Tote-ally Fabulous Bags! AiBM – Part 4


Last but not least in our Christmas run-down of bag related presents, we have the Elizabeth Hartman quilt as you go tote, and the Poppy Treffry Knitting Bag.


I watched a video on YouTube a while ago about quilt as you go and have been itching to have a go ever since. I still have quilting on my wish list of things to try and this seemed like a nice simple way to start. Although I know that ‘proper’ quilters may frown upon this method, it seemed like fun to me.

You basically just choose strips of fabric that go together and starting in the middle (in this case) you sew each piece on either next to or above or below the first piece and work your way out until you have filled your quilt area.

In this pattern you sew horizontal lines straight across each piece, but you could sew any quilt pattern you like really.

I won’t lie to you, it was quite labour intensive and when I got to the top and bottom sections and realised you had to sew the horizontal lines across them too, I was starting to get a bit less patient with it! But it was good practice for sewing straight lines, which I do really need as my lines are rarely ruler straight!


I like this bag as it is nice and roomy for all your shopping bits and bobs and has some nice pockets inside and a magnetic snap closing.


I sewed this one for my mum in colours I know she loves like peach and minty green.

Of course it did not go 100% smoothly – the issues with this bag are just that the facing piece that flaps over the top edge got a bit puckered up around the magetic snap as you can see above.

And I sewed on my SewHappie label before realising how wide the facing piece was and then realised it would be partially hidden – so I snipped it off and accidentally nicked a hole in the lining which you can see just above where the label is now, and I also tried just using fabric glue to stick the label back on as the bag was now pretty much made I couldn’t sew it in without stitches showing on the outside – and I just bought some special fabric glue recently and wanted to try it out!

Sadly it didn’t really work and just looks soggy and scrappy. I wish I had just left it off now, but oh well… am sure my mum will forgive those two little mistakes!

Everything else went really well, except that I lost my dressmaker’s scissors in the middle of making this bag, just after I had sewn it together and turned it right side out and sewn up the turn hole… I really badly thought for a long moment that I had sewn them INTO the lining!!!

Luckily they turned up later in a drawer, but not before much massaging of the bag and searching around the house to check where they might be! – doh.

The knitting bag is for my sister-in-law who I never really see without knitting in her hands and she never seems to have a nice bag to carry it around in, so when I saw this pattern in my Poppy Treffry ‘Free Machine Embroidery’ book, I thought it would be perfect.

It includes pockets for your knitting needles and a bit of felt for your sewing needles and loads of room for all your yarns of wool and your current project, and some nice tie handles to keep everything snug and safe.


I thought she would appreciate the funky bear fabric for the interior to add a bit of a pop inside the bag, and I made the handles out of the same fabric.

And then I had a lot of fun ‘free machine embroidering’ the exterior on some nice plain linen.


It’s the same pattern I used on my peg bag many moons ago, which is quite odd really as the patterns both came from different sources! I probably ought to have spent a bit more time thinking of something a bit more personal or knitting themed to embroider on there, but it was getting very close to Christmas by this time and I just wanted to get something nice made for her, and I do like this washing line pattern.

My husband was home while I made this one on a rare day off and kept me company while I was merrily sewing away which was nice. He suggested the finishing touch of cutting out one of the bears from the interior fabric and sewing one on the back of the bag.


Everyone notices him and likes it – he’s very creative really my hubby! I might have to get him to hang around while I am sewing more often!

I certainly might use this idea again.


I was really glad I made this bag, it went together like a dream with no big boo boos –  and it was really interesting with both these bags to use a pattern by someone different, who I have not followed a bag pattern with before. Everyone has their own ways of doing things so you can learn lots from not being too loyal to one pattern designer!

The Poppy Treffry bag had a totally different method for joining the exterior to the interior which I still cannot quite get my head around now without looking it up again, as I am so familiar with Lisa Lam’s method now of putting the exterior inside the lining with right sides together and sewing around the top. But I remember as I was doing it thinking, wow this is a clever way to do it. Much more simple.

I think I will have to look it up again before I make too many more bags!



For Pleat’s Sake! (The U-handbag kits) – AiBM – Part 3


Let me present to you – my favourite bag so far… it’s from the lovely Lisa Lam‘s U-handbag site – and it has the wonderful name: For Pleat’s Sake! (I love that!)

