Monday, July 24, 2017

Reverse Applique Tutorial - Using Cork Fabric

I love adding fun details to my bags.  One technique that I use often is adding reverse applique to my bags.  With traditional applique, the design is cut out and sewn to the top of the fabric.  With reverse applique, holes are cut in the main fabric (cork in this instance), and the decorative fabrics are placed behind the openings.

***This post contains affiliate links***

Today, I'm going to share with you the technique I use on my bags, and a FREE PDF template for the design shown on the bag above.  As always, I'm sure there are several different ways to do this, and some ways might be better than mine.  This is just the method I came up with, through trial and error, that works well for me.

Here are some examples of bags I have made using the reverse applique technique:

Blue Calla Clover Convertible Bag

Sew Sweetness Coalition Bag

Swoon Patterns Sandra Saddle Bag

Blue Calla Speedwell Sling Bag

All of the cork fabric and glitter vinyl fabric used for these bags was purchased from Sew Sweetness.

Now, lets get started with this tutorial!!  First, you need to download and print this free template - make sure you print using Adobe Reader at full size or 100%.

Carefully cut out the templates with scissors, then using an exacto knife, carefully cut out the design.  Don't cut it on your sewing cutting mat!! I use plastic cutting boards from the dollar store for this.

After choosing your fabrics (quilting cotton weight) use the templates to cut 8 of the diamond shapes and one of the star shapes.  Also, use the outer square of your design stencil as a pattern to cut a square of fusible woven interfacing (Pellon Shapeflex SF101).  

Here I have cut the main exterior flap for the Swoon Patterns Sandra Saddle Bag from Cork Fabric.  Decide where you want your template placed, and tape it down (onto the right side of the cork).  I like to use washi tape since it peels back off easily - and its pretty ;)  Then I carefully trace inside each of the shapes using a marker that will show.  You'll be cutting along the outside of the lines, so even though they are on the front of the bag, you will be cutting them off.  You can trace on the back if you'd prefer.

I used this pretty glitter Sharpie so that it would show up well for the pictures.


I align my ruler with each of the straight edges, on the outside edge of the lines that I traced.  I use my smallest rotary cutter and cut along the lines.  I try to get close to each corner, but I don't cut all the way to the corners because if you accidentally go too far, you'll have to start over!

Once I've cut all of the straight edges, I grab a pair of small sharp scissors and go in to clip into the corners.  Really take your time cutting this out.  Since it will be showcased on the front of your bag, you really want nice crisp lines.  This is also why I prefer to use designs with straight edges rather than curves - it is easier to get nice clean cuts.

Remove the tape from your design template.  Place it on your ironing board and place the woven fusible interfacing over the template, with the fusible (bumpy) side facing up.

Place each of the fabric pieces on the interfacing, making sure that you are evenly covering the shapes on the template.  I carefully iron them in place with the tip of my iron.  Be careful not to touch the fusible surface of the interfacing to your iron.

Continue until all fabric pieces have been adhered to the interfacing.  At this point, I flip the interfacing over onto a scrap of cotton fabric and press the whole thing from the backside of the interfacing to fully fuse the fabric pieces in place.  While it is still hot, I peel the interfacing off of the scrap fabric.  The fabric shapes will stay on the interfacing.

Place the fabric and interfacing square behind the cut out design on the cork.  Look at the right side of your flap to make sure the fabric is properly aligned within the design.  Now I press from the back to fuse the interfacing to the back of the cork.  Disclaimer:  I'm not sure if the cork should be ironed at all.  This is what I have done and I haven't had issues (I don't iron the right side at all).  Make sure you read about the cork you purchase and if it is ok.  If you choose not to use the iron, I would add a thin line of fabric glue along the back of the cork around the design to attach the interfacing square.

Now I top-stitch around the design using a 1/8" seam allowance.  I stitch all the way around the outside edge (as the arrows are showing) and then stitch all the way around the inside.  I stitch around the star separately.  I don't back-stitch at the start or stop as you normally would, but rather pull the tails of thread through to the back when I am finished and tie knots in the tails.

(See my knots??)  I then apply Dritz Fray Check along each of the stitching lines, making sure to cover the edges of each of the fabric pieces.  I like to do this extra step to ensure that everything is going to hold up nicely!

That's it!!  After this, I followed the Sandra Saddle Bag Pattern according to the pattern directions. (The only change I made was to fuse the fusible fleece flap piece to the lining rather than the exterior since my exterior flap is cork.)

To finish my bag, I made a leather tassel using hardware from Emmaline Bags and this free tassel tutorial, also from Emmaline Bags.

