The author, Lisa Lam, has been making her name in the bag making sphere on the internet since 2005 and is known for being helpful and generous with her bag-making expertise on her blog. She is highly skilled in making beautiful, professionally styled bags and in this book, it definitely shows.
Being accustomed to working with project-oriented instructional craft and sewing books, it was refreshing to first read and learn about a particular technique and then apply it within the context of constructing a specific bag. I have sometimes found that when you are putting together a project and working through the pattern steps, explanations of construction techniques can be a bit thin and incomplete at times. Because the focus is on the completed project, the details are lost in the process, leaving behind a confused and sometimes frustrated sewer (never a good thing). This book comes at the issue from the other side, addressing construction skills while the beautiful bags shown inspire you to actually try out the techniques.
I remember the first time I had to make a welt pocket in a garment. Fortunately for me, the pattern that I was using had a special section on how to make a welt pocket and specifically instructed you to practice on scrap fabric several times before installing the pocket in the garment. Can you imagine if the instructions had instead said only "make welt pocket" with no further clarification? That unfinished garment would even now be wadded up in the bottom of a box somewhere. The beauty of this book is that the various construction techniques are broken down and illustrated step by step so that they are easy to understand and implement. Lisa Lam also sprinkles in useful tips and tricks along the way that make construction even easier.
The Bag Making Bible starts out as most sewing books do, with an introduction to sewing basics and then branches into bag construction specific details. The chapters are divided into categories and each one includes instructions for making a bag that utilizes skills taught in that section. The skills build on each other and progress from easy to more difficult. The first chapter talks about patterns and even includes tips on how to modify them to meet your needs. If you want your bag to be bigger or smaller, she shows you how.
Another chapter focuses on the different types of closures such as zippers and magnetic snaps, especially interesting to me because hardware has been something that has intimidated me in the past. Poke holes in my fabric to put in a magnetic snap? Scary concept. After reading her book, I was brave enough to get out my snap pliers and put in a grommet because I felt confident that I was doing it correctly and it turned out great.
There is also a chapter that discusses how to make and attach different kinds of straps, even including a description of how to thread straps correctly through buckle hardware. A later chapter is dedicated to making pockets, both interior and exterior. Pockets make or break a purse for me, so this was my favorite section.
The end result is that, if you work through the entire book and learn all the assembly techniques, you will be able to mix and match components together to create your perfect bag. This is a great concept for someone like me who is picky about their purses (it took me two years one time to find a purse that I really liked). In the past, I have tried to cobble together features from two or three different patterns with mixed results. Now, I hope to be able to plan out what features I want and incorporate them into the design.
I also loved that Lisa Lam provided multiple examples of concepts. For instance, when she was discussing zipper insertions, she talked about and showed how to do several styles of insertions such as box-type and top edge zippers and also showed how to put a tab on a zipper end to give it a more polished and professional look. It is details like these that elevate a project from being "home-made" to "custom-made."
There are eight patterns included in a pull-out section at the back of the book. The projects include a messenger style bag, three different styles of book bags, a travel bag, an organized tote bag, a clutch, and a hobo bag. With all the customization options that are presented, the range of possibilities is almost endless.
The book is extensively illustrated throughout with high quality full-color photographs. The bags themselves are incredibly visually appealing. She uses a variety of prints and colors and fabric types that really highlight the incredible versatility of the patterns and bag components. Specific construction details are well photographed so you can actually see and understand how they are supposed to be put together.
I do have a couple of (minor) beefs with the book. With craft and sewing books, I think it is so helpful when they are spiral bound so that they will lay open flat while they are being used. It is annoying to try and refer to a book that keeps snapping shut on you.
I will admit that I am an editor at heart (and have done professional editing) before mentioning that I did find a few typos here and there. Which, you know, doesn't materially reduce the value of the book, it just needed some more eyes on it before it went to print (she states as she frantically reads the article one more time looking for mistakes).
If you are at all interested in sewing your own bags, this is the book I would recommend adding to your sewing library. It will serve not only as an instructional tool for making bags, but also as a reference for learning and reinforcing integral sewing skills.