35 years ago, when I was 12, I made my first patchwork shoulder bag: it was a replacement for a whole-cloth shoulder bag that I had been given several years before, that had worn out. I strip-pieced my bag from green calicoes (almost the only patchwork fabric available at the time) and lined it with dark green cloth (green is still my favourite colour).
The bag was about 10 inches across and 12 inches high. Its construction was far from perfect (I was only twelve, and I made it up as I went along), but it was surprisingly sturdy and versatile. I used it on and off all through secondary school and at university: the list of what I’ve carted about in that bag is endless. But time took its toll, and eventually the bag became too scruffy for everyday use: it ended up as the bag I keep my clothes-pegs in, for hanging the washing on the line outside to dry. Last year, the fabric, already worn and faded, broke on the long strap: it was time to make a new, purpose sewn peg bag, one with a strap long enough to wear cross-body wise, and with a lining of tougher stuff than quilting cotton. The bag 2.0, in fact.
The picture of the old bag shows the sad truth: it has also faded hugely, the fabric third from the left, next to the stripe, used to be white flowers on very dark green!
I made a few decisions in advance about the bag 2.0: I decided to use a linen/cotton mix for the outside, as this would be a little tougher than 100% quilting cotton, I decided to make a sturdy lining from canvas duck cloth, so that the wear and tear of use and the pegs would not go through to the outside, and I decide to make a really long strap, so that I could wear the bag cross-body and have a hands-free pegging experience!
I found some fabric in my stash from Japan – a cotton/linen mix from Kokka, from their collection Echino by Etsuko Furuya. It had a pattern of little birds against an absract background and was nice and cheerful.
The fabric was printed in large ‘stripes’ whereby the bird section had strips of orange on both sides. This made it possible for me to centre the bird bit and have orange sides to the bag at the seams. The fabric was 58″ selvedge to selvedge, so I used that length for my strap: it was just right.
So the first thing I cut was a 5″ strap across the width of the fabric.
I ironed the fabric in half lengthways to create a centre line, then I reinforced half of it with fusible interfacing. I wanted the strap to be nice and sturdy!
Then I folded each half of the strap inwards (wrong sides together) to meet in the middle.
And pressed them in place. I love thermal thimbles for this sort of thing: it stops me burning my fingers with the steam.
Then I folded the strap inwards along the centre line again, which left me with a neat strap with no raw edges, about 1 1/4″ wide.
Then I top stitched the strap along both long edges and across the short edges. I left the selvedge edges intact, as doing so would reduce bulk when I came to attach the strap to the bag.
So then I had a long strap.
I then cut the fabric for the body of the bag, which I wanted to be about 13″ wide and 14″ high when finished. I used 1/2″ seam allowances throughout, to make sure the seams would be robust enough in use (so I added them to the 13 x 14).
I centred the bird pattern on the panel, so that the seams would be ‘hidden’ in the orange areas. Because my fabric was directional, and I didn’t want half the birds to be upside down, I cut the outside of the bag in two pieces, and seamed them together at the bottom to form one outer bag piece.
I cut the lining in one piece, so I didn’t have the weakness of a seam at the bottom of the bag on the inside. I used cream canvas duck cloth from Nancy’s Notions for the lining. Very useful for bags, aprons and other items that get hard wear.
I strengthened the outer fabric with fusible interfacing before sewing it, to the duck cloth.
I layered the fabrics, right sides together, and sewed each of the short ends of the lining to the short ends of the outer fabric, essentially creating one large fabric ‘loop’.
Then I pressed the seams open (to limit bulk) and realigned the fabric to bring the seam-lines together in the middle of the loop, so that half the loop was canvas above canvas, and the other half outer above outer.
Then I sewed along the long sides, leaving a gap of 5″ in the seam-line of one side of the lining, so that I could tun the bag through it. Then I boxed the corners of the lining and the outer bag, about 1″ in from the point.
And trimmed to reduce bulk.
I turned the bag right side out through the gap, and stitched the gap closed by sewing as close to the edge as I could with my machine.
Then I turned the lining inside the outer bag.
And topstitched around the upper edge. I centred the straps of the side-seams, 2″ down from the top of the bag. I tucked the selvedge edges under for a neat finish.
And then sewed them firmly down with an X pattern of stitching.
The bag 2.0 was complete!
The bag is the perfect length for wearing on the hip, and being able to reach pegs easily.
The only question now is: will it also last for 35 years?
PS: I have, or course, still kept my old bag: it holds the reserve pegs in the cupboard in the mud room.