Sara is back with a really fun embellishment technique for the Olive Swing Bag! – Betz >>>
Autumn is my favorite time of year! I love the muted colors and layers of texture that makes everything feel cozy. This week, I made the Olive Swing Bag.
It’s a super simple bag design that is easy to construct and fast to make. There is only one pattern piece to print and only four pieces to cut. The bag is also fully reversible if you like.
In keeping with the season, I chose to use an upholstery linen with a dense texture for the exterior. It just feels like fall to me! For the lining, I used a vintage linen pillowcase that I picked up at a thrift store several months ago. My pillowcase was about 2” too narrow for the pattern, so I altered the pattern to work with the fabric I had on hand. Since the pattern piece is cut on the fold, I simply moved it so that 1” of the paper was hanging off the folded edge as I cut. It’s a very easy alteration and doesn’t require any other adjustments to make it work. This pattern can easily be made a couple of inches wider or deeper as well.
I also made my own linen bias binding using the technique I shared in one of my previous posts. The pattern directions instruct you to apply the binding with the sewing machine. I always hand finish my binding if I can, so I did that with the Olive Swing Bag as well. There’s a lot of binding, but I think I finished stitching the binding by hand in about 30 minutes. It seems like it would be faster to use the machine, but I inevitably end up picking out the stitches at least once before I get it right. It’s usually worth the effort to hand stitch and saves me the frustration of picking out stitches.
Since I used a plain fabric for the exterior, I thought it would be fun to add some embroidery detail for texture. I’ve been experimenting with kantha quilting and sashiko stitching a lot this year. I also love the visible mending trend I’ve seen lately. (See #visiblemending on Instagram.) I combined linen and leather patches with sections of running stitches to add some visual interest to the bag.
The fun thing about kantha quilting and visible mending is that the stitches don’t have to be perfect to look beautiful! In fact, imperfect stitching adds character and a unique handmade quality to the bag that can’t be replicated by manufactured stitching. It’s the perfect project to try if you are just starting out with embroidery.
All of the patchwork and stitching I added was improvised. You can make it up as you go along, adding more detail as you see gaps in the design. The most important tip I have for this type of improvisational stitching is that you need to make sure the design is balanced. That’s not to say it has to be symmetrical, but repeating elements in various places help to bring balance overall. For example, I have the leather patch, but I also repeated the color of the leather in the stitching on the other side. I have repeated the teal color in small spots. I also tried to balance the lines by adding contrast. Some of the patches are horizontal and some vertical. Some of the stitching lines are horizontal and some vertical. All of these considerations help bring a balanced look to the finished design.
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This post is part of the Betz White Sewing Collective series. Content is written by compensated contributors expressing their own views and opinions.