HOW TO Make BAGS - Tote | Messenger | Laptop - Craft Tutorials & Sewing How-Tos
Learn How to Sew Your Own Bags
I have collected together all of the best and all of my favourite bag tutorials on this page, with brilliant step-by-step instructions for each.
There are all sorts of different bags you can make including the classic tote bags, messenger bags and laptop bags - but there are so many different variations of possible bag designs, that your can really let your imagination go wild!
There are also ideas on how to decorate or revamp your plain or shop-bought bags at the bottom of the page.
I hope this page gives you lots of inspiration....Have fun!
Canvas Bike Bag
Top-Rated Bag Making Products
There are many varieties of bag fastenings, handles and other helpful gadgets available to help you add a professional finish to your creations, and here are just a couple:
Bag Making Introduction
Bag making is a great area to hone your sewing skills because there are so many techniques you can incorporate into a bag if you want, and you can be very creative with the design. There are quite a few different styles of bag, with the tote bag being the simplest (and best for beginners to start with), and handbags or messenger bags with many compartments usually being the most complicated.
- Fabrics used for bags usually have to be durable and the most popular choices seem to be quilting weight cotton (which is available in many different patterns and colors), and home dÃ©cor/upholstery fabrics. For wipe clean bags, vinyl and leather are good choices. Other durable options are denim, canvas and some wool fabrics. If you want a bag which is not going to need to be durable and won't need to carry anything heavy like books, then you can choose lighter weight fabrics like linen or even silk. Just don't choose anything with stretch.
- Linings: Bags are usually lined, especially if the main material is on the thin side, or if interfacing or batting (see below) is used. Where a lining isn't necessary is where simple bags like tote bags are made with a sturdy enough main fabric like upholstery material. Linings are often labelled as lining materials when you buy them, however you can use most materials as linings to be honest. Just bear in mind what wear your lining will have to stand up to, and also use a lining material which is a lighter weight than the main material of your bag. Cottons and polycottons are good particularly if you want the inside of your bag to be patterned, and polyesters/satins/silks are smooth and often shiny.
- Fastenings and closures: Many to choose from but the main ones are zips, button flaps, magnetic snaps and Velcro. You'll often find bags that are simply open and don't have a closure, or just have a flap over the opening without a fastening.
- Interfacing (aka interlining or stabilizer): This is a white material used to add structure to your bag. For instance, if you make a bag in lightweight or medium weight fabric and put it down on a table it will most likely crumple up and lie almost flat. However if you insert interfacing into the walls of your bag, you will stiffen it up so it will stand much more upright when placed onto a surface because it will maintain its structure much better. If you want to make a bag that you want to roll up into a ball when not in use then obviously interfacing would not be used in that case. Interfacing allows the fabric to move in the way it normally would too, so it doesn't take away flexibility even though it adds support.
It can be a bit daunting to know what interfacing is, which type you should use and how to use it, but really all you need to know is that it adds substance, structure and strength and is available in different 'weights' where the heavier the weight, the more structured/stiff it will make your bag. Interfacing is either fusible (irons directly onto the inside of your outer fabric), or sew-in (is sewn onto the inside of your outer fabric). The sew-in kind can be a heavier weight than your outer fabric, however the fusible kind can't, therefore you may see fusible and sew-in types combined together in the same project. You may also see a few different types of interfacing (sometimes 4 or more!) used at once so don't let this alarm you! Once you get to know the different types you will see how they can be combined to get exactly the effect you want.
- Wadding/batting: A padding material used to make your bag cushioned, and a vital part of quilted bags. Available as fusible or sew-in, batting is used in a similar way to interfacing - in fact think of it as the filling of a sandwich! Batting is ideal for any slouchy style bags you don't want to be too flimsy, and also is great for protecting electronics a little inside messenger bags for instance.
- Straps: You can make very simple straps like on a tote bag, you can pad straps or quilt them with batting/wadding, or you can have adjustable or detachable/removable straps. If you are not making the straps yourself, then you can buying webbing.
