This project is quite intensive, because it was one of those passion projects. I’ve been needing a huge bag with loads of pockets to carry every little thing I need when I’m out of the house for a while. It has a large back pocket, zippered front pocket, pockets inside for a sketchbook, pens, and a hidden pocket too 🙂 I used it during my most recent move to Daytona and it really saved me! Holding all that paperwork, pens, keys, electronics – it took quite a beating!
Maybe all the bells and whistles on this bag will save you too 😀 The outside has a big Union Jack decoration because I can’t stop watching British TV :B The bottom uses vinyl so it’s a bit more durable and resilient against moisture. And instead of a strap adjuster, it uses a belt buckle for an unusual touch (also because I ran out of strap adjusters XD).
It should be noted that since I’m busting my scrap stash, you’ll find that I used a lot of accent fabrics for different parts of the bag, but in the pattern I boiled them down to just outer fabrics and lining fabrics. The pictures should make it clear what’s what of course, but if you want to get the exact look that I did, read through the instructions first before cutting your fabric and I’ll tell you when I deviated from the main pattern.
At 51 steps, this is easily my longest project yet x_x I read over it several times to make sure there weren’t any errors, but since it is a free project it I can’t guarantee that it’s foolproof. Do let me know if you run into any snafus as you work so I can make fixes for the next brave sewist!
Materials & Tools:
• 1 yd. of 45” wide or 3/4” of 60” wide medium to heavyweight fabric for outer bag (I used twill)
• 1/4 yd. matching vinyl for bag bottom
• 1 1/2 yds. of lightweight fabric for lining (I used quilting cotton)
• 1 2/3 yds. of 20” wide or 3/4 yd. of 45” wide light to medium weight fusible interfacing
• 21” zipper (or longer; for top)
• 14” zipper (or longer; for front)
• 10” zipper (or longer; for lining)
• 2” wide belt buckle
• Two 1” wide rectangular metal rings
• Five 3/8” wide grommets
• Grommet setting tools
• Magnetic snap
• 3” x 3” scrap of fusible fleece interfacing
• 1/4 yd. of background stripe fabric (white)
• 1/8 yd. of main stripe fabric (purple)
• 1/8 yd. of accent stripe fabric (green)
• 2/3 yd. of 20” wide light or heavy duty fusible web (optional, see steps xx-xx)
Before you begin:
1. Print out the project pattern here
2. Assemble the pattern pieces, see the page here for more help
3. Lay out the pattern pieces on your fabric and cut them out.
4. Mark the fabric pieces with the markings from the pattern.
5. Just FYI, with 51 steps, the project is broken down by section of the bag. Should be much easier to tackle if you take it one section at a time!
The Inner Front: gather 2 Tall Pocket (B) lining pieces, 2 Short Pocket (A) lining pieces, and 1 Front/Back (C) lining piece
1. The inner front of the bag has two pockets, one large, the other shorter. Align a pair of Tall Pocket (B) and Short Pocket (A) pieces with right sides together (I used two different lining fabrics to eat up my scraps more), and sew them along the top straight edge. When finished, turn them right side out and press the top seam nice and crisp.
2. Layer the Short Pocket (A) over the Tall Pocket (B) and line up the raw edges at the bottom with all right sides facing up. Baste the layers in place and also add any extra lines going through the Short Pocket (A) to create separations. For instance I created some pencil pockets that were about 1 1/2” apart.
3. Now sew this whole configuration on top of one of your Front/Back (C) lining pieces. Align the raw edges along the bottom with all right sides facing up and baste the sides and bottom in place. This finishes the Inner Front! Set this aside until the “Bringing the Inside Together” section.
The Inner Back: gather 2 Hidden Pocket (D) lining pieces, 1 Front/Back (C) lining piece, 2 Short Pocket (A) lining pieces, and 10” zipper
4. The Inner Back has a set of short pockets and a zippered hidden pocket. We start first with the hidden pocket. The Hidden Pocket (D) has a zipper window; line this up with the zipper window on one of the Front/Back (C) lining pieces with right sides together. Sew around this rectangle to create the window.
