Learn how to design a pattern for a Japanese knot bag that is just the perfect size for your needs. Then, learn tips and tricks on how to sew a Japanese knot bag. Once you make one, you’ll make more in different sizes. Have fun with different fabric combinations, as each one is reversible!
What makes it a Japanese knot bag is the bag has two handles at different lengths. The longer handle slips into the shorter handle closing the bag and forming a knot. The bag is carried by the longer handle which keeps the bag closed, and the contents safe and secure.
What is a Japanese knot bag used for?
Traditionally, this type of bag is a reusable bag used for grocery shopping or carrying items purchased at a farmers markets. Use this as you would a tote bag.
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In today’s world, this style of bag is perfect for anyone who struggles with fine motor skills, such as Parkinson’s disease. There are no clasps, zippers or other closures for this type of bag. Just loop one handle through the other and the bag is securely closed. You can make the bag handles longer or shorter, depending on how you want to carry the bag.
Learn how to draw your own free pattern for a Japanese knot bag.
There are many patterns available for purchase, and several that are free. I took the time to look at many of them and realized they are all about the same size. I wanted different sizes for different occasions. In other words, I wanted to make it mine. This is a super easy pattern to draw in the size YOU want.
I developed three (3) sizes for this bag. Note: pattern has been designed for 1/2-inch seam allowances. The finished sizes are 1-inch smaller than the cut dimensions.
- Small bag: Finished size 12-inches wide x 17-inches tall; cut dimensions 13-inches wide x 18-inches tall
- Medium bag: Finished size 14-inches wide x 16-inches tall; cut dimensions 15-inches wide x 17-inches tall
- Large bag: Finished size 18-inches wide x 25-inches tall; cut dimensions 19-inches wide x 26-inches tall
Here I’ll go through the basic steps for how I designed the small bag pattern. Use these same basic steps to make a bag any size you’d like, with whatever handle length you’d like!
Gather a piece of paper that is at least 1-inch larger in both width and height than the measurement of the bag dimensions above. I draft my own clothing patterns, so used I pattern drafting paper that already has 1-inch increments marked. Here I’ve marked the outside line dimensions for the small bag.
Next, I like to draw the handles. For the small bag, I draw the cut line for the handles at 3-inches. For the medium and large size bags, I like a 4-inch cut line for the handles — it makes it a bit easier to handle, but the 4-inch width is too big for the small bag. Here I’ve drawn the 3-inch line for the longer handle. I drew it 8-inches long by 3-inches wide.
Next, draw the shorter handle. I drew it 3-inches wide by 4-inches tall. This is a nice height to be able to loop the longer handle through. Any shorter and it isn’t easy to loop. I like making these bags for people with fine motor skills concerns, so easy to loop is important.
Note that I’ve marked a line on the outside edge that is even with the opening of the bag, between the two handles. This will be an important mark when we are ready to sew.
Here are both handles marked on our bag pattern:
I like to curve the bag opening between the two handles. This is optional, but a curve here makes it easier to sew, and looks nice. I looked around my sewing space for something round. The embroidery hoop is perfect for rounding those edges! Don’t have an embroidery hoop? Head to your kitchen to find a bowl or plate!
The bottom of the bag can be rounded, or left straight. I’ve made both and like both. If you work with fabric on the fold, a straight edge is perfect! For this pattern, I rounded the edges and used the handy embroidery hoop again.
The small bag pattern is done and ready to be cut from the paper!
And, here is the finished medium Japanese knot pattern. You can see the handles are 4-inches wide. The shorter handle is 4-inches high, the longer handle is 7-inches high. This makes the body of the bag (the area that actually holds stuff) 14-inches x 8-inches (there will be 1/2-inch seam allowances).
And, here is the finished large Japanese knot bag pattern. You can see the handles are 4-inches wide. The shorter handle is 4-inches high, the longer handle is cut at13-inches high. This makes the body of the bag (the area that actually holds stuff) 18-inches wide x 12-inches (there will be 1/2-inch seam allowances).
Why has this bag become popular with sewists?
You can make a Japanese knot bag any size you’d like, in just about any fabric. This sewing project generally takes an hour or less to make the bag. It has become popular with the versatility in fabrics and sizes, and how quick and easy it is to make. And, choose two fabrics you like to enjoy two bags in one! With this pattern, the bag is reversible!
What are the measurements for a Japanese knot bag?
The great part about making your own Japanese knot pattern is you can make it any size you’d like! I’ve developed three sizes:
- Small: Finished body size 12-inches wide x 9-inches tall. This is perfect for a small bag to carry your phone, glasses and a few small personal items.
- Medium: Finished body size 14-inches wide x 8-inches tall. This is wider which makes it easier to open to find the things you’ll be carrying.
- Large: Finished body size 18-inches wide x 12-inches tall. This is a great size for going to a farmer’s market.
What is the best fabric for a Japanese knot bag?
Almost any kind of fabric is good for making a Japanese knot bag. If you are using quilting cottons, I’d recommend using a light weight interfacing on your fabrics before cutting out your pattern. I used a canvas with a quilting cotton lining for the smallest bag. The other bags were made with a home dec printed canvas fabric for both layers of the bag.
If you use a light weight fabric without interfacing the bag still works and closes. If you are looking for a bag with more structure, use a light weight interfacing or a stiffer fabric like canvas.
Variations on the basic Japanese knot bag
The great part about making your own pattern for your reversible Japanese knot bag is that you can make it any size you’d like, curved or straight bottom to the bag, vary the length of the handles for your preferences.
You can use two fabrics like I have in the bags I made, or use four different fabrics and make sure there is a bottom seam to the bag.
Customize your own bag with your own fabrics, embellish your fabrics with embroidery or stitching either before or after making your bag.
Tips for making a Japanese knot bag
Choose fabrics that work well together. When the loops are interconnected, you can see the reverse fabric. Make it blend or make it stand out – make it yours! If you have one fabric that is quite a bit heavier than the other it is best to be the outside fabric. If you want the bag to be reversible, make the two fabrics similar weight.
A successful bag has the exact same size for both the inner and outer bag. Be careful cutting out your fabrics, and and making sure that your seam allowances are accurate.
If you are using a light weight fabric, like a quilting fabric, you may want to consider using a light weight interfacing to give the bag more stiffness.
Go ahead and have some fun making your own Japanese knot bag customized just for you! Make it the size you want with the features you want, in your fabric choices! Trust me, you won’t just make one!
Browse through more bag patterns and inspiration on Create Whimsy.