Free Purse Tutorial: The Great Granny Bag

1/31/2013 12:00:00 PM

The Great Granny Bag:
I've been dying to make a bag with bamboo handles for a long time.  I don't really care if they aren't trendy or in style, I just kinda like them and I wanted one.  I love the light feel of the bamboo rings in my hands, I love that handmade, "basket-ish" look, and best of all, I love how EASY and FAST they are to make.

Bag #1 made out of Ty Pennington's Decor Fabric

I made my first one, with wrong dimensions, out of Ty Pennington decor fabric and it was a bit thick in the gathered areas, but keeps it's shape very well.  The second bag, with the dimensions worked out, is made from a modern Moda print quilting cotton, and it turned out rather nice.  Note: If I were to use home decor fabric again, I would cut the exterior fabric at least 1.5 cm or 1 inch longer from top to bottom so that I would have a bit more fabric to wrap around the handles.  Also, a thimble is necessary to do a small bit of hand sewing through decor fabric.

Bag#2 is made of Quilting Cotton, and a bit easier to work with.
I found a pattern in a Japanese magazine, but it was Japanese.... and I don't read Japanese.  I think with the very few diagrams and instructions they gave, anyone who spoke or read Japanese, might have issues too, but after some trial and error (Bag #1), I managed to make a very passable fabric bag with bamboo handles (Bag #2).  Bag #1 is now my knitting bag, perfect for holding my scarf projects, and Bag #2 might end as a gift to daughter #1, who has started to knit herself.  She is not knitting herself, she knits ALSO! 

Makes a great knitting bag!

Ok, enough silliness, on with the tutorial:


-  1 Pair of 7 inch (18cm) Bamboo Purse Handles
    (found on ebay, Etsy or your local knitting or craft store.)
-  2 x 13 inches (33 cm) piping cord, ribbon or 1/4" (5 mm) elastic
-  1 Yard (1 meter) of  Quilting cotton for Exterior
-  1 Yard (1 meter) of  Quilting cotton for Lining.
-  One 8" x 10" (20cm x 25cm) scrap of fusible Interfacing for Pocket
    (pocket optional, interfacing optional)

Cutting Diagram:

Let's get started:

1)  Make the pocket:   Fuse your 10"x8" piece of fusible interfacing to the wrong side of your pocket piece.  If you don't have any, don't fret - it's just there to create some extra sturdiness.  Fold your pocket in half, right sides together so you have a piece that it is now 8" x  5 ".  Sew around the 3 open sides, leaving a 2.5" gap for turning.  See diagram.
Clip corners, turn, press.  Top-stitch across top of pocket (folded edge) about 3/8" (1 cm) from edge.  Center pocket on right side of lining, 4" (10 cm) from the top and pin in place.

Stitch down one side, across bottom (stitching down opening used for turning) and up other side, leaving the folded edge open.  Remember to backstitch!  I like to use a bar tack to make my pocket openings secure.

 2)  Attach Lining to Exterior:   Place lining on top of Exterior fabric, right sides together.  Pull side edges of exterior fabric in to meet side edges of lining.  With the lining centered from top to bottom, pin along left and right sides and sew a 3/8" (1 cm) seam up both sides.   The lining will extend from both the top and bottom ends 2 5/8" (6.5 cm).  The Exterior fabric is wider than the lining, so it will be gathered up a bit in the middle.  See picture!

Stitch on red lines, click to enlarge.

Before turning outside right again, it is very helpful to press the seam allowance toward the lining fabric.  Just slide the seam over so it is not on the edge, and press toward the lining.  Then turn the whole tube so the right sides are out.

With right sides out, and fabric making a tube shape, center the lining on top of the exterior fabric. Press.   You should have about 7/8" or 2 cm of the exterior fabric sticking out on the left and right sides.  These will form the casing in which you will insert your elactic, ribbon, or piping cord for the sides.  See picture:

Center lining over Exterior and press

3) Make cording (or elastic) casings:  Stitch along seam between lining and exterior fabric from very top to very bottom edges.  Remember to backstich.  Stitch "in the ditch" or just beside.   Also stitch down the top and bottom raw edges of your lining piece 3/8" or 1 cm from the edge.  Do not stitch across the casings you have just created on the left and right sides, but stop and start at your seam lines.  See pictures!

Stitch up sides and across top edge of lining.

Red Lines are stitching lines.  Click to zoom!
4)  Insert cording (or elastic or ribbon):  Using a safety pin, or handy dandy threading tool (which I don't have!),  thread your cording through the side casings.  Where the top bottom stitching lines on the lining meet with the side seams, stitch across the piping a couple of times to secure.  See pictures:

5)  Hem Top and Bottom:  Turn over a 3/8" or 1 cm hem on top and bottom.  Press.  Stitch this down about 1/8" or 3mm next to the folded edge.  If you are really industrious, you could finish that raw edge, but it's not that necessary.  These areas at the top and bottom create the casings that will fold over the bamboo handles.

