Messenger Bag Tutorial

Today I’m going to show you how to make a messenger bag!  The messenger bag is one of my favorites … I love wearing it with the strap across my body so I can keep my hands free.  It’s my favorite kind of bag to wear on a walk on our local trail — my hands are free for walking, but it’s still big enough to hold my wallet so I can stop by stores along the way.  In fact, I walked to meet some friends tonight with this new bag I whipped up!  PS: I like to call this bag the Rory bag because it reminds me of something Rory Gilmore of Gilmore Girls would wear.

Hi, my name is Lauren and I am a TV nerd.

What you’ll need:
– About a yard of both the outer fabric and the lining fabric.  If your outer fabric is 54″ wide, you could get by with 3/4 yard.
– Optional, fabric for applique on the flap
– Optional, fusible fleece or a stiff interfacing for structure
– Coordinating thread

1. Cut your fabric.
Assuming you’ve prewashed and dried your fabric according to the directions on the bolt, cut your fabric like this:
Outer Fabric
1 – 14 in. wide x 25 in. tall (body)
1 – 12 in. wide x 13.5 in. tall (flap)
1 – 44 to 54 in. long x 4 in. wide (strap)

Lining Fabric
1 – 14 in. wide x 25 in. tall (body)
1 – 12 in. wide x 13.5 in tall (flap)
2 – 9 in. wide x 5.5 in. tall (pocket)

To make the flap curves, I used a 6.5″ circle.  I folded each piece wrong sides together, pinned the circle on, and cut off the edges.  Voila!  Instant, symmetrical curve.  Don’t have something 6.5″ in diameter?  Get it here.

At this point, I would show you a lovely picture of all my cut fabric, but alas — my camera hates me.  What was once saved, is now lost. 😦

2. Sew the strap
Because I love longer straps, I cut a 54 in. strap.  I wanted plenty of fabric to work with.  Take your strap and press it in half with the right sides together.  Then sew up the raw edge with a 1/4″ seam allowance.

Now turn the strap inside out.  I use a method that involves a safety pin and a chopstick.  The safety pin is used to get the fabric started and the chopstick helps guide the safety pin through.  Use whatever method works for you … no one said it would be easy!

After turning it right side out, press flat, and then stitch down each side of the strap to finish it off nicely.

3. Sew the inside pocket.
Put the two 9×5.5 pieces right sides together and pin.  Sew around the sides, leaving a 2-3 inch gap at the bottom.  (Make sure to backstitch!)  Before turning it right side out, make sure to clip your corners, being sure not to cut through the stitching.  This will help you have nice square corners.  Turn the pocket right side out and push the corners out.  Topstitch along the top of the pocket.  If you’d like to whipstitch the gap along the bottom of the pocket closed, feel free, but it will also be sewn closed when we attach it to the lining.  Press the pocket to get any wrinkles out.

4. Attach the inside pocket.
Now, take your long lining piece.  Place the pocket about 4 inches from the top of the right side of the lining piece.  Make sure it’s centered and pin.  At this point, I also like to take my water soluble pen and mark the center of the pocket.  This will be a double slip pocket, so having the centered marked will keep your line straight.

Sew around the sides and bottom of the pocket, being sure to backstitch.  Sewing along the bottom should close the gap!

Sew along the center line you marked, again being sure to backstitch.  This will keep the stitches strong and ensure you don’t have a pocket that rips off from use.

5. Sew your flap.
If you’d like to add any applique to your outer flap, do so now.  I will wait.  🙂  (Later this week I will post a short overview on how I created the applique pattern on my bag.)

OK, now take your outer and lining flap pieces.  Line them them, right sides together, and pin.  Sew around the sides, leaving the top open.  This will be stitched later, so no worries about the edges being raw.  Clip the curves of the flap and turn right side out.  I stitched around the edges of the flap again because I think it makes it look a bit nicer.  This step is not necessary though.

6. Sew the body of the bag.
Take the long outer piece, fold it in half right sides together, and pin.  Sew along both sides.

Now comes the tricky part.  This bag requires a boxy bottom, so we need to square the corners.  First, press the bottom of the bag so you have a distinct crease you can see down the center of the bottom of the bag.  Now, take the seams from one side of your bag and pull out the corner of your bag.  Lay it down on your creased line so it looks like a triangle.

Clear as mud?

Take a ruler and find where the width of your triangle measures 3 inches.  (Why 3 inches?  The bag is essentially a cube and we need to create that — width x length x height! 3 inches is our magic number, but if you want to make it 2 or 4 inches, feel free!)

Mark all the way across your fabric with a water soluble marker or white fabric pencil and pin.  Repeat on the other side.

Sew along the line on each side.  You can trim the triangle off at the point, or you can leave it on.  Up to you.  I like to trim mine.

Turn your bag body right side out and lookie there!  You’ve almost got a bag!

7. Attach the flap.
Determine which side of the bag you want to be the back.  Honestly, either way is fine … they are the same!  Take the flap and pin it right sides together with the back side of the bag.  With the presser foot on the inside of the bag, attach the flap.  Easy peasy.

8. Attach the strap.
Take your strap and pin it in place on both sides of the bag.  Center the strap with the side seams and leave a bit of an overlap.  I left about an inch or so.  Make sure your strap is pinned so it wraps underneath the bag (not over like you would wear it).  By this I mean, pin it upside down. 🙂  This will make more sense later.

Take the strap, sling it over your body, and determine the best length for you.  Now, I ended up making mine a bit too long, but it’s not too bad.. Adjust your strap until it’s perfect for you.  Once you like the length, baste stitch the strap on.  Trim any excess strap you don’t need.

9. Sew the lining.
You’re going to sew the lining just like you sewed the body, including squaring the corners.  Go back to step six and sew up the lining using those same directions.

10. Sew your bag together.
You’re almost done!  You need to put the outer bag and the lining RIGHT SIDES TOGETHER.  So, lining up the inside pocket with the outer flap, place the outer bag inside the lining.  Your outer bag fabric should be turned right side out; the lining fabric should be right side in.  Stuff the strap down along the bottom (you don’t want it to be in the way of your stitching) and pin along the top of the bag.  Sew the two bag parts together along the top, leaving about a 4-5 inch gap along the front.  Backstitch well!

11. Almost done!
Pull the bag right side out through the gap you left.  Press the seam left by turning and topstitch around the entire bag again.  I like to finger press as I go to make sure the lining and outer bag are matched up nicely.

And …. done!

This technique can be easily adapted to other sizes, etc.  Just figure out what size you need and adjust accordingly.  This messenger bag size probably won’t hold a large book or binder, but you can adjust the measurements to what YOU need!  It’s a basic technique that you can change around as you need.  Enjoy!

3 thoughts on “Messenger Bag Tutorial

  1. Pingback: Applique Tutorial « The Domestic Librarian

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