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Elegant but with just a touch of whimsy, our cinched evening bag miniaturizes the classic bucket shape. We selected two of the most popular special occasion fabrics: velvet and silk – in particular, a Royal Velvet with a gorgeous drape and Silk Dupioni with its wonderfully crisp, slightly textured finish. We use ribbon as both a bright accent on the exterior and a striking drawcord to create the softly gathered top. 

Velvet is a lovely fabric to work with, but does require a little bit of extra attention. In particular, don’t plan on pressing it the way you would cotton. You cannot, should not and will not ever touch an iron directly to velvet! Place the velvet nap-down onto a pin/velvet board, a plush bath towel or simply another layer of velvet, then steam from the back, holding your iron above the fabric. For more tips about this luxurious fabric, check out our tutorial on sewing with velvet and its cousin, velveteen.

We went with a matching color for our silk dupioni lining, but you could also add a hidden surprise by using a contrasting tone. If you go for that pop of color, do make sure it still blends with the eyelets and the accent ribbon as you do see hints of the lining within the top gathers.

You will need two ribbons, both approximately ⅞” in width. We recommend the strength of a solid grosgrain for the drawcord. It also comes in the widest range of colors to best coordinate with your velvet.

The accent ribbon circling the base of the bag breaks up the solid velvet exterior with a charming border. We chose a lighthearted yet stylish design from Tula Pink for Renaissance Ribbons.

Our compact evening bag finishes at approximately 5½” wide x 10¾” high. The single loop handle comes up from the inside so it doesn’t disturb the cinched top. You can hold it with one hand or carry it over your wrist.

The ribbon drawcord is simply tied in a bow to secure, but that doesn’t mean you have to untie and re-tie over and over to access the contents. Oh no – we wouldn’t do that to you! There’s a clever little elastic casing at the back of the ribbon that allows the gathers to spread apart just enough to put your hand in and grab what you need.

It’s the perfect holiday handbag for yourself or as a gift.

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

  • ¾ yard of 44″+ wide velvet or similar for the bag exterior and handle
  • ½ yard of 44″+ wide silk or similar for the bag’s lining
  • ¾ yard of ⅞“ accent ribbon
  • 1½ yards of ⅞“ grosgrain ribbon
  • ¼ yard of 45”+ wide fusible fleece
  • Scrap or ⅛ yard of ¼” elastic; you need just 3”
  • TWELVE ¼” eyelets; we used Dritz Large Eyelets in Nickel
  • Appropriate setting tool for the eyelets, we used Dritz Eyelet Pliers
  • All purpose thread to match fabric and ribbon
  • See-through ruler
  • Fabric pen or pencil; if you use a dark velvet, make sure you have a light colored pen or pencil – we used a white pencil throughout
  • Seam gauge
  • Seam ripper
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Straight pins

Getting Started and Pattern Download

  1. Download and print out the Base Pattern and the Eyelet Guide Template.
    IMPORTANT: The Pattern and the Template are each ONE 8½” x 11″ sheet. They have been bundled into one PDF file to make the download easier. You must print the PDF file at 100%. DO NOT SHRINK to fit the page. There is a guideline on each page to confirm your printout is to scale.
  2. Cut out the Base Pattern piece along the solid outer line.
  3. Cut out the three sections of the Eyelet Guide Template along the solid lines. Using the arrows printed on each section as your guide, assemble the three sections to create the final length. Butt together the sections and tape in place; do not overlap.
  4. From the velvet, cut the following:
    FOUR 6½“ wide x 15½” high rectangles for the main panels
    ONE 2” x 25” strip for the handle
    NOTE: We cut our strip along the selvedge, which allowed us to use the stiffness of the selvedge to help stabilize the handle. This step is shown below, however, it is optional. You could also simply cut a strip from the main section of the velvet.
    Using the Base Pattern, cut ONE
    Cut a small notch at each of the four numbered marks on the Base Pattern; these clips will be used later to properly center the base into the bag.
  5. From the silk, cut the following:
    ONE 23” wide x 9” high rectangle
    Using the Base Pattern, cut ONE, then as above, cut a notch at the four marked points.
  6. From the fusible fleece, cut the following:
    ONE 22” x 8” rectangle
    Trim the Base Pattern along the dotted seam line, then use this trimmed pattern to cut ONE from the fleece.
  7. Cut the grosgrain ribbon into ONE 44” length and ONE 6” length.
  8. Cut the accent ribbon into ONE 23” length.
  9. Cut the elastic into ONE 3” length.

