How to Make a Bag

Making bags is great. Being smallish they don’t take too long to make or use up too much fabric, making them perfect for using up smaller pieces of fabric that either cost a fortune so you didn’t want to buy too much, or stuff left over from other projects.bag

There are lots of ways to make bags, and the approach you choose to take will depend a lot on what you are planning to use the bag for. Obviously a bag for shopping or for storing your daughter’s huge collection of stuffed toy dogs will require a different approach to a little bag for your purse, keys and phone.

Now I don’t know if this is the “right” way to make a bag, but it is my favourite! The fundamental thing with this type of bag is that everything is held together by the band at the top. So the handles (or the D rings if I am making a longer strap for it) are sewn into the band and the main body of the bag is attached to it too.

Here’s how to make a bag my way!

The first thing I do is decide how much stuff I will need to carry in it. As my boys get bigger, I find I need less stuff, nappies and changes of clothes etc, but I end up carrying the things they pick up while we are out, like feathers, stones, sticks and bus timetables.tardis bag 2

Using a tape measure and maybe if I can be bothered some paper, I decide on the dimensions. How much fabric I have will also be a factor. The top of the bag will need to be wide enough to be able to shove the stuff in, so if it needs to hold my diary or an A4 folder, this will also need to be taken into consideration.

Having decided on the dimensions for the bag band, I can cut the out the bits for it. I will cut 2 pieces from the outer fabric, for the front and the back, and 2 from the lining.

The bottom of the bag main will usually be wider than the top. Either I will cut it like that or I will gather it, like I did for my Tardis bag (so called because I can get far more stuff in it than actually looks possible!). I will cut 2 pieces for the bag outer and 2 for the lining.The width of the main piece is longer than the rectangles

To make the handles I will decide firstly on whether I want 1 or 2 and secondly how long they need to be. Using 1 strip of the main fabric and 1 strip of the lining, I make a tube by pinning them right sides together then sewing along both of the long edges, leaving the short edges raw.bagtute1

To assemble the bag, I start with the bag main outer. With the right sides together, sew along the sides and the bottom. Trim seams and turn out. Repeat for the lining.

Next, join the outer bag band pieces at the short edges, checking that it’s the same width as the bag. Repeat with the lining. If you are gathering your bag main, do that next and check that it is the same width as the bag outer.

Width of bag is now the same as the length of the rectangle

Width of bag is now the same as the length of the rectangle

Next, pin the band outer to the bag main outer, right sides together and matching the side seams.

Pin the band lining to the bag main lining, right sides together and sides seams matching.

Sew round the top of the bag to attach the band to the bag main. Turn the band right side out. You might wish to iron it. Top stitching might look nice too.

Tuck the raw edges of the bag band inside. Pin and/or iron. Decide where you would like your handles to go. Tuck the handles in between the band outer and lining and pin in place.

Topstitch around the top of the bag band.

Voila, one bag!bagtute10

All sorts of variations are possible here. As well as making bags of different sizes and gathering or not gathering the bag main, you could use different fabrics for the various pieces, add different panels, applique, embroidery, pleats and godet thingies.

Here are some bags I have made using this method.

Paisley Bag


This is a simple version of the bag. The bag main is made from two rectangles. The top edge is about a third longer than the bag band and I gathered it to make it fit. It has one handle which I made by cutting a strip from the main fabric and a wider strip from some navy blue fabric. I put the main fabric on top of the blue with the wrong sides together, folded the blue fabric over the main fabric, folded the raw edges underneath then top stitched it in place.

Floral Godet Bag

bagThe floral fabric I used for this bag was actually curtains that hung in my bedroom when I was a little girl! Yes, I know. But it was the 80s! The fabric was already quite thick so there was no need to use interfacing.

The bits were cut to size so there was no need to gather the bag main. To make it a little bit more interesting I added godets in a nice bright blue and I made the bag band from the same fabric.

I also rounded off the corners to give it a slightly different shape.

Evening Bag

SAM_7272I made this bag for a tutorial for the Sewing Directory here. The fabric I used is Oakshott Shot Cotton, which is amazing stuff! It looks just like shot silk, but because it is cotton it is not slinky at all and it holds its shape, making it much easier to work with.

