Sew-along Sewing Tutorials

My First Sewalong!

May 3, 2012

One of the great suggestions from the Mother’s Day Book Giveaway was to have a sew-along. Originally, I wanted to do a sew-along that will use pattern from a Japanese sewing book so that we can go through the entire process of deciphering the instructions together . However, it will be hard to decide which book or which pattern to make since we may not all have the same books. So I thought about making a bag, as they are usually constructed of simple shapes. But I felt a simple rectangular looking bag will not be “fancy” enough for a sew-along 🙂 Then I wondered, what if the pattern was too difficult, and too complicated to photograph and show the individual steps? I better start with something simple for my first sew-along. Ok I think too much… So instead of thinking, I looked into my bag making bible… I love this book because there are many different basic bags+variations demonstrated with step by step photographs. I need to do a review on this book soon.

And decided on this…

In the book, it’s called a granny bag. But I think it can look quite girly and pretty with the right fabrics.

The original pattern in the book was too big to fit onto a single sheet of paper, and I didn’t want to just copy the pattern as it would be infringing on the copyright. So how do I provide a copy of the pattern to everyone? I constructed my own pattern, using a vector drawing program, and made it out of simple arcs and lines. The design concept is the same, but the size is smaller (so that it can be downloaded and printed on A4/letter size paper) and the shape is slightly different because I just estimated the arc lengths and positions. It took some additional time because the measurements for the straps and cloth are different from the one in the book and I had to test the pattern out first. The completed bag will have a inner pocket and be just the right size for carrying your little things. You can scale this up to make a larger bag, or longer handles so that you can shoulder-carry it.

My first prototype!

The lining and the inner pocket.

It’s a really fast and easy bag to make, great for beginners. The more advanced sewers will find it a breeze. But whether you are a beginner or advanced sewer, the bag is cute and you want it! The finished size by the way, is about 28cm (W) x 24cm (H) x 7cm (D). It’s a perfect everyday bag for your wallet, keys, a paperback (or kindle), a foldable umbrella even.

I will be breaking down the sew-along into three different days. The project can be done pretty quickly but I hope to be able to go into more details which may be helpful for those making bags for the first time.

In the meantime, get your fabrics ready! For bags, it is better to use thicker fabrics. But bear in mind that at certain points (where bag straps overlap) your machine may have to deal with going through 10 layers of fabric. The fabrics I used for the above were Japanese linen. Which hold up pretty well even though I did not use interfacing. Cotton duck/canvas/twill are great for the exterior as they are thicker and have more body, but medium weight cottons are fine too. I would recommend using interface for medium weight fabrics as the bag may end up too floppy.

Don’t use thick fabrics for all layers to prevent too much bulky sewing – i.e. don’t use the same thick fabric for interior+exterior+handles. Use a combination of thick for exterior and medium weight cotton for inside, but stay away from fabrics that are too thin for the inner lining as it may break easily with wear and tear.

I will list down the materials now so that you can prepare them over the weekend.

1. Exterior bag fabric  – 40cm x 80cm
2. Interior bag lining fabric – 40cm x 80cm
3. Fabric for bias (used across opening as well as handles) 50cm x 60cm.
4. Pocket – 12cm x 13cm* (You can choose either to use the exterior or interior bag fabric, or even another fabric. It’s entirely up to you!)
5. Interfacing (for bag body if using normal weight cotton) – 40cm x 80cm
6. Interfacing for handles (27cm x 12cm)

*Note : For the pocket size, it is also entirely up to you how you large you want the pocket to be. I made this to fit my iphone as I hate having to throw my iphone in with my keys and wallet. But it might be too small for you. As this only requires a small piece of fabric, I suggest that you cut out the main bag fabric first, and decide how big you want your pocket to be before cutting it out. Just add 1cm seam allowance to the right, left and bottom, and 2cm on the top.

In case you are wondering, 1 inch = 2.54cm. I did think about doing everything in inches but I figured, we should stick to the Japanese convention because we are going to move on to  more complex sew-alongs (hopefully!) following a Japanese sewing book, which has everything in cm, and it will be a nightmare to try to convert every single dimension to inches, so we should get used to it! Nevertheless, if you need help converting all those figures, just let me know in the comments below and I’ll list them out for you as well.

I have so much more to say about the fabric choices but I will let you digest this first and go into further details during the sew along when we actually cut out the fabrics on Monday! If you have a large piece of fabric to play with, don’t cut it just yet! There are certain things to look out for when cutting fabrics for a bag. Will do that together during the sew-along. If you are using leftover fabric scraps, then just make sure you have enough as this is the minimum amount required.

If you haven’t seen it yet I have started a flickr group as well  so I would love to see everyone’s sew-along on it. You can post links to your blog there too so that we can all share our progress as we sew-along.

To sign up, just leave a comment below if you are going to sew-along! Happy Sewing! 🙂

Grab the buttons below and post them on your blog if you have one! Spread the word! The more the merrier 🙂 Let me know if you need help putting it up on your blog as well. sew-along


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  • Reply Petra May 3, 2012 at 11:31 am

    I’ll deffinitely try to participate, if life doesn’t get in my way!:)

  • Reply Leigh May 3, 2012 at 9:13 pm

    Count me in! I’ve got some lovely linen that should be perfect 🙂

  • Reply Leigh May 3, 2012 at 9:22 pm

    Not sure what happened to my last comment… So here’s another 😉
    I’ll be joining in – looking forward to it xx

  • Reply Una May 4, 2012 at 6:55 am

    I’m a total beginner, but this sounds exciting! Count me in pls.. 😀

  • Reply Una May 4, 2012 at 7:00 am

    Hmm..I’ve got the same problem with previous comment didn’t appear! Anyway, repost..I’m a total beginner, but I’m excited to join in! 🙂

  • Reply Maria May 6, 2012 at 1:48 am

    It is too cute! I will have to make one for my Mom and for myself. 🙂
    I am looking forward to sewing along!

  • Reply Christina May 6, 2012 at 11:16 pm

    Sew Sweet! I can’t wait for the sew-along to begin!

  • Reply Christina May 6, 2012 at 11:18 pm

    Sew sweet! I can’t wait for the sew-along to begin! 🙂

  • Reply Sew-Along Day 1 – The Granny Bag » Japanese Sewing Books May 7, 2012 at 5:36 am

    […] The first bag I made was using linen for both the exterior as well as the lining, and I did not use interfacing for the bag body because linen has a bit of body to it, not to say that the bag can stand up on its own, but it does not flop around as much compared to two layers of medium weight cotton. […]

  • Reply Jenny May 7, 2012 at 4:58 pm

    I’d like to give it a try. 🙂

  • Reply mak teh May 12, 2012 at 5:50 pm

    I made a reversble bucket bag fr sewmamasew, it looks alike, i think i want to make this one too,ok kan, eventhough the sewalong is over,

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