Welcome to our new monthly series: we will be offering a project with step by step instructions for you to follow along and make once a month. If you don’t have time right now, don’t worry, it will be archived and you can return to it at any time by searching for Project of the month in the search box. We will try to offer you a variety of types of sewing and embroidery projects as well as serger and coverhem garments, etc.

SO……stay tuned for more janomelife sewing fun and how-to info every month of 2019!


Our January Project of the month is our Gone Sewing mini tote. We featured this bag back in the summer of 2018.  Thank you to Pat who asked recently in our janomelife comment box if there was pattern for this mini tote. It prompted me to offer this as our first project in this new series.   Sadly there is no pattern although the embroidery designs are Janome built-in designs on some of our current models. For the bag construction, I just made things up as I went along.

Do you sew like that? Actually I love doing that as it allows me the freedom to change my mind about creative decisions as I go. I do use patterns but invariably I get a teeny bit frustrated if I have to follow something to the letter while my creative side is wanting to “squirrel off” in another direction!

But here you go with hints and tips on sewing with cork + instructions for the mini tote using Janome machine embroidery on cork. Do feel totally free to “squirrel off” and make the tote entirely your own creation…..please share with us…we love to hear what you are up to.

  • I used cork “fabric” for the embroidery. Initially when I first saw this a few years back, I had to do a few large gulps for air (lol) when I saw the price of a FQ but I paid up anyway as I was so determined to try out a dense embroidery design on the cork….. Put our Janome embroidery machines through their paces so to speak using a medium/fabric that I had not used before!
  • Subsequently I understood why the price was as it is: The real deal cork only grows in Portugal and is only harvested in one area by the few people left who know how to do this properly. The tree may only be stripped of it’s cork bark once every 8-10 years I believe and if it is not done properly or more often than this, the tree will die. Can’t have that so I’m happy to pay up. However, I am keen to point out that there are some “cork” fabrics on the market which are not the real deal (just like leather: people will tell you it is genuine leather when actually it is an imitation). So the moral of the story here is that you should buy from someone you trust – like one of our reputable Quilt stores or Janome Dealers who you know is selling the good stuff. I have subsequently bought more cork in a variety of styles/designs and colours. Just can’t resist it as it sews up SO well and I love the results I am getting with cork. See pic below for an idea of what is available …..these are waiting patiently for my sewing attention?!



One yard rolls were purchased from Snip and Stitch Sewing Centre in Nanaimo, BC, Canada and the cork with the paisley print I found at Colettes Sewing Machines Plus in Yorkton, Saskatchewan, Canada, also saw some beautiful cork fabrics at Ultimate Sewing Centre in Oshawa – all are Janome dealers in Canada and their contact details may be found on our Dealer locator tab on   

Here is another pic showing grey cork fabric which I teamed up with 2 shades of grey/silver vinyl. Love the result! I did use a pattern for this bag: It was the Swoon Charlotte City Tote (pic also below)

