When I got my recipient for Sanae and Ute’s Secret Valentine Exchange, I was excited and scared at the same time, I must admit. I actually knew my recipient! I had been reading her blog for quite a while. She’s a pattern designer, she’s much more experienced at sewing than I am, and she has impeccable taste. I have even tested one of her patterns!

I thought that it was fun to make something for someone I “know” … but … what do you make for someone like Lisa? She lives in a yurt, so it would have to be small and easy to store. It would also have to be useful enough that she would want to keep it. And it would have to be easy enough to make that I wouldn’t mess it up and embarrass myself.

Japanese Knot Bag for the Secret Valentine Exchange: Grey Side, Knotted

Lisa mentioned on the questionnaire I got about her that she likes to knit, so I eventually settled on a bag that she would be able to use as a knitting project bag—or for storing something else if she prefers. I was going to make project bags for my mum’s birthday as well and had already looked around for patterns that would be slightly more interesting than a basic drawstring or tote bag—so after quite some consideration, I chose to make a reversible “Japanese knot bag”. It’s a simple bag, but one of the handles is longer than the other and you can close the bag by pulling the longer handle through the shorter one, which makes the handles look a bit like a knot. I thought that Lisa might appreciate this, since she seems to like basics with a bit of a twist—judging by the clothes she makes and the two sewing patterns she has released so far.

Japanese Knot Bag for the Secret Valentine Exchange: Grey Side

Product photography is hard, you guys! I should just have photographed the bag in the middle of my crafting chaos rather than all by itself, that would most likely have looked a lot less ridiculous.


I started with this tutorial that was linked to from somewhere I don’t remember. I actually made a practice version of this bag as drafted even though I was suspicious of the pattern—and my suspicion was well-founded because the pattern doesn’t actually fit together correctly.

I still liked the idea, however, so I made a frankenpattern that would actually work. I used the handle shapes from this Martha Stewart purse, but kept the separate round bottom piece of the above tutorial. I lengthened the bottom part of the original pattern a bit and then just scaled the Martha Stewart handles so they would fit onto the bottom part.

Japanese Knot Bag for the Secret Valentine Exchange: Yellow Side, Knotted


The grey fabric is Yarn Dots in Charcoal from Spoonflower, which I bought for my mum’s birthday bags. It looked quite different on the screen than it did printed on the Kona Cotton I ordered and I was rather disappointed by that at first. The darker yarn balls weren’t visible at all before I washed the fabric and they are still almost the same colour as the background. The fabric also faded quite a bit during prewashing (at 40°C) and got a kind of “used look”. I actually like it more now than I did before I washed it, but I still don’t like it quite as much as I hoped I would.

The yellow fabric is called Dimples by Gail Kessler for Andover Fabrics, according to its selvedge, and I bought it at Komolka. I chose this print because Lisa said in her questionnaire that she likes mustard yellow and geometric patterns. I’m not sure it’s really mustard yellow, but I liked the subtle sort-of-hexagon-shaped pattern. I wanted to use something from my stash for both sides of the bag, but I really didn’t have anything that went with the grey fabric and was a colour that I thought Lisa would like, so I had to buy a little piece of the yellow fabric for the project. I think that this is still within the limits of what Sanae thought would be reasonable.

This might sound a little insane, but I actually used crafterhours’ bodice lining tutorial for assembling the bag. I left an opening in one side seam of the yellow fabric, which I treated as the lining, and then pretended the whole thing was a sleeveless bodice. This worked really well and I just had to slip-stitch a little opening in the straight side seam rather than the whole curved bag handles—which would surely have turned out a lot less neat!