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Christmas Bag tutorial and fine finishing tips

A quick Gift Bag Tutorial–took about half an hour even *with* being fussy! Used leftover flannel, and a trimmed off bit of fabric from a quilt back or edge as the ribbon! Read on….

Sometimes it is possible to whip up a quick something just before Christmas…I’ll have to back-to-back posts (I hope) about sewing for the holidays that include this tutorial on zipping up a quick gift bag and, next, the wonderful York Pinafore pattern from Helen’s Closet patterns.

Last year Shannon Fabrics sent me a number of different fabrics including Cuddle and Luxe, fleece and faux fur type of fabrics. They sent a vast amount of this soft and silky red (available at Fabrics.com). I’m not positive which color way it was, but it was similar to this one. I finally purchased a flannel sheet, queen size, to make a throw that is big enough for two to snuggle or to use as a cover on a twin bed! It is more than a tad wrinkled here because it has been in recent use…it’s winter in Maine! Thank you Shannon Fabrics!

I needed the Queen Sized sheet so it would be long enough for the red Luxe that is so silky soft. That meant I had quite a bit leftover…so I thought I’d make a garment (next post). Once that was made, I still had leftovers so I whipped up two gift bags and thought I’d share it as a tutorial.

Tutorial:

  1. Cut two rectangles of fabric or one very wide rectangle. Place right sides together.
  2. Clean finish edges. You can use an overcast stitch as I did (photo below) or use a french seam (google it, or I’ll do a tutorial eventually of some basic things every sewist should know). Using the Janome’s “M” overcast foot gave results as good as a serger.
Janome America sent me the amazing new M7 Continental sewing machine (several blogposts in the new year…phenomenal machine!). I used the zigzag overcast stitch and the M foot which comes with the machine to clean finish the edges of the bag.

3. Sew a simple straight seam just inside the overcast edges. Sometimes the contents of gift bags can be heavy, and especially with soft and stretchy flannel, I felt a little extra stitching was a Good Thing.

I’d never used the Lock-a-Matic stitch before because I learned to sew when we were lucky to have a simple zigzag on a machine and not all the bells and whistles.
Janome has designed the AcuSpark software. In the previous photo that QR code I pointed out: use your phone to scan and it will pull up a screen with helpful information. Here, I’ve got the one for the Lock-a-Matic Stitch!

Having started sewing when dinosaurs roamed the earth and you were lucky if your machine did anything besides a straight stitch forward and back, I am so used to just doing the lockstitch or backstitch myself that I likely will keep doing that, but this stitch automatically does a securing backstitch at the start of a seam and, when you press the back arrow, at the end. I had been concerned that it might sew a lockstitch when you pause in the middle of a long seam to re-position your hands, but it doesn’t, which is good!

4. Turn your bag right side out.

Once your seams are finished, turn the bag right side out. I like to fold the corners so that both seam allowances are to one side. My hand is inside and I’m pinching the corner together. Then keeping hold of the seam allowances, turn.

Pretty good corner, and I haven’t even eased it out yet!

5. At the ironing board, use a point turner to coax the corners out to perfect.

I have several point turners. This is one I bought just this year. Make by Clover, it is beautifully smooth, and has a Hera Marker (sharp edge for marking lines on cloth) on the other end. It is longer than most point turners, curved to fit the hand nicely, and I like it better than any others I have tried.

Lookit how perfect that corner is! Square as can be! I created this method for corners when doing custom home dec work for an interior designer. Some of the upholstery fabrics were so thick that I was afraid if I clipped the corner, the old school way to deal with bulk, the fabric would unravel and ruin the project, and the fabric was crazy expensive. This is secure and gets even better results.

6. Hem the open end. The interior designer I worked for taught me about using poster board (or tag board or an old manila folder) to make templates for turning hems. When making curtains, the extra weight of a doubled hem helped them hang well. I called it the turn-turn hem, since you turn up two full hem-depths.

This is the first turn. I’m showing the poster board 1″ wide strip I have used –I am not exaggerating same piece of paper– for over 17 years. Place your fabric right side down on the ironing surface. Fold the hem up over the poster board, lightly snugging the board into the fold with your fingers. Press. Steam is fine–use it all the time and the poster board is still in great shape. You can also use the Dritz EzyHem tool, available everywhere. The metal is nice because it gets hot which helps set the crease, but it is short, maybe 6-7 inches. The poster board is fabulous for things like curtains and custom sheets because you can get a really long run done all at once without wobbles.
Then you turn the hem up again. Usually I keep the poster board inside the first turn and just roll it up, but for photo purposes I wanted to show you that it is the same idea.

7. Press your seams to one side. Using a seam roll –in this case a piece of cheap stair handle from the big box DIY store. Dressmaking suppliers sell beautiful hardwood (maple usually) seam rolls for Lotsa Bucks. This pine stair rail handle was a few dollars for 24 inches. Sits flat on the ironing surface and does the trick.

You can see the flat end of the stair-rail-as-pressing-dowel. I’ve got the seam centered on the top and have pressed the first part of it. This set up is perfect when you don’t want the edges of the seam allowance to show through to the front of your fabric.

8. Give your bag a final press, tuck the goodies inside, and tie shut. I think, having found that strip of green, that instead of buying ribbon I might “make” some from leftover bias bindings (unfinished on the edges) or making some straps (turn seam allowances under, sew folded edges together) to use as ties for future years. Here’s that original photo again:

Someone has a special surprise inside!

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