Blue Bag


  • 50cm of fabric for the outer bag and handles
  • 40cm of fabric for the lining
  • Variegated machine quilting thread
  • 40cm of cotton or thin poly wadding

Davina has chosen variegated threads by Valdini for this project. Alternatives shown on the sample are by YLI. If you dont want to use a variegated thread the Dekor threads by Gütterman have a lovely sheen.

Finished Size

Small tote bag

Skill Level


Davina says there seems to be an unwritten rule that machine quilting mustnt have lines that cross. She hates rules, so feeling adventurous has designed this bag with patterns that are meant to cross over and overlap. Lets all be daring together!


Figure 1: Simple machine quilting patterns
Figure 1: Simple machine quilting patterns
  1. If you are unsure which fabrics or threads to use together then work a sample first. Sew together a selection of fabrics and use a range of threads this will also help you check the tension and choose what colour thread to have in the bobbin.
  2. Place a piece of wadding and backing behind. Pin in just a couple of places to hold together. Using your first selected thread, sew a row of gentle curves down the piece across all the fabrics. You can keep the foot as normal for this and just gently wave from side to side. When you reach the end leave the needle in the fabric and turn round and work another row back up the piece, gently crossing the first row occasionally. Repeat a few more times; this will give you an idea of how the colour variation works.
Practice Sample
Practice Sample
  1. Remove the foot and replace with a darning foot and lower the feed dogs if you can. Start another row, secure the thread and work some gentle letter e's all joined together. Occasionally change direction to fill in a hole.
  2. Pebbles are a variation of the e row. They are worked as a figure of eight, you can go round and round these a couple of times before moving onto the next pebble, which gives them more definition. See Figure 1 or the photo for more ideas. The diagram in Figure 1 just shows them worked as one loop so you can see where to go. Add variety by changing the size of the pebbles and filling in gaps with small gravel.
Figure 2: Bag patterns showing quilting areas
Figure 2: Bag patterns showing quilting areas

Quilted Fabric

  1. Cut a piece of wadding, backing and bag fabric 26 x 14in. Layer together and lightly mark the quilting areas if desired as shown on Figure 2. You will be machine quilting the whole rectangle and then cutting out the bag shape as this makes it easier to work the quilting.
  2. Pin the layers together in a few places not too many or you will have to keep removing the pins.
  3. Starting in the central area sew gentle waves from the top to bottom of the piece. You could decide to remove the foot and lower the feed dogs and work from side to side but Davina finds working in the usual up and down direction is easiest for beginners and means you can keep a normal foot on for this pattern.
  4. Sew pebbles and es one to the left and one to the right of the central area. If whilst sewing your sample you have found a pattern you really like use that instead. Cut and sew the gussets in the same way, cutting fabric pieces about 2in larger than the finished size. Lightly draw the finished gusset size and work the pattern leaving a 1⁄2in margin around the edge of the piece so the pattern is not caught in the seam allowance. Do not trim the gusset fabric at this point.
  5. Make a paper pattern for the bag and gusset shapes from greaseproof paper. Following Figure 3 lay the pattern over your quilted fabric, checking that there are no obvious gaps. Fill in with more quilting if needed.
  6. Cut out the bag front and back as one piece with the base. For the gussets leave 1in extra fabric on the lining to use to turn over the seams later.
Figure 3: Bag pattern pieces
Figure 3: Bag pattern pieces

Making up the bag

  1. Carefully pin one gusset in place RS together and stitch with a 1⁄4in seam. The base is wider than the top. Repeat for the other end. Make sure the bag ends and sides are level and trim carefully if needed.
  2. With the bag inside out trim the seam allowances of the front fabric and wadding to a neat 1⁄4in. Roll the extra lining fabric over the seam and slip stitch in place as if you were sewing down a binding.
  3. Cut two strips 15 1⁄2 x 1 1⁄2in from fabric for the handle and cut two strips of wadding 15 x 1in.
Finished Bag
Finished Bag
  1. Fold the handle fabric RS together and place the wadding unfolded underneath with the raw edge of the wadding even with the two raw edges of the folded fabric. Stitch a 1⁄4in seam along the length of the wadding.
  2. Turn the handles RS out, pulling the wadding into place as you do so. This can be tricky, if you have a rouleau turner use that or try a safety pin.
  3. Cut a strip 1 1⁄4in x 30in from the bag outer fabric. Press a narrow hem on one short side. With RS together sew around the top of the bag. Overlap the end and trim as necessary.
  4. Fold to the inside and slip stitch in place. Tuck the raw ends into the ends of the handles and pin in position level with the wavy lines on the bag. Check that the front and back are even and slip stitch in place.

Note: If the inside of your bag looks a real mess with loops and loose ends everywhere, dont panic. Cut yourself some more bag pieces from lining fabric and make up as above. Put inside the bag WS together to make a lining. Then continue from step 3 above to add the handles and binding.

First published in Popular Patchwork Volume 13 Number 7 - July 2004