Bags or Zakka Sewing Patterns Book Reviews Japanese Sewing Books in English

Book Review – Handmade Bags in Natural Fabrics (Now in English)

November 21, 2014

Christmas is around the corner, and if you are thinking of making some handmade gifts, this book will help you make some one-of-a-kind Christmas presents! You can even buy this book as a Christmas present for someone crafty!

This book has been translated to English by the lovely folks at Tuttle Publishing (Yay!) and is all about handmade bags, by Emiko Takahashi, who is more well-known in the sewing “circle” for promoting hand-sewing. Most of her book published (she has published 76 books according to her website!!!) are hand-sewing books. She has published books not only on making bags and small goods, but also adult and kids wear. Yup! All Hand sewn! You can have a quick look at all her books here.

This book includes easy patterns and instructions for hand-sewing, so it will be great for beginners or those who do not have a sewing machine. Naturally you can speed things up a little and make these bags using a sewing machine as well, then add on your hand-stitched details for a personalized touch.


This book includes 60 Easy-to-make Purses, Totes, and More. Do note that out of the 60 projects, a few of them are multiple design variations of the same pattern, e.g. different embellishments on the same bag pattern. Patterns are included unless the design is based a simple rectangle, in which case you will only need to measure out the dimensions of the rectangle and cut accordingly. There are no complex curves construction/drafting required. All patterns that require anything other than a rectangle will be provided in the pull out pattern sheet.


The projects are divided into Shopping Bags, Everyday Bags, Fashion Bags, 2 Sewing Lessons (with full color step by step photographs) and everything else you need to know about hand sewing (basic stitches for construction + fancy stitches for decoration) and bag making (interfacing, handles, attachments etc). Let’s now have a look at some of my favourite projects in the book!


Spruce up your weekly grocery trip with a pretty shopping bag… I love the combination of knit fabric with tweed!


This is a really interesting foldable shopping basket bag. Quick and easy to shop and go!


Foldable Eco bag for carrying around as a spare shopping bag, you never know when you are going shopping! 🙂


These are both reversible bags. Both bags have round bases which make them nice and roomy.


These tote bags have a gusset base for a more roomy and spacious bag.


Flat totes are great for carrying around lesson books, document files or just as little bags for the little ones.


A lunch tote. Simply love the matching of light blue gingham check fabric with the pale leather handles.


 A great beginner hand sewing project.This is a simple drawstring purse that you can quickly whip up as a present. A great choice when you need to make multiple gifts since all the different design variations provided will mean each and every purse is unique. Lovely way to make use of scrap fabric as well!


 A sweet and dainty bag with a purse frame and crocheted handle.


A really delicate looking bag made with cotton voile, embellished with lace, and glass beads. The strap is made from lace as well.


Make a sturdy bag with zip enclosure with a leather handle and matching leather flower embellishments.


Very quirky and interesting Vase shaped bag that will be a great conversation topic.


Tucked bag with corsage.

As mentioned above, there are two detailed sewing lessons included in the book. The lessons are for the Flat bag, but it also comes with instructions on sewing a Gusset (which converts your Flat bag into a Gusset bag). The other sewing lesson is for hand sewing the little drawstring purse.



 Close up of instructions


There are also basic tips of bag making, as well as explanatory notes on the different materials you need for making bags.


Since this is a hand sewing book, hand stitching and decorative embroidery instructions are also included.


A typical pattern how-to-make is shown above. Every step is shown in a diagram form.


Close up of instructional diagram.


Patterns are included in a convenient pocket inside the back cover.


This book will only be released on November 25th, but you can pre-order it on
Handmade Bags In Natural Fabrics: Over 25 Easy-To-Make Purses, Totes and More (Tuttle Sewing Books)

Title : Handmade Bags in Natural Fabrics
Author : Emiko Takahashi
ISBN No : 978-4805313169

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  • Reply Cindy November 21, 2014 at 10:13 am

    I had no idea this was going to be released in English! I have the original version of this book and love it, but boy would I enjoy a copy I can actually read LOL 🙂

  • Reply Jen November 21, 2014 at 11:37 am

    It looks nice! There’s so many terrific Japanese bag books. I don’t mind trying to decipher them myself, but it’s great that some are being translated.

  • Reply sarah November 22, 2014 at 3:17 am

    i really like this book 😀

  • Reply Visitor November 22, 2014 at 11:42 pm

    They’re cute. I love that they can be sewn by hand, but can’t but wonder how sturdy they are. I wish I knew some kids with whom I could work on some projects from it.

    • Reply Louise June 24, 2017 at 1:26 am

      I sew bags by hand and I often use them for really heavy shopping – potatoes and tins and stuff. I am a skilled hand sewer and make sure all my work is really neat – so no big and wonky stitches but lovely pretty small neat top stitching. I actually don’t like the top stitching sewn in this book. The bags are really lovely though. I also finish all the seams inside by hand with either french seams, similar or overcasting. They take a long time but the work is enjoyable, and looks beautiful (if I say so myself). I am a very neat hand sewer though. Why does a bag need to be a quick project? It doesn’t if you enjoy your craft.

      My bags are strong and made to last, on the outside you may see only one row of stitching but along the handles in between the lining and main fabric there are re-enforced stitches hidden away (I can get where sewing machines can’t). In fact I started to hand sew bags and clothes to prove that it was not weak and falling apart. I knew this because my mother used to sew by hand. I also got fed up of the so called perfect ready made stuff falling apart with loose threads everywhere. The one bag I made that fell apart on the handles was machine made according to instructions.

      The bonus to hand stitching is that these items are going to be around a very long time, and I relish that. They are made with good stitching on quality materials. The time initially taken is no longer than that taken to knit a sweater and the satisfaction is immense. They all look perfectly normal too, if you checked them out very closely though then you would see they were hand stitched and also see how lovely that looks. Generally they just look perfectly usual in appearance. I grant you being able to do really nice hand stitches takes some practice.

      I know I am kind of boasting but I feel like a lone voice speaking up for slow stitching. so many ‘sewers’ profess actually never to do a single hand stitch and I feel that is a shame. Do a search on hand sewn or hand stitched garments on google and you will just get machine made things. I find that frustrating! Hand knitting tends to be just that, where as hand-sewing is synonymous with machine sewing.

      I’ve seen a few reviews of this book but no one has made the bags by hand which is a shame. I have the book but have yet to use it. I have some similar styles though made already. Not sure why everyone thinks hand sewing is weak? Soldier’s uniforms, coats and kit bags used to be all hand sewn. There is a man online that I stumbled over who hand sews his own kit/back packs bags to take on hikes, they need to be mega strong.

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