Tag Archives: handbag pattern

Upcycled denim lunch bag – video tutorial

Have you got a pair of jeans that doesn’t fit anymore? For this project we’ll need 14″ of one leg or a tube that is 14″ long by your preferred width.

You’ll also need some hexies to embellish the bag though this step is optional and some velcro.

Download the hexies templates and print a sheet of the 1 1/4 inch hexagons (pdf).

So let’s get to it.

If you enjoyed this tutorial check out my denim purse tutorial below.

Lunch bag

See also a similar project

Get the denim purse tutorial

My book Turnabout Patchwork

“Turnabout Patchwork. Simple quilts with a twist” is all about playing with blocks – making a block, slicing it up, and turning or repositioning the pieces to make a completely different block (sometimes two smaller blocks) to yield endless quilt tops.

See all the quilts in the book in a real life project

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Embellishing with English paper piecing (EPP) video tutorial

With a few fabric scraps you can embellish lots of objects such as the napkins on the video.


These are the napkins I made with improv EPP.

Embellishing with EPP video tutorial

Denim purse

My other project. Perfect for a Christmas gift.

New book out on December 3

“Turnabout Patchwork. Simple quilts with a twist” is all about playing with blocks – making a block, slicing it up, and turning or repositioning the pieces to make a completely different block (sometimes two smaller blocks) to yield endless quilt tops.

You can preorder on Amazon.

Or preorder on Bookdepository and get it delivered for free.

Preorder Turaabout patchwork by Teresa Mairal Barreu - TeresaDownUnder

Stay tuned for more!

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Denim purse tutorial


How to make hexagons

Notes: all seam allowances are 1/4 inches.  Add the seam allowance to the pattern line.

This pattern is made for a 4 inch wide frame. If your frame is wider or narrower, just place frame on top of the pattern and draw proportionally around the lines, inside or outside, adjusting for the width of frame.

Cut all your pieces,as per instructions on the pattern, adding 1/4 in seam allowance.

Sew 9 or 10 hexies and stitch in groups. Learn how to sew hexies.

Pin each hexie group to each denim side.

Stitch to the denim with a hidden stitch.

To remove paper hexagon turn over the denim piece, make a few cuts, trim excess denim fabric and remove paper.


To make the lining, pin pieces together, in twos, and stitch along the line.

The lining is now ready.

Now stitch the exterior in the same way, alternating denim and pattern fabric.

The exterior is done.

Now with the lining inside out and the exterior inside out, place the exterior inside the lining.

Stitch along the top edge leaving a 2 inch opening to turn purse inside out.

Turning purse inside out through the opening.


Now it’s time to stitch the purse to the frame, or glue it.

The hardest part is to stop it from moving. I used pins but you could thread and large stitches that go from the lining to the exterior and wrapping around the frame.

Then just stitch the frame to the purse using stranded cotton or some strong thread.

I addes a self covered button to cover the point where all the pieces meet which was a bit untidy.

It is a cutte frame and it is a good size too. It could be a make a small make up bag.

Upcycled denim pants travel bag with improv patchwork

Upcycled travel bag tutorial

This is not only a bag with improv patchwork but also a sort of improv travel bag too. I don’t have any clue about how to construct pants or any garment. The way I went about doing this was rather approximate as you will see. I am not going to give any sizes of fabric, jeans or whatever because it will depend on the size of the pants you use. Before you start, align the top of the waist jeans together and pin. Believe me it makes things better if you do this.

I started with an old pair of jean. This pair in particular had pockets lower than the start of the legs. I wanted to preserve the pockets so I cut the pants lower than the pockets.

Then I cut each leg bit individually as per picture.

I pinned both sides, from each leg together. The point of this exercise was to get a straight piece of jeans. I drew a straight line of where the seam should go.

I stitched along the line.

I turned the pants around and did the same thing on the other side. In both instances excess fabric needs to be trimmed off.

This is the resulting piece from step one.

Now trim both front and back as per picture. Make sure the rectangle is the same height on both right and left side.

Improv patchwork

There’re many of ways of doing improv patchwork. I have posted tutorials on improv patchwork before. For this bag,  I stitched pieces of fabric together of approximately the same length until I got a bigger piece. Then I put it aside.

I continued to stitch bigger pieces from smaller pieces.

You will need to trim pieces as you continue to piece. For instance I stitched a rectangle on an an angle in the piece below.

