Sunday, 9 August 2015

How To Make A Quilted Patchwork Overnight Bag

I've been working on this for the past couple of days. There have been some Countryside Adventures too, but home-based versions. The arrival of a female Holly Blue laying her eggs in our hedge was a particularly lovely moment. I have photos and will give her her own post in due course.

In the meantime, how do you fancy a tutorial on how to make an overnight bag? Fully lined and padded and all....

1. Make up your pattern or download one/ buy on. I made one up, decided rough size and shape and drew it out on some pattern paper, using a side plate to make the curved edges. Don't forget to allow for your seam allowance (usually 1.5cm).

2. Choose your fabric and cut out the squares to the size you want. Mine were all bits and bobs from old fabric I had left over from the sofa quilt I made last week. Lay them over your pattern paper and get them so they are roughly the same size as the pattern (I used patchwork for the front and back of the bag and plain calico for the side panels but you could use whatever you wanted, it doesn't need to be patchwork at all) . I made up the difference by putting on a border once I'd sewed all the squares together. Remember you are making up two pieces, one for the front, one for the back.


3. Then lay the pattern piece for the front and back over the material and cut the patchwork piece to the exact shape of the patten. You should end up with two pieces of material that look the same, one for the front of the bag, one for the back.

4. Next cut out the side panels, using whatever fabric you want. This will be one continuous length of material that joins the front and back pieces together and makes the base of the bag.

5. Cut the batting (this is the material that goes in the middle of a quilt giving it the padded, thicker feel) using the same pattern piece you used for the front, back and sides so the pieces all match up. 
I usually use bamboo batting but have recently tried an eco version which is just as good. It's made from recycled materials, is soft, easy to sew and cheaper to buy. I had some off cuts left from J's quilt so used that. Once you have the front, back and side pieces of batting cut, you attach them to the corresponding pieces of the outer bag with the sewing machine. Essentially you are backing the front, back and sides of what will be the patchwork bag with batting.

6. Once that's done, you attach the pieces of the bag together by pinning first (right side of the material to right side) and then, when you're happy you've lined all the edges up properly, stitching. 

I attached the side panel to the front first, then did the back afterwards. I did a zigzag stitch round all the seams to make them doubly strong. If you've got an overlocker you could use that instead. You will end up with something that looks like this (this is the batting side showing):
Turn it the right way round to get an idea of what your finished bag will look like (the batting is now on the inside and the patchwork on the outside). If you've missed any bits or aren't happy with the hems you can turn the bag back inside out and re-sew them at this stage.

7. Next you need to make up the inner bag (this will be the lining for the outer bag when it's all finished, the batting will not be visible in the finished bag as it disappears between the outer bag and the inner or lining bag). 

i. Use your paper pattern pieces to cut the material for the front, back and sides of the inner or lining bag and first pin, then sew them together, right side to right side. 

ii. Sew the side to the front piece first and when that's done sew the back to the side piece. 

iii. Don't sew all of the bottom together- you need to leave a space in the hem in the base of the lining bag which you'll use to pull the outer bag through at a later stage. If you forget to do this (as I did) don't worry- you can always unpick the hem (the unpicker and I are Well Acquainted. The bloody thing sliced the top of my thumb off today when I was cutting open button holes with it. Ouch. Note to self- unpickers are very sharp....)

iv. You should now have two separate bags of identical shape and size: a complete inner (lining) bag and a complete outer (patchwork) bag backed with batting.

8. Place the inner (lining) bag inside the outer (patchwork) bag and pin the top edges together to make sure the fit is correct. If it's miles out you may need to re-sew some of the hem allowance, but to be perfectly honest if it isn't miles out I wouldn't bother- the inner (lining) bag doesn't need to be a perfect fit and can afford to be slightly baggy or a little tight.

9. When you're happy you've got the fit right take the inner (lining) bag out. You now need to prepare the straps. I had some webbing that I cut to size and covered with material, having tried some pieces out to see which I liked most.