It came with super easy to make, pattern free instructions, as it all comes out of a few simple rectangles. It looks super cool as it features proper leather straps. This particular kit is the first one I bought from U-handbag that includes the fabric. The outer fabric anyway, I just love the illustrations of the fox and the woodland motifs. And it is a lovely heavy weight lineny fabric.  I had to find my own lining fabric and I had in my head the exact green fabric I wanted to use which I knew I had some left over from a previous project. It took a bit of head scratching to work out how to cut it out as there was barely enough left but with some imaginative angles for cutting the rectangles it worked – just. And I am really pleased because it is the perfect shade of green to go with the pattern on the outside.


I love the pleats and I love the shape of the bag. I like a ‘bung it all in and rummage around in there to find stuff later’ kind of bag. I was considering adding some pockets and a magnetic snap closure but it doesn’t really need the closure as it stays shut pretty well on its own, and pockets may be challenging due to the shape.

The one thing that makes me sad about this bag is that you have to sew on the handles by hand with embroidery thread which is very hard to do and painful on the fingers and although it looks good on the outside it looks rubbish on the inside.


This could of course just be due to my inept hand sewing skills, but I think the next one of these I make I might try sewing on the handles before I put the bag together as then I can lose the inside stitching inbetween the exterior and interior layers. Or I might try machine sewing it on with normal thread.

I already have plans to make this bag again for my college course. I don’t have much time now between now and the course starting but I am going to need some cool bags to lug my sketch pads and lunch and stuff in and out. I have some very cute dog and bone fabric that I’d like to try out and I might try making the rectangle a bit larger so I can fit in an A4 pad.

I also have plans to make myself a big roomy pockety messenger bag for the course, but this might take a little longer… I have the fabric on order though and am determined to keep my eye in with a little sewing over the coming months either at weekends or in the evenings. Hopefully I won’t be too shattered!


Next up is my little Elephant bag. This was another kit from U-handbag but without the fabric this time. Construction-wise this went together really well, the instructions were a little hard to follow in places but it worked out really well in the end.

There were SO many pieces to cut out for this one… the cutting phase alone took about an hour and there were a few fabric casualties along the way as I misunderstood some of the instructions! I think it must have been an early pattern from Lisa as well as the way it prints out is really hard to keep track of too – it doesn’t quite go together like a book and it doesn’t just read in order either…


So little time so much to cut out…


Why make me cut this out in two parts and sellotape together with a centimetre gap in the middle? It does actually fit on a page of A4?!?

I love all the pockets:


And the contrast red elephant fabric in the pleats at the front.

And I love the big long zip close at the top with the tabs on the ends.

My only gripe with this bag. Is my fabric choice. I thought this blue elephant fabric would work really well with the red one, and it was a nice thick weighty fabric, but now the bag is made, and standing back to look at it, I don’t really like the effect, the elephant fabric is a bit too busy. I wish I had used something more plain on the outside and saved the jazzy fabric for the inside.

I find choosing fabric the hardest part of bag making, a good or bad fabric can really make or break a bag.


And talking of fabric… let me introduce you to my favourite fabric… I ordered this lovely Japanese print from an online shop months ago as I just loved it. But they emailed me to say they only had a tiny scrap left. Less than half a metre I think. I said to send me what you have, but it has sat in my stash for a while with me not knowing quite what to do with such a small amount.

Then I came across this kit from U-handbag to make a cute little clutch and I found a really nice contrasting mustard yellow fabric for the lining that went really well with the yellow on the outside and so set about making this lovely versatile clutch.


Don’t look too closely at the hand stitching!

What I love about this bag is that it folds over small to be a handy little clutch but then you can move where you clip on the strap and make it into a much bigger handbag for those nights out when you end up accumulating more stuff than you set out with, birthdays, leaving do’s, christmas and the like! 


Double the size – ta da!


I love the padding in this bag, nice and spongy and quilty!

What I don’t love about this bag is that I thought I would be clever and add in some gold ribbon to the join to jazz it up a bit. In the pattern they suggest using three different fabrics, one for the top half, one for the bottom and one for the lining. I decided to use the same fabric for the whole outside (as I love it so much) but thought the gold line of ribbon would break it up a bit and make good use of the seam that I had to put in. Sadly my execution of this was not great and the ribbon sticks out much further than I would have liked on one side. I was tempted to cut it off completely. (I leave this decision now to the bag’s new owner – I won’t be offended at all if you don’t like the gold ribbon and want to cut it off!)


The offending gold ribbon at the moment of thinking it was a good idea to put it in…


Don’t do it!!!


It’s not too late to take out that sad gold ribbon…

The other thing I do not like is the handsewing again! You have to hand sew on the frame with embroidery thread and it is really tricky – especially as I realised too late that when following the pattern you need to be religious about things like seam allowances to get an exact fit. Mine was a tinsy bit on the small side for the frame and so I had to really wrestle with it to get it to reach the frame all the way around. And so in consequence you can really see the stitches on the inside too.

