Friday, 7 January 2011

Rice Sack Bag - revisited

The original alternative version of the Rice Sack Bag from "21 Terrific Patchwork Bags", made with African wax batiks, is looking very much the worse for wear - after nearly 8 years! - and it was about time I made a replacement. It is still my favourite bag design for every day. Some new tsumugi cottons arrived just after Christmas, with a good selection of blue stripes. These 141/2in wide fabrics always look good with colourful Japanese patchwork cottons and Kona Bay Japanese prints. I had a heap of offcuts from trimming 2 1/2in strips from the "99 Treasures" charm pack leftovers, all irregular widths but as the Rice Sack Bag panel is foundation pieced onto calico, odd widths can easily be used up. The effect reminds me of sakiori rag weave and I added a line of sashiko-style big stitch down the wider strips, stitching by eye for a rustic effect.

I wanted to add an outer zip pocket into the side panel (somewhere to store receipts) so I needed two matching zips. I found a matching 30cm and 20cm metal zip, so that meant the patchwork strip would need to be 8in finished, 2in wider than normal. I positioned the pocket opening just before the bag begins to slope towards the top. The stitch and flipped foundation strip included a wider strip where I wanted to cut and insert the zip. Although it is tempting to not line the pocket, allowing the main bag lining to work as a pocket instead, I could see things could get lost between the bag and the lining, so I made a proper pocket inside. This has a lining folded between the main lining and the bag, sewn down on either side of the patchwork strip.

I also wanted a ticket pocket again. A few years ago I had a Rice Sack Bag (now retired) made from the table runner panel from "The Ultimate Sashiko Sourcebook" with a ticket pocket, just the right size for a railway or tube ticket. This was originally the idea of a quilter who came to one of my Rice Sack Bag workshops, to use up the little pieces of fabric left over from the ends of the side panels (side panels in this case meaning the strips on either side of the patchwork one!) I missed having that useful pocket, so I added one to this bag, accenting the top with another print scrap strip.

The strap for the original bag was tubular, which tended to loose shape after a while, made from a 5in wide strip. I used to cut one strap and the two side panels from one 14 1/2in tsumugi width. Because the patchwork strip is wider, I could cut narrower side panels and a wider strap strip, to make a strap four layers thick (by folding the strap strip in half and in half again lengthwise, with the raw edges sandwiched in the middle - a method I use a lot in more recent books). With several rows of machine topstitching, this makes a nice firm strap. It is 2in wide.

However, it also posed a problem. The Rice Sack Bag strap is usually sewn to the outside of the finished bag, with the raw ends turned under = eight layers of strap fabric with this style strap plus the bag outer (patchwork strip here, so 2 x two layers) and the lining (another two layers). I could see even the Bernina turning up its toes at fourteen layers of fabric. So I tried slotting the ends of the strap into the top of the bag - a neat design finish.

This is easy to do except when the bag tapers to a point, as the Rice Sack Bag does. I ended up clipping the lining and outer fabric on either side of the strap, then machining across several times on the inside (this isn't seen when the bag is finished!) I might add a semamori stab-stitched charm on the outside, on each end of the strap, stitched through all the layers.

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