Photo Tutorial: Blanche

I had a fun one day sew-along in the Swoon Patterns Group on Facebook, making the small sized Blanche Barrel Bag. Compiled it all into this tutorial for easy future reference. If you are making the Medium or Large, refer to the pattern instructions for the correct measurements for that size.


Step 1) Prepping

First, cut all pieces and fuse per instructions. I’m using a quilting cotton for the exterior, and a linen for the lining, handles, pockets, etc.

I fused Pellon FlexFoam to the exterior Main Panels and exterior Side Panels with Pellon Wonder Under (fusible FlexFoam/Soft & Stable doesn’t exist, just yet). Just cut, fuse the Wonder Under to the exterior pieces, then fuse the exterior pieces to the foam.

You want the 1″ gap at the top of the panels.

The cutting measurements are always WIDTH x HEIGHT. So they should be taller than they are wide.

I’m using pre-made maxi piping for this handbag. One package is enough. So, I am skipping Step 2: Making Piping

Instructions for Vinyl Connectors & Handles aren’t in the pattern. But here’s how I do them.

You need to make a new pattern piece for the Connectors. Simply add 1.5″ of length to the top of the Connector Stabilizer pattern piece. It should be 3/4″ wide.

Then, cut out 12 Vinyl Connectors with your new pattern piece. Very carefully!

The top of the Connectors should be long enough that they fold down into the middle of the diamond.

Apply a small amount of glue to the wrong side of one vinyl connector.

And place against another Connector, wrong sides together. Let the glue set.

Then you can use the Vinyl Connectors on your bag the same way as finished Woven Connectors.

Step 3) Zippered Pocket

On the wrong side of a lining Main Panel, mark a 6″ long horizontal line that is 3″ down from, and parallel to, the top edge. It should be centered between the side edges – 3″ from the center on both sides (press the panel in half to find the center).

Mark another 6″ line that is 1/2″ below that one.

Then connect the ends with two 1/2″ lines, so you have a rectangle.

Flip the Main Panel over and pin the Pocket Panel to the Main Panel, right sides together. The Pocket Panel should be 2″ down from the top edge and centered.

Flip the Main Panel wrong side up and with a short stitch length, sew directly over the rectangle.

When you get to a point, with needle down, lift the presser foot and pivot.

Your stitched rectangle should look like this.

Mark a centered horizontal line, stopped 1/2″ from the ends. Then mark from the end of the line up to each point of the rectangle.

Cut along the marked lines. Snip right up to each corner, but be careful not to clip the stitching.

Pull the Pocket Panel through the hole, towards the wrong side of the Main Panel.

Hit it with a little steam, don’t try to get it perfect just yet.

Now go around all edges, rolling the seam between your fingers so the seam is at the very edge.

Press as you go, and you should have a pretty perfect rectangle when you are done. Pin the bottom of the Pocket Panel to the Main Panel to keep it out of the way.

Enter Fabr-tac, the best fabric glue ever and an amazing thing to have for sewing zippers.

Apply a small amount of glue along each long edge of the rectangle, on the right side of the Pocket Panel.

Lay the zipper face down over the rectangle, make sure the zipper pull is right inside the hole.

Flip over and see how you did. Use your finger to adjust the placement of the zipper before the glue sets.

Once perfectly centered, press to set the glue.

With a longer stitch length, top stitch around the entire box, about 1/4″ from the finished edges.

Pivot with your needle down at the corners.

When you reach the zipper pull, just lift the presser foot and move the pull out of the way.

Move the pull back when you reach it on the other side.

Flip the Main Panel over and bring the bottom edge of the pocket up to match the top edge. Press.

Press, then pin (or clip) the raw edges together.

With the Main Panel up, sew around all three raw edges of the pocket. Fold the Main Panel out of the way so you don’t sew through it.

Trim the seam allowances.

Your pocket is done!

Step 4) Main Zipper

Pin the exterior Main Panels together, matching the top raw edges.

With a short stitch length, sew at a 1″ seam allowance along the top edge only, and ONLY sew for 1/2″. Backstitch and stitch again.

Switch to a long basting stitch and continue sewing, stopping 1/2″ from the other end.


