Who said functional has to be boring?
This ruffle duffle bag is the epitome of practicality, wrapped in a stylish presentation. No more drab canvas. Combine roominess, pockets and a zipper closure with a bright print to turn this utilitarian bag into a designer one-of-a-kind.
Tip: Use cotton laminate to make your duffle bag even more road-ready. It is easier to clean and will keep its appearance longer.
Supplies to Sew a Ruffle Duffle Bag
- 1 yard main fabric*
- 1 yard lining fabric*
- 14 inch zipper
- 3 yards of webbing (synthetic or natural fiber)
- Coordinating thread
- Iron, press cloth, and ironing surface
- Clover Wonder Clips
- Walking foot (BERNINA Walking Foot #50)
- Sewing machine
*A note about the fabric: For this project I used a cotton laminate (purchased from Oilcloth Addict). You could also use a heavyweight home décor or canvas fabric, but in this tutorial it is assumed that you’re using a cotton laminate. I recommend using a walking foot, Wonder Clips, and tape (instead of pins) when working with laminates.
Step 1) Prepare the fabric pieces.
Cut out the main bag, lining, pockets, pocket ruffle pieces, webbing straps, and webbing pull tabs as noted below.
Duffle Bag exterior:
- Cut a 23″ x 32″ rectangle from the main fabric.
- Fold in half to 23″ x 16″.
- Cut the corners as shown in the diagram.
- Open the fabric; the measurements should be as shown below.
Lining: Cut one from lining fabric to the same dimensions as above, using the main fabric piece as a pattern.
Pocket: Cut two 6-1/2″ x 16″ rectangles from lining fabric.
Ruffle: Cut two 2″ x 13″ strips from lining fabric.
Pull tabs: Cut two 3″-long pieces of webbing.
Straps: Cut one 100″-long piece of webbing.
Baste or serge the main and lining fabrics together, placing them wrong sides together.
Tip: Avoid using pins in laminated fabrics — Wonder Clips are a great alternative.
Step 2) Make the pockets.
Tip: When ironing laminate fabrics, set the iron on a low to medium setting and use a press cloth to avoid melting the plastic coating.
Fold each pocket in half lengthwise; press.
Fold the top edges 1/4″ to the wrong side; press.
Next, take the ruffle pieces and fold them in half lengthwise so they’re each 1″ x 13″; press.
Increase your machine’s stitch length to the longest setting. Sew 1/4″ away from the raw edges. Do not backstitch!
To create a ruffle, gather the fabric by pulling on the top thread while pushing the fabric toward the center. You can work from both ends, but only pull the top thread.
Once the ruffle piece is about 7-1/2″ long, set your stitch length back to normal. Turn the ends under 1/4″ two times; stitch in place to finish the edges. The final length of the ruffle piece should be 6-1/2″.
Now attach the ruffle to the back layer of the pocket, and baste 1/4 away from raw edge.
Fold the top layer of the pocket over the ruffle.
Topstitch, securing the ruffle seam allowances to the pocket.
Baste both unfinished sides of the pocket to hold the layers together.
Center the bottom of the pocket in line with the two right angles at the bottom of the bag (center of the fabric), about 4-1/2″ away from those corners. The top edge of the pocket will be about 4″ away from the edge of that part of the bag. Tape the pocket in place.
Topstitch both sides and the bottom of the pocket to the bag. Reinforce the bottom of the pocket by sewing it twice, with a small stitch length. Remove the tape as you go and, of course, make sure you don’t sew the top of the pocket shut!
Step 3) Attach the Straps.
Take the long webbing pieces and sew the ends together. Use a zig zag stitch to protect the raw edges and prevent them from raveling.
Carefully measure and position the straps, and tape them to the bag. Be sure the handles of the bag are equal in length. Position the straps to cover the raw edges of the pockets as shown in the photo below.
Edgestitch along both sides of each strap, stopping at the top edge of the pockets. Then repeat on the other side for the other strap.
Create a box with an X at each end of the straps, parallel to the pocket’s top edge.
Step 4) Insert the zipper.
For inserting the zipper, use either a zipper foot, standard foot, or perhaps the walking foot. Sew as close to the zipper’s edge as possible.
