Have you sewed with cork fabric yet?

If not, why not?

It is so easy – Just treat it like slightly stiffer fabric….. Our Janome machines cope with cork like a hot knife through butter! Let me share some info about cork + hints & tips + I will show off  the cork projects I have made since I bought my first cork FQ almost a year ago.

My first test-out of Janome embroidery on cork fabric (purchased at the Edmonton Show last Fall) – with metallic thread too!  I used the monochrome designs built into the Jnaome MC15000 and they were just perfect. Although densely digitized, the cork accepted and held the embroidery beautifully. I only used 1 layer of tearaway stabilizer.

More embroidery on cork on the reverse side of my simple, little tote. So successful….I’m was ready to use the cork on a wallet pattern I had been dying to try out.

And my wallet with cork and quilting cotton. Much easier than I thought it would be! I will be making more of these! In fact I have already but will show you later after a certain person’s birthday…wink, wink.

Inside of the wallet. Don’t you love it when people at the till in stores don’t believe you when you say you made your wallet!?

This wallet pattern is Emmaline Bags: The Necessary Clutch Wallet.

I am feeling just a teeny bit self-righteous at the moment as I have just completed my 4th project using cork and this one is a “knock-out” even if I say so myself!

I used this purse pattern which I purchased recently on my travels.

I used this Swoon pattern: Charlotte City Tote for my grey cork bag above. It has a lovely full colour 11 page booklet of instructions which is easy to follow.

I followed the instructions carefully and it worked out really well. So often I don’t read the instructions and then wonder why I’m not so keen on the result! Do you do that too? If I make this again (only reason for possibly not doing another make soon being that I have about 4 different purse patterns I’m real eager to make!).

I would for sure make a few changes:

  1. I like the size of the bag and the pockets in the lining but I think I would also add an external pocket or 2 for my keys and cell phone. I am always carrying a bunch of stuff and it is such a hassle digging in the purse for my keys while trying to almost balance stuff on my head –   Yes, it probably looks pretty funny when I am locking my car or opening my front door!
  2. I don’t like the mechanism inside for pulling in the 2 side panels to give the bag shape. It just gets in the way and annoys me. I will have to think about how to deal with that. Maybe change the shape of the bag and put a zipper across the top instead?   Maybe. 
  3. I also don’t like the position of the magnetic clasp.      Instead of being embedded in the front & back of the purse & then pulling these together, it hangs downwards into the bag on these 2 little tabs. Also gets in the way so is a fiddle. I would for sure change the whole way you close this tote.

4. I think I would like to put those little “feet” on my next purse as I really don’t like setting my lovely cork purse on the floor of washrooms! Icky. Does anyone know where I can find these (in Canada please) as I did not see them on my recent forays into stores when I was visiting my dealers and looking for bag “fixings”.

But the cork and 2 different shades of silver and grey vinyl worked really well in my opinion.  Just a word of advice: my half yard/metre piece of cork was so not enough for this bag so I had to make a join in the back panel and substitute with vinyl for the side panels and straps. If you go to buy cork, be sure to get 1 yard if you want the entire bag to be cork.  Buy in one piece if you can rather than 1/2 yard cuts.

More cork to sew (working on the next bag) …. I just used it here as a backdrop for my pic.

However, I chose to use 2 shades of vinyl and I’m glad I did as it adds a different texture and interest to the bag. If I had done it entirely in grey cork, it might have looked a little bland?  I think the vinyl contrasts give some definition.    Several people don’t believe me when I tell them I made the purse. I used those professional purse “fixings” that many sewing and quilt stores sell including a little metal plate which says HANDCRAFTED. It just elevates the make from home made to something special and professional looking.  Thank you to Fabriculous in Gimli, Manitoba and Colettes Sewing Machines Plus in Yorkton, Saskatchewan. I had fun shopping in your stores! Colette has a great selection of cork and vinyl.

Buy good quality vinyl (not cheap plastic rubbish!) or even soft leather if your budget will stretch that far. The cork is, however,  NOT inexpensive. I paid almost $30 for a 1/2 yard/metre piece which had me swallowing a little as I do not recall when I last spent $60 a yard on fabric?! But, honestly, it was worth it as I now have a purse which probably would have cost well over $150 if I was to buy it in a store. I know because I bought a very smart bag recently for $229 and it got sent back in less than a month as the handle broke after only 2 weeks of use! So much for that. I have been hunting ever since for a replacement bag and gave up looking to buy ready made as I could not find exactly what I wanted nor was I prepared to pay $300-$400 for something I only partially liked!

It is also important to note that cork is very special: it is ONLY harvested off trees in a certain part of Portugal and once  a tree has had the bark removed, you cannot get more from that tree for 10 years. The workers also have to be skilled as they will kill the tree if they don’t do it correctly. So I’m happy to support this industry in a country I have not had the pleasure of visiting but hear very good things about……I don’t like fake knock-off cork which is bound to turn up soon what with so many sewers flocking to purchase the real deal cork. So check first you are getting the good stuff and remember this when you look at the price tag.

What Janome machine, needle, thread and Janome foot did I use for sewing this bag?

