Book Review: Handmade Bags in Natural Fabrics

I’m here today to a book review courtesy of Tuttle Publishing.  They have provided me with the book in exchange for this review, but the opinions are all my own.

If you’re in the market for a unique gift for a friend who sews, or you’re looking for something a little different to try yourself, I have the book for you. 

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Handmade Bags in Natural Fabrics by Emiko Takahashi might look a little ordinary at first glance.  It’s filled with 25 basic handbag designs, with variations to bring the impressive total to 60 different options.  The colors used throughout the book are fairly neutral, and the many of the shapes we’ve seen before.  Why is this book so unusual then?  All of the bags are meant to be sewn completely by hand.

Knowing that really changes the way you look at this book.  I’ve been doing a lot of hand embroidery recently, but I’m so tied to my sewing machines that I forget it’s possible to construct something without touching a machine at all.  Somehow, a simple bag is a little more beautiful when you know it was made entirely, and literally, by hand.

The projects are divided into three categories,  and the first is shopping bags.  My favorite here is the Checkout Basket Bag.  What a smart idea!

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The next topic is everyday bags, with a selection of simple bags that could be used in a million different ways.

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The last group is fashion bags.  There are some nice shapes in this section.  And a hand-sewn zipper!

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Following the projects, the book covers the construction techniques, equipment and materials used to make these bags.  Everything is explained in such a way that I wouldn’t be afraid to give this book to even the most novice sewist, with the recommendation that she read through the whole book before starting on her first project.

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The instructions for each project seem very thorough.  There are plenty of illustrations, which is a huge plus for me in both sewing and recipe books.  Apparently I’m more of a show, don’t tell kind of person.

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As I mentioned, I’ve been embroidering like crazy, so I really appreciate that the book doesn’t just say “put this sort of stitch here.”   There are diagrams showing what each stitch looks like and how it’s made so that even someone nervously clutching her first skein of floss knows what to do with it.

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Many of the bags are constructed using basic shapes, but there is a pattern sheet in the back of the book for the more oddly shaped.

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Without a doubt, this is my favorite book I’ve reviewed for Tuttle Publishing so far.  There isn’t a single bag shown that I wouldn’t consider making, and I’m completely in love with the idea of sewing it with nothing but a needle and thread.  Maybe some pretty bag fabric will find its way into my Christmas stocking!

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Ninja Monkey Bags on Etsy

After a long absence, I’ve restocked my Etsy shop with some Ninja Monkey Bags.  In honor of their return, from now through Monday you’ll also receive a FREE matching coffee cup sleeve with the purchase of a bag!

Beige 1  Black and flowers 1  Grey yellow 1  Keys 1  Monkey 1  Pink crosshatch 1  Tattoo 1

As you can see, there are only seven bags, and they aren’t something I’ll have in stock all the time, so if you want one, now is the time to grab it!

Friday Favorites–Disney Inspired

As you read this, I’m in Disneyland.  Yep, probably waiving my arms in the air on California Screamin’, trying not to get “It’s a Small World” stuck in my head or standing in a line in the new Cars Land.  I know two things – I am having fun and I’m not coming back until I have to.

We’ve made many trips to Disneyland over the years and counted down with the kids for a couple of them, but never with a Mickey Chalkboard like this one from Happy Clippings.  Now I feel like I missed something.


This countdown from Crafting in the Rain is a clever way to show the little ones how many days are left before they understand numbers.

disneyland countdown

When my kids were each about two years old, they had a favorite Disney movie.  When I say favorite, I mean we had to watch it at least once every day.  For my daughter, it was The Lion King.  That was back in the days of VHS and she watched it so much it developed a permanent green line at the top of the screen.  Hakuna matata.  This Simba Cutie Papercraft from Disney Family is for her.


My son’s daily dose of Disney was Toy Story.  I think we all fought the tears a little at Toy Story 3, because not only was it sweet, but it was the end of an era for our boy.  When he feels nostalgic, I can surprise him with these Green Alien Cupcakes from Disney Family.


Speaking of cupcakes, what better Disney decoration than the Mouse himself?  Love these Mickey Cupcakes from Sweet Tooth.


I saw these Mickey Mouse Washer Necklaces from A Creative Princess on Pinte…err…the internet a while back and immediately stashed the link away for future use.


There are a bajillion tutorials for Disney shirts out there (I even did one myself recently), but what I love about these DIY Disney Shirts from Two Oh Two Seven is that pirate scarf.  I can’t guarantee I’m not wearing one of these right now.


Whenever we have a Disney trip planned, I find myself getting in the mood well in advance.  I start wanting to put Disney stuff everywhere, which is why these Mickey Mouse Hotpads from Taffy Talk would be perfect in my kitchen.

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This Disney Travel Activity Kit from A Creative Princess would be a perfect plane or car activity for the commute to the Happiest Place on Earth.


It seems like you always need a bag for something while in the park, and this simple little DIY Drawstring Backpack from Brassy Apple would be perfect.

kids drawstring backpack

If you want to get your Disney on in more of a tote style, check out this bag from Disney Family.


If you’re older than 9 you cannot wear a costume into a Disney park.  It’s a rule I completely agree with and understand the reasoning behind.  But if you want to wear an outfit inspired by your favorite Disney character that’s perfectly fine and the brilliant young lady behind DisneyBound is here to help you with your look.  I could spend hours looking through her style boards.


