Christmas is in the Bag

Last Christmas I was frustrated by the amount of wrapping paper waste in my house after all the gifts were opened. I try to use sturdy gift bags as much as possible so they can be re-used from year to year, eventually they start to fall apart. Then I had a thought, “What if I made fabric gift bags that could be re-used and even washed.”

I visited the January fabric sale at my local JoAnns and stocked up on some great Christmas quilting cotton with this goal in mind. Once I got all the fabrics home I ran them all thru the washer and dryer at high temperatures to pre-shrink them.

Since then I have played about with a couple of design ideas for bags. Today’s pattern is super simple. It can work as a gift wrap bag, but it can also work great as a shopping or project bag (for a crochet, knitting or embroidery project). Sew it up in a fun fabric for a great stocking stuffer gift. You can even slide a gift card inside the folded bag before flipping the flap closed.

This bag is a good project to develop your sewing skills. It is made in cotton quilting fabric and all raw edges are finished to prolong the life of the bag. All seams are straight. Side and box bottom seams are “french seams”.  

The pocket construction and placement are the most challenging part of the project. I wanted to be able to store the bag in it’s own pocket. The bag folds up and then flips inside the pocket, with the flap flipping over to secure the bag as a simple package to store neatly until you need it. If you just want a drawstring bag you can skip the pocket.

For ease of construction the drawstring channel and pocket are sewn in place on the single layer of the bag body before the bag side seams are sewn. Top hem of bag opening is sewn last.

Handy as a Pocket Bag Sewing Pattern

designed by Andee Graves

Finished size:

Small bag – 11 inches  x 12 inches  

Large bag – 18 inches  x 19 inches

Measurements going forward are given for small bag and measurements for large bag are in square brackets [ ].


Quilting Cotton woven fabric: 3/4 yard [1 ¼ yard]

Ribbon or Cord for drawstring: 52” [72”]

Sewing thread


Each bag uses 4 rectangular pieces of fabric; width measurement is the across the grain of fabric, length is with the grain of fabric (parallel to selvage).

Piece A, Body of Bag: Cut 1 – 12” [17”] wide  x 30” [40”] long or 2 – 12” [17”] wide x 15 ½” [20 ½”] long

Piece B, Drawstring Channel: Cut 2 – 9 ½” [13 ½”] wide x 2” [2”] long

Piece C, Pocket: Cut 1 – 5” [6”] wide x 15 ½” [17 ½”] long (flap on pocket uses 3” [4”] of length, if you don’t want the flap to secure the bag when folded, take that amount off length)

Drawstring Channels (B):

Fold over ¼” to wrong-side of fabric along short ends and press. Fold over ¼” to wrong-side of fabric along long edges and press.

Clip corners to reduce bulk. Fold over short ends an additional ¼”. Top stitch at short ends to secure hem.

Pin in place centered wrong-side on right-side of Piece A 2” below and running parallel with top edge of bag. Top stitch 1/8” in from edge of each long side leaving short ends open.

Tip: Easy centering of drawstring channel and pocket. Fold Piece A in half lengthwise and mark center of short edges. Fold channel pieces in half widthwise and mark center of long side, fold finished pocket in half lengthwise and mark center of short ends. Align all center marking correct distance apart and pin in place.

Pocket (C): Fold pocket piece in half lengthwise with wrong-sides together, press at fold.

Fold down another 1 ½” [2”] and press. Bring the long length from the bottom over the so the right-sides are together and wrong-sides are facing out. Press at fold.

Piece of fabric will look like a tall capital M. Folded edge is top of pocket.

Pin along sides and bottom.

Sew ¼ inch seam along all raw edges leaving a 1 ½” opening in center at bottom edge.

Clip bottom corners being careful not to cut seam.

Tip: When leaving opening leave long threads.

Then pull threads to one side of seam and tie in square knot. This will keep bottom seam from coming un-done while turning pocket right-side out.

Turn right-side out, being sure to get all corners fully turned and squared up. Fold in a ¼” seam at opening. Press flat.

Pin in place flap side down centered on right-side of Piece A, 1 ½” below bottom of drawstring channel. Top stitch 1/8” in from edge of pocket down from fold, along bottom (securing turning opening) and up other side.

Body of Bag:

Fold Piece A widthwise with wrong-sides together and all edges squarely matched. Press along fold to make a crease for later reference.

