Introduction: A Bag With a Dolphin in Cross Stitch on Plywood  

About: When things don't go the way I want, I still hear my father say: ‘There is no such word as can’t.’ The things I make, I make thanks to him. He taught me how to bake and paint and everything in between, I got h…

While thinking about Plywood, the first thought is probably 'carpentry'. But with plywood you can do so much more! Plywood can also be used in, for example, clothing and accessories such as jewelry and bags.

This time I'm making a bag. Not one where plywood forms the side as in a Bag Made of Wood and Vegan/faux Leather but a panel at the front because plywood is also great for embroidery. And I make a matching shoulder strap on which plywood is processed.

For the bag itself I use Kraft-Tex because I like to work with it. But depending on the type of bag you make, you can also use canvas, leather, vinyl or cork or bigger plywood as you can see picture. However, the way of assembling will change then.



Plywood 29.5 x 25 cm

Embroidery needle (eye needle less than 2 mm thick)

Embroidery thread or thin cotton (+/- 80 m)

Thin cotton thread in color Kraft-Tex (or white and dye it if you use white Kraft-Tex). I use Aunt Lydia's Classic 10. You need about 20 m to assemble the bag. If you also embroider with it, 100 m is more than enough. I use a double thread for everything.

Thin cotton in a contrasting color about 20 m (for dolphin contours and sewing panel on the bag)

Piece washed Kraft-Tex (unwashed 46 x 50 cm) 45 x 49.5 cm

Dye (option)

Felt 30 x 50 cm

Chain 320 cm ( chain as light as possible)

Zipper 40 cm

Ribbon (preferably cotton) 7 mm wide, length 8 m

Double-sided adhesive fleece line 30 x 50 cm

8 rivets 6mm, with tools to tighten them

Sewing thread

Acrylic paint (option)

Tung oil (option)

Glue stick (option)

Cardboard (option)

Adhesive tape

Squared paper 1 cm (can also be done without squares, but works easier with)

Graph paper 5 mm squares

Tracing paper

Aerosol glue (or tube, when using tube you do not need masking tape)

Painters tape

Textile glue (option)



X-acto knife (option)

Kitchen scale (only if you use dye)


Ironing board

Press cloth or old tea towel

Spray bottle with water

Sewing machine (to insert the zipper)


Saw table for jigsaw (option)

Hole puncher

Dremel with drill bits 2.0 mm for panel and 3.2 mm for rectangles



Tape measure 


Binder clips big and small

Work safely and use safety glasses, ear and dust protection.

Step 1: Create Pattern

To know how much plywood is needed, I first draw a pattern. In the past few days I've already made some doodles that I'm working on now.
First I draw the pattern for the bag, this is a simple straight forward model so that the panel is the eye-catcher.
When the pattern has been drawn on paper and cut out, I cut strips of one centimeter width from the 5 mm squared paper. I stick these along the edges of the pattern. I do this because the 5 mm squared paper is a great guideline for where I have to cut the holes with the hole puncher. The holes then come neatly at the same height and distance.
I glue the pattern I made on cardboard. This step is not necessary if you only want to make the bag once. I keep all my patterns and use them more often, a pattern only on paper is then too fragile. After glueing I reinforce the edges with adhesive tape
The sizes for the bag are:
Front and back side: 14 x 27 cm
Sides: 14 x 6 cm
Bottom and top: 27 x 6 cm
Panel: 25 x 12 cm
Since the width of the side of the bag is 6 cm, I don't want the width of the strap to be wider than 3 cm. I need to know this width because I want to use plywood in the shoulder strap.
After the pattern for the bag I make a cross stitch pattern for the plywood. I'm going for a dolphin. I first make a drawing, then I transfer the drawing onto tracing paper.  Because the drawing is now on tracing paper, I can slide it on graph paper and make the cross stitches come out as well as possible. I cut a sheet of 25 x 12 cm from 5 x 5 mm squared paper, the same size as the plywood panel. The squares represent the cross stitches. I now transfer the dolphin onto the graph paper, taking the cross-stitches into account as much as possible.
When the drawing is on the graph paper, I adjust the drawing to the cross stitch pattern. I decide to embroider the pattern in negative so that the dolphin wood color remains. After all adjustments on the graph paper I make the pattern again.
All pattern drawings are now ready.

