Je Suis Charlie – Sew Your Support

Je Suis Charlie Bag

Today people take to the streets of Paris to protest about the killings that have taken place there this week. I couldn’t ignore what had happened to a city I have visited and loved, or the fact that it was creatives who were attacked.

I know from reading blogs how many Sewists have been inspired by their visits to Paris, buying fabric in Montmartre and carrying it home to make dresses. I’ve done the same.

I had to show some solidarity.

When the slogan, Je Suis Charlie, trended on social media, I found my way forwards. For those of you who don’t know, this phrase has been adopted since the massacre of cartoonists, by people who want to show their support for freedom of expression. It’s beautifully simple and dramatic – all the best slogans are.

After witnessing the raging success of the Books Are My Bag campaign last year, I knew that the best way to get my message across was … by carrying my message. A bag it was!

Je Suis Charlie

I had plans to whip up a simple tote that people could easily duplicate. As is my way, the project became more complex the deeper I got into it. You could still whip up a simple tote, or anything else. A T-shirt? There are endless options.

I hope this tutorial helps – and not just people sewing bags. I would truly love it if you felt inspired to sew your own solidarity and support. Blogs are a bastion of freedom of speech and creativity. Please indulge me as I embrace both of these today. I’m lucky that I can.

This blog post was written in memory of Vanessa Cabban.


Canvas fabrics

  • A printer
  • Letter applique templates
  • 2 pieces of 20.5 x 15 inch canvas
  • 2 pieces of 20.5 x 15 inch lining fabric
  • 2 pieces of 20.5 x 15 inch sew-in batting
  • 1 piece of 11.5 x 7 inch lining fabric
  • Pieces of canvas for the lettering. Here is your opportunity to customise!
  • 4 25 x 3 inch strips of canvas for the handles
  • 225 x 3 inch strips of fusible interfacing for the handles
  • Wundaweb or fuse web
  • A sewing machine and walking foot
  • Thread and topstitching thread
  • Topstitching needle


At 60% size, print off the free letter applique templates from Simplicity.

Trace your reversed letters onto the paper back of your Wundaweb. Roughly cut out the letters.


Place the letters onto the wrong side of your canvas. The rough, glued side of the Wundaweb should face down onto the fabric.  Press over the paper with lots of steam, sealing the glue onto the fabric.

Don’t peel away the paper yet.

Accurately cut out your letters. I used my least favourite pair of sewing shears as the paper may slightly blunt blades.

Cutting Out

Position your letters onto the right side of your bag canvas.

Positioning letters

Once you’re happy with the positioning, peel away the paper back on each of your letters. Place them back into position and press with your iron, sealing into place.

Sealing letters

Baste batting to the wrong side of each piece of outer fabric.

Batting basted

Now, stitch each of your characters into place. Go on, do it! This will add to the longevitity of your make, with no fear of letters peeling away. I reduced the stitch length to facilitate going around corners and tricky details. Take your time. Have loo breaks. It took me about 25 minutes to stitch the entire phrase.

Letter L

Pin together the two pieces of the outer fabric, wrong sides together and sew along three edges (two short edges and one long edge).

PinningNow, you are going to box the two bottom corners of your bag. Fold the corners so that the bottom seam and side seam meet.

Place a pin through both seams to ensure they meet. Measure in 1.5 inches in from the tip of the point.

Sew along this marked line and snip off the corner. Turn the bag right side out. You have just made a neat boxed corner. Feel proud of yourself!

Bag corner CollageConstruct the two pieces of the lining fabric in exactly the same way. I added some neat pockets for iphone, Oyster card and house keys.


To make your straps, cut four lengths of canvas and fuse heavyweight interfacing to one pair of them.


Sew these together along one long edge, right sides together. Press in a 10mm seam allowance on each of the opposite long edges, fold over to meet and top stitch down. Add a matching row of top stitching down your first long seam.

Baste your handles to the top of the main bag canvas, with the handles facing down the bag. I placed each handle 3 inches in from the side seams.

Place the main bag with handles hanging downwards, inside the inside out lining fabric. Right sides of fabric should be matching. Pin around the top edge and sew, leaving a gap, so that you can turn your bag right side out.


Hand sew up the gap. Give everything a good press. You can topstitch around the mouth of the bag. You can. I did a terrible job.

You’re done! Next time someone tells you that sewing is just about silly dresses, you can reply, ‘Oh, it’s definitely about the dresses. But it’s about so much more as well…’

Je Suis Charlie Bag DidyoumakethatJe Suis Charlie Bag ii_edited-1

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43 Responses to Je Suis Charlie – Sew Your Support

  1. Caroline says:

    What a fabulous idea for such a good cause. A great tutorial too.
    Is that the ‘Lights of Soho’ exhibition you are at there? I’m popping along next Friday – it looks brilliant.

  2. sylkotwist says:

    Je suis Charlie, great post Karen, thank you. Such terrible news about Vanessa Cabban, I hadn’t heard about her death until reading this, an inspiring and talented creative, so very sad.

  3. Jenny Lester says:

    That’s fantastic Karen – away from home at the moment but intend to do this when I return what a wonderful idea!!