On the top edge of the bag, place the zipper wrong side down (so right sides are together). Pin (in the seam allowance) one side of the zipper to the edge of the bag. Stitch.
The zipper is now attached to one side of the bag; now it needs to be turned right side out and topstitched.
Line up the presser foot with the edge of the zipper, put the needle a little to the left, and topstitch.
Tip: What should you do when you get to the zipper pull and you can’t sew a straight line around it? Put your needle down, lift the presser foot, and zip the pull up and out of the way. Continue sewing.
After the first row of top-stitching is complete, add a second row by following the first row with your presser foot edge.
Now it’s time to attach the zipper to the opposite side of the bag. Place right sides of the bag together, with the zipper sandwiched inside. Tape the unsewn zipper to the edge, and sew like you did the first time. Be sure the edges of the bag are directly across from each other, so they will meet when the zipper is closed.
Now turn right side out and topstitch twice like you did on the other side.
Step 5) Add the pull tabs.
Fold the pull tab in half and place the raw edge along the raw edge where the zipper ends. Sew across, perpendicular to the zipper. Make sure you don’t break your needle on the zipper or metal! Repeat for the pull tab at the other end of the zipper.
Step 6) Finish your tote!
Put the 8-1/2″ edges at one end of the bag right sides together. Stitch using a 1/4″-wide seam allowance. Sew this seam twice for reinforcement, then zigzag or overcast the raw edge for extra security. Repeat for the 8-1/2″ edges at the other end of the bag.
This is the last part! Where the two right angles meet up, pull them away from each other to make a straight seam. So, where my finger is, that corner will be at the beginning of the seam, and the other right angle will be at the end of the seam.
Here’s what I mean. Pull the corner away, and the sides line up. Sew a straight line 1/4″ from the raw edges to connect the bottom of the bag to the side. Do the same thing at the top of the bag. Make sure the side seam is folded the same way at the top and bottom. Repeat this process on the other side of the bag.
And now you are almost done! Trim all your threads, then unzip the bag and turn it right side out.
DIY Duffle Bag — How to Sew a Round Duffle Bag Kit
Learn how to sew your own round duffle bag! This duffle bag is large enough to fit multiple sets of clothing and toiletries for a short trip. It's even great as a gym bag or for carrying sports equipment. Our Round Duffle Bag Kit comes pre-plotted with cut lines and hem lines to make it easy to cut out the various pieces and assemble them. The pre-plotted pattern makes this kit an excellent beginner sewing project for those wanting to sharpen and practice their sewing skills.
Our Round Duffle Bag Kit is made using Cordura® Classic 1000D fabric. Cordura is a heavy-duty, high-tenacity bag fabric that we recommend for backpacks, duffle bags, totes, wallets, sail bags, luggage, military gear, protective outerwear and more. Cordura Classic 1000D has a polyurethane coating on the back side and a water-repellent finish on the front to create a rugged material that is strong, versatile and reliable in the most demanding outdoor environments.
This duffle bag kit is a fantastic project for learning new skills or brushing up on various sewing techniques. You'll learn how to create shoulder straps, how to install zippers, how to sew circles on a barrel and more. The duffle bag features two outside zippered pockets for easy access to your phone and other essentials. Two inside pockets keep small items separate so you don't have to rifle through the bag looking for them. Swivel hooks sewn on the inside of the bag let you easily attach your keys so you always know where they are. A shoulder strap and shorter handles give you two ways to carry this useful duffle bag.
At certain points during this project, we're sewing through four layers of webbing plus a sewable D-ring. To handle that amount of material thickness, you'll need a heavy-duty sewing machine like the Sailrite® Ultrafeed®. This portable and powerful sewing machine can breeze through multiple layers of webbing and fabric with no loss of power or skipped stitches.
Build confidence in your sewing skills by creating this Round Duffle Bag Kit! Watch the video below to learn how to sew your own duffle bag.
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Sewing Tools You Need
Can’t you picture Harrison Ford slinging this amazing duffle over his shoulder as Indiana Jones?! We blended heavy cotton canvas and faux leather with webbing and brass zipper accents for the dashing exterior. Inside is a tough ripstop nylon lining. Even if you’re not a world-renowned archeologist and adventurer, this bag is is great way to pack your stuff, whether you’re heading across town to the gym or getting away for the weekend. It is a Sew4Home Classic Bag – one of our most popular! Father’s Day is coming up, and this would make a very nice gift for your personal action hero. The combination of fabrics, colors, and textures has the perfect feel – a little bit retro and a whole lot cool.
