Sometimes you just need something simple! This beautiful bag is definitely a weekend wonder. Make it in an afternoon – wear it out the same night. The construction is fast and easy, but without sacrificing any style. We used shades of the 2018 Pantone Color of the Year: Ultra Violet. It’s a gorgeous purple that’s warmer than traditional jewel tones but with the same rich intensity. We paired a solid ultra violet with a colorful butterfly motif from the Beauty Shop collection from Cotton + Steel Fabrics. The half-and-half design is a striking statement.
We combined a standard canvas with a canvas/linen blend, which meant we needed to balance out the weights so the exterior drape was consistent all around. You’re likely to come across this “balancing act” often in your sewing projects. We simply added a layer of lightweight fusible interfacing to the canvas/linen blend, choosing the woven ShapeFlex option by Pellon to insure we added weight but not too much stiffness.
The main exterior of the bag is created from with just two simple panels, but rather than just making one whole panel the back and the other the front, we rotated the panel seams from the sides to the front and back. Voila! The solid and print are juxtaposed side by side and the center line seams are topstitched for extra detail.
A simple button loop closes the top, but you could also consider adding a magnetic snap for a tighter seal.
There’s a pocket in the lining in the same print fabric as the exterior, which is not only functional but also adds a great pop of color to the otherwise subtle lining.
This bag would make a great fast and easy gift. Take our color-of-the-year suggestion or mix your own favorite solids and prints. We give yardage requirements below for 44” widths of fabric, but remember that many canvas and canvas blends come much wider. Take a careful look at the required cuts; you may be able to make more than one Lydia Bag from the amounts shown.
We always recommend sketching out your cuts on paper prior to buying/ordering fabric, as the minimums needed will depend not only on the width of the fabric but also on the size of the motif and its repeat. For more on mixing and matching colors and prints, take a look at our article: Top 10 Designer Tips for Blending Colors and Prints.
Our Lydia Bag finishes at approximately 14” high x 12” wide x 2” deep. The 1¾” continuous over-the-shoulder loop has an approximate 12” drop.
Sewing Tools You Need
Fabric and Other Supplies
- ¾ yard of 44"+ wide canvas/linen blend or similar for the print exterior panel; we used 44” Butterfly in Pink, a canvas/linen blend from the Beauty Shop collection by Melody Miller and Sarah Watts for Cotton + Steel Fabrics
NOTE: We got a full ¾ yard in order to get a perfect fussy cut, centering the butterfly motif. If you choose a print that is more random, you could get away with ½ yard
- ⅝ yard of 44"+ wide light to mid-weight canvas or similar for the coordinating solid exterior panel and strap; we used 58" 9.3oz canvas in Viking Purple, aka Ultra Violet (Pantone 2018 Color of the Year)
- ⅝ yard of 44"+ wide lightweight linen or similar in a subtle coordinating solid for the lining; we used 52” Brussels Washer Linen Blend in Natural from Robert Kaufman Fabrics
- 1 yard of 20”+ wide lightweight fusible interfacing; we used Pellon Shape Flex
NOTE: We used a full yard in order to cut the 30” strip for the handle interfacing as one piece. You could butt together two smaller pieces and get away ⅝ yard.
- ¼ yard or scrap of mid-weight fusible interfacing; we used Pellon Décor Bond
- ONE 1¼” - 1½” button; we used a 1½” wooden button purchased locally – we recommend a two-hole or four-hole button over a shank button for the best look
- All-purpose thread to match fabric
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Iron and ironing board
- Straight pins
- Hand sewing needle
- From the fabric for the print exterior panels (the Butterfly in our sample), fussy cut the following:
ONE 15" wide x 16" high rectangle for the exterior
ONE 9” wide x 15” high rectangle for the lining pocket
NOTE: Take the time to carefully fussy cut the printed panel. If you use the same fabric we chose, center the butterflies with the pink ones right side up and leave just over ½” above the wings of the top butterflies to account for the final top seam.
NOTE: Also pay attention when fussy cutting the lining pocket. Remember, the panel will be folded in half and that fold will become the top of the pocket.
