Almost everyone needs a peg bag (clothes pin bag in North America). Even flat-dwellers probably have an internal line in the bathroom or kitchen to hang up things that can't be tumble dried. Bought ones are rarely of a strong enough fabric, and they soon fade in the sun or rot if they have been left out in the rain once too often. Why not make a pretty one for yourself or a friend? You could make it in colours to match your kitchen or utility room so it can be displayed rather than shut away in a cupboard. It would be an ideal present for a young person setting up home. Even young men need somewhere to keep their pegs – although a macho stripe might be more suitable than a flowery fabric. You could make one in his team's colours, or even vary the design to create "sleeves" and appliqué a number on the back so it looks like a little football shirt on a hanger.
What you need
Piece of fabric measuring approx. 69cm x 39cm (27” x 15.5”)
Slim hardwood dowel (8mm diameter is ideal) or wooden batten, 33cm (13”) long
Net curtain hook or small cup hook
30” of 5/8” or 1" wide bias binding (80cm of 25mm)
Sewing machine, scissors, iron, wood saw, sandpaper, gimlet or small wood drill
It's best to use a light to medium weight curtain or furnishing fabric, but a heavy weight dress fabric would do. Linen union is ideal. You can probably find a remnant in a furnishing fabric shop. I prefer linen or cotton to man-made fibres, but a bit of polyester in the mix will help to provide strength. Use a matching thread, ie. don’t use a polyester thread to sew natural fibres, it will melt when you try to press your work. In this design, there is a circular "buttonhole" through which the hanging hook goes, and this will press nice and flat if you use a steam iron on a linen or cotton fabric.
If the fabric is a natural fibre, shrink it first by putting it in a 40oC (100oF) wash. That way, you shouldn’t get any seam puckering when the finished article is washed (which it will need every so often – and it is easy to remove the hanging bar to do so), and you can be sure that it will wash OK at that temperature.
For the example in the photos in this Instructable (apart from the finished item photo) I used a Liberty furnishing fabric called Tritonia in Combe Florey which is 52% flax (linen), 36% cotton and 12% nylon. You may have a piece of fabric left over from making curtains or cushions. If not, you will need to buy either: a) 40cm (half a yard) of fabric that is at least 138cm (54”) wide and can be cut crosswise (ie. it doesn’t have a prominent lengthwise design), which will make 2 bags; or b) 70cm (a bit over ¾ yard) if the fabric does have a prominent lengthwise design and is at least 138cm (54”) wide, which will make 3 bags cut lengthwise.
If possible, use a fabric without an obvious direction to the design, as the back of the bag folds over to create the upper part of the front, so some of the pattern will be upside down.
The wooden "hanger"
For the first one of these I made, I used a wooden batten that was about 2.5cm (1”) wide and 6mm (1/4”) thick. There is no reason why you should not use such a batten if you have a suitable length handy, but it shouldn't be too wide or it will show when the bag is hung up – the opening inevitably gapes a little. The thickness will need to be no less than about 5mm or the wood may split when you try and screw in the hook, particularly if it is a large one. I now prefer to use wooden dowel, as it gives a nice roundness to the top edge of the bag when it is hung up, and there is less risk of splitting it when the hook is screwed in. Inserting the screw perpendicular to the curved surface of the dowel needs a little care, but then so does inserting it into the thin edge of a flat batten. I bought a 1m length of 8mm hardwood dowel in my local craft shop for 45p.
I find that a small hook does a better job than the larger ones that are often found on bought peg bags. If it fits the washing line reasonably snugly, it is less likely to blow off in a wind. Of course, it shouldn’t be such a snug fit that it is a struggle to get it on. I like to use the small chromed hooks that are sold for hanging net curtains rather than larger cup hooks, but if you can find a small cup hook with a plastic coating, that should be OK, although it may rust after a while if the plastic gets damaged. Also, the bigger the hook, the longer the screw on the end of it, so you may need a larger dowel. My local ironmonger sells bags of 50 chromed curtain hooks for £1.
If the opening of the hook is a bit too small to fit over the line, just open it a touch with a couple of pairs of pliers – hold the stem of the thing with one pair and grip the tip of the hook with the other. You can also use pliers to open a small eye into a hook, if you happen to have eyes but no hooks.