If I make this clutch again I would be more careful with my measuring and err on the side of being too big rather than too small. I’m always a bit devil-may-care with my measuring and cutting and seam allowancing, this is why I love making bags rather than clothing as it is much more forgiving, but note to self – when dealing with a frame, you need to be much more accurate!

I was really delighted with the strap though, I got my topstitching right on the edge and it turned out really need and professional!


I like the brass effect clips on the ends too, professional!

I know I am really bombarding you with blog posts this week! I’m sorry about that – don’t worry things will calm down a bit more now, I just have so much to tell you and will have so little time from next week.

I think I will aim to write up the last few posts about what I got up to in December and then post them throughout the rest of the month so you don’t miss me too much! 😉

It’s like feast or famine at the moment isn’t it!

Best wishes to all. And thank you for reading. I always like reading your comments and thoughts – so please do post a comment and let me know what you think, or tell me a joke or just say hello! It’s always nice to hear from you guys. 🙂

The Good the Bag and the Ugly – AiBM – part 2


I’m trying to remember what order I made these bags in now, but they have sort of blurred a little in my mind. One thing I do know is that this foxy messenger bag was one of the early ones, as I surprised, no maybe completely shocked my best friend by giving it to her for Christmas when I saw her in October. Yes… I know… but having made it I couldn’t wait until December… 🙂

My friend got a kind of cryptic email in early October with photos of my fabric stash and asking her which fabric she liked best. She chose Mr Foxy and so this bag was born.

Being an early one I took quite a few photos of the process:


First step is to make the pockets, turn in the edges and zig zag stitch so they don’t fray, and add a piece of elastic to the other pocket top


Then sew your pockets to one side of the bag lining


Now for the lining for the zipper pocket, bit more of a leap of faith this one! Draw and sew a rectangle in the middle of your pocket lining.


Deep breaths and cut a big hole in the middle…


Turn the pocket through the hole you just make and voila! (big sigh of relief!) Now add your zip…


Then add the rest of your pocket lining… noticing too late that this is going to make a really small and not very useful pocket!


Ta da… it looks pretty inside though!


Right now gussets! Loving my new bag making clips!


Lining done!


Do the same process (minus the pockets) for the exterior – I added a bit of homemade Mr Foxy piping just to be flash…


Don’t forget to add your handle loops – breaking several needles in the process as the fabric layers are getting quite numerous now! Note to self: use denim or similar strong needles for this in future!


Make up the flap and sew onto the exterior


Ok now the tricky bit, put the exterior right side out into the lining (wrong side out) and clip


Then sew together – good luck on not breaking any more needles!


Leave a little gap for turning… yes that’s right the whole entire bag needs to come out of this tiny little hole!


No really – it will…


Almost out…


Ping – ta da… see!


Add the professional looking twist locks. Yes you need a screwdriver… proper hardware here you know…


Phew… looks pretty straight?


And here is the finished piece

Looks pretty nice inside - lots of useful pockets

Looks pretty nice inside – lots of useful pockets


Beautifully modelled…

I forgot to mention making the strap and how I made the piping but in a nutshell that was sort of how I made the Mr Foxy bag, my first attempt at something a little bit complicated! And it seemed to work – Hooray!

I also made this Owly tote bag for another friend around the same sort of time, but I forgot to take many photos:


I learnt quite a lot from making this bag… most notably about use of interlining. The stuff I used for this bag was way too stiff and crinkly. Plus the flat bottom of the bag is a bit wider than I intended. I carefully measured it to the exact size I wanted and then forgot that the finished bottom would be double this width.  Ooops.

And finally for this episode folks… I don’t really have an ‘ugly’ for you, but I do have my speed makes, that I made in a super hurry about 3 days before Christmas with some left over fabric that I bought to make some goodies for my children. (more of that in a future post…) I had some very lovely panda fabric left over from making my daughter a kindle cover – which I ordered from New York as she loves love loves pandas. And not wanting to waste it, I made her this little messenger bag.



And for my son, I bought this monster fabric on a whim while in Sew Contemporary in my local town looking for zips… he requested a bag of his own having seen all the others I have been making. So I made him this messenger, the same pattern as the Panda one – with a pocket on the back too.  He loved it, bless him and as soon as he opened it on Christmas day – he used it to put all his other presents in until it was bulging!


Time to let the cat out of the bag…Adventures in Bag Making (AiBM) – Part 1

Hello everyone, and welcome to the post I have been looking forward to writing for months now but have had to keep under wraps for top secret Christmas related reasons! Sssshhhh!

