Tutorial: Sew a Duffel Bag

I know I could have just buy one but then I wanted to ahem! challenge myself.  Thus, this duffle (or was it duffel) bag.  So, along the way, I took some photos (although I really should have taken much more) and here’s the tutorial.

The bag finishes at approximately 14” x 19.5” x 8”

You will need:

1 metre of heavy weight fabric, fusible web, 19” purse zipper, 1.5 metre of bias binding, elastic, 2 metres of webbing/nylon strap, matching thread

Cut out the following:

Base: 20”x 9” (1 piece),  Body: 20”x 15” (2 pieces),  Side panel: 8.5”x 14.5” (2 pieces) round off top corners,  Pockets: 15”x 10” (2 pieces),  Flaps for pockets: 7.5” x 4” (2 pieces)

Start with the pockets.  Fold the pocket in half lengthwise, right side together.  Press a sharp fold line across the width, so that now the pocket panel is half the original height (7.5”).

Sew a straight line (approximately 1.5cm) below the sharp fold line to create an elastic casing.

Unfold the panel and lay the fusible webbing. Iron on.  You will now have a layer of fusing in between the two sides of the pocket panel (and the elastic casing on the top), with the right side of the fabric facing out.

Make a box pleat at the bottom fold line and press well.  Sew through all layers to hold the pleat in place.

Along the bottom of the pocket panel, measure and mark at the middle, and then mark 1" to the left and to the right. Pinch the outside marks and fold them into the middle mark. Press well, stitch along the bottom edge through all layers.

Insert elastic into casing and pin to hold in place.

Align the pockets to the bottom of the side panel, pin and sew in place.

Repeat for the other pocket panel.

Next, create the flaps.  Fold the flaps in half lengthwise, wrong side together.  Press a sharp fold line.  Round off the corners at the fold line.  Sew along the 3 raw edges, leaving one end open.  Turn the fabric right side out, press, and top stitch to close opening.

Make two button holes on the flap, approximately 1.5” from each side.  Sew the flap just above the elastic pocket on the side panel.

Repeat for the other flap.

Put aside.

Create the base and main body.  Pin, and sew the body to the base on each side, wrong side together.  (I used French seam to hide the raw edges for a tidier look.)  Stitch a scant 5mm seam.  Then turn the fabric wrong side out at the seam and stitch a 5mm seam to enclose the raw edges.

You will now have a big piece of rectangle.  Lay the rectangle out flat, right side out.

Use a single piece of nylon strap to create a large loop, pin about 4” from the edge, and stop at about 7” from the top edge (let the remaining of the strap from the stop point loose – this is the bag handle).  Sew the nylon strap in place, and sew a box stitch at the stop point.

pin the nylon strap about 4" from the sides and about 7" from the top (and let the remaining nylon loose). Stitch with a matching thread, and make a box stitch at the 4 stop points.

Apply the zipper.  I first pin the zipper face down on the right side of the edge, stitch, and then open up the seam, and top stitch.  

Using the zipper foot, apply zipper. This was my first attempt at working with zipper, so I actually have to re-do the whole thing twice 😛

Open the zipper to leave an opening to turn the bag right side out when done.

With right side together, align and pin the panel to the end of the rectangles.  (The panel was somehow slightly bigger, so I just made a pleat with the excess)

Sew in place, making sure that the flap and the handles are out of the way (I use pins to hold the flaps) and then bind the seam with bias tape.

Turn right side out, hand stitch the buttons on the pockets to match the button hole on the flaps.

notice the pleat at the top (as my measurement were a little off as a result of applying the zipper wrongly), the flaps with the button sewn in place.

 Confession time:

1)      I did not have any heavy weight material when I wanted to make this bag, so I actually used a medium weight cotton fabric, fusible web and lining.

2)      I was too eager to get started that I forgot I was using a directional print, so I forgot to align one side of the body of the bag in the right direction.  The bag now has an upside down print on one side.

3)      Bought the wrong zipper – should have bought the purse zipper, but cleverly picked the open end jacket zipper.

4)      The trickiest part was the bias binding.  Did an awful job.  Should have gone with the French seam (yes I love French seam!).  That’s also one of the reasons there is no photos of the bias binding.

Anyway, I am still pretty happy with the outcome.  Made it in time for our recent getaway, so finally lil j has his own bag rather than having to stuff everything into mama’s bag 😛

He has showed you, O man, what is good.  And what does the LORD require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.  Micah 6:8