Quilted bag inspired by Harry Potter (aka the triptych bag)

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It’s second Harry Potter -inspired post in a row! This time I’ll discuss the making of my quilted shoulder bag which I made three years ago when I was still in upper secondary school (Finnish equivalent to high school, sort of). Even though this project was designed and finished long before I even had an idea of starting this blog, the process of making it was luckily documented to the detail. The reason why I have all these photographs is that this bag was my “handicrafts diploma project” (unfortunately I don’t know it’s official English translation).

Because I don’t know whether “handicrafts diploma project” is the correct translation or not, I want to explain to you what I mean with it. In Finland they don’t teach us sewing in upper secondary school. If you have the skills, however, you can take part in a course where you have 38 hours to complete a crafting/sewing project of your choosing. It’s completely up to you which materials and techniques to use, but the finished product must be made by you and only you. What makes the course special, is that professional jury will rate your work and portfolio on a scale from one to five. All in all, it’s kind of an final exam on crafting/sewing. The themes from which you get to choose change every year, which makes the course all the more exciting. If you happen to know Finnish, you can read more about the diploma here.

I attended the diploma course in 2013. The theme I chose to go with was “hyvä kolminkertaisuus” (“graceful triptych”). My main visual inspiration was Akseli Gallen-Kallela’s oil painting “Aino-taru” (a beautiful work of art, feel free to google it if you’re interested), which shows in the layout of the bag’s front panel’s quilting. The triptych in the bag, however, represents the deathly hallows that are described in the Harry Potter series. Shortly put, if you don’t know the Tale of three brothers, the deathly hallows are the Resurrection stone, Invisibility cloak and the Elder wand that are powerful magical objects and that are very important to the seventh story in the Harry Potter series. You may now want to know why I chose to include Potter stuff into my diploma project, and the answer is that I just had to because I’ve been a hard-core Potterhead over half of my life. Besides, I love hiding details that mean a lot to me in everything I make. (I guess we can talk about hiding because no one has been able to tell that the three pictures on the bag are actually the deathly hallows.)

The materials and techniques that I wanted to use included used denim (more recycling of old jeans 😉 ), linen, cotton, some nice mixed fabrics, quilting and embroidery. My fancy idea was to make the bag out of all natural fibers, which actually didn’t happen, but I think I managed to achieve the hippyish vibe I was after. Had I been wiser, I would have chosen more durable fabrics… After three years of heavy use not only the cotton but also the linen needs to  be patched here and there, you’ll see in a second.

That was one long introduction. Now on to the tutorial before I tire myself out with writing some more background information!

The most time consuming part on the bag was definitely the appliqué/embroidery of the hallows, and that was why I wanted to make them as early on as I could (as to make sure I actually had time to finish them). The first thing I did after sketching was cutting one square and two rectangles from brown linen and four strips of blue mixed fabric. I sewed the pieces together to be the base for my triptych, onto which I would next add the hallows. The square piece of linen had been decorated with my Inktense pencils before the sewing process.

The photos were taken with my old camera and I couldn’t use it that well back then, so let’s just ignore the fact that the pictures in this post are going to be quite bad in quality.


I had played around with different wand designs but all of them look really weird, so I ended up depicting “the Elder wand” as a branch that has delicate elder flowers on it. In the picture below you can see that I created the branch with brown and teal fabrics, two-sided interfacing and tight zig-zag machine stitching. The flowers were embroidered by hand to contrast the heavy outlines on the leaves.


A closer look on the flowers. Aren’t they cute? Pale yellow lazy daisy stitches.


The two other hallows were made with the same techniques. The Resurrection stone will be on the left-most rectangle, but you can’t see it here yet: the hallow itself is going to be a pale yellow button among the grey appliquéd stones but it isn’t still sewn on. The Invisibility cloak, however, is already ready: a chameleon that hides itself in the foliage, embroidered by hand with black thread and chain stitches. I also embroidered my name and the year of making the bag next to the elder branch.


I wanted the bag to be square-shaped, so the next thing to do was sewing two patchwork rectangles and attaching them to both sides of the triptych. The black and green pieces on the patchwork are cotton, dark blue is denim. At this point I had ironed so many seams flat that stopped counting. On the right you can see the ends of my zippers that were going to be sewn on in a couple of steps.


