Decorative stitching against a neutral canvas gives this slouchy bucket bag a great hipster style. We used the beautiful stitches available on the Janome Memory Craft 9900, which go up to 9mm in width. Another great choice would be Janome’s new Skyline S9 sewing and embroidery model. For a subtle boho flair, we then incorporated long, soft tassels at the sides and front. Read on to learn our unique steps for making these custom tassels: much less expensive than buying, and in an exact color match!
There are decorative stitch accents along the top of the bag and the top of the exterior pocket, but the main feature is how we use them on the wide cross-body strap.
We added four lines of mirror-imaged decorative stiches down the length of the strap along with an embellished flat cord, which is stitched in place with a wide zig zag – a modern spin on a traditional heirloom technique.
Searching for innovative closures for our bag and tote designs is always fun. We’ve employed zippers, drawstrings, turn locks, and more. But, we hadn’t yet used one of the best “cincher-upper” techniques: the belt! It does an amazing job holding up your pants, and works equally well as a functional, fashionable closure for this cute bag.
Our pretty custom tassels hang luxiously from the bag’s side and sprout directly from the ends of twisted cord belt. If you’ve ever shopped for tassels, you know they can be hard to find in the color you want, and even if you do luck out and locate one to your liking, the price may surprise you. A single, small tassel can run $5.00 and up. We came up with an innovative way to unwrap twisted cording then sculpt it into perfectly-matched tassels.
The 10oz natural denim we used for the main body of the bag is easy to find from numerous outlets. Ours came from Joann Fabrics. The accent fabric is an outdoor canvas that is no longer readily available. We found a few options we liked as alternatives from the Premier Prints selection at Fabric.com. The lining is a standard quilting weight cotton, so the choices out there for coordinating colors and prints is wide and varied.
This bag finishes at approximately 12″ wide x 14″ high x 6″ deep. The cross-body strap finishes at approximately 3″ x 54½”.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing or Sewing and Embroidery machine
- Satin Stitch foot for decorative stitching; optional but help for precise placement
Fabric and Other Supplies
- ¾ – 1 yard of 45-60″ wide medium to heavy-weight cotton canvas or similar for the main bag exterior panels, the exterior pocket, the belt loops, and the strap
NOTE: If you use a fabric that is less than 60″ wide, you should get a full yard as you will need to piece the strap, which is cut at 58″.
- ¼ yard of 45″+ wide medium to heavy-weight cotton canvas or similar for the base accent
- 1 yard of 44″+ wide standard weight quilting cotton for the bag’s lining, the exterior pocket’s lining, and the lining pocket
- 2½ yards of ⅜” – ½” twisted cord; we used a soft gray metallic twisted cord
NOTE: This is a standard décor trim, but make sure you get the kind that is two twisted strands covered in a shiny rayon. Our unique tassel technique is created by pulling away the rayon covering to reveal the polyester core. It is a bit harder to source online, but is eadily available at sewing and craft stores, such as Jo-Ann (where we found ours), Michael’s, etc.
- TWO 1″ D-rings; we used Dritz D-rings in Black, which is actually kind of a gunmetal tone
- ½ yard of 45″ wide mid-weight fusible interfacing; we used Pellon Décor Bond
- All purpose thread to match fabrics
- Rayon thread for decorative stitch accents; we used a sage green
- Small round or flat cording for optional corded accent on the bag’s strap; we used a 2mm flat trim in Black metallic stitched in place with gray metallic thread
- Stabilizer as recommended by your machine’s manual for the decorative stitching (a standard tear-away or a lightweight fusible should work if you have no recommendations to follow) – you need a piece approximately 3″ x 58″. You can also butt together pieces to create this length.
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Iron and ironing board
- Straight pins
- Large-eye upholstery needle
- Download and print out the Strap End Template.
IMPORTANT: This template is ONE 8½” x 11″ sheet. You must print the PDF file at 100%. DO NOT SCALE to fit the page. There is a guide rule on the page so you can confirm your final printout is to scale.
- Cut out the template along the solid line. Set it aside.
