How to make a Sashiko Denim Tote Bag

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Do you follow Makery? Are you aware of Portia’s fabulous refashioning competition she hosts each August/September? This year the theme is refashioning denim trousers.  It is all about having fun, trying something new, having a go. I don’t think for a minute I will win but I will have lots fun trying.

Last year the theme was shirts, I made my niece a dress.

Upcycled Toddler Shirt Dress

The standard was extremely high with some amazing transformations – see the pinterest board. Its truly amazing what can be made from shirts.

I have a hunch that a tailored fitted garment will win this year. But I have to play to my strengths – upcycled bags. For a while I have thinking about creating a sashiko denim bag. I have lots of denim trouser off cuts in my stash left over from making this denim quilt.

DIY Denim Rag Quilt

(find the tutorial for the quilt here)

The summer holidays are great but they do limit sewing time, not ideal for sewing never mind lots of hand stitching. Normally I pack knitting when away as it is super easy to fit in my bag. This year we went camping, I took my bag of denim scraps, a pile of embroidery floss from a charity shop and off cuts from the Tilda fabric projects.

I enjoyed being creative in our tent – I’m not sure the kids appreciated the camping table being covered in fabric.

The technique sashiko originates from Japan. Centuries ago, Japanese peasants used a running-stitch technique to patch worn clothes. Cloth and thread were scarce and therefore mending highly valuable.


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Denim Sashiko Bag Tutorial


Variety of denim

Embroidery Thread

Cotton scraps

Cotton fabric for lining

Annies Soft and Stable, two pieces 42 by 46 cm

Heavy weight Interfacing, two pieces 42 by 46 cm


Leather hole punch

Double cap rivets

Sashiko Denim Bag supplies

To make:

Lay out pieces of denim and cotton patched in a design pleasing to the eye. Ensure your patchwork design is slightly bigger than 42 by 46 cm.

Lay out denim in patchwork design

Hand stitch with running stitch. Be creative. Think about the direction of your stitches. The majority of my stitching runs horizontally however I have emphasised the cotton patches with circular stitching or vertical stitching.

Handstitch pieces together, sashiko bag

Repeat for the second side of the bag.

Sahiko Denim bag in progress, full tutorial on the bog

Don’t be afraid to change your mind about thread colour choice or direction of stitching. If you follow me on Instagram you will see that I changed the colour of the top right hand section.

Sashiko Denim Bag - two sides hand stitched ready to create bag

Once you have completed your two sides use some craft glue spray to adhere the Annies Soft and Stable to the wrong side of each piece.

Adhere Annies Soft and Stable with spray adhesive

Stitch round the sides and the base. Ensure your seam is a centimetre in from the edge of your Soft and Stable to fully secure it in place.

Sticth seam of bag

Box the corners. To do this pull the bottom seam to meet the side seam and pin to hold. Using a quilting ruler mark a stitch line at right angles to your base. I created the base of the bag as 18cm wide, 9 cm either side of the bottom seam.

box corners of bag

Trim this seam.

Trim box corners

This is the main body of the bag finished.

Next you are going to make the lining. Iron the heavy weight interfacing to the back of the lining fabric. Prep two slip pockets, 17 by 16cm. Cut fabric . Turn over twice the top of the pocket and stitch. Fold and press twice the sides and bottom.

Slip pocket

Pin centrally on your lining approximately down from the top of the bag, then stitch.

Insert a magnetic snap, centrally  from the top.

Insert magnetic snap

Follow steps as for main bag – Stitch the side seams and along the bottom. Ensure you leave a gap for turning out along the bottom seam (I forgot and had to unpick!). Box the corners.

Place the lining inside the denim outer bag so the right sides are together. Pin into place and then stitch along the top.

Insert lining, oin along top and then stitch

Turn through. Slip stitch the opening in the base seam of the lining.

Top stitch the top of the bag, this will secure the lining and main bag together and strengthen the opening of the bag.

Cut out leather straps measuring 79 cm by 2.5cm.

Cut leather straps

Place on the bag and hold in place with clover clips. Punch two holes per strap with a hole punch and secure the straps in place with cap rivets.

sashiko denim bag tutorial - leather bag handles secured with cap rivets

For a tutorial on using cap rivets visit U-Handbag here.


I LOVE my new bag, far too time intensive to think of a new range for my Etsy shop but perfect for me:)


If you fancy entering Refashioners 2016 (remember the £1,000 worth of prizes up for grabs!) find more information here. If you do I would love to hear what you make.




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