Our finished bag looks like you could have grabbed it off the shelf at Eddie Bauer®, but don’t let the professional finish scare you off. Achieving a polished end result is often easier than you might think. Read through the project a few times before you start, then if a particular part has you stumped, try doing it with scraps to get the hang of it before moving on to your final fabric. And of course, we offer our trademark S4H detailed step-by-step instructions and photos to help you through.
We do strongly recommend the heavy canvas and faux leather combo to insure your duffle has the stability and durability you want for active, on-the-go (safari style) use.
The bag finishes at approximately 22″ wide x 11″ high.
- 1¼ yard of 54″+ wide medium to heavy-weight canvas or similar for the top exterior; we originally used 54″ Fabricut 8.5oz cotton canvas in Nutria
- ½ yard of 45″+ wide mid-heavyweight faux leather for the bottom exterior; we originally used 54″ wide Faux Leather in Boca Cocoa
- 1 yard of 58″+ wide lightweight nylon fabric for the bag lining; we originally sed 60″ wide Ripstop Nylon in Brown
- 1¼ yards of 45″+ mid-weight fusible interfacing; we used Pellon 809 Décor Bond
- 4¼ yards of 1½” poly webbing in a coordinating color for the handles and carry strap; we used khaki
- TWO 1½” wide D-rings; we used black plastic
- TWO 1½” wide swivel hooks; we used black plastic
- ONE 1½” slide; we used black plastic
NOTE: This style of hardware is available from a variety of sources. We purchased our strap fittings locally from The Rain Shed.
- ONE 22″ metal separating zipper; we used brass
- ONE 9″ metal zipper; we used brass
- ½ yard of thin leather for the two zipper pulls
- All-purpose sewing thread to match fabric
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- See-through ruler
- Straight pins
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Iron and ironing board
- Pressing cloth
- Download and print FOUR copies of the Duffle Bag Side Pattern.
- Download and print TWO copies of the Duffle Bag Side Pocket Pattern.
IMPORTANT: Each pattern consists of ONE 8½” x 11″ sheet. You must print the PDF files at 100%. DO NOT SCALE OR SHRINK to fit the page. There is a guide rule on each page to confirm your printout is to scale.
- Cut out the pieces along the solid lines.
- Butt together (do not overlap) and tape the four Duffle Bag Side Pattern pieces to form a circle as shown on the diagram printed on the pattern.
- Butt together (do not overlap) and tape the two Duffle Bag Side Pocket Pattern pieces to form a half circle as shown on the diagram printed on the pattern.
- From the top exterior fabric (the Canvas in our sample), cut the following:
TWO 23″ x 12″ rectangles
ONE 10″ x 15″ rectangle
TWO 1¼” x 2″ strips for the zipper tabs
Using the assembled Duffle Bag Side pattern, cut TWO side panel circles
Using the assembled Duffle Bag Side Pocket pattern, cut TWO side panel pockets
- From the bottom exterior fabric (the Faux Leather in our sample), cut ONE 14″ x 23″ rectangle.
- From the lining fabric (the Ripstop Nylon in our sample), cut the following:
ONE 23″ x 36″ rectangle
Using the assembled Duffle Bag Side pattern, cut TWO side panel circles
Using the assembled Duffle Bag Side Pocket pattern, cut TWO side panel pockets
- From the interfacing, cut the following:
TWO 23″ x 12″ rectangles
Using the assembled Duffle Bag Side pattern, cut TWO side panel circles
Using the assembled Duffle Bag Side Pocket pattern, cut TWO side panel pockets
- From the webbing cut the following:
TWO 36″ lengths
ONE 60″ length
TWO 7″ lengths
NOTE: As mentioned above, we used the built-in Janome AcuFeed Flex™ system with the optional narrow VD foot throughout the entire project. If you don’t have a built-in feeding system, attach a Walking or Even Feed foot or similar. This will help keep all the layers involved in this project feeding more smoothly.
Apply the interfacing
- Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse the interfacing to the wrong side of the two 23″ x 12″ exterior panels, the two exterior side circles, and the two exterior side pockets.