French side seams: Sew slightly less than ¼” seams from fold to top edge of each side.

Turn wrong-side out and gently pull seams so stitching is right at side edges when folded with right-sides together.

Sew slightly more than ¼” seams along each side again, seam doesn’t need to go all the way to the fold.

Press enclosed seams to one side of seam so they are opposite of each other.

Turn bag right side out. You may need to trim some stray threads if your raw edges were super frayed.

Box Bottom: Shape box bottom corners by laying second side seam stitching line along bottom crease line.

Decide how wide a box bottom you want and mark line on right-side of fabric. (In sample I choose a 4” box bottom, so my line was 3 ½” wide). These will be french seams.

Sew along the marked line. Then trim off corner within ¼” of sewn line.

Turn inside out and flatten out box bottom seams. Sew slightly more than ¼” seam to finish seam.

Finished Box Bottom seam on Right-side

Opening Hem: Turn right-side out and flatten bag to check that top edge is even, if it isn’t trim it even.

Fold over ¼” to wrong-side all around opening. Then fold over an additional ½”. Press and pin in place.

Sew top stitching to secure hem (or if you prefer blind stitch the hem). This can also be a fun place to use a decorative stitch.


Cut ribbon (or cord) length in half, thread thru channels in both directions and

knot end of each ribbon together.

Storing Bag in Pocket

Folding up the bag into its pocket is easy. Lay bag with pocket facing down. Fold down top edge of bag to cover pocket,

repeat with bottom,

then each side.

Flip pocket to outside so all folded parts of bag are inside the pocket. You can now see the flap of the pocket,

flip the flap over the open end of the pocket and your handy bag is ready to be stored for later use.

As I was working on this project I made a number of mistakes and missteps, partially due to not being used to my new sewing machine and because my time for this blog post got a little squeezed. I left in the less than perfect images though because I think the imperfections are what makes us human. So be human and have fun making some colorful bags for your Christmas or just for the fun of making a special bag.

This project is part of the Christmas in July Make Along with Underground Crafter. Come join the fun! 31 bloggers have teamed up to bring you a month full of free patterns to kick start the handmade holiday season — including crochet, knitting, sewing, and crafting projects. There’s something new to make every day in July. Each week will have a theme.

Week 1 (July 1-7): Babies, Kids, and Teens
Week 2 (July 8-14): Women
Week 3 (July 15-21): Gifts for Anyone
Week 4 (July 22-28): Home
Week 5 (July 29-31): Pets

We’ve also partnered with some of our favorite companies to get some great prizes for you. Find out more information about participating designers, the schedule, and how to enter to win the prizes on Underground Crafter. The deadline for entering the giveaway is Tuesday, August 4, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern.

How To Join the 2020 Christmas in July Make Along

  • You can join in by crocheting, knitting, sewing, or making the projects as you have time.
  • Share your progress and post pictures of your finished projects. Tag your projects and posts #CIJMakeAlong2020 on all social media.
  • If you’d like to chat with other crafters, join the Underground Crafters Facebook group
  • By the end of the Make Along, you’ll have up to 31 awesome projects. Get ready for the handmade holiday season while having fun with us!

Visit Underground Crafter to learn more about the prizes, enter the giveaway, and to get links to each Christmas in July Make Along post as it is released.

The Last Minute Costume

Finally getting a chance to post about my oldest, J’s, Halloween costume.  J had a pretty clear idea early on what was wanted, so I only needed a few more bits to make it happen on Halloween day.

After I finished the little guy’s Ninjago outfit there was not a lot of time left. So I had to abandon my earlier ideas on how to finish the cape that J wanted.

The base of the costume was a black micro fleece pull-over and pants for the first layer, so my big concern was that with all that dark fabric my kid would be visible in the dark. Granted our small town doesn’t have a lot of traffic, but I consider it betting against the odds to send anyone out at night in dark clothing.

J really liked the sparkly green fabric that looked a bit like reptile scales. I was thrilled because the metallic reflective nature of it would increase visibility.

So I did some quick measurements for length and width, then cut out basically a U shape with the top edge of the U being the selvage on one side.  Sat down at my serger and created a blind hem style casing along the selvage edge. Threaded a 14″ length of 1/4″ elastic thru the casing and tied a knot.

Presto, first layer of cape. And a scrap off one of the corners from the remnant as an  “eye patch” since the fabric is fairly sheer.