Step 2: Cut Out the Pattern, Measure the Cotton Thread and Dye It

All patterns can now be cut. I cut: 1 x from white Kraft-Tex, 1 x from double-sided adhesive fleece and 1 x from felt.
Then it's the cotton's turn. I make 5 strands of the cotton yarn of 20 meters each. Thicker strands are less easy to dye. I tie off each strand with four strands, not too tight, I do this to prevent it from tangling during dyeing.
This time I make it easy on myself and use ready-made fabric dye. Normally I paint with natural dyes. I'd also like to see how factory dyes holds up on Kraft-Tex. I use Dylon hand wash textile dye: bags of 50 grams to which 250 grams of salt must be added and which are suitable for 250 grams of fabric. The Kraft-Tex and cotton thread, but also the remnants of the Kraft-Tex (necessary for the strap) together weigh just under 100 grams, so I weigh 20 grams of dye and add 100 grams of salt. I dissolve the whole in a glass jar with hot water and then add it to 2 liters of lukewarm water. The first fifteen minutes I keep stirring for good coverage, then I stir every 10 minutes. I leave the whole thing in the dye solution for an hour. Then rinse well until no color comes off and wash with a little bit of wool detergent, iron on the back with a hot iron as soon as it is almost dry. If you use a different brand of dye than Dylon, follow the instructions on the packaging.

Step 3: Sawing, Painting and Oiling Plywood

With a jigsaw and with the help of a jigsaw table I saw a rectangle of 25 x 12 cm. From the remaining plywood I saw 23 squares of 4.5 x 3 cm and 5 of 6.5 x 3 cm. These squares are for the strap.
After sawing, I sand all the pieces and paint the ends with black acrylic paint. Once this is dry, I finish the top with tung oil. 

Step 4: Glue Kraft-Tex on the Back of the Squares and Drill. Drill Panel

Once everything is cut, sanded, painted and oiled, it's time to drill. But first I still have to cover the back of the pieces for the shoulder strap. I use the leftover Kraft-Tex for this. I cut the Kraft-Tex into pieces that are slightly larger than the squares and will cut them to size once they are glued on. I use contact glue in an aerosol, so I tape the rectangles with masking tape so that no glue gets in places where no glue should be and stick the Kraft-Tex pieces upside down on a piece of paper. I use aerosol glue exclusively outside.

After the Kraft-Tex has been glued on the back of the rectangles and have dried, I cut off the excess Kraft-Tex. I mark the rectangles where holes have to be drilled. To get equal distances, I make a template from squared paper.

I made the cross stitch pattern once again because it involved a lot of changes and I don't want to run the risk of drilling wrong. I affix the new pattern to the panel with adhesive tape so that it cannot slide. Then I prick all the holes with an awl (the green dots in the drawing).

After all the holes to be drilled have been pierced, the holes can be drilled. I use a 3.2 mm drill for the rectangles and a 2.0 mm drill for the panel.

Step 5: Embroider Plywood

I make the embroidery in cross stitch, I use a double thread for this. How you make a cross stitch is actually not that important, it is important that you keep the same method so that all cross stitches are the same. For those who have never made cross-stitches before: the photos illustrate how to make them. I always start in the bottom left corner and make the cross stitch from bottom left to top right and back from top left to bottom right. If I can make a row, I work from bottom to top and back.
Once all the cross-stitches are done, I run a dark thread along the contours of the dolphin to make it stand out more.

Tip: Sometimes it can be difficult to insert the needle. A small pair of pliers can help, but make sure that you never grab the eye of the needle with the pliers because it will break.


Step 6: Making the Shoulder Strap

I make the shoulder strap by attaching the rectangles to the chain with ribbon, I want the shoulder strap to run all the way around the bag. If I want to have the desired length, I need a strap of 160 cm long. I let the bottom consist of small rectangles, the five larger rectangles I have I divide. I then get the following order: 5 small 1 large, 3 small 1 large (repeat 3 times) and end with 5 small.
I place all the pieces first on one chain and then on the other, skipping the first link of the chain, between the rectangles there is always 2 x half a link. As soon as all the pieces are attached to the second chain, I connect the ends of the chain with the help of two pliers.

