Thursday, 25 July 2013

Extremely Useful Smiley Bag: The tutorial

Hello, hello!

It has only taken almost a month, but I have made and photographed another Extremely Useful Smiley Bag. I am therefore fully equipped to have a go at my first sewing pattern/tutorial...

Lets have some fun!

what you are aiming for...

Before we even begin to talk about fabric and cutting out or any thing else, I want to give you some Useful Tips When Sewing. If you are anything like me you will ignore them completely and rush onto the making part but I am going to do it anyway.

Tip 1: Take your time.

Tip 2: Read all the instructions right through before you begin.

Tip 3: Don't sew after you are too tired to concentrate.

Tip 4: NEVER cut out after you are too tired to concentrate.

Tip 5: Iron a lot. Not boring laundry stuff, iron your sewing between every step. I cannot stress this enough. It is easier to cut, easier to sew, looks better and is less likely to all go horribly wrong if you IRON EVERYTHING!

What you need:

For the outside: a strong woven fabric such as an upholstery offcut.
For the inside: something woven and pretty that makes you smile when you see it.
To join it together: cotton thread.
If you want to, but totally optional: a magnetic fastener and two small offcuts of felt or similar.

Make sure all the fabrics are washable, test a bit if you are not sure.

pieces to be cut out of the outside fabric
IRON all the fabric you intend to use.
Cut out the shapes shown here. All measurements are in cm.
From the outside fabric:
Bag outer 46 x 76
Back facing 52 x 8
Front facing 40 x 8
Outside pocket 17 x 19
Straps 70 x 8 (cut two)
If the pattern on your material has a right way up and you want it to be the right way up on the front and on the back of your bag, cut two pieces 46 x 39 and sew them together right sides and bottoms together with an 1cm hem and iron flat to make a 46 x 76 rectangle for the bag outer.

pieces to be cut out of the inside fabric

For the inside:

Back inner 42 x 62
Front inner 36 x 56
Inside pocket 17 x 19

ooo pretty

I cut the inside pocket from different material because I wanted to. It's your bag, do it how you like.

Iron the two small pocket pieces then turn over and iron 1cm to the wrong side all round and another 2cm at the top edge.

Sew across the rolled hem close to the edge.
look no pins - shhh

need to work on my tension

Position the pockets onto the front of the bag and onto the back inner in the centre left to right and 8cm down from the top edge. Pin in place then sew round three sides.


Iron each of the outer and the two inners then fold in half, right sides together. Iron and pin, then sew down both sides of each.

Remove the pins and iron each seam to one side. Create a box shape by opening out each piece and flattening the corners. Line each side seam up with the bottom fold then measure across the corner. Pin and mark where you need to sew.

The measurement across the corner of the outer should be 14cm.

The measurement across the corner of the back inner should be 10cm.

The measurement across the corner of the front inner should be 4cm.

Sew across the corners.

Fold down 1cm at the top of each of the three pieces, iron and pin but don't sew yet.

Right, here comes the bit that is much harder to describe than it is to do, so bear with me...

Forget the outer for a bit. We are going to join the two inners together and put the facing around the top of them.

Pin the two inners together along the top edge so that the centre points are lined up. Sew together, close to the top edge for 15cm either side of the centre point.

top view of inners

Next, find the front and back facings, pin and sew them together at the ends with a 1cm seam.

Position around the top of the inners so that the seams in the facing line up with the places where the two inners are joined.

Pin carefully either side of that point, and then round the rest of the top edge of the inner and the bottom edge of the facing.

You will need to sew in two goes, one round the remaining top edge of each inner.

Iron and turn down a 1cm hem at the top edge of the facing. You should have a sort of double bag like this:

Ok, hard bit over. Moving on to the fastening. Remember, this bit is completely optional. It will still be a lovely bag without, but, if you want to add a magnetic fastener, then now is the moment.

The fastener is made up for four parts, the shiny bits that you will see on the inside of the bag, which have wings on the back that will poke through the fabric, and two disks that will be hidden between the facing and the outside of the bag.

You will also need two pieces of something to give the fabric more thickness. I have used felt but canvas, denim or wadding would be fine.

Find the middle of the facing side to side and top to bottom. Position one of the fasteners and mark where you need to make slits in the fabric.

Mark the felt in the same way.

Using a seam ripper or small sharp scissors cut tiny slits in the felt and the facing to accommodate the wings on the back of the fastener.

Carefully push the wings through the slits in the facing,

and then through the felt

Add the disk then fold over the wings as tightly as you can. You might need to use pliers but be carefull to cushion the shiny side of the fastener so you don't scratch it.

Do the same with the other part of the fastener.

Next, return to the outside of the bag. Turn the outer the right way out and iron into shape. Put the inners inside and pin round the top edge. Start getting quite excited about how bonnie it is.

Not too excited though, you still need to make the handles...

Iron a 1cm hem along both long edges of each handle.

Fold the handles in half lengthways and iron.

Pin and sew along both sides of each handle. This will give a much neater result than only sewing along the open side.

try to sew straighter than me

Insert each end of the straps down in between the outside of the bag and the facing by 6cm. The end of the strap should line up with the bottom of the facing.

Check that they are centred on the front pocket and the same distance apart, about 18cm.

Pin each end twice so it stays straight as you sew.

Check the straps are the same length.

Sew right round the top edge of the bag, joining the facing to the outer and catching the straps in place.

Sew again about 5cm down from the top edge. Check that you are far enough down for the foot of the machine to pass the lump made by the magnetic fastener.

I find it helpful to draw a mark onto the machine to line the fabric up with.

Another iron and... Ta Da!

Look who's got a new handbag!

What will you do with all those Extremely Useful pockets?

Fill them with goodies and you are ready for smiley fun and frolics!

Make a few to suit your mood, or the seasons, or to give to very lucky friends.



  1. It looks great, you have put a lot of work into it.

  2. LOVE! Going to bookmark this and give it a go sometime - thanks for the tutorial :-)
    Have a happy weekend

  3. Lovely tutorial, every bag should have a lining in that makes you smile :) x

  4. Ooh looks LOVELY! I can't wait to give it a try. Need to hunt out some suitable fabric from my stash in the basement. Where's the torch?

  5. What a fabulous bag, Eleanor - and thanks for the great tutorial. I have a lovely piece of fabric, bought for no other reason than because I couldn't leave the shop without it. Perhaps its purpose has now become clear... :-)