About this blog

I make bags and post tutorials on how to make them. I'll tell you what went well and warn you about any disasters.

Monday, 2 January 2017

2016 New Year’s Resolution Completed

I did it!

At the start of 2016 I resolved to design and make a new bag every week and blog about it.  The aim was to acquire new skills along the way from textile and bag-making techniques to setting up and running a blog.

Now, a year later, I’ve achieved all I set out to do and more.  I’ve learnt how to do French seams, sew with PVC and faux leather, attach rivets, eyelets and clasps, and so much more.  I’ve spent hours patiently taking photos and writing instructions when really I was just impatient to get on with the making.

Was it worth it?  Hell, yes! I’ve learnt so much over the year and it was the blog that drove me forwards to keep trying new things.  Some I liked (PVC especially), some I didn’t (what is the point of lamifix??) but I’m much wiser, not to mention a year older.  I think the most important thing I learnt was that there is always a solution, even if something seems impossible.  I didn’t give up on any of my bags if I hit a snag, but I learnt how to make them better.  That’s probably I good life lesson.

What next?  Well I shall still make bags and add tutorials to this blog from time to time, but certainly not every week.  I’m looking forward to lots of new crafty projects, not just bags, but I don’t think I could stop making them totally even if I tried.

Many thanks to all of you who looked at the blog during the year and gave valuable feedback.

Enjoy your bag-making.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Bag #52: Wipe Clean Shopping Bag

This is my 52nd and last bag of 2016.  I started the year with a shopping bag and developed a liking for PVC right at the start, so I decided to end with a bag which combines both.  This PVC bag is quite straightforward in design – just a couple of rectangles joined together with handles.  For a really quick version, it could be made unlined.  I added a lining, an internal zip pocket and a magnetic clasp. As it’s made of PVC, it can just be wiped clean, so there’s no excuse for a mucky bag.

The PVC was a remnant from my local home furnishing store.  I can often get bargain remnants there because they find it hard it to sell small quantities of PVC (this was half a metre). I think PVC is sturdy enough not to need any wadding or interfacing, but I added a medium weight interfacing around the zip and on the pocket to give the lining extra stability.  I used a polyester lining.

You would need half a metre of PVC and lining and a 7”/18 cm strip of interfacing to make this bag.

The finished size is approximately 17”/43 cm high (plus handles) and 14”/35.5 cm wide.

Skill level: Intermediate as PVC isn’t the easiest fabric to work with.

I used my normal stitch length (2.5) for the seams and 5 for top stitching.  I used ½”/12 mm seams for the outer bag and slighter wider seams for the lining.

I have included metric and imperial measurements but they are not exactly interchangeable, so you should stick to either one or the other.

Skills used in this project:
  • Using PVC

Step 1: Cutting out

Cut out the following:

15” x 18”/38 cm x 46 cm Outer bag sides (cut 2 PVC)

16” x 4”/40.5 cm x 10 cm Handles (cut 2 PVC)

15” x 3”/38 cm x 7.5 cm Upper internal bag (cut 2 PVC)

15” x 15¾”/38 cm x 40 cm Lower internal bag (cut 2 lining)

10” x 7”/25.5 cm x 18 cm Internal pocket (cut 2 lining, 2 interfacing)

10” x 3“/25.5 cm x 7.5 cm Lining stabiliser (cut 1 interfacing)

9”/23 cm  zip (I used an N3 zip from a continuous roll)

Magnetic clasp & small off cut of bag foam/wadding for reinforcement

Step 2: Making the outer bag

Place the 2 PVC outer bag pieces right sides together and sew round the sides and bottom.  Don’t forget to check that the pattern is the right way up.

There is no need to turn it right side out until later.

Step 3: Making the handles


Fold the handles in half lengthways to find the centre.  Fold each side in so that the edge is against the fold line.  It will now look like bias binding.  Fold in half and top stitch close to the edge along each long side of the handle.  This will hold it together and make it look professional.

Sew each end of the handles to the top of the outer bag about 4”/10 cm from the nearest side seam, making sure the handle isn't twisted. It should curve downwards as shown in the photo. 

Step 4: Sewing the internal pocket

Interfacing attached to bag lining along
one of the shorter sides
Attach the interfacing to the wrong side (if there is one) of the pocket pieces and bag lining.

Pin one pocket piece to one of the bag linings, right sides together, with the long side of the pocket along the top edge of the lining, to match the position of the interfacing on the bag lining.   

Draw a ½” x 8”/12 mm x 20 cm rectangle along the centre of the pocket interfacing about 1½"/4 cm from the top edge.

Sew around this rectangle through all the layers that you have just pinned together.  

Cut a slit in this rectangle (as shown in the photo) making sure not to cut the stitches. 

Push the pocket through this ‘letterbox’, shape in the lining so that it sits flat and press. You will now have a neat opening to attach the zip.

Pin the zip to the pocket so that the right side shows through the aperture in the bag lining. Sew all round the zip.

Pin the remaining pocket piece to this one, right sides together and sew around the sides and bottom, keeping the bag lining out of the way as you do not want to sew through this. 

Sew along the top of the pocket and the bag lining to hold the pocket firmly in place.

Step 5: Attaching the magnetic clasps

One side of the magnetic fastener needs to be attached to one of the upper internal bag PVC strips.  

Fold the fabric in half horizontally and then vertically to find the centre and mark.  Using the washer, mark where the prongs will go through the fabric, then carefully make a small slit along each of these marks using a stitch unpicker. 

Cut a small piece of foam to roughly the same size as the washer and make a slit for each of the prongs. 

Push the ‘legs’ through from the right side of the PVC, through the foam and the washer and open them outwards to secure.

Do the same with the other part of the magnetic clasp and PVC strip.  

Step 6: Making the inner bag

Sew one PVC upper internal bag to one lining piece, right sides together.  Make sure that any pattern will be the right way up. 

Do the same for the other PVC strip and lining.

With right sides together, sew the side seams.  Do not sew the bottom seam at this stage.

Step 7: Assembling the bag

With the PVC outer bag wrong side out, place the lining inside, right side out – the inner and outer bags will now be right sides together with only the handles between them.

Keeping the handles between the fabric sew around the top of both parts of the bag to join them.

Turn through so that the lining is inside and the PVC outer bag has its right side facing out.  

Top stitch around the top edge.

Sew the bottom edges of the lining together.

Well done, you’ve finished the bag.  Time to go sale shopping to test it out!

In this project I learnt:
  • This PVC was harder to work with than others I have used.  PVC seems to vary enormously in thickness and workability.  My sewing machine hated this one.  I tried the general purpose foot, zip foot and roller foot and none of them worked.  As a last resort, I tried the walking foot which worked brilliantly.  One of the things I’ve learnt this year is that there is usually a solution – it’s trial and error until you find it.  Over the year, I’ve learnt that a really long stitch works best when top stitching PVC.
  • When sewing up the lining, I usually partially sew the bottom seam and then sew up the gap when the bag is almost finished.  However, I have found that polyester lining often frays when I try to push the PVC through a too-small gap.  I decided this time to leave the whole bottom seam open and sew it up afterwards.  This was much better – no fraying and the finish was much neater than usual.