Bonsai Bag Sewing Pattern!

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The Bonsai Bag Sewing Pattern is a digital PDF sewing pattern. The Bonsai Bag is a medium-sized tote perfect for showing off a favorite fabric, a quilted panel or an embroidery sample. The pleated outer panel helps frame the center with optional contrast trim such as pompoms, ric-rac, piping or lace. This fully lined bag includes an inner pocket and a magnetic snap closure. Detailed instructions are also included for a recessed zipper closure. Tied handles and decorative rings add a fun and professional look.

with ric rac trim and pink baby wale corduroy outer panel
with a quilted center panel and no trim (fabric: Denyse Schmidt Katie Jump Rope)


Purse: 11” tall x 14” wide

Straps: about 24” when tied, includes rings and tabs

with a magnetic snap closure (I added an extra pocket on this bag)
instructions are also included for a recessed zipper closure


Detailed step-by-step instructions

Instructions for two types of closures: magnetic snap AND recessed zipper

Full color diagrams and photos illustrating each step, including multiple views of select steps

Handy “Instruction Cheat Sheet,” a brief one-page summary of the steps so you don’t have to print entire file for reference

Complete set of full-sized pattern pieces (print out and attach together before cutting)

Hints and tips for sewing the Bonsai Bag


  • 1/3 yard of fabric for center panels
  • 1/3 yard of fabric for straps (if using the same fabric as pleated outer panel, you’ll need 2/3 yd total)
  • 1/4 yard of bottom-weight fabric (corduroy, linen, twill, home dec) for pleated outer panel and ring tabs
  • 1/2 yard of lining fabric
  • 1/3 yard canvas, flannel, or heavy-weight fusible interfacing (such as Decor Bond) for reinforcing center panels and straps
  • one magnetic snap and two 2” squares of fusible interfacing (only if using magnetic snap)
  • OR one 14” zipper
  • one package of four plastic purse rings (you could also use metal or wood rings here)
  • 1/2 yard of trim such as pompoms, ric-rac, or lace

Remember to prewash your fabric!

Purse rings can be found at your local craft superstore:

A quick note about pompom trim: I prefer to use the kind where the pompoms are closer together because you get a fuller look around the center panels.  To tell the difference, look at the way the pompoms are attached to the base of the trim: if the two strands are separate (top) the poms will be further apart; if the two strands are together (bottom) the poms will be closer together.


The Bonsai Bag was featured on the following posts:

Bonsai! Rae’s New Fall Bag (you can see me holding the bag in this post)

Return of the Bonsai Bag

And see what others have made in the Bonsai Bag Photo Pool (submit your pictures here!)

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Return of the Bonsai Bag

Yay!  I’m so happy to be able to show you a few samples for the Bonsai Bag Sewing Pattern which will be forthcoming.  Here they are (along with the brown one I made last year)!  I have to admit with fall on the horizon they are a little summery compared to the brown one but I loves thems anyhoos.

That blue Princess and the Pea one there has been in progress for almost a year.  I started with a ric-rac trim which I scrapped for pompoms and then got hung up on the recessed zipper and had to tear out the entire thing, but don’t worry, this bag does not take a whole year to make, haha (smooth, Rae, that’s great advertising *rolls eyes*).  In fact one can be assembled in a few hours, and honestly now that I’ve gotten the kinks ironed out with the pattern pieces, the zipper part is easy-peasy.

To answer the question I always get when I talk about a new pattern, no, it will not be free. Sometimes I feel bad about charging for patterns because I really like getting free things on the internet and I like giving stuff away for free.  But then I start counting all the hours I’ve poured into this thing and will, yet. It’s a conundrum for sure, because free patterns bring new people to the website, and so many of you have emailed me asking for tips on how to make and digitize your sewing patterns (I hope to post about that soon!) that I know you must be thinking about it too, for your own blogs. And I think that’s fantastic, we should keep sharing with eachother and don’t worry, I have plenty of free patterns in my brain for y’all. But I also think it’s important to assign value the work that you do, even if it’s online and doesn’t feel like a “real job.” I’m lucky enough to have been able to start a small business from what I do here on the blog (most of my revenue comes from pattern sales, with a much smaller part coming from advertising/sponsors), but I often still find myself undervaluing my time and skills, especially when I compare myself to professional designers who have true industry training.  But when all’s said and done I think I still do a pretty good job producing nice patterns, even if I go about it in a completely unprofessional way. Can we call it “organic” instead of “unprofessional”? That sounds so much nicer….

Anyway, do you want to see some closer shots of the bags?  One of the things I like about this pattern is that it takes very little of the center fabric (basically a 10×10 square for each side) and shows it off nicely.  This one is made with Heather Ross’ Princess and the Pea fabric from her Far Far Away collection, framed with a pale blue baby wale corduroy:

And this one is a Heather Bailey print from her Freshcut collection, framed by a pale pink baby wale cord:

This one was inspired by my weekend in Vermont. Denyse Schmidt showed us how to do a fabulously easy strip quilting project and I really wanted to try the technique for this purse, so I did on both the front and the back. I imagine you could take any small quilt sampler and use it for that middle panel (zigzag, patchwork, embroidery, you name it).

Most of the fabric on the center panel is from Denyse’s Katie Jump Rope line from a few years back.  I made a bunch of other stuff with it and all that remained is a bunch of scraps — perfect for a small quilt project.


So obviously I wanted to show these off and give you a preview of the pattern, but I also want to announce that I will be giving away these three bags next week on the blog.  I think the best way to do this is to give them away on three different days so that if you prefer one over the other you can enter for the one(s) you want.  It’s been a long time since I had a giveaway so I’m excited and I hope you are too!

Bonsai! Rae’s New Fall Bag.

Here’s my newest bag. I’m calling it the “Bonsai Bag”*

I’m really digging orange right now, and these colors really get me in the mood for fall. The ties even look like little leaves. Since it’s pretty much felt like autumn all summer long here in the Midwest, I’m not experiencing the usual shock to the system, round of denial and all the wishing that summer would last just a little longer. No way man. Fall, bring it on! Stop messin with me already.

I’m really interested in your feedback on this bag. I can’t tell if it works or if it’s too much. I tend to go over the top with stuff, and I’m aware that the orange poms might qualify as Too Much. But I saw a bag in an Anthro catalog with pom-poms around the top a while back (not there any more) and ever since then I’ve wanted to make a bag with them. Does it help to know that I also wanted to put orange poms around the neckline of the unicorn top, but restrained myself? I’m not sure.

This fabric (Good Folks fabric by the lovely Anna Maria Horner) lent itself perfectly to a little hand embroidery (you can just see the orange stitches in the pic above). I already have plans for another one; I’m imagining so many options for the center panel — maybe some more embroidery on a solid background (birds? trees? an owl?), quilting, applique, or another showcase fabric? It makes my brain hurt thinking about what you could do with this if you had one of those fancy embroidering sewing machines (I don’t). And instead of the pom-poms, maybe some ric-rac or a ruffle…

I can see this with metal hardware too…maybe those silver rectangle thingies?

I really like the size of this one; it’s pretty large so it holds lots of stuff. I made it with a magnetic snap but I think it would work better with a recessed zipper. I took pictures while I made it, so I’ll put this out there like I usually do: if there’s enough interest in this I can make a pattern available. Meanwhile I’m on to bigger projects. I really really need to finish Elliot’s quilt before it starts to cool off outside.

*the name was my seester Elli’s idea. It makes no sense but I like it. And I love that it reminds me of that ridiculous show Banzai! which was completely insane but the Mr Shake Hands Man segment still makes me laugh when I think about it….