Gather some colorful fabric and program a gorgeous machine embroidery design, and you can create your own fabric gift bags. Go with a seasonal theme, pick a motif to match the recipient’s favorite hobby or hint at what’s inside the bag, or simply pull out a few of your favorite scraps or leftover pre-cuts and set up your own “green gift wrap” assembly line.
Thanks to a generous sponsorship from Janome America, the project includes a full pattern set. This allows you to quickly and easily cut multiple panels so you can whip out custom bags for everyone on your gift list. You can also use the pattern pieces to facilitate fussy cutting, which is particularly important to get a super-professional finish for all the bag’s side panels.
Each of these side panels is cut at 6” wide x 10” high. We used a combination of scraps and pre-cuts. We were even able to use a 10” x 10” layer cake pre-cut! As outlined below in the Supplies and Getting Started sections, you can choose to use unique fabrics for your lining or combine the lining fabric with one or more of the side panels and/or base panels to conserve. As always, it’s up to your creativity to get the look you like best.
The embroidery on the front panel really sets each bag apart as a unique and custom gift. We used two built-in Janome embroidery designs as well as a classic built-in 3-letter monogram. Steps are outlined below, showing which Janome designs we selected as well as how we hooped and positioned the design. We prefer to “hoop wild,” which means we like to start with a large piece of fabric to hoop, cutting it down to its final size once the embroidery is complete. Follow our steps below or cut your panel to size and “float” it over the hoop on a sticky stabilizer or pinned, taped or basted to secure.
We love how Janome makes their on-board embroidery editing so intuitive. We were able to re-size our designs so they matched in height across all three of our samples, and it was easy to position each design to stitch out lower on the front panel. This positioning is important because you want your embellishment to be low enough so the upper portion of the bag cinches up smoothly without distorting the design. But, of course, you don’t want the design so low as to crash into the base panel’s seam. We’ve provided guide lines on our pattern set, and the Janome on-screen tools make it easy to center and slide the design to the bottom of the hoop prior to stitching.
You’ll create the pretty four-panel exterior and a singe panel lining. Both have a square inset base. The lining’s base is stabilized with firm fusible interfacing, which allows the finished bag to sit flat without puddling. The steps are detailed below, but you can also link to our full tutorial as a helpful review if you are brand new to the base-insertion technique.
The exterior and lining are bound together with an upper casing that is applied as two pieces. We think you’ll like how easy it is to attach the casings for a clean finish inside and out with very little visible topstitching. There’s no complicated turning inside and out with this design!
The finishing touch is the beaded cording that cinches and seals the bags. We used a standard polyester satin cording, which is easy to find at about ⅛” in a rainbow of color options. We show you how to cut, thread, and string your choice of baubles onto the tails. If you go with polyester, you can seal the ends of the cording by simply melting them with a small flame – no worries about raveling or untying.
Our thanks again to Janome America for sponsoring this project, and thanks to their machines and feet for making these bags so fun to sew and embroider! For more information about how a Janome machine can make your new or continued sewing adventures more fun, visit the Janome America website or contact your local Janome America dealer. You can also find Janome America on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and with lots of great videos on YouTube. Plus, if you follow S4H on Facebook or Instagram, be on the lookout for our monthly live video chats with both Janome America and Janome Canada.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing Machine and standard presser foot
- Embroidery Machine (or combo sewing/embroidery model) should you wish to add an embroidery design or monogram
- Hoop and presser foot as needed for your embroidery; we used the Janome Quilt Maker Memory Craft 15000 Sewing/Embroidery machine with its standard SQ14 Hoop (a 140mm/5.5” x 140mm/5.5” hoop) and the standard Janome Embroidery foot
Fabric and Other Supplies
NOTE: Cuts and supplies are shown for ONE bag. There is a pattern download below with ALL the pieces. We recommend printing the pattern pieces first to best determine if you have scraps of the proper size on hand or need to buy new.
- Scraps, pre-cuts or ¼ yard cuts of 44”+ wide quilting weight cotton in THREE coordinating prints for the side and back panels
NOTE: If you have a very strong vertical motif you wish to capture, get ⅓ yard. The side panel pattern is 6” wide x 10”high .
- Scrap, pre-cut or ⅛ yard cut of 44”+ wide quilting weight cotton in a coordinating print for the drawcord casings
- ½ yard of 44”+ wide quilting weight cotton in a coordinating solid for the front panel and the exterior base panel
NOTE: ½ yard is required if, as described below, you are “hooping wild.” If you prefer exact cuts throughout or are not choosing embroidery, you can get away with just ¼ yard.
