Tutorial: The Conversation Bag

Some of you may or may not know that I had a sewing pattern in the first issue of Modern Quilting Magazine. I have debated long and hard about putting this pattern up on my blog for free (which I am legally able to do). I had a lot of problems regarding the magazine, including never receiving my finished bag back (which cost me $40 in postage to send in). I’d rather not talk any more about the magazine, but I thought that sharing this pattern with all of you, which is similar in style to my Urban Jungle Bag, would give the whole situation a good outcome. So enjoy. 🙂

This post is also part of the Christmas in July series at Don’t Call Me Betsy. Elizabeth has put together a great series of gifts that you can make for your loved ones (because it is never too early for Christmas sewing!). I have seen some of the other projects already and you will definitely want to check them out!!! Thank you for having me, Elizabeth!
Finished size: 24cm (9.5″) tall x 35cm (14″) long


– 1 charm pack (33 charm squares) for the exterior
– 1 meter/1 yard interior fabric
– 1.8 meters/2 yards Vilene #G700 fusible woven interfacing/Pellon SF-101 fusible woven interfacing
– 1.8 meters/2 yards Vilene 520/Pellon 520F fusible interfacing (or you may substitute 2 yards Vilene #S80 Heavy Sew-in/Pellon Peltex #70 Ultra-Firm Sew-In combined with 2 yards fusible woven interfacing)
– 0.5 meter or 1/2 yard Vilene #H630 iron-on volume fleece/Pellon #987 fusible fleece
– 50cm (20″) zipper
– 58cm – 71cm (23″ – 28″) leather handles (I used size 71cm/28″ handles for a shoulder bag)
– 1cm (1/2″) magnetic snap
– zipper foot
– seam ripper
– coordinating thread
– hand sewing needle
– fabric marker or chalk

– ruler


1a. Take your charm squares and cut them into 6.5cm (2.5″) squares. Assemble the patchwork by sewing straight columns/rows, using a 0.5cm (1/4″) seam allowance. Make the following:

– 2 units, each 8 squares across by 5 squares high (Main Panels)
– 1 unit, 8 squares across by 2 squares high (Flap)
– 1 unit, 7 squares across by 3 squares high (Bottom Panel)
– 2 units, each 3 squares across by 3 squares high (Side Panels)
It is helpful to iron your seams in alternating rows; for example, the first row iron to the right, the second row iron to the left, the third row to the right, and so on. That way, when it is time to sew the rows together, the seams will ‘lock’ together and make perfect seams much easier!


From the Exterior Fabric

2a. Take the 2 Main Panels of patchwork that you assembled in Step 1a. Fold in half lengthwise. Using the Main Panel pattern piece, cut on the fold. Repeat for the other Main Panel piece. These will be your Exterior Main Panels.
2b. Using the patchwork Flap piece that you assembled in Step 1a., fold in half lengthwise. With the Flap pattern piece, cut on the fold. This will be your Exterior Flap.
2c. Take the Bottom Panel patchwork and cut a piece measuring 14cm (5-1/2″) tall by 35.5cm (14″) long. This will be your Exterior Bottom Panel.
2d. With the 2 Side Panel patchwork units, cut each into a piece that measures 14cm 
(5-1/2″) tall by 14cm (5-1/2″) long. These will be your Exterior Side Panels.
From the Interior Fabric
2e. With the Main Panel pattern piece, cut 4 each on the fold. These will be your Interior Main Panels.

2f. Using the Flap pattern piece, cut 1 on the fold. This will be your Interior Flap.

2g. Cut a piece measuring 14cm (5-1/2″) tall by 35.5cm (14″) long. This will be your Interior Bottom Panel.

2h. Cut 2 each, with each piece measuring 14cm (5-1/2″) tall by 14cm (5-1/2″) long. These will be your Interior Side Panels.

2i. Cut 2 pieces, each measuring 12cm (4-3/4″) x 55cm (22″). These will be your Zipper Panels.

From the Fusible Woven Interfacing

2j. Repeat Steps 2e. through 2i.

From the Fusible Fleece

2k. Repeat Step 2i. Also cut 1 Main Panel and 1 Flap. Cut 2 small 5cm x 5cm (2″ x 2″) scraps of fleece as well.