- Find the two exterior pocket pieces (with interfacing already fused) and the two pocket lining pieces.
- Place one lining piece and one exterior piece right sides together, aligning all the raw edges. Pin in place along the top edge only.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch along the top edge only.
- Press flat.
NOTE: Adjust the temperature on your iron or consider using a pressing cloth against the ripstop nylon.
- Fold the lining to the wrong side of the pocket so the two pieces are now wrong sides together. Press again.
- Edgestitch along the top edge only.
- Run a second line of stitching ¼” from the first.
- Repeat to create the second pocket.
- Find the two exterior side circles (with interfacing already fused).
- Place a finished pocket right side up against the bottom half of each side circle, matching the curved raw edges. Pin in place.
- Machine baste each pocket in place on its circle within the ½” seam allowance; an approximate ⅜” seam allowance is good.
- Set the side panels aside.
Front zippered pocket
- Find ONE of the two 23″ x 12″ exterior panels (with interfacing already fused), the 10″ x 15″ exterior pocket panel, and the 9″ zipper.
- Place the 23″ x 12″ panel wrong side up and flat on your work surface. Orient it properly: 23″ wide x 12″ high.
- Find the exact center of the panel (11½” from either side). Mark this point with a pin.
- Using your fabric pencil and see-through ruler, measure 4½” to the left of the center point and mark, then measure 4½” to the right of the center point and mark. Measure 3½” down from the upper edge and make an intersecting mark. Draw a connecting 9″ horizontal line.
- Draw a second line ½” down from the first line and parallel. Join the lines at each end to create a box.
- Place the 10″ x 15″ panel wrong side up and flat on your work surface. Orient it properly: 10″ wide x 15″ high.
- Draw a matching box to what you just drew on the top 10″ edge, positioning it ½” from the top raw edge and centered side to side.
- Place the exterior panel and the pocket panel right sides together aligning the two drawn boxes. The easiest way to line up the boxes is to place a pin at each upper corner on the wrong side of the exterior panel.
- Then, match up the pin points with the pocket on the other side.
- With the wrong side of the exterior panel facing up, stitch around the marked box through both layers.
- Cut through the center of the box, then clip into each corner.
- Pull the pocket to the inside through the opening, smoothing the corners and edges of the box as best you can. Press.
- Flip over and place the opening over the 9″ zipper, centering the zipper’s teeth. Pin in place.
- Edgestitch in place around all four sides.
NOTE: As with all zipper work, you’ll need to open and close the zipper in order to stitch all the way around without running into the zipper pull. To do this, start with the zipper about half way open. When you get to the center near the pull, stop with your needle in the down position, lift up the presser foot, and gently twist the zipper in order to close it. Re-position, drop the presser foot, and continue stitching to the end.
- Run a second line of stitching ¼” from the first along the BOTTOM of the box opening only.
NOTE: Don’t worry too much about keeping your corner pivots and end stitching super-duper perfect; the ends of the opening will be hidden by the webbing when complete.
- From the wrong side, fold just the pocket layer in half, bringing up the lower raw edge of the pocket so it aligns with the upper raw edge. Pin along the top.
- Flip to the right side. Run a second row of topstitching ¼” from the TOP edgestitching along the TOP of the box opening (matching what you did previously along the bottom edge). You are stitching through all the layers, catching and securing that upper edge of the pocket you just folded up and pinned. Press well.
- Find the two 36″ lengths of webbing.
- Fold each length in half to find the exact center. Mark with a pin.
- Measure 3½” to the left of the center point and mark with a pin.
- Measure 3½” to the right of the center point and mark with a pin.
- Remove the center pin.
- Fold the webbing in half, matching the long edges.
- Edgestitch between the left and right pin points to create the handle grip.
- Find both exterior side panels, the one with the zippered pocket and the plain panel.
- On the panel with the pocket, lay one handle length in place. The outer edge of the webbing should be positioned 5½” in from each raw side edge. The inner edge of the webbing should just cover either end of the zipper box. The ends of the webbing should be flush with the lower raw edge of the panel. Be careful to insure the handle loop is not twisted.
- Measure 2½” down from the top raw edge along each side of the webbing and mark with a pin, placing it horizontally across the webbing. This is where you will stop sewing and turn to go across and back down the webbing.
