As I’ve said before making clothes for grownups is something I’m still learning about, so when it came to making a thank you gift for a friend that had knitted this beautiful dog cardigan I stuck to the slightly safer territory of making a simple tote bag. As a teenager I had a bit of a bag addiction and whether it was in my GCSE textile technology class or at home on my mum’s old sewing machine I was often found making little handbags out of scrap fabric in my spare time.
|The finished bag|
Given that bags can pretty much be any shape or style they are a fairly safe place to start for a novice and the tote style is one of the best to begin with, as well as being highly useful to have around. Once again I used the chambray I’d bought from Regency Rags, given that it was easy to cut and sew and the neutral colour would match most outfits. I then selected a summery feeling boat print polycotton mix fabric for the lining that I had got in a fabric bundle on eBay designed for crafters, 10 complementary half metres of fabric.
|The fabric ready to be cut|
I decided early on I wanted to have a fastening of some kind because I hate a gaping bag when I’m out and about, constantly worrying that something will drop out. I didn’t feel confident enough to fit a zip neatly, and instead decided that a single button would be enough to keep everything a little bit safer.
Making the pattern for this bag was very simple, I used a single rectangle for the bag outer and then folded it in half – adding an extra inch in length – and cut out two half pieces for the lining. I could have cut the lining as a single piece too but then the pattern would have been upside down on one side, so it was worth making the lining from two pieces.
For the handles I cut two long, wide rectangles and folded them right side to right side and did a straight stitch along the long edge before turning the tubes the right way and top stitching down both edges so that the handles lay flat. Before I could attach the handles though I had to make sure the body of the bag was constructed.
The two lining pieces were put right side to right side (patterns matching) and I stitched down the long sides and across the bottom. The main fabric was folded in half long ways (right side to right side again) and stitched down each side, but obviously not along the bottom as it didn’t need it.
Now came the tricky bit. I had to pin the lining and front fabric together (right side to right side again) with the handles in the correct position so that I could sew the handles between the front fabric and the lining, giving a neat finish once complete. In retrospect I should have done a basic tacking stitch here but instead I used pins, which was a little trickier once sewing. Measuring where exactly to put the handles was difficult, and if I did it again I’d be a bit more careful!
As usual when sewing a lining that will be fully enclosed when finished I had to leave a gap so that once everything was attached I could pull all the fabric back through before top stitching along the top edge for both strength and to close the gap. The finished result was pretty neat and I was happy with how sturdy the handles felt, because a bag that falls apart within a couple of uses is no good!
|The handle securely attached|
I chose a nice brown wooden button I think I reclaimed from an old cardigan of mine that had gone to textile reclamation heaven. To inject a little contrast into the design I used a green thread to sew the button on by hand, mainly stitching it to the lining but with the odd, tiny invisible stitch through the outer fabric too to stop the lining and main fabric pulling apart when in use. I used the button hole setting on my sewing machine to make the hole so that was easy.
|The button fastened|
|Machine button hole|
|Button attached to the inside of the bag on the boat lining|
As you might expect this didn’t take me too long to complete and the recipient was delighted with the result. There are so many options for making a tote bag. If you use a heavier fabric and French seams you don’t even need to line it, and you can personalise the front with some basic applique. I’m sure this won’t be the last bag I make for a friend!
|Finished and closed|
|The back - no stitches for the button visible|
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