6. Turn the pieces right side out by slipping the Hidden Pocket (D) into the opening you’ve cut and flatten out the pieces and the seam. The corners will be a little tight, but press them really well to get a clean looking window for your zipper.
7. Install the zipper by placing it under this opening and centering the zipper teeth through the opening. Make sure the zipper slider is within the window, then pin it in place (taping or gluing also works and is less obtrusive). From the front side of this piece, sew around the edge of the window as close as you can to the seam – a zipper foot really helps here.
8. When you’ve finished sewing the zipper, trim off the excess tape and add the last Hidden Pocket (D) piece to the current one with right sides together. Sew the two together with a 1/4” seam allowance. You’ll likely need to move the Front/Back (C) piece out of the way to do this.
9. To finish the Inner Back, we’re just adding one more set of short pockets. Take your two Short Pocket (A) pieces and line them up along the top straight edge. Sew them together along this edge and turn the pieces right side out and press when complete.
10. Align the short pocket on top of the Front/Back piece from step 8. Match up the bottom edges with right sides both facing up. Baste the pocket in place along the sides and bottom as well as any separating lines you’d like to sew to make particular pockets for anything. You’ll want to move the hidden pocket out of the way so you don’t accidentally sew over it. Your Inner Back is all done; set it aside until the “Bringing the Inside Together” section.
The Outer Back: gather 1 Tall Pocket (B) outer fabric piece, 1 Tall Pocket (B) interfacing piece, 1 Tall Pocket (B) lining piece, 1 Front/Back (C) outer fabric piece, 1 Front/Back (C) interfacing piece, fusible fleece scrap, and magnetic snap
11. Fuse the interfacing pieces to their corresponding Tall Pocket (B) and Front/Back (C) outer fabric pieces. Since the Tall Pocket (B) interfacing is without seam allowances, make sure the interfacing is centered properly in the middle of the pocket before fusing. Note here that I’m using purple plaid for an accent on my Tall Pocket (B) which would otherwise be the same as the rest of the outer fabric if I weren’t using assorted fabrics to bust my stash.
12. Bring together both Tall Pocket (B) pieces, the outer fabric and the lining and align them by the top straight edge. Sew these two pieces in place along this edge, then turn right side out and press flat.
13. Up next is to install the magnetic snap. To give the snap some extra support, fuse the scrap of fusible fleece interfacing around where the snap will be placed, centered on the upper edge of the Tall Pocket (B) lining.
14. To install the snap where the pattern guideline indicates, press the prongs of the thin half of the snap into the right side of the lining fabric. Cut two little slits where the prongs dented the fabric, then push the snap through the slits. Add the base on the other side and bend the prongs back with a pair of pliers.
16. With the Tall Pocket (B) all basted, it’ll be easier to tell exactly where to place the socket half of your magnetic snap. See where the upper half of the snap lands on the Front/Back (C) piece and install the other half of the snap there. And this section’s finished! Set aside this piece until the “Bringing the Outside Together” section.
The Outer Front: gather 2 Front Pocket (E) outer fabric pieces, 2 Front Pocket (E) interfacing pieces, 2 Front Pocket (E) lining pieces, 4 Zipper Tab (F) appliqué fabric pieces, 1 Front/Back (C) outer fabric piece, 1 Front/Back (C) interfacing piece, all of your appliqué pieces, and the 14” zipper
17. Apply the Front Pocket (E) fusible interfacing to the Front Pocket (E) outer fabric pieces.
18. For the appliqué, I opted not to use any fusible web because I wanted my appliqué edges to stay raw and get frayed. But if you’d rather not have that, you should trace the appliqué outlines to your fusible web, iron the fusible web to the corresponding appliqué fabrics, cut out the shapes, and fuse them to your Front Pocket (E) pieces in this order. First up is the background diagonal stripes. Line those up in the corners and they should overlap near the top. After that put in the diagonal accent stripes. Sew them around the edges either with a zigzag stitch or a straight stitch as I’ve done.
