My husband and I finally decided to get rid of our land line, but I needed to find a way to comfortably have long phone conversations with friends on my cell phone. I bought a Bose headset, which improved the sound quality on my phone, but I wanted to find a way to easily carry the phone around the house.
I decided to design a bag to hold my phone (with enough room for keys and credit cards if I was going out for a walk). It was a learning process, and I ended up making 3 bags, gaining valuable experience from each one.
In this instructable, I share my tips for making professional looking bags, which can be used for your phone, or anything else you want!
Step 1: Material for the Main Bag
Being a thrifty soul, my first idea was to make the bag using leftover scraps from 2 recent upholstery projects.
I had purchased the handwoven red ikat fabric in a small weaving village in Bali, and wanted to use every bit of it - you can see the leftover piece in the 2nd photo above. It was a thin cotton which would need reinforcing.
The blue chair fabric was stiff and frayed terribly - not the easiest to work with!
Given these fabric challenges, I decided to make the bag design fairly simple. And after making 2 bags from the upholstery leftovers, I made a third bag from cotton fabric, with a laser cut motif fused (appliqued) on the front.
Step 2: Materials and Supplies
For each bag, you will need:
- fabric for the outside of the bag - a piece at least 7" X 15"
- coordinating fabric for the bag lining - a piece at least 7" X 20"
- fusible interfacing for both lining and bag pieces (a piece at least 14" X 20")
- fabric for the strap - a 12" X 14" rectangle, or purchased trim
- coordinating thread
- velcro or magnetic bag closure
- pins or clips
- needle and thread
- ruler and tape measure
- a piece of paper and a piece of cardboard for the pattern
- scissors and (optional) rotary cutter and mat
- pliers if using a magnetic bag closure
- zipper if desired for internal pocket
- wash away Wonder Tape, a double sided transparent tape which can be stitched through
You will also need access to a sewing machine.
Step 3: Making the Bag Pattern
I measured my phone (a Blackberry Q10, which is slightly less than 3" X 5") and made the bag pattern large enough so that the phone would easily fit in.
I cut a rectangle from paper, 6" wide and 7" high (which includes a 1/2" seam allowance at the top), then used a drinking glass to trace a curve to round the bottom edges. This is the bag pattern.
I cut the same pattern from a piece of cardboard, which was helpful for shaping the trim/strap.
In this design, a single strip of fabric forms the strap and also continues around to bind or enclose the raw outer edges of the bag. Strap length will depend on personal taste, and on whether you want to wear the bag in a cross body style or as a shoulder bag. I determined that I wanted my total strap length (including the part wrapped around the bag) to be 58".
Step 4: Cutting the Pieces
You will need to cut, using the bag pattern:
- 2 bag pieces from your outside fabric
- 2 bag pieces from your lining fabric. These will be cut 3/4" (for the red and turquoise bags) or 1 1/2" (for the navy bag) longer than the outside fabric. In other words, instead of being 7" high, these lining pieces will be 7 3/4" high or 8 1/2" high. The extra length is wrapped around the front, so does not change the overall size of the bag. The photo above shows a lining piece being cut 3/4" longer than the main bag pattern
- 4 pieces of interfacing
- one extra piece of either the lining or bag for a pocket (optional), which can be on the inside or outside of your bag
- one long piece for the strap, (unless using purchased trim for the strap), 2 1/4" wide and about 60" long (based on the length you want your bag strap to be) OR - BETTER - follow instructions in Step 15 to make a continuous bias strip for the strap
- To join fabric strips to make up the long strap piece, cut strip at a 45 degree angle, trim 1/4" off the point, and sew the two pieces together. This will prevent any bulk at the join and will make the join almost invisible, as you can see in the last photo.
Step 5: If Adding an Applique Piece, or Other Decoration to Front of Bag, Do It Now
For the green bag, which I was lining with a turquoise blue cotton, I added an applique piece to the front.
I took a 5" square of turquoise fabric, and ironed a 2 sided fusible (Wonder Under) to it. I scanned a traditional Hawaiian applique pattern from the internet, vectorized it, and laser printed a 4" version of it at Yukonstruct, my local makerspace. The vector settings I used for a single layer of cotton fabric, backed with fusible web, were Speed 50, Power 20 and Frequency 40, and the fusible backed fabric was .018” thick. I used an Epilog Engraver WinX64 fusion laser cutter.
