Christmas Sewing | Japanese Knot Bag

This Christmas I wanted to make some project bags for my family, as I am (perhaps unsurprisingly) surrounded by crafty people. One bag I particularly wanted to make was a round base Japanese knot bag. My boyfriend’s mum had been very impressed by my own knot bag when I went to visit, so I wanted to make one for her. But as the one I owned had been given to me in a swap, I didn’t know how to make one!

I naively thought ‘how hard can it be’, as I knew how to make a basic two sided knot bag. This one only had the addition of a round panel at the bottom. It turned out to be very difficult, and two failed bags later I decided to search for some instructions!

It transpired that there were very few places with instructions. In fact the only complete set of instructions I could find was on a French site called DIY District. The obvious problem was it was in French, a language I only have rudimentary knowledge of. So Google Translate to the rescue!

So I don’t forget how to make this bag in future, I am going to write my own set of instructions below. But I would like to thank DIY District for their very clear instructions!

Step 1

Draft a pattern. I used the measurements on DIY District. There is a minor maths equation error, but trust me – the circle does need to be 147mm diameter.

All seams are 10mm.

Step 2

Cut 2 bag pieces out of your outer fabric, 2 from your lining fabric and 1 circle from each.

I interfaced my outer circle, but it works ok without.

Step 3

Pin and sew the shoulders of the bag straps (outer and lining). Press flat when done.

Step 4

Place right sides together and pin the centre seams (around the oval) and sew together. Clip the curves, turn right way round and press flat.

Step 5

This bit is really tricky, so tricky in fact that DIY District made a video showing how it works. I would highly recommend going to their site to watch it!

Do make sure, before you begin this stage,that you have clearly marked where the notches are on the sides of your fabric. You want to start and stop sewing at this point on either side of the handle.

Then (and this is the tricky bit you need to watch the video for) you fold one half of the bag inside the handle, tucking it in quite well and carefully pin. Do this all the way down the handle until you have pinned between the two notches. Then sew from one notch to the other. Go slowly and make sure the rest of the bag is firmly away from the stitch line!

Now the satisfying bit, pull the bag through the handle, showing the final finished handle strap. Repeat for the other side and then press again.

Step 6

Now the (relatively) easy bit. Turn the outside of the bag inside out and pin the side seams. Sew and press. Then do the same for the lining but remember to leave a small gap in one of the sides so you can turn it right way round later!

Step 7

I ran some gathering stitches around the base of the outside before pinning the base in place. This was so I could adjust the gathers so it looked nicer when I was done sewing. Use lots of pins and spaces out the gathers as best you can. Then slowly stitch the base on.

Then clip the curves and turn right side out.

Step 8

Pull the lining bag out of the main bag. Remember that gap you left? Pull the inside of the bag through this gap and attach the base (as in step 7).

Pull the bag back through this gap once the base is attached and blind hem stitch the gap closed.

The finished result!

It is exactly what I wanted to make! And once I got my head around the handles, it was easy. So later that day I made the bag for my boyfriend’s mum (and as she doesn’t read this blog (- yet!) here is her finished Christmas present:

I hope she likes it!

Baby Sewing!

My sister is pregnant. Something I am quite excited about. I had my daughter nearly 18 years ago, so there hasn’t been a new addition to the family for a very long time.


At the recent Knitting & Stitching show I picked up some jersey and ribbing to make some baby leggings. I had found a pattern from Brindille & Twig which looked reasonably easy to make. 

There were only 5 pieces to sew together.

Although the cuffs were tricky, because they struggled to fit round my sewing machine arm.

It only took about 30 mins to cut and sew the trousers, and I had enough fabric to make 2 pairs!

Fingers crossed my sister likes them…


Paper Trophy

Over the summer, I have been gradually adding art to my flat. We’ve lived here for 5 years and it’s taken me a while to work out what I wanted to do. 

I decorated the corridor with 7 framed Harry Potter graphic art prints. I had to recut the mountboard, because the posters were a little too small for the default mountboard. 

I also wanted to put something in my living room, which has a large expanse of white wall. I saw some Paper Trophies online and thought this would be perfect. 

Paper Trophy is 3D art that arrives in pieces. You need to glue it together, but it is really easy as all the pieces are numbered. The order came with a practice piggy bank, which took me about an hour to glue together. 

 I ordered the Unicorn head to ‘mount’ on my wall. 

You have the pre fold the pieces and then find the edges that match. This was more complicated that the piggy bank (unsurpisingly) and took me about 3 hours to build. 

I tried to attach it to my wall, but it wasn’t sturdy enough to push on. So I decided to stick it on mount board and then frame it. I could then attach the frame to the wall. 

I tried out gold and black mountboard, but as you can see the black worked a lot better. 

Finally I attached the frame to the wall using Command Strips (which are fantastic by the way!). 

