You don’t need any previous experience to make this clutch bag – just heaps of enthusiasm. Even a sewing machine is not essential, although it does speed things up enormously. My instructions are based on the assumption that you have a sewing machine, but you could handsew the seams if you choose.
If you have a machine, the only handstitching you will need is slipstitching and basting.
You will need a rectangle of fabric 18″ x 10″ in the main fabric, the backing fabric and wadding.
You will need fabric for binding cut at 2 1/2″ wide – a fat quarter will be plenty as you can join two lengths together.
Many people feel that it is always best to prewash the fabric. I didn’t do this because I made these to give as gifts and there is something special about the smell and crispness of brand new fabric.
You will need a decent, sharp pair of scissors for cutting the fabric. Dressmaking scissors have long blades which obviously make cutting quicker and neater. Keep your fabric scissors separate from any household scissors so that they are not blunted by being used on paper and such like. It is also useful to have a smaller pair like embroidery scissors or even nail scissors to cut off all the trailing bits of cotton at the beginning and end of each seam. There is less risk of cutting the fabric itself with a small pair and you can get closer into the fabric to cut the cotton.
I wouldn’t be without my rotary cutter, ruler and mat, but it is probably worth waiting until you are making a larger project before deciding whether to buy them.
Starting with a clean, straight edge to your fabric is important. When you buy fabric it generally comes folded in half lengthways. The edge may look straight but you’ll be amazed at how often it is not.
If you have a rotary cutter and mat then line up your fabric with the lines on the mat and trim the edge. If you don’t, then line up the fold of the fabric against something straight like the edge of the table and put a piece of paper at right angles to it along the cut edge of the fabric. Trim if necessary.
Try to set aside somewhere for sewing so that you don’t keep losing the particular piece that you were working on. Often easier said than done in a busy household, but it does it make it easier if you can just pick up where you left off each time.
I have used a darker coloured thread as the lining and binding are both darker fabrics. It’s always worth having a spare reel of whichever colour thread you are using. There is nothing more irritating than running out of thread just before you have finished an item – or just after the shops have shut!
The most important point of all: prepare to enjoy yourself. I love sewing and find great satisfaction in the things I make. I hope you will too.
Making the Bag
Take the rectangle of lining fabric and lay it flat on the table. If it has a right side, have that facing down to the table. Lay the wadding on top of the lining fabric and the main fabric on top of that with right side facing up.
Line the edges up so that you have a neat sandwich of the three layers.
Smooth gently and pin the three layers together. Quilting pins are ideal as they have a curve to hold the fabric without bunching it. If you don’t have these, ordinary pins will do.
The bag shown has a curved front flap but you could make one with a triangular front flap or a rectangular front flap. To make the curved front flap, I used a dinner plate to mark the curve.
If you have a fabric marking pen, it’s always best to use it. In this particular case any marking will not show so you can use pen or pencil. Mark the top curve of the plate. In effect you are marking to cut off the top corners of the rectangle.
Now fold the rectangle in half lengthways. Although you have marked both corners to be cut off, I still feel it is safer to cut both corners at once. That way you know that the curve is definitely the same on each side.
Cut the curve along the line you have marked.
Now that we have the required shape, we need to baste the three layers together to hold them in place.
Take long stitches all the way round the edges. Then trim any edges where the three layers are not quite flush with each other.
The next step is to bind the edges of the bag. Cut a piece of binding fabric measuring just a little longer then the straight bottom edge of the bag. Fold the strip in half along its length and press.
Lay the binding along the bottom of the rectangle – the opposite short side from the one we cut the corners off. Place the binding on the top fabric with the fold facing in to the middle and all the raw edges together.
Stitch 1/4″ from the edge and trim to the edges of the fabric.
Now flip the binding over and slipstitch to the lining. This tidies it up and hides the raw edges.
Next comes the fun part where your bag begins to take shape. Lay the bag main side down. At a line about 5″ from the bottom, fold the fabric up. This bottom section will be the bag and the top section will be the front flap.
Fold the front flap down just to check that it comes down as far as you want it to.
Adjust if necessary by moving where you have folded to make the front flap bigger or smaller.
Baste the sides of the bag to hold them in place.You now have two lines of basting along the sides of the bag but that’s okay because you can unpick any parts that show when you’ve finished binding.
The next step is to bind the rest of the bag. Starting at either of the bottom corners, lay the strip of binding around the top three edges of the bag, fold towards the middle, raw edges together.
Leave about 1/2″ extra at each end so that you can finish the ends neatly.
Begin to sew from the left hand corner, as that way you will have the bulk of the bag to your left on the machine. The first part of the seam is quite bulky as you have two layers of bag and I find it better to use a 1/2″ seam so that you can be sure that all layers are caught in the stitching.
Take care to gently curve the binding with the curve of the flap and then sew down the other side.
Just one last stage now. Flip the binding over and slipstitch to the lining. At the beginning and end of the binding – the two bottom corners – tuck the raw edge inside the binding before sewing it in place.
Originally I bought some magnetic buttons to fasten the bag but they felt too heavy for such a small bag. I am using mine without any fastening, but I would suggest two small Velcro circles if you want to have a fastening on your bag.
Well done. You have just completed a lovely designer clutch bag that would complement any outfit.