Thursday, 18 April 2013

Bag 1

Hello there!
Today I want to catch you up on a project that was a long time swirling around in my brain & then came together in one frenzied weekend of sewing. Do you have projects like that? The basic idea is born but it takes a while to fully develop, it comes to you at odd hours of the night & grows & changes a little bit more. You spend an hour here & an hour there sifting through possible ideas, materials, playing with color combinations, weighing your options until the day dawns when you are ready to Actually Begin Work!
Well this time the basic idea was to make a project bag to house my large cross stitch WIP (Work In Progress). The cross stitch projects that I'm actively working on live in the front room with us so I thought it was about time they had somewhere to live that was a little nicer than the plain pillowcase that I have always used to house big projects. While some basic bag ideas were whirling around in my brain I fell in love with an oh so cute fat quarter of fabric on ebay, so I decided that this had to feature heavily in my new project. I bought it, along with a couple of other fat quarters in rich autumnal hues (totally seasonal then as it was October!) & carried on with other projects.
At Christmas my wonderful Hubbie bought me a new frame for large cross stitch projects. This is a plastic Q snap style one & will be the fourth different type of large frame I have tried (don't ask, it's a long story)...
Now at 17" square this is a BIG frame, but then I primarily want it for working on all those Joan Elliott fairies I have lined up to do & they are around 15 3/4" tall so it should be the perfect size for them. It most certainly won't fit in a pillowcase even if I wanted it to, so before I could transfer Ladybird fairy to it & try it out it needed a place to live. I needed this project bag...
Right from the start I knew that I wanted this to be a patchwork bag so I spent a fair amount of time online looking at bag patterns & patchwork patterns. There were bits of certain designs I liked and things I particularly wanted to incorporate in it so I also spent a lot of  "thinking time" away from the computer too. The seasons changed, Christmas came & went, and through January and into February the idea began to solidify & I started to gather, select, and prepare all the materials I would use. And then suddenly I found I had arrived at The Day! With all the fabric washed, dried, & pressed I was ready to go - it was The Day to get out the large cutting mat, sewing machine, & iron & Actually Start Making!!!
I spent the whole of the first day making up the patchwork blocks for the front of the bag, so excited to be finally turning this project into reality that I completely forgot to take any photos! Whoops! So the next morning I photographed where I had gotten to the night before... 
These are four 8" blocks called Autumn Tints from the book 1000 Great Quilt Blocks by Maggi McCormick Gordon. I framed them with some mottled tan fabric (this is called sashing in the quilting world) to make the front square of the bag. Basically this bag would consist of a square for the front, one for the back, & a rectangular gusset to join the squares together & give the bag some depth. I wanted a roomy bag, once there was a project on the frame I didn't want to have to squeeze it in any way to get it in & out. I backed the completed front & back pieces with iron on interfacing to give the bag some extra body, & then sewed each piece to the gusset. I cut this from the dark green mottled fabric used in the blocks, you can see it round the edges of the bag front here...
I laid the frame on top of the bag front at this point because, after starting off sewing together small squares,  it was now looking HUGE and I was worried I had messed up my math somewhere! But, as you can see, I was ok and I just needed to remind myself this wasn't really a shoulder bag!
I had decided to make the back square of the bag less detailed than the front, but I was just a tiny bit too short on certain fabrics to have four broad stripes so I mixed stripes & squares & came up with this instead...
Now the basic outer part of the bag was complete it was time to set it to one side & make the lining. This would also consist of two squares & a gusset strip, this time all cut from one fabric & sewn with a slightly larger seam allowance to enable it to lie nicely inside the outer part of the bag. My bag needed some internal pockets so before sewing the lining together I cut two pieces of fabric for each pocket, one in each fabric shown below...
I pressed a half inch of fabric under each edge, then pinned the rectangles together with wrong sides facing & top stitched around all four sides about 1/8" in from the edge. Then I pinned one pocket onto each square of lining, giving me a small pocket for scissors, pincushion, & needles to live in inside the front of my bag & a larger pocket for the chart down the back ...
I sewed the three parts of the lining together leaving a six inch gap in one of the bottom seams & put it to one side. Next to tackle the flap.
I had decided on a messenger style bag in the end for a couple of reasons. I wanted a closed bag so as to keep dust, pet hairs etc. off my stitching (these bigger projects of mine can hang around for a while!) and a flap would also allow me to use a big chunk of that cute fat quarter over the top of the main patchwork body of the bag. I knew the flap would need to be the same width as the back square of my bag so to get the rest of the shape I played around with tissue paper & pencil until I had a flap shape that I liked. I then used this as a pattern piece to cut one of these out of my cute fabric, one out of the lining fabric, & one out of interfacing. I ironed the interfacing to the back of the cute fabric, pinned this face down onto the lining, and sewed round three sides inserting a loop of leather thonging in the middle of the bottom edge so I would have a loop to go round a button closure. After I clipped the curved corners it looked like this...
I turned the flap right sides out, pressed it, & topstitched two lines with dark brown thread around the three sewn edges...
Although this is over sized for a shoulder bag I did want it to have a strap so I cut a length of the paler green mottled fabric & a length of wadding/ batting the same length but half the width of the green piece. I pressed the fabric in half & pressed under a half inch down each long edge...
I sandwiched the wadding in the middle of the green fabric, pinned the edge closed, & topstitched twice down the long edge of the fabric...
I pinned the flap onto the back outside of the bag with the right sides facing like so...
...and pinned the ends of the strap on to the outside gusset of the bag on each side like this...
I sewed across both straps & the back flap with a quarter inch seam and then came the final part - joining the lining & the outer. Again I forgot to photograph this stage (I was concentrating too hard on getting this bit right!) but basically you put the outside of the bag & the lining right sides together with the outside sitting inside the lining - does that make sense? With the flap & the strap tucked in between these two layers I sewed right around the top edge of the bag 3/8" in from the edge. Then all that was left was to turn the bag right side out through that six inch gap left in the bottom of the lining, slip stitch the opening closed, and taa-dah! one finished project bag!