Eve Dress (Toile)

I had been hoping to sew the Eve Dress from SewOverIt for a while. But the pattern was only available through one of their classes. I was stalking the website, waiting for a class to be scheduled at the Clapham branch, when they released the Eve dress as a paper pattern.

I purchased the pattern from the Clapham branch, with this beautiful navy fabric. But as the fabric was quite expensive, I knew I needed to make a toile first. Especially as I usually need to adjust patterns to fit me. I also wanted to work out how I was going to finish the inside, as I don’t (yet!) have an overlocker. 

I really liked version 1 of the dress, with its floaty sleeves and dipped hem. So i found some cheap fabric, which was unfortunately bright purple – a colour I can’t really wear, and made up version 1. 

As you can probably see, my cheap fabric was a little too stiff (hence the sleeves sticking out, instead of draping). But it did show me some important things. My hand shows where my natural waist is, so the dress waist is too high. 

This is more obvious here, so I’m going to lengthen the bodice by 1″. I also didn’t really like the cap/floaty sleeves. 

They felt impractical for a work dress, so I decided to unpick them and make the longer sleeves to see if I preferred them. 

I much preferred the longer sleeves, but they were a little too tight around my upper arm, so I am going to make the sleeve a bit wider. I also decided to change the skirt to version 2 as I don’t think the dipped hem suits me (so in summary, I should have just made version 2 to start with!). 

One thing that worked perfectly was the finishing of the raw edges. I decided to go with Hong Kong finished seams, using bias binding. 

So I’ve got some coral bias binding that will go really nicely with the pattern on the navy fabric. 

So to summarise the changes needed:

  • Change to version 2. 
  • Lengthen the bodice by 1″. 
  • Widen the sleeves. 
Thats not bad, compared to how many changes I normally have to make (the joys of being tall). Now I need to find someone my size, who suits wearing bright purple! Any ideas?

A New Workshop Apron (Finally)

I’m a teacher (something you may have picked up on this blog). I teach mainly woodwork, in a dusty messy workshop, while wearing a ‘suit’ and fancy shoes (I’ll put a picture of my shoes at the end of this post, so you can see what I’m talking about). I hate wearing lab coats, they get too hot and look really frumpy, so I’ve always made my own apron.

As my current apron is approaching its 6th birthday, and is looking very tired, ripped and covered in glue, I thought it was time to make a new one. I hunted through Etsy looking for a reasonably flattering apron pattern. I could have drafted my own, but I really couldn’t be bothered! I came across this Sweetheart apron from The Seasoned Homemaker and thought it could be what I was looking for.


I made it up in a basic polycotton to check the fit and unsurprisingly needed to make some minor adjustments. I had to extended the bodice by about 2″ to bring the waist to where my natural waist line is. I also extended the top edge of the neckline, because I wanted a bit more coverage to protect my clothes from dust and dirt. Finally I made the skirt slightly more rectangular and added 4″ to the length as I felt the flared skirt could be a little dangerous and my legs needed more coverage.

A friend at school had designed me my own logo, so I used PrinFab to get some custom printed fabric. They were incredibly fast, and my new fabric looked lovely. I got it in a classic plain cotton, which feels quite sturdy.

I bought some Navy Cotton Drill for the main apron, and found some coral coloured bias binding that matched the flamingos. The finished apron is perfect. I added in an extra pocket, as you can never have enough storage as a teacher!

As you see, I used the bias binding to edge the whole apron, but I am particularly proud of my Hong Kong finished princess seams on the inside.

The pattern was easy to follow, very clear instructions. Hopefully this apron lasts another 6 years…..

Finally, as promised, a picture of my new school shoes (and yes, they are as sparkly as the picture suggests).





Screen Printing with the WI

In January I joined the newly formed Tooting Women’s Institute (WI). Annoyingly I have been so busy with school that I haven’t been able to go to the meetings, until yesterday. 

This week we were learning how to screen print, with our fabulous new logo. I had screen printed before, but it was during my GCSEs (way back in 1996). 

We had two different screens ready, one for a tea towel and one for a tote bag. The new logo looks like a local street sign and was designed to be printed in more than one colour, so part of it was taped over to prevent the dye from going through. 

After the first print we had the black part of the logo, then we had to use hair dryers to get it to dry quickly. 

Then (after a bit of a queue) we got to print on the next part in green.

It was a really fun evening, and it would be possible to screen print at home (although it would have to be a simpler design). 

You can see that my tote bag got a little messed up, the newspaper I had inside the bag was in the wrong place and got in the way of the squeegee. But I think it gives it character! So next month we are wine tasting, and I’m going to make sure I make it to that one!

Ultimate Wrap Dress Attempt 2

After making my first Ultimate Wrap Dress, I knew I had to tweak the pattern quite a bit to make it fit me properly. 