It is a similar shape to the Floral Godet Bag. The bag main is not gathered as the pieces were cut to size and I rounded the corners. Instead of using godets I made panels of different fabric.

To make the handles, I made strips of grey and purple and plaited them together.

The flower detail I made by gathering strips of fabric and joining the short edges. I added a shiny button to the centre to finish it off.

Tardis Bagtardis bag 1

I wanted to make a bag that was a bit bigger than the others, was waterproof and had a shoulder strap. I was imagining struggling on and off the bus with the boys in the pouring rain! Holding a baby, a buggy and a bag while herding three other children and getting soaked in the process is not much fun. Having a bag that I can sling over my shoulder makes things slightly easier!

To make the bag waterproof, I used ripstop fabric. The bag main is gathered and to make it even roomier, I squared off the corners. The D rings for the strap were attached in the same way as the handles on the other bags.

Do you have a favourite way of making bags?

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How to Make a Waterproof Hood for a Pushchair

IMG_0153Boy 4 hates the raincover on his buggy. It doesn’t matter if it is pouring with rain. In his 1 year old boy’s brain, he would rather get wet than have his view slightly obscured by a transparent piece of plastic that will keep him dry and snug in his buggy. He hates it so much that if he so much as suspects that the raincover is even covering the hood, he will scream the place down.

Before anybody starts, yes, he can walk, and he often does. Yet sometimes it is better that he rides in the buggy so that we can be sure of getting to where we need to be promptly, in one piece and not tearing our hair out. Or soaking wet from being in the rain for half an hour instead of 5 minutes.

Being the kind of person who likes a challenge, especially the kind that involves making stuff, I set about finding a solution so that my precious little boy stays dry in his buggy without screaming his little head off.

One possible solution was to make a hood out of some kind of waterproof material that would go over the buggy’ s hood and possibly stick out a bit further to keep the little person inside drier.

So here is how to make a waterproof hood!

In order to make a waterproof hood for Boy 4’s buggy, I acquired a shower curtain, a wire coat hanger and 5 m of bias binding.

Having done this, my first task was to make a pattern. I actually had to do this twice because I lost the first one I made and only found it in the pile of unfinished projects after I had already made a second one. So annoying! And also a reason why tidying up is a Bad Thing.

To make the pattern, I removed the hood from the buggy and drew around the top part. This was trickier than I was expecting, so to make it easier I pinned the paper to the hood, folded it round the hood, then drew around it. IMG_0108Making the bit at the back was easier as this bit was quite loose anyway.

The hood on Boy 4’s little umbrella folding buggy is quite small as well as being only showerproof, so the waterproof hood needed an extra piece at the front to make it bigger. To do this, I used the pattern piece from the top of the hood and traced the front, then drew a curved line for the front of the extra piece.

Next I cut the bits out of the shower curtain. I didn’t use pins because I didn’t want to make holes in it. I considered using tape but I decided I couldn’t be bothered to look for it so I drew round the pattern with a pen instead.IMG_0124

I folded the pieces in half to make sure they were symmetrical and even on both sides.

After cutting the bits out, I joined them using the bias binding. The raincovers I have inspected are joined together in the same way. I enclosed the edges inside the bias binding, pinned it, then sewed.IMG_0126

IMG_0129To ensure that the hood was a decent fit and wouldn’t blow away if it was a bit breezy, I added some darts to the back section.IMG_0131IMG_0135

The last thing I needed to do was to sew the remaining bias binding around the outside edge and attach the wire coat hanger to the front edge so that the hood would hold its shape.

To do this, I used the bias binding on the front edge as casing. I pinned the bias binding to the front and sewed, keeping as close to the open edge as possible. I only sewed the bias tape onto the front section, leaving the rest free so that I could sew it onto the rest of the hood once I’d sorted out the wire.

Then I unwound the coat hanger, checked how much of it I needed and cut off what I didn’t need. As it turned out, all I had to cut off was the hook, which also saved me the job of straightening it out. I wiggled it through the casing until it was threaded right the way through the front section. There were a couple of dodgy bits where the casing was too narrow, but this was easily solved by unpicking a few stitches.IMG_0143

All that was left to do was sew the remaining bias binding to the rest of the hood.