Step 7: Insert Zipper

I decide to cut the top completely open. Since I didn't know exactly how I would do the top, I made it exactly the same as the bottom. The zipper was already marked on it. The piece I cut out is equal to the width of the slider.
If you have special tape for zippers, use that. Unfortunately I didn't have it anymore so I had to come up with an emergency solution, one that is unfortunately a bit less beautiful. I am unable to sew the zipper in one go between the Kraft-Tex and the felt, Kraft-Tex cannot be secured with pins. I first sewed the zipper on the Kraft-Tex with the sewing machine. Then I cut the piece of non-woven fabric (fleece line) to size and then pressed the felt onto the Kraft-Tex with a pressing cloth and an iron on the hottest setting.
I haven't cut the felt yet. After ironing on, I trim off the excess felt. Then I sewed in the zipper by hand with the same cotton that I used to make the cross stitch. I used a running stitch. When I'm at the end I turn the work and make running stitches again. It now looks like a backstitch with the difference that the bottom looks the same as the top.
When both sides of the zipper are done, I open the zipper, fold the pieces together and cut open the felt. Since I don't like the side of the felt, I glue the protruding felt over the running stitches with fabric glue. I press the glue seam together with small binder clips  and let the glue dry.

Step 8: Cutting Holes

The shoulder strap, the panel and the zipper are now ready, time to cut holes.
I reattach the pattern pieces to the Kraft-Tex with small binder clips. With a hole puncher that I set to 2 mm I now make holes along all edges of the pattern parts. The 5 mm graph paper is my guideline for this. I make a hole at every 5 mm intersection, 5 mm from the side. When all parts have holes, it is time to sew on the panel.

Step 9: Sewing on the Plywood Panel

I secure the panel with the big binder clips on the Kraft-Tex so that it cannot slide while sewing. I start with a thread in the color of the cross-stitches but after doing a bit I decide that I want more contrast so I take the thread out and start with the same cotton as I used to make the contours of the dolphin. I like this color better. As with the zipper, I thread the panel all the way around, regularly moving the binder clips to keep the panel in place as best as possible. Once I've gone around, I jump with the running stitch and stitch the remaining stitches so that it looks like it was secured with a backstitch. I make the stitches over 1cm length each time. Then I tie off the thread. 

Tip: If you cannot see at the bottom where to put the needle back in, pierce the needle from the top. A small hole will be made in the Kraft-Tex so that you can see exactly where to put it

Step 10: Ironing Kraft-Tex and Felt

Because Kraft-Tex itself feels rather papery, I always iron felt on it with the help of fleece line. This makes it feel more like leather. For all pattern parts I cut the fleece line exactly to size, I cut the felt a little wider. Because the pressing is done with an iron on its hottest setting, some types of felt sometimes shrink a bit.
To press, I first place the Kraft-Tex right side down on the ironing board (I protect the ironing board with an old towel against any adhesive residue). Then I put the fleece line on the Kraft-Tex, followed by the felt. I put a press cloth (old tea towel) over this. Then I spray it all wet with some water. I now press the hot iron on the press cloth and hold it for 15 seconds before I do the next part. Follow the manual of the non-woven fabric (fleece line) you use because this can vary per brand.
After the first pattern part, I will finish all the other parts one by one. After this I cut away all the protruding pieces of felt. No holes are cut in the felt, so the bag will remain closed on the inside.

Step 11: Assemble Bag

The bag is put together with overhand stitches. Because I used the 5 mm squared paper, all the holes come out well. I sew the sides to the bottom first. Then I sew the backside in. To make that easier, I secure the back with small binder clips on the sides and bottom. I leave the beginning of the thread and end with the thread hanging to finish later. In the corners I make the stitch twice for extra strength.
As soon as the backside is in, the bag starts to take shape and the shoulder strap can be attached. This is now necessary because I want to secure it with strips of Kraft-Tex over the belt (see photo). Once the front is in, it is almost impossible to get the rivets in. Holes still need to be cut for the rivets, and strips still need to be cut to secure the shoulder strap. I cut two strips of 5 x 1.5 cm (sides) and 1 of 5 x 3.5 cm (bottom) and fasten the shoulder strap with them.
Now it is the turn of the front side. I start with the side of the bag, I do not fasten anything here, it only serves for finishing touch, I will tie the beginning of  thread to the thread of the back piece. The front is a bit more difficult because of the wooden panel. Here too I secure everything with binder clips. When the front piece is attached, I finish with the side. Here too I tie the thread of the front and back pieces together and then fasten off the strands by tucking them down.
The bag falls slightly, but as soon as the zipper is in it, the bag takes its shape. I start in the corner of the long side, make a few stitches towards the zipper (the holes are the guideline, I work this way because I don't want tie-in and tie-off threads) and go back to the long side (see  photo). This is also only for finishing and is not attached to anything else.
After this I fasten the long side to the bag and finish on the short side again in the same way as the beginning.  When the other side of the zipper is also secured, the bag is almost ready. Add a tassel at the slider and you are done.
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