Sometimes you want structure and sometimes you want soft. With slicing winds, hammering rain, and sheets of ice, winter serves up enough hard edges. Treat yourself or a friend to this easy-going sling bag. Canvas and cotton with fusible fleece in between creates a durable yet flexible tote. A solid strap lets you wear it cross-body so your hands are free, and the bag is snug to your side when that wind kicks up. We used the decorative stitches on our Janome Skyline S7 to make a super stylish strap from simple twill tape.
A slim silhouette is important on a cross-body design. You want the bag to lay smoothly at your side without pokey angles digging into your hip.
The button-and-loop closure at the top of the bag is adjustable, making it easy to reach in and grab what you need without having to take the bag off over your head.
Our strap is sized for an average adult of around 5' 5" to 6', and the top of the bag should hit at about hip level on most people. This lets you swing it around to the back if biking, like a messenger bag. The finished length (from front to back) is 75". You can test this length with a tape measure prior to cutting the webbing or twill tape and shorten or lengthen for your best fit.
We chose a combination of canvas and cotton from the recent Bound collection by April Rhodes for Art Gallery Fabrics. We loved the Indian blanket look of the canvas motif and its bright colors help inject some sunshine into the gray skies of winter. Be on the lookout for more and more canvas options in designer collections. You could even choose a solid canvas and create your own bold design with fabric paints or pens. The design works well for guys or gals.
The strap is made from two layers of twill tape (a lightweight cotton webbing would also work). With two layers, you can add the decorative stitching accents to the top strap then layer that with a plain back for a sleek finish, hiding the back of the stitching and all the stabilizer between the layers.
We love coming up with new ways to showcase decorative stitching. Most machines have at least a few pretty stitches, and some models, like the amazing new Skyline S7, have LOTS... 240 to be exact!
Decorative stitches are your machine's creative side. It's a little like baking a beautiful cake. The layers (the construction stitches) hold everything together, but the frosting (the decorative stitching) makes us want to take a bite.
Our thanks to Janome for providing us with the new Skyline S7 to test and to create some projects that take advantage of all its wonderful features. We also created a handy sewing caddy with vinyl pockets and a two-tone clutch in faux leather and suede. Both of these projects showcased the amazing AcuFeed™ Flex layered fabric feeding system, as well as the machine's penetration power and precision. This bag took advantage of all these and brought in the fun of "painting with stitches."
Our bag finishes at 14" wide x 16" high. The strap is one continuous length at 75" total with an open loop of about 43". The corners are standard, not boxed.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing Machine and standard presser foot
- Satin Stitch foot for decorative stitching; optional, but its tranparency and bright red arrow makes precise stitching easier
Fabric and Other Supplies
- 1 yard of 44"+ mid to heavyweight fabric for the bag exterior, strap; we used 58" Humanity Stripe in a canvas weight from the Bound collection by April Rhodes for Art Gallery Fabrics
NOTE: Yardage shown above includes extra for the precise fussy cutting to match the stripes front to back and to get an exact match on the front pocket.
- ⅝ yard of 44"+ quilting weight fabric for the bag lining; we used Path Marker in Slate from the Bound collection by April Rhodes for Art Gallery Fabrics
- 5 yards of 1½" - 1¾" soft webbing or twill tape in a color to coordinate with the exterior fabric; we used a light brown 1½" twill tape, purchased locally
NOTE: This length includes an extra ¾ yard to use to plan and test your decorative stitch patterns and widths.
- ½ yard of 45" mid-weight fusible interfacing; we used Pellon Decor Bond
NOTE: You need a small square for the lining pocket plus a 1¼" x 76" strip for the strap. We pieced two strips to conserve interfacing.
- Tear-away stabilizer for the decorative stitching
NOTE: As above, you need a 1¼" x 76" strip. Many tear-aways come as a long roll, which makes cutting a single strip possible; you can also piece strips.
- ONE large and thick button; we used a 1" faux leather button purchased locally
- ½ yard of 45"+ wide fusible fleece; we used Pellon Thermolam Plus Fusible Fleece
- All purpose thread to match fabric
- All purpose thread in TWO colors to coordinate with the fabric and stand out against the strap; we used navy and ivory
- 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
- Hand sewing needle
NOTE: Our chosen exterior fabric had a very distinct stripe, which we wanted to run horizontally. It was important the stripes matched exactly along the side seams and that the pocket was a perfect match against the front panel.
- From the fabric for the exterior (Humanity Stripe in our sample), fussy cut the following:
TWO 15" wide x 17" high rectangles for the bag front and back panels
ONE 12½" wide x 9" high rectangle for the exterior pocket
- From the fabric for the lining (Path Marker in our sample), cut the following:
TWO 15" wide x 17" high rectangles
ONE 1¾" x 15" strip for the tie
ONE 8" wide x 13" high rectangle for the pocket
- From the webbing or twill tape, cut TWO 76" lengths – set aside the remaining length for testing.
