A coarse woven fabric derived from the jute plant, hessian is great for children’s first sewing projects. Very cheap, you can buy it at well-stocked craft shops and hardware stores for just a few dollars a metre. The fabric’s neutral colour looks great with any kind of thread and decoration.
This project shows you how to help children to make a simple hessian bag. For very young crafters, we use large blunt tapestry needles and colourful scraps of wool, although sharper needles are needed for sewing on the felt fabric. Some bright felt shapes and a colourful button provide the finishing touch.
If you’re working with very young children, make sure this activity is always supervised. Although tapestry needles are blunt, they could still be accidently poked in someone’s eye. Also, take care with small pieces such as buttons, press studs, pins and needles, as these could be a choking hazard.
Time: 90 minutes - 2 hours
Age: 5-10's, Over 10's
1 metre of hessian fabric
A container of sewing pins
A large tapestry needle
A container of sewing pins
A sharper needle,if older children want to embroider their creation
Bright coloured wool for sewing and the bag’s strap – the brighter the better, so it will contrast strongly on the hessian.
Colourful embroidery cotton
A few squares of brightly-coloured plain or patterned felt
A large quirky button
A packet of adhesive Velcro strips or large press studs
Measure the hessian fabric and cut it to the desired size. If you’re working with very little children you may want to do the cutting yourself, and have it prepared before the activity begins. The dimensions we used were 26cm by 50cm.
With adult assistance, kids can now fold the edges of the hessian to create a hem. A double fold is most effective and will prevent the fabric from fraying. Pin this into place.
Thread the tapestry needle with some matching-coloured wool or thick cotton, and use running stitch to firmly sew the hem together. If possible, the stitches should be small as this will attach the fabric together more firmly. Remove the pins as you sew.
Fold the piece of hessian in the way shown in this picture - doubled over, with a large over-hanging flap on top. Threading a tapestry needle with brightly-coloured wool, start sewing around the edge of the bag with running stitch. Once again, small stiches are best as they’re stronger and tidier. Ensure that the thread is long enough to complete the sewing, and that it’s firmly attached, both at the beginning of the sewing, and at its completion. Very small children should be supervised so they don’t accidently sew the opening together.
For extra strength, sew along the seams again - perhaps in another colour.
To decorate the bag’s flap, sew a few rows of running stitch in bright-coloured embroidery thread, as shown in the photo below. Alternatively, older children with sewing experience may want to try another kind of stitch.
With adult assistant, attach a couple of pieces of iron-on Velcro tape, so the bag will close. Older children may prefer to sew on press studs or even a zip, although this may be too difficult for younger ones.
Cut a large circle, heart or flower shape from the coloured felt, and a slightly smaller one in a contrasting colour. Using bright embroidery thread or wool, sew these together as shown in the photo below. If children are confident sewers, they might also like to add extra embroidery, as well.
The felt shape can then be sewn onto the front of the hessian bag. Take the fancy button, and sew this into the centre of the felt shape. This looks especially nice with a flower.
The bag’s straps can be made in various ways – plaiting strands of wool together, finger knitting or French knitting, for example. If there is insufficient time to do this, or the children are too young, you could simply use some shop-bought cord instead. Children who want to make their own should choose their method, and create a cord that is a suitable length for a shoulder strap. We decided to make ours by plaiting several strands of colourful wool.
Using wool or embroidery cotton, sew the shoulder strap onto the bag, as shown in the photo below. Your handmade hessian bag is now complete.