- From the fabric for the solid exterior panel and the strap (the Ultra Violet Canvas in our sample), cut the following:
ONE 15" wide x 16" high rectangle for the exterior
ONE 4½” x 30” strip for the strap
- From the fabric for the lining and the button loop (Natural Washer Linen in our sample), cut the following:
TWO 15" wide x 16" high rectangles
ONE 1¼” x 9½” strip for the button loop
- From the mid-weight fusible interfacing, cut ONE 8” x 7” rectangle for the lining pocket.
- From the lightweight fusible interfacing, cut the following:
ONE 14” x 15” rectangle for the exterior printed panel
ONE 1¾” x 30” strip for the strap
NOTE: As mentioned above, if your chosen exterior fabrics balance well already, you may not need to interface the print panel. Our canvas/linen blend was lighter than the solid canvas so we beefed up the blend a bit with the interfacing. Also, you don’t have to cut one continuous 30” strip for the strap; you could cut two 15” lengths and butt them together.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Create the lining pocket
- Find the 9” x 15” lining pocket panel and the panel of mid-weight interfacing.
- Fold the pocket panel in half, wrong sides together, so it is now 9” x 7½” and press to set a center crease line.
- Unfold wrong side up so the crease line is visible. Center the interfacing on the fabric panel so one 8” edge is aligned with the center crease and there is ½” of fabric extending beyond the interfacing on the other three sides. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place.
- Refold the pocket panel in half, right sides together.
- Pin in place along the sides and bottom, leaving a 2-3” opening along the bottom for turning.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch along both sides and across the bottom. Remember to pivot at the corners and to lock the seam at either side of the opening.
- Clip the corners and press open the seam allowance.
- Turn the pocket right side out. Using a long, blunt tool, push out the corners so they are nice and sharp. A long knitting needle, chopstick or point turner works well for this.
- Press the pocket flat, pressing in the raw edges of the seam allowance at the opening so they are flush with the sewn seam.
- Find one of the lining panels. Place it right side up and flat on your work surface.
- Place the pocket on the lining panel. The folded top edge of the pocket should sit 4" down from the top raw edge of the lining panel and the pocket should be centered side to side. Pin in place along both sides and across the bottom.
- Re-thread the machine with thread to best match the pocket fabric in the top and bobbin and slightly lengthen the stitch.
- Edgestitch in place along both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners. Use a substantial backstitch at both top corners to help reinforce these stress points on the pocket. We used our Janome Ditch Quilting foot with the needle in the left position to keep a precise seam.
- Place the front and back lining panels right sides together, sandwiching the sewn pocket between the layers. Pin in place along both sides and across the bottom.
- Re-set for a normal stitch length.
- Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch along both sides and across the bottom. Remember to pivot at the corners.
- Box both bottom corners of the lining. The finished corners will be 2”, which means your box will be half that size or 1”. We used the Basic Box corner method. With the sewn fabric still right sides together, use both hands to pinch and pull apart the corner. As you pull, the fabric will begin to form a little peak with the corner point at the top and the seam lines running down the middle of the front and the back. Align these side and bottom seams, then measure for the box from the point of the seam.
- Stitch across the drawn line and trim back to ¼”.
- If you are new to this technique, you can check out our full, step-by-step tutorial: How To Box Corners for more details.
- With the lining still wrong side out, re-press the seam allowances open and flat, and fold down the top raw edge ½” all around.
Assemble the exterior
- Find the solid and print exterior panels and the panel of lightweight fusible interfacing.
- Center the interfacing on the wrong side of the printed panel. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place.
- Place the panels right sides together aligning the 16” sides. Pin along both 16” sides.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch both 16” sides, creating a tube open on both the top and bottom.
- Press the seam allowances open and flat.
- Re-thread the machine with thread to best match the solid canvas in the top and bobbin. Lengthen the stitch slightly.
- Topstitch along both sides of both seams. We used our Janome Ditch Quilting foot again, with the needle set to the left, to keep a precise and even seam to either side.
