Wednesday 23 April 2014

Book Review: Handprint and make your own Bags

Today I'm reviewing Handprint and make your own Bags by Jenny McCabe.

I met Jenny at the Renegade Craft Fair last year (where she was selling some of her lovely handprinted textiles) and said I felt terribly guilty for having not yet reviewed her book on my blog... and here I am, months later, just getting around to it! Tsk tsk.

Handprint and make your own Bags begins with a short guide to "design and inspiration" (designing your own fabric prints) and then has 6 pages of printing techniques: potato printing, lino printing, erasers, foam sheets, stencils, screenprints, photo transfers, leaf printing, sun prints... plus Jenny's top 10 printing tips.

As you might guess from the number of techniques squeezed into 6 pages this is not a super detailed guide to printing your own fabric but instead a basic introduction to some accessible techniques.

Then there are 4 pages of motifs - these do need to be enlarged, but it's great to be able to reproduce the exact designs shown in the book.


The bulk of the book is devoted to the bag-making, with 35 projects divided by the type of printing used to decorate the fabric: carved block printing, constructed block printing, resist printing, and other printing methods.

All the projects have step by step colour illustrations and there's a short guide to sewing techniques included at the back of the book. The projects are all helpfully marked with a skill level, and the guides are charmingly designed to match the print used for that particular bag. I love seeing nice touches like this in craft books! 


Like the motifs, the bag templates do need enlarging (though without a page of pull-out patterns, which is a rare thing to find in a craft book, this is only to be expected when making large projects like bags). There are also a couple of designs included to scan in and print to make photo transfers.


Jenny's designs are so lovely, with mostly nature-inspired motifs but also some fun designs like a space invaders pattern for a kid's bag and a stylish cutlery design to print onto a cutlery roll.

As well as the cutlery roll there are a couple of other "non-bag" projects included - coin purses and a wallet - but most of the book is, as you'd expect from the title, all about bag-making. The designs cover a wide mix of shapes, from a bucket-handled shopper, to a messenger bag, to a diaper bag with lots of useful pockets:

I need to get to grips with my sewing machine (after years of just hand stitching) and I'll definitely be getting this book off the shelf when I do - maybe starting with this bag, which looks lovely and super-useful.

Handprint and make your own Bags is a nice, versatile craft book - a simple introduction to printing but also a useful sewing book with lots of bag and purse patterns. Seeing the great results from the simpler printing techniques is especially inspiring - "ooh, I could totally do that!" is a very good feeling to have when looking through a craft book.

Personally though I think I'd want a more detailed guide to the more complex/advanced printing techniques before I felt confident trying them, so maybe this book would be a good one to pair with a book dedicated to printing techniques so you can learn about the more complicated techniques in more detail then use your knowledge to make bags with your awesome printed fabric.

Handprint and make your own Bags is published by CICO Books. RRP £12.99. It's available from Amazon UK, Amazon USA, The Book Depository and many other bookshops.

[Disclaimer: CICO Books sent me a free review copy of this book. They also publish my books but I am always honest in my reviews! The Amazon & Book Depository links in this post are affiliate links]


Anonymous said...

I have this book on permanent loan form the library. I keep meaning to make something from it. The bag patterns are lovely. It's hard to find a bag book where I like the patterns but I really like a lot of these. I probably won't be doing the printing bit for a while though. It is good to have the patterns full sized. Nothing is more off putting than having to mess about with resizing.

Jacqui Wise said...

Looks like an interesting book. My daughter might find it useful too as she likes printing.

Unknown said...

I love bags AND handprinting! This book is a definite to add to my craft book collection.

I love your blog. I found you via a Google search for embroidery and sewing information. So very happy I did!


Hoogally said...

Oh my bank balance can't stand me reading your blog any more this week what with all of these books you keep tempting me with!

I'd never thought I could do my own printing without a lot of specialist equipment. Does the book tell you how to actually do the printing or is it still a case of needing lots of equipment?

Lee said...

Looks like a great book - thanks for the good review!

Anonymous said...

Dreamy patterns! I wouldn't trust myself to reproduce them, though.

Bugs and Fishes said...

Anon - there are a lot of great bag patterns in here, and a nice variety of styles, I think!

Jennifer - thank you! I hope you'll continue to enjoy it :)

Hoogally - you will need to buy some equipment, but most of the techniques don't seem to involve a lot of fancy kit and there are some quite simple ones like printing with potatoes and leaves which look very accessible.

Anon - this is why I was glad to see the motifs included so you can use them as templates / stencils / etc! :)