From the Vilene 520/Pellon 520F
(if you are using heavy sew-in interfacing instead, please cut Step 2l. as 1 layer of fusible woven and 1 layer of heavy sew-in; you will trim the heavy sew-in by 1cm (1/2″) on all sides. For all future instructions referring to Vilene 520/Pellon 520F, you will do this instead: place the heavy sew-in against the wrong side of your fabric, centered. Follow that with one piece of fusible woven interfacing, with the fusible side against the heavy sew-in. Fuse in place, sealing the heavy sew-in against your fabric).

2l. Cut 2 each of the Main Panels, 1 each of the Flap, 2 each of the Side Panels, and 1 each of the Bottom Panel.


3a. Take 1 Interior Main Panel and one of the corresponding fusible woven interfacing pieces. Fuse the woven interfacing to the wrong side of the Interior Main Panel using manufacturer instructions. Repeat for 2 more Interior Main Panels. Also repeat for the Interior Bottom, the Interior Flap, and the Interior Side Panels.

3b. Take the remaining Interior Main Panel and one of the Main Panel pieces cut from Vilene 520/Pellon 520F and fuse to the wrong side of your fabric following manufacturer instructions. Repeat for only 1 of the Exterior Main Panels, the Exterior Flap, the Exterior Bottom, and the Exterior Side Panels.

3c. Use the remaining Exterior Main Panel and one of the corresponding fusible woven interfacing pieces. Fuse the woven interfacing to the wrong side of the Exterior Main Panel. Then fuse the fusible fleece against the fusible woven interfacing. Repeat for the 2 Zipper Panels.


4a. Take your Interior Flap. Fold it in half, lengthwise, and lightly finger press the crease. Make a mark with your fabric marker that is 5cm (2″) down from the longest straight edge.

4b. You will be using the smaller half of the magnetic snap. Take out the washer and place it on the mark that you made on the Interior Flap. Make a mark, using the washer, where the slits are to go. Use your scissors and cut small slits where the marks are. Repeat this for the center of one of your 5cm x 5cm (2″x2″) scraps of fleece. The reason that you are using the fleece is that it will help to reinforce your fabric against the pull from the magnetic snap every time you open and shut the flap.

Helpful Hint: I like to put a dab of Fray Check on the slits that were cut. I feel this helps the fabric hold up a bit better under the stress of the magnetic snap.

4c. Slide the prongs of the snap through the right side of the Interior Flap. Place the fleece square, then the washer, over the prongs. Close the prongs outward (use pliers with a piece of scrap fabric over the metal, if you need to), making sure they lie flat.

4d. Take your Exterior Flap and your Interior Flap, and place them right sides together. Sew along the curved edge using a 0.5cm (1/4″) seam allowance (do not sew the straight edge). Notch your seam (cutting small v’s every 1cm or 1/2″), being careful not to cut into the stitching. Turn your fabric right side out and press.

4e. Topstitch the Flap, 0.3cm (1/8″) from the edge, along the edge that you sewed in Step 4d.


5a. Take the Exterior Main Panel piece that you interfaced with the fusible fleece, and the remaining half of the magnetic snap. Fold the Exterior Main Panel in half and finger press a crease to find the center. The measure up 18cm (7″) from the bottom of the Exterior Main Panel and make a mark intercepting the center point. Insert the other half of the snap, using the same method that you used for the Flap.

5b. Take the Exterior Main Panel piece from Step 5a., and 1 of your Interior Main Panels. Trim 1cm (1/2″) off the top of each piece (the top is the slightly shorter edge). With the 2 pieces right sides together, sew along the edge that you just trimmed.

5c. Turn your panels right sides out and press. Topstitch 0.5cm (1/4″) along the finished edge.

5d. Place the panels that you just sewed, against the right side of the Interior Main Panel that is interfaced with the 520 interfacing. The bottom, unfinished edge of the panels should be even with the bottom of the Interior Main Panel. Baste in place along both side edges and the bottom edge.

5e. With the exterior side of the Flap facing you, baste the long, unfinished edge of the flap with the top of the Interior Main Panel from Step 5c. Check to make sure that the snap closes properly. This unit will now be referred to as one of the Exterior Main Panels.

