I’ve just finished making 42 simple tote/shopping bags for my choir’s upcoming trip to Paris. I used a lovely lightweight cotton canvas, called “luxury cotton”, that I found at Stoff & Stil in a beautiful, simple palette of four colours; grey, light grey, rhubarb red and golden.
Having cut out all the 42 bags’ worth of pieces I had a good few off cuts left over and wondered what to do with them. Of late I have been bringing into my son’s school bags of fabric off cuts that they seem delighted to receive. They use them for all sorts of arts and crafts, so I don’t feel too guilty about the waste production levels but I’m always looking for ways to make the most out of the fabric I have.
I recently discovered this Instagram post from @sotakhandmade where, in a little video Svetlana Sotak demonstrates a technique called “Quilt As You Go”. It was the perfect opportunity to keep the lovely cotton off cuts from my Paris bag making and try my hand at a new skill. This is what I made:
Using a piece of cotton batting from my stash I put together a lovely panel of gold, pink and grey. Now I had to figure to what to do with it!
From one type of bag making to another…
Having considered a few options, coasters, a placemat, a pencil case I decided to try making a simple lined zipper pouch. There are lots of free tutorial and patterns out there for this. At some point in the last couple of years I had come across this “how to” video on YouTube showing how to make a lined, zipped pouch posted by Made Everyday with Dana. This formed the start point of this bag making mini experiment.
I had the rare opportunity to sew this up during the day so took advantage of the daylight and took some pictures as I went along! I’m no sewing expert but enjoyed documenting the process and hope someone out there enjoys reading it!
Let’s get started!
Before getting stuck into the bag making I had to make another quilted panel. Using the same palette of offcuts I made a second quilted panel and then trimmed the two back to match each other in size (26cm x 34cm), at the same time squaring them off. I used some of the pink cotton for lining and some of the gold for a pocket.
I have an old linen washbag that I got years ago that has what I can only describe as a zipper flaps. I really like this simple finishing detail so decided to add some to my bag. I cut out two strips, one pink, one yellow, 7cm wide by the length of the main panels, 34cm.
We all love a pocket, right? Using some of the orange fabric I cut out a piece 17cm x 23cm to add to the lining to create a little internal pocket.
The last item to add was a little side tab that I cut out of the dark grey and make it 7cm x 8cm.
Looking through my stash of zips the best option I had was a plain white 4mm plastic YKK zip and at 30cm long it was pretty much the perfect size.
1. Collect your zip strips. These are two long strips that will be sewn into the zipper bag running the length of the zipper opening. They are sewn in at the same time as the zip. Fold them in half, length wise, right sides together. Press gently. Fold them loosely so that the short ends are lined up on top of each other and cut a wedge off the ends. This wedge should measure 1cm at the folded side tapering back to nothing at the raw edge.
2. Sew along each short end with a 1 cm seam allowance. Trim the corners close to the stitch line but being careful not to cut the stitching.
3. Turn the zip strips right side out. Push the corners out neatly and press. Trim off the excess seam allowance that will be sticking out.
4. Line up the zip strips with raw edges along the top (longside) of both exterior quilted panels, centred along the length. Pin and then baste in place approximately 3mm from the edge.
The Side Tag
5. Get your side tag. Fold lengthwise, right sides together. Sew along the longer (8cm) side with a 1cm seam allowance.
6. Turn the side tag right side out and press. Fold it in half with raw edges aligned. Baste in place on the side of one of the quilted panels (the side where the zipper pull sits when closed) approximately 5cm down from top edge.
The Internal Pocket
7. Find your pocket piece. Fold the top over by 1cm to wrong side. Press. Fold over again, just over 1cm to the wrong side. Press. Top stitch, from the right side, along the length of this seam. Fold over 1cm along the remaining 3 sides of the pocket piece to the wrong side. Press.
8. Place the prepared pocket on the right side of one of the lining panels, right side up with all folded seams concealed. Position centrally width wise and approximately 5cm from the top edge of the lining panel.