I put Ladybird onto my new frame & moved her in to her new home...

Oooh can you see that big round black thing nestled inside the pocket there? That is the big shiny button I found in my button tin - I have no idea what it came off (the tin was my grandmothers' when I was little) but it is a full 2 1/2" across! Well a regular sized button would've looked a bit lost on this big bag ;-) I just remembered it is still sitting in that pocket waiting for me to sew it on!
After all that dreaming and thinking time I am really happy with the reality of this project, the only thing I would change next time around is to make the gusset maybe an inch or two narrower? But I would rather have it wider than necessary than a tight squeeze & for my first ever bag I am pleased with how it turned out :-) I think the autumn palette is my very favorite combination of colors and the pincushion & scissor keep I made last year go beautifully with it...
If you would like more detailed instructions on making a variety of bags then there are some great free tutorials here and here that I found very helpful at the planning stage of this project. I hope you enjoyed your visit here today & will come back again soon, I am going to leave you with one more photo of my full project bag & then go sew that button on while I remember!


  1. I really love this project!! It made me think of Fall with the tree branches and colors...Thats a terrific bag for carrying sewing and things in...once again, you have made a great item! xox

    1. Thank you Cathy! I really appreciate all your encouragement xoxox

  2. gorgeous ...who's a clever girl then!
    (still got those mags for you BTW)

    1. Awww, thanks Dvorah! Oh yes I must get organised & pop over for a proper catch up one day, I will message you on fb? Have a great weekend! Helen xx

  3. Hi, Helen it's Josie..
    I absolutely adore your bag, I too have the s ame problem with my largest qsnap the autumn colors too..I wish I could sew like that. I always enjoy reading your blog ,thank you for sharing.

    1. Hi Josie, thank you so much for your sweet comments :)I think there are folks out there who sell ready made covers for q snaps, maybe try Etsy? But there are also some great tutorials that can take you step by step through making a bag if you felt like giving it a go? I was lucky enough to grow up with the hum of the sewing machine so it holds no terrors for me, but I remember many of my class mates being very tentative around it in sewing lessons - as with many things I think it's a matter of confidence, small successes build on each other! Have a lovely weekend, Helen

  4. That is absolutely gorgeous! And such a fantastic walk through too.

    1. Thanks Steph, glad you like it! Have a great week, Helen xox


Thank you for your message - I love hearing your comments & ideas!