Then I trimmed it to fit with the rectangular shape of the larger piece. I usually try to get to a rectangular or square piece because then it is easier to assemble the different pieces.

By this stage I thought I’d have enough for the bottom of the bag.

I started to assemble the pieces and trimming them into a rectangle.

When you trim your pieces they can be reused to square other improv pieces. Do not throw anything away.

Prepare the denim pants.

You need to decide how big you want your bag to be and then decide on the size of your improv patchwork piece. My improv patchwork is about 7 inches wide by the width of the pants. I made a large strip/rectangle and stitched it into a tube. Then I placed the pants inside the patchwork tube and aligned the bottom edge.

I pinned well.

I stitched along the edge leaving 1/4in seam allowance.

That’s it. The bottom is attached. I pressed the seam well.

Then I turned the bag inside out and pinned along the bottom edge to make the exterior sac.

I stitched all along the bottom edge leaving 1/4 inch allowance.

Time to box the corners of the bag. My photos aren’t great on this step so if they don’t make any sense please check Sew 4 home tutorial. Place the bag as per picture below and mark 2 1/2 in from the corner.

Stitch along the line and cut off excess fabric.

Do on both sides and voilà! Done!


Usually I stitch the lining by machine but this time I don’t want to stitch the lining all the way to the top of the bag but just up to the waist band so I hand stitched the lining. Also I added batting to the lining for the same reason I hand stitched it to the bag.

I measured the bag and cut 2 lining pieces in quilting cotton. I squilted both pieces separately.

Then I placed both pieces right sides facing together and stitched around 3 sides leaving the side that will go up open.

The lining also needs to have boxed corners. Do as you did for the bag.

The handles are heavy duty and store bought. I’m tired of my handles and straps deteriorating within a few months of using a bag. Place the handles about 6 inches apart. Pin. And stitch now.

Place the lining inside the bag, fold the top in and slip stitch around the waist.


This is it.

Big enough as a weekend bag or a beach bag.

Quilt-as-you-go improv patchwork school bag

The patchwork technique used in this bag was inspired by Oh Fransson. I didn’t use a backing fabric for my panels which I’m not sure was a good or bad idea. I wanted to use lining with a pocket so I thought I’d skip the backing.

Bag sides

  • 2 pieces of batting measuring 15 x 15 1/2 inches
  • fabric scraps

Side of bag

  • 1 strip measuring 42 x 3 1/2 inches


  • 2 pieces measuring 4 1/2 x 5 1/2 inches of contrasting fabric
  • 1 piece the same size of medium weight fusible interfacing


  • 1 strip measuring 26 1/2 x 1 7/8 inches of fabric for the inside of the strap
  • 1 strip measuring 26 1/2 x 2 1/2 inches from the same fabric as the side of the bag
  • 1 strip of medium weight fusible interfacing measuring 26 1/2 x 1 1/2 inches


  • 2 rectangles of cotton fabric measuring measuring 14 1/2 x 15 inches


  • a magnetic snap closure

Watch a 2 minute demo of the QAYG technique:

Making the quilt-as-you-go improv patchwork bag panels

The bag is not square but I started with slightly larger rectangles of batting to allow for trimming.

From now on freely choose scraps of fabric and add to the batting quilting as you go.

The first piece is different to the others. Just quilt the piece.

No need to worry about the raw edges as they will be covered with subsequent pieces.

Now, measure the width of one side of the starting piece, mine was 5 inch square. Cut another piece that is the same width and place it on top with right sides facing together.

Stitch on the edge leaving a 1/4 inch allowance.

Just fold the piece over and quilt it like you did with the first piece.

How to work out the size of the next piece quickly

When you do this sort of improv patchwork you don’t know the size of the next piece to cut. This should be a no brainer. Use your ruler as per photo to measure the length of the next piece and cut the width any size you like.

You can cut it slightly longer if you like. It doesn’t matter as the next piece will hide the longer edges.

And so on.

You can use 2 strips pieced together beforehand.

How to work out quickly how much fabric you need for each piece when using more than one fabric in the strip

As you piece grows you can use more than piece of fabric to make the strip.

Cut a piece, then place it on the batting, place the ruler as per photo adding 1/4 inch at the end, e.g. A is 3 3/4 inches in this case, B is always 1/4 so you need to cut a 4 inch piece.

If using straight lines quilt in the direction of the last strip added.

The first panel is done. The batting lost some of its shape. This probably wouldn’t have happened if I had used a backing fabric. It didn’t matter because I had made some allowances for shrinkage.