Carefully remove the paper backing from your laser cutout. I scored an X in the middle of the back with a pin, then pulled away from the centre in 4 sections to remove the paper without damaging the intricate design cut onto the fabric.
Then I ironed the fabric on to the front, using a hot iron and steaming it for 12 seconds.
Step 6: Iron on Fusible Interfacing and Sew Lining Piece to Bag Piece
- trim the fusible interfacing 1/2" at the top, so it doesn't extend into the seam allowance and add bulk.
- fuse the interfacing using a hot iron and steam (follow instructions for the interfacing you use. I used some very old interfacing from a suit jacket that I made many years ago. The interfacing is just to give the bag a bit more body and structure)
- sew one lining piece to one bag piece at the top, using a 1/2" seam
- repeat with the other lining and bag piece
- trim seam to reduce bulk - with the red bag, the lining fabric was much stiffer than the outer bag fabric, so I just trimmed the lining fabric to about 1/4"
Step 7: Iron Seam, and Fold Over, So 3/8" of Lining Fabric Is Exposed on Front
Once you iron the seam, fold the fabric so that the bottom curved edges meet. There will be a thin strip of lining fabric exposed on the top outside edge of the bag, which gives it a nice finished look.
Repeat, so that you have 2 pieces which look like the photo above - the front and back of your bag.
Step 8: Add Velcro to Bag Lining
- Cut a thin strip of velcro (hook and loop tape) about 1" X 1/2".
- Centre the hook side on one bag lining piece, and the loop side of the velcro on the other bag lining piece, about 1/4" below the top edge of the bag. Make sure the 2 pieces are lined up so that they will meet when the front and back of the bag are sewn together.
- Unfold the bag so that you are only sewing through the lining, not the outside bag fabric, and carefully sew the velcro onto the lining.
- Sew along each edge of the velcro, close to the edge, using a small stitch, pivoting at the corners.
- After you have sewn past the first corner, leave the needle down to hold everything in place, and carefully lift the fabric and pull the top thread from your first stitch to the bottom of the fabric, and tie a square knot to secure the thread. Trim threads close to knot.
- Once you have finished sewing down all 4 sides of the velcro, take an extra stitch, then again pull the top thread from that last stitch to the bottom and tie another square knot to secure the thread. This will keep the top of the velcro neat and tidy, with no loose thread ends that could get caught up in the velcro - your velcro should look like the last photo above.
- Repeat for the other velcro piece.
Step 9: OR - Use Magnetic Closure Rather Than Velcro to Close Bag
For the navy bag, I decided to use a magnetic closure instead of velcro.
One half of the magnetic closure fits neatly into the other. Both halves attach to the fabric using prongs, and have a flat circle that fits onto the back and protects your fabric.
Use the flat circle as the guide to mark where the two prongs should go. Position the circle exactly in the middle of the front and back lining pieces, about 1/4" below the edge of the top. Use dressmakers chalk or other marker to mark where the two prongs will go. Carefully cut small slits on these marks, and push one half of the magnetic snap through the fabric (lining only!), placing the flat circle on top. Bend down the prongs, using pliers if necessary. Repeat with the other half of the closure on the other bag lining piece.
Voila! You now have a magnetic closure in place.
Step 10: Stitch "in the Ditch" Where Lining and Front Fabric Meet
On the front of the bag, stitch close to where the lining and front fabric meet. This is sometimes referred to as "stitching in the ditch" of the seam.
I tried using a zipper foot (see photo above) to do this, but found my regular sewing foot worked just as well.
This stitching helps secure the top edges of the lining and front fabric, and the stitching also goes through the velcro. This keeps the top edge neat, and prevents the velcro from pulling the bag lining away. The second photo shows the inside of the bag, after this row of stitching has been added.
Step 11: Add Pocket If Desired, Using Velcro or Zipper to Secure If Desired
For the red bag, I decided to add a pocket to the inside, with a simple velcro closure.
The pocket was cut from the same pattern as the bag, and I folded the top edge down twice and sewed it down, to create a finished edge at the top of the pocket. I decided to zigzag this edge in place, just to keep the inside edge of the pocket as flat as possible.
