Frankenbag Tutorial

I had so much fun making that quilted bag last night that I decided to make another one. I decided to document how I made it and share it here so you can make one of your own.

I’m calling this my Frankenbag because it’s made from a lot of spare parts! I dug into my orphan KFC blocks and crumb blocks to incorporate them here.

I think I like this one better than the first one I made! It’s about 13 inches high and 15 inches wide at the top edge. It’s a generous bag, but not TOO big. And it has a nice deep gusset. It will hold a lot of stuff.

Let’s dig in and make one! And a note to you… I’m writing this assuming you know basic sewing and construction techniques. But hopefully it will work for sewers of all skill levels.

Here’s the materials you need for this bag:

  • Scraps or fabric to make the front and back of your bag. I made mine with crumb quilting and orphan blocks. You can use any technique you want to make your scraps into a panel, or use blocks you already have. You could even cut up a quilt to make one. This is a good opportunity to try something new!
  • 1/2 yard of fabric for the lining. I love a lining that does my pieced panel justice! A nice pop of color or print in a lining is so much fun! Don’t skimp on the lining!
  • 1/2 yard of fabric for the backing for your quilt sandwich when you quilt the front. This can be essentially any fabric as it will be hidden inside the bag. It’s a great way to use up larger scraps or fabric that you can’t imagine what made you buy it five years ago.
  • 1/2 yard of fusible fleece or batting.
  • Cork fabric that is large enough for you to cut 2 pieces at 3×18 inches each.

Make the Handles

Fold the cork fabric in thirds lengthwise and clip.

Stitch a line of top stitching along the long edge on each side of the handle.

(I have added some notes on different handle materials, handle length and placement for a shoulder bag at the bottom of this post.)

Make the pieced panels for the front of the bag:

Make a pieced panel of your choice. I used crumb piecing and some orphan blocks, bordered them with fabric and combined them in a really random way. You can use blocks you have on hand, or make some new blocks for this. You can do improv piecing, paper piecing, anything that floats your boat. This tutorial is written for a 17×17 inch square panel.

If you want to do some crumb pieced blocks, check out my blog post that includes some info on how I make mine. Or go to Youtube and search for “crumb block tutorial” and you’ll get some good options.

These panels are really the fun part for me! It’s a great opportunity to make something that you’ve always wanted to try. Just make sure that yours end up 17 inches square.

For my Frankenbag, one panel was all crumb pieced and the other one included some orphan blocks with crumb piecing. Here’s both panels:

The panel on the right is all crumb piecing. The one on the left includes two orphan blocks. Here’s all the pieces I had available to use in this orphan panel:

I chose the pineapple block and the small log cabin block. I put the black and white jumble border on the larger pineapple block, and a red guinea flower border on the smaller log cabin block.

This picture shows part way through putting this panel together. The next step was to sew the crumb piece at the bottom to the top part. As I put these together I kept in mind that 17 inch square I needed and put these pieces together with that in mind.

Once it was all sewed together, I trimmed it to 17 inches square.

Quilt your pieced panels

I used fusible fleece for my bag, but you can use any batting you like. The fleece was cut to about 18×18 inches and fused to the back of the pieced panel. If you’re using fusible fleece, be careful when using your iron on this. Keep your iron on the panel fabric and don’t get too close to the edge and melt the glue exposed glue on the fleece.

Then I cut a 19×19 piece of the fabric for the back of the quilt sandwich. I used two batik fat quarters that I’ve had laying around forever. Remember, the print on this fabric doesn’t matter because it will all be hidden inside the bag. It just adds some stability to your quilting.

Make your quilt sandwich with the backing fabric first, then the fleece and panel on top. I like to have the backing a little bigger than the fleece/batting, and have the panel a little smaller. This helps make sure that things don’t shift away from the edge as you’re quilting and you can be confident that all of your quilting will have batting and backing behind it.

I used some spray basting to adhere the backing to the fleece.

Quilt your panel in any way you like. I used my walking foot and did some matchstick quilting on the top 1.5 inches of each panel, and then used wavy horizontal lines for the remainder of the panel.

Use your favorite method, or try something new! It’s just a 17×17 inch piece of fabric! Nothing to lose if you mess it up!

Once you get your two panels quilted, trim away the extra batting and backing. Keep these as close to 17×17 as you can.

Next, cut out a 2.5 inch square from the bottom corners of both panels. This will become the gusset which makes the bottom of the bag flat.

Attach the handles to the quilted panels

I actually did this after I sewed the side seams on my bag, but it would be easier to do this prior to sewing the sides together.

On the wrong side of the panel, locate and mark (on the wrong side) the center of the top edge of each panel. Then measure 3 inches over on each side of the center and mark with a pen.

With the handles on the right side of the panel and the ends of the handles facing up, line up the handle inside the 3 inch mark. Leave about 1/4 inch of the handle edge sticking up beyond the top of the bag, Pin the handle securely in place. I use two pins.

