Introduction: Sew a Hobo-Bag

Picture of Sew a Hobo-Bag

I needed a bag that would hold a lot of stuff and be completely hands-free to wear, so this is what I came up with.  I made the cream bag the night before a festival.  My friend wanted a variation of the bag so she and her boyfriend could carry their snake around, so I made the green bag and documented it for all of you.  :)

This bag seriously holds a ton of stuff.

If anything isn't clear, please ask.  :)

Step 1: Materials and Supplies

You will need fabric for the shell (the outside of the bag) and the lining, and the strap.  Actual yardage will vary depending on your size.  Either the lining or the shell material (or both if you like) should be a heavier fabric, to support all your stuff.  Both of the bags I made are lined in a heavy duck cloth.  The cream fabric is muslin, which makes the bag softer and slouchier, and the green fabric is a bottomweight, which makes the bag stiffer and hold its shape more.  Whichever fabrics you choose, they should not be knits or other stretchy fabrics.

- For the template, you will need a piece of cardstock or construction paper about the size of your back.  Tape two pieces together if you need to.
- For the body of the bag, you will need about half a yard each of the shell and lining materials, from 45" cloth.
- For the strap: Measure from your right hip, over your left shoulder, and back down to your right hip, and add 12 inches.  This is the length of strap material you will need.  The width is 6 inches.  Yes, you have to buy a lot of fabric and will have a lot left over, but Jo-Ann's has coupons every week so it won't be too expensive.
- Notions: thread to match lining and shell; depending on which closure style you choose you will need two D rings or two buttons and some elastic cord.
- The usual miscellaneous things: pen, scissors, pins, etc.

Step 2: Make a Template

Picture of Make a Template

First, make a template for the body of the bag; you'll need a friend for this.  Either have a friend hold the cardstock up to your back and trace the shape, or you do the same to your friend (it helps if the friend is about the same size as you).  You are making a rectangle with smooth rounded corners.  Don't worry about symmetry right now; we've got a trick for that in the next step.

Mark a 1/2" seam allowance around your template, then cut it out.  (I didn't do this and had to add seam allowances to my fabric before cutting, and it was a pain in the neck.)

Roughly sketch a diagonal line across your template to represent the top edge of the front piece.  Sketch another line 1/2" above that for your seam allowance.

Step 3: Cut the Fabric Pieces

Picture of Cut the Fabric Pieces

Use the template to cut two pieces each from the lining and shell.  To make your pieces bilaterally symmetrical, fold the template in half and place the crease on the fold of the fabric.  Remember, you can fold the fabric wherever you like to make it most economical.  Trace and cut.  Ideally you'd use a pencil or chalk, but if you need to you can use a pen since the marks will be in the seam allowance.  Disregard the added seam allowance marks in the pictures; I was foolish and didn't include them in my template.

Out of the pieces you've cut, one each of the shell and lining pieces will be the "back" pieces (whole rectangles, touching your back), and one each will be the "front" pieces (trianglish shapes, not touching your back).  Using your template as a guide, cut one each of the shell and lining pieces along the diagonal that is marked on the template.  You can use the first as a template for the second to get a perfect match.  If your fabric has a right and wrong side, you will need to pay attention to which way the diagonals on the front pieces run.  With your fabric right side up, lay the template wrong side up for the lining and right side up for the shell.

Finally, to make your bag hold a lot of stuff, you will need a rectangle of fabric to give your bag depth.  Measure around a front piece from corner to corner the long way (not across the diagonal); see the last picture for clarification.  Add an inch for wiggle room, and that is the length of the rectangle.  The width is four inches (three inches of depth plus seam allowance), though you can make it wider or narrower if you like.  Cut one each of these rectangles from shell and lining material.

Step 4: Pin and Sew the Shell and Lining Pieces

Picture of Pin and Sew the Shell and Lining Pieces

The right side of fabric is the pretty side, the side you will see.  The wrong side is the ugly side, which will be trapped with the seam allowances between the shell and lining and won't be seen.  This part is tricky, so read carefully.  For the shell, you will pin right sides together, and the shell will get turned inside-out.  However, for the lining, you will pin right sides together, but it will not get turned inside-out, because the interior of the bag is the pretty side.  This means for the shell, the right side is the OUTSIDE of the bag, but for the lining, the right side is the INSIDE of the bag.  The pictures and notes will help you a lot on this step.