Switch back to a short stitch length to finish the last 1/2″, backstitch and stitch again.

Press the seam allowance open.

I like to put a little glue under the seam allowances to hold them in place while I sew the zipper.


Press to set the glue.

Apply a thin amount of glue on the right side of the seam allowances, about 1/2″ away from the seam. Be careful not to get it too close to the seam, or you may see it when your bag is all finished.

Lay your zipper face down along the seam, starting at one end and going a little bit at a time. Make sure the teeth are centered over the seam.

I like to use gigantic zippers so I don’t have to worry about the metal zipper stops or zipper pull being in the way while I am sewing.

Press to set the glue, then with the Main Panels right side up, top stitch 1/4″ away from the seam.

Use a longer stitch length for this. You may find it easier to switch to a zipper foot, but my foot is narrow enough that I don’t need to.

Repeat to top stitch along the other side of the seam.

Remove the basting between the two 1/2″ ends with your seam ripper. Be careful, you don’t want to slip and tear the Main Panels.

Now the ends should still be sewn with the zipper peeking through between them.

Now push the zipper pull under the stitching and into the open part of the zipper.

Trim the ends of the zipper and your main zipper is done! That wasn’t so bad, right?

Now we need to repeat most of this for the lining.

Pin the lining Main Panels right sides together and matching all raw edges. With a short stitch length, sew along the top edge only at a 1″ seam allowance, only sew for 1/2″!

Switch to a long basting stitch and continue until you are 1/2″ from the other end.

Switch back to a short stitch length and continue for the 1/2″, backstitch and stitch again.

Press the seam allowance open and remove the basting stitches only, leaving the 1/2″ ends still sewn.

Step 5) Connectors

If you made Vinyl Connectors, just skip to the next step.

You should have 6 connectors with interfacing and 6 connectors with stabilizer. Pin a connector with interfacing to a connector with stabilizer, right sides together.

With the stabilizer side up, start at the very top of the Connector and sew at about a 1/4″ seam allowance.

When you reach the stabilizer, you want to sew right next to, not through, it. When you get to an angle, pivot with your needle down and continue.

Stop and backstitch right after the second side point of the diamond.

Clip into the seam allowance right at the top unsewn point of the Connector.

Trim the seam allowances only along the stitching.

Carefully turn the Connector right side out.

Use something pointy but not sharp to poke out the points of the diamond.

Fold the raw long edges inward and give it a good press.

Top stitch along each top edge of the Connector only.

Slide a rectangle ring onto the Connector and fold the end under.

The end should go just inside the diamond.

Top stitch across the Connector along the hardware to secure.

Repeat to make five more Connectors, two of them should have D-rings instead of rectangle rings.

Step 6) Attach Connectors

Measure 3″ down from the zipper, along both side edges of one exterior Main Panel. Mark a line with your erasable pen that is horizontal and parallel to the zipper.

Mark 2.5″ from each side edge along the marked line.

Apply a small amount of glue to the back side of a Connector and lay so that the two side points of the diamond are both on the horizontal line, with the left point at the 2.5″ marking.

Repeat to glue baste another Connector with rectangles to the right side of the same Main Panel. Then turn the whole panel 180 degrees to glue baste the remaining two connectors to the other Main Panel.

Press with steam to set the glue, then top stitch each Connector to the Main Panels.

Pivot with needle down at each point of the diamond.

Repeat to baste, then top stitch the two Connectors with D-rings to the exterior Side Panels. The top fold of the Connectors should be 1.5″ down from the top edge and centered.

7) Finish Main Body

Flip the exterior Main Panels right sides together, matching all raw edges, and pin all raw edges together.

Sew along the bottom edge only at 1/2″ seam allowance.

Trim the seam allowance down to about 1/4″.

Repeat to sew the bottom edges of the two lining Main Panels together, but use a 5/8″ seam allowance.

8) Side Pockets

Lay an exterior Side Pocket right side up.

Apply a very thin amount of glue along only the top straight edge, it should be about 1/8″ in from the raw edge.

Matching the raw edges, lay a length of piping over the glue. Press with steam to set the glue.

