Monday, August 27, 2012

Easy Shoulder Bag with Gusset

Yellowstone National Park was our family vacation destination this summer.  We camped and hiked and toured and drove the entire park.  Everywhere we went I brought my my big green bag.  It carried water bottles, sunscreen, bug spray, binoculars, my purse, and many other odds and ends for the family.  I could have just carried our big black backpack, but I'm just not a backpack type of  girl.  Plus, I've had this bag in mind for many months, but of course I didn't actually sew it until the day before we left!  I should have been packing, but instead I was sewing this bag.  Ahhh, the story of my life...

I made this bag out of a green tablecloth I picked up at a thrift store for $2.  The color called to me and I couldn't pass it up.  The lining is a wild orange and blue peacock print that I've used in several other bags, including this one:
I reviewed this pattern HERE.

This bag features a wide gusset, a padded cross body length strap, lots of interior pockets, and a tiny bit of decorative stitching.  It went together so quickly and turned out to be very useful.  So I wanted to share with you how I made it.

The supplies I started with:

green heavy weight cotton tablecloth
peacock print quilt weight cotton
fusible fleece
heavy top-stitching thread
regular thread
magnetic clasp
brass grommet
freezer paper
iron, scissors, sewing machine

Step one: creating a pattern
I folded my paper in half to make sure it came out symmetrical.
I cut out 2 outer pieces from the tablecloth and 2 of the lining.
Step two: making the outside front and back

To add some structure to the outer fabric pieces, I added some usible fleece to the wrong sides.
The fleece was trimmed to fit inside the seam allowances to reduce bulk. I added some decorative machine stitching with some heavy duty top-stitching thread.  (The stitch I used is called honeycomb and it's normally used for smocking.)  The stitching helped to secure the fleece to the sides of the bag. For the front side I followed the existing pattern on the tablecloth.  The back side just has some random lines of stitching.  Even though I fused the fleece to the sides, the stitching will help the bag hold up to repeated washings. 

Step three: making the inside front and back

 For the pockets, I cut some panels from the edges of the tablecloth.  The top edges were finished already which made everything easier for me.  The pink line in the photos above show how I stitched the around the panels making 3 different sized pockets on one side and a single large pocket on the other.  This was so much faster than making patch pockets.

Step four: making and attaching the gusset

The next thing I did was make gussets for the inside and outside of the bag.  These were simple 4 inch wide strips of fabic.  I added fusible fleece (trimmed to fit within the seams allowance) to the outer fabric gusset and added a line of honeycomb stitching.  Then I stitched the gusset to the front and back pieces.  Because the seams are curved, I cut notches in the seam allowances to ease the curves.  Depending on whether the curves will be convex or concave, you're supposed to cut v-shaped notches or straight slits accordingly.  I always just cut notches.  To me, it still works and I don't have to think.  

Step five: making the tab

This is the tab I made to keep the top edges of the bag together.  It ended up being a  finished rectangle of  tablecloth with the male half of the magnetic snap on one end and a brass grommet on the other end.  The grommet is perfect for hooking up my car keys and keeping them handy.  The female side of the clasp was attached to the front side of the bag.

Step six: making the shoulder strap
The strap is made up of 4 inch wide strips just like the gusset.  I added fleece to the outer fabric and secured it with the decorative stitch.  I added more fleece to the lining for extra padding for my shoulder.  I stitched them right sides together, turned it out, and top-stitched the edges.  Super easy and soft and cushy on my shoulder.
Step seven: putting it all together  
  1. I placed the outer bag inside the lining, right sides together.  I pinned and stitched the top edge, leaving the gussets un-sewn.  I used one of the openings left by the gussets to pull the outer bag through.  I pressed the top edge, turned under the edges of the gussets and pressed them as well.
  2. I inserted the ends of the strap into the openings left by the gussets.  I pinned and top-stitch all the way around the top edge of the bag.  I added some extra stitching to secure the ends of the straps to the gussets.  I stitched a square with and "x" in the middle.  You can see it in the finished photos.
  3. I stitched the tab onto the back of the bag, securing it with the box and "x" stitching. 
And here it is in all it's mean green wonder:

I was pretty vague about exact measurements because I really didn't measure anything but the width of the strap and gusset.  The length of the gusset and strap were eyeballed and the excess trimmed away.  Everything else was made off of the single freezer paper pattern piece.  I probably could have come up with a more creative shape for the tab.  Something curvier or perhaps a messenger bag flap would have been better.  Overall I am very happy.  This bag fills all my mommy-must-carry-lots-of-kids-stuff-wherever-we-go needs.  Plus, it's green, my fave....

What do you carry on family vacations?  What have you been making lately?  How comfortable are you with making something without a pattern?

Happy crafting and big hugs from Montana,
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  1. Que linda cartera!!! Gracias por compartir el tutorial. Besos

  2. How great is that??!! I could totally use a bag like this! Thanks for the awesome tut!

  3. Love the curved shape of this bag, Rikka and the way you've placed the fabric on the front!!! I think the rectangular tab works well as a contrast to the curves and a messenger bag flap would have covered the fabric pattern. A fabulous bag that's totally practical!!! Great tutorial, too.

  4. Thats a good idea, thanks for share it.

    Costa Rica

  5. What a lovely bag! I love green. Especially this shade of green. Great tutorial! Thanks for sharing :-)

  6. I know this is late...but I just found this pattern. What are the dimensions of your bag? width at the top, width in the center and width at the bottom? Also, what is the height in the center of the bag from the bottom to the curve opening and on each side? And finally, what is the length of your strap? Can you tell...I want a bag just like yours! I really hope that you are still reading post on this page. Please email me at thomaseanb at yahoo dot com if you'd like.

    1. Hi Thomasean!
      Thanks for commenting. I'm so happy that you like this bag so much. Unfortunately, it is no longer in my possession. In some of the tutorial photos, the bag is lying on a one inch grid cutting mat. Careful inspection of those photos may clue you in on the dimensions of the body of the bag. As for the strap length, you'll just have to experiment. Wish I could of more help.
      Best of luck!

  7. Just curious about how much fabric do you think you used? I got a giftcard to my local fabric shop that's burning a hole in my wallet and have been meaning to make a new school bag for myself.


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