How To Make Bags From Scratch
- Lots of Tutorials, Tips & Advice
The best bag making resource on the web.
- Guitar Bag
Funky bag design.
- Cute Handbag
With a recessed zipper.
- 20 Minute Tote
Just using fabric and cotton webbing.
- Pillowcase Bags
Made from vintage fabric cases.
- Geometric Bag
With 20 sides.
- Large Market Tote
Free template for a groceries bag.
- Towel Bag
Perfect for the beach or pool.
- Notebook Lunchbags
With a lined paper design and written message.
- Strawberry Bag
So you can fold your tote bag up into a little strawberry shape!
- Fold-Up Bag
So it's easy to carry around.
- Recycled Tote Bags
Made by fusing plastic bags together.
- T-Shirt Bag
A great way to re-use an old t-shirt.
- Toddler Backpack
Follow the link at the bottom to find a 3-part tutorial.
- Zippered Messenger Bag
Professional style with zip-top closure.
Embellishing Plain Bags
Bag Making How-Tos
- Classic Tote
A great beginners project.
- Regular & Mini Messengers
2 size choices for a classic flap-top bag.
- Oilcloth Backpack
With a drawstring closure.
- Buttercup Bag
Cute design with pleats and button closure.
- Applique Messenger Bag
With ideas for applique designs for the flap.
- Curved Gusset Bag
With curved corners and comfy handles.
- Reversible Patchwork Bag
With a drawstring top.
- Map Bag
Made using an actual map, laminated in plastic.
- Reversible Shoulder Bag
2 bags in 1!
- Lined Shoulder Bag
With button closure.
- Ruffled Tote Bag
Unusual and pretty design.
- Road Trip Satchel
Choose to have a flap or not.
Denim & Leather Bag
Canvas Trousers >>> Saddlebag
Tutorials For A Variety Of Bags
- Fabric Produce Bags
Made from a sheer curtain.
- Grocery Bags
Use these instead of plastic bags to be eco-friendly.
- Sturdy Canvas Bag
With a printed design on the front.
- San Francisco Shopper
Bags which can fold up into your pocket or purse.
- Stylish Tote Bag
With straps that go all of the way around the bag.
- 1 Hour Bag
Quick and stylish bag.
- Quilted Laptop Bag
Quilting adds protective padding.
- Floral Spring Tote
Made from felted wool sweaters.
- Fabric Basket
With a patchwork fabric outer.
Fun Monster Bag
More Fun Sewing Tutorials
- Pleated Tote
Pretty design with pleats.
- Grey and Orange Pocket Bag
Made of suede.
- Plastic Coated Bags
For a shower proof tote.
- Half Yard Bag
Uses as little fabric as possible.
- Woven Seatbelt Handbag
Unusual idea to weave together seatbelt webbing.
- Classy Tote
Made using vintage fabric.
- Lattice Leather Tote
Professional looking bag with a simple pattern of slits.
- Roomy Tote Bag
Lots of room to carry your belongings in style.
- Lumberjack Shirt Sack
Shopping bag made by recycling an old checked shirt.
- Ruffle Messenger Bag
With an adjustable strap.
How to Sew a Drawstring Bag
What You Will Need
* Fabric; the size of fabric you need depends on how big you would like the finished bag to be, but for my example I will use a 16" x 12" piece of medium-weight cotton.
* Sewing machine
* Sewing pins
* Iron & ironing board
* Safety pin
* Rotary cutter and cutting mat OR scissors
* Disappearing/washable fabric marker pen
- Cut out the 16" x 12" piece of fabric; a rotary cutter is the best tool for this job.
- Fold the two short-side edges over by 3/8" and press the folds into place with the iron.
- Pin the folds and sew them with a straight sewing stitch 1/4" in from the outer edge.
- Fold over one of the long edges by 3/8" and press into place with the iron.
- Don't sew, but instead fold this edge over again, but this time by 1 1/4", and press with the iron.
- Pin this fold in place and sew with a straight stitch, 1" from the outside edge.
- Fold the whole piece of fabric in half, with right sides together, as shown in the diagram.