- From the fabric for the main bag exterior panels, the exterior pocket, the belt loops, and the strap, cut the following:
FOUR 10″ wide x 13½” high rectangles for the main panels
ONE 11″ wide x 8″ high rectangle for the exterior pocket
FOUR 2½” x 4″ strips for the belt loops
ONE 7½” x 58″ strip for the cross-body strap
NOTE: Remember, if your fabric is less than 60″ wide, you’ll need to cut two pieces and seam the together to get a 58″ finished length.
- From the fabric for the base accent, fussy cut TWO 19″ wide x 6″ high rectangles.
- From the fabric for the bag’s lining, the exterior pocket’s lining, and the lining pocket, cut the following:
TWO 19″ wide x 18½” high rectangles for the lining
ONE 11″ wide x 8″ high rectangle for the exterior pocket lining
ONE 11″ wide x 16″ high rectangle for the lining pocket
- From the interfacing, cut the following:
TWO 10″ x 7½” rectangles for the pockets
TWO 18″ x 5″ rectangles for the base of the bag (optional).
NOTE: Interfacing the base accent panels provides a bit more stability but is not mandatory since the bag is designed to be slouchy.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Create the exterior pocket
- Find the 11″ x 8″ exterior pocket panel, the 11″ x 8 lining panel, and one 10″ x 7½” interfacing panel.
- Place the interfacing on the wrong side of the exterior pocket panel. The interfacing should be flush with the bottom of the fabric panel and centered side to side. This leaves a ½” reveal of fabric along the top and both sides. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse the interfacing to the wrong side of the exterior pocket panel.
- Place the fused exterior panel and the lining panel right sides together; the raw edges should be flush all around. Pin in place across the top and along both sides.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch across the top and along both sides, remembering to pivot at the corners. The bottom remains open.
- Trim the corners diagonally and turn the pocket right side out. Push out the corners so they are nice and sharp. A long, blunt end tool, like a knitting needle or chopstick, works well for this. Press flat.
- Using a fabric pen or pencil, measure ½” down from the top seamed edge and draw a horizontal line. This will be the decorative stitching guide line.
NOTE: We are working on the right side of the fabric with our marking throughout this project. Make sure your fabric pen or pencil will easily wash or wipe away or will vanish with exposure to the air. The FriXion Pen we used vanishes with heat.
- Set up your machine for decorative stitching. Thread it with your chosen rayon thread in the top (we used a pale sage green) and a quality bobbin thread in the bobbin. Select a simple decorative stitch. We chose a triangle (Statin Stitch 09 on our Janome MC9900). We adjusted the width to 6.0 and the length to 2.5.
NOTE: You can use our embellishment pattern or design your own. If you choose your own, measure and test your stitch width and length on scraps to insure you will get the result you want.
- Following the drawn line on the pocket, stitch across the pocket.
- Set the finished pocket aside.
Create the belt loops
- Find the four 2½” x 4″ strips.
- Press back the ends of each strip ½”.
- Re-thread the machine with thread to match the exterior fabric in the top and bobbin, and edgestitch all these folded ends in place.
- Press down the sides of each strip ½”. Do not stitch these sides, simply leave them pressed.
Assemble the exterior panels and place the loops and pocket
- Find the four 10″ x 13½” upper panels. Split the four pieces into two pairs and place them right sides together. Pin each pair together along one 13½” edge. If you using any type of directional fabric, make sure you are pinning and stitching what will become the center edge.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch this center seam for each pair. Press the seam allowance together and to the right.
- Flip over each seamed panel and topstitch ¼” to the right of the seam, securing the seam allowance.
- Press each panel flat and place them both right side up on your work surface.
- Collect the exterior pocket and the four belt loops.
- Place the pocket right side up on one exterior panel. The pocket should be centered side to side (4½” in from each raw side edge of the exterior panel) and the raw bottom each edge of the pocket should be flush with the raw bottom edge of the exterior panel. Pin the pocket in place along both sides.