10. Making the straps. 

i. Cut your straps to the desired length and, if using material, make the width 4 times the width you want to end up with. I want mine to be 1.5 inches wide when finished so I cut the material to 6 inches wide.

ii. Next fold the material in half lengthways and press with an iron so you have a centre fold crisply marked.

iii. Then fold each of the two halves in to the centre line and press so you have divided the material lengthways into quarters:

iv. This will leave you with four crease lines, each 1.5 inches width:

v. Now you need to refold the material in half again the other way (so what will be the outside of the material when the straps are finished (in this case the darker green side) faces inwards and the paler green is now on the outside. 

vi. Now fold the lower quarter back up to the central crease so the outer (dark green) material is now showing. Do the same with the other quarter. The material should now measure 1.5 inches. 

Hope that makes sense, bit difficult with words. You've basically folded the material into four pieces again, but with the dark green material (or the bit that will form the outside of your straps) on display.

vii. You should be able to make a kind of envelope with the dark green fabric on the inside and the outside.

viii. Now turn it upside down so you can see the inside of the fabric (pale green) with the middle crease facing upwards and the other two quarters flat. 

ix. Take your webbing and place it in one side of the folded material up against the centre fold:

x. Then unfold the other sides of the material and wrap them over the webbing until it is entirely covered and not visible. Pin it all in place.

xi. Stitch the ends with the sewing machine to make sure they won't move or fray.

 xii. Run a line of stitches down each side of the strap to hold everything in place and neaten it all:

xiii. You'll end up with two neat straps with the webbing hidden in the middle:

11. Attaching the straps.
This is easy with bags that have a lining (although it feels all wrong) as you attach the straps in such a way that they won't be visible when the bag is complete. It's a Little Bit Of Sewing Alchemy :o)

i. Pin the straps to the outer bag, making sure they are pointing downwards.

ii. Make sure they are lined up evenly with the straps on the other side of the bag: 

iii. Attach them to the outside of the outer bag with the sewing machine to keep them in place. Don't worry if it looks messy as this will all be hidden. You will stitch them in more permanently in a minute:

12. Now put the outer bag inside the inner bag, right side of the material to right side, making sure the straps are still pointing downwards:

13. Pin the inner and outer bags together along the top and sew in place:

14. Sewing Alchemy Bit.

i. Now pull the outside bag through the hole you left earlier in the hem of the inside (lining) bag.

15. If you want to insert a bottom firmer (no jokes please), now is the time. Simply feed it through the hole you left in the hem of the inner lining bag and push it down to the base of the outer (patchwork) bag. I use plastic mesh (sold for cross stitch and embroidery) which does the job perfectly as you can cut it to size easily and it's flexible as well as strong.

16. The next job is to stitch up the hole in the inner (lining) bag hem. Pin first and then stitch with the sewing machine...

17. Then you're ready to push the inner (lining) bag inside the outer (patchwork) bag. Press the top lines with a hot iron to make sure the lining sits neatly and the bag has neat, crisp edges. Looking like a proper bag now, eh? And all that unsightly stitching around the top of the straps has disappeared, as has the batting (sewing alchemy :o)).

18. The finishing touches are the clasps to close the bag. You don't have to have them- you could leave it open, or you could use press studs or buttons. I have stacks of pretty buttons so decided to use them...

i. I chose three heart buttons, put them where I wanted them and marked the places on the outside of the bag with crossed pins. 

ii. I then measured the buttons to see what size button hole I needed to make and marked the size on my buttonhole sewing machine foot:

iii. If in any doubt, always do a test piece of fabric first to make sure it works!

iv. Attached the buttonhole foot and stitch in the button hole (on my machine you set it to a/c to do the base of the button hole, b to stitch the left side, then a/c to stitch the top line and d to do the right side).

v. A useful tip my sewing teacher taught me is to push a pin through the top of the button hole before you open it, that way if the unpicker or the scissors slip, you won't make the buttonhole too big by mistake. 

