The coolest bag is the one you make yourself — especially when it has a ton of stylish bells and whistles. (We see you, leather trim and metal hardware.) In this project, bag designer Ellie Lum breaks down the process step-by-step, guiding you from the first cut to the very last rivet. Get ready for the compliments to roll in!
Size: 11” wide x 10½” high x 5” deep
What You Need
- ½ yard medium to heavyweight fabric such as waxed canvas, canvas or denim for outer bag and interior pocket (we used waxed canvas)
- ½ yard contrasting medium to heavyweight fabric for outer pocket
- ½ yard canvas or cotton fabric for lining (if you use a lighter-weight fabric, like quilting cotton, purchase ½ yard fusible interfacing, too)
Leather + Zipper
- 14" metal heavy-duty zipper; choose a non-separating (closed end) heavy-duty metal zipper with a large opening in the slider for a leather zipper pull
- 50" x ¾" medium-weight leather strapping (5-6 oz, 6-7 oz, or 7-8 oz) for leather strap handles, O-ring strap tabs, washers, and zipper pull
- 60" x 1" medium-weight leather strapping (5-6 oz, 6-7 oz, or 7-8 oz) for cross-body strap
- (1) ¾" metal D-ring
- (2) 1" metal O-rings
- (2) ¼" Chicago screws
- 10 medium double-cap rivets for strap attachment (post length should be 5/16" or 8mm – 8.5mm)
- 2 small double-cap rivets for pocket reinforcement and zipper pull (post length should be ¼" or 7.3mm – 7.8mm)
Shop the Kit
1. Gather Your Fabrics and Supplies
First things first: you need to decide on fabrics. We used waxed canvas, but heavy denim works great too. You also want to make sure your lining fabric is medium to heavy weight, so it matches the structured feeling of the bag. (If you prefer something lighter weight, like printed cotton, reinforce it with interfacing to make sure it holds up.)
It's NBD if you're new to working with heavy fabrics, but you do want to make sure you have the right basic tools — think heavy-duty needles and quilting pins — as they need to be strong enough to work through stiff materials. Be sure to review your recommended materials list too, as it details what's helpful for working with screws and grommets.
2. Draft + Cut Your Fabric
Draft your pocket pieces directly onto your fabric according to the pattern diagrams, and add your pattern markings.
Do all your drafting on a large cutting mat, so you don't have to move your fabric when it's time to cut. Use a large, clear gridded quilt ruler too — it gives you stability and visibility to what's going on beneath the ruler as you place your marks.
Cut out each piece with a rotary cutter, using your quilting rulers as guides. Turn your work if needed to make sure you’re cutting at a nice, stable angle.
Repeat this draft, mark and cut process for your exterior and lining pieces.
3. Prepare + Attach the Pockets
Prepare your interior pocket and stitch it to your lining fabric as shown in the video.
Prepare your exterior pocket and stitch it on the bag’s main fabric, as shown. Follow the diagrams and demo instructions closely to create the triangular space between stitching lines where your pocket’s reinforcement rivet will go.
When sewing through multiple layers of fabric, lift your fabric to the level of the sewing machine base. This prevents the fabric’s weight from dragging on the machine, and will help your stitching come out straight and even.
4. Install the Zipper
Center the zipper on your bag’s front side exterior fabric, right sides together, and stitch in place using a zipper foot. Turn the zipper’s end, as shown in the video, for a finished look.
Stitch your front side lining into place against the front exterior panel, right sides together.
Repeat the process to attach the other side of the zipper to the exterior panel. Stitch the back side lining into place just as you did with the front.
Make sure your zipper slider is out of the way when you’re sewing the zipper in place. If you try to squeeze past it, you’ll throw your stitching line out of place and have to pause, lower your needle and raise your presser foot to move the slider.
5. Sew the Bag Together
Lay out the exterior and lining fabrics as shown in the video, right sides together, and pin in place. Be sure to nest the seams at the joints where the exterior and lining meet to reduce bulk.
Clearly mark the gap area in the lining that you’ll leave open to pull your bag through and turn it right side out.
Feel free to mark a half-inch stitching line around the entire perimeter of your work as a guide before you start stitching. It’s not required, but it may help you maintain an even seam allowance during this long stitching run.
Stitch all the way around, taking care around the boxed corners. Cut and sew your boxed corners as shown in the video.
Pull your work through the gap in the lining to reveal your right side out bag! Use an edge stitch foot to close the lining gap. Stuff your lining into place; work all the corners and joints into position.
Don’t be afraid to “boss” the fabric into place with a firm hand! Working this stiff fabric with your fingers is part of what makes your hand-crafted bag look so great when it’s done.
6. Punch the Leather Trim
Measure and mark your leather cuts for the handles. Use your leatherworking tools to cut your handles with rounded ends.
Take a close look at your leather before you cut. It’s a natural material that may have marks or blemishes, so you want to make sure you’re happy with where these might show up.
Measure and punch your handles’ rivet holes as shown, using your rotary punch.
Repeat these cutting and punching techniques for your cross-body strap, following the measurements in your pattern.
Custom cut and punch a small piece of leather for the zipper pull, following the measurements provided in your pattern. Cut out your leather washers.
When using metal leatherworking tools, always choose a hammer or mallet with a rubber coating — not metal. This prevents metal-on-metal impact, which can damage your tools.
7. Attach the Leather + Hardware
Punch rivet holes through the exterior and lining fabrics to place your straps. (You’ll need to work against a flat, hard surface — think stone or concrete — to get good, clean punches.)
Place the leather washer and rivets and D-ring as shown. Hammer into place, working against the stone surface.
Hammer your rivets from the inside of the bag. That way if you slip, you won’t mar the exterior of your leather. Start with gentle tapping to ease the rivets into alignment, then use heavier strikes to lock everything firmly in place.
Rivet your zipper pull into place using the same technique. Add your exterior pocket reinforcement rivet, right in the center of the triangle you stitched at the beginning.
Punch holes for your O-ring tabs close to the side seams of your bag, as directed in your pattern templates.
Before punching these holes, feel around the seams with your fingers to make sure you’re punching on the side without a seam allowance in the way. This gives you less bulk to punch through. Once you’ve determined the right side, punch near — but not directly on — your seams.
Install your O-ring tabs and O-rings using Chicago screws, as shown in the video.
Rivet your cross-body strap into place as shown, making sure that the foldover tabs of the strap face inward.
The pattern calls for a 45-inch strap, but you can easily modify yours to whatever length gives your bag the perfect fit.
Adapted from Sew the Fremont Bag .