- Place two belt loops above the pocket. The outer ends of the loops should be in line with the side edges of the pocket. The top edges of the loops should be 3″ down from the top raw edge of the exterior panel. This position will leave 1½” between the bottom edges of the loops and the top of the pocket. Pin the loops in place.
NOTE: We drew in a horizontal line at 3″ down from the top raw edge of the exterior panel to insure our loops would be perfectly parallel.
- Edgestitch the loops in place along the top and bottom (remember, these were the sides you just pressed in place when forming the loops).
- Edgestitch the pocket in place along both sides.
- Place the remaining two loops in the exact same position on the remaining exterior panel.
- Find the two 19″ x 6″ accent base panels. If you wish, fuse the interfacing pieces to the wrong side of each panel, center the interfacing side-to-side and top-to-bottom.
- Place a base panel right sides together with each exterior panel. Pin in place along the bottom edge of each exterior panel.
- Using a ½” seam allowance stitch each base panel seam. Press the seam allowance together and down towards the base panel.
- Flip each panel to the right side and topstitch ¼” from the seam within the base panel, securing the seam allowanced.
- Place the front and back exterior panels right sides together. Pin along both sides.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch both sides. Press the seam allowance together and toward the back panel.
- Turn the exterior (which is now a tube) right side out. As you did above with the center seams and accent panel seams, topstitch ¼” from each side seam within the back panel, securing the seam allowance.
- Create 6″ box corners, which means your cut box will be half that size or 3″.
- Stitch across the bottom, using a ½” seam allowance, and finish boxing the corners.
- If you are new to this technique, check out our tutorial: How To Box Corners.
- Turn the main bag right side out, push out the corners and press.
Create the embellished strap
- Find the 7½” x 58″ strip.
NOTE: If you used a narrower-width fabric that required piecing, make sure your finished strip is 7½” x 58″.
- Place the strip right side up and flat on your work surface.
- Find the Strap End Template.
- Center the template on one end. You want at least ½” of fabric showing along the top and sides of the template.
- Using a fabric pen or pencil, trace around the template at BOTH ends of the strap. And, using the template as a guide, draw in the center fold line. In the photo below, we slid down the template to show our tracing lines.
- Grab your longest clear ruler and fabric pen to draw in the final guidelines.
- Continue the solid outer lines from top to bottom; these are the strap cut lines.
- Continue the center line from top to bottom as a dashed line.
- On the right half of the strap, at both the top and bottom ends, draw in the ¼” seam lines – also as dashed lines, just like they’re shown on the template.
- Finally, draw in all the embellishment guide lines as solid lines. Starting from the center dashed line, measure ¼” to the right and draw a vertical line the length of the strap. This is embellishment line #6.
- From this first line, measure ½” to the right and draw an another vertical line parallel with the first. This is embellishment line #5.
- Repeat to draw FOUR additional parallel vertical lines with the same ½” spacing. These are embellishment lines #4, #3, #2 and #1.
- Embellishment line #1 should end up ¼” from the opposite dashed seam line.
- With all your embellishment guidelines in place, set up your machine for decorative stitching as you did above for the pocket stitching.
- Re-thread the machine with your chosen rayon thread in the top (we used a pale sage green) and a quality bobbin thread. Select the same simple decorative stitch used on the pocket. We chose a triangle (Statin Stitch 09 on our Janome MC9900). We adjusted the width to 6.0 and the length to 2.5.
NOTE: As mentioned above, our steps and guideline measurements are based on our embellishment pattern. If you choose your own, re-measure and test your stitches on a scrap of fabric to confirm that the spacing as well as the stitch length and width are to your liking.
- Layer stabilizer under the fabric strip.
- We started with embellishment line #3, orienting the stitch so the point of the triangle is aiming toward the center of the strap. Following the drawn line, stitch from top to bottom.
- Begin and end all your stitching beyond the drawn lines of the Strap End Template.
- Next, stitch embellishment line #6, which has the triangles pointing in the same direction as line #3. Following the drawn line, stitch from top to bottom.