Using a zipper foot, baste the piping to the Side Panel, directly over the existing stitching in the piping.

I mean DIRECTLY over. 🙂

Now pin another Side Panel to the Side Panel with piping, matching all raw edges and sandwiching the piping in between.

Flip over so the basting stitching is visible and sew RIGHT inside that existing stitching. This will ensure the stitching in the piping will be hidden.

Flip right sides out and check out your piping!

Press the two Side Pockets wrong sides together.

Top stitch right along the seam with piping, then baste around all raw edges at 1/4″ seam allowance to hold the two panels together.

Pin the Side Pocket lining side down to the right side of an exterior Side Panel, matching the two bottom corners.

Baste the Side Pocket to the Side Panel over the existing basting stitching around the “U” of the pocket.

Apply a thin amount of glue around the entire Side Panel, about 1/8″ in from the raw edges.

Starting at the bottom center, and leaving 1″ or so hanging off, lay piping around the entire Side Panel. You want the raw edges to be about 1/8″ in from the raw edges of the Side Panel. The stitching in the piping should be about 1/2″ in from the raw edges.

Clip in the seam allowance of the piping at the corners to help the piping turn smoothly.

When you reach the end, overlap the piping at the center.

Press with steam to set the glue.

Starting at the center and using a zipper foot, baste the piping to the Side Panel directly over the existing stitching in the piping. It’ll help to use a dark thread color in the bobbin for this part, you have to follow stitching later and white is a little hard to see. But I’m too lazy to.

Repeat with the other Side Panel.

10) Assemble Exterior & Lining

Using the paper pattern piece, mark the top and bottom center of the exterior and lining Side Panels within the seam allowance.

Pin an exterior Side Panel to the main exterior of the bag, matching the top center of the Side Panel to the zipper and the bottom center to the bottom seam of the exterior.

Start at the top and pin down one side. You can clip or pin, I prefer pins for curves.

Pin down the other side until the entire Side Panel is pinned in place.

With the Side Panel up, sew right inside the stitching you made when basting the piping. This is why a dark thread color would’ve been beneficial.

You’ll have to stop with needle down and adjust a few times because the bag is in a three dimensional shape now.

When you’ve sewn around the entire Side Panel, flip it right side out to see how you did. I have to tighten mine up in a few places but not bad.

Repeat to sew the remaining exterior Side Panel to the main exterior of the bag.

Keep adjusting until you are happy with your piping.

Now repeat to assemble the lining of the bag. Pin, then sew at a 5/8″ seam allowance.

Almost done!

Step 11) Attach Lining to Exterior

Lay the Bottom Support stabilizer fusible side down into the exterior of the bag, then fuse (or glue) in place.

This isn’t in the pattern, but I like to cut two side panels from stabilizer, trim about 3/4″ off, then glue inside the exterior. It keeps the Side Panels from collapsing.

Place the lining, wrong side out, into the exterior, right side out. Match up the edges along each side of the zipper.

You want to pin the lining so that it matches the folds of the exterior exactly. It should pop up a bit paste the zipper teeth.

Pin the entire edge.

Now the fun part. Smash the bag. You need to get the end of the opening as flat and as open as you can. If you have a free arm (I do not), now is the time to use it.

Top stitch directly over the existing top stitching. Use it as a guide to follow.

Continue until you get as far as you can to the end.

Now repeat to top stitch along the other edge of the zipper.

12) Strap & Handles

Fold the Strap in half, wrong sides together and matching the long edges and press.

Unfold and fold each long edge to the center crease and press again.

Fold in half one more time, hiding the raw edges and press again.

With a long stitch length, top stitch along each long edge of the Strap.

Repeat to make the handles.

I use a little glue (shocking, I’m sure) to hold the ends of the handles in place around the hardware. Clip until set.

With a short stitch length, start in the middle of the Handle, and sew across. Backstitch and stitch again for strength.

Repeat to attach the other end of the Handle, and the second handle on the other side of the bag.

Repeat again to sew the swivel clips to each end of the removable strap.

Clip the ends of the strap onto the D-rings on the Side Panels and… WHEW! Your bag is all done!

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