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.
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.
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?