Pin the front, rectangle, and back lining pieces right sides together, as shown.  Mark with ruler and trim excess from rectangle piece.  Sew with a 1/2" seam allowance.

Repeat with shell pieces, noting that the diagonal should run the opposite way.

Step 5: Attach the Lining to the Shell

Picture of Attach the Lining to the Shell

Clip the curves of both pieces.

Insert the lining into the shell, right sides together.  You should see the seam allowances on the outside and on the inside of the bag.  Pin all around the edges, but leave a gap about 4 or 5 inches wide at the bottom of the diagonal (see pictures).  This is the opening through which you will turn the bag right-side out.

Stitch where pinned, with 1/2" seam allowance.  Clip the curves.

Reach into the gap and turn the bag right-side out.

Fold the raw edges of the gap inward and pin to match the rest of the edge.  Topstitch close to the edge.

Step 6: Cut, Sew, Attach the Strap

Picture of Cut, Sew, Attach the Strap

Cut two strips 3" wide, and the length that you determined in step one.  Sew them right sides together, 1/2" from edge on three sides, leaving one short end open.  Clip corners on the closed end.

Turn the strap right side out through the open end, as if inverting a tube sock.  This is very tedious; I'm sorry.  Tuck the raw edges in and topstitch to finish.

Lay the strap on the back of the bag and pin in place.  Try it on and adjust as needed.  For the cream bag, I had 16"-13"-30" (below the bag, across the bag, above the bag), and for the green bag I had 22"-12"-35".

When you've got the strap pinned where you like, stitch a rectangle to secure it to the bag, making sure to pull the front of the bag out of the way so you don't stitch it shut.  If you want to be fancy, put your strap thread on top and your lining thread on the bobbin, and it will look super slick.  I wish I'd thought of that before I finished.  If you do this, be sure to test your tension on a scrap so you don't end up with loops of one thread showing up on the other side.

Step 7: Finish the Body

Picture of Finish the Body

At this point all your stuff will fall out of the side of your bag, so you must close up the side.  Pin the back to the rectangle and the front as high up as you'd like.  The higher you go the more secure, but the more narrow the opening.  Of course we will also install a closure in the next steps.

Topstitch closed.  Stitch the same distance from the edge as you did when closing the gap earlier, so your stitching will go right on top of that stitching.  You could whip stitch or slip stitch by hand if you prefer, but I don't think it's as secure.

(In these pictures the strap isn't attached yet; I then found out you have to have the side open to stitch the strap on, so I had to rip out my stitching and redo it after adding the strap.  And that's why you shouldn't start a project the night before an event.)

Step 8: Closure Style 1 - D Rings

Picture of Closure Style 1 - D Rings

This style of closure has a strap and two 1" D rings.

Cut a 2x4" strip to secure your D rings.  Fold 1/2" inwards from each edge and press.  Trim the corners.  Then loop through both D rings and line up the ends so you are left with a strip 1.5" long.  Pin, then stitch around in a square to secure.  Take care that your D rings are clear of the presser foot; it helps if you start your stitching on the side next to the D rings.  Stitch the D ring tab to the top "lid" of your bag.

Cut a 2x13" strip for your strap.  Fold 1/2" inwards from each edge and press, and trim the corners.  Then fold in half to get a 1x6" strip, and stitch all edges.  Stitch the tab to the lower edge of the bag opening, across from the D rings.

To close, thread the strap up through both D rings, then down through only the lower D ring.  Pull tight.

Step 9: Closure Style 2 - Loop and Toggle

Picture of Closure Style 2 - Loop and Toggle

For this style of closure, you will need two buttons and some thin elastic cord.

Tie a loop with the elastic and secure the knot with glue.

Place one button on top of the knot of the elastic on the top "lid" of the bag, with the loop pointing toward the edge.  This button isn't necessary, but it covers the knot and looks pretty.  Stitch the button to the bag, stitching to either side and in between the loop ends (just below the knot).  This should secure the elastic as well as the button.

Stitch the other button on the other side of the bag opening.


greatpanda (author)2013-01-06

Nice bag! BTW, here's a couple of less tedious ways to invert long tubes with closed ends: thread a piece of wire with a loop on the end, and put a needle all the way through the cloth and loop together. Then you can pull the wire out and the tube inverts itself. Or, if you thought of it ahead of time, sew a cord in the middle and sew it to the end of the tube. Just pull the cord and trim!

linrodann (author)greatpanda2013-01-06

Great idea; that would have made things easier. Thanks!