  4. Hélène says:

    “It’s about so much more…” You’re right.

  5. Maureen says:

    There’s a bit of brilliance. Thanks.

  6. Lucym808 says:

    What an incredible idea, and what a lovely bag. Can you blog about the reactions you get to it when you’re carrying it around?

    • Ha! I wondered why so many people were smiling at me on this afternoon’s dog walk. I mean, even more than usual when you’re out with a cute dog. I was wearing my bag across my shoulders!

  7. Stella says:

    What a lovely tribute to this atrocity. I lived in Paris for 7 years when I was young, and my Parisian husband would buy Charlie Hebdo quite often – I learnt about French politics that way! My tribute was to write “Je Suis Charlie Hebdo” on a postcard and put it next to a lit candle for a day on my mantelpiece, but I adore your idea of the bag – so much more permanent and public. Charb and the gang would be proud of you. I also love the idea that we sewists and bloggers should fully appreciate the fact that we are free to create and express ourselves. Freedom of expression is a huge gift – we are so lucky. Thanks, Karen, for a lovely, thoughtful post.

  8. Marie Noelle says:

    Merci Karen !!! What a fabulous tribute to freedom and creation

  9. What a lovely gesture! Having studied illustration I know a lot of other artists and cartoonists, and this really strikes close to home. The most important thing is to not let this have consequences for what we say or do… That would mean these few twisted individuals have won.

  10. Lesley Shedwick says:

    Well done Karen. Lovely thing to do.

  11. Birgit says:

    What a fantastic idea to carry out an important message!

  12. Stella says:

    I meant to say “to the victims of this atrocity” – sorry.

  13. sewbusylizzy says:

    You are a class act.

  14. Mary says:

    The end goal of Islam is to make all bow toallah. Failing that, all must acknowledge their leader as a prophet. This is really the same thing.
    If you search YouTube you’ll find one ‘prophecy’ he made that actually did happen. The video is titled “‘Who killed Mohammed?”. It is 24 min. 11 seconds long. Really interesting.
    Sun news Canada just recently did an interview with a young man who candidly stated his views on the religion he grew up with, and spoke about extremism… Great interview.

    Also, if you are wondering about the rabid anti-semitism everywhere. (But particularly noticeable in Islam, you’ll notice the the word of God does say “you will be hated of all men, for my name’s sake”. This is likely referring to followers of Christ, but since Jews are his chosen people, can also well mean them. If you want to know the Israeli side of things, check out their news on, Israel Today, stay informed, pray informed. BTW, the first curse that I can recall being mentioned in the word of God, is on Gaza. Check a KJV.
    There is a Pastor who talks about prophecy as proof. His name is Dave Hunt and he speaks on many prophecies which have already happened. Doesn’t claim to be a prophet himself. His sermon is called “Bible Prophecy Proof Jesus is the Christ, Jewish Messiah, God in the flesh- the berean

    By the way there are those who claim that the Bible has lot in common with the Koran. Some yes, but not as much as claimed. Their book claims that we were created from a clot of blood…. The Bible says we were created from dust. I wish I could find the article on those test results. There was a scientist who tested dust, and found that technically everything needed to create a human was in it. Assembly would be impossible for us though, haha.
    Your choice if you want my comment up or not. I’ll not take it personally either way. If you want to discuss, email.

    I too, am very sorry these people died. Freedom is a terrible thing to lose.

  15. Ellen says:

    A fitting affirmation.

  16. Jennifer Hill says:

    Had to reply to the previous comment, (Mary’s)…’The end goal of Islam is to make all bow to allah’? Maybe it says that somewhere in the Koran, but that would not be the view of the majority of ordinary, normal, kind, tolerant Muslims. In the same way, Christianity is faith of conversion, hence the Spanish Inquisition and all the missionaries in African countries in the 19th and 20th centuries, though the majority of Christians and aetheists of Christian origin (like me) are similarly open minded, tolerant and understanding of other faiths. That’s my experience here in the UK, certainly. I find it shocking and depressing if people actually believe that this violence is the ‘fault’ of the Islamic faith, a merciful religion. It is not, in the same way that the violence of the 70s to 90s in N. Ireland between Catholics and Protestants was not the ‘fault’ of the Christian religion. Those who wish to express themselves through violence and extreme views merely hide behind religion and pick out the bits they choose. Of course I don’t condone terrorism or violence of any kind, but I do strongly feel that a little more respect, tolerance of each others’ sensibilities and, well, yes, love between all three Abrahamic religions would not go amiss. For example, though freedom of speech is of course an essential part of a democracy, surely comment, critique and discussion in the Press need not comprise overt and intentional offence, such as through depicting images of Mohammad, which are not allowed in Islam at all, let alone offensive ones, as published by Charlie Hebdo and previously by Danish papers. I heard on BBC Radio 4 this morning a French commentator saying that Charlie Hebdo was previously a near bankrupt and borderline Islamophobic magazine, so things are rarely as straightforward as they seem, are they? I could go on but you’ll be relieved to know I won’t, but in short, respect and tolerance from all sides, PLEASE. Jen

    • Rebecca says:

      Marvellous response Jen. I am a dressmaker, love all things creative, love freedom of speech and I am a Muslim and I condone and hate what happened in Paris. Je ne suis pas Charlie because you will never catch me cause offence intentionally to anyones religion, race, sex or way of life no matter how different they are to my own.

