July. Christmas. Ready.

Okay, maybe not completely.  Probably not at all.  (Someone – walks like a duck… talks like a duck… – has “borrowed” everything I’ve made so far for “other purposes”.)

So I may consider hiding the little bags I made for today.


Bags like this have been around for years and years; there have been patterns and tutorials, and everybody has a little bit  different take on what they like to do.  I’ve made and used this kind of bag for… well, years and years.  I’ve made them with leftover blocks, rectangles pieced with leftover parts, and I’ve even pieced something specifically to use for this purpose.  Because the shape is so terrific, I’ve also used this shape for pincushions – some that look like chickens and others that don’t.

I hadn’t made any bags in a few years but then Peta Peace of Australia showed this picture on Instagram…


The image stayed with me because it reminded me of some of the pictures I’d seen – and pinned – on Pinterest of advent calendar ideas and last-minute-gift ideas.  When I went back to find the picture for this post, it turns out that Peta had made the basketful of bags for gifts using the terrific tutorial by Lisa and Sarah of A Spoonful of Sugar – the wonderful Aussie-based blog where I found the Charm Square tray I shared a few weeks ago.  (Their tutorials – Triangle Pouch and Patchwork Triangle Pouch.)

After seeing their tutorials, I thought about using a picture of the bags I made and linking to them because they’re terrific.  But they’re not very much alike other than the shape.  Next time, right?


Did I mention that the other inspiration for this particular project was a stack of “leftover” pieces of Moda Crossweaves that Chelair left on my desk?  Yes… I was smitten.  (Again.) (Still.)

The first several bags were made with squares from a Layer Cake of Evergreen by Basic Grey.  My intent had been to use a single Layer Cake to make at least 21 bags – one square for the outside and one square for the lining.  Since the size was perfect for my purpose, I stayed with the same size piece after deciding to use – being sidetracked by – the crossweaves.

This is what you’ll need for one bag:

  • 1 piece of fabric – at least 8 1/2″ x 10″ – for the outside of the bag.
    • From the piece, cut 1 rectangle – 6 1/2″ x 10″.  Then from the 2″ strip, cut 2 rectangles – 2″ x 2 1/2″ – and save the remainder.
  • 1 piece of fabric – at least 6 1/2″ x 10″ – for the lining of the bag.
  • 1 piece of batting – 6 1/2″ x 10″.  I used leftover pieces of batting – 100% cotton and 50% cotton/50% bamboo.
  • coordinating or contrasting thread for quilting – in your preferred weight
  • 1 zipper – at least 7″ long
  • 1 zipper pull – optional

Using the fabric and batting rectangles, make a “quilt sandwich” of the two layers of fabric and the batting, and quilt as desired.

Trim the sides of the quilted rectangle so they are straight, even and “clean”.  I trimmed the rectangle to measure 6″ x 9 3/4″.

The zipper.  The first thing I like to do is “remove” the metal parts on the zipper tape.  Start at the bottom of the zipper – about 1″ above the bottom metal cross-bar, zig-zag stitch across the zipper-coil as shown below.

Using one of the 2″ x 2 1/2″ rectangles, fold it in half to find the center – 1 1/4″ in from the ends.  Place the fold approximately 1/4″ inside the zig-zap stitching and stitch across the rectangle.  (The upper left image in the next picture might help.)


Fold the rectangle over and top-stitch along the edge.  Trim the sides even with the zipper.

To repeat this on the other end of the zipper – measure 5″ up from the folded edge and make a mark on the zipper tape.  This is the point for the zig-zag stitching.  Now measure 4 3/4″ up from the folded edge and mark the zipper tape – this is the placement point for the fold on the other end.

Before stitching… Make sure the zipper is open – that the zipper pull is between the two stitching lines.  (Yes, I made that mistake… that’s how I know this.)

Fold back the fabric to expose the bottom of the tape.  Using the tips of a sharp pair of scissors, remove the plastic zipper coil as shown, leaving approximately 1/4″ of the zipper.


When both sides are complete, the zipper should measure 4 3/4″ from fold to fold.

With the wrong-side of the zipper facing the outer fabric, align the edge of the zipper tape with the edge of the fabric.  The ends will extend past the edge as shown.

Using your preferred width and zipper foot, sew the zipper to the quilted rectangle.


Optional:  Overcast or serge the edge of the zipper.

Optional:  Top-stitch along the edge of zipper as shown.  Full disclosure – doing the first side of the top-stitching is easy.  Zip. Done.  The second side… not so much.  The bag is joined so you’re working in the middle of a small cylinder… it gets a little tight.  Going slowly, I could stitch about 3/4 of the length before it became too difficult to manage.  So I “finished” the seam by coming from the other direction and overlapping the stitching.  Once finished, you really have to look to find the join.