- From the fusible fleece, cut TWO 15" x 17" rectangles.
- From the fusible interfacing, cut the following:
ONE 8" x 6½" rectangle for the pocket
ONE 1¼" x 76" strip for the strap (or two 1¼" x WOF - width of fabric - strips to piece)
- From the tear away stabilizer, cut ONE 1¼" x 76" strip fro the strap (or two 1¼" x WOF strips to piece)
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
- Find the 12½" x 9" exterior pocket panel. Create a 1½" hem along the top edge. To do this, fold back the raw edge ½" and press. Fold back an additional 1" and press again. We used our Clover Hot Hemmer.
- Along the bottom edge of the pocket, make a standard ½" double turn hem. To do this, fold back the raw edge ¼" and press, then fold another ¼" and press again.
NOTE: With a narrow hem like this, you can also fold back and press the raw edge ½" first, then turn the raw edge down into the crease and press again. The result is the same, but the second way can be easier for some as working with a wider width often saves a burned finger or two.
- The canvas fabric does not require a lining for the pocket.
- Pin the narrow bottom hem in place.
- Thread the machine with thread to best match the top of the pocket in the top and bobbin (we used ivory). Length the stitch.
- Stitch the top hem in place close to the inner fold.
- Find the front exterior panel. Place it right side up and flat on your work surface.
- Place the hemmed pocket on the panel. The left raw edge of the pocket should be flush with the left raw edge of the panel. The bottom hemmed edge of the pocket should be 2" up from the bottom raw edge of the panel. Pin the pocket in place. If you fussy cut as we suggested above, the motif on the pocket should be an exact match against the front panel.
- Measure 5½" in from the left raw edges and draw a vertical line, using a fabric pen or pencil. This is the pocket dividing line.
- Edgestitch along the bottom of the pocket. Run a second line of stitching approximately ⅛" from the first.
- Create the same double line of stitching along the drawn pocket dividing line. We took the time to change out our thread colors to best match the colors of our fabric, using navy along the bottom edge and ivory for the dividing seam.
NOTE: You could also use a twin needle for this double stitching, which was our choice, as you can see from the photos above.
- Baste the raw side edges of the pocket in place against the front panel, staying within the standard ½" seam allowance.
Decorative stitch straps
- Find one 76" length of webbing/tape. Pin the tear away stabilizer to the back of the webbing/tape. Repeat with the scrap of webbing/tape.
- Using that small scrap of webbing/tape, test stitch patterns and widths to get the look you like best. On our Janome Skyline S7, we used Heirloom stitch #07 in a 9mm width down the center with Decorative stitch #01 in a 4mm width to either side. There is approximately ⅛" between the lines of stitching and ¼" from stitching to the outer edge of the webbing/tape. You do need slightly more space at the outer sides so you have room to stitch together the two lengths of webbing/tape and then stitch the strap to the bag.
- Stitch the center line of stitching first. Thread the machine with the appropriate thread color in the top and bobbin and set up your machine for the first decorative stitch.
NOTE: For all decorative stitching, we recommend using the machine's start/stop button rather than the foot control and running at a slow to medium speed.
- Re-thread the machine with the next color choice in the top and bobbin and re-set for the next stitch pattern. Stitch the additional lines of stitching to either side of center. We used the edge of our Satin Stitch foot as our guide, running the edge along the center stitching.
- When the decorative stitching is complete, tear away the stabilizer. It doesn't have to be perfectly clean; the back of the stitching will be hidden.
- Find the strip(s) of mid-weight fusible interfacing. Following manufacturer's instructions, fuse the interfacing to the wrong side of the stitched strap. Center the interfacing side to side down the full length.
- Find the plain 76" strap. Place the stitched strap and the plain strap wrong sides together. All edges of the straps should be flush. Pin together the two lengths.
- Re-thread the machine with thread to best match the webbing/tape in the top and bobbin. Re-set the machine to a straight stitch and increase the length.
- Edgestitch the strap lengths together along both sides to create the full strap with its decorative stitching on the front and a concealing plaing strap on the back.
Attach the straps to the bag
- Find the exterior front panel. Place it right side up and flat on your work surface.
- Place one end of the strap right side up on the front panel. The right side of the strap should be 2½" in from the right raw side edge of the panel. The left side of the strap will cross over the pocket concealing the pocket's raw side edge. The bottom raw edge of the strap should be flush with the bottom raw edge of the panel. The top will extend way beyond the panel. Pin the strap in place.
- The machine should still be threaded with thread to best match the webbing/tape in the top and bobbin and the stitch should still be lengthened.
- Topstitch the strap in place, running this new seam exactly on top of the existing strap edge seams. Starting at the bottom, go up one side. Stop approximately 2¾" from the top raw edge of the panel. We used one of our fabric's stripes as our guide for this stopping point - the bottom of the uppermost navy band.
- Pivot. Stitch straight across the strap. Stop at the opposite side seam. Pivot. Edgestitch down the opposite side to the bottom.
