I love making crochet bags but one of the sticking points for me has always been the lining. My sewing skills, which were never very advanced, haven’t been put into practice for years until recently. Getting to grips with the different lining methods has really been a struggle for each bag but every time I do make a lining, I do improve.
Recently I’ve started to experiment with sewing bags out of fabric. There are so many tutorials online, either on blogs or on YouTube that you can find out how to make things step-by-step without going to a formal class. I’ve tried out several and while they are very good, my efforts haven’t turned out exactly the same as the ones in the beautifully styled photos and there is no-one to comment on why.
I have been to some local classes too and the quality of them is very patchy. The cost doesn’t always correlate with the quality of the teaching, and committing to a weekly or twice monthly class also requires time, usually travelling a fair number of miles, and buying lots of supplies, usually from the shop attached to the class.
But, to make progress I think you have to try lots of different ways of learning until you find something that suits you.
Sewing bags using YouTube tutorials
In the last few weeks I’ve discovered Debbie Shore tutorials on YouTube. Not only are her videos really good, she seems to be very into sewing bags! The first bag I made using one of her free classes was this drawstring project bag. The tutorial was on making this bag as a present bag for Christmas but it works really well for small knitting or crochet projects – or just ‘stuff’.
Its not a terrific picture but its the one I took the minute after I finished it! Its lined and strengthened with a bit of interfacing and the channel for the drawstring is sewn onto the bag. I like the way the two fabrics coordinate (both were bought ages ago for bag linings and never used) and the ribbon colour is good. But I think the ribbon is too wide and I might change this to a cotton cord (when I get round to it…).
Sewing bags at a real live class
One of the reasons that I made it was to get back into using my sewing machine as I was going to a local class to make a much more complex project bag. This was in the evening a few weeks ago and while the teacher was excellent, the class turned out not to be anywhere near long enough to complete the bag. In fact, we managed to cut the pieces out and then just sew up the pockets.
The idea of having to drive back the following week (a round trip of 40 miles) and pay again didn’t really go down to well with some of us in the class but the tutor was willing to describe the process of making the bag and I took a video so that we would have some clues afterwards. The weekend following was an all-day crafting session at a group that I go to sometimes over in Ackworth, near Pontefract and I also invited one of the friends who had been to the class with me to come over so that we could puzzle through the rest of the bag together.
All in all, finishing the bag took another 6 hours, so I’m glad I was able to do it without further teaching – that would be have 3 more evening classes!
The finished result is not perfect by any means. The instructions for the class were to choose two fabrics but I hadn’t seen a picture of the bag and took two patterned ones. It was obvious that the bag worked a lot better with one of the fabrics completely plain, so I made an emergency purchase of a duvet cover at the charity shop opposite where we go to the Crochet and Chat group in Selby on a Wednesday morning. The green, plain cover was just the job.
The bag is very roomy and has pockets all around the outside, with the handles sewn around the bottom for added strength. Its lined with thick wadding and a plastic base, so its going to be really useful. I didn’t do the pockets inside as instructed – but they turned out OK and with divisions perfect for crochet hooks.
Getting a bit more experimental
Having made these two bags and feeling more confident with my ageing sewing machine, I decided to have a go at an over-the-wrist project bag. I’ve seen a lot of these and they look really handy for holding your yarn while you work on a project. It also tucks easily into another bag, so you can take it out with you, making it a perfect project bag for carrying a project ‘just in case’ you are held up, stuck in a waiting room, sitting and having a cuppa in a cafe.
I’d had these fabrics for ages and thought it would be good to use them to have a go using a combo of a few different tutorials I’d found.
I cut out the main fabric to a size that was a bit bigger than the tutorials had suggested – but crocheters need more space in project bags I think as we tend to use more yarn, and use it more quickly. Again the result isn’t perfect as I didn’t get the curve on the opposite sides exactly the same but I love the pocket and the pocket flap. Next time I’ll use some interfacing. I meant to in this bag, but I sewed most of it at the Ackworth group and had stupidly forgotten to take any interfacing with me.
More plans for sewing bags
When I went to Leeds last week, one of the goals that I had was to buy some more, really nice fabric to use in more bags now that I’ve got a bit better. I want to practice making the over-the-wrist bag and maybe do my own templates in different sizes. I’ve got some stash material to do that then I want to make some really nice ones.
The two shops we visited in Leeds had a fantastic selection – you can find out more about them in the blog post on my birthday outing. Here is a quick peek of the B&M fabric store, which was just fabric heaven…
From there, I purchased these fabrics:
The plain ones are just fat quarters but I bought a metre length of each of the other three.
And this was my absolute find of the day – it would be perfect for the lining of a Frida Kahlo inspired Friday’s flowers bag.
Moving on from there, Samuel Taylors also had a very good selection and I bought more from there, only because it was already cut into metre lengths and it was easier to get carried away!
I love all of these but my favourite? The little swimming fishes!
I haven’t managed to do anything with any of the fabrics as yet – to be honest, its quite nice just looking at them piled up and thinking about arranging my shelves so that I can display them until I get enough free time to do a bit of sewing. This time of the year just seems to be so busy – the day job gets busy and I seem to have done a lot of gadding about and retail therapy recently, but no Christmas shopping… And I’m planning the next edition of the podcast and another Etsy shop update. At least if I get the fabrics on display, they will be a constant reminder and an inspiration so I will be getting on with using them soon.
5 thoughts on “Sewing bags and growing my fabric stash”
Dear Kathryn, I always look forward to your blog posts and this one has not disappointed. I never leave comments on any of the blogs i visit but i thought i would here as we seem to share a passion for bags and your choice of fabrics is lovely. I do not sew but my 16 year old daughter has taken it up as a stress relief hobby and is quite happy to supply me with crochet bags when needed. It gives me an excuse to go fabric shopping and if a ball or two of yarn make it into the basket well so be it!! Take care, Corinne x
Hue Loco has a very good tutorial on how to make a project bag with a zip https://hueloco.com/pages/how-to-make-your-own-holiday-bag If I ever find the time, I plan to have a go at this one.
Great post Kathryn. You can never have too many project bags and I too have been planning to make some for my WIPs. Love the over the wrist one, I’m hoping to start it today! x
You’ve made a few lovely bags! I’m trying as well (using a tutorial by Betsy Makes) and made the first one together with my mother in law. It does need a bit of practice I have to admit :)! I’ve bought some nice fabrics in Bath recently when we were there on holiday (the shop is called Country Threads I think). Enjoy your experiments! Judith
Your bags look fab. I love the cotton reel material. I must admit, I have a love/hate relationship with my sewing machine, it’s old and tempermental, like me lol. x
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