Merry Christmas, you guys!
This was a funny year for Christmas gifts. The majority of the handmaking was done by my kids while I got my gifts on amazon. Or out of my oven. What about you - did you handmake this year?
Earlier this winter, the kids started making known their preferences for Christmas gifts. One of Jenna's requests was a bag that she could color with markers, which surprised us since she already had two such color-it-yourself bags. But those were small and more like handbags than true totes, so Emily decided to make her another one, in a more practical size.
Since Emily was going to be sewing this bag, it had to be simple to put together, without interfacing, hardware, fiddly straps. Or raw edges that required serging or hemming, either of which would have been extra work. So I drafted a very basic - it took me mere minutes to draft - slouch bag.
Ta da! This is Emily's slouch bag, made for Jenna in a color-it-yourself home-dec fabric,
with a gusset that forms the base and the carrying strap
which ties at the shoulder.
The reverse side is a cupcake-print quilting cotton with a contrast pocket. Because Jenna adores cupcakes.
There were more curved than straight seams in this bag, but with basting, they were easy for even a 10-year-old to handle.
Because it was so much fun to make, I made one for Kate. Hers is in another color-it-yourself quilting cotton - this one allowing her to draw in animal bodies and outfits -
and the other side is a bunny-print flannel,
with a little gusset pocket.
I'd love to be able to say that Emily was bitten by the mass-production bug and made bags for all the neighbors, her classmates and teachers, our newspaper delivery guy, and random cashiers at the supermarket, but the truth is that after sewing Jenna's bag and Kate's portable stable, she was done handmaking for the year. She said, "I really want to make myself a bag, because it's so cute, but I'm tired. Can you make me one instead?"
So I did.
Hers is two layers of quilting cotton, with a contrast gusset on one side,
and on the other, Rae's adorable Snail Trail print,
with an integrated-base-and-pockets gusset,
and a main-body patch pocket.
Here is the bag modeled by Fleur for size. You can see that while the bag itself is decently roomy, the strap is too short for an adult because it was meant for a child.
And unlike Emily, I have no problems mass-producing anything, so I made three more bags for gifts, and I took even more photos to show you some possible variations on the gusset-and-pocket construction.
Here's one in which this entire side is one fabric,
which makes the bag look rounder and smoother and not as segmented or angular as the ones with contrast gussets.
I made a quilted base, though. For fun.
Here's the other side - a patch pocket situated low just so I could align the print.
This side has a partial contrast gusset that has its gusset pockets integrated with the base. To do this, cut the base-and-pocket as one continuous strip, with the pocket double-layered and folded back onto itself. The top edge of the pocket is a fold, and the bottom edge of the pocket is merely a stitching line across both pocket layers, sealing the bottom seam. Then sew that onto the upper part of the strap.
Another one without a contrasting gusset -
even the gusset pockets are of the same fabric.
This pocket is a simple patch pocket - cut double-layered and folded on itself over the top edge. The bottom seam edge is serged (this is the only place where there is serging in this bag) and folded inwards, then topstitched down.
This is the other side - again, when made entirely in one fabric, it looks rounder and smoother.
We're back to contrast gussets with this next version:
This side has a patch gusset pocket that is attached the same way as the one in the butterfly fabric.
The other side also has a contrast gussset.
As our Christmas gift, here is the pattern and tutorial! This is a really fun and fast bag to make, and we love its lines and shape - all curvy and cute. It's simple enough for even a 10-year-old. So dig into your quilting cotton stash and go crazy! Gentle reminder: this pattern, as with all my patterns and tutorials, is for personal and non-commercial use only.
Click HERE to download the pattern.
- Remember that my patterns/templates never have seam allowances, so please add your own around all edges except where that edge is placed on the fold of the fabric. I recommend 1/2" for bags.
- Because of the extra bulk at the junction of Point B (see template for this to make sense), the best fabric to use is quilting cotton or home-dec fabric for one of the layers (and quilting cotton for the other). Do not use anything heavier than home-dec, and avoid duckcloth. Also don't bother with interfacing; this is a slouch bag, so it's meant to be floppy and soft and interfacing makes the knot at the shoulder too bulky to tie. You can, however, interface or quilt the base portion of the gusset - the wine-colored calico bag in the above photos shows this variation.
- There is lot of pressing involved, so if you are making this with your youngish kid, be prepared to do all the pressing for him/her if they are too young to be safe around an iron.
- The strap templates need to be pasted together with tape, and can be lengthened for taller users (e.g. adults) - the pattern sheet gives some suggested dimensions and instructions, but feel free to adjust these to fit your needs.
- There are reference lines on the straps to show you where to position the gusset pocket.
- Yardage-wise, I'd estimate a yard for each side (layer) of the bag to be safe; half a yard is too little and three-quarters is iffy, depending on how long you want your strap to be or whether you are making the entire side in that one fabric, or piecing a contrast gusset of another fabric.
- For each SIDE (layer) of the bag, you'll need to cut two body pieces and two strap pieces, which you should then join at the center seam AA to get a very long strap with both ends rounded where they will tie into a knot.
Step 1Piece the gusset into one continuous strip. If you want pockets, sew them on now. Their sides will be sewn, along with the gusset to which they are attached, to the main body of the bag.
Attach the gusset to the main body pieces, one at a time. Line up the mid-seam AA of the entire gusset with the midpoint A of each of the main body pieces. I like to sew the gusset from A to B in each direction, instead of sewing from B to B through A. This way, I am sure that the midpoints A will match up. You might prefer to match up the B points on gusset and main body and sew from B to B through A.
Remember to leave an opening in one of the layers for turning out later. I left my opening (about 4"-5" around point A because it is straightest there and easier to handstitch closed later.
Like this - it will allow the stitching line of the gusset to perfectly meet the stitching line of those curved corners without puckering
to produce a beautiful and smooth corner. I don't pin or baste my rounded corners, incidentally - I just clip the SA and ease the fabric around the corners - fast, and effective.
Another tip for getting that junction at point B to merge beautifully when you sew both bag layers together later: When your stitches run off the main body, taper them off to the edge of the gusset as shown by the black dashed lines. They'll be hidden within the SA of the gusset later. Don't be alarmed if your junctions are uneven like mine - see: one is higher than the other. Do I care? Am I freaking out? No. They'll still be symmetrical on each side of the bag.
Turn one layer RS out and insert that into the other layer, which is left WS out. The RS of both layers should be together. Line up the edges and sew all around the edges of the straps and opening of the bag to attach the layers together.
Here is how you'll be sewing in that junction B area. Remember the stitches running off towards the edge of the gusset? You can see them in white in the photo below. Now when you sew the layers together along the black dashed line, those stitches will be hidden within the SA of the gusset.
And those junction B's will be beautiful and smooth. Turn entire bag RS out through the opening you left in Step 2, press the seams and edgestitch all around the straps and bag opening. Handstitch shut the small opening.
Take the ends of the straps
and tie them into a knot.
Have a wonderful Christmas and new year!!!