Saturday, 4 October 2014

How to make an easy, hand-sewn make up bag

Sometimes I get the urge to make something but then the idea of getting out the sewing machine (which invariably involves moving lots of clutter that has gathered around it) feels too much like hard work. And I just want to do something while sitting on the sofa with a glass of wine. This is the perfect project for that, or if you're just starting out or trying sewing again after a break this will take a few hours and be very satisfying. 

I used this project at an alternative, craft hen party that you can read about in this blog post.

hand sewn make up bag

This make up bag uses just two basic stitches - the back stitch and the running stitch. If you're not sure how to do this have a look at my basic stitches blog post.

To make your make up bag you will need:

  • Cotton thread
  • A needle
  • Pins
  • Zip (any size, this will determine the size of your bag)
  • Lining fabric
  • Outer fabric
  • Scissors
  • Ruler, paper and pen


Pick the fabric for the outside of your make-up bag, some lining fabric and a zip
Use your zip to create your pattern – simply make the length of your bag as long as your zip and as wide as you want

Mark out the measurements on a piece of paper or card and use this to cut out your fabric

For a 10 inch zip, I created a template 10 ½ inches long and 6 inches wide
Place the template over your fabric and either pin in place or draw around it
Cut out two pieces of your outer fabric and two pieces of your lining fabric

Lay zip across your fabric and trim any extra edges
Open your zip about half way
Take one piece of your outer fabric and place it down right side up
Lay the zip on the top edge with the pull side facing down onto the right side

Place the lining fabric on top of the zip, to create a zip sandwich
If using patterned lining fabric make sure it is right side down
Now pin it together so it doesn’t move around while you’re sewing

Sew the sandwich together using backstitch about ¼ inch from the top of the fabric. (If you're not sure how, find out how to sew a backstitch here.)

When you have finished tie a knot and cut off excess thread
Turn it over with the right side of the outer fabric facing up and the zip the right way round

To sew the next side put the lining down right side up and place the zipped section on top with the zip along the top
Put the outer fabric on top of the zip, wrong side up to form another sandwich

Pin it all together and sew it like the other side
The fabric might look like it doesn’t match up but remember your zip is open

Pin it all together and sew it like the other side
The fabric might look like it doesn’t match up but remember your zip is open

Keep your zip open about half way so that you can turn your purse inside out

Now you’re going to sew it all together
Your two lining pieces should be together and touching each other and your two outer pieces should be together as well

Pin everything down, as you’re pinning try to push the outside seam toward the lining so that when you’re done it will lie properly

Sew all around the edges with backstitch leaving an opening at the bottom of the lining to ensure that you can turn the bag (about 3 ½ inches will be enough)
One thread will not be enough you’ll have to rethread a few times on the way round

When you have finished turn the bag inside out. A chopstick is a useful way to push the corners out.
Sew up the opening with whip stitch. (If you're not sure how, find out how to sew a whip stitch here.)


Push the lining back into the bag and you’re finished!

Basic hand sewing stitches

When I ran a sewing workshop at a hen party, I realised that people are often quite scared of sewing. It really is quite easy and like most things just a matter of practice. With hand sewing, you can sew while you're relaxing doing something else like listening to music or watching TV, so I'd recommend it as a way to get started.

So here are a couple of stitches to try and I'll be posting a simple tutorial on how to use these two to make a simple make-up bag. 

First thread your needle with double thread and knot the end.


Working from right to left, come up at A
Take a small backward stitch, go down at B and come up at C
Move the needle forward beneath the material & come up one stitch length ahead
Try to keep your stitches even
Tie a knot at the end

It will look like this  on the right side

…and like this on the reverse


Pull the needle through at A
Push it back through the other side of the fabric at B and through both pieces of fabric
Pull the needle through at C and repeat