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If you’re brand new to sewing, you might think a shoulder bag is too advanced a project to tackle. Nope! With some clever cutting and careful stitching, this ribbon-accented bag is super cute and super easy. There are no complicated corners or closures. And, the main body of the bag is a heavy wool felt, one of the most forgiving fabrics for new sewers.

Finishing at 11″ x 11″, it’s also the “Goldilocks” of sizes: not too big, but not too small – just right. Great for those quick shopping trips when you want a lightweight carryall. It would also make a wonderful gift… showing off your sewing skills to friends and family who may still think a cool shoulder bag is “sooooo hard to do” (we’ll never tell!).

We dove into our very special S4H stash of favorite Renaissance Ribbons, mixing together eleven different Jacquard ribbons: 10 on the flap and one matching but wider ribbon for the strap.

The weight of these pretty ribbons, along with the lining on the extra-long flap, keeps the bag closed. However, if you are more advanced, you could certainly add a zipper to the top and/or a magnetic snap at the bottom of the flap should you want more security for your bag’s contents.

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

  • ½ yard of 36″+ wide heavy wool felt for the bag exterior and strap; we used 36″ wide heavy wool/poly felt in charcoal
  • ½ yard of 44″+ wide cotton twill for the lining; we used a gray twill to coordinate with the charcoal felt
  • 1 yard of 1½” wide ribbon for the strap; we were able to use the same “Folkloric Blue Bird on Red” in two sizes: ⅞” for the flap and a 1½” version for the strap – it isn’t mandatory that you use an exact match, but the base felt strap is sized for a 1½” width ribbon
  • ¼ yard+ EACH of approximately 10-15 different ⅜” to 1½” wide ribbons to accent the flap
    NOTE: The exact number of ribbon cuts required will depend on the the width of the ribbons you choose and how many patterns, if any, you decide to repeat. If you’d like to follow our design, we used 10 different motifs, cutting four lengths of the thinnest ribbon as a repetitive accent, which meant we needed approximately 1 yard of that ⅜” ribbon – all other cuts are 8″ lengths. All the ribbons came from our personal stash of much-loved Renaissance Ribbons, most by designer, Sue Spargo. They are listed below, but not all may be still available online – but no worries at all; Renaissance Ribbons has an amazing selection from which to choose. 

  • Fusible seam tape; such as Dritz Stitch Witchery – match the width of your seam tape to your ribbon selection – it should be just slightly narrower than your narrowest ribbon.
  • All purpose thread to match fabric and ribbon
  • Monofilament thread for ribbon stitching; optional, but our recommendation for the best finish
  • See-through ruler
  • Fabric pen or pencil
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • Tape measure
  • Seam gauge
  • Seam ripper
  • Straight pins

Getting Started

  1. Keep the one yard length of ⅞” ribbon as-is for the strap accent.
  2. Cut all the other ribbons into 8″ lengths, centering each so the middle 7″ best features the ribbon’s motif.
  3. From the fabric for the lining, cut the following:
    ONE 11″ x 23″ rectangle for the main lining
    ONE 11″ x 8″ rectangle for the flap lining
  4. From the fusible seam tape, cut one 36″ length for the strap and enough 8″ lengths for each flap accent ribbon; we cut thirteen 8″ lengths.
  5. From the felt, cut the following:
    ONE 11″ x 32″ rectangle for the purse body
    ONE 1¾” x 36″ strip for the strap
  6. Lay the 11″ x 32″ felt rectangle flat on your work surface, orienting it as 11″ wide x 32″ high.
  7. Measure 2″ in from each upper corner and 10″ down from each upper corner. Connect your marks to form a 2″ x 10″ rectangle in each upper corner.
  8. Cut away the 2″ x 10″ rectangles along the drawn lines. This creates the purse flap.

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

Lining preparation

  1. Find the 11″ x 23″ lining rectangle. Fold it in half, right sides together, so it is now 11″ x 11½”. Pin along both sides.
  2. Using a ⅜” seam allowance, stitch along both sides. Press the seam allowances open.
  3. Fold back the top raw edge ½” all around and press well.
  4. Set the main lining bag aside.
  5. Find the 11″ x 8″ flap lining rectangle. Fold back and press the top and side raw edges ½”. Leave the bottom edge flat. Lightly pin the folded edges in place and set the flap lining aside.