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

Create the lining

  1. Find the lining panel, lining base, fleece panel, and fleece base.
  2. Center the fleece on the wrong side of the main lining panel and the lining base. When properly positioned, there should be ½” of fabric showing beyond the fleece on all sides. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place.
  3. Run a gathering stitch along the bottom of the lining (one 23″ side), starting and stopping ½” in from the edge of the fabric. We stitched right along the fleece.
  4. Fold the lining in half, right sides together, aligning the 9” sides. Pin in place.
  5. Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch together to form a tube.
  6. In the Getting Started section above, you should have cut notches into the base panel as alignment points. These are similar to the points on the face of a clock (although our base is an oval rather than a full circle): 12:00, 3:00, 6:00, and 9:00.
  7. You now need to create matching notches in the bottom of the lining tube.
  8. Find the lining tube. It should still be wrong side out. Its seam is the 12:00 point. With this seam pulled to one side, flatten the tube. There is now a fold exactly opposite the seam, clip a notch in this fold.
  9. Bring the notch and seam together and flatten the tube again.
  10. Clip two additional notches in the resulting outer folds. You should now have four quadrant notches on the lining tube to match up with the four notches on the base panel.
  11. Place the base panel into the tube, right sides together, matching up the 12:00, 3:00, 6:00, and 9:00 notches on both pieces.
  12. Pin just these marked points first, then pull the gathering stitching to slightly gather the tube to fit the base panel. Make sure the gathers are even. Fill in with pins around the entire base. Don’t be afraid to use lots of pins to get a good fit.
  13. Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch all around. Go slowly and concentrate on keeping the seam allowance even.
  14. Finish the seam allowance with your favorite method.
    NOTE: If you are new to this technique, we have a full, step-by-step tutorial on inserting a flat circle into a tube. We also have a good series on machine sewn seam finishes

Create the handle

  1. Find the 2” x 25” velvet strip. As mentioned above, we cut our strip to include the selvedge.
  2. Place the strip wrong side up on your work surface.
  3. Using your marking pen or pencil, draw a line down the center along the entire length (1” in from each edge).
  4. Fold in and pin each long side so the folded-in raw edges meet in the middle at the drawn line.
    NOTE: Remember, velvet is not a friend of pressing, so your folds need to be pinned or basted in place rather than pressed in place.
  5. Fold in half, enclosing the raw edges and, so the folded edges are flush.
  6. Edgestitch along the folded edges to secure. Both ends are raw.

Create the exterior

  1. Find the four 6½” x 15½” exterior panels.
  2. Aligning the 15½” sides, pin two of the panels right sides together.
  3. Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch together.
  4. Repeat to stitch the remaining two panels in place, creating a 23” x 15½” panel.
  5. Lightly steam open the seam allowances from the wrong side. Remember, do not touch the fabric, but blast the steam from just above it.
    NOTE: For more tips, as mentioned above, take a look at our tutorial on Working with Velvet and Velveteen
  6. With the sewn panel still wrong side up, draw a horizontal line across the top, 1” down from the top raw edge.
  7. Flip the panel so it is now right side up on your work surface. Find the accent ribbon.
  8. Place the top edge of the ribbon 3” up from and parallel with the bottom raw edge of the panel. Pin the ribbon in place.
  9. Re-thread the machine with thread to best match the ribbon in the top and bobbin.
  10. Edgestitch the ribbon in place along both long sides.
  11. Find the finished handle.
  12. Bend it into a loop, making sure there are no twists along its length.
  13. Place one raw end over each outer-most seam of the exterior panel.
  14. Pin in place and then baste in place for extra security.
  15. As you did above with the lining, run a gathering stitch across the bottom of the panel, starting and stopping ½” in from the raw edge of the fabric.
  16. Fold the exterior panel in half, right sides together. Be especially careful to align the ends of the ribbon. Pin in place.
  17. Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch the seam.
  18. Unlike the lining tube, you don’t need to notch the exterior tube because its four vertical seams are the four quadrant points. But, make sure you line them up correctly. The numbers on the Base Panel pattern relate to the exterior seams: 1 should match up to the back seam, 3 to the front seam, and 2 and 4 align with the side seams.
  19. Place the base panel into the tube, matching these notches. Then slightly gather the tube to fit the base and pin in place.
  20. As above with the lining, this is a soft gather that nicely matches the softness of the velvet. Make sure your gathers are even within each quadrant of the base panel.
  21. Re-thread the machine with thread to best match the velvet in the top and bobbin.
  22. Stitch the base panel in place, using a ½” seam allowance.