- Find the exterior back panel (the panel without the pocket). Place it right side up and flat on your work surface.
- Place opposite end of the strap 2½" in from the right side of this panel. The bottom raw edge of the strap should be flush with the bottom raw edge of the panel. Be extra careful to make sure there are no twists or turns in the strap from the front panel to the back. Pin in place.
NOTE: It's a bit of a brain teaser, but remember the strap ends need to be placed towards the RIGHT raw side edge on BOTH the front and back panels. Later when we stitch the panels together and turn right side out, the strap ends will then be opposite one another, forming the full cross-body strap.
- Move the already-stitched front panel out of the the way and edgestitch the strap to the back in the same manner as the front. Remember to stitch across the raw end when you get back to the bottom.
Sew front to back
- Place the front and back exterior panels right sides together, aligning all the raw edges. If using a stripe or other bold motif as we did, be especially careful to align the motif along the sides. As mentioned above, the sewn-down ends of the strap should be on opposite sides to one another when the panels are placed right sides together. Pin in place along the sides and across the bottom.
- Re-thread with thread to match the exterior in the top and bobbin and re-set the stitch length to normal.
- Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners.
- Clip the corners, press open the seam allowance, and turn right side out.
- Using a blunt end tool, like a chopstick or knitting needle, gently push out the corners so they are nice and square.
- The bottom ends of the strap are now nicely contained in the bottom seam of the bag.
- Find the two lining panels and the fusible fleece panels. Following manufacturers instructions, fuse the fleece to the wrong side of the fabric.
- Find the pocket panel and the pocket interfacing.
- Fold the pocket panel in half so it is now 8" x 6½" and press to set a center crease.
- Open up the panel wrong side up so the crease line is visible. Place the interfacing on one half of the wrong side of the fabric, using the center crease line as a guide.
- Following manufacturer's instructions, fuse the interfacing in place.
- Fold the fused panel in half again, right sides together. Pin in place along both sides and across the bottom, leaving a 3" opening along the bottom for turning.
- Re-thread the machine with thread to best match the lining in the top and bobbin.
- Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch along both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners. Remember to lock your seam at either side of the 3" opening.
- Clip the corners at a diagonal and press open the seam allowance.
- Turn the pocket right side out, gently pushing out the corners so they are nice and square. Press flat, pressing in the raw edges of the opening so they are flush with the sewn seam.
- Find one of the fused lining panels. Place the finished pocket on the panel. It should be centered side to side and the top of the pocket should be 4½" down from the top raw edge of the lining panel. Pin in place along both sides and across the bottom.
- Stitch the pocket in place along both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners. This closes the opening used for turning.
- Place the two lining panels right sides together, sandwiching the pocket between the layers. Leave an approximate 6" opening along the bottom for turning.
- Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch along both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners. Lock your seam on either side of the 6" bottom opening.
- Clip the corners. Press open the seam allowance.
- Find the 1¾” x 15” strip of lining fabric.
- Press the strip in half lengthwise, fold in each edge towards the center crease, then fold together to make the finished skinny tie.
- Edgestitch the length of the tie.
- Cut the 15" strip into two lengths: one at 7" and one at 8". Tie a knot in one end of each length and trim close to the knot. We did not finish the ends since the tie was so skinny. You could dab some seam sealant, like Fray Check on the ends to prevent raveling.
- Find the exterior bag. On the back panel, measure and mark the center along the top. Pin the raw ends of both ties at this point. The ties should be side by side with no gap in between. The knotted ends of the ties, which are slightly different lengths, are laying against the back of the bag.
- Machine or hand baste the ties in place.
Stitch together the lining and the exterior
- Find the exterior bag. It should be right side out.
- Find the lining bag. It should be wrong side out.
- Slip the exterior bag inside the lining bag so the two bags are now right sides together. Align all the seams and the bottom corners. The strap is sandwiched between the layers; make sure it is out of the way. The loop closure ties are also between the layers.
- Pin around the entire top of the bag.
- Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch around the entire top of the bag. Press the seam allowance open.
- Turn the bag right side out through the opening you left in the bottom of the lining.
- Press the lining down into place, smoothing the exterior. Pull the strap and the loop closure ties out into position. Press the layers flat around the top of the bag.
- Topstitch through all the layers around the top of the bag.
- Pull out the bottom of the lining. You can either edgestitch the opening closed or hand stitch it closed. We chose to hand stitch closed.
Button and loop
- Mark the center front of the bag directly opposite the loop closure ties.
- Stitch the large button in place. You should double up your thread to securely attach the button.
- Pull the two skinny ties away from the bag. Place them side by side and make sure they are laying flat. Measure approximately 3" down from the top of the bag and pin the ties at this point.
- Keeping the ties side by side, not overlapped, stitch across both ties at the 3" point. This turns the ties into a handy loop for the button.
NOTE: Depending on how much you want to carry in the bag, you could make your loop shorter or longer by adjusting the horizontal stitch point.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation: Debbie Guild