9. Top stitch in place, sewing a triangle to secure/reinforce the pocket opening corners.
10. Collect one exterior panel (with zip strip basted on), your zip and one lining panel. Sandwich the zip between the top of the exterior and lining panels. N.B. Make sure the right side of the zip is facing the exterior; in fact it will be facing the zip strip that you already basted onto the front.
11. Pin in place along the length of the zip. Make sure the zipper pull is about halfway open. Using you zipper foot, or whichever foot you are most comfortable sewing a zip with. I actually use my standard foot, but move the needle position over to the far left.
Sew along this seam with about a 6mm seam allowance. As you approach the zipper pull keep your needle down, lift your presser foot and pull the zipper pull through, and out of the way, to the length that you have just sewn.
12. Repeat for the other side of the zip.
13. Gently press the exterior and lining panels away from the zip. If plastic, be careful not to press the zipper teeth.
Side Seams next!
14. Making sure your zip is halfway open, so that you will be able to turn it the right way out easily, layout your bag with exterior right side facing and lining right side facing. Pin along the perimeter.
15. Leaving a 10cm gap in the lining (to allow you to turn the bag right way out), sew along the perimeter with a 1cm seam allowance. Make sure the zipper teeth are sitting into the lining side as you sew.
Forming the Corners
You can make the corners whatever size you like. I started off planning to make them 8cm wide (see the top middle picture of item 16 below) but in the end made them a little wider as it worked best with the placement of the individual patches of the exterior panels.
The method is the same to form the corners in the lining and the exterior fabric. Many patterns will include from the outset a rectangle cut out of the corners in these main lining and exterior pieces which determines the size of the corners. I like to judge the proportion of the corners when the bag is made, so I’ve described here how I formed these corners at this stage.
16. With the bag wrong side out pinch the corners flat so that the side seam and the bottom seam sit directly on top of each other. In the bottom set of photos above, the lining, you can see a black headed pin that is placed along this stitch line making sure they are lined up correctly and keeping them in place. Press the seam open.
17. Using your tape measure, or a rigid ruler (which I prefer) for this, decide the corner depth you would like making sure it is running at right angles to the bottom and side seam. If your measurement on either side of this seam is equal and ends at the folded edge of the fabric on each side you should be fine! I like to draw along this line with a water erasable marker and then sew along it. Cut off the excess fabric leaving approximately a 1cm seam allowance.
18. Through the hole in your lining turn your bag the right way out, finger pushing your corners out. Press the seam line along the bottom of the lining where the hole is and close the hole by topstitching close to the edge.
19. Just ease your lining back into the bag and manoeuvre the corners into place. Finish up by pulling the zip, side tab, corners and zip flaps into place.
I think I’m going to hold onto this for myself! It might just live on my kitchen counter for a while where I can enjoy the colour and texture. And I suspect it will end up as my travel washbag for that upcoming choir Paris trip!
A Double Addiction…
It appears that I have developed not one but two new addictions. The “quilt as you go” technique is so easy and satisfying, resulting in a beautifully textured piece of fabric. I wonderful way to use up scraps and to play with colours and textures.
After making this zipped bag, and while avoiding get stuck into the full flow of the 42 tote bags, I made another pair of quilt as you go panels.
This time they transformed a backpack for my littlest chicken. Along with a new jungle dress she was all set to carry her bits and pieces into hospital for a day procedure.
As well as the “quilt as you go” technique, there is also something so satisfying about bag making. I love having a beautifully made utilitarian object that can be enjoyed casually day to day, not kept just for special occasions. A bag is something you are in constant physical contact with as you use it so there is so much opportunity to enjoy the colours, textures and materials.
Thank you so much for reading! If you’d like to stay in touch and be notified of my latest posts you can subscribe so that you get an email notifying you when they are released! If you feel like it please do leave a comment – I’d love to hear from you! xx Sarah.