It’s funny how life throws curve balls at you when you are least expecting it (like being made redundant – boo) and then it also throws you the odd unexpected fish too. Like when you are trawling through Amazon looking for piping cord for some very boring curtain tiebacks you have been putting off making for ages, and then wham… there it is. In this case – good ole Amazon suggests saying ‘Ah you are looking for piping cord are you? Well maybe (quite randomly) you would also like to read this book by Lisa Lam all about making your own handbags? Well, I thought, 350 4/5 star reviewers can’t be wrong can they? And so I popped it in my basket (as is so frighteningly easy to do on Amazon).

But lo… little did I realise that what started out as a chance encounter with Amazon suggests, could actually turn into a little bit of an obsession, or may I say a passion?

I have been bitten by the bag making bug. What could be more rewarding than stitching together a few bits of fabric to make something as gorgeous and useful as a handbag. And thanks to the lovely Lisa Lamb and her wonderful shop U-handbag, you can get all the spangly bits of hardware for them too and make them look really quite professional. I say ‘quite’ as of course with anything new, there are gonna be some oopsie-dasies and some ‘oh b*gger’ moments right?

My first attempt at bag making went pretty well, albeit a little let down by my choice of fabric – which really doesn’t go with each other, and some very bad topstitching!


First to cut out the pieces and iron on some fusible fleece


Hey looks pretty much like it does in the photo in the book!


So the button needs to go around here, so strengthen this bit with interlining


Bottoms up!


One part done…


Two parts done… right now we just need to put one inside the other, sew together, turn inside out and hey presto eh?


Two bottoms!


It’s reversable so you can either have this side out…


Or this side out


I bought one of these thingymajigs especially to make the flower button


Ta da! One flower button…


Really not happy with the fabric choice though… grump grump…

I was going to give this to a friend for Christmas but in the end I couldn’t give it away with a happy heart as I knew I could do better. So this became ‘prototype learning bag’ and my daughter very happily took it off my hands to be her very own handbag so waste not want not hey?

In the next gripping instalment we will see how my second attempt went…

New Year, Christmas Cards & Graphic Design

Hello and Happy New Year to everyone. I hope you all had lovely Christmasses and are ready to take 2016 by storm?

And what a year it is promising to be. I have finally made a decision about what I might want to do to earn my keep – which as those of you who have been reading ‘How Hard Can it Be?’ for a while will know I have been mulling over for quite some months!

I’m off to Shillington College next week, to begin a 3 month career conversion course in Graphic Design.  Big whoops and big gulps – very very excited and very very scared!


This makes me smile as I do the very same thing! T-shirt designed by the very fabulous Logo Geek for #designerconfessions

Let’s hope it leads me on to adventures new and by spring I will hold in my hands a killer portfolio that will land me my dream (flexible – still want to spend some time with those lovely two people I made!) job in Graphic Design.

My absolutely dream would be to go from here into Surface Design! I have just discovered that there is a real live job designing fabric and wallpaper and gorgeous patterns which I could then use to create beautiful unique bags and homewares! Oh the joy…

I discovered this website which tells you all about it: … but let’s not get ahead of ourselves… first I need to learn the ropes and add IIustrator and InDesign to my lonely Adobe PhotoShop skill set and see where it takes me. Packaging design? Logo design? Perhaps even my old friend Web Design… let’s see how hard it can be… I fear the actual getting into the industry part may be very hard indeed, and as for learning the whole design process plus two brand new computer programmes in 12 weeks… well…. it makes my head spin a little bit, but let’s see.

So I may be a little quiet on the blog front for the next few months. But before I immerse myself into the world of graphics, I will try and upload a couple of posts about my Christmas makes… I have been VERY busy making handbags (my new love!) for my friends and family for Christmas and also a rather natty Kindle Cover and Oven Mitts!

Now… this blog post is very sadly bereft of photos so far, so let’s brighten things up a little bit with some photos of some of the Christmas Cards I made for the School Christmas Bazaar.

As I said in my last post, I forgot to take any pics before I sent them off to the school but as a few of them didn’t sell and came back to me, I took a few pics for you to see.

2015-12-12_132915968_A5BA4_iOS 2015-12-12_132852651_686B1_iOS 2015-12-12_132847778_78994_iOS 2015-12-12_132807422_09624_iOS 2015-12-12_132735786_F7167_iOS 2015-12-12_132731471_54465_iOS 2015-12-12_132726221_28D78_iOS 2015-12-12_132713387_FC9C2_iOS 2015-12-12_132708191_FB545_iOS

Until next time my fellow life adventurers!