I have been having a bit of a clear out of my fabric stash - basically because the lids on my boxes wouldn't close and in fact are beginning, literally, to crack up under the strain! I am a bit of a hoarder of printed fabric and tend to buy bits of this or that, when I can afford it, just because, well, you never know, and if I don't buy them when I spot them and go back subsequently, having decided I must acquire whatever print it is that has caught my eye, nine times out of ten, it's gone with the wind and any inquiry about it, is a cue for hearing those depressing words, "No, we won't be getting any more in.".
The good news about this hoarding habit is that there is usually something to draw on for a particular project (so long as not too much of any one fabric is needed); the bad news is that there's quite a lot of fabric that sits around not being used because its destiny hasn't (yet) come up! So I have been thinning it out a bit, with some happy results, I have to say.
My first foray into "thinning out", married some fabric from my stash with some fabulous prints which a dear friend in Tennessee sent me. The result of this is, although I say it myself, a rather gorgeous gipsy skirt, which is nearly, but not quite, finished. I'll show you when it is - clearly 2013 is the year when my hippy tendencies are emerging Big Time because my gipsy skirt has a beautifully vintage 1970s vibe about it, to join my other recent makes of my All The Time In The World Blouse and my Jeans For The Golden Road To Samarkand.
My second "thinning out" has resulted in some straightforward, but nonetheless pleasing, bags using some leftover Japanese Kokka Echino print fabric for the outsides and assorted flowery prints for the linings - mostly some Tanya Whelan Sugar Hill "Scattered Roses" in pale lemon, pink and green with a touch of light blue and some John Louden "English Florals" in mixed reds, pinks, greens and oranges.
Bags like these are very easy to make and I find them very useful. The Japanese Kokka Echino print fabric is perfect for bag-making because it's a lovely linen / cotton mix which is a bit heavier than plain cotton and so is nice and robust, while still pretty. I love the colours - those bright greens, violets, pinks and oranges mixed with slightly milky turquoise against the natural linen-coloured background are very summery and the woodcut-effect birds and flowers have a lightness and energy to them that is very appealing.
My design is for a biggish bag, but not too big, the finished measurements are about 17" by 16" / 45cm by 40cm, so almost, but not quite, square, with a nice boxy bottom and a useful inside pocket with compartments for the essentials of life - crochet hooks, tea bags, scissors, 'phone, car keys etc.
I find this sort of size of bag particularly useful in the unpredictable and flighty English summer. Big enough to carry a spare cardigan for when that blissfully clear, summer day suddenly turns cloudy and a sharp little breeze takes the edge off sitting dreamily outside in the sun; accommodating enough to store the same cardigan when another grey, rather damp day suddenly lifts, the sun springs out and a layer or two needs to be shed with immediate effect; robust enough to house an impromptu picnic, a portable hooky project, a bundle of work papers and several heavy bunches of large keys; light enough not to be cumbersome when I'm walking cross-country; capacious enough to take a spare pair of flip-flops for when I'm not walking cross-country; flexible enough to shove under a chair, in the boot of my car, on the kitchen work-surface; and as well as all the above, user-friendly enough to go happily in and out of the washing machine when my bar of chocolate melts at the bottom of it, my flask of tea spills in it or my fountain pen leaks on it.
This is a bag for easy summer living and I've made five in total.
One is a present for a friend, one I am already using, (hot off the sewing machine!), and three are looking for happy homes. Anyone interested? If you are, leave me a comment and, (if there are more than three of you), I'll draw names out of a hat at the end of the week.
I'll send anywhere in the world so long as you are happy to email me your postal address and can give a bag a happy home, even if you live somewhere where the summer is less fickle than here in the UK! These are not factory-perfect bags - they have the odd little quirkiness that goes with "handmade, homemade" but I hope some of you might enjoy using them. See what you think from the pics.
I originally wanted to scan the pattern I drew out by hand, but my printer decided it wouldn't cooperate so I've had to draw this out on the computer which was trickier than I thought, not least the insertion into the blog post via a screen shot which was the only way I could make it stay where it was put! It's not to scale as you can see, but it does make clear what you need, I hope!
The square cut-outs in the corners aren't essential but take the guesswork out of achieving a nice neat boxy bottom for your bag so I think it's worth drawing them and cutting them like this.
It doesn't matter where you place the notches on the bag sides but the notches on the boxy cut-outs in the corners should be placed exactly half-way along each indentation, as shown, to work properly.
Once you've drawn out your pattern pieces on some scrap paper - a bright felt pen and some newspaper do nicely - let's get cutting! (Happy Snippers Of The World Unite! Tee hee!)