I hope you find this tutorial helpful!  I can't wait to see what you create!!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Sewing With Vinyl

This post was originally written as part of a series of posts for The Nosy Pepper Better Bag Making Series.  Go to her blog to check out all of the posts for tons of great bag making tips!

Hi there!  I'm Jenny, from Sincerely, Jen, and we're going to talk about vinyl today!  I was honored when Cyndi asked me if I'd be willing to write a post on sewing with vinyl.  I've been sewing bags with vinyl for a few years now.  Usually they just have vinyl accents (typically per the instructions of my #1 favorite, Swoon Patterns.)  When I was asked to do this blog post, I figured I better make an all vinyl bag so I could at least feel qualified ;)

This is the Blanche Barrel Bag.  Pattern by Swoon Sewing Patterns.

Since sewing with vinyl is always surrounded with so many questions, lets do this in a Q & A format!  I posted on Instagram a few days ago asking for questions about vinyl and everybody was so helpful!  Now I'll try my best to answer the most important questions to the best of my ability.  My way may not be the "right" way, but it is what works for me!

First things first, what is the best vinyl to purchase for sewing bags?

When I'm shopping for vinyl, I usually like to buy it in person so I can see what I'm getting.  You want an upholstery vinyl, so it is heavy enough to hold up in bag making, and it doesn't have much, if any, stretch to it.  I have a local shop where I buy a lot of my vinyl, unfortunatly they are not online.

This is the type of flannel backing you are looking for.
However, I buy my most favorite vinyl at JoAnn's, and you can find it here - this vinyl has a flannel backing, which is what you want to look for.  I find that most marine vinyls are too thick and stiff for bag making - my only exception to this is glitter vinyl, of which I prefer the marine vinyl variety (I buy that from  In my experience, with vinyl, you get what you pay for!!  I love looking for a good deal as much as the next guy, but don't scrimp on your vinyl!
You DO NOT want this!! The backing seems
like a quilt batting and the vinyl feels like thin plastic.

What sewing machine do you use?

My main squeeze is my Juki DDL-8700.  It is an industrial machine and she is a beast!  I go through several layers of vinyl on this machine and have no problems at all!!!  (Just look at all those layers!)

For years, I sewed all my bags on my Brother PC420.  It is an electronic domestic sewing machine.  I wouldn't dream of sewing an entire vinyl bag on this machine, but I've made several bags with vinyl accents on this machine with no problems! (Especially if you get the Jo'Ann's vinyl I linked above!)

What needles do I use to sew vinyl?

   For my domestic machine, I use Schmetz Size 18 Leather needles.

   For my Juki, I use Organ DB X 1 size 16 needles 

Do you use special feet for sewing vinyl?

The foot I would most recommend for sewing vinyl is a Teflon foot.  It has a non-stick coating on the bottom that helps it to glide across vinyl easier.  There are also roller feet that are useful in this application, however I have not used one before.  With my Juki, I use the regular metal feet with no problems with most vinyls.  Test the foot you want to use on a scrap of your vinyl to see if it sticks before sewing your bag.  If your machine has an adjustable presser foot pressure (say that 5 times fast!) I notice that it is helpful to reduce the pressure on the foot and that helps the vinyl to glide more easily as well. 
These are both Teflon feet (see the white coating on the bottom?)  The one on
the left is for a domestic machine, and the one of the right is for the Juki.
I have also heard many recommendations of using a walking foot to help your vinyl feed more easily and evenly.  This is a walking foot for a domestic home sewing machine.  I'm not even sure if there is one for my Juki (I'd like to know that if there is!)

What kind of thread do you use?

I just use what my machine likes!  With my Brother, I always used Coats and Clark.  My Juki loves Gutermann thread!  If I know what colors I want, I order Mara 100 from  Most of the time, I just buy Gutermann polyester Sew-All thread from JoAnn's - it is very close to the Mara 100.  If I want a nice thick top-stitching thread, I buy the Gutermann's top-stitching thread they sell at JoAnn's.  

While we're talking about thread, I use a stitch-length of 5 for top-stitching with the heavy top-stitch thread.  If I use the other threads for top-stitching, I use a stitch-length of 4.  For seams, I usually use a length of 2.5. 

Left:  Gutermann 100% Polyester Top-Stitching thread
Center:  Gutermann 100% Polyester All Purpose Thread
Right:  Gutermann 100% Polyester Mara 100

You can't pin vinyl (because the holes will be permanent) so what do you use instead?

Wonder Clips and Tanner's Bond Double Stick Tape are my two favorite things when I can't pin!