I did have plans to add a loop of elastic and a button so I could attach it to the pushchair, but as the waterproof hood was wedged quite firmly between the original hood and the handles, I haven’t bothered.IMG_0151

Hopefully combined with a puddle jumping suit and a pair of wellies, the waterproof hood should be enough to keep Boy 4 dry when it rains without him screaming!

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How to Put in a Zip

Having to put a zip into something can really put you off making it.

It’s so difficult to know how to do it without messing it up.

Where do you start? Should the zip be open or closed? I don’t have a/ can’t find my zip foot. The zippy part keeps getting trapped under the foot and now it looks like a spider has been at my sewing. What on earth should I do about the lining?

It’s enough to make you abandon any attempts at putting a zip in and just use buttons instead.

Thankfully there is an easy way to put in a zip. If you haven’t discovered it yet, keep reading because all will be made clear!

 How to Put in a Zip the Easy Way

1. Make your skirt, dress or whatever in your usual way or by following the instructions on the pattern up until the point where you need to put in the zip.

2. If the zip is going into the last seam, put the garment on. Inside out is probably easiest. Pin the seam together. If the seam is at the back, you will need to find somebody to help you unless you are a contortionist. Using a pen, pencil or a piece of chalk, draw along where the pins are.

3. Take the pins out and the garment off. Repin along the line you drew. Sew right along the seam including where the zip is supposed to go. Don’t worry, you won’t be able to get into it at the moment but you soon will!

4. Press the seam flat. Line the zip up face down on the wrong side of the seam line, keeping it closed. Pin in place. IMG_0114The zip needs to be lined up perfectly, or near enough, and this can be tricky to do so keep checking that the zip is lined up with the seam.

5. If you have a zip foot, put it on your sewing machine. If not, don’t worry, just use the normal foot. Line up the zip with the edge of the foot, leaving the top part with the bumpy zippy thing free. Sew down the side of the zip. Repeat for the other side.IMG_0115

6. Check the right side of the seam. If done correctly, there should be two neat rows of stitching on either side of the seam. Using a seam ripper (or a pair of scissors if you don’t have one), unpick the part of the seam that is over the zip.IMG_0121

7. Pull the zippy thing down past where you still need to sew.IMG_0122 Pin the rest of the zip and sew in place.IMG_0123

That’s it! Easy, see?

If the top of the zip is not quite far up enough, you can use a hook and eye or a little button with a loop to finish it off.

If you are making something with a lining, you have two choices. You can either sew the lining in, then put the zip in last, following the instructions above. Or you can follow the instructions as far as Step 4 and tack the zip in, then fold the edges of the lining under at the zip, pin, then sew.

So that’s how to put in a zip. There’s no need to be scared of them any longer!

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Upcycled Toddler Trousers


I found myself in a v good situation the other day. One of Husband’s shirts had a tear in it and Boy 4 needed new trousers. Crank up the sewing machine, it’s a chance to make stuff. Hooray!

There’s a lot of fabric in a man’s shirt, especially if it’s a shirt belonging to a large man. More than enough to make a pair of trousers. Happily, it was a nice shirt, cotton not polyester, and in a fairly practical colour. I just knew the stripes would look very cute as a pair of trousers!  I’m also getting warm fuzzies knowing that a) the trousers were free and b) the shirt has not ended up clogging up landfill but has been given a second lease of life.IMG_2136

Here’s how to make a pair of upcycled toddler trousers.

1. Find some fabric. Men’s shirts are great. Depending on the prints, there might be enough fabric in an old pillowcase. A skirt or a pair of trousers might provide suitable fabric too.

2. Find or make a pattern. I had a pattern already. These are actually the third pair of trousers I have made from this pattern, and I have also made the dungarees and the top that came with the pattern. If you do not have a pattern, that’s not a problem. Trousers are basically made up of 4 pieces, so choose a pair of your child’s trousers, turn them inside out and draw around one leg, the whole leg round to the middle seam.