Bought bias binding is quite a coarse weave and it doesn’t tend to survive a lot of washing or wear, but the binding will be inside the bag, and sewn down onto it by the stitching around the opening, so it should be fine. If you want a better quality binding, make your own (you can buy bias binding-making tools at haberdashers) or look out for the "nainsook" type. You can get away with using 25mm (1") wide binding for this project, I just prefer to use the narrower binding unless the fabric is very thick. Because the binding is on the inside of the bag, it won’t show in use and you don't really need a matching colour, so use up whatever oddments you have in your sewing box. If you are buying binding specially, match it to the colour of the inside of the fabric, not the right side. Alternatively, if you don’t have any binding to hand and you want to get on with the project, you could just zigzag the opening edges to neaten them, or turn under a narrow hem if the fabric isn’t too thick.
Although it doesn’t say so in the step by step instructions, all seams should be pressed after sewing, preferably with a steam iron.
Finish off all ends so the seams don’t come undone. Take one thread through to the other side using a hand sewing needle, knot the two threads together, then thread them both through the needle and work several small stitches in the seam allowance back along the stitching. Cut off. Where seams cross and will need to be trimmed or pressed open, it is often best to finish off the ends of the first seam only when the second one has been sewn, to avoid having to trim off or undo where the ends have been sewn in.
I have used French seams for this project, because they make a neat finish inside the bag. The inside, and particularly the base of the bag, gets a lot of wear from the pegs, and encasing all the raw edges also makes the seams strong. It does make the seams a little bulky, which might be a problem for a garment but doesn't really matter for a bag. If you don’t want to use French seams, perhaps because your fabric is very thick, then zigzag the raw edges or encase them in bias binding.
Step 1: Cutting the Fabric
Cut 2 rectangles of fabric, each 39 cm (15.5”) wide, one 39 cm (15.5”) long and the other 29cm (11.5”) long. If the fabric is patterned and you have enough of it, cut the rectangles so that the pattern will match across the join at the opening of the bag with the pattern running up from the shorter rectangle to the square piece, but be aware that this will mean the pattern is upside down on the back of the bag. It is often better to have the back of the bag the right way up, with just the top part of the front upside down. As that it quite a small piece of fabric, it won’t be obvious unless the fabric design is very obviously uni-directional.
Step 2: Sewing the Opening
Pin the two pieces together by a 39 cm edge, right sides together. Mark the centre point of that edge with a pin, then measure out from it 9 cm (3.5") each way and mark those points with distinctive pins (use pins with red heads, or 2 pins close together if you don’t have glass-headed pins). Sew a 13 mm (1/2") seam starting at one edge and sewing as far as the first distinctive pin. Finish off the seam by backstitching there and cut the thread, then set your machine to a long, tacking stitch and start sewing again shortly before the end of the stitching you have just done, finishing just beyond the second distinctive pin. Cut the thread, reset the machine to a shorter stitch, start sewing at the pin with a few backstitches and then continue to the edge. You should end up with the two rectangles joined by their short edges, with a tacked section in the middle of the seam which will form the opening of the bag. Remove the pins, finish off the ends of the thread (but not the tacking ends) and press the seam open.
Fold the bias binding in half and crease it with an iron. Cut two pieces the same length as the short edges of the rectangles and pin them onto each side of the seam you have just sewn, encasing the raw edges. You may want to trim the edges first if they are particularly ragged. Tack and then sew each length of binding in place near its edge, being careful to catch in the underneath edge of the binding too (but not the front of the bag). Press the seam open again. Remove the machine tacking that is holding the 18 cm (7”) opening closed. Hand tack the binding in place near each side edge of the bag, and also tack around the seam opening, close to the folded edge of the binding.
Topstitch round the opening of the bag to hold the bound edges in place, using the width of the presser foot as a guide. Raise the presser foot and pivot the needle at each corner to make a neat rectangle of stitching. The short lengths of stitching at each side of the opening need to be a presser foot width's beyond where the stitching at either side of the opening starts. Then reinforce each end of the letterbox opening by stitching a vertical zigzag bar with a short stitch length, just inside where the seam ends, extending from about 6 mm (1/4") above the opening to the same distance below. Alternatively, as shown in the picture of the finished peg bag, stitch triangular pieces at each end of the opening to reinforce it.
Step 3: Making the Hanging Hole
Fold the bag wrong sides together so that the unsewn 39 cm edges of the fabric pieces are together. The opening slot should be about 5cm (2”) below the top folded edge. Mark the centre point of this edge (on the fold) with a biro or indelible pen on the right side of the fabric. This is where the hole for the hanging hook will go. From a scrap of fabric cut a 4 cm (1.5”) diameter circle – draw round the bottom of a bottle or jar that is the right size, using a "disappearing" fabric pen or a water soluble crayon on the wrong side. If you don’t have enough of the main fabric, you can use a toning fabric of the same weight, it will hardly show on the right side. Find the centre point of this circle by folding it into quarters and mark it with a biro or indelible pen on the wrong side. Sew around the edges of the circle with a close zigzag stitch to neaten it, and finish off the ends on the wrong side.
