Embroidered Stowe Bag
Posted on Wednesday the 15th May 2019 by Oak Blue Designs
Hello there! I am excited to share with you about a fun project for the summer. I recently made, the Stowe Bag Pattern by Grainline Studio. This pattern is a collaboration between Fringe Supply Co and Grainline Studio. It’s an open bag with side handles and with internal pockets.
I decided to sew the larger bag size for this project. I’ve seen some cute versions of the smaller Stowe bag projects online but I loved the idea of trying the larger, roomier bag. I’m an avid knitter so I thought this size would make a perfect sweater knitting bag.
10g DMC cotton floss No12, color 642
Stowe bag pattern by Grainline Studio
2.5m, 1.27cm (½”) wide black single fold bias tape
250m Gutermann All Purpose Sewing Thread, Color 10
100m Gutermann All Purpose Sewing Thread, Color 22
4 cones black serger thread
Dissolvable fabric pen
From the pattern notes:
Medium weight woven fabrics such as denim, linen, twill and canvas. Fabrics over 9oz are not recommended for this pattern because of potential sewing machine difficulty. Extra fabric may be needed to match plaids, stripes or one-way design prints.
Thread, double fold bias binding 1/4" to 3/8" wide:
Small bag requires 1 1/4 yds
Large bag requires 1 2/3 yds
I selected a geometric print Fabric from Minerva in a 65/35 Cotton/Poly medium weight canvas. I love geometric prints and find that I’m really drawn to them. The weight of this fabric wasn’t noted on the Minerva site but I thought it would work just fine for this project. It’s not a stiff canvas, more of a medium/light weight fabric.
I had a little incident as I was making this project, I spilled some coffee on the fabric. I noticed a couple of positive observations with this event. One was that the poly content helped the coffee to bead up so it did not quickly absorb into the fabric (which gave me time to wipe away the coffee). Another interesting note is that the tan tone in the fabric blends quite well with coffee (although the coffee washed out just fine from the incident). So these are a few positives out there for other sewists that might enjoy sewing with this fabric and are coffee/tea drinkers as well.
Right after I cut out the fabric, I serged the edges of each of the pattern pieces with my serger (with black thread). I have a nice guide line along the edge of my serger throat plate that I reference when finishing the edges of a fabric (not cutting the fabric with the cutting blade). I also marked the pocket sewing lines with a dissolvable fabric pen. For this project I used a heat dissolvable pen.
I used the Janome Airthread 2000D (AT 2000D) for this project. In case you’re interested in the machine settings that I used, I took a couple of photos to share, for reference.
I was really intrigued to add hand embroidering details to this bag. I’ve been inspired with the idea of hand embroidering onto printed fabrics. If this embroidery application is new to you, check out this link to see some more inspiration.
I knew adding hand embroidery would add time to this project (than simply sewing up the bag). I gathered up the supplies in a basket and worked on the embroidering during the evenings while watching a tv show, while I waited for my kids to finish eating dinner, while waiting in the car in between commitments, etc.
I decided to practice embroidery stitches on one of the inside pockets of the bag. I had a few thread colors in mind to experiment with (grey, metallic, and tan), different thread thicknesses and I wanted to try various embroidery stitches. Initially I thought I would add embroidery details to the printed triangles.
After experimenting a bit, I decided to go with making geometric, Sashiko style stitches in the tan embroidery thread. I stitched circles, squares and triangles to continue the geometric theme throughout the fabric. I made these stitches in open areas of the fabric in between the printed triangles. The tan thread gave more of a monochromatic look to the stitches and fabric together.
One neat find that I had with this fabric is that it works REALLY well with embroidery. The weave in the fabric is very visible. This detail made embroidering with consistency much easier. I decided to stitch around a 5x5 spacing (the thread showing on the right side of the fabric for five stitches, showing below the fabric for five stitches, etc). I didn’t count the stitches as I stitched but you can visually see the weave to quickly stitch the embroidery, by eye.
One learning that I had with the “practice swatch” of the pocket was that I pulled the thread too tightly. When I started stitching along the outside of the bag, I tried not to pull the thread tight at all (at the end of the each stitch) so that the stitches would lay flat and seamless with the fabric.
I used a handy beeswax disc from Minerva for the embroidery thread. I pulled the length of embroidery thread along the beeswax opening twice, to coat the thread (prior to stitching with each length of thread).
This helps the thread to glide more easily through the fabric. The beeswax gives the thread more stiffness and made the embroidery process quite enjoyable.
To quickly gauge what length of thread to use, I measured each length by holding the end of the thread in my hand and cutting the thread at the top of my shoulder. I liked the length to be long enough but not too long (to prevent tangles as you stitch). I love the portability that hand embroidery offers, to sew on the go.
