Angela from Saké Puppets loves to share what she learns about Japan on her blog; she’s lived in Tokyo now for a year and has a great time exploring the Japanese sewing and craft scene. Today’s project is something she sees everywhere in Tokyo, as fellow sewists take their projects on-the-go. She writes, “I learned how to make this On-the-Go Project Pouch from a group of obaachan (grandmothers) in my neighborhood, who carry one for every project.”

If Angela’s tutorial makes you want to explore Japanese-inspired sewing, be sure to check out her Saké Puppets shop for DIY sashiko kits and more, and check out her intro too.

For me, summer is about hitting the road. I love car trips, weekends in the woods or at the beach, and meals outdoors with family and friends. Of course, I can’t go anywhere without a sewing project. This On-the-Go Project Pouch is perfect for carrying a few supplies and will keep your projects organized during all of your summer adventures. Let’s get to it!

For this project you’ll need two pieces of fabric, each 10” by 14” in size. One will be used for the outside of the bag and the other for the lining, so choose your fabric accordingly. I like to use linen and cotton, but canvas or home-dec weight fabrics would be great too. You’ll also need 12-18″ of cording, and a 2″ x 3″ piece of felt.

You’ll also need scissors, a needle and thread, marker or chalk pencil, a handful of pins, embroidery thread and/or your favorite embellishment materials. A sewing machine would be handy, but is optional.

Part 1: Prepare your fabric
Cut both pieces of fabric to 10″ by 14″. Place the fabric for your lining aside.

Measure and mark a 1/2″ seam allowance around all four sides on the “wrong” side of your fabric.

On the long edge, starting at the seam allowance, measure and make a dash at 2″, 5″, and 9″. Do this on both sides. On the short edge, mark the middle of your fabric, 5″ in from either side.

Using a marker or chalk pencil, connect the center mark to the 2″ marks on each long edge. You’ve now outlined your pouch.

Transfer your 5″ and 9″ marks to the opposite side of your fabric, making a small dash within the 1/2″ margin of your seam allowance. These marks on the “right” side of your fabric will serve as guidelines when decorating your pouch.

Part 2: Embellish!
Decorate your pouch however you’d like, using embroidery, cross-stitch, or my personal favorite, sashiko. (Click here for a sashiko how-to.)

The possibilities are endless!

You can stay within the 4″ x 10” rectangle of space that will be the back of your pouch (as I did), or you can embellish the whole thing; it’s your choice.

Part 3: Pin and prep for sewing
Once you are happy with your design, it’s time to sew your pouch together. (A sewing machine would be useful, but it’s not necessary.)

Retrieve the fabric for your lining. On the “right” side of your fabric, measure 5″ from either edge (the center), and 2″ down from the top edge of your lining. Center the top edge of your piece of felt with this point, and pin it in place. Sew a straight seam through the center of the felt, backstitching at the beginning and end. Trim excess threads.

Retrieve your embellished fabric and line it up with the lining, “right” sides together, the felt rectangle sandwiched between both pieces at the top.

Pin the bottom short edge of both pieces of fabric together. Sew a seam along the bottom short side, leaving a 3″ gap in the center. (Later, you’ll use this gap to turn your pouch right-side-out.)

Fold your fabric over the seam, wrong sides together, and iron your seam flat.

Lay your fabric on a table and pin the two pieces together, about 3″ up from the seam on each long edge. Fold the top piece of fabric (the lining) down slowly until your two 9″ marks are revealed. Re-pin the fabric to include this third layer.

Pinch all four layers of fabric together at the fold, lift, and flip the lining fabric under so both pieces are folded. Again, re-pin to include the fourth layer.

Finish pinning around the perimeter of your pouch. Insert the cord between the two layers of fabric at the top, leaving about an inch sticking out at the point of the flap. Pin it in place.

Part 4: Sew your pouch
Lay your pinned-pouch on a table so the chalked lines are facing up, and the flap points up. Sew along the chalk line, beginning at the bottom left corner and continuing all the way around to finish at the bottom right, maintaing your ½” seam allowance. Make sure you sew across the cord at the point of the flap.

Trim the excess fabric from the top corners.

Flip your pouch right-side-out through the small gap you left in your first seam.

Press your pouch flat with a hot iron, and hand stitch the gap closed using a slip stitch.

To sew a slip stitch, make a small stitch at the edge of the fold of one piece of your fabric. Then make a small stitch along the fold of the other piece of fabric, beginning just about the same spot you ended on your previous stitch. Continue along the length of the gap, sewing it closed with an invisible seam. When you reach the end, make a small knot and pull your thread back through the seam to hide the tail. Trim any excess threads.

Fill your pouch with your favorite summer sewing project, and head to the beach, the park, or wherever your summer travels find you!


A special thanks to my sashiko sensei, Yoshiura-san!

Comment on any post this week to win one of our Summer Sewing prizes! You could win four bag patterns from Fourteen May, a $25 gift certificate to Sew,Mama,Sew! or a copy of City Quilts by Cherri House.