Stripy Bag


  • Strips of fabric between 5 and 6cm wide and about 35cm long. Exact width and length doesn’t matter
  • Lightweight fabric for lining, old cotton shirting is soft and easy to use
  • Sewing machine
  • Paper and old needle for practise
  • Thread
  • Scissors

My granddaughter learned to sew in July 2006 when she and her brother stayed with us for a week. We had a couple of free afternoons, so a small sewing project was quickly planned for her. Being her first experience with a sewing machine, some practise was necessary. I drew some pencil lines on paper for her to follow, without thread in the machine, to give her practice in learning co-ordination and control of the machine. Next, we tried some fabric with thread for her to practise a 1⁄4in seam along the edge. She did this very well, so she was ready to sew her own project, a patchwork bag. I had some strips from a previous project for her to sew together. It didn’t take her long to finish sewing the strips together. Very few places had to be unpicked and re-stitched to get a neater seam. She was ready to sew in the lining and make the handles. When the handles were ready to sew in, I (her Granny) stitched one end on to show her how the other three should be stitched. Then she sewed on the remaining ends. Her bag was finished and she was very proud of her work! My granddaughter is eight and I think is becoming hooked on patchwork! We plan more fun times together. Below we have instructions for you to make your own version.

Making your bag

  1. Using scissors, cut the strips to about the same length, they don’t have to be exact as it can be trimmed later.
  2. Set your machine to a slow speed if possible (some machines have an adjustment on the foot pedal). Put an old needle in the machine and take out the thread – before you do this make sure you know how to thread it back again. Draw some lines on a piece of paper and try and follow the lines with the machine. You will not need to push the paper through as the machine sews the feed dogs (little grabbing feet under the foot) will pick it up and move it along.
  3. Now thread the machine and start sewing your pieces together, Davina says don’t worry if your seams are not accurate at this point, this comes with practise. Sew the strips into pairs and then sew the pairs into groups of four until you have a piece as wide as you want your bag. Remember to allow a bit extra for turnings.
  4. Take to the ironing board and ask a grown-up to press the seams for you so the piece lies flat. Admire it and then trim the top and bottom roughly level with scissors, Davina says rotary cutters are only for grown-ups so don’t even think about trying to use one. They are very, very sharp and even adults get cut using them sometimes.
  5. Cut a piece of lining fabric to the same size as your stripped piece. Fold your strip piece in half with the seams outside and sew up the two sides, turn the right way out. Repeat with your lining fabric, leaving the lining inside out . Put the lining inside the bag so that all the rough seams are touching and fold down the top of the lining and the bag so there are no raw edges showing. Sew around the top of the bag just away from the edge. This is called top stitching. Use two more strips of fabric to make handles, fold the raw edges to the back and sew down in place. Well done, you have made a bag, Get your helper to take a picture and ask them to submit it in the for the rest of us to admire!

First published in Popular Patchwork Volume 15 Number 3 - March 2007