a patchwork book bag in three…five…well a few easy steps

tutorial

Bear with me here; I am not used to teaching. I am assuming little knowledge, but if I am teaching my grandmother to suck eggs, as they say, let me know and I will step it up a notch.

I do not believe in rules. I am not one for doing what I am told. If a recipe calls for lemons, I am likely to use limes or oranges…because what do they know? I think the great thing about sewing is that you can read books and blogs and go on courses and then ignore a chunk of it (or all of it) and just do what you want to do. So just consider this an idea to play with as you will.

You can use this approach with whatever fabric you have to hand and you don’t have to use any patchwork, just skip the first few steps and use one oblong of fabric for the outside and another for the inside. For mine I have used quilting fabric  – a pack of pre-cut 15cm squares (which some may call cheating, but as I said, I don’t believe in rules, so how can it be cheating?) – which is a light weight cotton. This means the bag is very light and easy to fold up and pop in your handbag. However, it works well with heavier fabric too (old curtains are my favourite), which makes it stronger; you may need to experiment with sewing machine tension and stitch length. I am not going to try to cover using a sewing machine – just look at the handbook, google any problems and perhaps find a blog written by someone with more technical know how than me.

Ingredients Materials: 8 x 15cm (6inch) squares of cotton fabric (wash it first in case it shrinks), matching thread (or contrasting for the top stitching, if you prefer), 3 x 15cm (6inch) square border fabric and cut each border fabric square in half, two strips of border fabric each 3cm x 72cm (1.25inch x 28.5inch), lining fabric approx 30cm x 72cm (12inch x 28.5inch)*, 2 strips border fabric and 2 strips lining fabric each 5cm x 71cm (2inch x 28inch)

* wait until you have completed the outside layer of the bag as you can use it as a template to make sure the lining is the right size.

Unless otherwise stated, I use approximately 0.7cm seam allowance. This is the equivalent of 0.25inch and on my sewing machine (and I think most machines) is what you get when the edge of the fabric runs along the edge of the standard sewing foot, so is just a convenient allowance.

1) arrange the patchwork squares and border fabric half squares with border fabric at the top, in the middle and at the bottom
1) arrange the patchwork squares and border fabric half squares with border fabric at the top, in the middle and at the bottom
2) Place two half squares of border fabric right together and do a straight stitch along one of the short edges, press the seam open. Repeat with each pair of squares or half squares.
2) Place two half squares of border fabric right sides together and do a straight stitch along one of the short edges, press the seam open. Repeat with each pair of squares or half squares.
3) Take each pair of squares/half squares in the order you arranged, place right sides together, pin and sew along the long side. Pins should always be perpendicular to the line you are sewing so you can sew over the top of them).
3) Take each pair of squares/half squares in the order you arranged, place right sides together, pin and sew along the long side. Pins should always be perpendicular to the line you are sewing so you can sew over the top of them.
4) Press open seams before adding the next row.
4) Press open seams before adding the next row.
5) pin the strips of border fabric, right sides together, to each side of the panel of fabric squares. Sew in place.
5) pin the strips of border fabric, right sides together, to each side of the panel of fabric squares. Sew in place.
6) Use the completed panel of fabric as a template to cut the lining fabric. Fold the panel of fabric for the outside of the bag in half, matching the centre seam as closely as you can (I put a pin in the middle seam just to keep it aligned). pin the two side seams and sew. Fix the thread ends at the bottom of the bag by using the oversew option, turning it around and sew a short distance, retracing the original stitching or just tie the two ends together.
6) Use the completed panel of fabric as a template to cut the lining fabric. Fold the panel of fabric for the outside of the bag in half, matching the centre seam as closely as you can (I put a pin in the middle seam just to keep it aligned). pin the two side seams and sew. Fix the thread ends at the bottom of the bag by using the oversew option, turning it around and sewing a short distance to retrace the original stitching or just tie the two ends of thread together.
7) Fold the lining fabric in half, right sides together, pin the two sides and sew. Press the seam allowance back.
7) Fold the lining fabric in half, right sides together, pin the two sides and sew. Press the seam allowance back. (As the pattern on my lining fabric had a particular direction, I added a double seam allowance, cut the oblong in half and turned one half around so the pattern was in the same direction when you looked inside the finished bag, and then sewed the bottom as well as the sides).
8) Turn the outside of the bag the right way out and push out the corners (a chop stick works well). Place the lining inside the outer bag and push it in to the bottom of the bag with your handy chop stick. I then pin the bottom to stop it moving. Fold in the top of the outer bag - I use the depth of the bottom border plus a bit, but go with what you like the look of.
8) Turn the outside of the bag the right way out and push out the corners (a chop stick works well). Place the lining inside the outer bag and push it in to the bottom of the bag with your handy chop stick. I then pin the bottom to stop it moving. Fold in the top of the outer bag – I use the depth of the bottom border plus a bit, but go with what you like the look of.
9) Fold in the lining so it is just short of the top of the outer bag.
9) Fold in the lining so it is just short of the folded top of the outer bag.
10) Make the handles: for each strip of fabric fold over the long edges so the meet in the middle (right side on the outside) and press. Pin each lining fabric strip to a border fabric strip and top stitch close to each of the four edges (you can see the stitching in picture 11). These handles are long enough to go over your shoulder, but just make them shorter if you prefer to hold the bag in your hand.
10) Make the handles: for each strip of fabric fold over the long edges so they meet in the middle (right side on the outside) and press. Pin each lining fabric strip to a border fabric strip and top stitch close to each of the four edges (you can see the stitching in picture 11). These handles are long enough to go over your shoulder, but just make them shorter if you prefer to hold the bag in your hand.
11) Insert the handles between the lining and outer bag with about 2.5cm below the folded edge of the lining. Tops stitch close to the folded edge of the lining and then, for strength, do a second parallel row of top stitching a little below it.
11) Insert the handles between the lining and outer bag about 5cm from the side edge and with about 2.5cm of handle below the folded edge of the lining. Top stitch close to the folded edge of the lining and then, for strength, do a second parallel row of top stitching a little below it.
12) Remove the pins and press the bag...ta da!
12) Remove the pins and press the bag…ta da!

I like to finish the bag with a ribbon rose brooch, but that is for another day….

ribbon rose brooch
ribbon rose brooch

6 thoughts on “a patchwork book bag in three…five…well a few easy steps

  1. Irene June 22, 2013 / 09:01

    I totally agree with you about the part of not doing as I am told. It has been a firm belief during the whole of my life, and look how I turned out! 🙂 (I mean, it could have been worse. I think).

    • deereyme June 22, 2013 / 09:54

      I have learned, however, that sometimes it is worth doing what you’re told. For years, when visiting gardens I refused to follow arrows until I realised that in some gardens they move the arrows so visitors see the plants that are at their best at that time of the year.

      (and I think you have turned out…well…quite satisfactorily 😉 )

  2. Stitch Mode Blogger June 23, 2013 / 14:10

    Hello!!! I LOVE THAT FABRIC!!! And, I love the bag itself!! Fantastic sewing quality you have!! Keep it up!! Can’t wait to see more of your bag creations!! 😀

    • deereyme June 24, 2013 / 13:40

      Hello! I love the fabric too – I have a feeling it was in the Cottonpatch sale, but some of my fabric stash goes back a long way and I may be wrong. Thank you for your kind words, I hope you will not be disappointed!

  3. Anonymous June 25, 2013 / 18:14

    Sue, love your tutorial and the bag is really nice! Hugs from Annika

    • deereyme June 25, 2013 / 18:24

      Hi Annika – from you (the Queen of Seams herself) that is praise indeed; thank you!

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