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How I made my patchwork sewing bag

Mummy's Handsewn Patchwork Handbag

In my last post I showed you my Embroidery Workbag, and Suzy asked if I had made it.  I replied I had, and here is how.

My mother collected fabric scraps for years, planning to make a quilt one day.   They included bits from dressmaking by my sister and I as well as recycled garments and bought remnants.  I still have my Sindy doll with dresses made from some of them!  Taken on their own I probably would not have chosen a lot of these fabrics, but massed together?  They look great!

The fabric was cut and then sewn onto these little card templates. Then joined to form strips,  and the strips joined in an offset (brickwork?) pattern.   It had only reached about 18" square when she lost interest and gave it to my cousin to try and complete   The problem was that the scraps were truly random, and the template really small (only 1 ¾" x 3") so you really needed to lay the whole lot out to arrange them properly.  Not happening.

After my mother died in 2009, my cousin returned it all as she knew she would never complete it either.  I got as far as sorting the pieces into Pinks or Blues and stored them in this metal box, which then gathered dust in my sewing room.


Two years later I got it out and looked at it again, and came up with a plan.   I would use the piece she had assembled to make a bag instead of a quilt.  That way I would only have to add a few more pieces to make it big enough.  Using my old bag pattern (Style 4143) I could make view 5, a very simple bag that just requires a rectangle of fabric.

I had never actually done patchwork, but I had this book "Very easy Crazy Patchwork" by Betty Barnden which I used for reference.  Then I went and talked to the very helpful and friendly lady in my local patchwork shop (Sew Creative) and bought some batting.

Making my patchwork bag

I added a few more pieces by hand to get the size I needed.  I removed all the little cards and assembled my quilt sandwich with batting and backing and basted it all together.  You can see it here – please excuse the white splotches, the sun was shining through the venetian blinds! 

I had decided to quilt it by hand as apart from anything else the templates were not all the same size, and hand sewing would disguise any imperfect joins.  I used Anchor embroidery silks in various colours to match those in the fabrics. I wanted it thick, so I used the floss whole.  I really enjoyed doing embroidery again.  For my first attempt at quilting I was really quite pleased!

Making my patchwork bag

I went down all the long straight seams first, using

Chain stitch
Feather Stitch
Closed Buttonhole

Making my patchwork bag

Then I went across all the short seams with
Long & Short Loop stitch
Cross stitch
Blanket stitch

Making my patchwork bag

These original instructions are very simple, and for an unlined bag.  You can make one from a piece 26½” x 20½” (67 x 52cm).  I added a lining (recycled tablecloth).  I have to say I didn’t remember how I did it, so I made this sample to check!

  1. I sewed the side seams, right sides together, for both the bag and the lining, as per the instructions above
  2. Then I pinned the lining flaps to the bag flaps, right sides together, and stitched them around all 3 sides, leaving a 2” gap in one side of one flap for turning out.
  3. I clipped the corners, turned and pressed the lined bag, and slip stitched the gap closed.

Making my patchwork bag

I'm not sure if this picture actually makes it any clearer!

The top edges then slotted through the handles, and I stitched them down using Blanket stitch. Unfortunately I had to use plastic handles.  Back when I bought the pattern (in 1973) all the handles were wooden.  Sigh.

Making my patchwork bag

It feels lovely, all soft and nicely padded.  Just as nice to touch as to look at.  It’s the perfect bag to keep your knitting in, but totally impractical for daily use.  I put it away as I don’t knit, and I didn’t know what else to do with it.

Mummy's patchwork

Then I started doing my Craftsy course "Design it, Stitch it" with Jessica and I needed a workbag for my embroidery, so now it has come out of storage!  I love it on so many levels. It may sound like it was a lot of work, but it was a labour of love and was done in easy stages.

Big 'n' Beautiful Betty from U-Handbag for Amanda

I have used some more of the pieces since then.   I made this one with Lisa Lam’s "Big 'n' Beautiful Betty" pattern.  The patchwork was machined together though, no more hand piecing.  I stuck with the brickwork style and used hand embroidery for the quilting again.  I added the Kanzashi brooch and gave it to my cousin.

Patchwork purse front

I also made this small zipped purse from Lisa Lam's book "The Bag Making Bible". This time I used machine embroidery and tried lining up the strips instead of offsetting them.  The heart applique hides the seam that didn’t meet properly!   I gave it to my eldest niece.

My Butterfly Bag

Then I used some more to make the Butterfly Bag.  I chose all blue pieces, and actually managed to match all the seams up this time.  I used ‘Soft and Stable’ for the first time and it worked ever so well with the quilting.   This one went to my middle niece

The Quattro (

Just recently I used a lot of the larger remnants to make my Quattro Bag (Studio Kat Designs).  I think this is the one my sister would like as it is so practical as well as beautiful.  I will have to rummage through the remaining pieces and see what I can do!  

Making my patchwork bag

I think my mother would approve of what I have created from her stash, and I still have all these to use up!

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Comment by nancy anderson on June 4, 2014 at 7:07am

Im sure shes happy and proud of you for making all the nice things.

Comment by Linda on June 3, 2014 at 7:55pm

Love what you've done with your Mom's scraps. I have lots of material too. Now I know what I'll try with some of it. Thanks Linda D

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