This fun and casual bag features two generous pleated pockets bound with Fold Over Elastic (FOE). One of the things we love about FOE is the ability to use it as a binding. You get three benefits in one: color, stretch and finish. There’s a built-in crease line down the center that allows for easy and accurate folding.
The pockets not only look great, they’re also super functional – with expandable tops that make dropping in items easy, even one-handed. In addition, the entire top of the bag is also finished with FOE, using it as a flat binding. We originally used pretty patterns of Dritz FOE; these designs are woven in, not printed on, and are fade resistant and colorfast so the good looks will last!
If you haven’t experimented recently with elastics, you might still lump them into the “stiff and scratchy” category. That’s not necessarily the case anymore! FOE is soft and stretchy, yet substantial enough to add stability. As we shopped around, it seemed like most solids are ⅝” (folding over to 5/16″) x 1 yard and the patterns range from ½ (folding over to ¼”) to 1″ (folding over to ½”) x 1 yard. All are fully machine washable and dry-able.
The bag finishes at approximately 15″ tall x 12″ wide with 2″ sides and base. We originally used two fabrics from the Organic Forest collection by Amy Butler, an older collection that is no longer readily available. However, the entire bag can be made from standard quilting cotton, so the fabric options are endless.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing machine and standard presser foot
Fabric and Other Supplies
- ¾ yard of 44″+ wide quilting cotton for the large exterior panels front and back, the large exterior pocket and the front of the strap and tab
- 1 yard of 44″+ wide quilting cotton for the small exterior panels front and back, the small exterior pocket, the back of the strap and tab, and the lining and lining pocket
- 1¼ yards of 1″ wide fold over elastic
- TWO 1½” D-rings
- ¾ yard of 45″ wide mid-weight fusible interfacing; we used Pellon Décor Bond®
- All-purpose thread to match fabric and elastic
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Iron and ironing board
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Straight pins
- From the Fold-Over Elastic, cut the following:
ONE 8″ length
ONE 6″ length
Leave the remaining length intact; you’ll trim it later to exactly match the top opening of your bag
- From the fabric for the large exterior panels front and back, the large exterior pocket and the front of the strap and tab, cut the following:
TWO 16½” high x 8″ wide rectangles for the exterior panels
ONE 16″ high x 11″ wide rectangle for the large exterior pocket
ONE 2″ x WOF (width of fabric – 44″ in our sample) strip for the front of the strap
ONE 2″ x 9″ strip for the front of the strap tab
- From the fabric or the small exterior panels front and back, the small exterior pocket, the back of the strap and tab, and the lining and lining pocket, cut the following:
TWO 16½” high x 6″ wide rectangles for the exterior panels
ONE 11″ high x 8″ wide rectangle for the small exterior pocket
TWO 16½” high x 13″ wide rectangles for the lining
ONE 15″ high x 8″ wide rectangle for the lining pocket
ONE 2″ x WOF strip for the back of the strap
ONE 2″ x 9″ strip for the back of the strap tab
- From the interfacing, cut the following:
TWO 16″ x 12″ rectangles
ONE 7″ x 7″ square
ONE 1″ x 43″ strip
ONE 1″ x 8″ strip
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
- Find the 15″ x 8″ lining pocket and the 7″ x 7″ interfacing square.
- Fold the pocket in half, wrong sides together, so it is 7½” x 8″, and press to set a crease.
- Unfold wrong side up so the crease line is visible. Center the interfacing square on the bottom half so one edge is aligning along the center crease with ½” of fabric showing all around. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place.
- Fold the interfaced panel in half, right sides together, along the original crease line. Pin along both sides and across the bottom, leaving an approximate 3″ opening along the bottom for turning.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch around all sides, pivoting at the corners. Your seam should run right along the edge of the interfacing. Lock your seam on either side of the 3″ opening.
- Clip the corners and press open the seam allowance. Turn right side out. Push out the corners so they are nice and sharp. A chopstick, long knitting needle or point turner works well for this.
- Fold in the raw edges of the opening so they are flush with the sewn seam. Press well.
- Find the two 16½” x 13″ lining panels.
- Place one panel right side up and flat on your work surface. Measure to find the exact center of the panel.
