Instructables
Picture of The Perfect Duffel Bag
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I've made several duffel bags for various purposes over the years. This one is the culmination of all the knowledge I've gained. It will hold all the things you truly need in any circumstance, make its way through any airport to your side, resist stains and abrasions, stop global warming, and cure cancer. It is perfect. (Its name is Tommy.)

This is not a beginner sewing project, but it's not extremely advanced either. You should have some experience using a sewing machine and knowledge of sewing terms like 'seam allowance' and 'presser foot' - or the willingness to look them up elsewhere!
 
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Step 1: Tools & Materials

You'll need a tough fabric. Denim is good, or canvas; also many home decorator materials work well. A dark color will disguise the dirt the bag will inevitably accumulate, but some prefer the use to be visible: your choice. Definitely pick something that will be visibly different from other bags at a distance!

  • 2 yd fabric (more or less, if you're making it REALLY big add another half yard)
  • 3 yd 2" wide nylon strap [1]
  • 1 24" zipper (or as long as you want the duffel to be)
  • 2 8" zippers for the exterior pockets
  • 2 12" zippers for the interior pockets
  • 2 packets of double fold seam binding, one regular and one wide (I am actually using bias tape, but I'm using it AS seam binding and referring to it as such. Either will work)
  • sheet of flexible plastic - I cut the bottom out of an old laundry basket

for optional shoulder strap:
  • 2 "swivel snap hooks" (see pic)
  • 1.5 yd of nylon strap, of a width to fit your snap hooks [1]
  • 2 D-rings or, my preference, triangle shapes
  • 1 yd of nylon strap of a width to fit your triangles [1]
  • a little bit of padding: quilt batting, old blanket, etc.

The only tools needed are scissors and a sewing machine capable of handling your heavy fabric.

[1] Note that you may end up with nylon strap in three different sizes, or only one size; I used two sizes as my snap hooks took 2" strapping and my triangles took 1".

I used to have a nice picture of all the requisite pieces, but my camera ate it. Sorry!
SueC566 days ago

This bag finally surfaced in my search for duffle bag patterns. I like the shape and the pockets. I haven't yet read the instructions in detail, but I wanted to thank you for posting this (years ago, at this point).

Sue C

that is so cool
vovoho1 month ago

thank you

utest_8881 month ago
awesome
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LinuxH4x0r6 years ago
Wow, looks hard, especially for someone like me who can barely sew. I'd rather just buy one from LLbean. Besides, they have a lifetime warranty. +1 This is awesome!
I saved an old canvas from one of those party tent things(pretty old and kinda musty smelling). It is near water proof and very heavy duty. I made a bag out of it and it is awesome and cost me nothing. All recycled materials. Also, i sewed it by hand. Not the prettiest looking but very functional. If you are worried about the money, wait a bit until you run across the materials you need. Eventually you will accumulate everything you need. If you are worried about the difficulty, think of it as learning a new skill.
LLBean = 60+ $, or make your own for a 3rd of the cost, with a (fix it yourself, for the same effort of returning the 'lifetime warranty') warranty.

+1, 4, DIY
Pearlie6 years ago
Another brilliant design....where do I vote?!
smb1276 years ago
I think this is just the best. I of am a newbie when it comes to sewwing, but with a lot of help I just might make this. OF course, being me I want to make it bigger, so my son can use it as a hockey bag. Thanks. Sue
rachel (author)  smb1276 years ago
By all means make it bigger! My constraint was the size of plastic I had, but you can leave that part out if you don't have the right size plastic piece. Post pics when you're done! I'd love to see how it turns out. And feel free to ask here if you run into trouble.
You're too smart Rachel. Nice job! I was going to do something like this in class, except not this hard. +1 rating.
nagutron6 years ago
That's a nice looking bag, Rachel.