- We used the same color of thread we used for the canvas to give our webbing stitching a bit of contrast. You could also re-thread the machine with thread to best match the webbing for a more subtle look. Slightly lengthen the stitch.
- Edgestitch each side of the handle in place, staying as close to the edge as you can. Start at the bottom, stitch up one side, stop at the 2½” mark, pivot, stitch across, pivot, and stitch down the opposite edge to complete. This edgestitching will also finish the side seams of the inside pocket.
- At each 2½” point, reinforce the strap with a 1½” X Box.
- Position the second webbing handle on the remaining plain panel, exactly matching the front, and repeat the steps to create the opposite side of the bag.
Attach the bottom exterior panel
- Find the 14″ x 23″ faux leather panel.
- Place one completed exterior panel on either side of faux leather panel, right sides together, aligning the the 23″ raw edges. Pin in place.
- Using a ½” seam allowance stitch each seam. Finger press the seam allowance down towards the faux leather. Do not press with an iron. Faux leather doesn’t like the heat of an iron!
- Flip over the sewn panel and run two lines of topstitching. One line of stitching should be approximately ⅛” from the seam. Run a second seam ¼” from the first.
- Stay stitch both long sides of the assembled exterior ½” from the edge.
NOTE: Stay stitching is a single line of stitching that simply helps stabilize the fabric to prevent stretching or distortion. In this project, it will also provide us with a seam line to follow later in the instructions.
Add the top zipper
- Find the 22″ zipper and the two 1¼” x 2″ end tabs.
- Place one tab on each end of the zipper. The strip and the zipper are right sides together and the raw ends are flush. Pin in place.
NOTE: We based the width of these tabs on our zipper. Adjust your tabs as needed to best fit your zipper; you want the tab to fit within the zipper tape.
- If necessary, re-thread the machine with thread to best match the fabric in the top and bobbin. Re-set the stitch length to normal.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch the zipper tabs in place. You may need to “hand walk” the foot across the zipper to avoid breaking the needle.
- Press the zipper tabs away from the zipper on each end.
- Lay the bag exterior right side up and flat on your work surface.
- Place the zipper face down along the top on the side with the pocket, aligning the edge of the zipper tape with the raw edge of the exterior panel. Pin in place along the top half of the zipper tape only.
- Using a Zipper foot or engaging your machine’s built-in feeding system, stitch along the zipper teeth. Your seam should be as close as possible to the teeth. If you have the ability to adjust your needle position, now is a good time to use this feature to move the needle to the left.
- Fold the fabric down and away from the zipper teeth. Lightly press. Pin if needed.
- Length the stitch to match the other topstitching and edgestitch in place, approximately ⅛” from the fold.
- Run a second seam ¼” from the first.
- Repeat to attach the remaining raw edge of the panel to the opposite side of the zipper.
NOTE: This second side will be a little more challenging because your bag is now a tube rather than flat. However, both ends are open, giving you the flexibility to maneuver your fabric under the needle.
D-rings and tabs for side panels
- Find the two 7″ lengths of webbing, the two D-rings, and the side panels with the pockets basted in place.
- Slip each 7″ strip through one of the D rings. Fold so one end extends 1½” below the other. Pin in place.
- Fold up that extra 1½” on each tab, enclosing the upper end’s raw edge.
- Find the two circular end units
- Place one tab on each end unit, centering it above the pocket. The bottom of the D-ring should be aligned with the curved top edge of the pocket as shown in the photo below. Stitch the tab in place with a 1¼” X Box stitch. We kept the machine threaded with the darker thread as we did with our other webbing stitching. You can choose this option or re-thread with thread to match the webbing.
Set in the side panels
- Find the bag “tube” and the two end panels.
- Clip the raw edges of the two open ends of the tube. Clip approximately every ¾”, taking care to not cut through the stay stitching.
- Place a pin at the exact center top, exact center bottom, and both ends of the side pocket. Think of it like a clock, with pin points at 12:00, 3:00, 6:00 and 9:00.
- On the main tube, the corresponding 12:00 point will be the center of the zipper. Keeping the zipper in the exact center, flatten the tube to find the opposite 6:00 point. Then, flatten the tube in the opposite direction to find the 3:00 and 9:00 points. Place marking pins at all these points.