6) Mark Casing for hand sewing:  This is a very handy trick to help meet your edges evenly - I love it!!  With quilters chalk, or an erasable marker or pen, you will mark across the edge where you will hand stitch the handle casing edge to the lining.  Yes, I said hand stitch.  Don't panic, it's really fast and easy!!

Fold the top casing down so the top edge meets the sewing line on the lining.  Pin or clip in place.  Mark every few inches across the seam.  Remove pins.

 7)  Sew Handle Casing:  Wrapping the casing edge around your bag handle, meet the folded edge to the seam line and whip stitch to secure.  Pin a few inches at a time, meeting your chalk/pen lines together.  Make sure you are sewing into the seam allowance only, and not through to the bag front, like I did!  (Sew folded edge to seam allowance)

The red marks are a stitching guide, don't sew like that!

Sew like this!

 And that's it!  Wasn't that too easy?  I love these Great Granny Bags!  I need to make another....

If you have found this tutorial helpful in the slightest way, please follow my blog by either GFC, Blog-lovin, Email or signing up for my Newsletter on the right side bar.   And... please share your finished bags with me in the Emmaline Bags Flickr Group.  I love to see your finished Emmaline inspired projects!    

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  1. Seeing the knitting in the bag sold me! Now I just wish I would have checked my reader before I headed out to JoAnn's. Great bag, Janelle and great tutorial!

  2. This is great! LOVE it! I do have some round bamboo handles too! I had them saved since the 80s! lol! (I am not a horder) hehe. thank you for this tutorial.. I want to make one! love the fabrics !

  3. Love it! Just the other day I bought Bamboo Purse Handles and was about to experiment with them... you just made my life a lot easier, thank you!!

  4. So cute.. A friend JUST asked me for ideas for a knitting bag today. I passed this on to her and am bookmarking for myself.

  5. Adorable! I can't wait for make one for me ;D
    Thanks so much for sharing the great tutorial! I'm your newest follower!
    Have a fabulous week!
    Hugs from Portugal,

    Ana Love Craft

  6. I love this bag. I would love it if you would share it at my new linky party.

  7. That is darling! Love it! I am stopping over from Shine on Friday's. I have a link party going on right now and would love for you to share this and anything else you would like!

  8. Great tutorial! I would love for you to share this or any of your great ideas at the link party going on now (and every Saturday through Tuesday) at 'Or so she says ...' Also, don't miss the Sweethearts Giveaway starting on Monday with over $2,000 in prizes. Hope to see you there!

  9. Thank you for the tutorial! I would like to make one for my yarn too!

  10. Jess of "Shine on Fridays" this week! Thanks for linking up!

    SO adorable, yet looks SO easy! I pinned it for later!! :)

    Don't forget to enter my fabric giveaway! :)

  11. Love the tutorial! It is right up my alley as I love to sew! You have a beautiful blog and I am your newest follower! Please visit my blog and take a look around. If you see something you like, I would love for you to follow me back!

  12. Gorgeous bag! I love the floral fabric!

    Navy Wifey Peters @ Submarine Sunday Link Party

  13. What a nice tutorial. I know how much time these things take to do. I want to try this kind of bag. I've made bags but this is one kind I haven't made. Thanks for this. Would love to have you share at What to do Weekends Party also. My followers would love this free tutorial and pattern. Thanks, Linda

  14. I love it. Great job! I would love for you to come over to my blog hop and share this and other posts there!

  15. I LOVE this purse! What a great tutorial, too!

  16. Love this. thank you for sharing. Hope to try it someday.

  17. Thanks for the tute! I love making bags and will pin this one!
    -Ana from

  18. LOVE! And thanks for the tutorial. I'm a bit fascinated by hand made bags.

    I'd love if you shared this at my Show & Tell party today.

    1. Thanks for linking up. You were featured!

  19. Wonderful tutorial! I loved your bag!
    Great post!! I included it in my post Βόλτα στη Γειτονιά #21 :)
    Have a great week!!

  20. This a great bag ~thanks so much for sharing at Made in a Day!

  21. I have made a bunch of these lately! Each new one I make, either a friend or family member takes right off of me.

  22. Oh, this so reminds me of bags we carried in the 70s and I still love them. Wish I'd kept some!!! You are so right... they are a great shape for a knitting bag.

  23. I really like the hint to use it as a knitting bag. My sister knits a lot and this will make a great gift.

  24. Beautiful dear! I love this bag! :-)))

  25. I just made this for a friend who is an avid knitter.I raise sheep and she uses yarn from my farm for her knitting. It was super easy and I finished it in 1 night. I used black fabric with knitting sheep for the outside and a small red print for the inside. I used a thin fusible batting and quilted the lining to the outside main fabric before I put in the elastic and I made 2 pockets. My friend loved it.

  26. Finally got round to using this pattern to make my nan's christmas present
    here it is


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The contents of this blog, including text, original photos and ideas are the sole property of the author. If you intend to use my text or images, please link back to this blog and give credit to Emmaline Bags & Patterns. A notification email would be greatly appreciated too! Please do not ever republish an entire post, any tutorials, or post photos of my family. Thank you, Janelle