Attach the ribbons to the flap and the strap

  1. Find all the 8″ ribbon lengths for the flap accent. Line up the ribbons in order so you can easily keep track of them as you work from the bottom of the flap to the top.
  2. Following manufacturer’s instruction, adhere a strip of fusible web to the first ribbon.
  3. Adhere the ribbon in place. We started approximately ⅛” up from the end of the flap. Center the ribbon so ½” extends beyond the flap on each end. Fuse in place.
  4. Repeat these steps until all the ribbons are fused in place. For the best look, the ribbons should be butted against one another, in order words, no felt should be showing between the ribbons.
  5. When all the ribbons are in place, wrap the raw ribbon ends around to the back. There should be enough fusible web to hold them in place on the back, but you can also put a pin at each end to help hold the raw ends at the back.
  6. Thread your machine with thread to best match each ribbon. Even though it may be a bit more time consuming, make the effort to change the thread for each ribbon if necessary. It will look much better when finished. Or, use our favorite option: clear monofilament thread in the top and bobbin.
  7. Topstitch the ribbons in place along each long side of each ribbon. Again, we started at the bottom…
  8. … and worked our way up to the top. Any time you are stitching stacks of ribbon, it is best to stitch in the same direction along each side of each ribbon. This helps prevent any wrinkling or shifting.
  9. Find the 1¾” x 36″ felt strip and the one yard of 1½” ribbon.
  10. Following the same steps as above, attach a strip of fusible web to the ribbon.
  11. Center the ribbon to the felt strip, press to adhere, and topstitch the ribbon in place along both sides.

Add the linings and insert the strap

  1. Place the felt body wrong side up on your work surface, with the ribbon-stitched flap flat.
  2. Find the pressed flap lining.
  3. Place the flap lining wrong sides together with the flap, aligning all the finished edges (the top and both sides). The bottom raw edge of the lining should  drop below the flap towards the main body of the bag. Pin in place along both sides and across the bottom of the flap. Adjust the folded top and sides of the lining as needed to insure the lining and felt layers are flush all around.
  4. Using a ¼” seam allowance, stitch the flap to the lining along both sides and across the bottom of the flap. We used our Janome Quarter Inch Seam foot to help keep an accurate line.
  5. Fold the felt exterior body in half, bringing up the bottom edge so it is perfectly aligned across the base of the flap. Pin in place along both sides.
  6. Re-thread your machine with a contrasting thread to match the accent ribbons. We used bright red.
  7. Stitch both sides of the felt body in place, using a ¼” seam allowance. Remember to secure your seam at both the beginning and end.
  8. Place the sewn bag on your work surface with the flap open and flat – so the flap lining is showing.
  9. Find the strap. Place the left end of the strap against the top left corner of the bag front. The right side of the strap should be facing the wrong side of the bag and the end of the strap should be approximately ½” to ¾” below the top edge of the bag. Pin the strap in place.
  10. Carefully loop the strap and place the right end of the strap against the top right corner of the bag back. Similar to above, the right side of the strap should be facing the wrong side of the bag and the end of the strap should be approximately ½” to ¾” below the top edge of the bag. Pin the strap in place.
    NOTE: Take the time to make sure your strap position is correct. One end is attached to the front of the bag, the opposite end is attached to the back of the bag.  When you place the strap over your shoulder, it should come up and over so you can see the ribbon side of the strap from both front and back. 
  11. Find the main lining. It should be wrong side out. Slip the lining into the felt bag so the two layers are wrong sides together. Align the top folded edge of the lining with the top edge of the felt bag. As above with the flap lining, adjust the top fold of the lining so it is flush with the felt. The bag lining should now cover the raw bottom edge of the flap lining. Pin in place all around.
  12. Re-thread your machine if necessary with thread to best match the felt and lining.
  13. Edgestitch all around the top of the bag to secure the lining in place. We continued to use our Janome Quarter Inch Seam foot to keep a nice straight seam.
  14. Press well.


Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Debbie Guild

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1 year ago

I have been told by machine experts that repair machines never to use monofilament thread in the bobbin. Only as a top thread.It can cut into metal and ruin the bobbin. I know personally that it can do great damage to a machine. There really is no need to use it as a bobbin thread since it will not be seen. Regular thread in the bobbin stabilizes the monofilament thread . I love monofilament thread for top quilting fabric to use in bags and any top stitching when the right color thread cannot be found . It is especially awesome… Read more »

Liz Johnson
Liz Johnson
1 year ago
Reply to  Helen

Hi Helen – We’ve always used it both top and bobbin – so there will be no chance at all of visible bobbin stitches. However, as a Janome exclusive studio, we don’t work with metal bobbins – just the plastic. So, we haven’t run into any issues perhaps because of that. But thanks so much for letting us know about your experiences; it’s always super helpful to hear what works best for you and what challenges you’ve encountered.

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