Refer to iii above to see how to use the unpicker to open the button hole- you just push it into and through the material at the bottom of the buttonhole and slide it up as far as the pin to open the material up. The buttonhole foot will have created the edges to stop the material fraying and splitting beyond it. Just watch your thumb!


vi. The next job is to attach the button in the right place. I push a pin through the buttonhole into the material behind it, then when you lift the top piece of material away the position your button needs to go in is already clearly marked for you...

vii. Stitch the button firmly in place with needle and thread.

 viii. And you're done :o)

One fully lined, quilted, patchwork overnight bag :o)

If you want the full quilting effect you'll need to machine around the squares of the patchwork after you've attached the batting to them but before you attach the front and back pieces to the sides. I didn't bother because I didn't think it was necessary on mine.

The keen-eyed among you will notice that the distance between my buttons isn't even. I'm not very good at precision engineering, preferring to let things evolve the way they want to (code for too lazy to measure them). But if you did want to get them even simply measure the distances between the buttons before marking the material with the pins.

Here is the Finished Article Brilliantly modelled in the garden at home by my Beautiful Assistant, who was just back from a long cycle ride and was warned under no circumstances to get sweat all over it... :o)

Hope that was useful. I'm taking it on hols with me soon. Let's just pray the stitching holds or the whole of Stratford will be treated to the sight of my smalls spilling everywhere.... :o(

Hope all are well?

CT x


  1. Bloody hell woman that was amazing! I was a little bit confused in the middle but it all became clear in the end! It's a fab bag x well done and thank you x

    1. Thanks, Rach :o) Do I need to simplify some of the instructions? I was worried it might be a tad confusing. It's probably easier to make sense of it when you're making the actual bag up rather than reading it blind. If I can get it to come out alright then anyone can! xx

    2. No, not at all confusing!! Just my brain trying to visualise it as if I was making one!

  2. Now I love the end product however making it is not my thing but I do think you are very clever at doing all this work. A very well illustrated post.

  3. Very well thank you. Lovely job on the bag, clever, clever you. I hope you have many happy adventures with it. Stratford is brilliant, have a wonderful time. I shall look forward to seeing the holly blue. CJ xx

    1. The Holly Blue was so beautiful, I was quite mesmerised xx

  4. I must say I really admire your most detailed instructions and also the finished article. It is so long since I used my Bernina that I am not sure I could remember how to thread it. I usedto do so much patchwork but have got outof the habit.

    1. I am amazed at how computerised sewing machines are now- I thought my Brother was snazzy compared to what I sewed with donkeys years ago, but some of the more swishy ones are amazing!

  5. I think it is great that you can do this - you are wonderfully talented and I think I got lost somewhere halfway - I never could sew but so appreciate your talent. Beautiful bag by the way.

    1. Thanks my dear- very nice words :o) Hope all's well with you x

  6. What a super useful bag and I love your model. How much did you have to pay him? We went to Stratford for the day in January and enjoyed the walk along the river. We ended up in the church where Shakespeare is buried for evening prayers and as we were the only ones there we joined in with the rector and curate which was rather special. Later we saw Much Ado or Loves's Labours Won at the theatre which was terrific. I have to profess I am a HUGE fan of Shakespeare!

    1. I made him a nice pudding for supper :o)

      I am so looking forward to Stratford and will pop into the Church, I bet that was a special experience. Not sure we'll get as far as seeing a play this time round :o)

  7. What a lovely bag and I think I shall have to make myself one now too! In my "spare" time. That means wait until Autumn really! Great tutorial though and many thanks. It's a lovely bag.

    1. Winter is my knitting time, the rest of the year I sew. Funny how we have these rhythms to our days. To do with the light and not being able to be outside I suppose :o)

  8. What a great tutorial! All the detail you need to get it all right. I might even have a go. I have all sorts of bits of material that would make a great patchwork bag. Mind you I also have all sorts of unfinished projects which I should complete first...


Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x