Menu bar pages

Friday, November 11, 2016

It's In The Bag

With Santa's workshop in full swing, there is little coming out of my sewing room that can be shared before Christmas.  This month, I will share past projects.   Someone recently asked about a bag pattern, so I will focus on bags I have made over the years, and where to find the patterns.   Many of the patterns are available online for a small fee or free. 

Bags are one of my favorite items to make and Portland is a great place for inspiration. It seems every person walking in downtown is carrying at least one bag of some sort.  Backpacks are very popular, but there are also many messenger bags, totes and purses.  Below, you will find a little of everything.  I hope you find something that inspires you! 


Totes are fun because they can be quick and easy for use as a grocery bag, or embellished with lining and pockets to go almost anywhere. I have used this pattern and modified it many times in the past 15 years, I can't remember where I found it.  It is pretty basic with a simple flat bottom. I suggest  They have hundreds of projects and an easy project index.  If you can't find a tote pattern you like, let me know.  I will be happy to provide the basic dimensions and instructions.  

This bag and visor were made with home decorator fabric and osnaburg cotton lining.  I used heavy duty stabilizer so the bag stands on its own.  To stiffen and shape the visor I used white polystyrene plastic sheet .020 thick. It can be purchased at Dick Blick's art store and online. (I think its intended use is for modeling, but not sure.)  Even after covering the plastic with stabilizer and fabric, the sewing machine needle can perforate all layers.  I used an old visor as a pattern and had a couple of false starts, but ended up making about a dozen visors.  I like them because they pack flat.

For grocery bags, I prefer no stabilizer so they can be rolled or folded for easy carry to the grocery store.  I try to use a fabric that can be washed and dried. This bag has a thin muslin lining for strength and a washable muslin slipcover for the removable cardboard bottom.  


For me, pockets make the bag.  Here are a few bags that are simply pockets.  They can be made using the entire top portion of the pants, or from a single pocket for a smaller bag.  I do not really follow a pattern for these bags.  I let the pants pocket lead the way.  For such a small bag, the heavy denim would not lie flat when turned right side out.  So, these small bags are sewn wrong sides together with a decorative stitch and the edge frayed.  Plan around seams that may be difficult to run through your sewing machine.  My old Bernina 180 had a little trouble with heavy seams.  My new 770 does a much better job.

I used monogram designs and decorative stitches to embellish the back side of each bag before stitching the pieces together.  Long leather boot strings and small wooden beads were used for the strap.

Jean bags can be easily lined and finished with a magnetic snap closure.

Just right to slip a phone and a few cards inside, and carry keys in outside pocket. 

These jeans had great pockets front and back, so I cut off the legs, sewed the bottom together and lined it.  A fabric and embroidered flower was added.  Straps were made from the legs of the jeans.  

I made this bag a few years ago using a leather skirt purchased from a second-hand store.  I cut off the bottom of the skirt and used it for handles.  The handles are attached to the belt loops.  I removed the zipper and sewed the opening closed (under the decorative flap).  If I were making it again, I would probably leave the zipper for detail.  The inside of the purse is lined and screen mesh is used to make pockets.  I love being able to see inside the deep pockets. The mesh can be purchased at a hardware store for very little money and it is great for many sewing projects.  If you are going to refashion a leather garment into a bag, take care to select a light weight leather with few heavy seams.  I have had better luck with leather skirts and have struggled with leather jackets.  


Shoe string bags are fun.  The pattern can be easily re-sized.  And even with the lining, they sew together quickly. These bags are more popular with boys.  The very old McCall's #M4609 pattern I used is still available on Etsy, but there are many free string bag is something similar.  
Made from a favorite Nike t-shirt
Machine embroidery design Polynesian Tattoo Green Lizard embroidery design from

A matching bag for American Girl doll

I made these backpacks about eight years ago.  The structured shape is gusseted with a long zipper across the top.  The Butterick pattern #6735 can still be purchased.  It is a good value since it includes several bag styles.  

Hobo Bags

Two years ago, I made these Hobo bags for gifting our girls at Christmas.  This is one of my favorite bag patterns and it was free at  It is called a 4-Hour Slouchy Summer Hobo Bag.  The size was easy to modify for older/younger girls.  The adjustable strap was not part of the original pattern, but there are good tutorials on YouTube to help with adjustable straps.  I embellished the bags with a variety of embroidered designs purchased online.  I have two favorite machine embroidery designer websites.  The cats are from  The goth design is from  

Messenger bags

The year I made hobo bags for our girls, I made "metro" bags for the boys. Basically, a messenger bag without the flap.  Not all the young men in our lives carry this kind of bag, and the snake may have been a little over the top.  It is a great size for an iPad and a few other essentials.    

This pattern is available online, for free, at   It is easily modified.   The snake embroidery design is from

The flip side of this bag shows the tail of the snake.

Wristlets and Wallets

Despite the fact that these wristlets have a zippered closure, they were fairly easy to make.  The pattern is easy to follow and available in PDF format for free at  I received many positive comments from the girls who received them.  I made the bags pictured in 2011.  Just this week, I made an un-lined version to serve as an evening clutch.  Great scrap-buster!

These coin pouches are another great scrap-buster.  Although the original pattern is targeted for smaller children, the pattern designs can be adapted to make them more appropriate for older kids.  A golfer might hang one on the side of her bag for extra tees and balls.  A young man might store his ear buds and power cable.  The pattern was purchased online at  

I do not have a picture, but want to make mention of a great wallet for a boy or young man.  I made several for gifts and even received a request for a replacement after the original wore out.  The pattern can be found at  

Coming in December!

Thank you for visiting.  Please come back in December when I will be featuring thread-sketched pets!