Chenille Bag

Materials

  • 10 pieces of fabric 16in (41cm) square
  • 40cm of space dyed fabric for the gusset and handles
  • 120 x 20cm of wadding for the gusset and handles
  • 25cm of blue fabric for the binding and handles
  • Sharp pointed scissors for cutting the chenille

Finished Size

15in square (38cm) plus handles

Skill Level

Intermediate

Making the chenille fabric

This project is ideal for using up some of those 'why did I buy this?' fabrics. If you have material to spare, cut small samples 5in square and layer in different orders. The top layer of fabric provides the texture while the other layers just give a touch of colour at the edges. When you have sewn and cut the strips you will be able to decide which order you like best. See the photographs showing the fabric before and after washing.

  1. Lay the first fabric RS down – this will show as the lining of the bag. Add the remaining fabrics RS up with the edges level. Put five fabrics in each pile – one pile will be the front and one will be the back of the bag. They do not have to match.
  2. Sew a line across the pile of fabrics from corner to corner. If you have a walking foot it will help keep the layers together, or you could safety pin them in place.
  3. Using the edge of your foot as a guide, sew rows parallel to the first row until one side of the square is full of lines. I used just over a machine-foot's width.
  4. Turn the fabric and fill the other side with parallel lines to match the first.
  5. Taking care not to cut the base fabric, cut the fabric apart between each line. You can buy a special rotary cutter, which is used for cutting chenille, but I used scissors. This is very tiring on your hands so stop and rest half way through if you don't want blisters! Keep checking that you are not snipping into the base layer.
  6. Wash on a hot cycle and then tumble dry. If you don't have a tumble drier you can use a hair dryer, ruffling the fabrics as you go. Trim the fabric to 15in square.
The Fabric Layers
The Fabric Layers

Making up the bag

Cut:

  • 5in strips from your gusset fabric
  • 5 x 45in of wadding
  • 1in strips of space-dyed for handles (total length 65in)
  • 2in strips from plain blue for the handles (total length 65in)
  • Two 1 1⁄2in strips of wadding 32 1⁄2in long
  • 2in strips of blue for the binding (120in in total)
Sewn detail
before washing
Sewn detail before washing
Sewn detail
after washing
Sewn detail after washing
Figure 1: Joining the back and gusset
Figure 1: Joining the back and gusset
Figure 2: Sewing the mitred corner
Figure 2: Sewing the mitred corner
Figure 3: Position of optional pocket
Figure 3: Position of optional pocket
  1. Make the gusset by joining 5in strips to make a piece just over 90in long. Press a 1⁄4in hem on one end.
  2. Lay the gusset fabric WS up and place the wadding centrally on top. Fold the gusset fabric over making sure that the end with the hem is on top. Pin or tack securely and then slip-stitch the overlap.
  3. Quilt the gusset in straight lines along the length; I used three rows of quilting. If you have a fancy quilting-stitch you could use it here, or you could quilt diagonally to match the chenille of the front and back pieces.
  4. To bind the top edges of the bag sections, fold the binding strips in half lengthwise and press. Pin to the front with the edges level, sew with 1⁄4in seam. Fold the binding to the back and slip-stitch in place by hand.
  5. Place one bag section RS down and pin the gusset in position with WS together; it is quite fiddly at the corners. Sew to within 1⁄4in of the corner and then either swivel the bag under the foot or finish off the stitching and start again. This is like sewing an inset seam. If you are struggling, round the corners off and sew in a continuous seam. Figure 1 shows the bag with the first pieces in position. Add the second side the same way.
  6. Fold the remaining binding strips in half lengthwise and press. Neatly fold one end and use to start binding the bag. You are binding the seams exactly as if it were a quilt top. Start at the top and pin in place to the first corner. Sew with 1⁄4in seam, stopping 1⁄4in away from the corner. Follow the diagrams in Figure 2, folding first away from the corner and then back in line. This leaves you with a small amount of extra fabric to fold into a mitre when the sewing is complete.
  7. Repeat this to finish the binding on each side. Fold to the back and slip-stitch in place; add a couple of stitches to the mitred corner to keep the fabric flat.
  8. To make the handles, cut strips 32 1⁄2in long from the 2in blue strips, the space-dyed strips and the wadding.
  9. First lay the wadding and then the blue fabric RS up, and the spacedyed fabric RS down. Sew with a 1⁄4in seam having the right-hand edges level.
  10. Fold the wadding out of the way and then sew the second seam with the blue and the space-dyed fabrics RS together.
  11. Turn through and press. You will have a narrow band of spacedyed fabrics in the centre of one side and all blue on the other. Quilt in the ditch of the space-dyed if required.
  12. Fold the ends in neatly and slip-stitch in place on the inside of the bag.
Sewing the layers
Sewing the layers

Other ideas

  • Pockets could easily be added to the bag on either the inside or the outside of the gussets. Just tack in place before sewing the gusset to the bag and the seams will create a pocket. See Figure 3.
  • Make with a chenille gusset instead of the plain quilted one.
  • Use Velcro to close at the top or add a loop and toggle.

First published in Popular Patchwork Volume 11 Number 6 - July 2003