June 18, 2008

Making Bags: What in the heck is buckram?


When I started working on bag designs last year, I thought about what makes a bag useful. One of my biggest pet peeves is a bag that simply doesn't stand up for itself! No wimpy bags for this chick! So, of course, that brings me to the topic of today's post which is buckram. "Buckram?", you say, "What on earth is that?" I have gotten that comment a LOT since I designed the Bridget Bag for last spring! To answer the question, buckram is a stiff but lightweight woven stabilizer that is made from cotton fibers. Why do I like it? Because it gives a bag stability in a way that other stabilizers such as Timtex and Peltex do not. Buckram can be creased, which gives you the ability to iron the sides and bottom of a bag, leaving a crisp professional finish.


"What is the story behind buckram?", you ask..... Well, it has actually been around for a long time. It is probably one of the first stabilizers ever developed. It was first used in the process of making drapes. Remember the drapes with pinch pleats at the top? Well, something had to be in there to hold the fabric stiff to get the right look and buckram did the job. Now, it is more common to see buckram on the inside of the front of a baseball cap....take a peek inside and see if you can spot it!

Where can it be purchased? That is a good question also. It is not kept in the same area of a store with other types of stabilizers, rather you can find it in the drapery section of stores that sell decorator fabrics. It is sold on a roll, is 20" wide or so, and is fairly economical. Some quilt shops are beginning to carry it also, so keep your eyes peeled!

One other thing about buckram. There seems to be about three different weights in the marketplace, ranging from very lightweight (almost like crinoline) to something that is so stiff, I don't know how anyone could sew through it or more importantly, turn the bag right side out after sewing it together....avoid the two extremes and go for the middle weight. It should basically feel like heavy cardstock in your hands. This will provide enough structure for your bag without being too difficult to work with or too wimpy to give the proper support.


Things to keep in mind when making bags:

It is advisable that you should spray your finished bag with something like Scotchgard, as buckram should be dry cleaned only. It loses its umph if put in the washer.

I also use a machine needle suitable for denim when making my bags as I usually have several layers to penetrate and hate it when the needle breaks.

Since buckram is not a fusible product, use a temporary spray adhesive such as Sulky's KK2000 or 505 to layer fabrics. This keeps away puckers and eliminates the need to pin anything, plus these adhesives are safe to use with your sewing machine.

Be sure to check out all of the bags in the Boutique Chic line that use buckram. Once you try it, I think you will see why it is my primary stabilizer!

25 comments:

Marsha said...

Wow, that is great information. I have made a bag and did have a hard time finding buckram. But a friend, let me know it was located in the drapery department. The bag turned out great, but I want to do another one because it was so much fun.

Greetings....my name is Kay! said...

Thanks for your comment, Marsha! I am so happy you enjoyed making your bag and even happier to know that you will be making another one!! Happy Sewing....

Sinta said...

I can't wait to try the buchram... now that you mention it, I remember it from my college "textile" class. I have been wanting to ask you where I could find the fabric that made up your booth at Spring Market? The cream on cream polka dots???

Greetings....my name is Kay! said...

Thanks so much for leaving a comment! The polka dot fabric featured in my booth is from Moda. I think the line is called Dottie. It is just a little heavier than regular quilting cotton and is 54" wide. It would be carried in local quilt shops. You may also be able to find it online.

Marie said...

Thanks for the awesome tip! I will definitely give it a try the next time I attempt to stitch up a handbag. Your patterns are so cute! Do the bags have many pockets?

Greetings....my name is Kay! said...

Hi Marie! Thanks for the compliment about my patterns. To answer your question, all of my bags have two interior pockets. The Sara Satchel, Tabitha Tote, and Miranda Mailbag all have exterior pockets in addition to the interior ones. Happy Sewing!!

Robyn said...

I appreciate the information on buckram. I'm preparing to make something from a pattern from Australia, and I thought it was just some "other-country" term.

Anna B. said...

Thank you so much!!! I am trying to make a bag and the pattern said buckram and I had no idea what that was!!!
And just a quick note, I love the way you put your bags together...the fabric I mean. It is so fun! Thank you for the inspiration!

Sherri said...

I just bought a pattern to make a civil war hat and the pattern called for buckram. I had no idea what to look for. This site and information were very helpful. Thank You

Jennifer said...

I absolutely LOVE the blue and tan fabric collection you used for your Tabitha Tote (on the pattern picture). Can you please tell me the designer?

Kay said...

Hi Jennifer!

The fabric you are asking about is manufactured by Marcus Brothers. I believe the line was out sometime last year and it is called Sand and Surf. You might be able to do an online search for it, but fabric has a tendency not to stick around too long. Hope you can find it! Thanks for posting a comment.

Ellen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ellen said...

Welcome to my world! As we like to say in the drapery biz ... the buckram stops here! :-)

Ellen

nouveaustitch.wordpress.com

Jacque said...

I had no idea what buckram was and I bought one of the Serendipity bag patterns, so this was very helpful. Now I will know to look in the drapery department

Karen said...

This is a very good, informative post. I bought a bag pattern this week that says to use buckram and I had no idea what it was. Thank goodness for Google!

mheekay said...

hi my name is mikay and planning to make the bag that is exactly on your site..but im having trouble looking for the buckram...isthere iany thing else i can use besides that.?...coz im going crazy looking for that..LOL...thanks i need the ansewer fast pls im making my mom a gift and i need to give it to her by next week..thanks a lot..

Kay Whitt said...

Mikay,

You can substitute one sided fusible Peltex for the buckram/fusible fleece combination. This is actually my preferred method now. Just put the adhesive side to the exterior of the bag. You will piece your fabrics together and then place them on top of the Peltex, iron in place, and trim around the edges to be even with the fabric. Make the rest of the bag as directed. Hope that helps!

Tamera said...

Hi Kay,
I just stumbled across your blog/site from a link on another blog while I was blog-hopping.When I first started sewing bags/purses 5 years ago, I too discovered buckram. I just wanted to let you know that I purchased mine at Hobby Lobby in the fabric section.

PS Can't wait to by your new book

Tricia said...

What a small world! I google "buckram" and I come on to your site. I have you Tabitha Tote Pattern and am anxious to get started. Thanks for the info!

Kathy said...

Ditto for me, I just saw this material used for the inside of a liner for a hand knit purse and did a Google Search and found your post. Really awesome information, thanks so much!

Signa said...

Hi , I work in a millinery supply house and we sell buckram in several weights. It is used in hat making as well.
Contact me for more info if you wish, or search using millinery supplies.

Cheryl said...

I made the acquaintance with buckram doing book repairs. The heaviest weight is used for covering the board of book bindings.

MarieJ said...

OMG! When I say this I initially thought "What the heck is 'buckram?' After reading your explanation I realized I have been using buckram for a number of years in various projects and that I still have several yards of it in my sewing closet!!! Now to start the patchwork bag!! WooHoo! :o) THanks for the info!!

Yvonne Moxon said...

Hi I have been using fusible buckram for about 10 years now and it is widely available from a number of sellers on ebay you can buy single or double sided fusible and the sewing machine stitched through the thick stuff easily.

Kita Wolfe said...

Thanks for the info. This was great & straight to the point. Love that!