- ⅓ yard of 44”+ wide quilting weight cotton in a coordinating solid or print for the lining
NOTE: We used a unique fabric for the lining of each of our bag samples, but you could certainly choose to use the same solid fabric for the front panel, both base panels, AND the lining. If this is your choice, get a ½ yard of fabric, which will be plenty for all these elements, including the option outlined below of “hooping wild” and trimming for the embroidered front panel.
- ¼ yard of 20” wide + stiff fusible interfacing for the base; we used 20” Pellon Deco Fuse
- Stabilizer as recommended by your machine for the embroidery; we used a ½ yard of tear-away stabilizer, cutting a single layer
- 2 yards of thin polyester cording for the drawcord; we used a classic ⅛” polyester satin cording – we recommend polyester so the ends can be finished by melting with a small flame
- Baubles of your choice for the ends of the drawcord (optional); we used 10 wooden beads – 5 per side/3 on one tail, 2 on the other tail – simply make sure your chosen item(s) has a hole big enough to feed the cording through
- All purpose thread to match fabric
- Embroidery thread in the appropriate colors for your chosen embroidery design
- Bobbin thread for the embroidery; we use Janome bobbin thread for all our embroidery – for construction, the appropriate all purpose thread was used in the bobbin
- See-through ruler
- Measuring tape
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Rotary cutter and mat
- Iron and ironing board
- Straight pins
- Large safety pin for threading the cording
- Lighter or matches to melt the ends of the cording
- Small clip to temporarily secure the cording while threading
Getting Started and Pattern Download
- Download and print the THREE Gift Bag Pattern Sheets, which have been bundled into ONE PDF file to make the download easier.
IMPORTANT: Each pattern sheet is ONE 8½” x 11″ page. You must print the PDF file at 100%. DO NOT SCALE to fit the page. There is a guide line on each page so you can confirm your final printout is to scale.
- The Base and Side are each individual pattern pieces. Trim them along their outer solid lines.
- The Casing is two pieces. Trim each piece along its outer solid line and butt together, aligning the printed arrows (do not overlap), to create the full pattern piece.
- From the three fabrics for the sides and back panels, use the Side pattern to fussy cut ONE panel from each fabric.
- From the fabric for the casing, use the assembled Casing pattern to cut TWO.
- From the fabric for the front panel and the exterior base, use the Base pattern to cut ONE.
For our embroidery, we prefer to hoop a larger piece, then trim it down to size when complete – this is called “hooping wild.” We cut ONE 14” x 14” square for our SQ14 Hoop. If you prefer to overlay your embroidery, you can certainly use the Side pattern to simply cut ONE panel and use this to “float” over your hoop, pinning, taping or basting it in place – or using a sticky stabilizer in your hoop.
- From the fabric for the lining, cut the following:
ONE 21” wide x 10” high rectangle
Using the Base pattern, cut ONE
- From the stiff fusible interfacing, use the Base pattern – but trim first along the pattern’s dotted line, then use the trimmed pattern to cut ONE. To keep all your pattern pieces intact, you could also use your ruler and rotary cutter to cut ONE 5” x 5” square. Below you can see our Base panel cuts for all three of our sample bags: the exterior squares, the mixture of print lining squares and solid lining squares, and the smaller interfacing squares.
- From the tear-away stabilizer or similar, cut ONE 14” x 14” panel
- All the drawcord cuts and instructions follow at the end of the main instructions.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Embroider the front panel
NOTE: As mentioned above, we chose to hoop a larger square of fabric, which we will then trim down to size prior to construction (this is called “hooping wild.”). If you prefer, you can start with your pattern-cut panel and float it over your hoop, securing with your favorite method.
- Find the large panel of solid fabric, the matching layer of tear-away stabilizer, and the appropriate hoop for your machine. We are using the SQ14 Hoop on our Janome MC15000.
- Place the lower hoop ring on your work surface. Center the layers of stabilizer and fabric over it, then place the upper ring of the hoop on top of the fabric.
- Use the original Side pattern to help you center the hoop on the fabric/stabilizer.
- Push the hoops together to secure.
- Before the final tightening of the hoop, use the red guide lines on the Side pattern to confirm your positioning. The horizontal guide line indicates where the base of the your chosen embroidery design should hit. This intersection should be at the very bottom of the hoop.
NOTE: If floating your pre-cut panel instead, your adjustments will be different, but as above, you can use the red guide lines on the original pattern as your alignment for the bottom of the design. It needs to be low enough in the panel to allow the bag to gather up appropriately above the design. The lowest point of your design should be about 1½” from the bottom raw edge of your cut panel.
