Tag Archives: patchwork

Patchwork Bag – Part Two


Okay, so at this point in time, you should have two plaited straps, a lining for the bag, and a patchwork “outer” part for the bag. Both the lining and the outer bag are still flat at this stage, but now have to be sewn into “tubes”. This is where things feel “wrong” when handling the bag. Nothing sits flat, and the fabric feels all twisted as you are trying to sew. This is normal. If you look at the lining in a completed bag, the seam actually travels around the inside of the bag in almost a spiral from top to bottom. Hence the “twisted” feeling when trying to match up the appropriate seams.

On the photo below, I have labelled the seams that need to be matched up. Basically, the two edges (the labelled ones) get stitched together in a manner that carries on the staggered format of the patchwork strips.

Cat Bag Outer Layer, Labelled

The edges need to be lined up, right sides together, so that the corresponding letters match up.

If you mark the bag in the places that correspond to the letters above, and then match each mark to it’s partner (A to A, X to X) and sew, you should end up with a tube as follows…..

Cat Bag Tube

The seam that you have just stitched will now be running at an angle from top to bottom, which is why it feels so awkward to pin and sew.

You now need to do the same with the lining, but you don’t have the seams to help line things up, hence the reason for marking where the seams would be. Use these markings to help match things up and stitch in the same manner as the outer bag.

Now to begin creating the base. Line up the points on the bottom of the bag as shown below. Stitch the outer edges, from crease to point. Do the same with the lining. The first photo shows the base, with points matched up, and the second photo shows where the base has been stitched.

Cat Bag Base Before Stitching

The base before stitching, with points matched up.

Cat Bag Base After Stitching

The base once the first edges have been stitched. The two corners (one on top of the other) in the centre of the picture will end up being pulled apart from one another so that they are at either end of a straight edge.

Now the base needs to be prepared for the next row of stitching. Find the corner that corresponds to the one in the centre of the picture above. It will be two layers of fabric on top of one another. Grab each layer of fabric at the corner and pull apart from each other (as if you were opening a sealed bag full of crisps or similar). This will bring the seams you have just stitched into line with each other. Now you should have a straight edge to sew, as in the photo below.

Cat Bag Base Step 2

The second part of stitching the base. The seam down the centre of the photo is one of the first two base seams that were stitched in the step above this one.

DO NOT do the above step with the lining, or you will not be able to turn the bag in the right way later! Only the first seams of the lining base get stitched for now.

Turn the outer part of the bag, and the lining, so that one if the right way out, and the other the wrong way out. Place on inside the other so that right sides are together. Match the corners of the bag and lining that you pinned/marked previously.

Inserting the lining

Matching up the points of the lining with the outer bag.

Ensuring the handles aren’t twisted, insert them between the lining and the bag layers, with the ends at each corner. The two ends of one handle should be in adjacent corners, not opposite ones. Pin everything in place and stitch.

Placing the Handle

Placing the handle of the bag, between the lining and the outer bag. Ensure the handle isn't twisted.

When stitching the outer corners, stitch across them rather than in a point. Stitch back and forth across each corner a couple of times to ensure the handles are secure and will take the weight of the bag contents without the stitching pulling undone.

Cat Bag Securing Lining to Bag

The stitching around the top of the bag - this part is where one of the handles sits.

Clip the inner corners as shown.

Clipping Corners

The corners need to be clipped, to allow the bag to sit nicely once turned in the right way.

Now you can turn the bag in the right way through the hole left in the lining base. Check that the handles are securely caught up in the stitching before closing the gap in the lining. I like to turn the edges of the gap to the inside and machine stitch it closed as shown below, but hand stitching will provide a neater finish.

Stitching Lining Closed

The lining where it has been stitched closed after turning the bag in the right way. I do this stitching on the machine, but it can be handstitched for a more invisible finish.

At this stage, I like to topstitch around the top edge of the bag. It keeps things sitting nicely, especially in the corners, and is just one more layer of stitching to help hold the handles in place securely.


The top edge of the bag, showing the topstitching. Not a good photo I'm afraid.

Now you should have a finished bag. Congratulations!!

Finished Bag

The final product.

I hope to write another post soon, showing some variations, such as pockets, a bag in which the lining is not done separately, and a lining option which makes better use of fabric than the method explained here.

Happy sewing!


