Small Bag with English Paper Piecing

In Sweet & Simple Patchwork Gifts: 25 Charming Projects to Make Using Classic Quilt Motifs by Hisako Arai and Yoko Sanjo, I was drawn to the Market Tote (seen on book cover below) and coordinating Small Bag because I wanted to practice English Paper Piecing (EPP). The Small Bag was a more reasonable size for a quick Gifty Galore project. When I actually read the pattern, I was surprised to find out it was written for hand-piecing without paper templates. While that is another skill I need to practice, I decided to try EPP. With instructions in Sweet & Simple Patchwork Gifts and English Paper Piecing by Vicki Bellino and her EPP PDF and EPP video tutorials  to guide me, I felt confident I could successfully do EPP for this project.

Fabric Selection
Back in June, when the staff was selecting projects to make for Gifty Galore, I had no idea the Small Bag would end up holding crochet supplies! Last month there were two lunchtime crochet classes at work. As I started the class sample, I realized my hands remembered how to crochet from 20 years ago! I was hooked again (pun intended). I decided to adapt the Small Bag to accompany my Harmony crochet hooks from KnitPicks. To coordinate with the colorful wooden crochet hooks, I selected 3678 Aurora Peacock for the bag fabric. The hexagons were made using a variety of bright scraps of batiks from my stash. If I had needed more variety, precut samplers of 2-1/2” strips, 5” charms, and 10” stacks would have increased my fabric options.


The basic supplies included Essential thread, appliqué needle, needle threader, thimble, small scissors, small square ruler, straight pins, and Wonder Invisible Nylon thread. I ordered the 3/4” (1-1/2″ finished size) EPP paper templates for the Small Bag.

Preparing the Hexagon Templates
I used a small square ruler to cut 2” squares from my batik scraps. After pinning the paper to the wrong side of the square, I cut around the hexagon paper templates  leaving a 1/4” seam allowance. After folding the fabric over the template, one side at a time, I used Essential thread, in a contrasting color, to baste the fabric to the template.

Joining the Hexagons
The next step was to whipstitch the hexagons together. It was difficult to find a thread color that looked good on the front because my hexagons varied so much in color. Vicki Bellino recommends invisible monofilament thread when thread color is a problem. I have used YLI’s Wonder Invisible Nylon thread for machine appliqué and quilting for years. Oh my! It was a challenge to work with by hand at first because it seemed like I was sewing with hair! It was hard to thread the needle, and the thread got caught on everything and tangled easily. Ease of use improved with practice. Good lighting and using a short length of thread (less than 18″) were important. Now I don’t mind it at all and the stitches look great on the front.

Quilting the Bag
Quilting was done by machine using a variegated thread. I sewed the sections together to simplify quilting; the middle section was later cut in half to form the bottom of the bag. The bag was quilted with lines 1 inch apart on a 45° angle in a grid pattern. The middle row of hexagons were quilted with hexagon shapes ¼” smaller than the pieced ones. I started out drawing the shapes but found it was easier to just use my ¼” foot as a guide.

Changes to Bag Size and Shape
I wanted the bottom of the bag to be flat so it would stand up well. I cut 1-3/4” squares out of each lower corner of the quilted bag and lining pieces instead of the recommended darts. To stabilize the bottom, I cut a piece of foam core board, covered it with the lining fabric and inserted it in the bottom of the bag. The top closure was supposed to be a spring clasp. I came up with the idea of using two “slap bracelets” for a closer figuring they would bend to open the bag and snap back to a straight line to close the bag. Being close to Halloween, the only ones I could find had rubber spikes, which I cut off. The length of the bracelet and my crochet supplies determined the size of my bag; it is slightly longer and deeper than the bag in the book. I also made a pocket out of some leftover bag material.


The Small Bag in bright batiks looks great with my Harmony crochet hooks. The pattern in Sweet & Simple Patchwork Gifts was the inspiration; my customized bag works well for my crochet supplies. I had so much fun sewing the hexagons together, I started making flowers for the Market Tote to carry my Small Bag, yarn and crochet pattern. Since the EPP paper templates are reuseable, I continued with the 3/4″ size. What a fun, portable, and somewhat addictive, new activity!

1 comment

  1. Nancy S - November 17, 2012

    I have spent the whole evening googling info on paper pieced hexagons. One quilt took over 1,000 ‘hexies’. I came upon this site after googling ‘fibromyalgia + quilter’, just wondering if anyone out there blogs about how they manage to still have fun quilting with FMS. This looks like a very manageable project to try this out. I need some handwork for when I can’t sit at the machine, but want to feel productive by finishing something. Thanks for making this sample. Batiks, too! A WIN – WIN situation you got going there, girl!