19. After that are the straight background stripes; vertical first, then horizontal. These overlap the diagonal ones. Lastly there are the main stripes done the same way. The last horizontal main strip will go against the edge so the zipper seam only has 2 layers of fabric; less bulk that way.
21. Time to prepare the zipper! To get it ready to sew, we’re adding some zipper tabs to each end. Trim the zipper to 13” long, then sandwich each end of the zipper with two Zipper Tabs (F) and sew through all 3 layers. When finished, trim the seam allowance to 1/4 and press the fabric away from the zipper.
22. Install it to your front pocket by sandwiching it between the Front Pocket (E) outer fabric piece (complete with appliqué) and the Front Pocket (E) lining piece with the right side of the zipper facing the outer fabric. Match up the upper edge and sew through all three layers with a 1/4” seam allowance. Note here that I’m using more green plaid as my lining instead of more of the lining fabric you had seen before. Repeat this with the other side of the pocket and the other Front Pocket (E) outer fabric and lining pieces.
24. We’re ready to attach these pockets to a base, but first that base needs a layer of interfacing. Fuse the Front/Back (C) interfacing piece to the back of the Front/Back (C) outer fabric piece. Note that I’m using more green plaid as my outer fabric here to use up my stash 😄 but also for a nice pop of color. So it’s not the typical black outer fabric as in the rest of the bag.
25. Lay your Front Pocket (E) piece on top of the Front/Back (C) piece with both right sides facing upward. Then baste around the entire perimeter of the layers to hold everything in place. That completes the Outer Front! Set this piece aside until the “Bringing the Outside Together” section.
The Strap & Handle: gather your Strap (L) outer fabric and Strap (L) interfacing, the Handle (G) outer fabric and the Handle (G) interfacing, 2 Tab (H) outer fabric pieces, 2 Tab (H) interfacing pieces, the belt buckle, the grommets, and the two rectangular metal rings
26. Up first is the strap. Just like with a lot of the other pieces, apply your Strap (L) interfacing to the Strap (L) outer fabric by ironing it in place. When finished, trim off 6” at the end of the strap, this will be your Buckle Tab. Set this aside until step 31.
28. Trim the extra seam allowance from the pointed end and turn the Strap (L) right side out. It’s best to use a blunt tool like the wrong end of a chopstick or a dowel to get this started, since it’s quite easy to accidentally poke a hole in your strap with something sharper.
30. Next up, install the grommets near the pointed end of your Strap (L). Center them along the strap and space them out about 3” or so apart. It really depends on how much you want your strap to adjust, but that’s what I went with. The strap is ready to go! Set this aside until the “Bringing the Outside Together” section.
31. Get out the Buckle Tab back from step 26 and start assembling it. Fold under the long edges by 1/2” and press them in place. Then fold the whole piece in half lengthwise with wrong sides together. When everything’s folded, edge stitch both sides just like in step 29 with the strap.
32. Fold the finished Buckle Tab in half widthwise and cut a small hole in the center, this is for your buckle tine. Loop the buckle through the tab, inserting the tine in the hole. Put a dab of fray-blocking liquid on the hole for a bit of insurance. Bring together the raw edges of the tab and baste them together. Buckle’s all ready now! Set this aside until the “Bringing the Outside Together” section.
33. Up next is the handle. First of course is to fuse the Handle (G) interfacing piece to the Handle (G) outer fabric piece as well as the Tab (H) interfacing pieces to the Tab (H) outer fabric pieces.
34. For the Handle (G), fold under each long edge by 1/2” and iron in place, then fold under each short edge by 1/2” and iron in place. To finish, fold the entire handle in half lengthwise with wrong sides together and iron the whole thing flat.
36. Attach the Handle (G) to the rectangular metal rings by folding over the short edges by 1” and wrapping those edges around the rectangular metal rings, one on each side. With the overlap, sew the ends of the handle in place by going back and forth with a straight stitch for extra strength.
37. To make the tabs, fold under each long edge by 1/2”, then each short edge by 1/2” and iron the folds in place. Then fold the whole tab in place widthwise. Set those aside until the “Bringing the Outside Together” section.
