Cloverleaf Bag Tutorial + Pattern

on September 11 | in Sewing Tutorials + Patterns | by | with 12 Comments

Lorraine’s ikat bag blog has been one of our must-visit sites for years (she also goes by LiEr, her official middle name). She has a vast selection of clear and informative tutorials and free patterns, and she is always sharing unique sewing, fun times with her kids, fabulous things with felt and so much more. Learn more about Lorraine in her intro and don’t miss her pattern shop. Another former school teacher (physics!), Lorraine joined us for our Back to School series with her Back to School Pencil Case, and today she’s back with the Cloverleaf Bag. We can’t wait to make several Cloverleafs for holiday gifts!

Check out the following series on the ikat bag blog: Make A Bag (a conceptual series on making bag patterns), Sew From Scratch (a series on drafting, sewing and pattern adaptation from blocks and slopers for children), Pockets (a series on sewing 25 different pockets, including patch, inseam, inset and welts) + Alterations (a conceptual mini-series on fitting and garment alterations)
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Last year, I wrote a technical tutorial series on my ikat bag blog about bag design, concepts and construction. The series was called Make A Bag and its aim was to enable a seamstress to start with only a series of desired dimensions to create their own sewing pattern based on six basic bag shapes.

Included in that series were other foundational concepts such as strap construction, reversibility and layers and closures. As part of the series, I designed the Cloverleaf Bag to illustrate the concept of an integrated strap.

This reversible, bucket-style tote has asymmetrical integrated straps that loop through each other to close the bag. Its reversibility is the natural result of having a full lining, so that the bag can be used with either side out. In the Make A Bag series, its structure was briefly discussed without any templates or sewing instructions; its point was simply the deconstruction of its looped straps. Today I am happy to share the full tutorial on Sew Mama Sew.

The two layers (outer and lining) of this bag are identical in structure and construction, so the instructions that follow are for ONE layer, with the reminder to repeat the entire process to make the second layer. The piping around the base is optional but it does add to both the aesthetics and support of the bag’s structure. For a simpler version of the Cloverleaf Bag, simply omit the piping in one or both layers.

Download and print the pattern here. Some notes:

Fabric + Yardage
For yardage requirements, readers should look at the templates and photographs and estimate accordingly. Fabric in at least home-dec weight is recommended, along with a layer of sew-in interfacing for a more robust bag. However, the lining layer may be substituted with a lighter-weight fabric such as quilting cotton. If quilting cotton is used for both layers, two layers of interfacing are recommended: a commercial sew-in interfacing should be basted to one fabric layer and a heavy fabric, e.g. canvas or duck cloth, basted to the other fabric layer.

Assumed Knowledge
Whenever two pieces of fabric are connected with a seam, they are sewn with their RS (right sides) together and the seam then pressed open. This seam can then be top-stitched on the RS for strength and aesthetics. Here are two ways to do this:

(i) (Green example) Fold the SA (seam allowance) to one side on the WS (wrong side) and topstitch a single line through all three layers on the RS (right side). This is suitable for non-bulky fabrics and/or seams that will be under stress.
(ii) (Grey example) Split the SA to each side of the seam on the WS and topstitch two lines on the RS to hold the SA apart. This is suitable for bulkier fabrics and/or seams that will not be under stress.

What you need for EACH layer:

  • One Short Loop Strap (from template)
  • One Long Loop Strap (from template)
  • One Strap Extension – this is a rectangle of dimensions 1.75″ x 11.5″, which includes 1/4″ SA all around
  • One Body (in fabric) – this is a rectangle 23″ x 7″, including 1/2″ SA all around
  • One Body (in interfacing) – this is a rectangle 23″ x 7″, including 1/2″ SA all around
  • One Base (in fabric) – this is an 8″ circle, including 1/2″ SA all around
  • One Base (in interfacing) – this is an 8″ circle, including 1/2″ SA all around
  • Piping Fabric (light cotton or heavier) – this is a rectangle of dimensions 1.75″ x 25″
  • Piping Cord 1/4″(approx diameter) x 24″

In addition you will need coordinating sewing thread, a sewing machine and the usual sewing notions.

Step One
Partially assemble the Strap Cylinder.

The schematic photograph above shows how the three Strap pieces (Short Loop Strap, Long Loop Strap and Strap Extension) will eventually be connected. First, simply connect one end (B) of the Strap Extension piece to one point B of the Long Loop Strap piece by sewing their ends together. Then sew the short sides of the Short Loop Strap piece and the Long Loop Strap piece together to form a squat cylinder as shown below. Set aside.

Step Two
Stabilize the Body and Base pieces by basting (sew long stitches close to the edge of the material, within the SA region) the corresponding interfacing pieces to their WS.

Step Three
Sew the short ends of the stabilized Body together to form a cylinder.

Step Four (Optional)
Make and attach the piping to the bottom edge of the Body cylinder. Fold the piping fabric in half lengthwise (RS out) over the piping cord. Using a zipper foot, sew a line of stitching close to the piping cord to encase it. Use the longest stitch length, as you will be unpicking some of the stitches later.

Align the SA of the piping and bottom edge of the Body cylinder as shown by the red arrows in the photograph below and, using the zipper foot, sew close to the piping cord to attach the piping all around the bottom edge of the Body cylinder. Leave the first inch of the piping unattached, for overlapping with the tail end of the piping later.

