How to make a versatile project bag

March 29, 2020

Steel yourself for a free bag pattern, with LOTS of options! Today I am sharing this super versatile project bag. Please do not be intimidated, this is an easy bag to make, its just that I have given you many variables – in part as I wish to share how easy it is to change the feel of a bag simply by tweaking the handles, closure or external fabrics. 

This bag is perfect for taking craft projects out and about with you. The finished project bag measures, at the base 8″ wide, 5″ deep, and is 7 1/2″ tall.

Firstly make your design decisions – one fabric or two for the outer bag? With an external pocket or not? What type of handle? Leather, fabric or webbed.

Before you start constructing here are the three versions I have made all from a canvas weight fabric with a woven iron-on interfacing as a starting base for adding shape to the bag.

Bag A – Nice and simple, leather handles and button closure. This has Annies Soft and Stable as stabiliser which gives the bag great form.

Bag B – Made with an external pocket, cream corded handles made with webbing and magnetic snap closure. Made with iron-on interfacing and Decovil I.

 

Bag C – Made with two contrasting fabric, padded handles and top closure zipper. Made with fusible fleece. 

Personally I am rather passionate about bag making – if you are new to bag making I have the perfect Beginners Bag Making Course for you which covers so many essential skills for bag making, and includes many free bag tutorials. 

 

Plan your bag and read through the instructions fully before you start. What pattern pieces do you need? What fabric choice have you made and is your choice of stabilizer suitable? If you need help thinking through bag stabilizers check out my post Choosing interfacing and fabrics for bags.

Download this free printable Project Bag Materials List and select your choices, this will provide you with a list of materials you need for your selection. 

Here are the measurements for the bag pattern pieces, I suggest creating pattern pieces using a quilters ruler to measure out. If you prefer to print pattern pieces check out this pattern on my Etsy shop for a small thank you price of £2. Every small purchase helps me purchase bag making supplies to share more patterns and tutorials.

Firstly we are going to construct the outer pieces of bag, then the lining, and sew up your choice of handle.  Lastly, we will construct the bag, there are different methods depending upon your choice of bag closure.

 

Personally I am rather passionate about bag making – if you are new to bag making I have the perfect Beginners Bag Making Course for you which covers so many essential skills for bag making, and includes many free bag tutorials. 


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External Bag 

If you are using tow fabric choices for your bag or adding an external pocket do this first.

External Pocket

Cut out your pattern pieces and mark the darts.

 

Fold the fabric along the darts (rights sides together) and stitch the dart.

Repeat for the second side of the bag, then place the fabrics right side together, so the darts align.

 

Stitch around the sides and base, and a small distance either side for the top. This allows a straight turning gap.

 

Turn right sides out, and turn in raw edges, press with an iron.

 

Topstitch the top edge of the pocket, closing the turning gap.

Place the pocket, centrally, on the external bag, note how the bottom of the pocket is fractionally higher than the boxed corners.

 

I have used pins to hold in place, you can use fabric double-sided tape. You do not want your pocket sliding around as you sew.

For the closing flap of the pockets create a loop of elastic thread, a suitable size for your button. Place so the loop is pointing inwards, centrally then baste in position.

 

As before place the two pieces right sides together and as before stitch around with a turning gap. Trim the corner and snip into the curved edges. Turn, press in the turning gap.

Pin the closing flap onto the fabric right sides facing, just above the bottom of the pocket. Stitch in place, this will close the turning gap at the same time as securing the closing flap. Either stitch twice or backstitch at each end.

 

Sew on your button to finish the pocket, fold down and press.

 

 

Two fabrics 

Cut the two choices of fabric, add iron-on interfacing if required (as my fabrics are a heavyweight you will see that I haven’t). Place right sides together and stitch with a seam allowance of 1/2″.

 

Press the seam allowance open.

 

Add fusible fleece to the wrong side, following the manufacturer’s instructions.

Bag Handles

There are many choices of handles from buying ready-made handles to repurposing from a second-hand bag to making your own padded or corded handles. I have chosen to add bag handles which are 21″ or 55cm long. 

Place your chosen handles from the side 1 3/4″  (4 1/2cm) and 2 1/4″ (5 1/2cm) from the top. Attach your handles before you sew the bag up (if you are using cap rivets you may prefer to do this at the end).

Bag Lining Slip Pocket

Iron fusible interfacing to the wrong side of the lining fabric pieces.