Make sure your handle isn’t twisted. The same side of the handle should be against the panel on both sides. If you have the front side touching on one side and the back side on the other side, your handle will be twisted. Take some time to flip your handle up after you pin it to see if it looks right.

Stitch the handles onto the panels. I just sew one long line from one handle to the next, making sure to go back and forth across each handle end a few times to reinforce it. Make sure that all of this stitching will be inside your seam allowance so it won’t show.

Sew the sides and back of the panels

Put the two panels right sides together and pin the sides and bottom, and then sew along all three edges. I used a seam allowance of about 3/8 inches. You can use any seam allowance you like… quarter inch, or something larger. Just be sure to use the same seam allowance on all of the bag seams so your lining will fit the outside of the bag.

Press these seams open. I like the 3/8 inch seam allowance because it’ makes it easier to press these seams open. These panels are pretty thick, so pressing the seams open helps reduce bulk at the top of the bag.

Make the gussets

Push the side and bottom of the outside of the bag together until the side and bottom seams match and voila! You have a gussett! Make sure you have right sides together.

Line up the seams and pin the gusset. Sew it with the same seam allowance you’re using elsewhere. Be sure to back tack at the beginning and end, and be careful sewing over the seam allowances. It’s bulky and can be a needle breaker! Go slow!

Look at that beautiful gussett!

Make the lining and pocket

Take your half yard of lining fabric and cut the whole thing to 17 inches wide. Cut off the selvedge, cut a 17 inch square, and leave the section on the fold intact — this will become the pocket.

To make the pocket press the fabric to remove the fold. Fold the piece in half the other direction with right sides together.

Sew around three sides of this folded piece, leaving an opening large enough to turn the pocket right side out. Clip the corners and turn the pocket right side out. Gently push out all the corners and press the pocket, making sure to fold the seam allowances under at the opening. Topstitch across the top of the pocket. You get to choose the top! Your pocket should be close to square, or it may be a slight rectangle. Just decide which side you want to be the top.

Now cut a 2.5 inch square out of the bottom two corners of the lining pieces.

Take one piece of the lining and mark the center. Place the pocket on the right side of this fabric. Make sure it’s centered, and place it about 3 inches down from the top of the lining.

Pin it in place and stitch around the sides and bottom of the pocket. Back tack at the two top edges.

Honestly, no one will ever know if your pocket is crooked, but you’ll feel better knowing it’s not on a slant.

Place the two lining pieces right sides together and pin. Sew the bottom seam and the two side seams, LEAVING A SIX INCH OPENING IN THE MIDDLE OF ONE SIDE SEAM. This is very important! This opening will allow you to turn the bag right side out after you attach the lining to the bag front. (It’s a good idea to press back the seam allowances on that opening now while the lining is flat. It will make closing it up later much easier.)

Press the seams open. Then make the gussets the same way you made the gussets on the outside of the bag.

Attach the lining to the bag front

You’re so close to being done!

Turn the bag front wrong side out and the lining right side out. Place the lining inside the bag. Your pieces should be right sides together at this point. Match and pin the side seams, and then pin all the way around the top edge of the bag, matching the top edges.

You can see the ends of the handles sticking up above the top of the bag. Don’t freak out. This is supposed to happen.

Your handles should be BETWEEN the outside of the bag and the lining. If they aren’t, stop now and figure out what the hell is going on!

Sew a seam all the way around the top of the bag. Back tack at the beginning and end of this seam. Be careful of all that bulk where the side seams meet and at the handles. . Speed kills at this point. And it eats needles!

Reach through the hole in the side of the lining and gently turn the bag right side out. Put your hand inside and push out all the bottom corners.

Line up the sides of the opening in the lining and pin it carefully. Stitch the opening closed very close to the edge, making sure you’re catching both sides.

Push the lining into the bag, smoothing and pushing the corners into the corners of the bag front.

Press the top of the bag so the seam is at the very top. Take a few minutes here to make sure this looks nice. This careful finishing makes a big difference in your bag.

Top stitch about 1/4 inch from the top of the bag. It’s a good idea to go back and forth at the handles again to reinforce them. it’s also a good idea to be mindful of all that bulk at this stage. Back tack at the beginning and end of this top stitching.

AND YOU’RE DONE!!! I hope you end up with a bag you love! I’d love to see a photo of your bag if you make this. You can email me at anne@agilejack1.com

Leave me a comment if you have a question, or if you find an error.

NOTES ADDED ON 4-4-2021 TO ALTER THE HANDLES

The first four Frankenbags I made had cork handles. And that was all the cork I had. So I went online and found some at Fabric.com. When it arrived I realized it was really thin and didn’t feel like it would hold up with use. So I went online and looked for other options.

I ordered some faux leather and I really like how it worked up. And it’s not terribly expensive. You can buy it by the yard. Here’s a link to the faux leather I purchased and Used on this bag.

On this border collie bag linked above I made the handles longer so they would comfortably go over my shoulder. I altered the handle instructions included in this tutorial in two ways:

  1. I cut the faux leather 3 inches wide and 24 inches long.
  2. I marked four inches from the center of the bag to place the handles, rather than three inches.