5f. Take the completed Exterior Main Panel with the flap, and one of your handles. Place the left end of the handle up 12.5cm (5″) from the bottom and over 6cm (2-1/2″) from the left. Make sure your handle tab is free of the flap so that you are able to open and close it (the strap will be on top of the flap while you are wearing the bag). You may need to adjust the placement depending on the handles you have chosen. Sew the handle tab in place. If your tabs are thick, you may need to hand-crank your needle, or even hand sew. Repeat to secure the right end of the handle. Repeat this step for you remaining Exterior Main Panel and the other handle.

The handles will be stitched through a small portion of the pocket; this is important so that the stitches go through the Vilene 520/Pellon 520F to add stability to the area where the handle tabs are.


6a. Take your Exterior Zipper Panel and cut it in half, lengthwise.

6b. Place the resulting 2 pieces right sides together. With your fabric marker, measure and make a mark that is 2.5cm (1″) in from that left-hand edge. Do the same for the right-hand edge. Sew from the mark to the corresponding edge (each line of stitching will be only 2.5cm or 1″ long), using a 1.5cm (5/8″) seam allowance.

6c. Set your machine to a basting stitch. Baste, using a 1.5cm (5/8″) seam allowance, in between the 2 lines of stitching from Step 6b. Press the seam open.

6d. The wrong side of your Exterior Zipper Panel should be facing you. Take your zipper and place it face down on top of the Zipper Panel. The zipper teeth should be approximately on top of the basting stitches. Pin in place.

6e. Put the zipper foot on your sewing machine, and sew along 1 long edge, pivot, sew the short edge, pivot, sew the remaining long edge, pivot, and finally sew the remaining short edge. You should sew approximately 0.5cm (1/4″) away from the zipper teeth.

6f. With the right side of the Exterior Zipper Panel facing you, remove the basting stitches with your seam ripper.


7a. Place 1 of your Exterior Side Panels in front of you. Make a mark at the top of your Exterior Side Panel, that is in 2cm (3/4″) from the top left-hand corner. Draw a line from the mark you made, down to the bottom left-hand corner of the Exterior Side Panel. Repeat for the right-hand side of the Exterior Side Panel.

7b. Take 1 Exterior Side Panel and your Exterior Zipper Panel. Place them, right sides together. The short edge of the Exterior Side Panel should be even with the short edge of the Exterior Zipper Panel. Sew along the short edge, and press the seam toward the Exterior Side Panel. Topstitch on top of the Exterior Side Panel, both 0.5cm (1/4″) and 0.3cm (1/8″) from the seam that you sewed in this step.

7c. Repeat Step 7b. for the remaining Exterior Side Panel, and the other end of the Exterior Zipper Panel.

7d. Take one of your Exterior Main Panels and the assembled Side Panel. Place the long edge of the Side Panel flush with the outer edge of the Exterior Main Panel, starting at the bottom left-hand corner of the Exterior Main Panel. Pin in place, moving up the side of the Exterior Main Panel. When you get to the top left-hand corner of the Exterior Main Panel, ease the Side Panel around the corner, then continue across the top of the Exterior Main Panel. Ease through the top right-hand corner as well, and continue until you have reached the bottom right-hand corner of the Exterior Main Panel.

 Helpful Hint: I found it easier to sew the sides first, then the top of the bag, leaving the corners for last. I was able to more evenly distribute the side panel when attaching it to the exterior panels.

7e. Sew along the edges that you just pinned. Notch (cut small v’s) the seam allowance at both of the top corners. Press seams open.

7f. Repeat Steps 7d. and 7e. for the remaining Exterior Main Panel.

7g. Unzip your zipper (this is important so that you will be able to turn your exterior right sides out). Take your Exterior Bottom Panel and place it underneath your assembled Exterior. Line up the raw edges of both, making sure the corners are even, and pin in place.

7h. Sew along one of the short edges, starting and stopping 1cm (1/2″) from the corner. Repeat for the other short edges and both long edges. Trim the bottom corners, being careful not to cut into your seam allowance.