For the inner slip pocket, fold the fabric wrong sides together.

 

Machine stitch along two of the edges, turn right side out and fold in the raw edges and press.

Place centrally, 3″ from the top of the lining fabric, with the pressed raw edges facing the bottom.

 

Stitch in place ensuring you are backstitching at the top of each side of the slip pocket.

 

How to make Project Bag with magnetic closure or button closure

Magnetic Snap

Install magnetic snap  2″ from the top centrally into the lining. I add a square of fusible fleece onto the back of the lining for additional strength first.

Mark the point.

Snip with a seam ripper.

Place the magnetic snap in position.  Finally, add a square of iron-on interfacing on the back for additional strength. See my detailed tutorial for how to install a magnetic snap.

Button closure

To create a button loop, fold a 1″ wide piece of fabric half longways and press, open out and fold your long edges into this pressed line and press. Fold again, along the originally pressed line, so the raw edges are now fully enclosed. Machine stitch to secure.

 

Place centrally on the back pattern piece so the raw edges align and you have a loop facing the bag piece. When calculating the loop size required remember to allow seam allowance of 1/2″ for front and back of the bag. Baste in place.

 

Sew up the Bag

Place the outer bag pieces right sides together (the version pictured has Annies Soft and Stable as a stabiliser).  Machine stitch the sides and the bottom seam with a 1/2″ seam allowance.

 

Fold the corners so the edges align and stitch along, creating the boxed corner.

Repeat for the lining, with two exceptions. The side seams will be the same width at the top of the seams but gradually widen a fraction as you stitch towards the base of the bg. This will helps you lining fit neatly in the bag and not be baggy.

The bottom seam of the lining requires a 5″ turning gap, as we are using the turn through method of constructing the bag.

 

Insert the exterior bag into the lining so that the right side of the exterior bag. Pin all around, ensuring the side seams are pressed open. Stitch around the top of the bag, use a long stitch, strong needle and stitch slowly to help your machine cope with the bulk of the fabric.

 

Pull the bag through the opening gap (in the base of the lining). Press the seam you have just stitched.

 

Fold the lining into the bag, press this top seam and pin. 

 

 

Topstitch this seam.

Lastly, pull the lining out, fold the raw edges in and topstitch to close the turning gap.

How to make Project Bag with Top Zipper Closure

This bag has a top zipper closure, it is constructed in a similar fashion to a zipper pouch

You will need a zipper approximately 16″ long. Make a zipper tab for each end of your zipper – cut out a rectangle of fabric, you are going to fold the edges in then fold in half. The finished size should be the width of your zip. Fold in the long ends, then the short ends and tucked in the corners.

Place the zipper inside the zipper tab and stitch to secure. 

 

Now bear with me – as you will wonder how this comes together, but trust me it does!

 

Place your exterior fabric right sides facing, then place your zip wrong side down, the edge of the zipper tape aligning with the top edge of the fabric. Lastly, place your lining wrong side facing. Pin these layers together, alternatively, you could use double tape to hold the zipper sandwich together.

 

Mark 2″ from each end, stitch between these two marks the zipper in place (using a zipper foot), take care to backstitch at each end. 

 

 

Press both fabrics away from the zipper. Fold under the edges where we left a 2″ opening and press.

 

 

Repeat for the second side.

Bring the exterior fabrics together, aligning the bottom edges and side edges. Pin along the sides then stitch the side seams, when you get to the top by the zipper, ensure you stitch right to the very end, opening out the folded fabric.

 

Iron the seams open. Unzip the zipper – then finish sewing the exterior of the bag so the bottom seam followed by boxing the corners,

Repeat for the lining of the bag, but don’t forget to allow a turning gap of a good 5″ along the bottom seam.

 

Next for the moment, turn your bag right sides out, then pull your zipper tabs out. 

 

Finally, turn in the two edges, do a final press pulling the fabric away from the zipper, continuing all the way around the bag. It can be a little fiddly but it’s worth the time. I have tacked my turned in edges to stop the fabric slipping around and topstitch.

 

Topstitch all around the bag, around the zipper and the open area at each end of the zipper.

Lastly, pull your lining out, fold in the raw edges add either ladder stitch or topstitch to close.

 

 

Whoah, one seriously long free bag tutorial with so many options, I hope you like it! (and that I have not missed anything from these instructions!)

 

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A passion for sewing, upcycling and caring for the environment - the perfect excuse to haunt charity shops for bargains!

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