NOTE: You do have to “flatten” the tube a bit to get it to fit under the needle for the topstitching. If you traditionally have trouble with this, you can stitch one side seam and then topstitch it while the panels are still flat, leaving just one seam to topstitch after the panels are formed into a tube.
- Rotate the tube to align the two seams. This rotation means the seams will now be center front and center back on the finished bag and the the bag’s sides will be a smooth folded edge.
- With the seams aligned, pin along the bottom of the tube.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch across the bottom of the tube.
- The next step is the make matching 2” boxed corners in the exterior bag. We used the Cut Out Box method for these corners. Because of the rotation of the seams, the measuring is a bit different than for a traditional cut out box corner. This is because you are working with just one bottom seam rather than a matching bottom and side seam.
- Measuring from the fold and the bottom ½” seam, draw in both a 1” box and a ½” box.
- Cut out the ½” box.
- Flatten the corner with the seam at the exact center, and stitch across with a ½” seam allowance.
- Repeat to stitch a matching box in the opposite corner.
NOTE: If you’d like to review the traditional box corner techniques (remember, the above measurements are a bit unique to this bag’s corners), don’t forget to check out our full, step-by-step tutorial: How To Box Corners.
Create the strap
- Find the 30” length of fabric for the strap and the matching interfacing.
- Fold the fabric strip in half lengthwise, wrong sides together, and press lightly to set a center crease line.
- Open up the strip, wrong side up, so the crease line is visible.
- Place the interfacing against the wrong side of the fabric, aligning one long edge of the interfacing with the center crease line. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place.
- Fold back each 30” edge of the strip ½”.
- Re-fold, wrong sides together, along the original center crease line. The folded edges should be flush.
- Re-thread the machine with thread to best match the fabric in the top and bobbin. Slightly lengthen the stitch.
- Edgestitch along the folded edges down the length of the strap. The ends remain open and raw.
Create the button loop
- The tiny button loop is made in a similar manner to the strap.
- Find the 1¼” x 9½” strip.
- Fold the strip in half to set a center crease line, then fold in each raw edge to meet at that center line.
- Finally re-fold along the original crease line and press well.
- Re-thread the machine with thread to best match the fabric in the top and bobbin. Keep the slightly lengthened stitch.
- Edgestitch along the folded edges down the length of the narrow strip. The ends remain open and raw.
Place the button loop and strap
- Find the exterior bag. It should be right side out.
- Place the button loop over the center BACK seam. The raw edges of the loop should be flush with the top raw edge of the bag. Pin the loop in place.
- Find the strap. Place one end at each side of the bag. The raw edges of the strap ends should be flush with the top raw edge of the bag. When the bag lays flat on your work surface, you’ll be able to naturally find the sides, however, we recommend measuring from the center point out to each side to insure your strap ends are evenly spaced. Also make sure there are no twists in the loop of the handle. Pin the ends in place.
- Machine baste the loop and the strap ends in place, running your seam just shy of ½”.
- Press down the top raw edge ½” all around, which will bring the button loop and the strap up into their correct final positions.
Assemble exterior and lining to finish
- With the lining wrong side out and the exterior right side out, slip the lining inside the exterior so the two are now wrong sides together. Place the lining pocket against the back of the bag and match up the lining side seams with the centers of the shoulder straps. Pin the layers together all around the top.
- Adjust the folds as needed so the top fold of the lining is just below the top fold of the exterior. This helps insure there is no rolling of the lining to the outside. You don’t want the lining to show on the exterior of the bag.
- Re-thread the machine with thread to best match the lining in the top and to best match the exterior in the bobbin. Keep the slightly lengthened stitch.
- Edgestitch all around the top of the bag through both layers.
- Hand stitch the button over the center seam. We stitched our button in place with two vertical lines of stitching to echo the topstitching down the center of the bag. The top of our button sat 3” down the top finished edge.
NOTE: The best way to confirm placement with a button loop is to put a few towels into the bag to simulate it being filled up. Then pull the loop from the back down over to the front for a natural close. This helps you to remember to give yourself a bit of extra width across the top of the bag so the button loop is easier to open and close when the bag is filled up.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Kathy Andrews, What Sew Ever