I needed to drop the waist down by 1 1/2 inches and lengthen the dress by at least 4 inches. I also wanted to add darts in the back neckline to bring the shoulders in, as this would in turn bring up the front of the dress. 

I picked up some lovely navy scuba (at only £6 a metre) from my local haberdashery and set to work. After I had finished the dress, I realized that I also needed to add darts to the front slope. Unfortunately I had already finished adding the facing down the front using a very close zigzag stitch (which is a nightmare to unpick). So after some creative bodging, I added darts to the front and managed to get them to lie reasonably flat (and added them to my paper pattern, so they are ready for next time). 

I asked my teenager to take some pictures of me wearing the finished dress, it was raining outside, so we had to use our not very exciting hallway as a back drop!

I’m really pleased with the finished length, and the waist seems to be perfectly placed  

The front isn’t too deep, so I can wear it to work and most importantly it doesn’t gap open from the side!

I’m so impressed with this wrap dress, now that I have finished tweaking the pattern, that I went out to Sew Over It in Clapham to pick up some fancier jersey (my local haberdashery doesn’t tend to have much in stock). 

So here is the fabric to make my next version, up close it has a really nice texture and it drapes really well. 

Ultimate Wrap Dress

After setting up my new machine, I finally got to sew together the pieces for my Ultimate Wrap Dress from Sew Over It

It was very easy to put together, and being able to just press ‘start’ on a sewing machine and let it sew with a little steering from me was a pleasant surprise. 

The finished dress was much shorter than I anticipated, so it’s ended up being a tunic dress (to be worn with leggings). I was quite surprised by this, as I’m only 5’10”.

Plus the tie strap hole is a little to high and doesn’t sit on my waist. But I absolutely love how this fabric looks. I may have to buy some more, especially as it comes in different colours!

So I am going to buy some more jersey and try again. Next time I will:

  1. Adjust the front slope so it ends on my waist, then the straps will be at the right point.  
  2. Add a couple of darts in the back, so the front comes up a bit higher. This will also pull the shoulders seams up slightly, so it will sit better. 
  3. Add about 4″ to the bottom, so it hopefully hits my knee. 

New Sewing Machine

Last weekend I intended to make my Ultimate Wrap Dress from Sew Over It, using the fabric I bought from Girl Charlee at the Knitting & Stitching show. But my beloved 1940s zigzag machine stopped working. 

The needle wouldn’t move when the foot pedal was pressed. I tried everything, checking the wheel at the end was tight, looking inside at all the parts. But I couldn’t get it to work. I had been contemplating buying a more modern machine for a while, and this seemed like a sign that now was the time. 

I happened to be going to Oxford Street on the Sunday, so I popped into John Lewis to see what sewing machines they had. 

I quite liked the Brother JK4000, but I wasn’t sure how heavy it was going to be (ironic when you consider I’ve been using vintage cast iron machines for the last few years). 

There was also the Janome 5030, but as there wasn’t anyone around who could demo the machines to me I didn’t feel that I could make a objective decision. 

Then I remembered the machines I had used in the Sew Over It course I went on last year. After checking which ones they were, I did a bit of online price comparison and purchased one. 

So here is my lovely new Janome CXL301. I’m still setting it up, but I’m hoping to sew together the dress pieces have had ready for a machine that actually works. 

The Knitting & Stitching Show

Today I went to Olympia (via non working trains, torrential rain and wind that wouldn’t let my umbrella stay the right way round) to visit the Knitting & Stitching Show. The last time I went I felt very overwhelmed by the variety of stalls on offer, so this time I went with a plan and a better budget!

I wanted to visit Sew Over It to see if I could get their new skirt pattern, or pick up the wrap dress pattern. I also wanted to try and get some fabric to go with the pattern I picked up. Lastly I wanted to try and pick up some yarn for a secret project.  

As I predicted there were so many stalls with all kinds of things. 

There was the most amazing ribbon stall called Crafty Ribbons. I picked up some 1m ribbon, I planning on turning them into lanyards (once I get some bag clasps). 

I managed to pick up the yarn for my secret project from Debonnaire (no picture of specific yarn, just in case a certain person is reading this!)  

I found Sew Over It and bought the pattern for the wrap dress and so popped to the Girl Charlee stall (they are lovely by the way) to get some jersey for the dress.  

Finally while browsing the numerous knitting stalls, I found a stall that specialized in Knit Pro needles. I bought my set of interchangeable Nova needles many years ago. The bag they came in has split, and much though I love them they are very ‘boring’  (I feel very middle class saying this!). I spotted the new(ish) Zing interchangeable and fell in love. Fortunately I had enough left in my budget so I bought myself a new set of needle tips.

It was a fantastic day and I now have several projects to keep myself busy with. If you get the chance to go the Knitting & Stitching Show then I would recommend going in the morning. It seems to get busier around lunchtime, by which time I was done and ready to go home.