Place the lining into the exterior and create the upper fold

  1. Fold down the top raw edge of the exterior so it aligns with the previously drawn line (the line that was 1” down from the raw edge, which means this is a ½” fold).
  2. Pin in place and then baste in place all around.
  3. Find the lining; it should be wrong side out.
  4. Make sure the exterior is right side out.
  5. Slip the lining inside the exterior so the two are now wrong sides together.
  6. Align the back seams and push the lining all the way down so the base panels sit flat against one another.
  7. Fold down the exterior an additional 3¾” so it covers the top raw edge of the lining.
  8. Pin in place all around. We also pinned along the top fold to further prevent any shifting.
  9. Pull the handle UP into position so it is directly in line with the side seams and pin in place.
  10. Make sure the machine is still threaded with thread to best match the velvet in the top and bobbin. Slightly lengthen the stitch.
  11. Topstitch all around 3½” from the top folded edge. Remember, this seam not only secures the bottom edge of the fold, it should also catch and secure the bottom of the handle in its UP position. Start and stop the topstitching at a seam to best hide the overlap.

    NOTE: Because our Janome studio machines have such wonderful measurement markings that extend from the needle plate onto the throat of the machine, we were able to simply use these markings to keep a consistent 3½” seam all the way around. If you do not have this option, you could pre-mark a line of pins to follow, removing them as you stitched. Or you turn the entire bag wrong side out and stitch from the lining side for better visibility of the inner fold. In any situation, if your machine has a free arm, now is a good time to use it. 
  12. Edgestitch around the top folded edge of the bag as well, keeping this seam about ⅜” from the fold. But make sure to move the handle out of the way for this seam. You want the handle caught in the bottom seam but not the top seam!

Create the elastic casing for the drawcord ribbon

  1. Find the 44” and 6” lengths of grosgrain ribbon as well as the 3” length of elastic.
  2. Fold each length of ribbon in half to find its exact center. Place a pin at these points.
  3. On the 6” length, fold under each end ¼” and press in place.
  4. Place the 6” length on top of the 44” length aligning the two center pins.
  5. If necessary, re-thread the machine with thread to best match the ribbon in the top and bobbin.
  6. Edgestitch along each side of the 6” length, creating a casing that is open on both folded ends.
  7. Slip the elastic into the casing. Align one end of the elastic with one folded end of the casing. Stitch down the end of the casing, securing that one end of the elastic.
  8. Reach into the opposite open end of the casing and grab the free tail of the elastic. Stretch the elastic until it is flush with the opposite folded end of the casing.
  9. Stitch this end of the elastic in place, which will cause the elastic to shrink up and gather the casing.
  10. Set aside the ribbon.

Insert the eyelets

  1. Find the Eyelet Guide Template. Cut out each eyelet hole. You don’t need to cut a perfect circle; you only need a small opening through which to mark the fabric.
  2. Place the template on the top of the exterior so the center of the eyelet holes are 2¼” down from the top folded edge of the exterior. Pin the guide in place, matching the bag’s seams with the template all around.
  3. Mark each eyelet position with a fabric pen or pencil.
  4. Yes, the front eyelets are slightly closer together.
  5. Cut a small hole at each marked point. Again, this doesn’t need to be a huge hole. Just create a small opening into which you can insert the eyelet. The eyelet itself will help open the hole all the way. With a smaller starting hole, you are less likely to have any tearing of the fabric around the eyelet.
  6. Insert the eyelet at each opening.
  7. Secure with the eyelet pliers. These pliers make the process easy and accurate.

  8. Find the grosgrain ribbon. Centering the elastic over the back seam of the bag, weave the ribbon in and out through the eyelets, moving first around to the right and then around to the left. Yes, the ribbon is larger than the eyelets. This is by design. Simply cut each end of the ribbon into a point, then slightly roll it to fit into the eyelet. The ribbon will continue to roll in on itself as you weave in and out. This doubles the ribbon for more strength through the eyelets, but it can still flatten out again once it exits through the front center eyelets so you can tie a pretty bow.
  9. Cinch to your desired tightness and tie a bow.
  10. Finish the ends the ribbon with your favorite method: trim and seal with seam sealant, lightly melt with a match (if working with a rayon grosgrain), or make a tiny hem.


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

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