Introduction: Sew a Shoulder Bag and Four Accessory Bags

I don't know about you, but when I get a purse I keep it for years. I keep them until they are literally falling apart at the seams because I HATE shopping for a new one-- you want something fun and different looking, but at the same time you've gotten so used to the purse that you used to have that you want something that has the exact same number of pockets/zippers/general layout.

Sewing to the rescue! I finally got off my butt (thanks Bags Contest!) and sewed myself a bag that is an amalgamation of all my favorite aspects from previous purses. Now I've got a pattern that I can make over and over but with a few simple fabric or hardware changes, can have a new different purse with the same layout whenever I need to! The pattern I'm sharing with you will make a three compartment shoulder bag: an inner zippered pocket for your wallet, phone, and other things you want to keep securely inside, and two outer open pockets which are good to quick throw stuff in-- sunglasses, keys, and is wide enough to fit a folded piece of printer paper. Some cute hardware ups the look to make it more professional, and fabric choice can really change the look!

....of course, I also enjoy the inside of my purse to not be a hodge-podge mess, so I've also included FOUR more bags that can pair with this one: a kisslock frame pouch, a waterproof zipper bag, a tea wallet, and a small slip pouch.

I would very much love to see your creations made with this tutorial.... and I would VERY MUCH LOVE if you vote for this in the Bags Contest!

Step 1: Materials

For the main purse, you will need:

  • 1/4 yard of outer fabric
  • 1/2 yard of lining fabric
  • (optional 1 FQ of contrast fabric for lining)
  • 1/4 yard of leather, fake leather, or heavyweight fabric
  • 1/4 yard Pellon 71F interfacing
  • 1 yard lightweight fleece or interfacing-- I like Pellon Craft Fuse 808
  • 4 grommets and an installation kit
  • 2 o-rings
  • 14 inch or longer coil separating or purse zipper
  • (optional 4 purse feet)
  • (optional 9 inch polyester zipper for inside lining)

A 1/4" seam allowance is used everywhere unless stated otherwise.

Step 2: Outer Bag

1 - Cut a 13 x 3" piece of leather for the bottom of the bag. I highly recommend cutting and fusing a piece of VERY STIFF interfacing to the back of this piece (I like Pellon 71F for this!). Install purse feet if you want them. (Everythingmary.com has a good Youtube video of how to do this!)

2 - Cut a 2 1/2" x3" of leather for the side. Trace a 6 1/2" x 3" rectangle of your print, then draw a curve that is about 1.5" high. We will insert our grommets here! I highly recommend cutting a piece of interfacing 1 1/2" x 3" to go behind this curve to give it more strength where the grommets will go, and if you're using a lightweight fabric, woven, or quilting cotton, I highly recommend adding a piece of interfacing or fleece to the whole piece of fabric.

3 - Sew the side leather to the side print and topstitch the seam down on the lining side. Sew the sides of the bag to the bottom of the bag to make one long piece.

4- Cut two 13 x 8 1/2" rectangles for the face of the bag. Fussy cut something pretty! Again, and if you're using a lightweight fabric, woven, or quilting cotton, I highly recommend adding a piece of interfacing or fleece to the whole piece of fabric. A heavyweight or home decor fabric might not need this. Clip the front right to the entire length of the sides and bottom right sides together (use lots of clips! no pins, pins will poke holes in the leather!) with the curves on the side sticking up beyond where the front panel ends. Sew together, going slowly and carefully around the corners.

Step 3: Lining

Middle Zipper compartment

1 - Cut two 13" x 8 1/2" rectangles for the inside. Add any zipper pockets or other pockets you would like for organization inside the zippered compartment. I added a zipper pocket to one side of mine! (The optional 9 inch polyester zipper.) I also cut a 13" x 1 1/2" strip of interfacing and fused it to the top of each panel to make the top where it will connect to the zipper more sturdy.

2 - Cut two 13 x 10 1/2" rectangles for the outside. You will notice I made the top 1" of mine a contrasting fabric which was sewn to the main fabric and the seam topstitched down. I highly recommend cutting a 13 x 1 1/2" strip of interfacing and fusing it to the top to make where it will connect to the zipper more sturdy.

3 - Insert your zipper. Put an outer piece face up, zipper teeth down, and inner piece face down. Start from the zipper pull end, and use a zipper foot to sew ONLY 12 1/2" of the zipper to the bag. Pull the zipper out of the way for the last bit (the side with the separating stop) and sew just the front and back together. Repeat for the other side of the zipper with your second inner and outer pieces. When done, topstich 1/4" away from the zipper.

