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Hand Bag with East African Motif

These are instructions on how to sew a bag using the East African Motif embroidery design. The bag is not quite rectangular: the bottom is wider than the top due to the shape of the embroidery. The finished size of the bag is 11 1/2" at the bottom, 10" at the top, 2 1/2" deep and 8" high.

For the project you will need fabric for the outer bag, fabric for the lining, medium-weight cut-away stabilizer and temporary spray adhesive, such as Sulky KK 2000 or similar product by other companies, a zipper and a ready handle 18"-20" long. The embellishments (polymer clay cabouchons and a tassel) are optional.

For the outer bag, we used black high quality polyester/wool. Felt does not fray, it's easy to work with, and its edges do not need finishing, which makes it perfect for this project.

For the lining we used cotton quilt fabric.

You will need a zipper at least 12" long, but in our experience, it's easier to work with a longer zipper and then cut it to fit. The one we used was 18" long.

The handle was attached with the help of ....

Polymer clay cabouchons are 20 mm x 10 mm, they were attached with universal glue.

For the embroidery, we used 80/12 embroidery needles, and for sewing, 90/14 universal needles.

Embroidering the Panels:

Out of black felt, cut 2 pieces measuring about 17" x 14". Spray the back of the pieces with temporary adhesive and apply medium-weight cut-away stabilizer. With your hands, smooth the fabric so there are no creases.

Hoop each of the pieces in turn and embroider the motif.

Sewing the Bag:

Trim the fabric around the embroidery. Leave 2 1/2" over the upper edge, 2" on the sides and 1 3/4" on the bottom.

East African Tote Step 1

Place the panels face to face, align the edges. Stitch along the bottom edge with seam allowance 1/2".

Open the seam and topstitch 1/4" from the seam on both sides.

With a chalk marker and a ruler, draw margins 1/2" from all edges.

On the upper and lower margins also mark the edges of the embroidery.

East African Tote Step 2

Out of felt, cut 2 strips measuring 2" x 10 1/2".

Place the zipper face up on the table. Pin the felt strips to the face of the zipper. Topstitch in place.

Place the embroidered piece on the table, face up. Position the piece with the zipper, face down, between the marked "borders" and 1/4" from the top edge. Stitch in place with seam allowance 1/4".

East African Tote Step 2

In the same way attach the second half of the zipper to the second panel.

Turn the working piece wrong side out. Pin the sides together and stitch twice 1/4" and 3/8" from the edge.

To form the bottom, separate the front and back of the tote at the corner. Center the bottom seam and side seam on top of each other. Draw a line across the corner from the corner of the embroidery on the front panel to the corner of the embroidery of the back panel. Machine-stitch along this line. Do not trim the seam.

Repeat for the second corner of the bottom. Fold the corners to the sides of the bag and hand-stitch the tips of the corners to the side seams.

Turn the work right side out. Cut the ends of the zipper, leaving about 2" on each end. Out of felt, cut 2 strips measuring 1" x 2". Fold them in half. Tuck the ends of the zipper inside the folded strip, pin, stitch along all edges.

Open the zipper. Fold the upper edges of the bag inside approximately in half, and align the seams of the upper part with the upper edge of the embroidery. Pin.

Topstitch in place.

Tuck the ends of the zipper inside the bag.

The Lining:

Out of fabric for the lining, cut a rectangle measuring 14" x 19 1/2". Fold it in half widthwise, align the edges and press to mark the bottom line.

For the inside pocket, out of the same fabric as the lining, cut a rectangle measuring 6 1/2" x 7 1/2". Fold in half lengthwise, face inwards. Stitch 2 sides closed. Turn the piece right side out. Press the seams. Tuck the raw edges inside, press and topstitch closed.

Open the lining piece and stitch the pocket to the lining approximately 3" from one of the upper edges. Fold the lining again, align the edges.

With a ruler measure 1/4" from the bottom corners along the bottom edge. Mark.

Measure 1/2" from the upper corners along the upper edge. Mark.
With a ruler, connect the marks with lines. Pin the layers together. Topstitch along the lines. Open and press the seams.

Make the box corners at the bottom as described for the bag above.
Turn the lining right side out. Fold the upper edge about 1/2" inside and press.

Turn the bag right side inwards. Insert it into the lining. Handstitch the upper edge of the lining to the upper edge of the bag under the zipper.

Turn the work right side out.

The Handle:

To attach the handls, out of felt, cut 4 strips 4" long. With scissors, round the corners. Take two strips, place the strips on top of each other. Topstitch along the edges. Repeat, to form two ovals like the one you see below.

Insert the parts though the handle rings. Attach to the bag with the help of rivets. You can also just sew them in place.

You can further embellish the bag with polymer clay cabouchons. Glue them to the surface with univesal glue.

You are done.


Happy Stitching!

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