Let’s get this sewalong started! [If, during this post or any other in the sewalong, I don’t cover your specific question, just ask! I’m happy to continue updating these posts as I go so they are as comprehensive as possible.] The first step is choosing fabric. In this post, I’ll talk through fabric choices for the body, lining, and interfacing. Above, I’ve put together an introduction to the Presidio Purse and what you can expect from the sewalong.
Body: 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. Test sewist sewlengthenhere used upholstery canvas while MySewingSuite used twill.
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). I used a very drapey coat weight wool for my latest Presidio Purse and interfaced all of the body pieces with the same interfacing I used on the handle. Test sewist Laurahoj used a mid-weight twill and interlined her bag with denim to give it structure.
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.
Lining: The pattern calls for quilting weight cottons and lightweight twills for the lining. I used a cotton lawn for my latest Presidio Purse. 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, like these awesome novelty prints used by test sewists SewButterfly and Woolbothy.
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).
Here’s the different fabric options for the Presidio Purse compared in a video.