How to Make an Oriental Bag

Introduction: How to Make an Oriental Bag

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A pretty and practical handbag suitable for any occasion. Designed and made by Brenda Dean Photographs by Peter Dean. Published by Popular Patchwork.


    60cm (5⁄8yd) background fabric
    Two contrasting fat quarters for the design panel
    30cm (3⁄8yd) or a fat quarter lining
    9 x 24in non-fusible medium weight interfacing
    30cm (3⁄8yd) fusible wadding
    4 x 6in fusible interfacing, for fastening tab
    4 x 8in template plastic, for base
    1.4m (11⁄2yd) thick (#6 or #7) piping cord for handles
    One button
    Thread to match fabrics

Finished Size

Approx 25 x 30cm (10 x 12in) (base measures 10 x 20cm or 4 x 8in)

Skill Level


Step 1: Cuttting Instructions

1. From the background fabric, cut the following:

        Two 5in wide strips across the width of the fabric. From one strip, crosscut one 4 1⁄2 x 8 1⁄2in rectangle for the base and two 2 1⁄2in wide strips across the width of the fabric, each trimmed to 32in, for the handles; from the second strip, cut a 5 x 25in rectangle for the bag top section and a 4 x 6in rectangle for the fastening tab.
        One 9in wide strip across the width of the fabric. Cross-cut to give 24 1 1⁄2 x 9in rectangles for the design panel

2.  Take the two fat quarters and place them right sides together on your cutting mat. Keeping them together, fold in half width wise. Making sure you cut through all four layers, cut 12 1 1⁄2in wide strips. See Figure 1.

3.  From the fusible wadding, cut the following:
        One 8 x 24in rectangle for the design panel
        One 4 x 8in rectangle for the base
        Two 2 x 24in strips for the bag top section

4.  From the lining, cut the following:
        One 8 1⁄2 x 25in rectangle
        Two 5 x 9in rectangles
    If you are using a fat quarter, cut two 81⁄2 x 13in rectangles and join with a 1⁄2in seam to make a 81⁄2 x 25in rectangle.

Step 2: Creating the Strip

1. Take the 9 x 24in piece of medium weight interfacing and using a soft pencil, draw 23 lines at 1in intervals. See Figure 2.

2.  Take each of the 12 pairs of contrast strips cut from the fat quarters and, keeping each pair right sides together, join them lengthwise. Press the seam open and then fold the piece along the stitching line so that the right sides are to the outside. Cut each piece in half to yield two pieces each 1 1⁄4 x 9in as in Figure 3.

Step 3: First Background Strip

3.  Take one strip of background fabric and place it, right side up, onto the marked interfacing so that the edge of the strip lies along the first marked line. The strip will have a 1⁄2in seam allowance overhanging the bottom edge of the interfacing. See Figure 4.

Step 4: Sewing the Strips

4. Take a stitched double contrast strip and place on top of the background strip, matching the raw edges. A 1⁄4in of the background fabric will show underneath the stitched edge of the double strip. Stitch through all layers 1⁄4in from the raw edges. See Figure 5.

Step 5: Sewing the Strips Continued

5. Place a second background strip right side down directly on top of the contrast strip. Stitch again through all layers 1⁄4in from the raw edges. Turn this second strip over to the right side and finger press in place; the contrast strip will form a lose flap. You can combine steps 4 and 5 and stitch all the layers together in one operation.

6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 until all 24 strips are stitched onto the interfacing with a background strip under each double contrast strip. See Figures 5–6.

7. Fuse the 8 x 24in rectangle of wadding onto the back of the panel, matching the two short edges and leaving a 1⁄2in gap down each long edge.

8. Turn the panel to the right side and stitch the strips in place with matching thread along the centre of the work, pushing all the strips in the same direction, with the first contrast fabric on top. See Figure 7.

Step 6: Piecing the Strips

9. Working along one edge of the work, fold the edges of the strips so that the contrast fabric is visible and pin in place. Take care not to pull the pieces tight or the shape of your work will be distorted. Do not fold the last strip as yet, just pin in place. See Figure 8.

Step 7: Piecing the Strips Continued

Stitch the folded edges in place with matching thread so that the stitching passes through the points. Repeat with the opposite edge of the piece. Trim the long edges to a scant 1⁄4inch from the stitched line, making sure that the last strip is just pinned in place. The piece should measure 81⁄2in wide. See Figure 9.