  • This cork fabric as you will see in the pic’s above is available in different colours (obviously dyed from the original) and can also be printed. I believe we can do this too although I have not tried  …..not when so many gorgeous colours are available and I don’t have to fuss with dyes and mess!
  • You may know or will see when you look at cork fabric, that it may have a woven interfacing fused onto the back of the cork. This is what you want. I find this makes the cork strong and yet not too thick and it makes it behave just like a thicker fabric or a vinyl – which most of us are familiar sewing with  – so it is pretty much a walk in the park!
  • Some cork fabric may not have this interfacing. I can’t comment on how that sews up as I have not used it. Anybody have some experience with this and would like to comment below on your experience?
  • I also have found it in different weights but was a bit dubious about the very thin ones with no interfacing as I was not sure they would be very durable. I suppose you could add your own iron-on interfacing? Similarly, I thought the much thicker ones were not flexible enough for my sewing purposes and were perhaps better suited to craft/glue applications?
  • What needle did I use? I used a Janome red tip needle for both the embroidery as well as the sewing and had zero issues. I don’t think a thicker needle like a top stitch or denim/jeans needle is necessary and I’m not sure I would recommend this as the hole the needle makes in the cork is bigger with these needles. Cork is like vinyl and leather – it leaves a hole – so take care.
  • Thread? My embroidery was done with Madiera gold metallic thread and I was pleasantly surprized that I had no issues with thread breakage. My Janome and the cork passed with flying colours despite the densely digitized designs I used……which I chose specifically to test out how we could embroider on cork.  Possibly another thread might, or might not have, have given me hassles? I would have swopped to another needle if I had had issues , which I did not in this case. The Janome Purple tip needle might have been an option if I had experienced skipped stitches, but again I did not have issues so did not need to use the purple tip needle.
  • What Janome foot did I use?   Just checking you don’t use the PDH darning foot for machine embroidery as in this pic?
  •     I occasionally come across people who use this foot in pic above for Janome embroidery and must point out that this is not recommended as the foot may hit the side of the hoop. The P foot ( in the pic below) is the one to use.    I used the P embroidery foot for the hoop embroidery of those lovely monochrome designs and then I used the Janome Acufeed Flex foot  (narrow/single prong feed )     as I totally love this foot and use it for a lot of my sewing. I just adjust my needle position to 1/4 inch where necessary and the foot takes care of feeding my fabric layers just perfectly. Best walking foot I have ever used – period.
  • I initially just had a FQ of this cork which I decided to cut up very sparingly and test sew out some embroideries. So first thing I did was select my designs: these are built-in designs on a couple of our Janome Embroidery machines. They may appear in the section called Monochrome designs or may be in another category: there are scissors, spool of thread; pin cushion, key, bee etc. I really like these designs which were zentangle doodled by Jill Buckley of Ontario, Canada and we then had her drawings digitized and added to the collection of designs on some of our embroidery machines.
  • Next was to hoop up the appropriate size hoop with tearaway stabilizer ONLY. I use regular medium weight tearaway and then spray it with a little fabric adhesive so that my cork will stick to the stabilizer. Sticky tearaway may also be used. I do NOT recommend using the basting function on the Janome embroidery machine as you may be left with little holes in the cork after you remove the basting – hence the adhesive to hold the cork ….remember my point above.  I did “babysit” the machine a little to check the cork did not move but once the design took hold and had got to a certain point, I was confident enough to stop “babysitting” and get on with something else.
  • Once I had completed all my embroideries, I cut them to the size I desired without wasting too much cork. Then I raided my stash and added borders and/or sashing strips of different widths of quilting cotton to surround the cork until I had a bag front & back in the size I desired. My finished bag size was 10 x  12 inches but you can obviously alter that as you wish.
  • Sew the front and back together along the bottom edge of the tote.
  • Sandwich with a little batting if you wish and quilt in the ditch on both the front and back of your bag. Use the Janome Acufeed Flex foot or one of our other Janome walking feet. Felt or fleece would work just as well as batting.
  •  Next up was my handles: I cut strips approx  44  inches long X  2.5- 3 inches wide and pressed a 1/4 inch along the long sides twice.  If you have a nifty tool for this, use it – or be careful not to burn your fingers! I also cut my left over cork into strips approx 1.5 inches wide (piecing where necessary). I tucked the cork strip into the folded over cotton fabric edges. I used Clover clips to hold this in place while I sewed along the edge of the fabric to secure the cork within my handle. Use the Janome Acufeed Flex DITCH QUILTING foot for the Acufeed wide or dual foot as this will feed all the layers really well + give you a guide to run along the folded edge of the fabric. Move the needle position over a little to the right of centre needle position. You could also use a simple decorative stitch like a serpentine stitch if you wish. I made one long strip approx 44 inches long and then cut it in half so that I had 2 handles. Pin these in place on the right side of the front & back of your tote bag with the raw edges of handle ends aligning with the raw edge of the top of the tote. Also measure from the sides and centre to ensure your handles are positioned correctly and evenly on both sides of the tote.
  • I then cut a lining for the bag. This needs to be almost the same size as the front & back of the tote (which has now been sewed together along the base): cut it the same width as the bag but 1 inch longer – this extra 1 inch forms the top edge of the bag.
  • Please see *** below if you want pockets in your tote.
  • Clip or pin the 2 short ends of the lining to the TOP edges of the bag RIGHT sides together and sew 1/4 inch seams. You will be sewing the handles in at this point so be sure to remove any clips or pins that might be hiding there.
  • Flip out to the right side and press these seams so that the top edge of the bag is formed.
  • Now flip to the wrong side again and line up the outer part of the tote front with tote back and lining front with lining back. You will have one long rectangle. Ensure your handles are out of the way of the side seams of the tote. Pin if necessary. Now sew 1/4 to 1/2 inch seams down both sides of the bag leaving about 4-5 inches open on one side of the lining – this is where you will turn the bag out to the right side.
  • Turn out to right side and close the gap in the lining with a simple straight or zig zag stitch.
  • Push the bag lining down into the bag and smooth/ press the top edge of the bag. Top stitch around the top edge to further secure the handles and keep bag outer and lining in place.
  • *** Optional: you could plan ahead and add pockets to the inside or outside of your tote if you wish. These would need to be added to the bag before sewing the lining and bag together.

Voila! Gone Sewing tote is done…..just the thing to take along with a few items needed to keep you busy while away from your current home stash of tools and sewing supplies?

Or change the theme and make this into a knitting bag? or lunch tote with yummy fruit embroidery perhaps? Or embroider a friend’s name or monogram on the cork and let the rest speak for itself? So many ideas, so much fun……but so little time?


Here (above & below) is a similar tote I made using these same Janome Monochrome embroidery designs with much the same bag construction and it has a pocket on the outside. Just the right size for some knitting or crochet “on the fly”.

We’d love to hear if you have sewed with cork or made a useful mini tote… please let us know.

Is there a specific project you might like us to offer during 2019? Something you have a hankering to make but are not sure where to start?

Do tell and we will see what we can do to help.

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  1. Fern Knoll says:

    Where can I purchase the Janome 12000 workbook?


    • lizafrica says:

      Hi Fern

      Not sure what country you reside in but we do currently have inventory of these MC12000 Workbooks in CANADA. They are on clearance so if you are interested in purchasing one, I would suggest you do it soon. Please contact a Janome Canada dealer to ask them to order you one. The part # is WB12000.



  2. Charlotte says:

    Gorgeous bag Liz..I would like to know if you could do Embroidery couching with the Janome designs. .I have tried unsuccessful over dazzle thread needle only caught the dazzle once in awhile .I feel like I need to adjust the needle to a small zig zag..but cannot ..


    • lizafrica says:

      Hi Charlotte,

      I think dazzle may be a bit thin to work successfully with this attachment. The yarn or soft cording needs to fit snugly in the hole in the foot without snagging – ie should not be too thick for the hole either.



  3. Liz, this project is simply fabulous! I love the embroidery designs on the cork; they are perfect and look very sophisticated! I actually have been saving one piece of cork I bought a few years ago and admittedly, have been reluctant to use it because of how pricey it was! But that’s silly — and if I use it, I’ll be able to enjoy it, just as you have done here. Thank you for sharing all your tips and tricks; they are all very useful and valuable to help make this project fun and successful for everyone. Well done!


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