4 - Take the little excess end of the zipper that was not sewn, and fold the sides in and stitch down to make the zipper a little more narrow at this point. Cut a 2 1/2" x 1 1/2" of fabric to make a zipper pull to cover the separating end-- we don't actually want the zipper to separate when using it! The easiest way to sew on the zipper pull is to sew around the side, folded end, other side, then insert the zipper into the pull and sew a final line across both pull and zipper.

Outer Lining

5 - Fold the side panel piece from the main body in half, and use it to trace the curve for the ends of the outside pieces plus an extra 1/4" to the width of this curve-- since you're sewing the curves together in the middle, you're seam allowance will cut off some width. Cut two 16 x 8 1/2" rectangles (with curves on both top sides!). You will notice I made the top 1" of mine a contrasting fabric which was sewn to the main fabric and the seam topstitched down. I highly recommend cutting a 16 x 1 1/2" + curves strip of interfacing and fusing it to the top to make the top and where it will have grommets inserted on the curve more sturdy.

Step 4: Lining Assembly

1 - Move the long inner lining pieces out of the way and sew the short inside pieces together right sides together along the bottom edge. (It's that hard-to-see white line in the first picture.) Just the bottom, no sides! Move the long pieces back down.

1 - Open the zipper a little and layer an outer lining piece face up, the zipper pocket, and the second outer lining face down. You will notice the pieces are different sizes-- THIS IS OKAY. Sew down starting from the curve all the way to the end of the outer lining (do NOT go all the way to the bottom of the inner lining!). Bunch up the outer lining to line the other end with the other side of the zipper compartment, and repeat. MAKE SURE the zipper head is INSIDE these two seams! (This is why you should open it a little, make sure it is in!) The outer piece will be baggy/not lay flat, again this is what you want.

2 - Open up the inside zipper compartment from the bottom and fold each long side down to meet the excess from the outer lining. This should make the excess from the inside lining match pretty nicely from the excess of the outer lining and form a rectangular shape to the bottom of your lining. Sew around this rectangle and you should have three pockets.

Step 5: Bag Assembly

Final Assembly, Grommets, Handle

1 - Insert the outer bag right side into the lining, probably in one of the big side pockets. The top edge of both should line up pretty nicely! Sew 1/4" from top all the way around, but on one of the long straight front pieces, LEAVE A BIG OPENING to turn your bag rightside out.

2 - Topstitch 1/4" around the top.

3 - Insert four grommets, two to each curved side, according to manufacturer's instructions. (I suggest practicing on a small piece first! Layer some scraps of all the fabrics you used together and install a grommet.)

4 - Open your o-rings, put through grommets, and close.

5- Cut a 2 1/4" x 24" strip of leather for your handle. I recommend cutting this longer, and then clipping it in place to see how high/low you want your bag to hang off your shoulder. Fold the raw edge of the leather in 1/4" on each side, then fold the whole length in half for a total strap width of slightly above 3/4". Topstitch down the entire length on each side using a 1/8th seam allowance. Fold about 1/2" around the o-ring, and sew a line across to attach strap.

Step 6: Kisslock Pouch

I tend to be a walking pharmacy, and always have a bag filled with Advil, Tums, tissues, etc. etc... in my purse. Always be prepared! I like to have a kisslock frame pouch for this, because wrappers and tissues get easily caught in zippers. Also, kisslock frames are just plain cute!

You will need a kisslock frame that has holes along the length of it for sewing on, and a scrap or FQ of both an outer and inner fabric. Here I used a pretty heavy linen for both... you can add a layer of interfacing if you want this to be more stiff.

1 - Trace the curve of your frame. At the joint of the frame, extend the line out a quarter inch (your seam allowance, I made mine half an inch because I wanted it to stick out at the joints a little), then draw the shape you want the bottom of your pouch to be. It can be any size, but I think a nice squashed round is best. I've also seen people make it pear shaped-- paired with a pear themed fabric, it really looks like a pear!

2 - Cut out pattern and fold in half. Cut on the fold, then connect the top but spread the bottom out about half an inch away from each other. This makes sure your bag opens wide when the frame is open, otherwise the fabric will stretch too tight and not fit nicely or be too small to sew into the frame! (I HAVE MADE THIS MISTAKE, PLEASE LEARN FROM MY ERRORS.)

3 - Cut two of this pattern from both outer fabric and lining. Place the lining right side together and sew around the bottom curve of the bag. Repeat for the outer fabric. You can square the corners if you want more volume to this bag (see next page for how that's done!)

4 - Put one half into the other, right sides facing, and sew around the top. Leave a hole to turn the bag right side out!

5 - Using a needle and embroidery thread (I used all 6 strands here, but 3 or more is fine), backstitch the top curve of your bag into the holes along the frame.