With right sides together, join the two short edges together with a 1⁄4in seam to form a tube. The wadding should butt together to avoid a bulky join. Fold and stitch both ends of the last strip in place.

Step 8: Preparing the Base

Iron the 4 x 8in piece of fusible wadding onto the wrong side of the base fabric, leaving 1⁄4in all round. Secure the base with simple quilting (optional) and mark the centre of each side of the base with a pin. See Figure 10.

Step 9: Joining the Design Panel and Base

Mark the lower edge of the design panel in four equal sections, beginning at the seam. Position the join in the panel to the centre of one of the short sides of the base. Right sides together, pin the base to the design panel, easing the panel to fit the base. Stitch together with a 1⁄4in seam, clipping the edges of the design panel at the corners of the base. Again, the edges of the wadding should butt together to avoid a bulky join. See Figure 11.

Step 10: Preparing the Bag Top Section

Press the two 2 x 24in strips of fusible wadding onto the wrong side of the 5 x 25in bag top section, leaving a 1⁄8in gap between the two pieces and 1⁄2in all the way round. Right sides together, fold in half and stitch with a 1⁄2in seam; press open. See Figures 12a-b.

Step 11: Preparing the Handles

Take the 2 1⁄2 x 32in strips. Wrong sides together, press each long strip in half. Open up and bring the side edges to the centre and refold along the crease line. This will give you four thicknesses of fabric. Beginning 2 1⁄2in from the top end, stitch down the long (open double fold) side close to the edge, finishing 2 1⁄2in from the bottom end. See Figure 13.

Step 12: Threading the Handle Tube

Cut two pieces of piping cord each 27in long (It’s a good idea to wrap clear sticky tape around each cut end to prevent fraying). Attach a safety pin to one end and thread through the handle tube, leaving 21⁄2in of unstitched fabric only at each end. See Figure 14.

Step 13: Fastening Tab

Take the 4 x 6in pieces of fabric and fusible interfacing: fuse the interfacing to the wrong side.

Fold the piece in half lengthwise, right sides together. Mark a point at the end of one short side and draw diagonal lines to it from the sides to form the tab point. Stitch with a 1⁄4in seam along the dotted lines. Trim away the excess fabric and the bulk from the points. Turn through to the right side, press and top stitch close to the edge around three finished sides. Work a buttonhole at the point. See Figures 15 a-b.

Step 14: Attaching the Handles and Fastening Tab

Position both ends of one handle onto the top edge of one side (right side) of the design panel with right sides together and the handles an equal distance from the centre. Stitch in place 1⁄4in from the edge. Right sides together, stitch the fastening tab in the centre. See Figure 16.

Stitch the second handle on the back design panel.

Step 15: Attaching the Bag Top

Pin the top bag section to the top edge of the bag, right sides together and matching the joins in both pieces. Using a 1⁄4in seam, stitch all round the top of the bag; press so that the edges of the wadding butt together to avoid a bulky join. See Figure 17.

Step 16: Creating the Lining Pieces

Place the template plastic between the two 5 x 9in lining pieces so that the right sides of the fabric are outside. Stitch all round, close the edge of the plastic. You may need to use the zipper foot to stitch close to the edge. See Figure 18a.

Take the 8 1⁄2 x 25in rectangle of lining fabric and fold in half right sides together. Stitch the seam in two parts. Sew 1⁄2in along the seam, leave a 5in gap and then continue sewing to the end. See Figure 18b.

Right sides together, pin the base to the lining piece (as for the bag). Position the join to the centre of one of the short sides of the base. Stitch together with a 1⁄2in seam, clipping the edges of the lining at the corners of the base.

Turn the bag to the wrong side and put the lining inside the bag so that the right side of the bag and the right side of the lining are together. Make sure that the top edges are in line, that vertical seams are matching and that the handles and straps are tucked inside. Stitch around the top edge with a 1⁄2in seam. Turn the bag right side out through the gap in the lining. Slipstich the lining closed.

Fold the top edge of the bag so that it folds naturally along the 1⁄8in gap left between the two strips of fusible wadding inside the top section. Make sure that the lining is in place. Quilt four horizontal rows 1⁄2in apart through all layers of the top section, including the lower part of the handles and the tab. Finally, stitch the button in place and your bag is complete.

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