- Pin one pocket in place on the right side of the lining panel. Remember, the folded edge is the pocket top. The pocket should be centered side to side and the bottom edge of the pocket should be 6″ up from the bottom raw edge of the fabric panel. Pin in place.
- Edgestitch the pocket in place along both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners and with a generous backstitch at the beginning and end of the seam, ie. at the pocket top. This is a stress point for the pocket and it’s smart to secure the seam well. This edgestitching closes the opening used for turning.
- Place the two lining pieces right sides together, sandwiching the pocket between the layers. Pin in place along both sides and across the bottom.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch along both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners.
- Our bag is designed to have 2″ sides and base. To create this width, we figured our corners at 1″.
- Measure and mark each corner. Cut out the 1″ corner squares along your drawn lines.
- Press open all the seams.
- Flatten the corner.
- Double stitch the corner
- Repeat to create the opposite corner. Set the lining aside.
NOTE: If you are new to boxed corners, check out our tutorial for step-by-step instructions.
- Find the two exterior pocket pieces: the 16″ x 11″ large pocket and the 11″ x 8″ small pocket.
- Fold each in half, wrong sides together so they are now 8″ x 11″ and 5½” x 8″. Press well. The folded edge will be the bottom of each pocket.
- Find the 8″ and 6″ lengths of Fold-Over Elastic (FOE). The 8″ is for the large pocket, the 6″ is for the small pocket.
- There is a center line woven into the design of the FOE. This line will help you fold the elastic exactly in half so you can use it as a binding for the top of the pocket.
- Fold the FOE in half, and slip it over the raw edges of the pocket at one side, pin in place. Repeat, to pin the opposite end of the FOE over the opposite edge of the pocket. The FOE is soft and easy to work with; it’s even a little grippy. Over the short distance of our pockets, we didn’t need to use any additional pins in between the two at the ends, but feel free to add a few more for your own comfort level.
- Starting at one end, slip the pocket under the presser foot and drop the needle to help hold the layers in place. Gently stretch the elastic, pulling it until the new stretched length of the elastic allows the fabric to lay flat. Check again to make sure the elastic is correctly folded over the top raw edges of the pocket. Begin stitching, stretching as you go. You’ll need to stop every so often, always with the needle in the down position so things don’t shift, and re-stretch. Stitch in this manner across the top of each pocket.
- Set the pockets aside.
Fuse the exterior panels
- Find the two 16½” x 8″ exterior panels and the two 16″ x 12″ interfacing panels.
- Place a fabric panel right side down on your ironing board. Place an interfacing panel on the fabric (fusing side down). Align the top edge of the fabric with the interfacing, but shift the interfacing so there is ½” of fabric showing along the bottom and the outer side. There will be a large portion of the interfacing extending beyond the fabric on the opposite side.
- Following manufacturer’s directions, fuse the interfacing to the fabric. Be careful with your iron so you are only fusing onto the fabric.
- Flip over and press the fabric panel from the right side to make sure you have good adhesion.
- Repeat with the remaining exterior panel and the remaining interfacing panel.
Attach the front pockets and complete the front and back
- Find the large pocket and the front fused panel. Place the panel right side up.
- Place the pocket on the panel. The sides of the pocket should be flush with the sides of the fabric panel, and the bottom of the pocket should be 1¾” up from the bottom raw edge of the fabric panel.
- Create an approximate 2½” pleat at the bottom center of the pocket. To do this, simply find the center of the pocket, measure 1¼” to the left and to the right of center and mark both points with a pin. Tuck under the pocket’s excess fabric at both of these marked points until the bottom of the pocket lays flat against the fabric panel. Pin in place. Adjust as needed to make sure your pleat is centered.
- Edgestitch the pocket in place, along both sides and across the bottom. Remember to pivot at the corners. The bottom stitching line will be visible, so be careful to keep your seam nice and straight. You may want to lengthen your stitch slightly.
- Find one of the 16½” x 6″ exterior panels and the remaining pocket (the small pocket). Attach the pocket to the panel, following the same steps as above. The only difference is the pleat on this pocket will be only 2″ rather than 2½”.
- Find both front sections with the pockets stitched in place.
