New yoga mat bag

Sorry for the dodgy photos. It’s so dark here today it looks like the apocalypse is coming…..

I have been try to make myself a nice yoga mat bag since I began sewing. I don’t want to buy one as they fall within my personal classification of ‘things I can’t buy because I could make them myself’ (this also includes hats, scarves, most knitwear…). I’ve had a few attempts so far and now I am on version three. The first two where functional but they still looked pretty flimsy and home-made. I wanted to have another go as version two was starting to look tatty and also the strap was too long to be able to cycle with.

So I didn’t worry too much about bodging it up I used fabric I already had; a blue and white stripy cotton and a grey wool. While they aren’t natural bedfellows I rather like them together. I think it looks a bit 80s somehow but that doesn’t put me off

To combat the flimsy issue I used the grey wool as a lining and contrast colour for the strap, top and pocket. This was mainly because I didn’t have enough of the stripy fabric to do it the other way around!

I cut out two big rectangles of each fabric (75cm x 50 cm stripy and 80 x 50cm for the grey in case you’re interested) and then turned over the tops and hemmed them. Then I sewed the rectangles along the sides and bottom (right side to right side), cut the corners, pinked the edges (because I am lazy), pressed and turned the right way out.

Next, I hemmed the side of the draw string top, turned over the top and sewed that down right on the edge. Then I cut out the pocket (I was feeling a bit slap dash at this point so can’t offer you any measurements and I suspect it isn’t strictly square) and then hemmed along the top, ironed the sides under (again in a slightly slap dash way without my tape measure). ¬†I got to use my automatic button-hole foot for the button holes (which I love and is my favourite thing about my sewing machine) and then I sewed it on to the main bag.

I cut out the fabric for the strap (12cm x 148 cm) ironed it in half, unfolded it, folded each side into the middle and ironed and then folded the whole thing in half and ironed again (if that makes sense?). I sewed it up along the side. This time I made sure that the strap was short enough that it would fit nice and snuggly across my body and won’t shift around when I’m wearing it on my bike.

To finish it off I threaded the strap through (using the safety-pin on the end trick my mum showed me many moons ago), sewed it to the bottom of the bag, sewed up the bottom and the sides on the wrong side and sewed on the buttons. Finally I excitedly waved it under the nose of my boyfriend in triumph, luckily he is very skilled at feigning interest in things I have made. ūüôā

I’m pretty pleased with it and will definitely be taking it on my bike to yoga next time I go. However there are a few extra modifications I would make:

  • Sewing on the buttons before I sew up the bag. It’s a right pain to try to sew them on the final bag.
  • Allow a double seam allowance so that there is allowance left for sewing up at the end. This time around I had to sew right along the edge. We will see if that makes it all fall apart really quickly.
  • Make a smaller pocket (and measure it probably). I think the pocket overwhelms the bag a bit and it would look better smaller. As I’m not entirely sure what I plan to put in the pocket anyway this shouldn’t be a problem.
  • Use thinner fabrics. I had real problems convincing my sewing machine to sew through the straps and the sides of the bag. It wasn’t happy at all…..
  • Buy new thread which is a good colour match rather using thread I have hanging about which you can kind of see….
  • Try and make the strap stretchy (not sure how I plan on doing that yet).

My new yoga mat bag and why it’s always a good idea to use a pattern when sewing

If I was being generous I would call myself a beginner sewer. So far I have made two yoga mat bags, a cushion cover and two tops. Sewing is a skill I’ve wanted to acquire for years as my Mum and several of my friends are excellent sewers and I would love to be able to replicate the kind of bespoke dresses, trousers and tops I see them skipping about in. I started my mission to become a proficient sewer about a year and a half ago. I asked around to see if anyone in the ¬†family had a machine they didn’t need and found out that my Nana had an old Singer she’d bought in the 70s and barely used. As she was sorting out a lot of her belongings before she moved into sheltered accommodation¬†she was happy to let me take it. I also took a sewing course where I learnt the basics and badgered various people for tips.

After a productive start progress stalled for various reasons. However now that the winter is drawing near, and the sunshine won’t be around to tempt me outside, I’m determined to get started again. Last weekend I dug around in my fairly modest fabric stash and found some fabric for a new yoga mat bag. I thought that a mat bag would be a good start as I’ve made one before and I figured I could do it without a pattern. My old bag had a drawstring at the top and then a separate shoulder strap. The plan for the new bag was to have one strap going through the drawstring and acting as the shoulder strap. I though it would be a fast sew and so less likely to join the half finished dress that taunts me from my sewing box.

I made a good start, cut out the fabric and impressed myself by remembering to press my drawstring fold properly. ¬†I found some lovely thread, threaded up the machine and was about to make a start. While I was feeling very keen the sewing machine was in no mood to do anything. It’s always been temperamental but it had suddenly decided to become down right unusable. About half an hour later when miles of thread had been chewed up and I’d picked out various knots I finally admitted defeat.

Luckily for me a friend near by has a lovely¬†sewing machine and she was kind enough to let me nip round to her house and use it. She even threw in dinner and a glass of wine. I promised¬†that I would be done in no time and that I literally just had to whizz along the seams and press and I’d be done. However, my lack of proper planning became apparent as soon as I dug my strap out of my bag and showed it to her. I’d found a lovely strip of fabric in just the right colour. I knew that it was not meant for bag straps but I hadn’t realised that it was bias binding and so stretchy¬†and rather unsuitable. As I didn’t have an alternative I just sewed up the edges and made the best of it very much hoping not to wear it around bemused sewers who might wonder why I was walking about with a strap of bias binding through my drawstring.

The next problem with my lack of proper pattern use came when I turned the bag back to the right way around after stitching the seams. I’d sewing the fold for the drawstring on the inside, folding it in rather than over, making it very difficult to pull the drawstring through to the outside without the seams poking out and lots of fabric getting in the way………. A little bit of panic, some scissors and hand sewing later the problem was fixed and I was able to sew the strapping to the bottom of my bag. By this point it was about 10:30 and my quick bit of stitching had taken rather longer than anticipated!

When I got home I realised that the bias binding really didn’t look right as it was and I should have taken my friend’s advice and sewn it in half. It began to annoy me a lot so I decided just to be done with it and hand stitch¬†it down. It’s a long strap so it took me forever. Luckily I rather like hand stitching so it wasn’t as bad as it should have been.

I’m really pleased with the finished bag and it has made me even more keen to get sewing. I’ve finally taken the plunge and found myself a sewing machine shop and taken my machine to be fixed. I should have it back in a couple of weeks and I’m very excited about it!