Patchwork Bag – Part One


I was given a bag like this by a good friend, and I fell in love with it. It is nice and deep, and has a square base rather than being rectangular. I used the bag for many purposes and decided to try and make more. But when I examined it cloesly, to work out how it was constructed, I ended up with my brain in a twist! I have since been taught the ins and outs of how this great looking bag goes together, and it’s much easier than it looks. Now I am a “pro” at whipping one up, and I have begun adding all sorts of variations to the basic design, just to make them unique and interesting.

One of the bags I have made - this one was for my daughter

The bag consists of 16 squares of equal size, which can be cut from all different fabrics, or four co-ordinating fabrics, or even pieced together in quilting-style designs. I usually make plaited fabric handles, as they give a nice finish to the bag. The bag is lined, so this needs to be considered when buying fabric. So far, I have either made bags using fabric I have in my stash, or I have bought fabric and just cut the squares to a size that suits the amount of fabric I have bought. I have used old sheets, or stash fabric as lining. As a result, I cannot really give an idea of how much fabric to buy, though I guess it can be easily worked out once you have chosen a size.

Size-wise, you can determine the end size of a bag using a cutting mat. Pick a square size that you think you might want to use, and mark out one that is 1/2″ smaller (to allow for seams). Measure across it diagonally. A square with sides this length will be the size of the bag’s base. Multiply the measurement by 1.5 to get the bag depth. You can do this in reverse if you want to know what size squares to use to make a specific size bag.

Once you have picked your fabrics and worked out what size squares to use, then you can start cutting. A rotary cutter, quilter’s ruler, and cutting mat will make this job much faster and easier.

As I said before, you will need 16 squares. You will also need strips for the straps – for plaited straps, cut 6 strips, each one being 1.5″ wide and about a yard long (I cut from selvage to selvage). The lining is cut out later.

The squares and strips, cut out and ready to sew

Once you have got your squares and strips, then you can start sewing. I use a 1/4″ (6mm) seam, but you can vary this if desired (keeping in mind that all my measurements have been calculated with a 1/4″ seam in mind). Begin by sewing 4 squares together into a strip, and repeat this until you have 4 strips consisting of 4 squares each (see pictures). When deciding how to arrange your different fabrics, keep in mind the layout shown here. The ends of the strips (which are the pink and the green squares here) will be the top and bottom of the bag, which are still interchangeable at this point. If you are using just four fabrics, then simply sew the squares together in four identical strips as shown here. Keep in mind that the base of the bag will tend to get dirty quickly, so try to put the darkest fabric on the bottom.

Cat Bag 02

The four strips of squares that make up the bag. They are laid out in the way they will be sewn together to make the bag.

Before sewing the strips together, it helps to press the seams flat. I press them in alternating directions, so they don’t become too bulky when sewn together, and to help the seams butt up against each other as they get stitched.

Cat Bag Strip Seams

This shows the seams pressed in alternating directions. Each strip's seams get pressed in an identical manner to the others strips.

The four strips then get sewn together in a staggered fashion, as shown, with seams lined up with one another. Don’t worry that the ends of the strips don’t line up with a seam – they are not supposed to. Focus on getting the seams lined up with one another instead. Press once complete.

Cat Bag Outer Layer

The outside of the bag, formed by sewing the strips to one another in a staqggered fashion.

Now lay the “outer bag” onto your lining fabric with right sides together. Using the outer bag as a template, cut the lining out carefully to match. Before separating the bag and lining, mark one of the TOP squares of the bag with a safety pin (refer to picture above to help work out which your top squares will be – mine are the green ones), and do the same with the corresponding part of the lining. This helps with a better fit when putting the two together. Also, place marks along the straight edges of the lining to correspond to where the seams are on the outer bag.

Cat Bag Lining

The lining after being cut out. This should be indentical in size to your outer bag. (I probably should have ironed the lining fabric before cutting!)

Now this is where the construction gets complicated to explain, so we will put the lining and bag aside for a moment, and work on the handles….

The strips for the handles need to be folded in half lengthways, with right sides together, and stitched as shown above (it is partly unfolded in the photo, just to show how it gets folded before stitching). The strips all then need to be turned in the right way, ready for plaiting. Secure three strips together at one end, then plait them before securing the other end to create one bag handle. Repeat for the second handle.

Cat Bag 03

One of the strips for the handle being stitched.

Cat Bag Handle

Plaiting the handle. I use the presser foot on my machine to hold the end steady while I plait.

With the handles done, it is time to return to the main part of the bag. This will be explained in Patchwork Bag – Part Two, as this post is already too long 🙂

I hope I have explained things okay so far. Feel free to contact me with any questions.

Happy sewing!