For the navy bag, I added a zippered pocket to the inside. I didn't have a zipper that was short enough. I shortened the zipper by cutting off the excess, and then created a new zipper stop by stitching back and forth across the zipper end, about 1/4" from the end. For the pocket, I used a lining piece and cut it into two sections, about 2/3 the way from the top, and folded down the raw edges twice, creating two sides for the zipper to fit between. I inserted the zipper in the middle and sewed it on using a zipper foot. I basted the zipper in place first, using wash away Wonder Tape, which can be sewn through without gumming up the needle, and which makes sewing zippers a breeze. See photos and notes on the photos above.
For the green/turquoise bag, I added a pocket on the outside, with a velcro closure.
Step 12: Baste Front and Back of Bag Together
Pin or clip the front and back pieces of your bag together, good sides facing out.
Make sure the top edges meet, and the velcro or magnetic snap pieces meet up. If the bottom curved edges don't meet perfectly, they can be trimmed.
Sew front and back together by machine, using a scant 1/4" seam.
Step 13: Make Strap and Attach to Bag - First Try With Red Bag
For the red bag, I cut fabric strips 2 1/4" wide, and cut the ends at a 45 degree angle to join the strips in the neatest possible way (see Step 4), to make a 58" long strip. I then joined the two loose ends together using the same 45 degree angle technique to make a neat join.
I folded the long strip in half lengthwise and ironed it, then folded the raw edges into the centre of the long strip (at the fold) to create double folded tape with the raw edges tucked inside.
I basted the strap over each side of the bag, and sewed the strap to the bag, and the strap to itself, in one continuous stitching. However, I was very disappointed with the curved edge of the bag - there was just no way I could get that strap to fold neatly over the curved edge - see photo.
Step 14: Make Strap - Take 2 - With the Navy Bag
For the navy bag, I decided to use a purchased trim which was more flexible and could go around the curved edge of the bag bottom more easily. I still basted the curve with Wonder Tape (or hand baste with thread), because when you are attaching the strap to the bag, you are attaching it to both the front and the back at the same time, and it's hard to see what is happening on the bottom! I also ironed the trim/strap around the bottom bag edge to shape it before sewing it.
I sewed the two loose edges of the strap together before attaching the strap to the bag. Make sure the strap is not twisted when you sew the edges together!
Sew slowly, starting somewhere on the strap before you get to the bag. Start by taking 4 very small stitches - this will secure the thread ends. Continue stitching around the bag and strap until you are back where you started. Overlap your original stitching by an inch or so, then take 4 very small stitches to end and trim threads close to stitching.
Using the purchased trim resulted in a much neater edge, although the place where the strap edges are joined together is a bit lumpy and not as inconspicuous as I would like.
Step 15: Make Strap - Take 3 - With Green and Turquoise Bag
I realized that my mistake with the red bag was in using strips that followed the grain of the fabric. These strips do not have any stretch. On the other hand, bias strips, going diagonally across the fabric, will stretch and more easily accommodate a curved edge. I decided to use bias strips and bind the bag using the same method as for binding a quilt.
I found an Instructable on how to make continuous bias binding from a square or rectangle of fabric:
I used a 12" X 14" rectangle of fabric, which yielded 66" of 2 1/4" wide bias strips. The only join I had to make was where the end of the strap meets the beginning. The edges of the strip were already cut at a 45 degree angle as a result of using the continuous bias strip cutting technique, so I just had to shorten one end and sew the loose ends together to complete the loop.
Once you have your bias strip, fold it in half lengthwise and iron it down (good side out). Sew the raw edge to the top of your bag, sewing slowly and pivoting at corners, moving pins or clips if needed to ease the fabric. Sew around the bag edge, and continue sewing, just to sew the two raw edges of your strip together all around the strap, sewing 1/4" from the edge.
Hand sew the other folded edge of the strip to the back of the bag, using a blind stitch.
Now machine sew the strap to itself, starting where the lining and bag front meet. The raw edge will be folded in, just past where you stitched the raw edges together, so those stitches will be concealed. The strap is folded in thirds, with the raw edge tucked inside. Start and end your stitching with 4 short stitches to anchor the stitches and trim thread. See photos and notes above which illustrate these steps.
Step 16: Enjoy Your Beautiful Bag!
I hope you have been inspired by this instructable to make a bag of your own. A key lesson I learned is to use bias strips for the binding/strap. I also found the magnetic closure made a more professional looking closure than the velcro.
Please let me know if you make this!