Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Announcing The Barrel Bag Sew-Along, with Merchant & Mills

sewing tutorial
sewing instructions

Announcing the Sew-Along:

I am delighted to announce that I am hosting a sew-along, sponsored by Merchant & Mills.

How it works: 

Each Wednesday I will upload a set of clear instructions for you to complete at your leisure to take you through every detail of how to make your very own barrel bag, in small manageable stages.

barrel bag sew-along
The Sew-Along

About the Bag: 

I love the preppy style of barrel bags, but I wanted to soften it a little. The relaxed and slightly slouchy result is perfect for me to use as a gym bag: it is quite capacious but with a proper fastening, and I can either throw it over my shoulder or grab the handles to rummage through the contents. 

I hope I've come up with something that will be equally useful to you, be it for a day out, an alternative to your handbag, an overnighter, for school or college... or whatever you choose. A barrel bag is also gender neutral, so this could be a great make for a man. 

How to make a barrel bag
How to make a barrel bag

I'm waiting a week before I launch in with instructions to allow you to gather your materials and equipment. 

Merchant & Mills:

If you've never encountered Merchant & Mills at their shop, or selling elsewhere then you have missed out! Their website is perfectly lovely, and tells you pretty much everything you need to know, but there is nothing quite like seeing the colours of all of those beautiful fabrics in the flesh and engaging with their really tactile properties. Yes, dear readers, I have spent some considerable time loitering, planning projects, and, um, shopping!

posh haberdashery
what's in this beautiful package?!

Therefore, I am thrilled that they have supported this sew-along by providing my fabrics, hardware, and webbing. Thank you so much to Carolyn, and also to Michelle. 

I strongly recommend that you order your fabrics and hardware from their website, or pop down to their shop in Rye, East Sussex, if you can.

What You Need to Make a Barrel Bag:


It took me (somewhat characteristically) a long time to decide which fabrics to plump for, but for my main fabric I chose Quink linen: it is substantial and yet soft, and I love the way has amazing depth of colour, and yet antiques with use. It is also beautiful on the 'wrong' side, which means the inner of my bag is as beautiful as the outer (I made use of this contrast on the pocket). You will need one metre.

For the contrasting fabric I went for an Indian cotton, in marbled indigo. I have used these Indian cottons before, so I knew that they handle really well and have a nice dry sort of feel. 

The straps are vital to this bag, so I suggest that you don't scrimp on your webbing. You will need four metres, which seems huge I know, but I promise you it is important. I went for 50mm blue grosgrain

You'll also need two metres of fine piping cord (approximately 2mm diameter), plus matching cotton sewing thread. I used Guttermann shade 5412 which is a perfect match.

Merchant & Mills fabrics
'Quink' linen, Indian cotton, 5mm grosgrain


A beautiful bag deserves top quality hardware!

You will need a zip. I went for a chunky metal one, measuring 45cm long.

To make this bag you will need two D rings, two paraclips & four rivets

brass fittings from Merchant & Mills
beautiful hardware


You will need a sewing machine with a good sharp needle, plus a one-sided foot. 

You'll need your general sewing kit (hand needles, pins etc). 

sewing essentials
sewing kit

Also on the list of essentials are good fabric scissors, drawing tools for both paper and fabric and pattern paper, (unless you want to work straight onto the fabric, in which case good fabric markers will do), including a long straight edge. 

fabric pans
Pilot 'Frixion' pens: my favourite for fabric marking as they iron off easily

A grader's square is extremely useful, as is a 26cm diameter plate.
grader's square

For attaching the rivets: a hammer and an awl.


This sew-along will suit an adventurous beginner or someone who has intermediate skills. We will be putting a zip in, sewing curves and using bias binding (which I will explain in full). The really make-or-break skill is careful marking out though, for which no experience is necessary. 

How to Make a Barrel Bag:

Step 1: Preparation

Wash your fabric as per the instructions, and lay flat to dry, or hang from the selvedge on the line. Give them a careful press. 

equipment to make barrel bag
26cm dinner plate

Sew-Along With Me: 

So, I hope you will join me next week for the first set of instructions in the sew-along. As I mentioned, each Wednesday the next instalment will be uploaded. You could consider subscribing to ensure that you don't miss any stages. 

I always welcome your comments, and if you get really stuck or you want to request further tutorials then please go ahead and use the contact form on the right. 

Also, I'd really love it if you tag me on instagram @stitchingfitpixie or twitter @StAustellStitch at every stage of your make: show me your fabrics and how you're getting on!
Amazing giant protractor also purchased at Merchant & Mills

1 comment:

  1. Excellent .. Amazing .. I’ll bookmark your blog and take the feeds also…I’m happy to find so many useful info here in the post. organic sheets queen we need work out more techniques in this regard, thanks for sharing.