Take the Rag Bag Challenge – Project 1 – A Lavender Bag 7 Ways

Take the Rag Bag Challenge ...

When you ask for donations of fabrics for up-cycling, you never quite know what you are going to be given.  That’s part of the fun of it!  The large bag of scraps that Michelle kindly gave to me last year had a lot of lovely floral cotton scraps in it – but only tiny amounts – less than a fat quarter. 

My challenge for this first project was to find a project that could put all those small scraps to good use.  Lavender bags seemed like the perfect answer.

Lavender is one of the most popular and versatile essential oils used in aromatherapy.  Distilled from the plant Lavandula angustifolia, the fragrance from the oil of the lavender plant is believed to help promote relaxation, calmness and a feeling of well being.  

It is also said to help reduce stress, anxiety, depression and possibly even mild pain.

A little sachet of lavender can perfume a drawer or a wardrobe giving you a whiff of those essential calming oils every time you open it.

I think a lavender sachet that fits nicely into the palm of your hand is a lovely thing to keep close to your bedside.  A gentle squeeze releases the lovely lavender aroma and gives you a real boost whenever you reach for it.

A Lavender Bag 7 Ways

I decided I would make a selection of lavender bags with different embroidered designs on the front.  I haven’t really used the machine embroidery functions of my sewing machine much yet, so this was a perfect opportunity to get to know what it can do.

I like lavender sachets with a hanging ribbon attached, because they can be used on a coat hanger in your wardrobe that way.  I had a stack of mother of pearl heart shaped buttons available too, which I think finish them off beautifully?

With the stash of small amounts of cotton I could use to make the backs of the sachets and a supply of lavender donated from my “lavender ladies” to use up, making lavender bags was the perfect up-cycling project.

Lavender bags are lovely at any time of the year, but I thought it would be good to have some available in my Etsy shop in the run up to Mother’s Day because they make ideal gifts for Mums.

I decided to make some lavender bags with initials/monograms that I could supply made to order.  A personalised present like this is always nice to receive I think – especially when you know it has been handmade with love and care.

What You Will Need

Lavender Bags Heart Shaped Mother of Pearl Button
A Heart Shaped Mother of Pearl Button - the perfect finishing touch
Lavender Bags - Embroidery Threads
Choose Your Embroidery Threads
Lavender Bags Use Hemostats to turn out the bag
Use Haemostats to turn the sachet inside out easily
Lavender Bags Use Fray check on the ribbon ends
Use fray check on the ribbon ends
Lavender Bag - Fill with a Funnel
Fill with a Funnel
Lavender Bags Pinking Shears
William Whiteley Pinking Shears

I have a selection of scissors that I use for various projects.  My pinking shears are a real favourite.

They were made in the UK by a firm called William Whitely who specialise in making a mouth wateringly large range of precision scissors especially designed for a whole variety of uses.  

Did you know that they even made a pair of gold plated scissors especially for the Queen – she keeps them in her embroidery bag!

You can have whatever you like engraved on your scissors.  On this special pair, I have “Remember the Doughnut” which reminds me of one of my favourite sayings:

“As you amble through life, remember your goal:  Keep you eye on the doughnut and not on the hole!”

They are reassuringly heavy to hold and make a perfectly sharp cut every time you use them.  A great investment and always such a pleasure to use.

Choosing a Sewing Machine

You could hand embroider the lavender bags and you could sew up the seams by hand too – but it would take you a very long time indeed, so a sewing machine is really essential for this project.

When I retired and I knew I would want to spend much more time sewing, I spent a long time choosing the sewing machine I bought to replace the one I learned to sew on as a young girl.  I will write a separate post about how I came to my decision to purchase a Bernina 580 so I can share some of the learning with you.

This project made me appreciate what a good sewing machine is really capable of – I am very pleased with my purchase!

Choosing An Embroidery Design

The Bernina 580 comes with a variety of embroidery designs in its library and I selected a few of these to sew my lavender bags.

I also bought a couple of designs from The Embroidery Library.  This was a first for me, but it was really easy to do. You simply choose the filetype to fit your machine (Bernina uses EXP format), choose your size and then download the design straight into your own computer library.  I transferred it onto a USB stick which plugs into the sewing machine and you can then select the design and sew it out directly.

The lavender sprig and the monograms were my first experiment.  I will definitely be back for more!

Step-by-Step Guide

Time needed: 1 – 2 hours

The video below takes you through each of the steps and is a good place to start to get an overview of what is involved with this project.