The pattern suggests using a double fold bias tape as an edge finish for the pockets and top edges of the bag. I found for this project I didn’t want to sew a double fold bias tape edge. I decided instead to sew a single fold bias tape for the top of the inner pockets and for the top edges of the bag.
Although I love making and using handmade bias tape, I decided for this project to use a ready-made tape. Again, I knew that the added hand embroidery details would add more time to this project. I also knew that I wanted to “hide” the bias tape.
I really like the edge finish of a single fold bias tape for this project. I loved the geometric details so much in the fabric (and also with the hand embroidery) so I thought sewing with a double fold finish would take away from the fabric. The following shows the single fold tape being sewn to the back side of the pocket. I used the black thread for the needle and tan thread for the bobbin to blend both threads into the fabric and bias tape.
I love the clean, inside edge that a single fold bias tape brings. It’s kind of like a well kept secret, you see the finished edge when peeking inside the inner pocket or looking inside the top edges of the bag.
I also picked a Hong Kong edge finish along the side and bottom seams of the bag. The pattern instructions are open about the finishing edges of the bag. I’ll share more details about this seam finish decision at the end of this post. The following is a photo of the side edge, the edges are serged and the side seam is sewn. I use a sleeve ironing board a lot when sewing bags. It’s super handy to keep on my sewing table, right next to the sewing machine.
A Hong Kong finish is where you press a seam flat and sew a double fold bias tape around the edges of the seams. I used the same single fold bias tape (mentioned in the Supplies section) for this finish but folded it around the edges.
Cutting on the fold: One change I made in cutting out the Body pattern piece is I folded the pattern piece in half and cut on the fold of the fabric. Cutting the pattern piece flat is a nice option to use less fabric. For this project I wanted to go more for speed (and the guaranteed symmetry that you get when you cut on the fold). I kept the time element in my mind a lot for this project with adding the hand embroidering details.
Hong Kong seam finish: I like the idea of the Hong Kong seam to finish but I have to admit that I did not think ahead about the bulk this finish adds to a bag. If I make this pattern again I would not do the Hong Kong finish on the bottom seam of the bag. I liked the weight of the fabric that I picked and would love to try a heavier weight canvas next time. One downside to this fabric is that the handles of the fabric do not stay up on their own as a stiffer fabric would. The result is that this bag acts more like a basket as it sits open. When sewing the bottom seam, I had to move up to a larger seam allowance as the very bottom edge was too thick to sew within the pattern’s seam allowance. The Hong Kong seam finish does stiffen the bottom and side seams, for a positive there and I do like the look of it.
Tack stitches at pocket edges: The sewing machine that I’m using (Janome Skyline S7/Atelier 7 ) has tack stitches as a pre-set within the machine, similar to an automatic buttonhole stitch. I selected this stitch to reinforce the stress areas at the top of each of the pockets.
The following photo shows the one seam before tack stitching,
and then after tack stitching (on each side of the bag).
The tack stitches are especially helpful in higher stress areas, like the pen pockets.
I intentionally selected a sewing thread for the pockets that blends in to the fabric. Although I’ve seen some really cute Stowe bag projects where the sewist picked a contrasting thread for the pockets, I wanted the embroidery and the printed fabric to shine. Even the tack stitches blend right into the embroidery.
I did want to note that there is a helpful video tutorial on a sewing the Optional bottom gusset. I thought I’d link this tutorial, just for reference. I sewed the gusset seams as I wanted to help the bag sit up on its own.
I’m an avid knitter and I also love making handspun yarn. The finished bag is a fun option to hold larger knitting projects.
With the wrong side of the embroidered stitches being visible, I wove the ends of the threads inside the stitches, to finish.
Here are a few photos of the inside of the handles, for reference:
For my bag I selected the inner pockets as recommended in the pattern (one pocket including the pen slot details and the other pocket did not include pen slots). I think it would be fun to make this bag with the pen pockets on both sides of the inner pockets. These slots could also hold knitting needles, pencils or other tools in addition to pens.
I did want to share one thought about the price of the pattern. Admittedly, the price point for this pattern is on the higher end for a bag, comparatively. I think this is due to the pattern being a collaboration between two lovely designers. If you enjoy the design aesthetic of Fringe Supply Co and you appreciate the pattern writing from Grainline Studio, then you will like this pattern. If you don’t mind the price point and you feel you’ll make this pattern more than once, then it’s worth giving this project a try.
When I sew a pattern I usually like to think about the question, would I make this again? The answer to that question is that I would sew this pattern again. I think the smaller bag would be a fun project to make for gifts for children or adults. Usually everyone loves and can use a great bag as a gift. It could be a great stash busting project as well.
Let me know if you’ve made this pattern yet or if you’ve enjoyed embroidering onto printed fabrics as well!