Step 7: Waterproof PUL Zipper Bag

I grow tomatoes like MAD in the summer. I'll bring ten cherry tomatoes to snack on at work and pick twelve from the garden when I get home. To be eco-friendly I made myself a re-usable snack bag, and added a layer of waterproof PUL-- if a tomato gets squished, it won't make a mess everywhere. This would also be a great bag for any liquid cosmetics like foundation, mascara, etc, so any potential mess will get mostly caught in the bag and not leak all over the inside of your purse! Plus, if something does leak or make a mess inside... it's completely machine washable.

You will need a 7 inch zipper, a scrap or FQ of outer fabric, some PUL (found in the baby section at JoAnn Fabrics), and a scrap or FQ of lining. I like to use a piece of lightweight terry cloth or dish towel for the lining, so it will absorb anything wet. (My tomatoes are usually freshly washed and still damp.) An old clean washcloth works well for this!

1 - Cut a 6 1/2" x 8 1/2" rectangle from each fabric. Install your zipper on the 6 1/2" side of your pieces. Lay the outer fabric right side up, zipper teeth down, inner lining right side down, and PUL right side down. Sew with a zipper foot, then open and topstitch down 1/4" away from the seam. Repeat for other side of zipper. (I used an old flour sack towel for the lining!)

2- OPEN YOUR ZIPPER HALFWAY (you won't be able to turn right side out if you don't!). Lay the bag out flat with the outside on one side and the lining on the other. Sew down both sides (and across zipper). To look pretty at the corners, make sure your zipper teeth get sewn facing the LINING fabric and the seam allowances facing the lining fabric. Leave a hole in one side for turning. (You can see I screwed up the zipper, and my sides are all puckered. Don't make my mistake!)

3 - Pinch the corners to create a little triangle and sew a line across that triangle to square the corners... this gives your bag some volume! Cut the excess triangle piece off, flip right side out through the hole and handstitch it shut.

Step 8: Tea Wallet

I'm a huge fan of black tea-- Irish/English Breakfast, Earl/Lady Grey-- but I don't do caffeine. Not many places serve decaf black tea, so I always like to have a tea wallet in my purse to have a few decaf bags on hand. This is a SUPER EASY pattern-- all you need to do is cut five of the exact same rectangle.

You'll need scraps of fabric or a FQ, a 3" piece of 1/4" wide elastic, and a big button.

1 - Cut 7" x 5" rectangle of outside fabric and interfacing. Fuse interfacing to wrong side of outer fabric, sew a button on one end, and pin a 3" length of elastic into a loop facing inwards on the other end.

2 - Cut three 7" x 5" rectangles of inside/pocket fabric. Fold and press two of these in half wrong sides together, and topstitch 1/4" from the fold.

3 - Lay the remaining 7x5 right side up, and put one pocket piece 1 3/4" from the top. Stitch 1/4" from the bottom of this pocket across. There's no need to finish this bottom edge, it will get hidden. Lay your second pocket on top, lining up the bottoms, and baste or pin in place. Fold in half and press right sides together, then sew a line down the crease.

4 - Put both halves together right sides facing, and sew around. Leave a hole at one end to turn it right side out. Press (careful of the button and elastic! don't melt anything!), then topstitch 1/8" around. Done!

Step 9: Slip Pouch

Whoever decided that feminine hygiene products needed to come in bright look-at-me!! baby pink packaging that CRINKLES so loud the whole world knows it's that time of the month... was clearly not a woman. Seriously! A simple solution? Sew a small bag to put unwrapped pads in. It's cute, not obvious, and most importantly, QUIET. Nowadays, I've actually sewed an entire set and use only reusable cloth pads (check out the "Sewing Cloth Menstrual Pads" Facebook group for lots of friendly information and help!) which of course come with no wrappers. If you centered the opening on this, it would make a GREAT holder for tissues, rather than those expensive, crinkle-y, waste of plastic tissue packets.

You will need one scrap or FQ of fabric.

1 - Measure your piece, and cut a rectangle that is 1" wider and 2 times plus 2" longer than your intended object.

2 - On both short sides, fold over your fabric 1/4" then again 1/2". Sew this fold down.

3 - Fold the top of the rectangle down about 1/3rd of the way. Fold the bottom up 2/3rd to meet it and overlap them by 3/4" with the longer half on top of the shorter half. (You can have this opening be in the center of your bag, but here I have mine offset to the top.) Serge down each side-- if you don't have a serger, use a zig-zag or other stitch to finish the inside edges a little.

4 - Turn right side out. That's it! Super easy and quick!

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