8a. Repeat Step 6a. and Step 6b. for the Interior Zipper Panel. 

8b. Press the seam allowance of the long edge of the Interior Zipper Panel to 1cm (1/2″) (the center of the panel will be unsewn, but press the entire long edge anyway).

8c. Repeat Steps 7a. through 7h. with all of the interior pieces, except you will be using a 1.5cm (5/8″) seam allowance. This is important so that your interior will sit more snug inside the exterior of the bag.

8d. Turn your exterior right side out and your interior wrong side out. Place the interior inside of the exterior (so that wrong sides will be touching). Pin in place in several randomly-chosen areas, and also pin the pressed edges of the Interior Zipper Panel against the wrong side of your zipper.

8d. With your hand sewing needle and coordinating thread, hand sew the pressed edge of the Interior Zipper Panel from Step 8b., to the wrong side of your zipper. You may also wish to hand sew a few stitches on the right side and the left side of the bag to hold the interior in place.

Congratulations, you’ve finished!!

Please give your bag a careful pressing for a nice, professional look. Feel free to e-mail me at any time with any questions at all! sara@sewsweetness.com

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92 replies on “Tutorial: The Conversation Bag

  • Gill

    Thanks for the tutorial!
    I loved this bag when I saw it in MQ – have you got it back yet?? there seems to be all sorts of problems with this magazine!

  • Patti Shanks

    Beautiful bag and after browsing the tutorial, the instructions look so well written than maybe even I could do it! Thanks so much for sharing your amazing talent with us, and I am so sorry that you have never received your bag back. Very unprofessional of them.

  • Lee

    Thank you for being so generous! I know the tutorials take time to put together and I truely appreciate it. I am going to make one of these for my niece! thanks and have a lovely weekend.

  • Mhairi

    In a way I am glad you didn’t get your bag back. You might not have been willing to share your wonderful tutorial with us so readily if you had, and I am really pleased that you have. This is a fantastic bag, I really love it and the tutorial is so well written and easy to follow that I will definitely be making one in the near future, although I can see myself having to make two – one for me and one for my daughter, as she always steals my bags as soon as I make them.
    Hope you get the bag back soon.

  • BeeSewSweet

    I’m sorry to hear about your experience with the magazine. Thanks for so generously sharing the tutorial. This bag is gorgeous! It makes me want to abandon everything else on my sewing list and make one too. 🙂

  • Flying Blind...

    Sara I have the Administrator information if you never received it to make a claim – I’ll email you.

    I love this bag; although I have the magazine, I think you are right to get on and share it xxx

  • pennydog

    Funnily enough I have the magazine open on the page with your bag as I was planning on making one very soon- I ordered special bag handles for the occasion. Maybe I’ll start on it this weekend?

    If you Google the magazine you’ll find info on what actually happened with them and details of the administrators which should be able to help you get your bag back.

    I shall say no more on the matter (unless you want to know anything!) 😉

  • Jodi - usairdoll

    What a gorgeous bag and how fun to have it done like the color wheel. I’m sorry to hear about your bad experience and not to have gotten your bag back as well. Like salt in the wound! I hope the suggestions and info left by others help you. I think it’s very generous and giving of you to share your tutorial with us.

    Thank you and Pink Chalk Fabrics for a super giveaway and a chance to win.


  • Ric Rac and Polka Dots

    I’m your newest follower. I linked over to you from the Christmas in July hop. Geez, I really hope you get your purse back. I was just published this month in Stuffed and called them since I didn’t get back my items, and they were super nice. They just explained that it takes a while to get to shipping and that they would be out soon, so I’m not worried a bit. The people there were really nice. I can’t imagine how I would feel not to receive the items though, that would be awful. And yes, the postage isn’t cheap to send it out and for return postage, so that would be adding insult to injury. I’ll cross my fingers for you!

  • joanne

    I saw your tutorial in the magazine and am so sorry you never had it returned!! It’s a wonderful tutorial and I hope you get your gorgeous bag back.

  • Elsa

    So sorry to hear about your problems with the magazine. I’ve heard similar stories about it.
    The bag is fantastic! Thank you so much for sharing the tutorial ~ very generous of you!

