At the start of the Summer I had a brief and rather passionate fling with hexagon paper piecing, sewing them seemed to fill every moment and I became somewhat obsessed and after umpteen cushions had been sewn then thought to make myself a big, fling it across my shoulders tote bag, sadly what in my head looked amazing, in reality was rather pants, so after some colourful language I unpicked the pieces and thought about using the patchwork for a granny style knitting bag (I’ve already got 3 but I really like this type of bag and the ones I have are all full with different works in progress that will one day maybe get finished……)
I wanted to make a nice big bag that along with whatever I was knitting, would also accommodate a book, and a few sewing/knitting supplies.
After drafting up what I felt was a decent size bag I then set about making sure the hexagon patchwork I’d already pieced would be big enough, and then sewed together hexagons for a back to match.
I had some striped fabric that was possibly mattress ticking (no doubt car boot treasure which I’d been saving to one side), which I thought would be nice and sturdy for lining, and which would give a bit of weight to the bag.
To stop my paper pattern from flying about I use large washers that I bought from my local ironmongers, they’re about 20 pence each and are surprisingly heavy, they’re about 2 inches square so aren’t huge but do the job (and super cheap to boot).
You’ll need to cut two pieces for the outside of the bag and then two pieces the same size for the lining. I included a half inch seam allowance in my pattern.
Because I’m always losing stitch markers and those rubbery things you stick on the top of knitting needles to stop them poking you in the eye or whatever, I thought I’d include some pockets in my bag…..this is pretty much what I do when I make a tote/market bag else I’m constantly having to delve down in the bottom of my bag and feel rather like James Herriot.
My pockets are about 8 inches deep, along the top of each I’ve hand sewn some grey binding so it looks a bit neater than just turning the seam over. (though I could have done that and then sewn binding along the back)
One of the pockets I’ve divided into 3 and the other by 2, just pin equal distances along from the edges and sew up from the bottom to where the binding is sewn. I followed the lines on the fabric but if you use a non striped fabric then maybe you’ll want to pencil in a sewing line. (I also just pinned the fabric around the outside to stop it wiggling about too much while I was sewing.)
Lay the 2 lining section together with the pocket sides facing each other, pin them together, and measure up about 12 inches. This is how far up you’ll want to pin your sides. (if you click the picture to make it bigger, you’ll see that there is a pin placed horizontally along the side where your sewing will need to start and end.)
Now do exactly the same for the main fabric of your bag, right sides together and pin around the outside edge.
Once both pieces have been sewn you’ll need to cut little notches around the sewn edge, this gives the edge a smoother and neater look when you turn the bag inside out.
It’s not really necessary to do this for the lining although I found because my lining fabric was quite heavy it needed it but if you’re using a light weight fabric then I don’t think you’d need to do it.)
Whenever I’m cutting notches I use a pair of button hole scissors from Merchant and Mills…these are totally brilliant scissors which have a fat and stubby blade so you can’t get carried away and cut out huge pieces from your work. Honestly, as far as I’m concerned these scissors are worth their weight in gold, I use mine all the time.
Turn the main fabric “bag” inside out and pin the edges out around where you’ve sewn, some of the patchwork may be a bit on the stiff side so you’ll need to shove your hand in and nudge out the edge with your fingers.
For the top where you haven’t sewn, fold over about half an inch and pin the edges over.
After the edges have been pinned you’ll want to tack or baste the sides and edges. I prefer to use one colour for the edge where I’ve sewn and then a different colour for the top edges. (if you click on the image you’ll see I’ve used pink for the main body and then blue thread for the tops…this just makes it easier when I un-pick the stitches.)
Cover the patchwork with a cloth and give it a press. (my fabric was a proper jumble, wool, cotton, silk, synthetic, covering it with a cloth just protected the fabric and also my iron.)
One the bag is pressed, un-pick the tacking from the main body (the pink thread.) but leave the thread in place that is keeping the top sides in position.
You also need to pin and stitch the top sections of the lining but don’t turn it inside out. Make sure you pin and tack the sides so the raw edge is sewn against the back. The pockets will be facing forwards.
If you squish the lining bag out a bit you’ll see how the pockets form.
Place the lining in to the main fabric bag, line up the edges and where they meet pin into place (I’ve used a pin horizontally in the picture)….. then pin the top sides together, working upwards from the horizontal pin.
If the sides don’t quite match and the two top edges of the bag don’t lay flat together you may need to un-pick the turned sides of the lining and just adjust them so that the top section lays flat.
Along the edge of the patchwork I like to just sew a piece of binding to protect the edge. In part it’s because the patchwork is hand sewn and where it’s cut to form the shape of the bag it’s easy for the stitching to come un-done, it also gives a bit more security to this part of the bag (it’s where it goes through the slit in the handle).
And then just sew the binding in place. You don’t need to sew in a big piece, maybe 4 inches at most.
I’ve not used it on the lining fabric as that is proper sturdy being a type of mattress ticking.
Slide the top of the outer fabric through the slit in the bag handle.
I find it easier at this point to lay the washers or weights on top of the handle to keep the fabric in place.
You can also see where the binding is supporting the edge of the patchwork.
Fold over the lining and pin it in place along where the main fabric is folded.
If it’s a bit wiggly it doesn’t matter at this stage, you can adjust it so it looks neater once both sides are pinned.
Pin the pieces all together and check that everything is laying straight and that the bag is hanging right before you begin sewing.
I find it’s easiest to un-pin the two sides of the back (or front) before sewing the handle section, that way my hand can slide in and I can check I’m not sewing through too many layers of fabric. I use a small whip stitch like when I’m hand piecing over papers.
Once both handles are sewn and I’ve checked that the bag is hanging nicely, I then whip stitch the sides together, sewing up from the centre where I placed the horizontal pin up to about an inch from the wooden handle (this allows the handle a little room and the bag will swing nicely when filled with wool.)
Once the sides are sewn together you’re all ready to fill your bag with wool and needles (and a packet of Werther’s Originals will fit nicely into one of those pockets).
These are a few of my car boot needles, lovely wooden needles that make a calming and resonant clickety clack when I’m knitting with them.
The wool is from my lovely local knitting shop and is a wonderfully soft blend of alpaca and Peruvian highland wool, which I’m planing to knit up in to a nice big scarf as soon as I can make my mind up on a suitable pattern (I’ve got three skeins in an aran weight and am thinking I may be needing more as I prefer a scarf that really can be wrapped round that one extra time.)