Monday, March 2, 2015

Rainy Day? Make a new Spring Bag!!!

Give me a cloudy or rainy day, and I want to settle into a cozy chair with a book. There's something about the sound of the rain outside my window that lulls me into a happy place, free from the distractions of everyday life. As a fabric shop owner, I don't get to do this very often, and even when I do, thoughts of fabrics, patterns, accounts, staff and wholesalers creep into the plot of my novel.

For many of our readers and customers, rainy days are their favorite time to sew, perhaps start a project that they can finish in one sitting. Making a purse or bag is a great rainy day project and we have a simple bag that even a beginning sewist can try.

Read on...From my seamstress Laurel:

My "no-pattern" Spring Bag

A few years ago, a friend gave me a fabric bag that she had made for me to celebrate the birth of her daughter. My friend's daughter got the big diaper bag version, and I got a cute little red and black toile purse with my initial in red.  I loved it so much that I used it to make a series of bags and purses, leaving behind the pricey leather purses that I purchased then ended up abandoning to my closet.

The beauty of the this bag is its simple design - no zippers or irritating compartments...just the right mix of size and space. Its best feature are the longer straps to throw over your shoulder and the inside pocket. And you don't even need a pattern to make it!

Choose a weightier fabric for the body and straps and a lighter cotton fabric for the lining and inside pocket -  a half yard of each should do the trick. For my Spring bag I chose a heavier cotton denim-like print and a lightweight quilting cotton from Australia (Stonemountain has a big group of amazing Aboriginal artwork on high quality cotton) for the lining at Stonemoutain.

The second thing I love about this bag is that you can make it any size you want.  
Here are the dimensions I used:

If you want to add more weight and body to your bag, you can inner-line it with a light weight cotton batting (used for quilts) or felt - it's a matter of preference and planned use for the bag. Whichever you choose, cut it a little smaller (one inch) in the width of your fabric. The inside pocket works best if you use a fusible interfacing to give it more stability, cut in the same dimensions as your pocket fabric.

The construction is simple. Sew three boxed shapes - one outer fabric, one inner lining and one lining.  They all fit together in layers.  To construct each box, first sew the two side seams by folding your fabric in half with right sides together, then construct the box shape by squaring off the corners.  To do this, fold the corner down flat so it looks like a triangle with the side seam down the middle. Draw a line perpendicular to the side seam and stitch along this line.  Trim off the excess seam allowance.  This make your bag more three-dimensional than flat.

Turn the bag right side out and stitch along the edge of the purse bottom to help it hold its shape.

 Repeat the construction process with the optional inner-lining. 
I sewed the seams flat on the felt just to keep the layers from getting too bulky.

Here's the outer fabric and felt inner-lining.:

Before you construct the box shape in the lining fabric, the inside pocket is constructed and sewn onto the lining.  Fuse the interfacing to the wrong side of the pocket fabric and proceed sewing the pocket by sewing all sides, leaving a small opening to turn the fabric. Press the pocket, then top stitch along the folded edge, which will become the top opening of your pocket.

Attach the the pocket to the lining fabric at the top edge, about 3" down and evenly spaced between the sides, sewing only the sides and bottom of the pocket.  Don't forget to back stitch at the tops of your pocket for added strength.

Create "compartments" in your pocket to hold items that you need to find in a hurry - 
your phone, lipstick, pen, whatever!

Once the pocket is finished, sew up the sides of the lining, (fold in half, sew side seams) and construct the box bottom as you did with the outer fabric and inner lining. Place all three layers one inside the other and run a basting stitch along the top edge to hold them in place.

Rather than try to make a "casing" that you have to turn right side out, construct the straps by pressing each side 1/4" then folding the strap together and stitching along the edges. Attach the finished straps to the bag.

Attach the facing to bag, sewing all layers together. Top stitch the facing down at the edge, sewing all layers turned toward the facing - this will help the facing lay flat. Turn the facing toward the inside of the bag, press and then stitch the facing in place, either by machine top stitching or by hand.

I added a "bottom" to the inside of my bag using a cardboard rectangle cut to size, then covering it with my facing fabric.  Creating this bottom keeps the bag in its shape, but it's optional, if you want a more slouchy look.

So here's my "What not to do" moment...I should have added some embellishment to the outside of the bag BEFORE I sewed it together...but I didn't, and the bag ended up being very plain.  So I added my embellishment on the finished bag - a little harder to sew, but it worked.

You can adjust the dimensions of the bag to fit your style and needs. A bigger bag makes a great book bag or a knitting bag...a smaller one makes a cute purse. The fabrics that you chose have more to do with how it turns out rather than the sewing itself.  I think this bag is cute, but I think I made it a little big for an everyday purse. Of course I'll use it anyway - I'm tired of my old one. And it's so simple, I can whip out another tomorrow! If it's raining, that is!

Thanks Laurel for sharing.  We have so many cool fabrics in the store that would be perfect for making bags and purses. We love the simplicity of this design and she's right - it's the fabric that makes the bag! Come check out our inventory of cottons, corduroys, denims, and other bottom weight fabrics that would be perfect for your bag.

Creatively Yours, 
 SuZan, lucky owner of
Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics
2518 Shattuck Ave @ Dwight Way (stop by!)
or visit our webstore at

Celebrating 34 years of being open in Berkeley!

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