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…


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).





The Anderson Blouse

I’ve been admiring the Anderson Blouse from Sew Over It for a while. When I realised that one of their shops was in Clapham North (only a few tube stops from me) I decided to take a trip. 

The ladies in the shop were lovely, but annoyingly they didn’t have any physical patterns for the Anderson Blouse. So I picked up some fabric and decided to buy the PDF version of the pattern when I got home. 

I must admit that I had forgotten how much I hate PDF patterns, especially the faff I have to go through to print them out. You can’t customise the scale of the page when printing from an iPad, so I had to go and dig out my laptop. After a lot of trial and error (mainly my laptop refusing to recognise the printer), I ended up digging out my printer cable and connecting them together. 

Remember to scale your pages to 100% to make sure the pattern prints out at the correct scale. 32 pages later, I had a pile of paper ready to be stuck together. 

After a lot of sticky tape and patience (and possible a little swearing), the pattern was stuck together. Now all I need to do is trace the pattern onto tracing paper, but I think that is a job for tomorrow. 

The fabric I picked up is lovely and drapey, I think it is Crepe de Chine. I love the feathers and I hoping it will look nice as a finished blouse.

No Sewing For Me

The next thing I am planning on making is the Mae Blouse from Blue Ginger Doll. I bought the pattern and fabric 2 weeks ago and have been gradually tracing it.

Unfortunately I have also damaged my back (it has all the symptoms of sciatica). It has been getting worse in the last few weeks and I am currently waiting to be referred for an MRI.

It is now at the stage where I am taking incredibly powerful medication many times a day and am unable to sit on a chair for more than about 10mins (kind of makes sewing tricky).

So until I start improving, there won't be many blog posts from me. Bear with me, I hope to be back in action soon…….


Another Skirt Finished

This pattern arrived at the start of the holidays. I've been looking forward to starting it for a while.

It's from Simple Sew (and they have quite a few other patterns I have my eye on). I bought this fabric to make it from, a polka dot medium weight cotton and a turquoise skirt lining.

Normally I try and encase my seams, as I don't have an overlocker and my sewing machine can only do straight stitch. When I make tops I tend to use French seams, but these are too bulky for skirts. Then I came across a flat felled seam (courtesy of this very helpful tutorial). So I thought I would do a test to see if it worked with my fabric.

It worked well on a straight seam, but I was unsure how easy it would be to do on curved seams (and this skirt has a lot of curved seams!).

I am quite pleased with the final finish of the skirt, it fits really well (and I am going to have to make some more with different patterns!)

When I added the lining (despite the skirt pattern not having a lining – I had to improvise) I was quite pleased to discover that the way I had made it meant that no raw seams are visible!

Sorry – just felt like showing off the fabulous fit of this skirt again!