Monday, June 3, 2013

A Duffel Bag for Travel

You may recall that, on my last birthday, my daughters and I stopped at one of my favorite local fabric stores. DD1 found a small-ish piece of home dec fabric (only 1-1/2 yards) that called to me. It featured oversized dots on a dark brown background.

I have a weekend retreat coming up this month, and I really need a roomy overnight bag. (Something better than packing my clothes in a grocery bag!)

A few people have suggested that the Koos bag that I made is ample enough to be a weekend bag, but not the way I pack! I use my Koos bag as a purse.

At first I considered using a pattern, but I realized that none of the patterns I saw made a duffel of the size I wanted. I had the idea of using as much of the fabric as possible. I wanted both external and internal pockets and straps that went all the way around the bag. I also wanted the bag to be lined, making it easier to create multiple inside pockets.

I ended up designing my own bag, combining techniques from a Zipper Pouch class and a Tote Bag class. If such a class is not available to you, I really like The Bag Making Bible: The Complete Guide to Sewing and Customizing Your Own Unique Bags.

The finished bag is quite large at 14" by 14" by 28". It features two external pockets, located on either side between the straps, and four internal pockets: 2 zippered pockets and 2 3D elasticized pockets. I used both sides of the home dec fabric, which is a brocade. The front side is solid brown with polka dots, and the back side features stripes with polka dots. I used the striped side for the external pockets and the "end caps".

I developed the 3D pocket with elastic when I made my artist smock. I used these pockets in multiple sizes on DD1's bed caddy.

I'm happy that I sewed this fabric up before it aged out in my stash!

If you are interested in the gritty details, here are the supplies and cutting info:

This assumes 1/2" seam allowances for most of the bag. The pockets use 3/8" S/A (or so).

Finished bag: 14" x 14" x 28".

  • Bag Outside - from each fabric (home dec, batting, and lining) cut:
    • 1 pc: 57" x 29"
    • 2 pc: 15" x 15" (for the 14" end caps")
  • Outer pockets - from each fabric (home dec and lining) cut:
    • 2 pcs: 12" x 12"
  • Handles - from each fabric (faux leather (or similar) and batting) cut:
    • 1 pc: 4-1/2" by 156"
  • Inner zipper pockets - from lining (or similar), cut:
    • 2 pc: 18" x 24" (I used muslin)
    • 2 14" zippers
  • Inner 3D elasticized pockets - from lining, cut:
    • 2 pc: 12" x 23" (two of the corners on the long edge are rounded off w/ a coffee cup)
    • 2 pc: 2" x 46" (cut on the bias or out of a knit, includes a bit extra that can be cut off)
    • 2 pc: 3/8" elastic - 19" long

For the batting, I used Pellon Fleece. I attached it to the home dec and faux leather fabrics using Dritz spray adhesive. When sewing the faux leather straps, I used the Teflon foot on my sewing machine. This made the task much easier, but I still broke 4 sewing machine needles when sewing the straps to the bag, due to the extreme thickness of multiple layers.


  1. Fabulous!!! You are a MASTER, ( Mistress?)

  2. Those inside pockets are awesome and the polka dots just perfect for a fun weekend away with sewing buddies... it emanates happy vibes :)

  3. brilliant bag and so useful - thanks for the info

  4. When I saw the title to your post I thought, "Oh, no she didn't!" But, oh yes, you did, and brilliantly, too. Sew cute!

  5. This bag is a stroke of genius. Over the years, I have often toyed with the idea of making my own bags. Lately, I've been making more and more of my own purses. This way, I get exactly what I want without having to shell out a lot of money.

    I'm currently drafting a pattern for a bag to carry my laptop and books without having it look like all the bags I see in stores.

  6. If you ever fell on hard times you could sell bags - I'd call you the bag lady but that could be misinterpreted!

  7. Such as cute and practical,useful bag! Love the dots.

  8. My DD took one glance at your bag and declared, "I want one!"

  9. I love your bag. A perfect, solution to the weekend bag. Enjoy your retreat.

  10. That is one terrific bag! I love the Alabama Chanin book and hope to make something in her technique someday. I also have her Craftsy class. Love Craftsy and the T class sounds very interesting.

  11. Fun bag!! You always make everything just a little more special :)

  12. wow, that is the perfect duffle bag- functional and cute.

  13. I love your bag and especially the fun fabric. I'm sure you'll enjoy using your new duffel bag. Have fun at the retreat.

  14. That's beautiful Shams. I love the polka dots and the colours. Great design!

  15. Lovely! It is such a cute bag. And roomy too!

  16. Oh dear lord, making a bag like this strikes me as the very definition of tedious, but the end product is totally amazing! I also can't get over how you break it down for us with all of the sizes of the pieces. This is one of your projects I will never copy, but I admire it immensely.