- Place the side panel right sides together with circular opening of the tube, aligning all the pin points. Easing the fabric, fill in the rest of the circle with pins. If you’ve done garment sewing, this is very similar to putting in a sleeve. You can also clip around each of the side panels (again staying well within the the seam allowance) to help with the easing.
- Stitch the layers together, following the original line of stay stitching.
NOTE: If you are new to this technique, we have a full tutorial on inserting a flat circle into a tube.
- Turn the completed bag right side out.
Create and insert the lining
- Find the 23″ x 36″ lining panel and the two lining side circle panels. As you did with the exterior panel, stay stitch each 36″ side of the lining.
- Clip to, but not through, the line of stay stitching every ¾” – again as you did with the exterior panel.
- With low heat and a pressing cloth, press under ½” along each 23″ edge.
- Following the method you did for the exterior, pin the lining to the circles, but leave a ½” gap at what will be the top of the lining. When inserted into the bag, this gap will allow the lining to smoothly straddle the zipper. The other difference is that your lining starts as a flat piece rather than a tube. In this case, sewing the side circles in place is what forms the shape of the lining.
- Sew the side circles in place, following along in the original line of stay stitching.
- With the completed lining still wrong side out, insert it into the exterior bag. Pin the lining in place along each side of the zipper, covering the lines of stitching with the folded edges of the lining.
- Re-thread as needed to make sure your top thread matches the exterior and your bobbinthread matches the lining. Topstitch the lining in place, following along in the existing stitch line closest to the zipper.
- The photo below shows how that opening in the lining sits over the zipper. It looks a little messy when you see everything close-up like this, but it’s all actually hidden inside the bag and results in a professional finish. We thought it was important for you to see why that little space is left open in the lining end seams.
Create the shoulder strap
- Find the remaining 60″ length of webbing, the slider and the two swivel clips.
- Insert one raw end of the webbing through the center of the slider. Pull it through so it just clears the slider. Turn under the raw end approximately ½” and stitch in place as close to the slider as possible.
- With the slider attached, place the webbing wrong side up on your work surface. Thread the opposite raw end through one swivel clip, threading from the bottom and out the top.
- Continue feeding the raw end through the slider, pulling it across and over the center bar of the slider.
- Finally bring the opposite raw end through the remaining swivel clip, threading it from the top to the bottom. Pull it through as above, turn under the raw end, and stitch in place as close to the hook as possible
NOTE: If you are new to this process, take a look at our full tutorial on How to Make an Adjustable Strap.
- Clip the strap in place on the D-ring tabs to complete.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Michele Mishler
Introduction: The Perfect Duffel Bag
I've made several duffel bags for various purposes over the years. This one is the culmination of all the knowledge I've gained. It will hold all the things you truly need in any circumstance, make its way through any airport to your side, resist stains and abrasions, stop global warming, and cure cancer. It is perfect. (Its name is Tommy.)
This is not a beginner sewing project, but it's not extremely advanced either. You should have some experience using a sewing machine and knowledge of sewing terms like 'seam allowance' and 'presser foot' - or the willingness to look them up elsewhere!
Step 1: Tools & Materials
- 2 yd fabric (more or less, if you're making it REALLY big add another half yard)
- 3 yd 2" wide nylon strap 
- 1 24" zipper (or as long as you want the duffel to be)
- 2 8" zippers for the exterior pockets
- 2 12" zippers for the interior pockets
- 2 packets of double fold seam binding, one regular and one wide (I am actually using bias tape, but I'm using it AS seam binding and referring to it as such. Either will work)
- sheet of flexible plastic - I cut the bottom out of an old laundry basket
- 2 "swivel snap hooks" (see pic)
- 1.5 yd of nylon strap, of a width to fit your snap hooks 
- 2 D-rings or, my preference, triangle shapes
- 1 yd of nylon strap of a width to fit your triangles 
- a little bit of padding: quilt batting, old blanket, etc.
 Note that you may end up with nylon strap in three different sizes, or only one size; I used two sizes as my snap hooks took 2" strapping and my triangles took 1".
I used to have a nice picture of all the requisite pieces, but my camera ate it. Sorry!
