, and then her two brothers.


The navy blue handles are stitched in contrasting pink thread. Don't worry about perfectly straight and even lines. I just eyeball them. It doesn't matter if they're a little wonky. If you really want to hide them, choose a thread colour that matches the fabric.

I didn't add interfacing to the long navy handles. The construction is such that each handle is four pieces of fabric in thickness, and made from a sturdy fabric. I had thought this would give them enough structure, but they could have done with some interfacing. If the handles had been shorter, I probably could have gotten away without the interfacing.

Mind you, this bag has been through the wash a few times, and it hasn't been ironed. It's a No Frills Extra Large Tote. I've made a few of them now.


The close up of the red stitching on another No Frills Extra Large Tote, shows that even lines and straight stitching are not important. There's no interfacing in this one either, but the fabric is much thicker - about the same as denim.

Even though it's been washed, these handles have enough reinforcing to retain their structure and shape.

Learn how to reinforce bag and tote handles for added structure ~ Threading My Way

Another grocery bag, the same as the one in the first photo. I've made a stack of these bags recently. Reinforcing the handles with stitching and interfacing, together with the fact that they are relatively wide and not so long, means that they retain their structure and shape, even when washed. These two are brand new, but I regularly throw my own grocery bags in the wash, and the handles hold up really well, even though they're only made with quilting cotton.

What tips and hints do you have for making bag handles that stand up to the test of time?

... Pam




11 comments:

  1. I use headliner foam from JoAnn's. It adds stability but is soft along with several rows of stitching. Vera Bradley bags use something similar.

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    1. I have a similar sounding foam. I've only used it once, but I do like the resulting handles. I must use it more.

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  2. Great tip! And love that you used contrasting thread to stand out!

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  3. I have this pattern. Did you also interface the bag part?

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  4. And the lines sewn in the handles are so beautiful, they really add to the design, as well as the functionality. Awesome, Pam!

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  5. I've done multiple lines of stitching on handles/straps (the same as your big close-up picture) but that was only for decoration - it didn't occur to me that it has the added bonus of making the straps sturdier. I sometimes add a strip of medium weight sew-in interfacing to my handles, but when I'm being lazy, I leave it out. I need to stop being so lazy - I hate when straps wrinkle because they've been *gasp* held in someone's hand!

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  6. I am liking those wavy lines!

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  7. Ohh, I love those lines and anything which adds both beauty and functionality is definitely a winner in my book! I'm also not surprised you love the bag adorned with a family portrait, it's sew adorable!!

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    1. Thanks, Josie. The family portrait bag will always be a favourite.

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  8. Hi Pam! Such beautiful handles and a great tip, thanks for sharing.
    Have a fabulous week!
    Hugs and love from Portugal,
    Ana Love Craft
    www.lovecraft2012.blogspot.com

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  9. Oh, I feel a bit lazy now. My bag handles are usually of the floppy no structure style! This is actually a brilliant idea I've never paid much attention to but when you are in the god awful 'scan yourself' till in the supermarket (I don't know if you have them, they are a big thing here) if you dare to lift your bag to put items in it you get "unexpected item in the bagging area" for all to hear! A bag with the handles all up and out of the way could solve this completely. Thanks for this, I'm on it!

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