Bringing the Outside Together: gather your Top Front (I) outer fabric and interfacing pieces, the Top Back (J) outer fabric and interfacing pieces, 4 Zipper Tab (F) outer fabric pieces, the Bottom (K) vinyl piece, your Handle (G), Strap (L), 21” zipper, and outer Back and Front sections.
38. First we start off with the Top Front (I) and Top Back (J). Just like with a lot of the other pieces, we iron the corresponding interfacing pieces before we can get started.
39. Now prep your zipper. Trim the zipper to 21 1/4” long and add the Tabs (F) by sandwiching the zipper between two Tab (F) pieces and sewing through all three layers. Trim the seam allowance to 1/4” and press the fabric away from the zipper.
40. Now apply the zipper to your Top Back (J) piece with right sides facing. Align the long edge with the zipper tape and sew it in place with a 1/4” seam allowance. When finished, sew the Top Front (I) on the other side of the zipper tape in the same manner.
42. Up next is to add the handle. Take your Handle (G) piece from step 36 and the Tabs (H) as well. Loop the tabs around the other end of the rectangular metal rings, then align the tabs onto the pattern guidelines on the Top Back (J). When everything is aligned (dabs of glue or tape help here if pins are too obtrusive), sew around the Tab (H) in a little square to anchor the Handle (G).
43. After the handle, add in the Strap (L) and Buckle Tab on each side. I wear my bag on my right hand side and I want people to see the buckle, so basted the Buckle Tab on the left and side and the Strap (L) on the right. Center the raw ends over the zipper and baste in place with all right sides facing upward.
45. Since we’re working with vinyl, it’s going to react to topstitching a lot better than ironing. So after finishing the seam, fold it towards the vinyl and edge stitch the previous seam to flatten things out nicely.
46. Your top and bottom are all complete! Now we can add it to the front and back. Take the edge of the Top/Bottom with the Top Back (J) side and line it up with the edge of the Outer Back section we completed in step 16. You’ll see that the seams from step 44 should line up with the square markings from the pattern. Pin up the edges the rest of the way, noting that you might want to clip about 3/8” into the seam allowance at the corners to make turning around the curves easier. When everything’s all lined up, sew the edges in place. Move the zipper slider to the middle and repeat this step with the Outer Front section and the other side of the Top/Bottom.
Bringing the Inside Together: gather your Top Front (I) lining fabric piece, the Top Back (J) lining fabric piece, the Bottom (K) lining piece, the Inner Front section, Outer Front section, and the whole Outer Bag for last
47. Take your Top Front (I) and Top Back (J) lining pieces and fold under one long edge of each by 1/2” and press them flat.
48. Align the short edge of these with the short edge of the Bottom (K) lining piece. When aligned flush with the Bottom (K), there should be about a 1/2” gap in the middle where the folded edges rest. Sew the edges together here.
50. Grab your Inner Front piece and align the Top/Bottom section you just created around it, making sure the edge with the Top Front (I) gets pinned to the Inner Front. We’re repeating the same thing as step 46, sewing the Top/Bottom around the sides of the Inner Front and Back pieces. Be sure to match up the square markings and clip the seam allowances in the corners to help with the curves. When you’ve sewn the Inner Front and Back to both sides, your Inner Bag is all done!
51. To join the Inner Bag to the Outer Bag, first turn the Outer Bag inside out. Turn the Inner Bag right side out and nestle the Outer Bag inside. The folded opening in the Inner Bag should line up with the zipper from the Outer bag, allowing you to stitch all around and join the two halves. Sew it all in place with a slip stitch as well as a few more tacking stitches around the side seams to keep the lining anchored within the bag.
Whew! All done! That was quite an undertaking, but I can see if you wanted to make it easier on yourself you could take out some of all those pockets and make the front plain as well. The bare bones pattern is rather basic, actually!
If you do try making the project, I’d love to see it! Send me a photo and I’ll send you exclusive free patterns as a reward!