Repeat on the other side of the bag.


On the edge of the bag with the bottom of the zipper, fold the cylinder to center the zipper.  Pin to secure.  Using a 3/8″ seam allowance, stitch across the opening.

Optional:  Overcast or serge the seam.

With right sides together, fold the 2″ x 5″ rectangle lengthwise and stitch a generous 1/4″ from the fold.  Trim the seam allowance to approximately 1/8″ and turn right-side-out.

Fold in half to make a little loop – stitch across the  bottom approx. 1 1/4″ from the tip of the loop.  Stitch across the two loops – trim to 1/4″ seam allowance.

Open the zipper about half-way before proceeding.  (Ask me why I’m reminding you of this…)

Fold the remaining edge as shown – zipper on one fold, center of bag on the other.  Insert the loop into the bag and pin in place approx. 1″ away from the zipper-fold.  (It doesn’t need to be exact, but it’s where the pin is in the first picture.)

Using a 3/8″ seam allowance, stitch across the opening.  Go slowly across the zipper – even though there aren’t any metal parts, it’s still thick and it can be a little bulky.  Overcast or serge – if desired.


Turn the bag right side out and poke out the corners.  Add a little zipper pull and presto!  It’s finished.

One other option to mention – I experimented with “binding” the two seams in the bag.  I cut a 1 1/4″ wide strip on the straight grain of the fabric.  The strip was included in the seam stitching closed the opening – 3/8″ seam allowance – with a 1/2″ extending on each end.  The ends were folded in and the strip folded over the seam.  The edge was turned under along the stitching line and pinned.  The edge was then machine-stitched through all the layers.  It worked well and I considered doing it for the crossweave bags.  But over-casting is faster… it was late… I was tired.

The zipper pulls!  Both are sold as “charms” for jewelry-making and I found the charms I used in two different places.  The silver button “pull” is a button charm that I found in the United Notions warehouse – this is it.  The other charms came from one of the “big box” stores known for coupons – look for charms in the jewelry-making section.  And don’t forget to get “O” rings or split-rings to attach the charm to the zipper, and a pair of those little jewelry pliers will help.


Because I’ve established the precedent of telling you how long these things took me to make – the bag with the bound-seams took about 1 1/2 hours to cut, quilt and assemble.  The bags with the over-casting took about an hour – the first one took the longest, the last one took less than 45 minutes.  The time also varied because of the quilting… and what music was playing.

That’s it for the Christmas in July projects… though maybe not.  While looking for the links for A Spoonful of Sugar’s tutorials, I got distracted.  I think I might need to make a basket… or three.

Finally, because I’ve been celebrating Christmas and thinking ahead about gifts… I’ve got a couple of things to share.  Surprises.  Five of them.  Just leave a comment by midnight on Sunday – August 2nd – CST and one of my little packages might find it’s way to your mailbox.

You just have to tell me what you’d like to find in your stocking this December.

And no, one of these little crossweave bags doesn’t count.  Rumor has it there’s a duck coming this direction…

Have a good weekend!

Christmas in July ~ Throwing in the towel…

I’m not quitting!  I’m referring to Toweling.

I knew that Moda made toweling and I knew in general terms what it was – 18″ wide, sold on a roll, 100% cotton… and that was about it.  It seems that I sort of missed the boat there.


Apparently we have quite a bit of variety.

I don’t recall ever seeing a display like this in a quilt shop…


If you’ve been to Sarah’s Fabrics in Lawrence, Kansas, you’ve probably seen this wonderful display.  (The photo is from @sarahsfabrics on Instagram.)

I also wasn’t sure what you could make other than well… towels.  Having worked at a well-known kitchen store for several years, I had lots and lots of kitchen towels so I admit to being a little at a loss for what else to make.

Then I was presented with two challenges.  First – the sewists in the office have been tasked with making something with our toweling.  Second – think of some relatively fast, simple and hopefully cute ideas of things to make for gifts.  Being a practical sort of girl who likes to be efficient when possible… I wondered if I could combine the two.  Make a gift item with toweling.


I started by stitching the ends for a pair of towels.  I trimmed the lengths to 28″ long so they would finish at about 26″ long.  (I had cut generous 3/4 yard pieces of both – I’d been told that 3/4 yard is the generally-accepted length to get to make a kitchen towel.)

I used two different Christmas themed prints because they were cute and I knew I could use them over the holidays.

As I stitched the towels – that took all of 5 minutes – I started thinking about how else the towels could be used.  (I pressed the cut edge up 1″ and then turned under the edge as I stitched it.  Nope, I didn’t pin.)  Big napkins – squarish, a bit more rectangular or kitchen-towel sized!  Whether at a buffet-style party or a summer BBQ, big cloth napkins are much appreciated.  They’ll wash quickly and when they get a little too worn for company, they’ll still make nice kitchen towels.