3. Cut out the pieces. Remember to turn your pattern piece over for two pieces. I cut one piece out of each of the shirt fronts and 2 pieces out of the back.IMG_2142

4. Take the two front pieces and, with the right sides together, sew the middle seam. Trim and press. Repeat for the back.


Ironing the shirt first is probably a good idea. As you can see, I did not do this.

5. Put the front and the back together with the right sides together. Sew up the side seams. Trim the seams.IMG_0005

6. Sew up the inside leg seam. Trim the seam and snip the curves.

7. I made a lining for Boy 4’s trousers to make them a little bit thicker. If you are making trousers for summer they will probably be alright without a lining. For trousers for colder months you might wish to line them, in which case repeat steps 3 to 6. This might be a good way to use up pale coloured shirts!

8. Pop the lining trousers inside the outer trousers so that the right sides are together. IMG_0015Sew around the top, trim the seam and turn the right way out. Put the lining back inside the trousers so that the wrong sides are together. Top stitch around the top of the trousers.IMG_0027

9. To make the casing for the elastic, fold the top down 1.5 cm, pin, then sew in place, leaving a small gap at the back for threading the elastic.IMG_0018

10. Fold up the raw edge at the bottom of the outer leg. Pin. IMG_0021Repeat for the lining so that the folded raw edges are together and the lining leg is a couple of mm shorter. Pin together. IMG_0022Sew around the bottom of the leg. Repeat for the other leg.

11. Cut a piece of elastic as long as the distance around your child’s waist plus a couple of cm extra. Using a safety pin, thread the elastic through the casing and tie in a knot.IMG_0028


This what is left of the shirt now.



Husband won’t be wearing that again unless they have a Raggedy Pirates’ Day at work. There’s still fabric in the sleeves though, not to mention the buttons, so enough for another small project or two!IMG_0050 IMG_0039IMG_0055 IMG_0047

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How to Make a Dip Dyed Skirt

IMG_2131In my last post I explained how to make a full skirt and the instructions are here. This post features Phase 2, drawing on the skirt with a Sharpie and Phase 3, dip dying it a pretty shade of blue so that marmite, chocolate, mud and vomit won’t show up on it so much.

I found my inspiration via Pinterest at Second Chances by Susan. Here she takes a white jacket, draws flowers on it, dyes it and a tired old jacket is transformed into something beautiful!

Susan is clearly very talented at drawing. I am not. When I was a teacher, once I drew a plane and the children thought it was a dog. Knowing your limits can be useful though, because it means that you don’t try something that is beyond your capabilities. So I did not even consider drawing a work of art all over my skirt. Instead I stuck to something I knew I could draw, which was celtic inspired swirls.

Here’s how I drew them.IMG_2100IMG_2101IMG_2102IMG_2103IMG_2104IMG_2105IMG_2118

Sometimes pictures explain better than words, don’t they? For those of you who are not visual learners, it’s a spiral two and half times inwards, then back on itself, then a long kind of elephant’s trunk thing to join it to the next one. I think the pictures explain it better!

The pen bled a bit on the fabric. I thought it might as the fabric was quite thin, but I was confident that the bleeding would be less obvious once I had dyed the skirt.

Susan splodged some washable glue onto her flowers so that there would be different shades of blue there, a similar (but much easier!) technique to batik where wax is used instead of glue.

So I splodged some glue onto the middle of the spirals.IMG_2116IMG_2117

Once the glue was dry I could dip dye the skirt.

I used some Dylon djollop that makes up in cold water and takes an hour.

To achieve a graded effect, I put the top part in for 15 minutes, then put a bit more in every 10 minutes until it was all in the dye. Then I rinsed it in cold water and washed it in the washing machine and, for anybody who is worried about doing this, I’ve put two loads through the washer today and my washing is not blue.

The overall effect is a gradual lightening rather than a blockier effect. It’s also a little bit mottled in places. The dying process did not receive my full attention as I was also cooking dinner and Boy 4 was “helping”, ie turning the hob off. However, I quite like my mottled dip dyed skirt! IMG_2132

I have another packet of dye so I’m keeping an eye out for white stuff!


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