Step 2: Cut Out the Pieces
- 2 side pieces
- 2 bottom pieces (the bottom is double thickness)
- 4 end pieces (or 2, if you want to leave out the inside pockets)
- 2 side pocket pieces
To cut the end pieces, draw (directly on your fabric is fine, or on a piece of newspaper if you prefer) a straight line as long as the width of your plastic piece plus an inch for seam allowance. This will be the bottom. Now draw the sides and top as part of a circle, or other bulgy shape - I like to make it slightly triangular - at a size that looks like a good one for your needs. Measure the circumference at half an inch in from the edge (for seam allowance!) and write it down as you'll need to calculate the side piece sizes from it. Mine was about 40" (precision of an inch is plenty).
Using this circumference measurement and the size of the bottom plastic, if you have a restricting one, calculate the sizes of the fabric pieces to cut for the bottom and sides as follows.
For the bottom, your sewn measurement should be 1/4" greater all around than the plastic reinforcing piece, to account for its thickness. For me, this worked out to 10-1/2 x 17 inches (I cut the plastic a little shorter than I absolutely had to, by accident).
From my 40" circumference, I then subtracted the 10-1/2" for the bottom piece, and another 1/2" for the width of the zipper, to get a difference of 29". This distance comprises both sides, each of which must therefore have sewn dimensions of 14-1/2" x 17".
The handles will lay at about the thirds of the bag length, putting them about 6" apart. So that's the width of my side pocket pieces, which will be sewn between the handles. Accuracy in the width is less important here as the straps are 2" wide and will cover the edges.
The cut pieces should be one inch bigger in each direction than the sewing dimensions, for seam allowance. So my final cutting dimensions are these:
2 @ 11-1/2 x 18 (the bottom pieces, remember it's a double layer)
2 @ 15-1/2 x 18 (the sides)
2 @ 10 x 6 (the side pockets, which I just decided would be 10" tall based on eyeballing it)
Whew! Measure again to doublecheck yourself before you cut. Sewing as well as carpentry uses the advice "measure twice, cut once".
Step 3: Construct the Sides
Cut 4 squares about 3x3 out of extra fabric, laid out so the warp and weft run diagonally. These will reinforce the area where the handle straps attach to the bag. They do not have to be very precise.
Lay out each side piece upside down. Lay the handle reinforcement pieces about 2/3 of the way to the top and with their centers each 4" from the middle of the sides. Pin the corners down and then sew them down thoroughly, just stitching all over, back & forth. This will show on the front, but if your thread matches, it won't show much. I've used a contrasting thread just because I like it.
Sew seam binding over the edge of each of the side pocket pieces. Then sew to each one of the short zippers, with the zipper upside down as in the picture. Then fold the zipper up, and topstitch for strength. Pin the pocket & zipper to the side piece so the bottom of the pocket matches the bottom of the side, and the top corners are over your reinforced areas. Sew the other edge of the zipper to the side piece, going over it several times. Stitch the sides of the pocket down, you only have to do this once as the handle straps will go over those edges anyway.
Cut 2 pieces of the wide nylon strap, each about 48 - 60" long depending on your bag size, for the handle straps. Before you cut, pin the strapping down and hold it up imagining the completed bag, so you don't make the handles too long or short.
Lay the cut straps out along the sides of the pocket with the ends at the bottom of the side. Make sure the part that will form the handle isn't twisted. Sew these down very solidly, from the bottom up to a few inches past the pocket, ending within the reinforced area. Pay special attention to these top areas as that's where most of the strain will be. I like to sew big X's.
Finally, sew seam binding around the top edges of each side, where you'll attach the zipper next.
Step 4: Sew the Main Zipper
Cut a couple pieces of scrap fabric about 2" x 2". Wrap one around each end of the zipper, tucking the ends in, and sew it down. The point of this is to give the zipper something to butt up against before it hits the end pieces. It's easier to construct this way and less likely to tear.
Now pin the zipper to the top of one side piece, right sides together, and stitch. Fold the side piece down and topstitch for strength. Attach the other side similarly.
If you'll be checking this through as baggage on an airplane, you can make a little loop at the end of the zipper where the zipper pull is when closed, to lock it to. It won't keep anyone out, but it will make it immediately obvious if it's been opened, and prevent the zipper from opening accidentally. Cut a small piece of fabric about 2" x 1". Fold the long edges towards the middle, then fold the whole thing in half, tucking the raw edges inside, and sew along the length. Then fold it in half and stitch it to the zipper pull end of the zipper as shown in the picture.