J also wanted an over layer made from the holey fuzzy black fabric I had bought.  At this point I’m down to about 35 minutes til they need to leave for the Halloween party.

Grab the fabric, black corded elastic, toggle closure, and the ever handy safety pins.

There are 2 yards of fabric and J is only 4 1/2 feet tall. Okay, fold it nearly in half.  Run the elastic thru the holes in the fabric (handy that). Gather up fabric on elastic and slide toggle into place. Knot ends of elastic so the toggle doesn’t fall off.

Place the double layered cape on J over the green sparkly cape.

Pull up top layer and drape about head and neck to create a hood. Use safety pins to secure into place.

With 10 minutes to spare, J is good to go. Mom is a hero again. Yay!

“You are the best Mom ever!” – My payment.

My husband took the kiddos out to the party and then trick-or-treating whilst I stayed home to greet goblins at our door. He said J wore the entire cape for the party, but the top black layer was too heavy (hey that is 2 yards of fabric) once they were outside.

So big win! J was even more visible, because the green cape was on the outermost layer of the costume. That works!

By the Seat of my Pants

I had planned to get an earlier start on Halloween costumes this year, but once again it was a mad scramble to complete them.

My youngest had decided he wanted to be Kai from the Lego Ninjago series. I purchased a long sleeve red T-shirt for him from Target.  He had his ninja sword and head-band that he got at Lego Land when we were in California for Spring Break last march. So we were half-way there.

I had hoped to make some red pants and a Gee style jacket for him from some red micro-fleece I had on hand (Kai is always dressed in red in the show). I took his measurements yesterday, but being a bit rushed when designing the sewing pattern for his jacket I left it a tad small. The body fit him okay but the sleeves were super snug, no way a T-shirt was going under there.

Solution? Cut the sleeves off the jacket, which also was more of a “faux” jacket that pulled over his head. Belt was easy enough to make, just cut a length of  mirco-fleece.

Whoops, what about pants?

He had wanted to have boxy pants so he would look like a Lego “people”. So instead of having red pants I cut out 2 long strips of red micro-fleece and pinned them to some dark gray pants.  So glad that I have lots of small safety pins on hand.

At first he wasn’t too sure about this short-cut, but after we got him dressed in his costume he was very happy.

Soon I will have more details about the cape costume I made for my oldest. Fortunately J was very happy with it, though ended up not wearing it the whole evening as it was a bit heavy. That is 2 yards of the black fabric you see in the photo above.

Ready Set Sew!

Today I had to drive down the mountain for a hair appointment, so I decided to get a few other errands out of the way.

One of those errands was a stop at my local Jo-Anns store to pick-up some fabrics for costumes for this coming Halloween.  It was really hard to decide on just one, so I got a few different cuts of fabric. My boys were very excited looking at the fabric when I got home, my ideas are being usurped by them for new ideas.  Come back later this month and you’ll get to see what we came up with.

It’s Magic!

Crochet is magical.  Any one of us that have even a basic familiarity with the art of the hook know this.

This past week I got to demonstrate another version of crochet magic. I was asked by my kids to create a “Merlin” cloak and hat as a birthday gift for one of their good friends. The birthday party was this past Saturday so I can post the pictures of the finished project now.

I had made a version of this costume for my oldest when they wanted to be Harry Potter for Halloween last year. What I needed: 1 1/2 yards of 60″ wide poly fleece, about 300 yards of acrylic yarn (I used 2 different colors), 24″ wide by 15″ tall piece of acrylic felt, size G hook, sewing needles and sewing thread.

The first part of this project was to cut out the “cloak” from the poly fleece.  The great thing about poly fleece for a project like this is I can leave the raw edge un-hemmed and it won’t fray.  The piece of  fleece I was using had a few bits cut out of it, so I had to work around that. I folded it in half and cut out the shape I wanted with a concave curved bit for the “collar”.  The photo shows the basic shape I cut out with the collar in place.

Then I blanket stitched along the collar area to give me an edge to crochet into. The collar itself was a single crochet base worked into the blanket stitching, then some slight increasing with double crochet stitches to create the shape I wanted. I wasn’t really following any type of pattern. Just going by a feel for how I wanted the finished collar to look, as well as including a “button-hole” for the button fastening.

You can see the button and button-hole better in this photograph.

