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Bag Making Essentials: Irons, Heat Presses, & Other Equipment

Bag Making Essentials: Irons, Heat Presses, & Other Equipment

In the previous installment of our series Bag Making Essentials, we talked about the most important piece of equipment you can invest in: the sewing machine. This time, we will look at other useful sewing equipment and machinery that you might need in your workroom. We will mostly focus on two of my workroom staples — irons and heat presses — but we will also go over some additional equipment you might use.

Keep in mind that some of the equipment we talk about in this post is quite an investment. If you’re new to bag making, your “workroom” might simply be a sewing machine in the corner of a room. That is perfectly fine, and you can make beautiful handcrafted bags without a lot of additional equipment. However, if you are a serious hobbyist or you sell the bags that you make, these machines will save you time and elevate the craftsmanship of your products.

Irons for Bag Making

As a sewist, you undoubtedly already have an iron (or two!) in your workroom. Any high-quality iron will do — but if yours is a little worse for the wear and you’re in the market for a new one, here are my recommendations.

I currently use an Oliso smart iron. I like that it has an auto-lift feature; the iron lowers when you touch the handle and lifts when you take your hand off. This not only prevents scorched fabrics but also makes ironing so much smoother.

In the past, I’ve also enjoyed using Rowenta irons. Rowenta offers steam irons with large, removable water tanks, so they are both powerful and convenient to use.

Photo of two irons on a tan background

If your iron does not have a removable water tank, I recommend using a misting bottle instead of putting water directly in the machine. This will help the iron last longer, and it allows you to control the spray a little bit more.

Heat Presses for Bag Making

My favorite piece of equipment in my workroom is hands-down my heat press. It has saved me so much time and has elevated my bag making. A heat press is a machine designed to apply consistent heat and pressure to materials, typically used for transferring designs, fusing fabrics, and bonding materials. For our purposes as bag makers, it’s especially useful for adhering interfacing to fabric for structure and durability.

You may be wondering, “Why should I use a heat press over an iron?” In many cases, an iron will get the job done — but a heat press will make the process easier and faster, and it will ensure more consistent outcomes. Unlike an iron, a heat press makes it easy to apply uniform pressure and heat for a polished result. A heat press also provides a large surface area, so you can quickly fuse larger pieces of fabric without the manual work of ironing.

Heat presses range from a few hundred dollars well above $1,000, so they are not cheap.

That being said, they’re definitely worth the investment for serious bag makers. I speak from experience when I say that a good heat press will change the way you sew! And of course, it also has many applications beyond bag making. A heat press is excellent for ensuring that heat transfers last a long time, setting fabric paints, pressing seams, and more.

What to Look for When You’re Buying a Heat Press

There is a wide variety of heat presses on the market. Some use steam while others don’t. There are clamshell and swing-away presses. They come in different sizes, with various controls and safety features. It can be a lot to consider when you’re making a purchase.

In my workroom, I have a Heat Press Nation Black Series. I selected this heat press after a lot of research and comparison shopping. I love that it has a large bed (also called the lower platen), so my pattern pieces fit nicely. It also has a digital timer, so it automatically pops up when it’s done. I love not having to watch the clock — I just press, wait, and voila!

When you’re shopping for a heat press, I recommend looking out for these key features:

  • Large bed size: Mine is about 16” x 20”.

  • Automatic timer

  • Digital controls

  • Non-stick platens: I also recommend using a Teflon sheet as an added measure to avoid messes.

  • Slide-out drawer: Mine does not have a drawer, but it is a useful feature for positioning materials without getting too close to the heat.

Other Considerations

Before you buy a heat press, there are a few other things to consider. First, heat presses are hefty and take up a significant amount of space. I keep mine on a metal Craftsman tool cabinet so I can move it around more easily. The cabinet drawers are perfect for additional storage, so it makes for a nice workspace.

Chris Murphy standing next to a heat press that's sitting on a red metal tool cabinet
I have my heat press on a metal tool cabinet for safe and convenient storage.

Finally, it’s important to note that heat presses use a lot of energy. They often need their own dedicated outlet to avoid tripping a breaker. Personally, I can’t even use my iron or humidifier when my heat press is on. Keep that in mind when you consider where you will store and use your heat press.

Related Video: How to Use a Heat Press

Today we are talking about the “what” and not the “how,” so I won’t get into the nitty gritty of using a heat press in this post. However, if you're looking for a tutorial on using a heat press for bag making, I have another video that will help.

Watch How to Use a Heat Press to see how I use mine to:

  • Fuse Decovil Light to faux leather or vinyl

  • Fuse woven interfacing to linen or cotton

Other Equipment for Bag Making

A sewing machine, an iron, and a heat press are the most essential equipment for bag making, but they aren’t the only equipment out there. As you develop your bag making craft, you might consider investing in some of the following equipment.

  • Clicker press (AKA die cutting press): Used to cut precise shapes from leather, cork, and other materials

  • Hand press: Used to affix rivets, eyelets, studs, grommets, and other hardware to bags

  • Skiving machine: Used to thin leather and reduce bulk

What other pieces of equipment have you used for bag making? What new equipment are you curious to learn more about? Let me know in the comments. I’d love to know your thoughts.

Until Next Time

There you have it: some of the most useful equipment for the bag maker’s workroom. In our next post, we will talk about tools and notions — in other words, all the little things that make the job easier and contribute to quality craftsmanship.

To learn more bag making basics and get weekly sewing tutorials, subscribe to Simply Classic on YouTube. Until next time, happy sewing!

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