Sewing Project

Neat and Nifty Shoulder Bag

Make a simple bag with all the trimmings

Make this shoulder bag designed by Julie Bonnar, for weekend jaunts – it’s got just enough room for a purse, keys and mobile phone and is the perfect size to pack in a suitcase for a short break.

This shoulder bag is quick and easy and is made from canvas but could also be made with left-over furnishing fabrics. Just decorate in your own unique way with decorative stitching and trimmings from your stash.

1. 25 m of 75 cm wide canvas or heavy calico (1 1/2 yd of 30”)
1. 25 m of 75 cm wide printed cotton to line the bag (1 1/2 yd of 30”)
Ribbons, braids and Ric-Rac to complement fabrics chosen
Scrap of orange felt and iron-on motif
Embroidery thread (we used Madeira Cotona, col 507 variegated)
Large poppa and 2 beads
Pencil, wallpaper lining or pattern paper

HANDY HINTS: Recycle with style – the bag can be made from recycled furnishing fabric, old tablecloths etc.


1. Following the diagram, mark out the bag shape on the wallpaper lining paper and cut out.

2. Fold main fabric in half, right sides together and position template on fabric with ‘place on fold’ along the fold of fabric (this will be the centre front of the bag). Pin in position and then cut out. Repeat for the lining fabric.

3. Open out the main fabric piece and chalk mark the fold line (centre front) and then lay out your selected trimmings in a pleasing design on the front of the bag and pin in place. Once happy with the design, machine stitch in place. (See side bar for trimming ideas.)

4. Refold bag, with right sides together and stitch the side seam. Press and then refold so that the seam is at the centre back and the bottom raw edges are even. Pin in place

5. Machine stitch along the bottom of the bag. Then to make the bag base, again refold so that the bottom bag seam runs down the centre and then pin and machine stitch across the corner 5 cm (2”) from the edge. Trim close to the seam.

6. Repeat steps 4 to 6 for the lining, but leaving an opening in the bottom seam to turn the bag through later.

7. Place main bag inside lining bag with RIGHT SIDES together, matching side seam and handle position. Pin together the top edges of the bag and around the straps.

8. Clip into the seam allowances at the curves so that when turned through the seam will lay flat without puckering. Cut little wedge shapes, close to but not through the stitching.

9. Turn the bag through the opening in the lining, making sure to push straps into the corners. Roll lining to inside around the top of the bag and press. If desired, top stitch in place, stitching a scant 6 mm (1/4”) from the edge.

HANDY HINT:Use a point turner, knitting needle or chopstick to help turn out the handles.

10. Finish the bag by hand stitching the opening in lining and sewing a poppa on the inside at the top of the bag. For a casual look – we have tied the shoulder straps together but if you prefer you can overlap and then machine stitch them in place.


Orange felt trimming
Add trimmings from your stash and layer ribons and braid and create a unique look

Create your own felt trimming by cutting two strips, one the length of the bag (25 cm/10”) and the other 37 cm (14 1/2”). On one strip we stitched a geometrical decorative stitch using the variegated thread. The other strip was hand stitched along one edge with long running stitches and then gathered to the same length as the decorated stitch. Layer them, with gathered edge under the decorated strip and machine stitch to bag down both long edges of the decorated strip.

Add a felt bow topped with a fusible motif

Ribbons and braids

Place these in positions desired, overlapping etc. Machine stitch with thread to match the trim, stitching down both long edges of any trim that is over 1 cm (3/8”) wide.

Layering trims

We used ricrac braid to layer over the tartan ribbon. As it is quite narrow in the centre, we stitched it in place with a straight stitch down the middle.

Felt bow

Make a template following our diagram, place on folded felt scrap and cut out. Neaten edges by machine stitching with a shorter length zigzag stitch so that the right swing of the needle goes off the fabric edge. Stitch all the way around the bow. Add a decorative motif hand stitched to the centre and finish by stitching the outer edge of the bow to the bag with a tiny hand stitch and bead.

Stockist: Felt pieces available from HobbyCraft, Motif from Gold Zack range distributed by Coats Crafts Uk (tel: 01484 681881, e: Ribbon and braids from Simplicity trimmings range.

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