Video - How to make Lavender Bags - Step by Step

  1. Cut your fabric squares for the front and back – 15cm square.
  2. Starch your fabric and iron it.  This step is optional, but I like a really nice, crisp finish.
  3. Cut a piece of stabiliser 22.5cm square.
  4. Fold your front square into quarters and put a pin in the centre.  Starching it helps to show the crease in the middle a bit better.
  5. Hand tack the front square to the stabiliser, matching centres.  You could use a bigger piece of embroidery fabric that filled your hoop, but if you hand tack a small square to your stabiliser, it is much less wasteful.
  6. Pull the fabric really tight in the hoop.  This is really important!  If you miss this step out, your embroidery will not be nice and flat and smooth when it is finished.
  7. I used the Medium Hoop for my design – you need to check what the embroidery design you have chosen requires and match the hoop to it.  You may need to reduce the size of the design slightly to fit nicely into a finished 11cm square.
  8. Embroider your design on the front.
  9. Remove your tacking threads and tear away your surplus stabiliser.
  10. Iron front and back to set the stitches.
  11. Select your backing fabric square and pin it to the front with RIGHT SIDES TOGETHER.
  12. Pin a paper pattern 11cm square onto your lavender bag to act as a stitching guide to sew around the edges.
  13. Leave a 2.5cm opening at the centre of the top of the bag for turning.
  14. Starting at one end of the gap you have pinned, sew all around the sides.  Leave the 2.5cm gap clear and over-sewing at the start and end of the sewing to prevent any loose stitches from  spoiling your finished sachet. 
  15. Cut your ribbon ready – a 22cm length is about right.  
  16. Cut the ribbon ends at a sloping angle and dab a little fray check on them to keep them neat.  Leave them to dry while you complete the sachet.
  17. Use pinking shears to trim the corners close to the stitching and trim all the side seams too.
  18. Press front and back, to set the stitches.
  19. Use haemostats to turn the lavender bag right side out.  Grab a corner edge of the inside of the bag and pull it through the gap.
  20. Press both sides nice and flat.
  21. Attach your ribbon to the centre.  Make sure you use a ruler to find the exact centre!
  22. Attach a button to conceal your stitches.  I used a lovely Mother of Pearl heart shaped button I had a stock of, which I think makes a lovely finishing touch?
  23. Fill your sachet with lavender.  I used a funnel to do this and a thin wooden spatula to push the lavender down into the bag and make sure it was filled evenly.
  24. Hand close the seam with invisible stitches.
Lavender Bags Setting up the Hoop
Setting up the Hoop
Lavender Bags Sewing the Sachet
Sewing the Sachet
Lavender Bags Trim the seams
Lavender Bag with Seams Trimmed
Lavender Bag - Your best tool is your iron!
Lavender Bag - Your best tool is your iron!
Lavender Bag - Measuring the centre accurately
Lavender Bag - Measuring the centre accurately
Lavender Bag - The Finishing Touch - A Mother of Pearl Heart Button
Lavender Bag - The Finishing Touch - A Mother of Pearl Heart Button
Lavender Bag - Up-cycled Measuring Jug
Up-cycled Measuring Jug
Lavender Bag - Fill with a Funnel
Fill with a Funnel
Lavender Bag - Hand close the opening
Hand close the opening

Heart Up-Cycling!

Heart Upcycling Logo
  • I used an old shirt and a linen top for this project.
  • The backs of the lavender bags are made from Michelle’s scraps – every one is unique – you will never find another like it!
  • My lavender is all donated from four reliable sources.  Many thanks to my “lavender ladies”!
Lavender BagsUp-Cycled Shirt
Up-Cycled Shirt
Lavender Bag from Up-Cycled Fabrics
Lavender Bag Backs made from Up-Cycled Fabrics

How Much Lavender Should I Use?

Thanks to my “lavender ladies”, I can afford to be really generous with the amount of lavender I use.

A little plastic jug that came with an iron that no longer works proved to be well worth saving.  It measures just the right amount to fill a lavender bag generously and leave enough space to be able to squeeze the bag gently to release the lovely lavender fragrance.

Some people add rice to their lavender to make it go further.  I don’t like to do this.  Especially if you are making the bags for Mother’s Day.  You only have one Mum, so it is nice to be really generous?!

Lavender Bags - A jugful in every bag!
Lovely lavender - A generous jugful in every bag!

Thanks to my “Lavender Ladies!”

Lavender Bags Lavender Ladies Initials
With thanks to my lovely "lavender ladies"

My lavender comes from Norfolk, Provence and – best of all –  the heart of Birmingham City Centre.

A big thank you to my four lovely “lavender ladies” – Becky, Dianne, Sue and Nicky.

Tips and Tricks

I haven’t done very much machine embroidery before and I have learned a lot completing this project.  Here are a few tips and tricks I can pass on to you:

  • Make sure you use the check arrows on your design before you sew it out, so you can make sure it fits nicely onto your fabric square.  The check arrows will show you where each corner of the deisgn will go and where the centre will be.
  • I used the vertical spool holder on my machine and a thread net to help keep the thread flowing smoothly.  On my machine the vertical spool holder allows you to pass the thread through a metal loop, which helps to guide it accurately and avoid breakage.
  • Be sure to set your machine up correctly for machine embroidery.  Mine has a dedicated embroidery bobbin with a tiny pigtail to thread the cotton through to keep it running smoothly.
  • I used a sharp new embroidery needle for this project with a slightly wider eye than usual and a No. 26 embroidery foot.
  • Check that your bobbin is full of Bobbin Fill before you start each embroidery – there is nothing more annoying than running out of bobbin thread half way through?!
  • If your thread does break mid way through the embroidery, be sure to backstitch a few stitches so you don’t have any holes in your design.
Lavender Bags
Use a Thread Net

This project was such a joy to complete.  My sewing room smelt absolutely beautiful and I could think of all those deserving Mums who might be receiving a carefully chosen present of a lavender bag shortly as I was sewing.  Heart Upcycling!

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