DIY: Make Yourself a Batwa
By Samina Mirza
Hi Masalamommas! Your aunty here with a DIY sewing post where I show you how to make a batwa (drawstring pouch), if you don’t know already. It’s much like the batwa your grandmother or great-grandmother carried around. The instructions assume that you’ve done very little sewing, so they may seem a little simplistic to those who are seasoned seamstresses.
The South Asian batwa is a small drawstring pouch which has been carried by women and men since the dawn of time. There’s a difference between a drawstring bag and the traditional South Asian batwa; it’s a feature which most people don’t notice unless they’re using it. To open the drawstring pouch you need to poke your fingers inside the opening and pull it apart. Not so the batwa; to open it you just pull a second set of strings. You see, there’s an extra stitch on the side which is not readily visible. Therein lies the secret of the batwa.
1.Inspiration: These small pouches epitomize the traditional silk/metallic fabric versions that people carried in their pockets or handbags to keep their “paan” or other edibles, or money handy.
The following instructions detail the making of a batwa in its most simple, primitive and most charming form, and made entirely by hand. If you have a sewing machine, by all means use it (except the drawstring).
2. Gather your supplies:
Fabric: ¼ yard of main fabric of your choice (use cotton or other stable fabric if you’re a beginning sewer)
¼ yard of lining fabric in the same or coordinating solid or print. If you have appropriate scraps of fabric, they should be at least 9 x 18 each for outer fabric and lining.
Matching sewing thread for each fabric Batwa pattern
Matching embroidery floss
Tapestry needle (it should have a large eye for the embroidery floss to go through)
Beads to attach as “pulls” (tassels are an alternative option)
Pattern supplied as a PDF, or create your own semi-circular shape. A batwa can also be a rectangle.
- Print and cut out paper pattern. Using the pattern, cut fabric as follows: 2 pieces of main fabric (red) and 2 pieces of lining fabric (blue).
- Place the two main (red) fabric pieces right sides together, and hand sew with a running stitch in a ¼ inch seam, ending with a knot, leaving the top straight edge open.
5 & 6. Repeat with the lining fabric (blue), BUT leave a 2 inch opening at the bottom. You now have two pouches, one with an opening. You may use a sewing machine for this step if you wish, just do not forget the opening in the lining pouch. Press both pieces
7. Sewing the pouches together: Turn the lining pouch right side out, nestle it inside the main (red) pouch), aligning the top straight edges of both, as shown in the photo. Right sides of fabric are facing each other.
8.Sew the two together around the top edge with a ¼” seam. Press.
- Pull out the lining portion – it’s now an oval shape.
- Using the bottom 2” opening in the lining pouch, turn the whole thing to the right side. This is how: reach in through the opening (blue), pinch the other end of the oval (red fabric) and bring it all out. The seams are now inside.
- Adjust the shape with your fingers, turning under the ¼” seam at the opening.
- Sew the 2 inch opening closed.
- Give it a good press.
- Push the lining (blue) portion back into the main (red) batwa portion. Press. The batwa is taking shape!
- Drawstrings: Thread tapestry needle with at least 36” of embroidery floss (you can shorten it later). Beginning at one side seam, ¼” below the opening, and making sure that you leave a 5” piece of embroidery floss on the side, sew a ½ inch running stitch to the opposite side seam.
- About 5” away from the side, attach the beads (or tassels if you prefer) to the embroidery floss by threading each bead and knotting below each bead. Bring back the floss to the seam and continue to stitch the other side of the pouch all the way to where you started.
- And…. this is where you take that crucial extra stitch over the side seam: just take the needle back and take one stitch over the previous one. Thread the beads (make a knot in the floss after each bead). Tie the end with the beginning 5” piece of floss. To make it secure, I use a seam sealant called Fray Check (you have to let the Fray Check dry before continuing). Cut away the extra floss at this end.
- Thread your tapestry needle again with floss and repeat the process in reverse. The “extra” stitch is now on the opposite side of the first one.
19 & 20. Batwa complete! Pull one set of beads to open, the other (on longer floss) to close. Now you can immediately start making another one; it’s hard to make just one …..
More about Samina Mirza
Samina is a naturalized American of Pakistani origins, with parental roots in Hyderabad Deccan. She’s been living in the USA since January 1974. She says, “This makes me a mish-mash of cultures as all immigrants are. I love the question, “where are you from – originally?” asked by a character in the original Ghostbusters movie. The question was addressed to a ghost.”
She’s the daughter of a journalist and an English teacher, wife of an engineer and the mother of a journalist and an architectural designer. She grew up and was educated in the city of Karachi, in a home pervasive with Deccani culture and dialect.
She has a wonderful blog called seweverythingblog.wordpress.com, and says, “My love of sewing, and sharing all aspects of it prompted me to start writing a sewing blog. Did I say I like to write, too? In the process of blog-writing, I jumped into the social media fray, and my privacy concerns went out the window.”
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