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Saturday, 9 January 2016

Sewing a Stationery Bag

It is time to get organized for the Back to School frenzy. Not finding the perfect pencil bag for all those brand new stationery items? Perhaps I can help. I show you step by step how to sew this stationery bag in today's blog. This is a lazy afternoon's job and should take you between 2-3 hours from start to finish.

Before I start, I select a sample of the types of stationery that could be expected to go into the stationery Bag. The fabulous thing about sewing items yourself, is that you can personalize it to suit your own needs. I will show you the steps to sew mine, but you can easily adjust it to accommodate specific stationery.

Cutting the fabric:
Having a notepad and pencil at hand, it was very convenient for me to jot down the requirements for the project as I went along. Here is a summary of what I used.

I start by cutting a piece of very stiff iron-on vilene. This is almost like cardboard, but has the advantage that it can actually be washed if necessary. Ask your haberdashery about this. I've cut mine to size 60 cm x 40 cm. You will need two of these.

I then cut one of the same size from the outside fabric.

I also cut one of the same size from the inside fabric.

I cut a zipper pocket for the outside, measuring 17 cm x 22 cm and 7 cm x 22 cm. Both pieces are cut from both the outside and the inside fabric.

I also cut a small piece from the outside fabric for the flap, measuring 7 cm x 9 cm. I cut two more pieces from the outside fabric for (what I will call) pencil protectors. They measure 5 cm x 25 cm and 10 cm x 25 cm, respectively.

I start with the zipper and sandwich it between the top flaps of the pocket. Pin and sew.

I then sandwich the other side of the zipper between the bottom pieces of the pocket. Pin and sew.

Folding the extra fabric out of the way, I fold the flaps of the pocket over on each other and sew the sides closed. Take care not to catch the zipper in the seam.

Again I fold the extra fabric away and sew the bottoms of the pocket closed at the side.

This is what the pocket should look like now, although it needs some ironing to take shape.

Fold the flap in half, make allowance for the seam and position a piece of Velcro at the center top of the flap. Pin it in place.

Open the flap and sew the Velcro onto the flap.

Now fold the flap over again and sew the top and the side seam closed.

Cut away the corner.

Turn the flap right side out. It should be ironed flat. It will be a long while before we attach the other side of the Velcro. To prevent it getting lost, I recommend sticking it onto the Velcro attached to the flap. We'll retrieve it in due time.

Now sew the 'pencil protectors' closed at the sides. Both the small one at the top ...

... as well as the large one at the bottom.

Turn them right side out and fold the bottom seams in. Pin in place.

Fold the top and bottom seams of the zipper pocket in. Pin in place.

Iron the pencil protectors, the pocket and the flap flat. Remove the pins one by one as you iron the folded seams flat.

Iron the stiff vilene onto the inside fabric ...

... as well as the outside fabric.

I found that my vilene did not iron on properly and kept threatening to come loose. I therefore convinced it to remain attached to the fabric by zigzagging all the way around the edges.

Back to Sewing:
Find the centers (top and bottom) of the stationery bag and mark it with a pin. Do this on both the outside as well as the inside fabric.

Use your sample stationery to determine where the elastic should go. The idea here is to slide the hard backing of the exam pad into the elastic, securing the pad to the bag. As I want to prevent it flopping around, I give it a second elastic at the bottom to slide into. When the pad is not in use, this second elastic will assist in keeping the pages secure and preventing them from folding over (to a large degree).

Remove the exam pad and pin the elastic in place.

Set your machine to a stitch that will properly secure the elastic. Keep in mind that the elastic will probably have to withstand a substantial amount of strain.

Sew the elastic onto the inside fabric.

It is now time to move to the other side of the inside of the bag. I plan to include a bottom row with pencils. I hate pencils falling to the ground as more often than not, the pencil lead inside the wooden casing cracks and breaks. I include two stoppers to prevent this from happening. At the same time, it will also assist in keeping the points of the pencils from breaking off in transit. I initially planned for the scissors to go at the top, but realized that it would be better if that sharp point could also slide into the pocket at the bottom. The ruler, could then fit snugly behind the scissors, securing it in place as well.

I remove the stationery, having determined how far apart the elastics and protectors should be. Pin these in place.

The elastics are sewn on as before. The protecting pockets will be sewn on with a top stitch. Lengthen the stitch length on your machine for a neater finish.

Sew the protectors on.

It is much easier now to measure the distance needed for dividers. I figured out that 2,5 cm divisions are ample for pens, while pencils required only 2 cm. Rulers and scissors vary widely, and it might be advisable to take your own measurements for these. I worked on 4 cm for the ruler and 5 cm for the scissors.

Sew where your pin markers are. I made a triple stitch for each division to prevent the sewing from becoming undone.

Center your outside zipper pocket on the front of the stationery bag. Pin it in place.

Select a longer stitch length for top stitching and sew all along the four sides of the pocket.

This becomes a handy pencil case for odds and ends, like erasers, sharpeners, glue, etc. These are not always standard sizes and you will find the stationery bag to be more flexible if you put them in a zipper pocket, rather than trying to secure them with an elastic.

Find the center for the side closest to the zipper pocket.

Pin the remaining side of the Velcro here.

Sew the Velcro onto the outside bag, right next to the pocket.

Pin the outside bag and the inside bag to each other, wrong sides facing.

Draw a line down the center of the bag, where it will fold over. Use dressmaker's chalk.

Sew right on top of this line. I used a triple stitch with a longer stitch length, for strength as well as aesthetic reasons.

Pin wide bias binding all around the outer edges of the bag. Do NOT sew this yet.

Fold the seam of the flap in. Pin the flap to the back of the stationery folder and sew. I used a triple stitch and made sewed two seams about 2 mm apart to make sure the flap was securely attached.

I then cut a length of bias binding approximately 15-20 cm in length. Fold it in half and pin.

Sew the bias binding closed so that you have a tube.

String a clasp through the bias binding.

Slide the bias binding tube into the bias binding at the top of the stationery folder and pin it in place.

Sew the bias binding surrounding the folder, making sure you catch both the top and the bottom bias binding in the seam. The clasp will be secured in the process.

The pocket on the outside id big enough to house a set of 12 Sharpie markers, an eraser and a sharpener without bulging.

The inside has plenty of space to secure your stationery safely and neatly.

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Remember to keep nurturing your TALENT for making PRETTY things.
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