Make It: Mute Bags

If you follow me on Instagram you may have gleaned that in January I restarted playing the trumpet/ cornet and joined a brass band (Cirencester Band in case you’re interested) and a swing band (JJ’s Swing Band). I also invested in a full set of mutes, which I never used when I played at school, but which are really needed in the swing band and are used in quite a few of the brass band pieces. I spent about £150 on 4 mutes (Harmon, Straight, Cup and Practice in case you’re interested) and when I started carrying them around I worried that they would get scratched and dented by bouncing off each other, so I decided to make some little draw-string bags to keep them protected.

Working out the dimensions for the circle at the bottom of the bag and the rectangle for the sides took quite a bit of maths – maths which I hadn’t used since GCSE!   Πr² and all that.

Height Circumference Radius
Practice 18cm 21cm 4.8cm
Harmon 13cm 29cm 6cm
Cup 18cm 36cm 7.1cm
Straight 15cm 29cm 6cm

I added a 1cm seam allowance and then used the circle formulae (c = Πr² and r = (c÷2Π) to figure out the final measurements I needed. In retrospect I should have added more to the height of the side to allow for the drawstring and the bunching of the fabric, so if you use this tutorial, I would all a couple of centimetres to the height of whatever it is you want to put in a bag.

Radius Length of side Height of side
Practice 4.8cm 32.2cm 22cm
Harmon 6cm 39.7cm 17cm
Cup 7.1cm 46.6cm 22cm
Straigh 6cm 39.7cm 19cm

I used several things which were in my stash: leftover mustard denim from one of my cleo dresses, the scribble striped jersey (which I used to make my Marianne Dress and my cropped Inari tee) and some thick mystery fabric my friend gave me after making me a knitting needle case. The letters are made from a tiny bit of navy twill I had lying around.

The first thing I did was to stitch on the letters, using a narrow zig-zag stitch to stop them from fraying. I sewed the letters onto only the denim, so the stitching wouldn’t show on the inside.

The next thing I did was to sew the lining fabric (the stripey jersey) and the padding layers (the turquoise mystery fabric) together for each bag base and side, so I could treat them as one layer when stitching them together.

I then stitched the side rectangles into tubes, right sides together. I did this for the doubled up lining layer and the outer denim layer.

The next thing was to stitch the tube to the base of the bag – I’m not going to lie, this was really fiddley with the denim because it has no stretch at all. I marked the quarter points on the circle and the tube to help distribute the tube evenly around the circle.

At least I knew my maths worked!

I repeated the step with the lining pieces – it was way easier because the jersey obviously has stretch and the turquoise mystery fabric has enough stretch to help ease the 2 pieces together.

I trimmed the seam allowance down on the lining pieces because it was really bulky with the padding layer.

I then put the lining bag inside the outer bag – you don’t need to turn the lining bag the right way around as it is the opposite way around to the outer bag. I folded the 2 layers down by 1cm (the seam allowance I added), sandwiching the seam allowances between the 2 layers so the raw edges are all hidden.

I topstitched the 2 layers together a few millimetres from the top of the bag, and then did another line of stitching at a 1.5cm seam allowance to make a channel for the drawstring, which I bought from my local sewing shop.

I had to unpick just the lining between the 2 layers of stitching to allow me to get the string into the channel – because the side seam has been sewn over twice, I figured it wouldn’t unravel completely.

And here they are! I’m pretty pleased with how they turned out – they do make my mutes a lot more bulky to carry but I’m not constantly afraid of destroying them, especially given that they were fairly expensive.

This is the harmon (or wah-wah) mute, which is used for jazz mostly. It has a plunger in the middle, which you can adjust or remove – if you remove the plunger you get a sound like Miles Davis.

This is my cup mute, which muffles the sound more than the straight mute

The straight mute muffles the sound but it has a pretty sharp sound.

This is my practice mute, which completely deadens the sound, so I can practice without making my neighbours hate me!

Do you play any musical instruments? Will you make these draw-string bags for storing other things?