Of course, it isn’t a real magic costume if you don’t have a hat. So I grabbed some black felt and cut out a shape to make a cone for the crown of the hat. To make the hat go more with the cloak I cut out some of the leaves and stars from the left-over scraps of fabric I had from the cloak.

I then sewed them in place with a simple whip-stitched edge. Once all the appliques were sewn on I rolled the felt into a cone and sewed the seam where the edges overlapped.

I crocheted a brim by starting with a foundation single crochet strip that was the right circumference for a good fit. Rounds of single crochet worked even and then in flat increases created the rest of the brim with a finishing round of double crochet worked even. After the crocheted brim was finished I used yarn and a zig zag hand stitch to attach it to the bottom of the felt cone.

The final costume was finished just in time to be wrapped and ready for my kids to give to their friend. The costume was a big hit and already has had some serious play time.

A Very Sharp Edge

As much as I love to crochet I have another craft I love that compliments crochet nicely. I sew. 

Lately most of my sewing has been about making project bags for my crochet endeavors, or linings for crochet projects.  Sewing isn’t as portable as crochet, and that is the reason I spend less time sewing lately.  My life is full of “on-the-go” situations and crochet can accompany me everywhere.

When I do sew, the biggest part of the task isn’t really the sewing…it’s the cutting out the fabric in the shapes to be sewn.  I am fortunate that I have a big table that is tall enough that I can cut at it without hurting my back.  Best of all it has a cutting mat on it so I can use my rotary cutter.

Rotary cutters are a necessity if you are doing more than cutting a single short line. Scissors are certainly an efficient means of cutting fabric, but they begin to take a toll on your hands after a while. It is also more difficult to get a clean cut with scissors, since you need to have the blades on either side of the fabric.

With a Rotary cutter, the blade slices thru from top to bottom with minimal disturbance of your fabric. Of course the sharper the cutter the easier it is to cut your fabric.

Which leads me to my least favorite part about rotary cutters. Their blades are very sharp and it is easy to cut yourself with them without even realizing it.  I have learnt the hard way not to use my rotary cutter when I am tired or distracted.

One safety feature I like about my Fiskar Rotary cutter is that the blade is retractable. This is nice from the standpoint of avoiding cutting myself, but it also helps keep the blades sharp longer as it isn’t bumping against other implements in my work basket.

I’ve had my rotary cutter for quite a while, so if you are looking to purchase your own rotary cutter there may be some better ones available now.  Either way, a nice sharp rotary cutter and mat can help keep your hands happy during your next big fabric cutting project.  Just remember to be careful of that very sharp edge.

Cold Little Fingers

Another week, another snow storm.  If your household is anything like mine many of the hats, mittens and gloves from the previous cold season have either been outgrown or have fallen into that black-hole that all laundry rooms seem to have.

I had a mad search for warm hand gear for my boys after our most recent snow storm. I found some good ski-gloves that still fit my oldest, but all I could find for my youngest was a pair of polar fleece mittens.  He loves to play in the snow, but is not terribly fond of how cold his little fingers get when his mittens get wet. 

I decided that he needed some wool mittens, which stay warmer when wet than polar fleece. I knew I wanted the fabric to be felted to allow for a bit better water-proofing, but I didn’t want to crochet the mittens and then felt them.

I grabbed my box of left-over felt pieces from when I was playing around with felting thrift-shop sweaters.  I remembered I had a couple of felted sleeves that I thought would be ideal. What I really loved about these sleeves was the rolled detail at the end of the sleeves.

Of course for this sewing task I needed a pattern. I drew around my little guy’s hand, then sketched some shaping.  I wanted to utilize the fold in the side of the sleeve to minimize the length of the final seam, so I did some manipulating to create a straight edge along the side opposite the thumb.

Then I turned the sleeves inside out and traced my pattern piece on the felt with a marker. Once that was done I cut out each mitten.

I used some sharp-pointed scissors to trim out a 1/4 inch of the cording in the cuff trim so the edges could be finished cleanly.

I dug out some matching thread and using a tight whip-stitch sewed an 1/8″ seam around the cut edges starting at the folded side of the mitten.  To be sure no gaps would develop along the seam, I overlapped my stitching whenever I had to re-thread my needle.

I used a simple mattress stitch to enclose the raw edges of the corded trim on the cuff to create a smooth join.

Voila’ a wonderful pair of mittens to keep some cold little fingers warm.