Thursday 17 October 2013

Reversible Bag tutorial

Remember the bag I made last year from the lovely Geocentrics fabric range? Well Annie from The Village Haberdashery got back in touch recently, to tell me that a few new lines have been added to the collection and would I like to test them out? Of course I would! It just so happens that I've been planning to put together a tutorial on reversible bags as I've had a few requests from readers, so this was perfect timing. My tutorial will be for a large shopping bag with a wider base at the bottom. If you'd prefer a simpler tote bag or book bag, then I'll also show you how you achieve this with just a few tweaks of the same tutorial.  

I chose Interlock in Sprout to make my shopping bag, teamed with a plain navy lining and Diamonds in Sky with a red lining for my tote bag.

Shopping bag 

Tote bag

One thing to note - if your lining fabric is darker in colour than your outer fabric (as mine are), then I'd recommend interfacing the outer fabric to prevent the darker fabric showing through. It will also give your bags a little more structure.

Fancy making a reversible bag? OK, let's do it!

You will need
For each bag:
½ metre Geocentrics light canvas fabric (or similar) for outer bag
½ metre medium weight interfacing if your outer fabric is light coloured
½ metre lining fabric (quilting weight fabric is ideal)

For the reversible shopping bag
Cut out the following:
2 x rectangles of outer fabric, each measuring 20 inches wide x 16 inches long 
2 x rectangles of lining fabric to the same dimensions
2 x rectangles of medium weight fusible interfacing to the same dimensions
2 x handle pieces each measuring 20 inches wide x 4 ½ inches wide

For the large shopping bag only: if you're using a directional print, make sure the print runs crossways in a landscape format.

1. Apply fusible interfacing to the wrong side of the outer bag pieces (not shown).

2. Fold one of your handle pieces in half lengthways, wrong sides together and press. 

Open out, fold in both outer edges to the centre and press.

Fold in half again and press.

3. Now top stitch along both long edges. Repeat for the other handle piece.

4. We're now going to pin the handles to the lining pieces. Place a lining fabric piece right side up and mark along the top edge, 6 ½ inches in from each side.

5. Pin one end of a handle piece to the right of the first mark - the raw edges of the handle should line up with the raw edge of the fabric.  Then pin the other end of the handle piece to the left of the second mark as shown. Make sure the handle doesn't twist as you pin it.

6. Take one of your outer fabric pieces and place it on top of the lining fabric, right sides together. Pin along the top, checking that the handles are fully enclosed within the two pieces of fabric.

Repeat for the other bag side and handle pieces.

7. Take one of the pinned sections and sew right across the top edge, using a ½ inch seam allowance and back stitching over the two handle tops for extra strength.

8. Take the remaining pinned section and sew in exactly the same way, but this time leave a 4 or 5 inch gap between the two handles. This is where we will turn the bag inside out later on. Don't forget to remove all pins holding the handles in place after you've sewn the top edge.

The two sides with top edge sewn. The piece on top has a turning gap.

9. Press open the seams on both pieces.

View from right side with seams pressed open

Turning gap

If you want to add a label, now's your chance! Make sure you position it a couple of inches from the top of the lining piece so it doesn't get in the way of the top stitching later.

10. Open both bag side pieces out so that the two outer fabrics are on one side and the two lining fabrics are on the other. Place the pieces on top of each other, right sides together and pin all the way round.

Make sure the two seams are right on top of each other.

11. Sew all the way around the giant rectangle.

Now for the gussets! This is a slightly tricky bit so I'll try to explain it as carefully as I can. You'll be making four gussets in total, one for each corner of the outer bag and lining. 

12. Take one of the corners, pull each side of the bottom seam tightly outwards as far as it will go until it flattens into a triangle. Make sure there isn't any excess fabric. The bottom seam should run right through the centre of this triangle and the side seam should run directly underneath.

The seam you can see here is the bottom seam

Feel to make sure the two seams lie on top of each other. Pin into place.

13. Measure 2.75 inches down from the top of the triangle and draw a straight line across.

14. Sew across this line several times for strength.

15. Trim the corner off, leaving a small allowance. Repeat for the remaining three corners.

16. Turn the bag the right way round through the hole you left between the handles.

This is what it will look like when it's first turned out

17. Press well and ensure all the edges are poked out as far as possible.

18. Push the lining into position inside the outer bag.

19. Press into place, ensuring that the lining is pressed just a smidgen below the outer fabric. A good way of pressing the squared off gusset edges is to position the bag on the edge of the ironing board.