    • Mary says:

      Since this is a sewing blog, I’ll be brief. You say respect and tolerance, I say research and defend your viewpoint, and be prepared to be humble in case you are proven wrong.
      (BTW, I’ve lived in Muslim countries, and had Muslim friends and employers. Am also friends with Hindus, Buddhists, and a Catholic.)
      Please research things like, why are no closed convents allowed in Mexico. Was Mohhamed’s wife really a nun? Religion is endlessly fascinating. Especially when combined with archeology.
      Please research.
      (The pics were offensive, but I wouldn’t it be better to leave vengeance for the Lord?) Again, I’m really sorry they died.
      Have said my piece
      Signing out now

  17. Tara says:

    Very nice. Great tutorial-thankyou!

  18. Thanks, everyone! In the spirit of freedom of expression, there is no editing of comments on this post. I know my readers can respect the principles of tolerance and kindness, and respect for the dead and grieving.

  19. Natalie says:

    Thank you for sharing this! A beautiful bag and a lovely gesture.

  20. sedgepig says:

    Fantastic bag idea. A little more tolerance would be a fantastic idea. Je suis charlie.

  21. Perfect tribute to Paris and also to Vanessa Cabban!

    Feel so so sadden by all the people who lost their lives in Paris and to the tragedy of Vanessa Cabban’s death!

  22. Lesley King says:

    Great idea. As the wife of a police officer the photo of that poor man Ahmed alone on the ground has hit me really hard. My husband goes to work each day with the intention of upholding the law and protecting innocent people from harm. I’m not only signed up to the phrase Je Suis Charlie but also Je Suis Ahmed.

    I’m travelling with work at the moment but will try to make a similar bag when I’m back. Well done!

  23. tinygoldenpins says:

    Thank you, Karen. I’ve been looking for something like this on the sewing blogs I visit and I should have known it’d be you to take this up. It’s lovely. I’m also proud of you for deciding not to delete comments — that’s the point, isn’t it? I wish we would spend more time listening to each other instead of trying to promote our own ideas but maybe, maybe, someday we will get there. Peace.

  24. Frenchfancy says:

    A fitting tribute. The freedom of the press is vital and must be maintained. We cannot allow terrorists to control journalists. Je suis Charlie.

  25. gingermakes says:

    It’s so hard to know what to do or how to respond in a helpful way in the wake of a terrible tragedy. Thanks for sharing such a lovely idea.

  26. Jacana says:

    Thank you Karen

  27. Florianne says:

    Thank you Karen for supporting us

  28. Fadanista says:

    Thank you for this wonderful tutorial. I’m from a long way away but also feel the need to make a public statement about what’s going on in the world, so am totally making one of these totes.

  29. I agree, our freedom to create and express ourselves is such a gift, but a gift that everyone should have! This idea is a great way to share our feelings with the world.

  30. Chris says:

    Thank you so much Karen for such an inspirational post, Would love to also show my support in such a creative way.

  31. This is so wonderful, Karen. What a stunningly simple statement of support your bag makes.

  32. Thank you Karen, our freedom of expression is something that we shouldn’t take for granted x

  33. danvillegirl says:

    Great idea and way to support this!

  34. Keren says:

    Lovely bag. Great and most appreciated tribute. Thank you – Keren from Israel

  35. Nina says:

    I shared the feeling of shock and horror at the attacks, and completely understand the impulse to do something meaningful in response. But somehow the phrase “Je suis Charlie”, and its widespread adoption by so many people (most of whom I suspect haven’t seen a copy of Charlie Hebdo before) makes me uncomfortable – given that the magazine has a record of publishing overtly racist (not just Islamophobic) material, it’s not an entity I want to associate myself with at all. Also, the overwhelming message from the media and governments, that the attack was simply about free speech, denies the global context and fails to relate the rise in extremism to the “war on terror”. There’s a very thoughtful article about it here: – “it is possible to defend the right to obscene and racist speech without promoting or sponsoring the content of that speech”.

    • Rachel says:

      Nina, I have been wondering about my thoughts on this event since it happened, without being able to put my finger on what it was about the “Je suis Charlie” that made me uncomfortable. Thank you for doing a better job than me and for posting the link (which I’m away to read). I know it’s Pollyanna, but I just wish that people could be nice to each other (meaning the wider world, not the context of this blog) and have each to his/her own.

  36. Mimi Godfrey says:

    I love it. Brilliant. And thank you for the tutorial!
    Greetings from the U.S.,

  37. Mimi says:

    And I am so sorry to hear of Vanessa’s death. I did not know her, but admired her work and her blog so much.
    — Mimi

  38. clolognegrrl says:

    Great idea, great bag. And great picture – I like the complete outfit you’re wearing!
    Also, you can sharpen your scissors again by cutting into aluminum foil or yoghurt lids. Honestly, it works.

  39. Pingback: An Event: Terror in Paris – Creativity Economy Society

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