- Place the narrow panel over the wide panel, sandwiching the pockets in between the layers and aligning the inside raw edges. Pin in place through all the layers.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch the center seam through all the layers (including the interfacing). Backstitch slightly when you stitch over the pocket tops, giving this stress point some extra strength.
- Fold out the narrow panel over the interfacing and smooth flat. Iron to fuse the the fabric to the interfacing (following manufacturer’s instructions).
NOTE: Why did we choose this unusual fusing method? It allows our vertical seam to lay very flat without a bulky multi-layer seam allowance. This is a much better look when you have a seam that will be prominent on the face of a bag.
- Find the remaining narrow panel. Following the same steps, stitch the center seams, then fold out and fuse.
Make and place the strap and strap tab
- Find both the strap and strap tab fabric strips and the corresponding interfacing strips.
- Place both sets of the fabric strips right sides together. Pin along one long side.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch along the one long side.
- Press open, pressing the seam allowance together and to one side.
- Slip the interfacing up against the seam, centering it side to side and making sure there is an even ½” of fabric showing along the long raw edge. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse the interfacing in place.
- Press back the long raw edge of the side to which you adhered the interfacing ½”. You are pressing it over the interfacing. Press back both short ends (all the way across).
- Fold the strap right sides together again along the seam line, aligning the folded edges on the ends. Press.
- Fold in the remaining long raw edge of the opposite fabric so it aligns with the already folded edge. Press again and pin in place. You should now have finished folded edges on all sides.
- Edgestitch around all four sides, pivoting at the corners.
- These steps are exactly the same for both the strap and the strap tab.
- Find the two D-rings. Slip one end of the strap tab through both rings and fold it back on itself 1″. Stitch across to secure.
NOTE: Remember, in our design, the front of the strap is the fabric that matches the wide exterior panel. The back of the strap is the fabric that matches the narrow exterior panel and the lining. Keep track of this so you fold back the strap tab with the correct side facing out.
- Find the two finished exterior panels.
- On the front panel (the panel with the pockets) pin the strap tab within the narrow panel. It should be placed 1″ in from side raw edge and the bottom end of the strap tab should be 4″ down from the top raw edge. Pin in place.
- Place one end of the long strap on the back panel in exactly the same position: within the narrow panel, 1″ in from the side, and 4″ down from the top.
- Stitch both ends in place with a 2″ X-Box stitch.
- Place the front and back exterior panels right sides together, aligning the sides and bottom. Pin in place. Pull the straps up through the top opening to keep them out of the way of the seam.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch along both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners.
- Following the same steps as above for the lining, create 2″ box corners.
- Turn the bag right side out. Find the lining, it would still be wrong side out.
- Slip the lining inside the exterior bag so the two bags are now wrong sides together. Align all the seams and the bottom corners. Make sure the strap and strap tab are folded down out of the way of the top seam.
- Pin around the entire top of the bag.
- Find the remaining length of Fold-Over Elastic. You will use this to bind the top, similarly as you did for the pockets but without the stretch.
- We found it was a bit easier to stitch the elastic in place working with the bag inside out. So with the top still pinned, turn the whole shootin’ match inside out again.
- Starting at the point right above where the long strap is stitched in place, wrap the FOE over the raw edges of the bag/lining. Just as you did with the pocket, use the center line that is woven into the FOE as you center guide line. Wrap and pin around the entire top of the bag. When you come back around to your starting point (behind the strap) leave the tail long.
- As with the pockets, if you are a more experienced sewer, you may find you don’t really need a lot of pins. The elastic in soft and grippy; it’s easy to simply wrap as you go.
- Stitch all the way around the top, keeping your seam close to the bottom edge of the elastic binding. Go slowly and carefully, making sure you are catching both the front and back of the binding. Stop and lock your seam just before you stitch over your starting point.
- Remove the bag from the machine and carefully trim back the excess elastic so the two ends butt together.
- Make one final tiny zag zag seam vertically across where the ends butt together to secure and prevent any raveling. If you started in the right place as described in step 9 above, the overlap will be hidden behind the back strap.
- Slip the free end of the long strap through the top of the D-Rings and adjust for your best fit.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Kathy Andrews, What Sew Ever