  • I sewed this project exclusively on the Janome MC15000 although many other Janome machine models with a straight stitch will work just as well as everything on this bag was done with just a straight stitch.
  • I used regular grey cotton sewing thread. I think I may have used poly thread too?  One or the other.  50wt. Not heavy, thick thread as that would just make the seams even bulkier than they were.
  • I used a Janome size 14 red tip needle.    I did not feel the need of anything thicker or stronger. The cork and vinyl were easily sewed on our wonderful Janome machine(s)…… like hot knife through butter…..seriously.
  • Almost exclusively throughout the construction of this purse, I used the Janome Acufeed Flex narrow foot with VD attachment.
  • A couple of times, I switched the VD foot sole for the ED foot sole (zipper foot) to help me get real close to the seam or D rings or edge while top stitching etc.  see pics below.

    The Acufeed Flex system with VD foot is a wonderful thing!


    • When doing the lovely luxurious silver satin piping around the side panels, I used the Janome piping foot.   I made my own piping with satin strips cut on the bias and a cording of the size I desired. 

    What are you sewing this summer?

We are sewing & serging up a storm across Canada as we get ready for our Education Events this Fall. Oh boy…….. do we have a bunch of great stuff in the making to show you !!


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20 Responses to Have you sewed with cork fabric yet?

  1. Tammy says:

    Last time I checked, Periwinkle Fabrics in Saskatoon carried the feet for the bottom of purses.


  2. Suzanne says:

    I have had a piece of cork for quite a while… your project certainly motivates me to sew with it soon!!! I’ve used those metal feet on bags and purses and can usually find them at any general sewing store (Fabricland and Len’s Mills in Ontario). When I do see them I buy a few sets in gold and silver to have them on hand. I’ve just upgraded to a 6700P and will definitely take all your tips into consideration. Thanks!


  3. Bev says:

    Emmaline bags for hardwear and M&M cork for cork,both are Canadian and have great service 🇨🇦🇨🇦


  4. Bev Moseley says:

    Buy your cork from M&M cork in Trail BC and your Hardware from Emmaline
    Bag in Alberta! Great service from both and Canadian!🇨🇦


  5. Anne Luehr says:

    Good Morning Liz You’ve caught the bag crazy. Nice job on all your projects. Two Tid-bits of info for you. Emmalinebags.com for purse, totes, & wallet fixings. Is Canadian website. Sew Sweetness with Sara Lawson has awesome information and patterns for bags, totes, backpacks, & wallets. She is on FB, You tube and of course has a website with videos, patterns, fabric, and cork. Her cork is from Portugal and is beautiful. She has some free patterns and most come with videos of her making the item. Just google Sew Sweetness to find her. Take Care in your travels Anne Luehr P.S. The Yellow Button in Lethbridge is my store.

    Sent from my iPad



  6. Drisdelle says:

    Where can I find the pattern for that wallet >


    • lizafrica says:


      It is the Necessary clutch wallet from Emmaline Bags. You should be able to get from your local quilt or sewing store. Ask them to order it for you. Possibly you can get direct from Emmaline Bags if your local store does not have? Not sure if they sell retail or only wholesale? I bought mine at Snip and Stitch in Nanaimo, BC but I have seen at Fabriculous in Manitoba, Colette’s Sewing Machines Plus in Yorkton, SK and Haus of Stutches in Humboldt, SK. Check out our Dealer locator on the home page of Janome.ca for their contact details.



  7. Rosalind McGarrigle says:

    Hi, just read the above article and wanted to show you the bags I just finished on my Janome 9400. I used the Janome red tip needle, glide thread 50wt polyester and hardware from one of our great Canadian suppliers, Emmaline.

    The first bag is in vinyl and I like the look of the vinyl better than the cork one. Next time I will use a coloured cork.

    The 940 just wizzed through both materials, no problems at all. Love my Janomes, all 4 of them!

    Rosalind McGarrigle

    Sent from my iPhone



    • lizafrica says:

      Hi Rosalind,
      Thanks for your comments. You really are a Janome fan! We love to hear that. Did you use the Acufeed Flex foot? I love this foot as it find it makes sewing with so many fabrics a total breeze. Look forward to seeing your pics of what you have made.



  8. 46eileen says:

    I was very interested to see how you used the cork & vinyl. I have made a cork purse & really love it. What pattern did you use for the wallet? I really like that one.
    Thanks for sharing these tips.


  9. Bev L says:

    Hi Liz, I see you at demos at Red Deer sewing centre. Try Emmaline bags.com for your hardware. They are in Sptuce Grove Alberta just out of Edmonton. Great selection, tutorials and fast shipping.


  10. Helena Szczepanowska says:

    Loved your projects. They look gorgeous! I like the wallet with the bee fabric. Do you remember where you got it?


  11. Linda Seemann Korte says:

    Love these projects Liz! Cork is awesome to work with! I found a thinner version of cork at a local shop! I believe it is still the real thing! After looking at your wallet, I am anxious to get at my own! Thanks for sharing!


  12. Anne Girard says:

    I like reading all your posts and especially your many tips. As for the purchase of purse feet, I purchase mine mostly at Emmalinebags.com. They are from Alberta.


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