Sew, What's New?

Curating sewing and quilting talent, techniques, and tutorials, since 1997.

Recycled denim - pinstriped shorts to shoulder bag

I saw these pinstriped shorts with turn-ups in a charity shop last year and loved the self-covered buttons.  I decided they would make a great bag.

Tried out my idea first by pinning it into shape and having a look at how it would look and if it would be big enough.

Then I took the plunge and cut off the legs leaving a gentle curve.  The crotch I will turn under and topstitch flat.  Using the shorts as a pattern I cut out the lining fabric.  

I backed the lining with fusible fleece as this gives a nice cushioned effect inside.  The fabric is a cotton print from my mother's stash.

I got out my trusty ‘Zipped Pocket’ (7” x 7”) template and cut out a front and back in lining fabric, then ironed on some medium woven interfacing.  I checked the zip fit and marked its position with a water soluble pen.  (Before pressing I spray it with water to remove the marks.)

Here the front is attached to the lining right sides together and sewn round the ‘letterbox’.  The opening is then cut through both fabrics.  I learnt how to do this in Lisa Lam’s book “The Bag Making Bible” which I recommend to anyone who wants to know how to make all the component parts of a bag (ISBN-13:978-0-7153-3624-3 or ISBN-10:0-7153-3624-X)

If you have done dressmaking, it’s just like making a bound buttonhole, where you ‘post’ the fabric through the slit.  Lay it flat and if forms a bound rectangular opening (a letterbox!) Then you give it a good press, lay the zip in the slot (Lisa suggests using double sided tape to hold it securely).  Then sew it in place using your zipper foot to get as close as possible.  I always start near the puller as that decides how close you can go.


 And here is the zip stitched in place seen from the front, and the back










This is the back of the zipped pocket.  I like to overlock /serge the back and front together for a good finish.

On the other side of the bag I am adding a 6” x 6”patch pocket.

Here is the patch pocket cut out in lining material with medium woven interfacing applied. 

The other piece is plain navy with a heart applique cut out of the lining fabric. It’s fixed in place using Bondaweb, then zig-zagged to fix securely. 

 Now the lining was prepped, I got on with the bag.  I removed the broken metal zip.   I FITTED MY JEANS NEEDLE then stitched the opening closed up the side of the placket and across the top, then sewed the crotch down and stitched the across the bottom with a 4/8” seam, and pressed it open.

I sewed the bottom corners where they measured 3” across and trimmed the seams to 4/8”.  This will give a nice full shape!

 I attached the lining front to the back and did the same 3” corners then tried it out - oh joy, it fits!  (Sometimes it needs a little adjusting at this stage!) 

Now for the handles

This is the piece I cut off the legs.  Once the turn-up was opened out each leg gave me a strip 5” x 22” and revealed the unbleached stripe!  I joined the two together giving a single 5” x 44” strip.  I then cut it in half lengthways, leaving 2 strips 2½” x 44” for the handles.  I like a 36" handle myself.

I pressed the seam flat and topstitched down both sides.  I also unpicked the overlocking/sergeing on the existing 2 seams so I could press them flat and topstitch them too.  This was to reduce the thickness for my poor sewing machine when it comes to assembling them into handles!




Then I cut out matching lining pieces and ironed on fusible fleece.  



Having seen the shoulder bag Video Tutorial ( ) I decided to link the handles to the bag with 4 brass rings because a) I hadn’t tried it before, and b) I had the rings! 

I cut 2 tabs to hold the rings off the ends of the handle.  This left me with two handles 2½” x 36” and 4 ring tabs 2 ½” by 4” and matching lining pieces. 

The tabs for the rings are stitched together, turned right side out and topstitched.  I then folded them in half and threaded on a ring then stitched across the bottom to hold it in. The ends are left raw as they will be concealed by the lining.  I had meant to topstitch the straps in navy but forgot!  

The rings and tabs in position 2” in from the side and extending 1” above the bag. They are stitched in place along the existing stitched lines. I went over them twice.

I turned down 1” on the top of the lining then pinned it in place.  I always slip stitch the lining in place by hand, then topstitch with the machine afterwards.  I know the lining is where I want it if I do it that way!  The lining is stitched in and the raw edges of the ring straps are hidden.  With the lining stitched along the very top edge the straps are also caught in again and made more secure.

Here is one of the handles sewn together with a 2/8” seam.  I trimmed the corners and the short end seam to reduce bulk.   You can see the gap I left to turn it out in the middle of one side?  This way it is 2 short pieces to pull through instead of 1 long one, and you get neat ends as they will be on show.  


I start turning it by hand (or by finger!) then use the knob end of a chunky wooden knitting needle to push it through the rest of the way.  I find the trick is to tug on the side seams







Here you see me pushing the handle back through itself on the wooden knitting needle.    

Once through I reverse the needle and use the pointed end to push out the corners. Then I press it well and topstitch all round. This seals the opening and strengthens the handle. 








The handles were threaded through the rings, turned back 2” and stitched down.  They are not a perfect match but hey I can live with that!  I sewed them down with a little narrow box stitch.

These brass rings are actually hinged, so I could do all the sewing first and slot them in afterwards and didn’t have to have them clanking about!

The finished bag is now my sister's Summer Bag.


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