When you’ve sewn all around the cylinder and returned to the starting point, unpick the rest of the long stitches to expose the piping cord, then cut off the excess cord, so that the two ends of the cord meet up without bunching. Working with about 1.5″ of overlapping piping fabric (trim the rest off), fold in the short edge of the tail end, tuck under the head end of the piping…

…Fold the fabric of the tail end completely over the head end to encase the cord again, and then continue sewing to complete the circumference. For more detailed photographs and instructions on this method of attaching and finishing piping, see my earlier tutorial on Sew Mama Sew here, Steps 9 to 16.

Step Five
Attach the Base to the Body.

Snip halfway through the SA of the bottom edge of the Body cylinder in preparation for attaching it to the circular Base.

Make quarter marks around the Base and bottom edge of the Body and match these up when you attach the Body to the Base.

Using the zipper foot, and with the Body on top and the Base below (their RS should be together), sew the Body to the Base. The needle should be in the side most position that allows it to sew close to the piping cord.

The Body cylinder is complete. Trim the SA of the Base to about 1/4″ to reduce bulk and turn RS out.

Step Six
Attach the Strap cylinder to the Body cylinder. Fit the Strap cylinder upside down and WS out over the Body cylinder as shown. Line up their SA at the rim and sew all around to attach the layers.

Flip the Strap cylinder up, press the seam and topstitch on the RS.

The outer layer is finished. Set aside.

Step Seven
Make the inner layer (lining layer).

Repeat Steps 1 though 6 with the lining materials to make a second bag just like the first, with the following considerations:
(i) Omit the interfacing if using home dec weight fabric or heavier for this layer.
(ii) Omit the piping if reversibility is not desired.
(iii) Attach the Strap Extension piece in mirror image of the outer layer, so that when the two layers are combined with the RS together in Step 8, the straps will match up exactly.
(iv) Leave an opening (about 3″ wide) in the side seam of the Body cylinder for turning the entire bag RS out later (see photo to follow).
(v) Do not topstitch the side seam of the Body cylinder (as it has an opening left in it).

Step Eight
Sew the two layers together. Turn one layer WS out (in the picture below, it is the lining layer) and insert it completely into the other layer (in the picture below, it is the outer layer).

Line up the straps with their RS together, pin in place and sew all around their edges as shown by the blue dashed lines, to attach both layers together. Leave the first 1″ to 1.5″ at the ends of the straps unstitched, to allow you to connect them together in separate layers later.

Snip the curved SA and turn the entire bag (including the straps) RS out through the opening left in the lining.

Step Nine
Connect the straps. With RS together (this might involve some twisting and manipulating), sew the ends of the straps of the same layer together to form complete loops. Work with one layer at a time, peeling back the other layer. Connect ends A to each other and ends B to each other, of the respective layer (refer to the second photograph if you’ve forgotten what A and B are).

Here is the RS of that same seam, with the now-connected solid green lining layer behind it.

Do this for all four junctions, then press the seams open and topstitch all around (see blue dashed line below), closing the openings in the straps in the process.

The junction where the ends A meet might be initially angular, so smooth it out as best you can when you press the SA and topstitch around it.

Step Ten
Using the ladder stitch, hand-stitch the opening in the lining shut.

The Cloverleaf Bag is completed!

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This post is sponsored by Fashionable Fabrics. Fashionable Fabrics carries a must see selection of modern novelty fabrics and fashion forward designer fabrics at amazing prices and flat-rate shipping (novelty fabrics, fabric by theme, new arrivals and more).

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12 Responses to Cloverleaf Bag Tutorial + Pattern

  1. Susanne from Oakville, Canada says:

    Wonderful, I know how to sew and I am amazed at the great instructions, even a non sewer can try this pattern and bag. Too often the patterns are only good if you already know how to sew an item, beginners feel good about this pattern and instructions. keep up the great job!! p.s. I was looking around as my 10 year old niece wants to learn to sew, this would be a great site for her too!!

  2. Jon says:

    If only I weren’t halfway through making a dozen Christmas lunch buckets this would make perfect gifts for teachers and nieces.. Ah well… next year…

    (Where did I get the pattern for those lunch buckets… ah I remember…..)

  3. Jess Abbott says:

    Oh my word, these are adorable!!!

  4. Elisabetta says:

    Thank you so much for your tutorial!
    It is so cute!!!

  5. LiEr says:

    Sherry: Iron-on (aka fusible) interfacing is best used when
    (i) the fabric it’s fused to is of a heavier weight that the interfacing itself. Otherwise, you’re using the weight of the interfacing as the main weight of the fabric, instead of the other way around. If you have to resort to using a heavier fusible interfacing than the fabric itself, then you’re using the wrong weight of fabric and should pick something heavier.
    (ii) you don’t need to do a lot of turning-right-side-out-through-openings-in-lining type maneuver, because it tends to result in crinkly, wrinkly fabric and the need for a lot of re-ironing. Sometimes, the crinkled look never goes away.

  6. Sherry says:

    Thank you so much.
    I’m not very experienced, so I have a technical question. Why should you use a sew-in interfacing instead of an iron-on when using a lighter fabric?

  7. Lalitha says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this pattern. I am going to make this bag for my daughter to carry her lunch.

  8. elsa says:

    Thanks so much for a great pattern and bag ~ I’m going to make a few for my knitting friends!

  9. Kim says:

    i LOOOVE lier and nearly all her patterns :) she is amaaaazing!

  10. Great tutorial and pattern … love this bag!

  11. Joan says:

    Such a cute bag! Your tutorial is excellent and I do appreciate you sharing this project. I can think of endless possibilities for this little bag.

  12. Samina says:

    That would be adorable knitting project bag! It’s going on my to-make list. Thank you!

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