OK? Now you're ready to sew, so crank up your sewing machine with some thread to match or tone with your fabrics and, while you are at it, switch the iron on, so that it will be good and hot, when you come to press the seams you're about to sew.
Take your two pocket pieces and pin them together, matching the edges and with right sides facing. Stitch along each of the four sides leaving a gap for turning in the bottom long edge. Clip off the corners of the seam allowances and turn the right way out using a wooden knitting needle or similar gently to poke out the corners. Press.
Now line the pocket piece up on the right side of one of your lining pieces it should sit about 4.5" / 10cm below the top edge and central between the two side edges. Pin in place and then top stitch along the sides and bottom edge, (not along the top obviously, or it will be a patch not a pocket!) You can now make little compartments in your pockets if you want to - I made some for crochet hooks on-the-go and a couple of slightly larger ones for other stuff. Just draw the lines where you want the divisions to come on the pocket, with tailor's chalk and a ruler, or mark with pins, then topstitch through the pocket and lining fabric, to make compartments to suit your particular needs. Pull through any threads to the wrong side of the lining piece and knot neatly to secure.
Place the outer fabric pieces of the bag together, right sides together, matching edges and side notches. Don't worry about the corners at this stage. Pin along the sides and the bottom edge, leaving the corners flapping gappily! Stitch. Do exactly the same with the lining pieces.
Press each of the sewn seams flat and open.
Fold the right side of the fabric towards the wrong side in a 5/8"/1.5 cm seam allowance along the top edge of the lining and the outer bag. Press.
Now for those boxy corners. What you want to do is to match up the notches in a neat line across the bottom of the bag / lining, aligning the opened out and pressed ends of the side seams with those of the bottom seam. This is much easier to demonstrate than to write instructions for! Your little notches should match in pairs as in my pic. Pin and then stitch across.
See?! You've now got a lovely squared-off boxy bottom!
Nearly there now! Insert the lining into the outer bag with the wrong sides of the fabric facing one another. Pin the top edge of the lining and the bag together but don't sew yet because we're going to sandwich the strap ends between the layers.
OK, time for the straps. Take your strips of fabric and and fold each one lengthways, right sides together and stitch with a 1/4" / 0.5cm seam allowance. Press the seam flat with the wrong side of the fabric still facing outwards as in the pic below. (Pressing them first, the wrong way out, makes it easier to get a neat finish in the turned out straps.)
Now for the tricky task of turning the straps the right way out. Be patient with this - they will come out but it's fiddly and takes a little time. A wooden knitting needle, judiciously applied can help but go gently, you don't want to pierce the fabric (or jam it into an impenetrable knot, as Mrs T tends to, when she gets impatient!) Gentle and patient teasing out is the answer. Once you've got the straps turned out, press them again and insert the ends between the lining and the outer fabric of the bag about 4.5" / 12cm from each side seam and with about 5-6" / 13-15cm between each pair of handles. Each end should be inserted about 1.5" / 4cm below the top edge. Pin securely.
Now for the final stretch! Topstitch all the way round the top edge of the bag, nice and close to the edge. Finally stitch a criss-crossed box shape over each strap end that is sandwiched, neatly hidden between the layers of fabric, as I've done in the pic. This makes a good secure bond between the handles and the rest of the bag.
You have to feel where the ends of the straps are through the fabric but it's not difficult - mark the limit of the strap end with a pin if that helps. This method makes a nice neat finish on the inside with no raw edges of the straps showing, which I rather like.
Your bag is finished! Pull through and knot the loose threads neatly, snipping off the ends to tidy up; fill your bag and head out for whatever your summer day holds.
Going to be a scorcher? Add a bottle of water, a sunhat and a change of shoes for cool feet when your morning shoes become unbearably hot.
Threatens to rain? Pop in an umbrella or a cagoule.
Work beckons? Pile in your papers, a diary and a clutch of pens along with a pick-up-put-down little hooky project for those few, spare minutes between meetings.
A day free to go exploring or shopping? Stash away a quick picnic, a flask of tea and a book and leave plenty of room for loot!
And if you're like me and prone to feel chilly, don't forget, always to carry, that very English garment, a cardigan, without which Mrs T rarely ventures forth, although, hopefully, does not always have to wear!
Don't forget to leave me a comment if you'd like one of my Kokka Echino print bags - and let me know which you'd like best,
Kokka Echino "Flap Border Green"?
Kokka Echino "Perch Stripe Pink"?
or Kokka Echino "Perch Stripe Green"?
from Mrs T