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The Quick & Easy Angela Bag

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This cute tall and narrow tote is named after my very favorite Angela, my oldest daughter. She designed the bag with a bit o' help from her very favorite aunt. Together they created a simple yet stylish shoulder bag, using Angela's own stash of fave fabric scraps and cotton webbing for the strap. We thought it turned out so well, we asked the designer's permission to share it with you. She graciously agreed to let us re-create the bag, and even let us pick our own fabric. I guess the whole 'designer thing' hasn't gone to her head yet, causing her to throw scissors across the room and shriek, "Tell that Klum woman and Tim what's-his-name to get me some fabric I can work with!!! " If you want to make your very own Angela Bag, you get to pick your own fabric too... and no one will throw scissors at you – I promise.

If you're brand new to bags, this is a super fast and very simple project to kick off your experience. It starts as one long panel, then folds up with finished seams inside and out. 

We liked the way the pretty curves at the top stood up straight and tall. If you'd prefer your bag to have a floppier top so the curved ends overlap one another forming a loose closure, cut the batting back from each curved end about 4-5". Your batting piece will be a simple rectangle approximately 12" x 22".

Dive into your scrap stash for your favorite bold prints – quilting cotton would work fine, but a slightly heavier substrate, like a canvas/linen blend or denim would also be excellent. Since the bag folds, a random print works much better than a directional motif – as one side of a directional design would always be upside down after folding into the final shape. A coordinating solid quilting cotton would be perfect for the lining.

As one of our very first bag projects here on the site, The Angela Bag has been a "Most Popular" winner for over seven years! So popular in fact, that our publishers requested we do a similar version for our first book: Sew4Home Bags & Totes. We amped up the color with a hot pink palette and created the shoulder strap from standard webbing. The book is still available from your favorite in-store or online newsstand and contains this Wave Top Bag as well as nine other fun and fashionable bags. 

The Angela Bag finishes at approximately 11" wide x 14" high x 2" deep with a solid strap about 40" that can be worn over the shoulder or crossbody.

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

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  • Scraps of various cotton fabrics or ¾ yard cuts; as mentioned above, we recommend quilting cotton for the lining and although it would also work for the exterior, a slightly heavier substrate, such as a canvas/linen blend, denim or similar would be even better
    NOTE: You need TWO pieces for the bag itself, both 12" x 32" plus TWO pieces for the interior pockets - one at 8" x 8" an one at 5" x 5"
  • Scrap or ⅓ yard of 36"+ wide lightweight batting (ONE piece 12" x 32")
  • 1¼ yards of 1½" wide strapping material: you could use soft cotton webbing, make your own strap from coordinating fabric, or use a leather or suede - we originally used a burnt orange faux suede binding 
  • Tracing or pattern paper
  • All purpose thread to match fabric and strapping material
  • Iron and ironing board
  • See-through ruler
  • Fabric pen or pencil
  • Seam gauge
  • Seam ripper
  • Scissors 
  • Rotary cutter and mat
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Straight pins

Getting Started

  1. From the fabric for the bag exterior, cut the following:
    ONE 12" x 32" rectangle 
    ONE 8" x 8 square 
    ONE 5" x 5" square
  2. From the fabric for the bag lining, cut ONE 12" x 32" rectangle.
  3. From the lightweight batting, cut ONE 12" x 32" rectangle.
  4. From your tracing or pattern paper, cut ONE 12" x 12" square.
  5. Draw a free-form curve on one side of the square. Don't be scared; there's no wrong way to do it. Just start and end the curve about ½" from either edge. Ours looks a bit like a cresting ocean wave... for the poetic ones amongst you.
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  6. Cut the curve along your drawn line.
  7. Layer your large rectangles as follows: batting, lining right side facing up, exterior wrong side facing up (eg. lining and exterior right sides together). 
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  8. Pin your curve template in place on one end of the assembled layers. Align the side edges and bring the curve very close to the raw edges of one end. Pin and carefully cut.
  9. FLIP the template and cut the opposite end.
    NOTE: You need to flip the template so the curves are cut in the same relative position and will match up when you fold up the bag to stitch the sides.
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At Your Sewing Machine