- Thread the machine with embroidery thread in the top and bobbin thread in the bobbin.
- Attach the hoop to the machine.
- We selected a built-in embroidery designs from the Janome MC15000: the Sock Monkey from the World of Embroidery Designs collection. Because we made three samples, we wanted all the embroidered elements to be about the same size. Luckily for us, Janome’s on-screen editing makes it super easy to enlarge or reduce by up to 20% either way. We decided on an overall height of about 3″, and so used the on-screen tools to reduce the Sock Monkey design to 80%.
- Using the directional arrows on the Edit screen, we moved the embroidery design to the bottom to best match with our Side panel guide lines.
- Embroider the design, changing out the thread colors as appropriate.
- When done, remove the hoop from the machine and once again find the original Side pattern.
- Use the pattern to center the completed embroidery design.
- Once centered, use the pattern to cut out the final front panel.
- We also used the Deer from the built-in Cross Stitch Designs collection. This time, we used the on-screen tools to enlarge the design to 120% to best match the size of the Sock Monkey.
- And, we used a Monogram on our third bag sample, another built-in option on the Janome Quilt Make Memory Craft 15000. We selected the Gothic type face, a classic 3-Letter Monogram, and a slightly curved square as the frame. We stitched our monogram at 100%.
- In all cases, once the front panel is embroidered and trimmed, remove any excess stabilizer.
NOTE: Remember, the embroidery – although super, duper cute and custom – is optional. You could choose to simply add a fourth print fabric panel, appliqué something instead, or even do a little hand embellishment.
Assemble the exterior side panels
- Collect the exterior front panel and the three coordinating side and back panels. Lay them out on your work surface in order, as shown below: side, front, side, back.
- Pin together the panels in order, right sides together, along each 10” side, to form a four-panel tube.
- Switch to standard sewing and re-thread with the all purpose construction thread in the top and bobbin. Set up for a standard straight stitch.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch each side seam.
- START each seam at the raw edge of what will be the top of each panel. STOP each seam ½” from the bottom and lock your stitch. Leaving ½” free at the bottom of each of the four seams is what will allow the tube to sit correctly against the flat base panel.
- Set aside the finished exterior tube.
Create the lining and insert its base panel
- Find the 21” x 10” lining panel and the lining base panel.
- Place the 10” edges right sides together, and using a ½” seam allowance, stitch together to form a tube. As above, START the seam at the top raw edge, but STOP the seam ½” from the bottom and lock your stitch.
- Roll the seam to the center back – make sure it is at the exact center. There should be 5” to either side of the seam.
- At each outer fold, snip in to a depth of ½”.
- Repeat to fold in the opposite direction, which means you will have one outer fold directly across from your one seam. Snip into this one fold at a depth of ½” to match the other snips.
- Press the center seam open and flat.
- Find the lining base panel.
- Keep the lining tube wrong side out.
- The four corners of the base panel should align to the three snips and one seam of the tube. That free ½” at the bottom of the center seam spreads apart to act as a “snip” at its corner.
- Place one side of the base panel right sides together with one side of the tube. The raw edges of the two layers should be flush and the ½” corner squares of the base panel should be visible. Pin in place.
- Start your seam ½” in (at the snip). Lock your stitch, then continue stitching, using a ½” seam allowance, to the opposite marked corner. Lock your stitch when you get there (again – ½” from the corner).
- Remove the project from the machine. Re-position and stitch from corner to corner in the same manner to complete the insertion of the base.
- Clip each corner.
Insert the exterior base panel
- This insertion is similar to the lining above; there are simply four seams to align rather than three snips and one seam.
- Find the exterior base panel and the square of firm fusible interfacing.
- Center the interfacing on the wrong side of the base panel so there is ½” of fabric showing beyond the interfacing on all four sides. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place.
- The four-panel exterior tube should be wrong side out.
- Each corner of the base panel aligns with one of the four seams. That free ½” at the bottom of each seam spreads apart to bridge each corner.
- Place one side of the base panel right sides together with one side of the tube. The raw edges of the two layers should be flush and the ½” corner squares of the base pane should be visible. Pin in place.
- Start your seam ½” in. Lock your stitch, then continue stitching, using a ½” seam allowance, to the opposite marked corner. Lock your stitch when you get there.
- Remove the project from the machine. Re-position and stitch from corner to corner in the same manner to complete the insertion of the base.
NOTE: The steps are outlined well here, but if you are brand new to this technique, we have a full tutorial on the process you can review prior to starting. Click to review How to Insert a Rectangular Base into a Tube.
- Around the top raw edge, press back ½”.