- Pin the bottom edge (1) and the open side (2) so that both layers line up perfectly.
- Sew along the bottom edge, 1/4" from the edge, with a straight stitch.
- Sew along the pinned side, from the bottom to the top, stopping when you get to where the fabric has been folded over. If you sew over the fold, you won't be able to add the drawstring part :) Make sure this line of stitches is sewn further away from the edge than the previous line of stitches here.
- To reinforce and protect the seams, you can then add zig-zag stitches along the outside edge of the bottom (1) and side seam (2) if you wish.
- Turn the bag the right way out.
- To thread the drawstring through the channel at the top of the bag, attach a safety pin to one end and follow this method.
- Judge how long you want the surplus drawstring to be, cut it to the right length, and knot the ends.
Drawstring Lunch Tote
DIY Messenger Bags & More
- Flowery Tote
Reversible shoulder bag pattern.
- City Rucksack
Good bag for travel.
- Classic Messenger
Made from hemp or canvas.
- Lucille Picnic Bag
Large open top bag.
- Bamboo Handle Bag
Fab handbag with wooden handles.
- Basic Tote Bag
- Reversible Copycat Bag
With a long sling strap.
- Grocery Tote
With straps for reinforced strength.
- Slouch Bag Pattern
With a comfy strap.
- Market Bag
Pretty shopping bag.
- Angela's Diaper Bag
Useful for mums who need lots of space and compartments.
- Tons of Tutes
Huge list of bag and purse how-tos.
Halloween Treat Bag
Bags To Impress
- Urban Jungle Bag
I love the boxy style of this stylish bag.
- Laminated Messenger
Perfect for messy kids especially!
- Magnetic Tote Bag
Creative use of magnetic paint, perfect for kids.
- Leather & Gold Bag
Quality leather bag with gold geometric shapes painted on.
- Quilted Diamond Tote Bag
Use patchwork sewing techniques to make this fashionable bag.
- Summer Colourblock Tote
Using heavy cottons, this fashionable bag is sure to last for years.
- Mesh Beach Bag
Fabulous bag cleverly made with window screen material.
- Plastidipped Tote Bag
Fun striped bag making use of the qualities of plastidip (liquid plastic).
- Denim Snack Bag
Ultra cool casual bag with a leather strap closure.
- Practical Messenger Bag
Classic design for people who want a useful everyday bag.
- Reversible Jumbo Tote
I love the IKEA upholstery fabric used here too.
- Rainbow Chevron Bag
Artistic and colourful tote bag with leather straps.
Paperbag-Style Tote Bags
Free Patterns & Step-by-Step Instructions
- Booty Bag
Made using some wool trousers.
- Duffle Totes
I love the bright variety of fabric colors.
- Button Bag
- Dishtowel Bags
Simple starter bag.
- Lots of Bag Making Tips
Including tutorials and videos.
- Tote-able Towel
A stylish way to carry your towel to the beach or pool.
- Cargo Pants Messenger Bag
Great way to recycle old cargo pants.
- Penelope Tote
With pretty pleat design.
- Pleated Handbag
Roomy bag with lining.
- Simple Tote Bag
With flower embellishment.
- Beach Towel Tote
Funky bag made from a towel.
Handwoven Ikat Fabric Bag
Even More Beautiful Bags!
- Reversible Bag
Most simple version of a reversible bag.
- Denim & Leather Bag
Sturdy and classy tote.
- Minimalist Tote Bag
Fantastic designer style bag.
- Bags Roundup
A list of tutorials split into small, medium and large bags.
- 6 Messenger Bags
Including a fab Nintendo bag.
- Reversible Messenger Bag
An excellent tutorial for a very practical bag.
- Reversible Tote Bag
With an adjustable strap.
- School Bag
Cute bag with added printed detail.
- Scavenger Bags
Handy bags made for kids.
- Retro Duffel
Fun cylindrical sports bag.
- Pleated Beach Bag
Very pretty and feminine style.
- Free as a Bird Tote
With a sweet bird applique.
- Leather 'Paper' Bag
Scrunch-up clutch bag which you could sew instead of glue if you prefer.