One thing to mention – the toweling does like to fray if it hasn’t been washed.  Pre-washing the fabric will “tighten” up the fibers and lessen that but factor that in when buying yardage.  Also consider that when cutting lengths – how big would you like the finished towel or napkin to be after it’s been washed?

So… looking at those long narrow lengths, I got another idea.


A lumbar pillow – Retro-style.  (This print is Granny’s Garden 920-120.  I keep being asked.)

Using a 15 1/2″ x 27″ pillow from Ikea, I made a cover.  This took less than an hour – it would have been faster but I added a zipper.  I measured the width of fabric between the two side seams to decide if I needed to remove the stitches on one side, or  both.  When it measured 16 1/2″ between the seams, I just cut them off.  (I bumped my rotary ruler tightly against the seam and cut.)  Having a pillow cover fit snugly is a good thing.  I put the zipper in the bottom, sewed the remaining three sides using a 1/2″ seam allowance and it was done!

But I still had a piece leftover – I’d been thinking “apron” so I’d cut a bigger piece of this towel.  FYI – aprons are apparently another popular thing to make with toweling.  I wasn’t sure how much I’d need since… uh, I’d never made an apron.  As you can probably guess from the picture above… I still haven’t.

Back to my leftover piece…


Voila!  A very cute and simple little drawstring bag using the hem as the casing.  As with the pillow, I simply cut off the hem on one side and stitched.

Before stitching up the side, I removed about 3″ of stitching on both ends of the hem.  I turned under the side edges twice and stitched it down about 1/4″ away.  Then I re-stitched the two hemmed ends to finish the casing.  The side was stitched with a 1/2″ seam allowance up to where the edges had been turned – then back-stitched.


The opening was top-stitched to make it look a bit neater – and to secure the bottom of the opening.  Do not stitch across the hem – that’s the opening for the casing.  Using a bodkin – can you believe I have one? – I inserted a length of narrow Moda twill tape.  I cut it twice the “width” of the bag plus 10″ or so.  That left enough to open the bag completely, have a little extra room, knot the ends and trim them to a nice little tail.

I also made a little stocking using some red French General toweling.


It measures 5″ wide at the top and 12 1/2″ long.   Two layers of toweling – right-sides-together or wrong-sides-together – with the top of the stocking at the hemmed edge. The cut-off hem was trimmed to the stitching and used for the hang-loop.  Over-casting or serging the seam is recommended as the toweling does like to fray.  (This took about 30 minutes to make.)

Yes, I made a pattern for my stocking – Moda Toweling Stocking Template.

Then the fun really started.


I cut pieces of this toweling 12″ long.  I folded the toweling in half – hem-to-hem.  I cut along the fold to make two pieces 12″ wide by approximately 8 1/2″ high.  I also cut an 18″ length of ribbon – a 1/2″ wide red twill tape I had on hand.


Fold the ribbon in half and put the fold in the seam allowance a few inches from the top – I chose to center the ribbon between the two stripes.  Sew a 1/2″ seam allowance – center the seam and press it open.  Optional – stitch the seam allowance down to the hemmed edge at the top.  Stitch a 1/2″ seam allowance across the bottom of the bag.

Now… the bag can be finished as in the picture above.  Or the corners of the bags can be “boxed”.


Mark the “cut-outs” on the bag – 3/4″ from the sides and 1 1/4″ from the bottom – to account for the 1/2″ seam allowance.  Cut on the lines to remove the corner.  Fold at the 90-degree corners and match the cut edges as shown in the lower-left picture.  Stitch a 1/4″ to 3/8″ seam.  Turn the bag right side out and it’s done.

One yard of toweling and 4 1/2 yards of ribbon will make 6 bags.  Uh… I had 2 yards of toweling.


Twelve bags took a little less than two hours to make.  If you’re wondering why I keep including the time, it’s only so you have some idea about how quickly these can go together.


I did experiment with rubber-stamping a number onto the toweling – it worked very nicely, thank you.  Twenty-four bags would make a nice advent calendar – as would 24 tags from the office supply store.  These would also make a nice presentation for a quick gift for guests – either with a tag, a little sprig of greenery, some small tie-on or ornament.  The tags are easily made with cardstock and a printable design – an online search for “free printable Christmas/holiday tag” and there are all kinds of terrific options.  The same goes for “free advent tags printable”.  (Pinterest is also a good starting point.)

If you’re unfamiliar with the toweling, it can be found at your local quilt shop or online.  It does vary a little in width but most are between 16″ and 18″.  Instead of selvages, the toweling has two hemmed edges.  Depending on the design and fiber content, the toweling generally costs between $5.00 and $7.00 a yard.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend – I might just go see what else I can think of to make with toweling.