Hand Sewn Reverse Applique Bag

20140526-224114-81674423.jpgI recently went on a two day car trip, and instead of knitting, I hand stitched this purse.  I love the knit fabric reverse applique technique from Alabama Chanin.   20140526-224113-81673397.jpg              20140526-224109-81669354.jpgBefore I left home I cut out my main pieces and traced the stencil onto my fabric using a washable marker.  I don’t worry about the grain lines, in fact, I think the finished product has more texture if the grain lines of the fabric run different directions. I would recommend single knit all cotton fabric for this technique, though I’ve had fine results with mixed fabric content.

The pieces I started with-

For the body of the bag, 2 pieces, one red one black, 20″ x 11 1/2″

The lining, one piece the same size, 20″ x11  1/2″

For the inside pockets a piece 8″ x 10″ and one 5″ x6″

For the handles a strip of each color 3 1/2″ wide, 42 1/2″ long

A 9″ zipper

Embroidery floss and larger needle with a sharp point

Two metal rings

A few extra scraps of fabric

20140526-224111-81671356.jpgIn the past when I’ve used a black or other dark color fabric for the top fabric, I have traced my stencil with a silver permanent marker.  Over time the marker washed out, and I was happy with the results with the marker showing and when it washed out.

The two main body pieces should be safety pinned together, then the fun begins.  Stitching just outside of your marker line, outline the entire pattern in a running stitch.  Using small sharp scissors carefully cut out the inside of the design.  I love this technique.  It is very simple, comes together quickly and makes a big impact.  (I ran low on embroidery thread so left a part of the pattern undone, that is why you can see marker lines that aren’t stitched)

imageMoving on to the bag lining, I switched to regular needle and thread and stitched the pockets  to the lining piece.  The larger pocket was folded in half so it was now 8″x 5″ with the fold making the top edge of the pocket.  One edge of the 5″x6″ piece was turned down twice and stitched making the pocket 5″square.  The pockets are sewn on opposite ends of the lining- one on each side of the finished bag.  Raw edges are left exposed and a running stitch was used.  This could all be done on the sewing machine, if you’re not working on this on the road like I was.  Not shown is a stitching line down the center of the large pocket, dividing it into two smaller pockets.


I’m using exposed seams on the sides, I liked the black showing and the fabric rolling away from the seam, almost like piping.  To put the bag together the outside and lining pieces were laid together, wrong sides together and folded in half.

imageTo allow for some width to the bag, I made a 1 1/4″ reverse pleat on the bottom fold.  See the photo.

The sides were stitched up with a half inch seam allowance, allowing the edges to roll.


The zipper was centered in the top opening and securely stitched in place using a back stitch.  Raw edges are again exposed and trimmed to about 3/8″ after the stitching is done.

imageThe two tabs to hold the handle rings are just pieces of fabric about 3″ square.  Stretch them a little and they should roll up.

Then fold them over the rings and push them into the opening at the end of the zipper.

imageThe top corner of the bag should be flattened out a little where the rings are attached and securely stitched.



The long handle pieces will roll when you stretch them.  Tack one end the pieces together.


imageHere you need someone else to hold the tacked ends so you can tightly twist the strands. (Preferably someone in the back seat) imageOnce they are tightly twisted and are the same length, carefully twist the tacked end the other way, making “rope”.  Don’t drop the ends!


Thread the tacked ends through the rings making one big loop and securely sew the lose ends to the tacked ends.


Cover the ends with a scrap of fabric, wrapped around and sewn in place.

image image image

One more little scrap of fabric is used for a zipper pull.  Thread it through the hole in the zipper and  stitch in place, wrap with embroidery floss.

image 20140526-224114-81674423.jpg

20140526-224113-81673397.jpgI was surprised how quickly this came together, I’ve never been much of a hand sewer.  I do love the Alabama Chanin look though!!  We’ve done lots of tee shirts with appliqué embellishments- very quick, easy and satisfying, more on that in the future.



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