Oriental
Handbag

Materials

Although requirements are given here, as long as you can cut a 1 1⁄2in strip for the log cabin strips you could use scraps

  • 10cm of white leaf fabric
  • 10cm of white flame fabric
  • 10cm of white flower fabric
  • 10cm of black leaf fabric
  • 10cm of black flower fabric
  • 10cm of black flame fabric
  • 40cm of red flame fabric (used for lining and gusset)
  • 35cm of pelmet (craft) Vilene
  • One pair round handles (black plastic were used here but if you use a different colour scheme bamboo could look equally effective)

Note: Read all the instructions through before you begin. Use a 1⁄4in seam allowance. After sewing each log, secure and cut the thread ends, trim to fit and press away from the centre. Press every seam to achieve a professional finish.

Finished Size

23 x 23 x 6.5cm (9 x 9 x 2 1⁄2in) plus handles

Skill Level

Beginner

You can download a copy of the original magazine pages for this project here, Oriental Handbag

Ideal if you are just starting patchwork, this small bag uses a block called Log Cabin. There is no quilting. The only tricky part is sewing in the gusset, which can be a bit fiddly. If you are unsure, tack it by hand first.

Getting Started

  1. Cut two 1 1⁄2in squares from red flame fabric and 1 1⁄2in strips from all the black and white fabrics. If both back and front are identical, you will need one strip of the leaf and flower fabrics and two of the flame fabric. This is because the outer logs are longer. Alternatively, to make with smaller amounts of fabric, reverse the sewing order for the back of the bag to use equal amounts of all three fabrics.
  2. Starting with a red square, sew a white flame strip to the top of the square. Sew the length of the square only. Trim to fit. Secure thread ends and press seams away from the red centre. See Figure 1.
  3. Rotate the square one turn. Sew a white flame strip to the second side of the square, sewing along the length of the square as before but this time it includes the strip previously sewn too. Trim, secure ends and press as before.
Figure 1
Figure 1: Sewing the log cabin
  1. Rotate the square one turn. Sew a black flame strip to the third side of the square. Trim, secure ends and press seams away from the centre as before.

Handy Hint When adding the next strip you will always be sewing onto the last strip added. Check before you sew otherwise your block may end up a rectangle

  1. Rotate the square one turn, sew a black flame strip to the final side of the centre square. Sew along the length, trimming and finishing as above. There should be four logs around the centre square.
  2. Continue in this fashion using white leaf strips for the next two sections and then black leaf strips to complete the second round.
  3. Repeat step six using white flower strips and then black flower strips. Finally repeat using white flame strips and black flame strips. Measure your block. It should measure 9 1⁄2in square and look like Figure 2. If it doesn’t, don’t panic; just adjust the lining and gusset to match your finished size.
  4. Repeat to make another block for the back of the bag. Measure the strips of each fabric, you will need 24in of the fabrics for the inner and outer rings together. If you don’t have enough, then adjust the order that you sew the fabrics.

Creating the bag

  1. Cut from red flame fabric two 9 1⁄2in squares for the lining and two strips 3 x 30in for the gusset. The gusset is cut slightly long to make it easier to attach.
  2. Sew the gusset to the first red lining square RS together. Sew along three sides of the square; trim the corners and snip into the gusset fabrics without cutting the stitching. Be patient, this can be a bit tricky.
  3. Sew the gusset strip to the second red flame square RS together as in step 2. Trim the gusset pieces level with the top of the bag. Press carefully to give the bag its shape.
  4. Cut two 9 1⁄2in squares of pelmet Vilene and one 3 x 28 1⁄2in strip. Sew the Vilene strip to the wrong side of the remaining long red gusset strip using a 1⁄8in seam allowance (if it is larger you will see it when the bag is assembled which you don’t want).
Figure 2
Figure 2: The finished block
  1. Sew the Vilene squares to the WS of the front and back Log Cabin blocks using a 1⁄8in seam. Attach the gusset to the first front panel of the bag as before. Trim and snip into the corners as needed. Then repeat to sew to the back block. This gives you the bag shape.
  2. With RS together and the lining on the outside, stitch the lining to the bag, stitching along the top of the bag. Leave an opening of 4in or more to allow for turning. Turn the lining to the inside. Due to the thickness of the Vilene, this can take a moment or two, again be patient. Slip stitch neatly across the opening to close it.

Handy Hint If you are not confident you can do this neatly, leave a gap in the base of the lining and turn the bag through that gap instead which will mean the sewing is hidden away inside the bag. It is the stiffness of the Vilene that makes this bag hard to turn through but it also gives the bag its strength

  1. To make the handle loops cut two pieces 1 1⁄2 x 2in from white flower fabric. If you have used different fabrics, try to match the fabric where the handles will be sewn. Fold in half lengthwise and sew, turn through to the right side. Join the ends of the tube around the bag handle to make a loop.
  2. Hand sew the handles in position on the front and back of the bag in the top centre on the third round of logs as shown
Oriental Handbag
Oriental Handbag

First published in Popular Patchwork September 2006