Do the next panel in the same way.

Both panels are done now.

Trim to to 14 1/2 x 15 inches.

For accuracy use the trimmed panel as template to trim the second panel.

Give the bag some shape

I’m going to show you how I used unorthodox methods to cut the panels of the bag using a quilter’s ruler and kitchenware.

Take a 12 1/2 inch ruler and place the top edge at 1 inch from the panel’s edge (see picture). Then move the bottom of the ruler at an angle towards the edge of the bag until it reaches the end of the panel. Cut off the side of the bag following the ruler’s edge.

To make a round corner, I took a 4 inch wide ramekin and placed it on each bottom corner of the panel.

Then I drew the shape.

Place panel over panel with batting side facing together and pin.

Cut around the marked curved line.

Do the same on the opposite side.

Now let’s cut the top of the bag into a curve.

Fold the panel as per picture to make the curve symmetrical.

Use an oval plate to cut the top. Centre the oval plate on the panel’s fold at about 2 inches from the panel’s top.

Draw around the oval dish.

Pin before cutting so the fabric won’t move.

Cut along the line.

Now place the cut panel over the other panel, pin, and use as a template to cut the other side.

The depth of my curve is 2 inches.

Making the lining

Fold the lining fabric right side facing together as per picture.

Place panel on top to serve as a template.

Cut the two pieces of lining.

Adding pockets to the lining

Do this before you stitch the lining to the sides.

I made the pocket using three 5 inch charm squares stitch together and a strip of lining fabric for the back. I made a tube and turned inside out. Then I stitched around 3 sides and on each seam making 3 pockets.

Attach the lining side strip to the sides of the lining. See below how to cut the lining side strip.

Leave a 3 inch opening on the bottom of one of the panels to turn the bag inside out once the lining is attached.

Bag and lining side strip

The panels are attached to each other via a strip and so is the lining. The strip is narrower on both ends.

Do the following for the lining as well though skip the fusible interface for the lining.

Cut a 42  x 3 1/2 inch strip of fabric and another of fusible interfacing. Fuse the interfacing to the strip.

Then, as you did with the sides of the panels, trim each end.

Start by placing your ruler 1/2 inch from the top edge.

Then move the bottom of the ruler to the edge of the strip as per picture and cut.

Do this on both sides.

Then do the same at the end of the strip.

Attach the strip around the panel as per picture. You may need to trim the end off a bit.

Stitch around it carefully around the corners.

Do the same to attach the other panel.

Making the closure

Cut 2 fabric rectangles and one fusible interfacing rectangle measuring 4 1/2 x 5 1/2 inches.  Fuse the interfacing to the wrong side of one of the fabric rectangles.

Find the middle of the flap and mark a poing at 1 1/2 inches from the edge.

Attach a magnetic snap closure as per manufacturer’s instructions.

Now place both rectangles with right side facing together and draw two rounded corners on the bottom edge. The bottom edge is the edge where the snap closure is closest to.

Stitch around the edge leaving 1/4 inch allowance and around the drawn corners. Trim the corners and make some nips so that when turning around the corner is crisp.

Iron flat and top stitch very close to the edge.

Centre the flap on one side panel as per picture.

Stitch along the top.

The flap is ready.

Making the strap

This strap uses two strips, one larger than the other, so that the inside of the strap has some outside fabric showing on each edge. It’s easy to do and it gives are more careful finish look to the bag with little effort.


  • 1 strip measuring 26 1/2 x 1 7/8 inches of fabric for the inside of the strap
  • 1 strip measuring 26 1/2 x 2 1/2 inches from the same fabric as the side of the bag
  • 1 strip of medium weight fusible interfacing measuring 26 1/2 x 1 1/2 inches

Fuse the interfacing to the narrower strip of fabric.

Now stitch the strips together.

Turn inside out. Iron flat making sure the larger fabric overflows on both sides of the narrower strip.

Top stitch very close to the edge and then at 1/4 inch from the edge.

Now pin the strap to the sides of the bag as per picture. Leave 1/2 inch allowance to the strap.

Attaching the lining

Place the bag inside the lining with bag and lining right sides facing together.

Pin all around the top.

Stitch around the top edge.

Find the opening in the lining.

Turn the bag inside out through this opening.

Topstitch opening.

Put lining inside the bag.

The bag is finished.

You can reinforce the stitching of the strap by topstitching along the strap seam using a decorative stitch.

Detail of the strap.