Let’s get this sewalong started! [If, during this post or any other in the sewalong, you have a specific question, just ask! ] The first step is choosing fabric. In this post, I’ll talk through fabric choices for the body, lining, and interfacing.
The pattern calls for canvas, upholstery fabrics, denim, corduroy, or heavy twills for the body of the purse. You want something sturdy. If you are a beginning sewist, I recommend canvas, denim, or a heavy twill as cotton is easy to press (unlike many upholstery fabrics) and corduroy requires working with a nap. The thicker and stiffer your fabric is (i.e. the less drape it has), the more the purse will hold its shape on its own. However, I think it also looks lovely as a slouchy bag, so this isn’t something you need to stress about (and we will discuss interfacing your purse to add stiffness in a future post). Also, you must sew through several layers of fabric when sewing the handle so beginning sewists may want to steer away from the bulkiest fabrics.
If you are an intermediate or advanced sewist, there is a whole world of other fabric options for the body. You can use just about any fabric for the exterior (that has no stretch) if you are willing to interface or interline it (more on how to do that later in the sewalong).
A note on body fabric choices from the aesthetic side – remember that you will be carrying this purse (hopefully a lot!) and so it will get dirty to a much greater extent than a wearable garment. To that end, you might want to steer clear of very light colored fabrics and fabrics that will snag or mat. Prints allow dirt smudges to camouflage. Also, think about the way the front inset panels will behave with your fabric choice. The gathered inset looks great with solid colored or small print fabrics but might get lost in a larger print. The plain inset is awesome for setting in a contrast fabric, so think about what might coordinate with your main fabric.
The pattern calls for quilting weight cottons and lightweight twills for the lining. If you are a beginning sewist, stick to cotton for the lining because having a fabric that presses nicely will make it much easier to assemble the pockets. If you are an intermediate or advanced sewist, you can also use traditional lining fabrics (polyester or rayon/bemberg) or consider any flashy fashion fabric that has no stretch. The lining is a great place to use fun and funky fabrics without affecting the daily usability of your purse.
For the interfacing (to be used on the handles), I recommend a medium weight woven interfacing. If you use too heavy of an interfacing, it will be very hard to manipulate the handles (both sewing through many layers and turning them right side out).