Lay the bag on the table, opened out and right side up. Take the circle and put a pin downwards through the marked centre point on the wrong side, then through the marked point on the bag, pulling it from beneath so that the reinforcement circle ends up on the bag in the correct place, right sides together. Pin it in place, remove the pin that is through the marked points, then hand tack the circle in place around its edge. Using a biro or indelible pen, draw a small circle on the wrong side of the reinforcement circle, centred on its marked centre point, and about 1 cm (3/8”) in diameter – you should be able to draw this by eye, it doesn’t have to be a perfect circle. Now stitch on this line using a short machine stitch (maybe 2mm, 8 per inch), and go round a second time just outside the first line of stitching but right up against it. It's a tight curve, so you will probably need to lift the presser foot and turn the fabric after every stitch. Unless your machine has stitch by stitch precision, turn it over by hand. Undo the tacking, then take the ends of the stitching through to the inside of the bag and finish them off, working them into the area outside the ring of stitches, being careful not to go through both layers, ie. don’t catch in the reinforcement circle beneath.
Now make a hole inside the circle of stitches, through both layers of fabric, using a stitch ripper or the point of a sharp pair of scissors. Cut a small circle of fabric (through both layers) from within the stitches, without snipping them. A small, sharp pair of scissors is the best way to do this, turning the fabric rather than the scissors. The circle removed should be about the size that an ordinary hole punch produces in a sheet of paper. Then feed the reinforcement circle through this hole and ease it onto the wrong side of the bag fabric. Press it with a steam iron. If you are using a cotton or linen fabric, you should be able to get it quite smooth on the wrong side, with a nice neat circular hole on the right side, with a minimal amount of the reinforcement fabric visible from that side. Tack it in place around the edge of the reinforcement circle. Find something circular to draw around which is a little smaller than your tacking – a cotton reel is ideal because you can look through the hole in the middle of it to line it up on the hole in your bag – and draw a circle on the right side of the fabric using a "disappearing" fabric pen or a water soluble crayon. Then topstitch round the line from the right side to hold the reinforcement circle in place on the wrong side.
Step 4: Side Seams and Bottom Seam
That's the fiddly part done, it's plain sailing now! Fold the bag WRONG SIDES TOGETHER with the hole in the centre of the fold along the top edge and the bottom and side edges together. Pin and then sew the side seams with a 13 mm (1/2") seam. Trim a narrow strip off to neaten the raw edges to about 6mm (1/4”), and trim diagonally at the top and bottom corners. Remove the tacking at the edges holding the seam allowances at either side of the slot opening in place, then press the seams open. Turn the bag so the right sides are inwards and press the seams carefully, using a pin to pull them out as you go, if necessary. Pin the seams and stitch again, right sides together this time, in a 13 mm (1/2") seam. Finish off the ends at the top of the bag, but leave those at the bottom until the first bottom seam is sewn, as it will need to be trimmed before stitching right sides together. Then turn the bag right sides out and press the side seams.
Pin and then sew the bottom seam with a 13 mm (1/2") seam, WRONG SIDES TOGETHER. Trim a narrow strip off again and proceed as for the side seams, turning the bag wrong side out through the letterbox opening, to allow the second 13 mm (1/2") seam to be sewn enclosing the raw edges. Finish off all ends, turn the bag right sides out and press it all, starting with the bottom seam. The sewing is finished!
Step 5: The Dowel and Hook
Measure the finished inside width of the top edge, ie. inside the French seams – it should be about 33 cm (13”). Your dowel needs to be about ½” shorter than this. Saw it to length and smooth any rough edges with sandpaper. Put it inside the bag – insert one end through the letterbox slot into a bottom corner, then slip the other end through the slot and you should be able to get it into place quite easily. Place it along the top edge with an equal gap at either end and mark through the hanging hole onto the wood using a pencil. (This is better than just marking the centre of the dowel, in case the hanging hole in your bag hasn’t ended up precisely in the centre.) Remove the dowel and make a hole at the marked point using the gimlet or the small wood drill, aiming for the centre line of the dowel. (If your hook has a point on the end of the screw, this may not be necessary.) Screw in the hook until it is tight and pointing at right angles to the length of the dowel. Put the dowel back into the bag as before, slipping the tip of the hook through the hole so that it faces the back of the bag. Voila!