- Next, if possible, use the Mirror Image function on your machine to flip the direction of the triangles. Stitch embellishment lines #4 and #1 with this new orientation.
NOTE: The Mirror Image function is a standard decorative stitching feature on many of the Janome models and we LOVE it! It allows you to create some very intricate patterns. If you do not have this function, you can flip the entire strap and stitch in the opposite direction.
- For the final two embellishment lines, we stitched flat cording in place with a wide zig zag.
- Cut two 58″ lengths of decorative cord.
- Re-thread the machine to coordinate with the cord. We used a metallic silver in the top and quality bobbin thread in the bobbin. We set our zig zig at a width of 6.0 and a length of 2.5. Test on a scrap to insure your width and length with work with your chosen cord. The swing of the zig zig should hit just outside the cord.
- We started on embellishment line #5.
- You don’t need to pin the cording in place; you can simply hold it with your finger, centering it over the drawn line. Just go slowly and stop (with the needle in the down position) to re-adjust as necessary. Stitch down the cording from top to bottom.
- Repeat to stitch cording in place down the length of embellishment line #2.
- Here’s a look at our finished embellishment. We folded the fabric so you could see both ends.
- Remove the stabilizer if you’d like; we left ours in place as it will be hidden between the layers and offers a bit of extra stability to the fabric. However, if you use a heavy fabric, such as the canvas we chose, it is not absolutely necessary.
- Trim both ends of the strap along the drawn cut lines (the solid lines, not the dashed lines). Don’t trim down the sides.
- Fold the strap in half along the center dashed fold line, right sides together, sandwiching the stitching between the layers.
- Using your long clear ruler and fabric pen, draw a final guideline. This will be your stitching line.
- Measure ¼” to the right of the last line of decorative stitching. The line should run from top to bottom.
- Re-thread the machine with thread to match the fabric in the top and bobbin.
- Using a ¼” seam allowance, stitch along the angled ends. Pivot and stitch down the long side, following your guideline. Leave a 2″ – 3″ opening along the long side seam for turning. Pivot at the bottom corner, stitching with the same ¼” seam allowance and pivoting along the angles of this end.
NOTE: With such a long and narrow tube, it can be easier to turn if your leave TWO OPENINGS: one near each end. This gives you better access to get in and push out all the corners completely.
- Trim back the angled ends, then trim the side seam allowance to approximately ¼”.
- Turn the strap right side out through the opening(s). Push out the corners so they are nice and sharp. Press in the raw edges at the opening(s) so they are flush with the sewn seam. Press the entire strap flat.
- Hand stitch the opening(s) closed.
Make the lining
- Find the 11″ x 16″ lining pocket panel and the 10″ x 7½” piece of interfacing.
- Fold the pocket panel in half, wrong sides together, so it is now 11″ x 8″. Press to set a center crease.
- Open out the panel, wrong side up, so the crease line is visible.
- Center the interfacing on one half of the pocket panel. It should be positioned so one edge is aligned with the center crease. There should then be ½” of fabric showing beyond the interfacing on the remaining three sides. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place.
- Fold the pocket in half, right sides together, matching all the raw edges. Pin in place along both sides and across the bottom.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, sew both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners and leaving a 3” opening along the bottom for turning. Remember to lock the seam on either side of the opening. Clip the corners.
- Turn the pocket right side out through the bottom opening. Push out the corners so they are nice and sharp. Fold in the raw edges at the opening so they are flush with the sewn seam. Press the pocket flat.
- Find one of the two lining panels. Place it right side up on your work surface. Position the pocket on the lining piece. It should sit 4″ up from the bottom raw edge of the lining panel and be centered side to side.
- Pin the pocket in place along both sides and across the bottom.
- Edgestitch the pocket in place along both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners. This secures the pocket in place and closes the opening used for turning right side out.
- Place the two lining panels right sides together, sandwiching the pocket between the layers. Pin along both sides and across the bottom.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners.
- As you did for the exterior bag, create 6″ box corners, which means your corner box will be half that size or 3″.
