Thursday, January 29, 2015

Handmade Bags - A Pattern Book Review

Having sewn small bags from Japanese Pattern books previously, I was delighted when this new English translation of a book of bag patterns from Tuttle Publishing arrived.

Emiko Takahashi's book, Handmade Bags in Natural Fabrics, has 25 individual full-sized patterns from which 60 bags can be sewn. There are easy patterns for tote bags, bags with zips and pockets, shopping basket bags, and purses with clasps.





The information in the book is very detailed, even including a section on the different types of interfacing and wadding to be used in each bag. All patterns have to be traced and are in both inches and centimetres. Seam allowances (all illustrated) have to be added when cutting.





There are various types of straps and handles shown, and 2 pages of sewing basics (sewing and hem stitches and seam finishes) are also presented. This book of bag patterns provides all the information needed for handstitching each bag.


I had a momentary lapse of reason when I considered handsewing a bag, but thankfully that passed quickly when I realised that the pattern instructions can be easily adapted to machine sewing!





The bag I picked to sew was the Reversible Full-circle Bag, mainly because there was a completely different use that I planned for it.





It is a lined circular bag with loops (or cord carriers) at intervals around the edges. The 16 individual loops are sewn from folded rectangles of fabric. As a change to the pattern I used lengths of red and green stitched ribbon from Jane Means. Using ribbon made sewing the bag much, much faster.



The final bag was sewn in a floral cotton fabric with a red satin contrast fabric from my stash. As the bag is reversible, either of these fabrics can be on the outside. The bag straps are from a length of cord with is threaded through the ribbon loops.






And the alternative use that I planned for it?

Well that caused many puzzled looks and hilarity when I told my family that it was a skirt for a tree, they really thought that it was a joke, until they saw it in place and they were very impressed!

I got the idea from similar patterns I have seen on the Internet. If made larger, this can be used as a floor mat and then gathered up to help tidy away toys, for example.







The book is designed for beginners which I would mostly agree with. There are no cutting layouts, and though they are not necessary for sewing the bags, they make layout and cutting a easier for anyone with little sewing experience. However 6 of the bags are illustrated in more detail with photo tutorials, and all the illustration have the usual excellent detail associated with Japanese sewing patterns.

There are more patterns that I plan on sewing from this book. One in particular is the purse pattern (lower left above) which includes instructions on how to use a purse frame. The clear illustrations make it look much easier than I thought it would be.




(Tuttle Publishing sent me this pattern book free. All opinions are my own. I have been happily sewing from Japanese language pattern books since 2009)










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  1. Clever use of the pattern, Angela! It makes a rather nice tree skirt.;)

  2. Thanks Cindy :-) We replaced the carpet with wooden floors in our living room, so I needed to protect the new floor, so a very useful skirt also ;-)