Monday, September 7, 2009

Duffle Bag How To

I've never written a sewing tutorial before. If you are a sewer (sew-er) trying to make your own duffle bag, just let me know if you have questions so I can explain in further detail. I also slacked on the pics at some points. Sorry. Here goes!

Out of 2 yards of double sided quilted material, cut the following:

-13"x13" squares (cut 2) for the ends
-22"x34" rectangles (cut 2) for the sides/top
-13"x34" rectangle (cut 1) for the bottom
-3"x72" strips (cut 2) for the straps
-3"x53" strips (cut 2) to go between the sides and end squares

You will also need a 32-36 inch zipper, 4 yards of nylon straps (not required but very helpful), and, if you want some structure, a rectangular piece of plastic canvas for the inside bottom of the bag.

1.) If you're not using the nylon straps, fold strap fabric pieces in half length-wise, right sides together, and stitch a seam all the way up. Do it for the other one as well. Then, turn straps inside out. You can make your straps thicker if you want to save your fingernails for this part. The thinner the straps, the longer and harder the turning process.

If using woven nylon straps (I bought a coordinating color) they will look like this.

When folding your straps in half length-wise, wrong sides together, stitch the side seam.

Iron the straps with the seam in the middle. You sew them wrong sides together if you're using a nylon strap because the seam will be sewn to the strap. This saves having to turn your straps right side out and also makes the straps sturdier since they're double layered. It looks like this after you've stitched down the sides of each fabric to secure the fabric on the strap:

2.) Place and pin the straps to the ride side of the sides of the bag. I placed them approx. 12" apart on each side. Then stitch up from the bottom to 13" from the top on both straps. These rectangles are the sides (where your straps are sewn) and the top, which will fold over and you don't want the straps sewn all the way up to the zipper or the bag would look funny. Leave an inch of overhang at the bottom. This will be to the interior of the bag and can be trimmed but you want the bottom seam to cover it.

3.) Next sew the bottom rectangle to the matching length on each side. Pin right sides together and stitch. (No picture of this, sorry.) When you have both sides attached to the bottom it will look like a U-shape.

4). Pin end strips to end squares. This means the strips will be sewn to the squares on one side and then attached to the body of the bag. I chose for the ends to be polka dot and the main part of the bag to be paisley. This was not a very good description of the ends. Maybe this picture will help?

See how it's stitched all around the square? Then, it gets turned right side out and you have your end. Do it for both ends.

5.) Holding the wrong sides together of the strip around the squares, top-stitch as close to the seam as possible. This will give the bag a bit more structure around the ends. Warning: this is not the easiest thing to do around the corners. Mine didn't look very pretty at some points but it was worth it to finish the ends nicely. Sorry about the flash. I think I need a better camera.

6.) This was the trickiest step, sewing the ends to the body of the bag. Pin right sides together all around the squares on each end. I should have taken a picture of this so you could see. Hopefully you get what I mean. You'll be sewing the body of the bag to the strip on the square, not the actual square itself. Again, sorry for the lack of illustration here. But, this is what it looks like when you're done with that part. Except, I cut off one of the ends in the pic. Way to go, Ash! But, you can see that it's starting to stand up on it's own. See at the top where the polka dots are? That's one of the ends. Underneath that is the interior of the bag, which is also polka dotted, because the fabric is double-sided, as previously stated. You can also see here how the straps fall correctly away from the top of the bag.

7.) The zipper! I hope your machine has a zipper foot. If not, invest in one. V. helpful. Now, I didn't take pictures of my mistake but my tops just barely met at the ends and I had to add a little piece of fabric at each end so that it matched up. The measurements given above account for this and should overlap enough for the seam allowance at the zipper. Here's the zipper:

8.) After you stitch the zipper to both sides, zip it up and marvel at your accomplishment! If you want a stiffer bottom, cover the plastic canvas in excess fabric or felt. You can just place it in the bottom or glue it, if you want. However, if you glue it in, the bag will most likely lose it's washability. Your call.


As you can see by the finished product at the top, and by the previously posted picture of me sitting in the bag, it's a tad big. As much stuff as it will hold, the next one I make will probably be a bit scaled down in size. Perhaps only 30" long as opposed to 36". Have fun with it! Double-sided quilted fabric can run about $20/yard at JoAnn's but if you have a coupon, then you've got a bag for right around $25. A steal! The nice thing about this bag, in addition to its LARGE size, is that it can become very compact (i.e. under the bed storage, overhead bins in airplanes, car trunks). It's squishability is unmatched! Let me know if you have any questions. Happy sewing!

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