Gift Bag Sweat Shop.

Gift Bag Sweat Shop.

I now have 15 bags finished and/or nearly finished. The unfinished bags are just waiting for a button hole & button. Why unfinished? The buttonholer on my machine seems to be on strike. Not nice! I tried increasing the stitch size to compensate for the 2 layers of cotton and 2 layers of fusible interface the needle had to go through and it still keeps junking up. Argh. Any super crafty sewers out there have a suggestion? The buttonholer gets stuck at the backend of the process and makes a mountain of stitches in one section, repetitive in the same spot. Me and the seam ripper? We’re tight.

While I was making the bags….Penny kept trying to FLOSS HER TEETH with my string. Grabbed my camera is fast as I could…

Moving along…

Here are pictures of the process I use to make these bags. You can see these pictures MUCH bigger if you go to my Flickr account. Lots of people make these bags so I’m sure someone out there has a better explanation – and certainly better photography than me. Still, you asked…so here tis.

First and foremost…always use fabric that’s been through at least one wash/dry cycle. If you don’t, you’ll have a big mess on your hands if/when you ever want to wash your creation. Trust me on this one!

1. Pick out 2 cotton fabrics. It doesn’t matter what size, so long as they are trimmed down to the same size. The first bag I did started out as 2 pieces of cotton, roughly 12 inches x 20 inches each. You really just need a nice sized rectangle. Place the fabrics side to side on fusible interacing and attach/iron them. Fusible interfacing is about $1 a yard and it stabilzes the fabric and gives it some heft and structure. LOVE this stuff. See picture 1.

2. Fold the patterns towards each other so the pretty sides are kissing, know what I mean? Then, square off the corners so that you have 2 pieces of fabric that perfectly match each other in size/angles. Stick a pin in the middle so they don’t get wonky on you. See picture 2.

3. Using your hand, fold up one of the ends to see where you’d like to roughly have your bag fold up and the top fold down. Eyeball It, as my Mom & Dad would say. See picture 3.

4. You can do 2 different types of tops for the fold down portion, pointed triangle or rounded corners. I prefer the rounded corners. For the pointed triangle: Use a ruler and a pencil and make 3 dots. A dot on each side where you want the top to fold down and the 3rd dot at the top exactly in the middle. Then cut a straight line from the left dot to the top dot and another straight line from the right dot to the top dot. Making sort of like a roof line. If instead you want to do the rounded corners, use a drinking glass or something similar and draw the curve on one side of the fusible interfacing. You can later follow that line with your sewing machine to make nice matching curves. See picture 4.

5. Make sure to stick a few pins in your fabric sandwich so that it stays where it should. Ready to sew! Sew THREE sides only. Specifically, sew the left & right sides and the top, NOT the bottom. When you’re done sewing the 3 sides, turn it right-side out to see your pretty fabric. At this point it should look like a really pathetic puppet or a pot holder that will burn your fingers. Use your finger to push the edges. You could also take a quick press to them with the iron at this point, I didn’t. Lazy…

6. Time to attack your bottom! Using your index fingers, fold IN the bottom fabric and make a fake little hem, pin it to hold the fabric and then neatly sew straight across the bottom. See pictures above.

7. Decide which fabric is the interior and which is the exterior of your bag and fold up a portion of it. Top stitch around the whole bag. Keep this as neat as possible and go slow since you’re stitching through many layers! In the example below, the Amy Butler fabric is the exterior of my bag and the white muslin fabric (formerly a curtain!) is my interior.

That’s pretty much…it! You can now decide how you want the flap to stay closed…

You can either fold it in, sew in a button hole/button, use snaps or velcro. Whatever you’d like.

As far as sizes, like I said before, you can make the bags any size. I’ve made more than a dozen so far and they are all different sizes. Some will fit jewelry, others will fit things like dvd’s, books…a laptop, etc.

Hope this is helpful. If you make any bags please send me pictures! I would LOVE to see them.

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19 Comments For This Post

  1. Gina Law Says:

    K- the mustard yellow and the bee buttons!!! Nice!!!

  2. Jean Martha Says:

    If only Satan would stop possessing my buttonholer!

  3. De-blurker Kate Says:

    When the buttonholer goes on strike – VELCRO is your friend. Add the botton on the outside for decoration. All those bags are “cute as a button” ;) Sorry, not enough caffiene yet this morning!

  4. Marilyn Says:

    Bags are adorable! Quashing urge to buy sewing machine, though – it always somehow ends with my fingers under a runaway needle.

  5. Jean Martha Says:

    Marilyn – That happened to my sister. EEK!!!

  6. LadyCiani Says:

    Change your needle, it probably became dull. This happened to me when I was making baby quilts out of flannel. Stupid rat’s nest on the back side and the machine was making this terrible sound like it was punching through the fabric instead of neatly sewing. My mom the quilter solved my problem when I told her what was going on. Your problem sounds similar with lots of layers and the needle being so close to the last stitch you made (buttonholes!).

    My husband was sure the quilts were going to either burst into flame, or they weren’t going to be fit for the kids to have, what with all the swearing that was going on when that happened.

  7. Jean Martha Says:

    LadyCiana – I think you’re right. It’s been awhile since I put a new one in there and it was making that ‘whir whir whir aliens have landed’ kinda noise.

  8. Chantry Says:

    i think it might be the needle as well.
    and if you want, you can always sew a little loop of elastic into the top for the button. like i do mine.

  9. Jean Martha Says:

    I changed the needle and it’s sort of working now. About 80% of the time I get a button hole, but the strings kinda loose now, not nice and tight. Bizarre.

  10. Betsy R Says:

    Just a couple of thoughts, as I have a Brother machinge also… Make sure your buttonhole lever is down as far as it will go. The buttonhole lever is behind the bracket on the buttonhole foot. Also, when lowering the presser foot, do not push in the front of the presser foot. Maybe this will help!

  11. Heather in MT Says:

    Now that you have a new needle in check your thread and bobbin thread tension. Sounds like your tension is off on either or both ends. Maybe Penny’s flossing pulled things a little out of whack.

  12. Jean Martha Says:

    Good idea!

  13. Jean Martha Says:

    Umm, I’m up to 18 bags!

  14. BlonDee Says:

    Those bags are the coolest gift/wrap idea, I may have to try them if I get time. Have a couple of little girls on my gift list, so I think I may add a thin strap and tuck that inside so they can use them as purses!

  15. LadyCiani Says:

    yes, adjust your tension and also stitch length if you have that setting.

  16. Newburgh Restoration Says:

    How cool. I am still not that thrifty with the sewing machine yet. But it is really one of my goals.

  17. Jenne Says:

    Hi!
    Just a quick note..I was wondering if you have talked to your local Brother Sewing Machine dealer? Perhaps they can point out some tips/hints that will help with the button holes.

  18. Kathleen Says:

    I really want to try this. Thanks for the instructions. Now, if I just knew how to use a sewing machine…

  19. laura @ the shore house Says:

    Suddenly I feel like the one wrap skirt I made this weekend is a little…lame. :-) In fairness, it was my first “sews without supervision” project so I was feeling kind of pumped. Even changed the bobbin all by myself! I started a reversible bag…I’m skirting the whole button hole thing my making a loop out of fabric and sewing it into the “flap” of the bag — so the loop can simply go around the button. Or something. In all honestly I’m just making it up as I go along.

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