LoreSkywalker (author)2016-12-12

I made a version of this bag about two years ago as part of my Bunnymund cosplay (from Rise of the guardians) and aside from it getting sweaty due to me deciding to make it out of fake leather, it was a great bag! I still own it, and plan to use the dimensions and basic shape for a backpack for a faun character I am working on :)

linrodann (author)LoreSkywalker2016-12-14

I'm glad to hear it! :)

borut.kozel (author)2015-12-22

Nice backpack :D I'll try it one day.Could work great for post apoc LARP.thank you for sharing tips with us :).

linrodann (author)borut.kozel2016-01-05

Thanks. :)

Jalalato (author)2015-12-04

is not equal but i made something with your original idea like inspiration...

linrodann (author)Jalalato2015-12-05

Nice! :D

laith mohamed (author)2015-11-30

Nice and good

Lulu-1498 (author)2015-02-14

Shoot! Thanks anyway. Do you know anyone who would make a custom order like this?

LyndaM8 (author)Lulu-14982015-11-29

contact me at to discuss making this bag

linrodann (author)Lulu-14982015-02-16

I don't, but I'm sure if you google around, you can find someone. Good luck! :)

infra78 (author)2015-06-21

ive made 2 now great bags...


linrodann (author)infra782015-06-21

Yay! I'm glad you had success. :)

IrisR1 (author)2015-05-09

Hello, just wanna ask if you have the actual PDF for the template??

linrodann (author)IrisR12015-05-11

No, there is no pdf template. But it really isn't difficult to make your own. :) Good luck!

Lulu-1498 (author)2015-02-14

I love how this bag looks! But I can't sew. Do you have an etsy or something where you sell these? I'd love to buy one.

linrodann (author)Lulu-14982015-02-14

Thanks! While I do have an etsy, I don't sell any sewn objects (I sell laser-cut jewelry). Sorry! I'm not very fast at sewing, so to make a decent hourly wage I'd have to charge way more than I think is reasonable. You could probably commission someone to make one for you based on this instructable, though! Good luck!

Lulu-1498 (author)2015-02-14

I love how his bag looks! But I can't sew at all. Do you maybe have an etsy or something where you sell these? I'd love to buy one.

AmandaPerlOR (author)2014-10-05

This is a fantastic pattern; easy, simple, and clear. I have been wanting to make this kind of bag, thank you! I will probably put in a zipper, though.

DitzyDIYer (author)AmandaPerlOR2014-12-28

Hi, did you figure out how to put a zipper in? I'm thinking just put it where the gap is in the instructions..... but if I'm using a zipper I'm also thinking why not just make the whole flap be able to open?

linrodann (author)AmandaPerlOR2014-10-05

Glad you like it! :D A zipper is a great idea (I find zippers intimidating but I should probably get over that. :P).

buildandsewandstuff (author)2014-09-18

I really love the unusual shape of this bag! I can see that it would hold a ton. Looks handy for bike-riding. Could you put a zipper in for closure? I invariably end up dumping my bag all over if it doesn't zip closed. And the snake escapes, too - ha ha! I think I'd like using D-rings on the strap so it would lay flat against my body, instead of having a big bow or knot - most of the length of the strap would need to be coming up from the hip area, with the D-rings on the top, on a shorter piece. But that's just my preference - if I make it, I'll post pics. I think I'd also like a little pocket sewn onto the lining inside the part that goes against your back, to fit a cell phone, kindle, or a little pad & pen. Thanks for the great inspiration!

Hi! Did you figure out how to put the zipper in?

Great ideas! I'd love to see photos if/when you make it. :)

zazu_247 (author)2014-11-22

Sorry, I should have been more clear. Do I sketch from left shoulder to upper right pelvis? Or to lower right floating rib?

linrodann (author)zazu_2472014-11-22

It's up to you, depending on how you want your bag to be. :) I did shoulder blade to the top of the hip bone, but you can do it however you like.

zazu_247 (author)2014-11-22

When you day to "trace your back", what do you mean?

linrodann (author)zazu_2472014-11-22

Have a friend hold the cardstock up to your back and sketch a rectangle with rounded corners, or you do the same to a friend who's about your size. This is so that the bag is about the right size for you (you don't want it way too big or too small).

You don't technically have to do this - you can measure your back and then sketch the shape based on measurements - but I think it helps.

I hope that was clear!

pyromaniac123456789 (author)2014-02-23

Can you please give me measurements for the triangle shape? I can't quite get the right shape.