Step 5: Construct the Ends
Take two of the end pieces and cut a slice off near the top. Bind each edge, and sew the 12" zipper into the slice, so the piece when done is the same size as before, but zips apart in the middle. The zipper insertion is pretty much just like the main zipper insertion but easier as there's not so much extra fabric to deal with. You may find that the ends with the zippers and the ends without are slightly different sizes now; just trim them to match.
If you're making a shoulder strap, now is the time to add the part it will hook to. Take one of your D-rings (or triangle rings) and feed about 4" of the nylon strap through it. Fold this back on itself and pin the strap, short side down, to the center of the end piece, on the outside. The D-ring should sit an inch or two below the top of the end piece. Sew this all down thoroughly, and cut the strap off at the bottom of the fabric. My pictures don't exactly match this because I did the next bit first, before I remembered I wanted shoulder straps, so I sewed these on from inside the pockets... not recommended!
Now you're ready to construct the inside pockets. Lay one zipper'd piece on top of one of the uncut end pieces, wrong sides together (so the shoulder strap bits are NOT in between). Stitch all the way around the edges - this will get sewn again so you don't need to go over it more than once. You may find that the zippered pieces are no longer the same size as the others. That's fine - just trim to fit.
Step 6: Construct the Bottom
Next up is the bottom. Place the two bottom pieces together, wrong sides together, and stitch the two long edges using a half inch seam allowance. This is the only place where the seam allowance needs to be accurate (otherwise you'll end up unpicking the seam, or cutting extra off your bottom plastic!).
Insert the plastic reinforcement to be sure it fits with a small amount of ease. Then take it out again; you'll sew three of the four remaining seams without the stiffness of the plastic impeding you.
If you haven't already, make sure the edges and corners of the plastic are reasonably smooth without roughness that might abrade the fabric and wear through unseasonably.
Sew each side of the bottom to one of the sides, being careful to stitch along the seam lines you already sewed on the bottom pieces. It doesn't really matter which side of the bottom pieces you sew to, but for the sides, make sure the right side is facing the bottom pieces. Using the wider seam binding, bind the seams.
Step 7: Put It All Together
The next two seams are the only bits that are difficult to sew. You must stitch the round end pieces onto the straight ends of the combined side/bottom. Lots of pins are helpful here - make sure you're pinning the right side of the body piece to the side of the end with the triangle and strap. The duffel will look completely inside out at this point. If you find when you pin, that you have extra length in the side/bottom edge, try using a smaller seam allowance (geometers will see why this is). If you have extra length on the ends, try using a larger seam allowance.
For me, it's usually easier to have the curved part on top and the straight part underneath, but you may find the opposite. Once you've sewn the seam, go around again; then bind it using the wider seam allowance.
Now you have one end done. Before doing the last end, open the top zipper halfway or so, if it's closed - they're hard to unzip from the underneath and you're going to close off your access to the zipper pull.
You still don't quite need to slip the plastic piece in yet; you can put it off a little longer. Pin the other end piece the same way as the first, but only sew the areas where the side pieces go. Sew them twice. Also bind this area, starting near one of the bottom corners and leaving a tail of seam binding long enough to finish. NOW you can slip in the plastic piece and sew up the last seam (twice). And bind.
Turn the bag right-side out through the main zipper. Your duffel is complete! Admire it!
Step 8: Construct Shoulder Strap (optional)
You can also make a pad to ease your shoulder when carrying heavy things. You'll need something to be the padding - part of an old quilted jacket, a blanket, a piece of foam, anything squishy should do. Cut three oval pieces of your fabric about 6" long and an inch or so wider than your strap. Also cut one or two pieces of your padding a half inch smaller all round - enough padding to be enough, basically.
Cut the rounded ends off one of the three fabric pieces, fold down the short ends and stitch. This will be the bit that holds the strap to the padding. Now make a sandwich of all the parts, in this order:
- 1 fabric oval, right side down
- all the padding
- 1 fabric oval, right side up
- the non-oval, right side up
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Duffle bag diy
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