Create and place the pockets

  1. Find the 8" x 8" interior pocket piece. Orient it on your work surface so your fabric design is running the right way.
  2. Fold in ½" on both sides and the bottom and press well.
  3. Fold in along the top ½" and press, then fold again 1" and press.
  4. Stitch close to the 1" folded edge to create a simple hem along the top of the pocket.
  5. Repeat with the 5" x 5" interior pocket piece.
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  6. Separate your main layers.
  7. Find the curved lining piece and place it, right side up and flat on your work surface.
  8. Place each pocket 5" down from the top of the curve and centered side to side. On the large pocket, this should be about 2⅝" from each side. On the small pocket, about 4" from each side. Make sure the top of each pocket is facing the curve at either end. Pin in place.
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  9. Edgestich each pocket in place along both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners.

Create the body of the bag

  1. Re-assemble your layers: batting, lining with right side (pocket side) facing up, exterior with wrong side facing up.
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  2. Carefully align all the raw edges of all three layers. Pin in place, leaving an approximate 5-6" opening along one side.
  3. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch around all sides of the layered fabrics. Go slowly around the curved ends, stopping as needed, with your needle in the down position, to slightly adjust your presser foot position if needed. Remember to lock the seam at either side of the 5-6" side opening.
  4. Trim the seam allowance back to ¼" and clip the curves and the corners. Do not trim back the seam allowance along the opening.
  5. Turn right side out through the opening. Use your finger or a long blunt tool, like a chopstick, knitting needle or point turner to help smooth out the curved ends and gently push out the corners.
  6. Fold in the raw edges of the opening so they are flush with the sewn seam. Pin in place.
  7. Fold the bag in half, right sides together. Make sure the layers are smooth and flat across the bottom fold. Align the top curves so they are a perfect match. Pin along both sides.
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  8. Using a ⅜" seam allowance, stitch both sides from bottom to top.
  9. With the bag still wrong side out, the next step is to box the bottom corners of the bag.
  10. Using both hands, pinch and pull apart the bottom corner.
  11. As you pull, the fabric will begin to make a little peak with the corner point at the top and the seam line running down the middle of one side.
  12. Center the side seam within this triangle peak.
  13. Measure 1" from the point of the peak and draw a line.
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  14. Pin your folded peak in place and stitch along this drawn line.
  15. Stitch back and forth along the line two or three times to reinforce.
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  16. Do NOT trim away the peak on either side. There are no raw edges, so we are going to simply leave the little peaks as is – they'll be hidden inside the bag.
    NOTE: If you are brand new to boxing corners, we have a full tutorial that shows two different methods.

Attach the strap

  1. Prepare your strap as needed. If you are making a strap from fabric scraps, you'll need to fold and stitch a narrow strip to make a long tube. If you are using a cotton webbing or suede (we used faux suede) or leather there's no fraying and so no need to finish the edges, you're good to go at a width of approximately 1½".
  2. Cut your strap to a length of approximately 45". Pin it in place at this length and try it on, adjust it slightly longer or shorter to best fit your style.
  3. Fold under one end approximately 2" and pin in place at the top of the side seam. Center the folded end over the seam.
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  4. Your inside finished seam allowance should be spread open so it lays as flat as possible.
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  5. Box stitch in place. You'll need to maneuver the bag carefully under the presser foot so you keep everything flat. Don't be afraid to twist and fold the body of the bag to get it to lay right; you can press it when you're done.
    NOTE: If you need help getting started, we have a full tutorial on the X Box stitch for securing straps and more
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  6. Repeat to attach the other end of the strap.

Contributors

Project Design: Angela Johnson and Anne Adams 
Sample Creation: Liz Johnson

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