I use the double stick tape for things like making handles or piping.  

For handles:  Draw a line down the center of the handle pieces.
Add a line of double stick tape along each side of the line.  Press
well and remove the paper backing.  Fold each long edge in to the
center and press well along the DST.  
With both long edges folded to the center, add one more line of DST
along one of the folded edges, then fold in half again.  Then just top-stitch
along each long edge of the handle at a 1/8" seam allowance.

Wonder clips are best for holding parts together.  Like holding the piping on and holding the ends to the main body.  Just pull them off as you sew!

Not enough time to go into the complete how-to of making vinyl piping in this post,
but if you try it, make sure you clip into the seam allowance so it fits nicely around
the curves!
I also LOVE to use glue sticks with my vinyl!  Just regular glue sticks (this one was left over from the 16 my son needed for Kindergarten last year).  I typically use the glue stick to adhere overlays and handle connectors to the bag.  Cover the entire backside of the overlay, press it in place, let it dry for just a little while, and it stays in place nicely for you to sew!

Do you interface vinyl and can you iron it?
As far as interfacing vinyl is concerned, sometimes you do and sometimes you don't!  I do not add interfacing to handles.  As long as you have chosen a quality vinyl, it will be sturdy enough to hold up for your handles.  If you think it feels a little thin, then go ahead and add a layer of fusible woven interfacing (Shapeflex SF101).  For bag that need to hold their shape, such as the Swoon Blanche that I sewed all in vinyl, you will still want to use the foam interfacing and the stabilizer in the bottom panel.  Basically, you will still interface if it is meant to give the bag shape.  If the interfacing is only intended to make the fabric a more heavy weight, then you can skip it.

I use wonder-under fusible webbing to adhere my foam to by vinyl or fabric when I'm sewing bags.  Never touch the hot iron to the right side of your vinyl, IT WILL MELT!!!  I iron the wonder-under to the vinyl from the wrong side.  Then I place the foam over the wonder-under, place a pressing cloth over the foam, and iron the foam to the vinyl.  I have pressed many different vinyls from the wrong side and haven't melted any yet.  Of course, try a scrap of your vinyl first, to make sure it can hold up to the heat.  

Wow!  That was a lot of information!  I only covered the basics here, and tried to answer all the questions I am asked most often.  I could go on all day with more specifics, but will have to save that for another time.  I hope this is helpful to you and hope that you feel a little more comfortable working with vinyl now! 

Double Sided Bag Handles Tutorial

I've had quite a few people ask me lately how I make my double sided handles.  One side is vinyl, and the other side is fabric.  It is really easy to do, so I thought I'd throw together a quick tutorial!  

I've recently used this method on my Swoon Patterns Annette Satchel (get the pattern HERE - affiliate link). 
Swoon Patterns Annette Satchel

And on the Sew Sweetness Coalition Bag for Bag of the Month Club (join the club HERE).  
Sew Sweetness Coalition Bag

So, lets get started!!  First you will need to cut one piece of vinyl, one piece of quilting cotton, and one piece of interfacing (I use Pellon Shapeflex SF101). The length will be whatever size the pattern suggests (unless you know you want longer or shorter) and the width will be twice what you want your finished width to be.  So, for 1" wide handles, you'll cut each of these 2" wide.  For 0.75" handles, you'll cut each of these 1.5" wide, and so on.

First, iron the interfacing to the quilting cotton piece.  Next, on the quilting cotton, fold each of the short ends 1/4" toward the wrong side and press well. 

On the vinyl piece, mark a line that is 1/2" in from each short edge on the wrong side.  Place a line of double stick tape along the line on each end (I use tanner's bond as shown in the picture), then fold 1/4" of each end toward the wrong side up to the line you drew, and press firmly to stick down.

For the cotton side:  First press in half, long edges together.  Open, and fold each long edge to the center crease and press well.  Now you have all raw edges in the center of the back.

With the vinyl side, draw a line right down the center of the wrong side.  Place a line of double sided tape down the length of the handle on each side of the center line.  

You'll then fold each long edge up to the center line so they meet. Press firmly with your fingers to adhere to the tape.  

Now, I smear glue stick generously on the back of the vinyl side of the strap.

Place the wrong side of the straps together and press firmly so the glue will hold them together.

Now I top-stitch all the way around the entire handle (this was a stitch length of 4 and a 1/8" SA.)

Then, if you want to use rivets to attach the handles to your bag, I make the marks at 3/8" and 1 3/4" (shown here in gold marker).  

I hope that was helpful to you and easy to follow!!