Sure thing! The triangle piece is cut from another rectangle piece (12.5 inches tall, 10 inches wide, curved corners). The top of the diagonal line is just below where the side starts to curve (11 inches tall on that side), and the bottom of the diagonal line is just above where the side starts to curve (2 inches tall on that side). After sketching that line, I cut half an inch to the outside for seam allowance.

Those are my measurements, but don't worry if yours isn't exact; there is no real "right way". I just made it up as I went along, so my shape isn't necessarily better than another shape. :)

Good luck!

TheCommander (author)2014-01-18

This is great, I think I'm in love

wyrdwoman (author)2013-11-05

I was very pleased with your bag. I was in an accident and am left with residual pain, left shoulder and neck, so wearing any bag or back pack is uncomfortable. This could adapt well for either side. I was given a very expensive bag similar and it worked brilliantly but has worn in many areas (zipper closure - last gasp). It was functional but not pretty I am going to find the most garish fabric and trim as is my style. I think I will add a few pockets to the lining to keep myself organized. I have some great antique buttons that would be best showcased on your wonderful bag.Thanx so much.

linrodann (author)wyrdwoman2013-11-05

I am glad you found it helpful. :) Best of luck on your bag!

BizosGirl (author)2013-09-05

I am in the process of making this bag and I'm having issues with connecting the back piece to the triangular piece.. When I sewed the bag together and turned it inside out I notices that it still had both rounded edges on the top.. I can't seem to figure out how to fix it...

linrodann (author)BizosGirl2013-09-08

It's hard for me to imagine what you're doing without seeing photos, but the back piece and triangular piece don't attach to each other directly; they each attach to opposite long edges of the skinny rectangle, so that it is between them.

I hope that helps. If not, it would be very helpful if you could show me a photo of your pieces so I have a better idea of what the problem is. :)

lhelton1 (author)2013-05-14

I just wanted to post my experience on this project. :) I absolutely LOVE the idea of it! :) I had made a template with cardstock, and somehow it came up missing. The closest alternative I could find, instead of making another one, was using a storage box lid! :) This is PERFECT for tracing! :) I almost have mine finished, so I'll try to add some pictures when I get it done. :)

linrodann (author)lhelton12013-05-14

Can't wait to see your pictures. :)

Wasagi (author)2013-01-07

Ahh, I love the look and size of this bag. I've been wanting a snug bag for my back when I don't need my full backpack, but their closures have been less than appealing. This on the other hand looks both functional and great!
How's the button closure holding up thusfar?

linrodann (author)Wasagi2013-01-07

Thanks! I haven't put it through the ringer so I can't vouch for its toughness, but I expect it to hold up well. And of course, it is easy to remove without damaging the fabric if necessary.

hyookami (author)2013-01-06

GOD, ¡¡This is Awesome!! I love both kinds of Closures. What about adding an stabilizing strap in case you need to Run?

linrodann (author)hyookami2013-01-07

Thank you! I have run and jumped with it on with no problems. I suppose if you wanted to be extra sure you could add another strap perpendicular to the first, that goes around the other side of your body and attaches to the first strap in the center of your chest.

PitStoP (author)2013-01-06

That's cool.. But did the snake like it? haha =) Nice job btw.

linrodann (author)PitStoP2013-01-06

I don't think they've used it yet, but she probably will. She likes snuggling in warm places and being near people. Thank you. :)

PitStoP (author)linrodann2013-01-06

You know I was thinking on getting a camera bag and I was just now thinking when looking at this again that this with a little padding and a few pockets will make a nice DSLR camera bag. Great when climbing a rock wall to get a few nice pics from above! ;) I think I will make one sometime soon.

linrodann (author)PitStoP2013-01-06

Yeah, the nice thing about it is that it's snug against your back, so it doesn't move or flop around at all. If you do make one, I'd love to see it.

PitStoP (author)linrodann2013-01-06

Yeah, just what I was thinking this way. This way it be safe and secure plus comfortable on my back . If I do make it, I will sure show it to you.

ushuaia (author)2013-01-06

Did you say "snake"??

linrodann (author)ushuaia2013-01-06

Yes, their snake is very friendly and enjoys traveling around with them. They wanted a nicer carrying-bag for her.

Penolopy Bulnick (author)2013-01-03

Very cute bag! And it looks pretty easy to put it all together!

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm a crafting junkie and a sewing masochist. There's never enough time to get to all the fun and interesting things to do ... More »
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