Since today is also my 21st wedding anniversary, I’d like to tell the world what an amazing man I married.  He’s generous, supportive, funny, thoughtful and I’m lucky beyond words to be his wife.  Now we’re going to take a romantic tumble down the Tower of Terror together.  See you next week!

Friday Favorites–Fat Quarter Projects

You may have noticed by now, it’s Fat Quarter Week.  I didn’t exactly plan it, it just happened.  What better way to wrap it up than a round-up of great projects from around the ‘net that can be made with a fat quarter or two?

A pincushion may seem an obvious choice, since you can make most of them from a small amount of fabric, but the addition of the Scrap Bag to this Puff Pincushion from Awaiting Ada takes it up a step.


You probably saw my apron yesterday, but there are lots of others out there, including this cute Fat Quarter Apron from Prudent Baby.


And this Reversible Apron from Wendymoon Designs.  She used her own fabrics she had printed by Spoonflower!


With a fat quarter and 20 minutes, you can make this Grocery Bag Holder from Craftiness Is Not Optional.


Tiny shoes always get my attention, so I’d love an excuse to make these Cloth Shoes from Stardust Shoes.


Little gift bags are a great way to use up fabrics you might be having a hard time finding another use for.  Check out these Small Treat Totes from AllPeopleQuilt.


This DIY Fat Quarter Bag from Make and Takes would be cute for a little or big girl.


I love the elastic around the inside of this Beach Comber Bag from 2 Little Hooligans to hold all your sunscreen bottles in place.  I also love the thought of getting to use sunscreen again.

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The Sometimes Crafter makes these Fabric Scrap Baskets look easy.


These Criss-Cross Coasters from Allsorts are so cute, and the color and pattern mixing opportunities are endless.


If you’re still searching for projects that can be made from fat quarters, here’s a few Crafty Staci tutorials that fit the bill:

Pan Protector and Hot Pad

Butterfly Headband

Flip-Flop Covers

Take-Out Wristlet

Quick and Easy Fabric Coaster

Shamrock Barrette

Drawstring Wristlet

Reversible Coffee Cup Sleeve

Love Note Coffee Cup Sleeve

Camera Lens Cap Pouch

Fabric Cornucopia

Reusable Sandwich and Snack Bags

Superhero Luggage Tags

Lip Bag

Sunglass Bag

Forever Fabric Flowers

Last Minute Flower

Fabric Fortune Cookies

Purse Pad Pouch

Fabric Origami Jumping Frog

Passport Wallet

Travel Curling Iron Pouch

Thanks for joining me for my informal Fat Quarter Week!

Fat Quarter Dopp Kit

As I mentioned yesterday, I recently participated in a fat quarter swap.  I sent five and received five.  I jumped in because I was in the process of de-stashing my fabric shelf, which doesn’t really make sense in hindsight.  I was trying to get rid of fabric, but by swapping, I’m still even.

My daughter spotted one of the bunch right away, and never one shy to share her opinion, told me how cute it was.  Several times.  Hint, hint.  We’re taking a trip soon, so I set out looking for a tutorial for a small bag that could be made from a couple of fat quarters.

I found several so I started with a boxy number, also known as a dopp kit, where she can put her hair brush, etc.  I settled on this tutorial from Skip to my Lou, mainly because it left the seams exposed inside, which seamed faster than the versions that enclose them. 


I followed the directions, except I added fusible vinyl to the inside so it can be wiped clean easily and fusible fleece to the back of the outside pieces for padding and stability. 


I actually meant to add a handle to the end, like this one from Linz Sews, but forgot about it until it was too late.  I also like the direction of the zipper on this one.

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The combination of fabrics on the outside of this version from Sew4Home caught my eye, but was a bit more complicated than I was looking for.


In the end, I wound up with this little bag.  As soon as my daughter spotted it, she scurried off with it like a chipmunk with an acorn.


This actually took significantly less than two fat quarters, so join me again tomorrow for the second project from this fabric!

Friday Favorites–Purses

Most people know spring is coming because they start to notice the tulips and daffodils poking out of the ground, or the air starts to bite a little less.  Maybe it’s the desire to open a window or start cleaning after the family’s winter hibernation.  How do I know spring is on the horizon?  I get sick of my purse and want to replace it.  Pretty deep, huh?  So, a few purses may have caught my eye this week.

Film is getting harder to come by, but if you happen to have some lying around you’d like to get rid of, try this 35mm Film Bag from Instructables user shesparticular.


This Fat Quarter Handbag from Sew, Mama, Sew can be made from two fat quarters – one for the outside and another for lining.  Visit the page for more variations and embellishments.


I’m a sucker for a kisslock frame, and Big ‘N Beautiful Betty from Uhandbag would be an absolutely perfect spring purse.  I love everything about her.


These upcycled Shirts to Purses from Bugglebee are practical, but still lovely.


A clutch can come in handy (get it? Smile), and I like the zipper at the top of this Fold-Over Clutch from Pattern Runway.


I love the square opening on the Olivia Bag from Dixie Mango.


The unique opening on the Caliti Clutch from Sew Sweetness is perfect with the fabric choices.


Sometimes a purse just needs to be fun.  I think this Fabric Fishy Purse from Make It and Love It has that covered.


And in the “Wait, what?” category, check out this Retro Rotary Phone from Chica and Jo.  If I had an old phone at my disposal, I would already be carrying this purse.


I’m just curious…do you call them purses or handbags?  Anybody know the difference?