Just For Fun is my way of sharing all the little things I like to do... from crafty things to thoughtful things!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Line those bags!

Hand crafted bags are a unique and amazing way to express our personality… as well as handy.  Sometimes we need an extra layer to hold the tiny (or pointy!) things in place.  A fabric liner works perfectly. 
 This pattern is most appropriate for rectangular bags.  If there is interest in lining round bottomed bags, let me know and I’ll write it up. 

It is faster to have a sewing machine to do the straight seams (nothing fancy, I promise), but it is not necessary – just substitute hand stitching where I reference the machine.

 You’ll need:

A bag: Any size.
Fabric: Depends on the size of your bag.  Most will take a half yard or less, but you may want to get a yard to have extra on hand or add more pockets.  (You can use precut fabric squares or bandanas as well, buying two makes it easy to construct.)
Matching thread
Notions: Scissors, straight pins, sewing needle, sewing machine if you’ve got one. 

You can also attach snaps or magnetic closures to your lining to close the top of your bag.

Step 1:  Use your bag as a template to cut your fabric. 

Fold fabric so you have two layers overlapping and match the size of your bag.  Make sure your bag is as flat as it can be, and leave about a half inch on all sides for seam allowances.

You can see I cut my fabric right to the top edge of the bag.  This will give me a little fabric to turn down at the top for a nice clean edge when sewing it into place.

Don’t worry about matching the exact contours of the bag.  Keeping it basically square means all of our sewing is straight seams.  Once the lining is inside the bag, it won’t matter, and we’ll deal with those bottom corners later. 

Step 2:  Make pocket (optional) (If you don’t want pockets, skip to step 3)

Cut a piece of fabric in any size that will be convenient for you.  Think about whether you want tall or short pockets, and placement inside the bag.  Remember to add a half inch in all directions for seam allowances,(i.e. your finished pocket is going to be a half inch smaller in all directions).

For totes, I normally use one piece of fabric and then divide it into two pockets by sewing a seam down the middle.  To do this, make a rectangle about two inches smaller than your bag in all directions.  It doesn’t have to be perfectly straight; you’ll be folding the edges under to sew.

Note that I used the bottom edge of the side of the bag to determine my pocket size… not the actual base of the bag.

Step 2a: Pocket top edge

Create a nice top edge for your pocket by folding it toward the wrong side of your fabric and sewing the edge in place.  I use the sewing machine, but it can be hand sewn.

Your fold should be even across the length of the pocket.  Pin it in place before sewing if it helps you to keep it even… and just sew a straight line all the way across.

Step 2b: Attach the pocket

Now that you have a nice top edge, we can attach the pocket to the rest of the lining.

Position it where you want it – or in this case, roughly centered onto one half/one side of the lining.  Be sure your finished edge is at the top!  Fold the left, right and bottom edges toward the wrong side of the pocket fabric, and pin in place. 

Sew the pocket into place starting at the top right corner and down the right side.  Stop your machine while there is a 1/4 inch of fabric remaining, and the needle is still in the fabric.  Raise the presser foot and turn your fabric 90 degrees counterclockwise, lower your presser foot and sew the bottom edge into place.  Turn again and sew up with left side (black arrows).    Cut thread and reposition your fabric to sew a divider seam up the center of your pocket (green arrow).

Step 3:  Side seams

Fold your fabric in half with right sides together. Make sure that the fabric lies flat, even if it means your edges aren’t absolutely perfect.  You can trim away the uneven spots after sewing.

Pin side seam and bottom seam.  Note that you’ll only have one side seam.  The fold makes a seam unnecessary on the other side.  (If you are using two precut squares, or bandanas, you’ll have two side seams and no fold.)

Start your side seam from the top working down.  Stop your machine while there is about 1/4 inch of fabric remaining, and the needle is still in the fabric.  Raise the presser foot and turn your fabric 90 degrees counterclockwise, lower your presser foot and sew the bottom edge.

Step 4: Squaring the bottom (optional)

If the bottom or gusset of your back is only about an inch deep, you can make this step optional.  You might have a little extra fabric in the corners, but it probably won’t be enough to bother you.

If the bottom is wider, you’ll find it neater to square off the corners. Fold your lining so that the bottom corner is the top of a triangle, with the bottom seam making a perpendicular line down the center, and the fabric of the side even and flat underneath.  Measure the bottom of your bag, and find the spot on your triangle that matches that measurement. 

Sew the horizontal line made by my tape measure in the photo.  Cut the tip of the corner away, leaving a little bit of seam allowance.  Repeat for the other bottom corner.


 Step 5: Sew lining in place

I hand sew linings into place.  I just don’t know enough about the machine to prevent horrible catching, ripping, and ruining of my project by trying to sew lumpy and stretchy handcrafted fabric.  Unless you are a seamstress yourself, trust me on this one.

Place your lining inside your bag so your side seam matches up with the center of one side of your bag.  Fold down about a half inch of fabric toward the wrong side of the fabric (i.e. between the lining fabric and the bag itself).  Pin it into place about a half inch below the lowest edge on your bag (in this case, below the handles). 

With your finger, put some tension on the top edge of the fabric to find the opposite side.  Fold and pin to the center of the other side of your bag.  Continue to pin around the bag in as many or few places as you like.  I usually pin toward each base of the handles as well, making six pins total.

Move the bag around and make sure the corners line up ok and everything fits.  Adjust your pins if necessary. Sew any optional closures in place (snaps, magnetic closures) before sewing your lining to the bag, so that you can still access the wrong side of the fabric as needed.

Thread your needle, tying both thread ends into a single knot.  This will make a double strength thread and give you a little protection if one thread ever breaks.  Use a whipstitch to sew the fabric to your bag, being sure to only catch inside loops of yarn (or your thread will show on the outside of your bag and create a ridge).  My stitches are a bit smaller than ¼ inch and about the same distance apart.  Continue around to where you started, tie off, and enjoy your bag worry free!


  1. Oh that is a really great tutorial! I would love to know about the round version as well - my owl bag has a round bottom.

    Thanks for this - it's fabulous.

  2. Great tutorial! Of course, all this is really difficult for me, but one day I might get brave enough to try. I'll ask Natasha to line her bag finally.

  3. Thanks to you both!

    Natasha could definitely do this... and then you can just have her do yours too! lol