- Turn the exterior bag right side out and set aside.
Attach the casings to the lining
- Find the two casing strips.
- Along both raw ends and the bottom raw edge, fold back ¼” and press.
- Because our exterior bag is made up of four panels with a seam in each corner, we wanted our lining bag to match. But the lining only has one seam at the center back… what to do?! You will fold and firmly press the lining to set two CREASE lines you can use to attach the casing strips and match up to the centers of the exterior side panels. This will also position the lining’s one seam along one corner of the exterior bag. You are so smart!
- Fold the lining like you would fold up a paper grocery bag.
- Press well so you can set visible crease lines. One fold should now be 2½” from the lining seam, and the opposite fold should be 7½” from the lining seam.
- Pin a casing strip right sides together with the top of the lining bag. The long raw edge of the casing strip should be flush with the top raw edge of the lining bag and each folded end of the casing should align with a crease. Pin the second casing strip in the same manner. This means you have one casing strip running across the front of the bag and one running across the back with the folded ends of each pair coming together at each crease.
- Thread the machine with thread to best match the LINING in the top and bobbin.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch all the way around the top of the lining.
- Do not stop at the side crease lines; keep one seam all the way around.
- Press the seam allowance down towards the lining and make sure your original ¼” folds are still crisp and even.
Assemble lining and exterior to finish
- Find the exterior bag, which should be right side out with its top raw edge folded back ½” and pressed.
- Gently fold each exterior side panel in half to find its center along that top folded edge. Press a small crease at each of these center points. You could also measure 2½” in from each seam line and mark each center point with a pin. You simply need a little mark to use to confirm the positioning of the lining.
- With the lining wrong side out, slip it inside the exterior so the two layers are now wrong sides together. Match up the corners of the base panels and smooth the layers from bottom to top. The folded edge of the exterior bag should now align with the stitch line of the casing strip. The folded ends of the casings should meet over the marked center of each side panel.
- The machine should still be threaded with thread to best match the lining in the top and bobbin. And, your settings should still be for a standard straight stitch.
- If your machine has a free arm, now is the time to use it. Slip the bag into position under the presser foot.
- Stitch all the way around, running this seam as close as possible to the upper folded edge of the exterior bag.
- Remove the bag and fold the casing down so the pressed edge of the casing sits ¼” down from the top folded edge of the exterior bag.
- Pin the casing in place all around the top of the bag.
- Re-thread the machine with thread to best match the casing fabric in the top and keep the thread to best match the lining in the bobbin. Slightly lengthen the stitch.
- Still using a free arm if possible, stitch the casing in place all around the top of the bag, running this seam as close as possible to the folded bottom edge of the casing. Go slowly and carefully; this seam will be visible on the outside of the bag.
- When complete, you have one line of topstitching visible on the exterior of the bag and two lines visible on the lining… although, because you were careful to stitch them in thread matching the lining, they are barely visible.
Threading the casing and attaching your baubles
- Find your chosen cording. Cut two 34” – 36” lengths. We used 34”, but it is totally fine to simply cut your two yards in half. You’ll be trimming away the excess after your baubles are added, and it is definitely easier to work with too much rather than two little – especially when tying tiny knots.
- In addition to the cording, you’ll also need a safety pin, scissors, beads or other baubles, and a lighter or match.
- Using the lighter or match, lightly pass each end of each length of cording through the flame to seal the ends. It doesn’t take much heat the cording; don’t light the place on fire!
- Stick the safety pin through one end of one length of cording.
- Thread the cording through the front casing, running from left to right.
- Insert the cording into the back casing, running through it from right to left. This means there is now a loop to the right of the bag and the tails are at the left of the bag. Loosely knot the tails or clip them together as shown in our photo. This keeps the first length of cording from being pulled out when you are threading the second.
- Remove the safety pin and stick it through the end of the second length of cording. Thread this length through in the opposite direction: from right to left through the back casing, then from left to right through the front casing. You now have a loop on each side and tails on each side. Make sure those pairs of tails are flush with one another.
- Holding on to each set of tails, and keeping those ends flush, gently and evenly draw the bag all the way closed.
- Knot together each pair of tails about 3” up from the base of the bag. We used just a single knot. You could use a double knot if your cording is particularly slippery.
- Add your choice of beads or other baubles to each individual tail, knotting both above and below. We used three beads on one tail, two on the other. And, we used double knots here.
- When your baubles are completely secure, snip the excess tail close to each bottom knot then use the lighter/match to seal the end.
Project Design: Anne Adams
Sample Creation: Kathy Andrews, What Sew Ever