  • Alexa

    Love the bag! I’ve got a commission for a man’s clutch, and this is has all the tutorial I need to get the job done. I’ll put a wrist strap handle at the end of the zipper, and leave off the flap pocket and other handles. Also, he wants card pockets and a key clip on the inside. No big deal, there. The hardest part for me seems to be remembering to sew in my tag! I’ll post a link back when it’s done. Hopefully next weekend.

  • CraftyGal

    I love this bag! I think I’ll do a pink/orange/red version for my little niece to take on vacation this fall. I can finally use up some of those scraps I’ve been holding onto. Thanks for the tutorial!

  • Katy Cameron

    Oh crap, sorry they screwed you over too! Get the info from Hadders, there were quite a few got things back once they knew the right people to talk too.

    Still love the bag though!

  • kitblu

    I certainly understand your consternation at the shabby treatment after you went out of your way to give them an article for their magazine. I appreciate your generosity in giving us the instructions.

    I sent a message to the magazine asking for their attention to returning your purse. I suggest others do the same –> info@craftmagazineshop.co.uk
    My message: I just read a blog by an artist who supplied a finished sample for an article in Modern Quilting. You have not yet returned her product. I am not pleased by this inaction. Please advise me when you have rectified this situation.

    You will notice that I did not identify you. I am sure you are not the only one in this position.

  • Margot

    What a wonderful gift to us-thank you bunches! This bag is so beautiful!!! I imagine this magazine is overwhelmed trying to get their magazine out & most likely understaffed too. I’ve been in the business world long enough to know that you sometimes have to be a squeaky wheel to get what’s coming to you. I would keep pestering them to get that beautiful bag back! Thank you, again!!!

  • Beth

    So sorry that you had a bad experience with the magazine. I LOVED this bag the minute I set eyes on it. Thank you for the great tutorial. I must go find fabrics and plan some bags.

  • Lisa

    Wow! I saw this on pinterest and had to leave a comment- what a nice tutorial! Those are a lot of work, so thank you! If I get one made I will send you a pic- that is just such a super cute bag.

  • Di

    I am really sorry that you were a victim of MQ. It has now been taken over and hopefully is far more ethical than the previous owners. It is very generous of you to share your pattern with us all. Thank you. DI x

  • Beezus

    I’m really sorry to hear that you got burned like that, but I thank you for sharing with all of us. Not many people would see that as a positive outcome, so kudos to you! This is definitely on my someday soon list. 🙂

  • Romona

    Hi Sara, I’m new to your blog, but found you courtesy of Freebies for Crafters. Sorry about your experience with that magazine, not a great start for them and an expensive one for you. Those things are supposed to be exciting. Thanks so much for posting this tutorial, it’s a great looking bag and will definately put it on my favourites to do list. All the best, Romona

  • Cazzyline

    MQ and a few other magazines including Inside Crochet went into administration around Christmas time. Lots of samples were not returned, but a few crochet items have started trickling through to crochet bloggers I read (I forget which, though, sorry). There is a thread about it on Ravelry somewhere.

    MQ is under new management as from 1st June, hopefully they inherited the items, so maybe it would be worth contacting the new team? http://modernquiltingmag.com/modern-quilting-announcement/

    As I recall, some of the crochet items were unlabelled so it’s only when the makers contact the new people that they are able to sort out who owns what.

    Good luck. And I’m in awe for the amount of work that you must have put in on that tutorial. I tried a simple little crochet thing and it took me days!

  • Cazzyline

    PS Probably should have mentioned, I’m new to patchwork & quilting and finding it very complicated. Your tutorial is inspiring me to practice more.

    Plus, well, rainbows!

  • Wannasew

    Hello. I just followed your like from SewCanShe.com (they are featuring your pattern today). I was wondering what LEVEL does one have to be. The instructions are detailed, but based on the notions required, etc., one seems to have to have some experience in quilting or background.

    And everyone in the sewing world has their own take on the word beginner.

    Is this pattern for the absolute beginner? If not,then maybe I shouldn’t tackle it. Thanks so much. 🙂

  • sansuey

    The bag is simply, madly gorgeous! I do hold out hope that the original was not snatched and is waiting proper returning action!
    Thank you very much for going from a sticky problem to a generous, positive act in sharing this beauty and its well-detailed tutorial.
    Thanks to SewCanShe too!