20. Top stitch right around the top edge of the bag just in from the edge so that the turning gap is stitched closed in the process.

You now have a lovely neat reversible shopping bag, so go and fill it with goodies!

I'm now going to show you how this tutorial can be adapted to make a plain tote bag or book bag. This bag is large enough to hold an A4 folder and/or a magazine.

For the plain tote bag bag
Cut out the following:
2 x rectangles of outer fabric, each measuring 13 inches wide x 15 inches long 
2 x rectangles of lining fabric to the same dimensions
2 x rectangles of medium weight fusible interfacing to the same dimensions
2 x handle pieces each measuring 18 inches wide x 4 ½ inches wide

For the tote bag only: if you're using a directional print, make sure the print runs crossways in a portrait format.
Follow steps 1 to 3 as per shopping bag instructions. For step 4, the measurements for pinning the handles to the bag pieces are slightly different because of the shape (see below)

4. We're now going to pin the handles to the lining pieces. Place a lining fabric piece right side up and mark along the top edge, 3 ½ inches in from each side.

Follow steps 5 to 11 as per shopping bag instructions.

As there are no gussets on this bag, when you've finished step 11, simply snip off the four corners diagonally. Then follow steps 16 to 20 as per shopping bag instructions. You now have a gorgeous tote bag. Easy!

I hope this tutorial is clear. Please let me know if you spot anything that doesn't make sense. And don't forget to let me know if you make a bag, I'd love to see your finished creations! 

Thank you to Annie from The Village Haberdashery for supplying the gorgeous Geocentrics fabrics for this tutorial.


  1. Jane, thanks for taking the time to post this! I'm always interested in the shapes and dimensions other people use for their bags. That shopping bag sure is roomy and I may just need to make me one!

  2. Thank you for the tutorial - I have never made a bag before so will definitely have a go!

  3. Brilliant, Jane!! Thank you so much for putting together this great tutorial. I rarely opt for shopper type bags because they're all floppy (although that can be a benefit if you're shoving them into another bag), but I love his this has a bit of structure. Very stylish results!

  4. And thank you for such a clear tutorial. Lovely bags.

  5. Fabulous Jane and just in time as I have just bought some lovely fabric which I am hoping to do something wonderful with and here it is! Thank you so much - your tutorial was really clear and simple even for a new sewer like me. Fabulous. Have a lovely weekend
    Lots of love

  6. What a fabulously thorough tutorial! Thanks so much for taking the time to do all of that, I'm going to have to dig put my bag making stuff again, it's been so long since I've made any!

  7. Fabulous Jane, thanks so much for sharing!

  8. Much easier stitching the handles to the lining fabric than the way I've been doing it. Thanks for the great tute.

  9. Thank you for this ! Another great project to add to my beginner's to do list. The bags both look great !

  10. What an absolutely fantastic tutorial. I know that this will come in very handy indeed.
    Rosie xx

  11. Your bags look great. Love the fabrics! I made a reversible bag once before but don't remember how I did it so your tutorial is handy. Thanks! - Chuleenan,

  12. These bags look so cool, Jane..the fabric and colours and simplicity make me want one or everyday of the week! Great looking tutorial, I'd feel I could ...just need to get organised.

  13. What an awesome tutorial, thanks so much for sharing! Perfect Christnas present idea as well! I'm going to blog about the Banksia top this week and I've decided to pay-it-forward with my own unworn/unloved handmade giveaway. You don't know what you've started!

  14. Great tutorial, so well explained. Lovely fabric as well! Bx

  15. Well done, Jane. Thank you for the inspiring tutorial!

  16. Thanks so much for this brilliant tutorial. Absolutely fool proof. Friends and family love them - I am on bag no.11!!! I think I may have an addiction to bag making thanks to you!!!!

    1. That's so wonderful to hear - glad it works so well for you! x

  17. Thanks for this great tutorial, I just made a bag for my friend's birthday and am really pleased with it.....I'd post a picture if I knew how to! I'm better at sewing than IT stuff!



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...