Introduction: Felt Satchel

Today we're going to make a simple, elegant satchel made of locally produced materials. It's been designed to carry a small laptop (or a regular sized tablet), a notebook, and a camera.

If you know of a better way to do any of these things, please let me know in the comments. I'm always learning.

Here are the materials you'll need:

  1. 2m strap material
  2. 1.2 m2 Felt
  3. 0.6 m2 lining material (I used African print)
  4. Upholstering thread
  5. Regular thread
  6. Double thick cotton
  7. 10cm edging material
  8. 700mm zipper
  9. 2x brass zip sliders (make sure they're the right size for your zipper)
  10. 3x brass buckles

Step 1: Sketch Out the Design to Scale

This step isn't compulsory, but sketching out the product helps me plan the process.

Step 2: Marking and Cutting the Main Components

  1. Mark out the cut and stitch lines of what will become the outer part of the bag using a contrasting coloured pencil.
  2. Cut the felt. I decided to use two layers of the felt to increase the strength of the bag — you could get thicker felt if you’d like
  3. Mark out the cut lines on what will become the lining of the bag.
  4. Cut out the lining along the lines you’ve just drawn.

Step 3: Inner Pocket

  1. I’ve cut a slit in what will be the inner layer of felt about 7cm from the top, and 9cm from each edge.
  2. Make sure to cut a stretched “H” shape so we end up with two flaps. We’ll stitch the zipper and the pocket lining to these flaps.
  3. Cut the same “H” shape in the lining material.
  4. Pin the zip, the lining, and the inner felt together ready for stitching.
  5. Put the zip slider onto the zipper.
  6. Stitch a 4cm long piece of edging material over each edge of the African print to stop the edges from fraying.
  7. Cut a 185x240mm piece of felt. This will be the inside of the pocket.
  8. Pin this pocket inner to the inside of the lining, and then stitch it in place. You might want to do a double stitch for extra strength.
  9. Nicely done! That’s it for the pocket.

Step 4: Laptop Sleeve

  1. Now we’re going to make the inner laptop sleeve which will keep your laptop or tablet (or ridiculously big smartphone) safe from any sharp edges.
  2. Cut a 260x380mm sheet of the African print.
  3. Fold over and stitch both long edges to prevent fraying.
  4. Now stitch the sleeve to the lining material.
  5. I did a double stitch at the bottom edge for some added (psychological) security

Step 5: Inner Lining

  1. Cut out 2 100x290mm strips of African print fabric.
  2. These will be the sides of the inner lining.
  3. Pin them in place, and then stitch.
  4. Do this for both sides.

Step 6: Outer

  1. Stitch the 2 outer pieces of felt together.
  2. Cut away the inner flaps about halfway in.
  3. This leaves you with a double layer of felt for the outer. (You could just use thicker felt if it’s available).
  4. Cut 4 100x290mm strips of felt. These will be the sides of the bag. (We’re doing another double lining).
  5. Stitch these together so that you have 2 double thickness strips (1 for each side).

Step 7: Main Zipper

  1. Stitch each side of the zipper to the inner top edge of the bag — make sure to align them nicely!
  2. Cut 4 30x60mm strips of African print fabric — these will be the zipper stoppers.
  3. Pin and stitch one of these at each end of the zipper (make sure the zipper slider is in place first).

Step 8: Strap

  1. First, we’ll do the parts that are attached to the bag.
  2. Cut 2 195mm lengths of your strap material.
  3. Attach one of the buckles to the strap as shown in the image.
  4. Do this for the other side as well.
  5. Stitch each one of these to each of your felt side strips as shown in the image.

Step 9: Lid Lining

  1. I added an extra lining layer of felt to the lid to cover some blemishes, and to make it feel a little more durable.
  2. Go ahead and stitch this to the backside of the lid — it should look inside-out.
  3. Turn it outside-in.

Step 10: Siding

  1. Pin the sides to the felt outer.
  2. Again, it should look inside-out — we’ll reverse it in the next step.
  3. Do this for both sides.
  4. Stitch each edge, and then turn the bag outside-in.
  5. Your bag should be taking shape now.

Step 11: Attaching the Outer to the Inner

  1. Because of the thickness of the materials we’re going to need to hand stitch this part.
  2. I’ve also used a thicker thread for this step.
  3. Pin the top edges of the inner and the outer slightly below the zipper.
  4. Make some holes with a tailor’s awl — or anything else that’s really pointy and sharp — about 1cm apart.
  5. Stitch them together — I had to use a pair of pliers to get the needle through the fabric.

Step 12: Finishing the Strap

  1. Measure enough strap material so that you have 1.7x the length that the bag hangs comfortably.
  2. Preventing fraying: fold the edge over twice, about 1cm each. Pin in place. Stitch. Do this for both ends of the strap.
  3. Feed one end of the strap through one of the buckles — about 10cm.
  4. Fold it over, and pin in place.
  5. Stitch a nice strong square. I went over it twice. Hopefully you can make less of a mess of it than I did.
  6. Feed the other end of the strap all the way through a loose buckle, and then through the other attached buckle.
  7. Feed the same end of the strap (about 10cm) through the middle buckle — the one not attached to the side.
  8. Stitch it in place (same as above).
  9. You’re done! Go ahead and make yourself a nice cuppa tea. You deserve it!
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