Bag Making Videos
Carrier Bag Holder
Homemade Bag Projects
- Wasp Bag Pattern
I love the fabric and roomy style of this one.
- Oilcloth Grocery Tote
Bucket style shape with a waterproof outer.
- The Weekender
Rugged cotton waxcloth bag for overnight trips.
- Striped & Lined Bag
Simple shoulder bag with leather straps and embellishments.
- DIY Woven Satchel
A leather bag with an pretty woven panel.
- Vintage Blanket Weekender Tote
I really like the brightly colored contrast stitching on this.
- Mesh Leather Bag
A simple sewing project that looks super stylish.
- Upcycled Sweater Bag
Recycle a sweater to make a smart bag with an envelope flap.
- Upcycled Polo Shirt Bag
And use an old belt as the strap.
Further Projects to Keep You Busy :)
- Nature Explorer Bag
Perfect for an adventure!
- Between the Lines
Funky bag ideas & DIY instructions.
- 2-in-1 Stroller/Messenger Bag
A stroller bag which you can then transform into a messenger bag.
- Ruffled Kid's Knapsack
Sweet and colourful drawstring bag for children.
- Kid-Size Messenger Bag
Smart mini messenger bag for children.
- Frankenstein Felt Bag
Great for trick or treat goodies.
- Branch Handle Tote
Interesting idea to use tree branches as the handles.
- Half Tote Bag
A narrow design made to use as little fabric as possible.
- Bunny Backpack
Adorable bag for toddlers (it has rabbit ears!)
- Handbag Sew-Along
Follow along step-by-step with this bag making guide.
- Shirt & Tie Tote Bag
Adorable bag made with a men's shirt and tie combo.
Vintage Pillowcase Bags
Other Useful How-Tos
Handy techniques and tricks for use in bag making:
- Bag Making Tips
Including adding magnetic closures and feet.
- Tongue Locks
And how to add them to your bags.
- Metal Rivets
How to add them to bags and straps.
- Easy Pocket
For adding to your bag lining.
- Twist Turn Locks
How to use this professional fastening.
How to add them to your bag.
To finish the bag edges off nicely.
- Inner Zippers
Adding a zip to an inner pocket.
- Concealed Top Zipper
Hide a zipper at the top of your bag.
- Magnetic Snaps
For easy closures.
- Another Magnetic Snap Tutorial
Slightly different way to do it.
- Inset Pocket
That you can adapt to use in bag making.
- Bound/Welt Pockets
Very neat looking pocket.
- Cute Pleated Pocket
Great for the outside of a bag.
- Zippered Inside Pocket
Plus another magnetic snap how-to.
- Adding a Flap Closure
To cover open pockets.
- Adjustable Strap
How to use webbing and rings to make a strap adjustable.
- Recessed Zipper
How to add a less prominent zip.
- Zipper Tutorial
Taking the fear out of adding zippers.
:P Emoticon Bag
How to Decorate Bags
Decorate pre-made and plain bags with everything from applique to paint:
- Yo-Yo Handbag
Add a pattern of yo-yos to your bag.
- New Tote Cover
Add a new outer lining to a tote bag.
- DIY Tassels
Add colorful tassels with loops of embroidery thread.
- Tote Bag Revamp
By changing the handles.
- Owl Bag
Embellish your bag with an owl theme.
- Doily Canvas Bag
Use paint and a doily to decorate a plain canvas bag.
- Scraps Bag
Use fabric scraps to adorn your bag.
- Rag Bag
Sew fabric scraps to your bag for boho chic.
- Market Bag Makeover
Prettify a plain bag.
- Painted Tree Tote
Print pretty green leaf designs on your bag.
- Sweet Scallops
How to add neatly made and very cute scallops to a tote.
Handcrafting Quality Bags
Best Bag-Making Books
There is a huge number of tutorials available on the internet, but if you want everything you need in one place - including beginner's information, expert advice and tips, free patterns, and sometimes even full-size templates - then books are the best way of getting this.
Also, the books are really pretty too!