My “Foliage Bag”

by Christine Barnes

How can 2017 be almost over?! Where did all that time go? And why didn’t I get more done? This girl just wants to sew. Well, after the retreat in September, I managed to fit in a project that’s been on my want-to-do list for some time, a collage and surface-stitched bag, similar in concept to the surface-stitched vests I love to make.

So I was off and running with my “Foliage” bag. Don’t ask me why I chose that name—I have no idea. The “ingredients” included Marcia Derse prints, batiks, and—of course—a Kaffe Fassett stripe. (A few other fabrics that made it into the finished bag aren’t shown below.) Notice that the fabrics vary in 1) color, 2) the style of the designs, and 3) the degree of openness or density. Because surface stitching blends patterns and colors, it’s best to err on the side of more contrast rather than less.The collage is created on a foundation of all-cotton muslin and all-cotton osnaburg, a slightly nubby, old-fashioned needlework fabric. (I make sure neither fabric is labeled “wrinkle resistant”—you want your bag to become crinkly.) I prewash the osnaburg because it shrinks so much, but not the muslin or the fabrics for the collage.

Here’s how it works: I cut straight-edge pieces that are not perfectly square or rectangular. (I have yet to do a collage with curved pieces. One of these days.) Trapezoids like the ones shown here are great shapes for collage—they’re a bit quirky, and quirky is good in my book.I add some longer, slender shapes, and a few pieces with “chunks” cut out of them. Here are some of the pieces I started with, separated so you can see the variety in size and shape.I begin to arrange the pieces on the osnaburg/muslin foundation, just to get a feel for how the colors and patterns will look in each other’s company. Keep in mind that nothing is settled at this point. (The brick-and-gray stripe on the left was edited out early on. 🙂I layer the pieces so that some are over and some are under adjoining pieces, with no gaps.I especially like a “spinning” arrangement, where three pieces overlap like this:It’s getting there . . .Just when you think you can’t mess with it another minute (and believe me, that happens), it all comes together. The next step is to use little dots of glue and pins to tack down the pieces at their edges, followed by a zigzag stitch to secure them. The zig-zagging is tedious, but it’s well worth the effort; you don’t want any pieces flopping around.

With everything “nailed down,” I stitch a wavy grid in both directions using variegated thread and eyeballing the spacing between the lines. That’s the beauty of surface stitching—perfection is not required, or even desired. Just have fun with it!A closer look at the stitched grid. After this step, I stitch all over in wavy lines in all directions until it feels like one piece of fabric, then wash, dry, and cut out my bag. Here’s one side of my finished bag, with its “boxed” bottom. (The light was very different, very cool, the day I took these shots.)I chose a back-and-white stripe for the lining to make a strong contrast and a visual connection to the black straps. A narrow strip of the Kaffe Fassett stripe finishes the upper edge and ties the colors together.The other side of the bag. The light was unusually warm the morning I took this shot, so the color isn’t that accurate, but wow, it sure is luminous!Finally, why is it that our unseen work (the bottom of the bag here) is sometimes our favorite part???If you’d like more info about the collage process and construction of my bag, check out my next “Color Connection” newsletter in early January. If you don’t already receive it, you can sign up on the Home page of my website. In the Gallery and Store on my site you can also see my raw-edge, surface-stitched vests and their patterns.

Changing gears, you’ve seen these blocks at various stages, and here’s the finished quilt, titled “Composite Circles, Random Dots.”Sandra did my favorite quilting, wavy vertical lines. I love, love it. Mega thanks, SB!With that I wish you warm and comfy holidays, surrounded by the things that enchant you and the people you love!






14 thoughts on “My “Foliage Bag”

  1. Great blog post Christine! Loved the step by step collage workout. I can hardly wait to see it in person! Fabulous fabric choices, of course!

    • Thank you, Kari! Fabric selection is always so much fun, and with so many fabulous Marcia Derse fabrics in my possession, it’s easy to find things I love! (She has a new line at . . . as if we need more temptation!)

    • The bag is absolutely beautiful! I love the fabric choices including the black fabric for the inside. Can’t wait to try it. Also, the quilt is beautiful as well.

      • Thank you Jeanetta, for your lovely comment about the bag and my new quilt! Isn’t that black-and-white fabric fabulous? I showed my bag to my wearable art group, and one of the members went to the shop where I bought it and got the rest of the bolt. Too funny! We do LOVE great fabrics, don’t we?

    • Thank you, Jayne! I love collage, and I’m thinking of other smaller things I could make with the basic technique. Vests take a lot longer, but I’ve learned to collage just the right front, then use one fabric that’s related for the left front and the back.

  2. Love the collage. Can’t wait to try it. When you zig zag is it a loose or tight length? Also, it looks to be a very narrow width? Is that correct?

    • Thank you, Jane, for your comment! I just love to do the collage, and I don’t mind the time it takes to do all the surface stitching. About the zig zag, I use a stitch that is two steps longer than my default stitch, and quite narrow, just wide enough to secure the raw edges but not really show. I often use a medium gray for that stitch. Once you do the all-over stitching with variegated thread, the zig zagging disappears.

  3. Just the motivation I needed. Absolutely love the collage bag, and the quilt too. Do you have some favorite websites for fabric. Since I have moved to Arkansas I am having problems finding the great fabrics. Thank you

    • Thanks for your comment, Kathleen! With so many quilt shops closing, finding great fabric is getting harder. Many of the fabrics in my bag are by Marcia Derse (, from different collections. I love her designs! Stores carry a few of her fabrics, here and there, but not enough for me, so I’ve ordered many from her website store. The other various fabrics are from my stash (which, sigh, is quite large). Best of luck!

  4. your work is beautiful! As i said on the facebook post it really does look felted. before i realized that it wasn’t I was wondering how you did that…lol It’s funny I take a lot of my scraps and create pieces of fabrics in about the same way…you know quilters we can never throw a micro sized piece away! 🙂

  5. Great post (including the mention of the different light for the different pictures – amazing how the colors changed). I’ve been faffing about, not really wanting to proceed with a quilt top I have on hand. I think I have another project idea! Thanks!

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