Bernie generously shows you how to make the popular clothespin bags she sells in her Needle & Foot shop, just in time for putting your wash on the line on a gorgeous summer day. These can be made with your favorite cotton print, or with upcycled materials; Bernie often makes versions using old jeans or coffee bags from her local roaster.
There’s also a giveaway! Bernie is celebrating her tutorial and the two year anniversary of her site with a big giveaway. Hop over to Needle and Foot for a chance to win some summery fat quarters!
I’m so excited to share these bags with you! I came up with the idea for my clothespin bags one particularly hot summer. Because my laundry room is on the main floor of our house, I try not to use it during the heat of the day. My husband installed a clothesline on our back deck for me to hang clothes on. I was keeping my clothespins in an old, ratty basket and decided to make something I could hang from the line to hold the pins. Additionally, I try to be aware of recycling and upcycling where I can; I think it is the environmentally conscious thing to do. One of the ways I upcycle is to purchase the used burlap coffee bean sacks at our local coffee roaster. They are really inexpensive and I love crafting and sewing with the burlap.
Here are the simple steps to make this adorable clothespin bag.
- Outer fabric (burlap, cotton twill, upcycled denim all work well)
- Lining fabric (quilting cotton scraps work well)
– Bag – 2 rectangles, 11″ x 8.5″ (Note: this is ½” less than the height of the outer fabric rectangle)
– Tab – 1 rectangle, 10″ x 4″
- Fusible Interfacing (light weight to medium weight is fine)
– Bag – 2 rectangles, 11″ x 8.5″
– Tab – 1 rectangle, 10″ x 4″
- Sewing machine with basic straight stitch, zig zag stitch and buttonhole maker
- Scissors, pins, ruler
– Bag – 2 rectangles, 11″ x 9″
– Tab – 1 rectangle, 10″ x 4″
OK! With everything you need assembled, here we go! I use a 3/8” seam allowance throughout.
Fuse the interfacing to each piece of the lining according to the directions provided with your interfacing. Set aside.
Burlap is a very loosely woven fabric. To control any fraying as much as possible, stitch a zig zag stitch around the perimeter (all four edges) of each rectangle of burlap. Set aside.
Let’s assemble the tab first. Pin the lining and the burlap right sides together. Stitch around three sides, leaving one of the short sides open. Clip the corners a bit.
Turn the tab right side out. To square up the corners of the tab, very carefully insert a pencil (eraser end in, not the sharpened end) or a wooden chopstick into the tab and gently push out the corners. Keep in mind it is very easy to pop right through the burlap, so a gentle touch is key.
Once the two corners are square, smooth the tab and press (with steam). Topstitch around all three edges. I usually stitch at ¼” or 3/8” but do what looks best to you. Set the tab aside for now.
We will assemble the lining next. You probably noticed that the lining is cut ½” shorter than the outer fabric, though the width is the same. When lining a bag, I like to cut the lining just a bit shorter so there isn’t excess bulk at the bottom of the bag.
Place the lining rectangles right sides together and pin around three edges, leaving one long side unstitched. As you stitch around the three sides, leave a three inch opening in the center of the long side. When you get to the first side of that three inch opening, turn the fabric 90 degrees and sew off the edge. Move the fabric along three inches (just estimate it) and start at the same point, stitching off the edge and then continuing on around the rest of the rectangle. The reason for stitching off the edge is that after you turn the whole bag right side out by pulling it through that opening, you will stitch the opening closed. Stitching off the edge folds that seam allowance right into place and makes for a really clean closing.
The next step is to box the corners. Boxing the corners gives width to the bag, otherwise it will be very flat. If you haven’t done this before, you will take the corner of the rectangle you just stitched and match each side, seam to seam, forming a triangle. You can take a peek inside the bag to be sure your seams are matched. (You can also feel the seams from the outside, making sure they are lying flat against each other.)
Lay the bag, with the seams matching and the triangle pointed sideways, on the sewing table. Take a ruler (a clear, square ruler works great) and measure 1.5” from the end of the stitching toward the center. Draw a line across the triangle and pin to hold. Stitch along the line that you drew. Repeat on the other side. Whenever you box corners, be sure that the length measured from the end of the stitching is the same on both sides, otherwise the bottom of the bag will be wonky.
Whenever I make a boxed corner, I stitch a second line just to the right of the first line of stitching across that triangle. This is totally optional but I feel it adds strength to the corner. After stitching that second line, trim the triangles off and leave a 3/8” allowance.
Turn the lining right side out and press your bottom and side seams to one side. Your lining should look like this.
Repeat this process with the burlap rectangles. Do not leave any opening along the bottom seam. This is the outer part of the bag so stitch across the bottom completely. See how this is all coming together? Now we are going to finish it up!
Let’s attach the tab to the lining. To center it, we mark both the center point of the lining and the tab. I usually just fold the tab in half lengthwise and make a small dot where the center is (on the unfinished end). Do the same with the lining. Flatten it out and fold it in half, matching seam to seam, and mark the center with a small dot. Next take the tab and match the center markings up with the lining. The burlap side of the tab must lie against the right side of the lining. Pin in place and stitch the tab to the lining, using a basting stitch.
To attach the lining to the outer bag, insert the outer bag into the lining bag right sides together. Spending a bit of time to adjust both bags so the side seams match, pin the bags together around the top edge. Be generous with the pins! You may have to fiddle with the outer bag to get the edges even. Remember we cut the lining just a bit shorter so it takes a bit of adjusting to line up both raw edges. Stitch around the top edge of the bag. After you stitch around it completely, run another line of stitching over the tab for reinforcement.
Time to pull the outer bag through the opening in the lining! It will feel a bit awkward but reach into the opening and pinch one of the corners of the outer bag and gently pull through the opening. Continue to pull the bag through until it is right side out.
Spend a few minutes pressing the seam that attaches the lining to the burlap. Stitch the opening in the lining shut, either by hand or using your machine. (I use the machine; this is at the bottom of the inside of the bag so it is not visible.)
Using your machine’s buttonhole attachment, stitch a buttonhole on the tab. The tab will be used to hang the bag by folding it over the clothesline and buttoning to a button placed on the back of the bag.
Before sewing the buttonhole, you might want to take your bag to the clothesline and determine how long you want it to hang from the line; make a small mark where the buttonhole should be placed. Once you have the buttonhole sewn in, you are ready to sew the button on.
Take your threaded needle and push it through the fabric from the outside, or the burlap side. By starting from the outside, the button will hide the knot at the end of your thread. Push the needle through to the other side and then bring it back through to the outside. Place the button on the tab and stitch in and out through the holes in the button. When sewing the button on, I place a straight pin between the two holes in the button and hold it there with my thumb while I sew the button on. This creates a tiny bit of space between the button and thread.
Once you have placed enough stitches in the button to hold it well– maybe six or eight passes– remove the pin. Bring the needle up but don’t take it through the hole of the button. Poke it out between the fabric and the button.
Wind your thread around the stitches, underneath the button, three or four times. This creates a button shank, which means it creates a bit of space between the button and the fabric. That space allows room for the fabric of the tab to fit nicely under the button once you button it.
Finishing touches are up to you. I like to add a bit of trim around the outside of the bag. When I do this, I begin attaching trim on the back side under the tab. Leave the end free and fold it under before stitching when you come to the end.
I hope you are happy with your clothespin bag! If you have any questions, leave them in the comments and I will happily respond to your comment. Remember you can use all sorts of fabrics to make this. I have used cotton twill and upcycled denim (from old jeans) and both look great.