Maker Kaitlin Downs

For any of you quilters out there who want to venture into bag making, but don't know where to start.. this post is just for you! 
If you're anything like I used to be, the idea of making a bag or purse probably scares the heck out of you! When you think of sewing something three dimensional you may begin to break out in a cold sweat, feel flushed in the face, or even lose all mental function.
However, don't fear! I am here today to change everything you've ever thought you knew about basic bag making. It is not scary. It doesn't require a whole new skill set from quilting. And most importantly, you don't need to be afraid to give it a try! 

The three most important things to remember when beginning any sewing project, but especially when making a bag:
  1. Read through all instructions before you start, including general instructions which often include important information about seam allowances, finishing instructions, and tips to help your finished product be the best it can be.
  2. Prep all fabrics, interfacings, and other required materials before you begin any sewing. This includes pressing/ironing all fabrics, cutting according to pattern directions, properly labeling all pieces (this is HUGE!), and fusing any interfacings with their appropriate fabric pairs.
  3. Lastly, take your time! This is where I struggle the most because once I start a project it's hard for me to take a break. I just want to get it done, NOW! However, just like in any project, rushing through can lead to incorrect cuts, skipping important steps, and not being happy with your finished project. If you mess up or skip a step, take the time to correct your mistake before proceeding! I cannot stress this point enough. Keep your seam ripper very close, it will be your best friend!
Now that you have those important reminders in your head, it's time to begin your project! You'll want to be sure your first attempt at bag making is one that is simple enough you will be able to comfortably complete it. However, don't skimp on the pattern! There are many free resources online that provide bag patterns, but not all patterns are made equally. 
For your first project, I recommend purchasing a pattern from a reputable designer that has pictures and detailed descriptions. My favorite beginner bag pattern is the Fiji Tote from Pink Sand Beach Designs. This pattern has tons of easy to follow pictures, very specific instructions, and it doesn't have any zippers or hardware (except an optional snap closure). It also features tips to make your bag the best it can be!
Once you've decided on a bag pattern, selecting your fabrics and interfacings is the next step. For the Fiji Tote, there is a total of six fabrics to choose. Most importantly, make sure your fabrics coordinate and have good contrast. For example, you wouldn't want to use all light fabric on the outer body of the bag because you wouldn't see the contrasting stripes as much. Don't be afraid to pull from your stash, as long as you have the required amount of yardage!
Choosing the proper interfacings is equally as important the fabric selection. This is what will give your bag stability and shape. The Fiji Tote gives great recommendations for interfacings! For a very sturdy bag that keeps its shape even when empty, I would suggest a foam interfacing like By Annie's Soft & Stable or Pellon Flex-Foam (FF79F2 or FF78F1). For a stable, yet flexible bag that will fold up nicely but still retain its shape, I would suggest using a fusible fleece or fusible batting such as Pellon Fusible Fleece (973F) or Bosal Fusible Batting (Style #325). For your pocket interfacings and other inner pieces, I would suggest Pellon Fusible Midweight (931TD) or Pellon Decor-bond (809).

Once you've chosen your fabrics and interfacings, its prep time! I cannot stress how important it is to read carefully and label all your pieces in this step. I promise you will thank me later if you label your pieces, instead of thinking "I'll remember which piece that is."

Now that you've prepped and labeled everything, it's time to start sewing. Remember this is supposed to be enjoyable! Take a deep breath before you begin and give yourself a little pep talk. You can do this! You've already done most of the leg-work in prepping and now all you have to do is sew. Remember to go step-by-step and take your time.

That's it! Now that you've sewn through all of the steps of the pattern you should have a gorgeous, new bag! If you made the Fiji Tote, then your mind is probably thinking of all the amazing combinations of fabrics you can come up with for this bag. It is one of the most versatile bags, and it looks so different with different fabrics!

Once you've mastered the technique, the possibilities are literally ENDLESS! Change the dimensions, add an eye-catching feature to the main panel, change up the strap options, varry your pockets, and so much more! Below are my favorite pictures of the Fiji Tote, and the maker is listed below each picture.

Made by Quilting Mayhem
Made by Katrina Hamer

Made by Keepsake Quilting
Unknown maker
Image from Annie's Catalogue

Image from Annie's Catalogue

Have you made a Fiji Tote? If so we'd love to see your pictures! Post them in the comments below or email them to us at