  • Julie Anne Silva

    The bag is lovely! Thank you so much for sharing it with everyone – a very generous gesture, indeed! I admire you for turning an unhappy circumstance into a positive act of kindness.

  • itssewnice

    Sara, I love the Conversational Bag..thank you so much for the pattern. If you were to offer a “bundle” of little conversational print squares I would buy that as I’ll never get as many pretty colors and tiny prints together as you have assembled.

    Thanks again, Kathie itssewnice

  • Agnes B Bullock

    Great bag- smply have to try this! What fabric line did you use- want to get more of the dachshund fabric you have 9the yellow with the dachsie in the pink sweater!)

    Thank you for sharing this with us!

  • inkydayz.com

    This is a beautiful bag. I can’t wait to search through my stash and hunt and gather for just the right fabrics. Thank you so much for the free pattern and tutorial. I am so sorry about your experience!

  • Nellie Duclos

    Sorry about your problems with the magazine. I just discovered your bag via FavCrafts. I have about decided that my next purse will be of my own design because I cannot find one that has all the pockets/features that I desire. Have you worked with Soft and Stable yet? I made a bag my daughter’s friend who is a nurse and used one of those charm packs with all the sayings. It turned out fairly well but larger than I had planned after sashing the squares. The Soft and Stable is a thin foam that keeps it’s shape so you don’t really have to use batting or interfacing unless your fabric is very light weight. I “check out” every tote/bag pattern to find new ideas/features so I can incorporate them into something personalized. Thanks for sharing.

  • Quilt Addict

    I found the following information on another forum. I hope it helps you get your bag back.

    The administrator’s details in case any of you are owed money/have unreturned samples/have outstanding subscritions with All Craft Media.

    FRP Advisory
    10 Furnival Street
    EC4A 1YH

    Tel: +44 (0)20 3005 4000
    Fax: +44 (0)20 3005 4400

    Contact name – Alastair

  • Heather

    Thank you so much for sharing your talent with us less talented. I fell in love with this bag as soon as I saw it. I’ve been looking at a lot of beg patterns trying to find one to make but haven’t been completely happy with any that I’ve found until now. I can’t wait till I have enough time so I can make ‘my bag’.
    Thanks again, I hope with the info from the previous comment that you will be able to get your bag back that would just be the icing on the cake. Good luck

  • Erlina

    Thank you for giving me an idea, I have been sewing fabric bags for friends and relatives and this gave me an idea……….as I have been contemplating of making these kind of bags for my nieces where they can put their books and school supplies…I will make it bigger and put pockets inside and outside…

  • bobisue

    Really love this bag and can’t wait to make it. Instead of buying the fat quarters I am going to be using some of my stash of fabric….what great gifts and maybe I will have them done by this Christmas 😉

  • Bénédicte

    Sara, Thanks for so generously sharing the tutorial even after your experience with this magazine, I think you had a very good response and I hope that your bag will be back soon. This bag is gorgeous and you have done important work for very clear instructions.
    Do you think I can make it in the woolen fabrics in different colors with some applied or embroidery? Do you think I should strengthen a little more with a double interfacing?
    I can’t wait to try it! He took the first place on the pile of projects.

  • Toni

    Thank you so much for sharing this bag – just what my daughter needs 🙂 It looks a brilliantly helpful tutorial too.
    I do hope your original bag found it’s way home…

  • Jennifer Schalck

    I love the bag, it’s just beautiful. That is so upsetting that they didn’t return your bag. How disappointing! Thanks so much for sharing the pattern with us.

  • Christie

    Hi Sara I’m so glad I found you. I love this bag,I’m a beginner sewer and my thing is totes I think giving this to us FREE is so nice of you. Thank you

  • RWTreasure

    Beautiful bag, and I love the very detailed tutorial/instructions you’ve posted! I’m too into rainbow coloring and purples, so it both caught my eye and my imagination.
    Is it available as a download-able file? A pdf perhaps?
    Regardless, thank you!!


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