- As mentioned above, if you are new to this technique, check out our tutorial: How To Box Corners.
- Leave the lining wrong side out.
Assemble the exterior and the lining
- Find the exterior bag. It should still be right side out. Fold down the top raw edge ½” all around and press.
- Find the lining; it should still be wrong side out.
- Slip the lining inside the exterior so the two bags are now wrong sides together. The lining pocket should be against the back panel (the non-pocket panel) of the exterior.
- Slip the raw edge of the lining under the folded top edge of the exterior.
- Fold the top edge back down, then fold down an additional ½” and pin in place all around.
- Re-thread the machine with the decorative stitching thread (sage green in our sample) in the top and thread to match the exterior fabric in the bobbin.
- Set up the machine as above for the triangle satin stitch (or the stitch you have chosen and used above).
- Turn the bag inside out so you can more easily stitch from the exterior side.
- Starting at a side seam, run the decorative stitch all around the top of of the bag, securing the top hem in place and adding the final bit of thread embellishment. The distance from the top of the bag may vary slightly depending on which stitch you choose. The flat side of our triangle stitch was ½” down from the top folded edge.
- Find the twisted cord. Cut two 10″ lengths.
- Untwist one length. You now have two individual lengths wrapped with the silky rayon thread.
- Working with one length at a time, pinch the cord in the center and fold it in half. Hold on to the center of the cord with one hand, and with the other hand, begin unwrapping the thread to reveal the soft polyester strands at the core. The thread pulls away from the core quite easily.
- Work from both ends up towards the center. Leave about 1″ at the center still wrapped.
- Repeat to unwrap the other length in this first pair.
- Find one of the 1″ D-rings.
- Slip the two unraveled lengths through the D-ring. Center the cords so their wrapped centers are sitting against the middle of the flat side of the D-ring.
- Gather up all the curly rayon threads you unraveled from the cord. Smooth them together into a single strand (they won’t make a perfect strand; that’s okay, just gather them together).
- Wrap this strand around and around the bundled cord to form the “neck” of the tassel. Your wrap should be about ¾” deep.
- Thread the tail of the strand through a large-eyed upholstery needle and pass the needle through the center of the “neck” of the tassel.
- Tie a knot in the strand and trim away the excess thread close to the “neck.” The knot and any little threads will be buried within with long, soft strands of the tassel.
- Comb out the ends of the tassels to fluff them up. Trim the ends flush.
- Repeat to create a second D-ring tassel with the reminding 10″ length of cording.
Attach strap and cording belt
- Find the completed bag and strap.
- Slip a tasseled D-ring onto each end of the strap. Yes, you have to kind of crunch up the strap a bit once the D-ring slides up past the very end. This is okay, you just need it out of the way several inches in order to stitch the final seams.
- Center one end of the strap over a side seam. The bottom end of the strap should be flush with the bottom of the belt loops. Pin the strap end in place.
- Re-thread the machine with thread to match the exterior fabric in the top and bobbin.
- Edgestitch a horizontal seam along just the very bottom of the strap.
- Slide the D-ring down into position against this first horizontal seam.
- Stitch a second horizontal seam across the strap in line with the top of the belt loops.
- And finally, stitch a third and final horizontal seam across the strap in line with the top decorative stitching. The top two seams form another “belt loop.”
- Repeat to stitch the opposite strap end in place over the opposite side seam. This is a long, cross-body stray, so prior to stitching the final end in place, check to make sure it is a smooth loop and not twisted anywhere along its length.
- Cut a 52″ length of twisted cord.
- Thread the cord through all the belt loops including the loops formed by the strap ends.
- Bring the ends around to the front over the pocket.
- Working with one end at a time, measure approximately 4″ up from the cut end. Pinch the cord with one hand at this point. Untwist the cord into two separate pieces from the bottom up to where you are holding on. As above, unwrap the rayon from the polyester cord then use that unwrapped rayon thread to create a tassel neck. Secure as above with the large-eye needle. Repeat to create a matching tassel with the remaining end.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Kathy Andrews, What Sew Ever