I wanted the back panel to have a large pocket that closes with a zipper. For the pocket piece I made a patchwork rectangle that was the same size as the front’s triptych. In the next picture you can see the long rectangles next to the pocket piece waiting their turn to get sewn on.


The pocket had to be decorated as well but I was running short on time so I simply appliquéd triangles on it. When the pocket piece was ready with the decorations, it was time to layer it on top of quilter’s cotton and polyester batting. I used safety pins to hold the “fabric hamburger” together and secured it all with upholstery thread and 5 mm long running stitches. My own personal preference with stitching quilts and quilted pieces is stitching as close to the seam as possible because it’s the most invisible way and it makes the quilted fabric pieces puff nicely.


After the stitching was done, I cut the excess batting and lining away and assembled the back panel. What this means is that first I sewed the long patchwork rectangles to the inner piece of pocket lining (a new piece of quilter’s cotton), which was the same size as the outer piece of the pocket (seen in previous photo). One side of the zipper was placed between the upper long rectangle and the inner piece of pocket lining and the other was sewn to the upper edge of the already quilted pocket piece. Everybody still with me? The lower edge of the outer pocket piece was placed between the lower patchwork rectangle and the inner pocket lining and after sewing that seam I had a neat zipper-closing pocket on the back panel. (It was really difficult to explain without any more photos, you deserve an applause if you understood how I actually made the pocket.)

The next thing I did was to layer the back panel with batting and quilter’s cotton the same way I did with the outer piece of the pocket and stitching it with running stitches. Then I rounded the corners and the back panel was finally complete.


The same process was repeated with the front panel. Unfortunately the only photo of this step is the photo below and it doesn’t show neither the layering nor the stitching but you get the idea.


Now that the front and back panels were done, I needed to make side pieces (the pieces that were sewn between the front and the back, are they called side pieces?) and the shoulder strap. I made the strap to be in two pieces, which are the two rectangles that are narrower on the other end (seen below the back panel in the next photo). The shoulder straps were attached to the seams between the main zipper and the longer side piece (and the loose ends were knotted together to create a strap). The main zipper piece, the long side piece and the shoulder straps have all a layer of polyester batting inside them and they are all backed with cotton (and of course stitched with running stitches).

The explaining on how the bag was assembled gets again little difficult, because I don’t have any clearer images, but I’ll try my best. In practice I sewed the upper-most long rectangle and the zipper piece on the lower right corner into a circle. To repeat what I said the previous paragraph, the shoulder straps were sewn into the seams that made this circle piece. Then I sewed the front and the back panels to either edges of the circle that I had created. Makes any sense? Hope it does because with that my triptych bag was officially finished.


The previous photo with the separate bag pieces was the last picture from 2013. Kind of a pity that I forgot to take a photo of the finished product then, but here you can see what the bag looks like today. It ended up being so floppy that I had to fill it with books to get it into the shape you see below. The front panel isn’t badly damaged, it looks quite same as it did three years ago.


The back panel, in it’s turn, is in really bad condition. This is why I should have used more durable fabrics instead of thin linen and cotton:


In case you missed them, there are huge holes on the quilting of the pocket. See now? One day when I have the time and the motivation I’ll patch them up but until then I’m too afraid to carry any valuables in the pocket. To be honest, I still haven’t figured out a neat way to patch this so it might take a couple more months before the bag is back in use.


Anyhow, there are few places where I have mended the fraying, for example in the shoulder straps. And by mending I mean sewing a zigzag over the frayed edges. It doesn’t look as good as new but it works.


I could continue on writing about this bag forever but perhaps it’s better to stop here now that I feel I’ve said the most important things. If you have any questions, please ask. I’d love to share more of my thoughts on this but I don’t know where to continue. 🙂

That was it! Wow, my blog posts seem to get longer and longer these days… But one more thing before I sign out for today (remember the piece of code in the beginning?): I have joined bloglovin! Feel free to follow Dust and fabrics there if you haven’t already subscribed via wordpress.

Thank you for reading!

Edit//12.2.2017: I finally had the courage to try to fix the fraying :D. I went the easiest way and sewed patches of mixed fabric on top of the worn out places. The fixed version can be seen on my Instagram here.


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