Oct 13 07

And Now for the Shoulder Bag Tutorial!

OK, I finally found some old pictures to help illustrate the process, so here’s how to make the shoulder bag below:


I want to show you a picture of the bag opened up so you’ll see that it was actually created by making 2 rectangular quilt sandwiches that ultimately get sewn together, and then a lining is added. So, with this picture below in mind, remember that you’ll do everything I tell you on TWO separate sandwiches that are mirror images of one another:


(By the way, you can make this bag much faster if you just do an all-over quilting pattern, and if you do it that way, you don’t have to worry about the mirror image part of the design. I think what has caught people’s eye here is the actual quilted design, though, so the tutorial will assume that you’re quilting the feather).

You’ll begin by cutting out 2 rectangles of your background fabric that measure 13 5/8 in x 8 3/4 inches. Cut out 2 pieces of batting that are just slightly larger and spray baste these together. YOU DO NOT NEED A BACKING FABRIC, SO DON’T BE CONFUSED WHEN YOU SEE PICS LATER THAT SHOW A BACKING FABRIC-I FORGOT ABOUT THIS WHEN I MADE THIS BAG AND THAT’S WHY YOU’LL SEE IT! The reason you don’t want a backing fabric is that it’s not necessary because you’ll be lining this bag and it will add unnecessary stiffness. As for your batting, make sure you use an ULTRA-THIN polyester batt.

Now, you’ll want to mark a spine guideline for your feather. I didn’t take a pic of this along the way, so the pic below is on a different fabric:


You can mark great curves very easily using a flexible curve ruler seen at the bottom of the picture. You’ll want to bend it into an upside-down question mark shape and this will work perfectly for your feather. Trace along the ruler with a chalk marker and then place that ruler in a mirror-image position on the 2nd rectangular quilt sandwich and mark the spine guideline for the second feather. It’s important that you leave enough room at the top, bottom, and sides of the future feather for seams and a bit of background quilting, so keep that in mind as you mark and later as you quilt out your feather.

Quilt your feather in some type of thread that will be dominant; remember that this is an important feature of your bag, so you want it to be noticed! I used a size 12 pearl cotton hand dyed DMC embroidery thread in my top needle. You can sew this easily using a size 100 topstitch needle. The picture below is of the sewn feathers:


After that, you’ll switch to a smaller thread and stitch the background quilting. For this, I used a variegated YLI trilobal polyester from their “Variations” line. This background pattern is called the irregular swirl and it’s a great design to quilt-if you haven’t tried it, you can download a free line drawing of it in the “Fast and Free, Vol 2” section of the free downloads-it’s from the “Innies and Outies Family.”


You can see from the picture above that this bag was BOOORRRRING!! I knew I needed to do something to jazz this baby up or it would be a blah-bag, so I decided to add some hyperquilting. For this, I stitched the splay of fireworks embellishment using a gold Robison-Anton rayon thread. Two other great hyperquilting techniques that would also work great on this bag would be the frond-embellished feather and the inlined feather, but remember, when you’re going for something dramatic like this, you’ll want to stitch it with a solid color thread. Here’s the hyperquilted feather:


Once you’ve hyperquilted each feather, trim up your 2 sandwiches and place them together so the good sides are facing OUT. You won’t be sewing them together this way, but you want to go through this step for a few reasons:
1. Figure out which side is the front and which is the back and pin a label on each side so you’ll remember this. (The front side will be the side that has the closure.)
2. When I’m making this bag with just an all-over design I place my straps on each side, 5 inches down from the top. However, when you have a bag like this with a “featured” design, (i.e. the feather), you’ll want to play around with folding the top over at various places to figure out what strap placement will work best. See below:


Do you see that skinny little thing lying next to the bag? It’s the loop for the button and you’ll make it by cutting a piece of bias fabric measuring about 1 inch wide by 5-6 inches long. This is longer than what you’ll need, but I always make it longer because it’s easier for me to sew it if it’s a bit longer. I press it in half lengthwise, then pin each side into the middle and sew a seam. This gives you a loop that measures about 1/4 inch by 6 inches. Find the middle of the top of your backside and sew this loop into place, about 1/8 inch from the edge, a shown below:


(Notice that didn’t use the entire 6 inches-the actual length of the loop will be made by you as an educated guess, based on how large your button is). Next, you’ll want to attach your straps to the wrong side of the front or back of your bag. Again, I usually attach them 5 inches from the top on either side, but on this bag, they were closer to the top to accommodate how the feathers fell on the rectangle. I cut my strap length at 46 inches:


THERE ARE 2 THINGS THAT ARE WRONG AND CONFUSING ABOUT THIS PICTURE, SO READ THIS SECTION!!!! First, on your bag, this will happen on the batting-remember, I erroneously added a backing fabric to my sandwich! Second, and this is VERY important: you want to sew your strap ends so they face out rather than in. I had to rip this out and re-do it after this picture was taken, so save yourself this extra step! Once you’re done with this step, it will come together very quickly. Place your quilt sandwiches right sides together and sew them together along the 3 sides using a 1/4 inch seam. Re-measure the dimensions of your bag because all this dense quilting may have distorted things. Cut out 2 fabric rectangles of your lining fabric in those new dimensions. Pin these 2 rectangles right sides together and sew the same 3 sides together using a 1/4 inch seam, but leave about 4-5 inches open near the bottom corner as in the picture below:


(There is a pair of scissors coming through the opening so you’ll know where it is. Trim your corners and then place the lining outside of the nice bag so that the good sides are facing one another. Kind of like 2 bags nesting one inside the other. Pin them together at the top opening and then stitch that one seam at 1/4 inch. Using your escape hatch hole, turn the hole thing inside out and this will be what it will look like:


Hand sew your escape hatch opening shut using a whip stitch, and then take the bag to your ironing board. Work the lining inside the bag and then using heavy steam, press the seam down so no lining shows on the good side of your bag. Return to the machine and topstitch 1/4 inch from the edge all around the top. You are just inches from the finish line now! Find a snazzy decorative button and hand sew it in place and you’re done!



If you make one of these and send me a picture, I’ll post it for the world to see your artistic creation! Have fun!


  1. Caroline Says:

    This is so very pretty. I would like to make one when I am done with my current commitments. Thank you so much!

  2. variadee Says:

    Wow! What absolutely beautiful work. Thank you for sharing. Hope to be as good as you one of these days. G

  3. Jean Says:

    I have made several of these bags just for the fun of it. When I found this site of yours Patsy, I found paradise. You are a definite inspiration to me and I enjoy what you are doing for the average home quilter. Keep up the good work!