Introduction: Making a Laser Cutter Materials Travel Bag

This instructable shows you how to make a bag for carrying laser cutter supplies.

This project is a touch more advanced than my, not too much, but a little more advanced.  Primarily there are some more difficult sewing machine passes, the use of hook and loop fastener (I happened to use Velcro brand), and the making of pockets.

The bag I made (and hence give materials for), is designed to hold multiple 24"x18" sheets of material, Acrylic, Cardboard, Signboard, Plywood, and even a spare vector grid and a few useful tools.  I made this bag to hang on the wall of the garage near the car, and hold all the spare raw materials for when my husband or I wish to use the laser cutters at TechShop.

I made it at TechShop ( using the standard sewing machines.

You will need for this bag:-

- A quantity of fabric (I have used Ripstop nylon), if purchased, you want around 3 yards.
- Nylon webbing, or other heavy duty fabric for the handles.
- Thread to suit your material (I used cotton thread of different colours for my bag, but I should have used nylon for material matching).
- A round needle for the machine, sized for your fabric and cotton (I used a Ball-Point 100/16 needle).
- Sewable Hook and Loop Fastener(can be easily obtained at at most fabric/crafts stores).
- Wide hem tape (or use of a Serger).
- Free time (the most expensive item in the list).

This bag can be made to any dimenions that fit your material, obviously if your material is larger than my

An important note: Sewing tools should not be used for anything else, no cutting of paper with your sewing scissors, or pins used for unclogging glue tubes.  If you use sewing tools that way, never re-use them for sewing, as they will cause you problems.  The same also goes the other way, do not use tools that you bought for other uses for sewing as they will give you issues.  You really, REALLY, need to buy dedicated tools for sewing.

NOTE: Please request any clarifications in the notes, and I'll update as necessary.

Step 1: Measure and Cut

First off measure and cut your materials.  HOW you cut is actually important in this case, as we need the bag to be as strong as possible when carrying the materials.

Purchased fabric almost always comes as bolts, in that case you would accross the bolt, so the width of the material runs along the bolt.  Basically, fold out the cloth, measure your width of cut, cut off that piece, and this should give you a piece that when you unfold is 60" long and the width of your cut wide.  That's how we want to cut the bolt down.

Found fabric, or fabric not on bolts should be cut so the main threads of the material (the pattern threads) run vertically through the bag (in theory anyhow, the warp is often less threads in higher grade materials, but check your materials, you want the highest thread count running vertically through the finished bag so you have more threads to hold the weight of your carried materials).

Before cutting, check the hemming step, if you decide you are up to double-hemming, add an additional 2" or so of material to all "long" sides, this will give you the material you need to double-hem and still meet your internal size requirements.

First off we need to cut out 2+ main panels (the more panels you cut for this, the more bag slots you have for materials, BUT the harder the final bag will be to sew, so even if you use really fine light fabric you may wind up needing an industrial machine, best to stick with less than four).  The main panels should be cut to 29" wide and 50" long (that being <material width> + 5 = width, and (<material height> + 5 + 3) * 2 = length), for the first panel, and 29" wide by 44" long for the other panels.  If cutting from a bolt, do not cut to length at this point, just cut the panel widths out of your bolt, go to the next step for how to cut the bolt fabric.

Now we want to do the initial fabric fitting, stack each of the short panels onto each other and fold the entire stack in half, this should result in something very similar to a book or newspaper setup.   Next take the larger panel, fold it over the other panels so one of it's ends lines up with the other panels, and the other end hangs over (this overhanging end becomes our closure flap).

This will give you the basic form of your bag, pin along the vertical sides leaving the "top" open, and test fit a piece of your laser cutter material, it should fit loosely.  The problem with this arrangement if we sewed this together right now is that the material edges will fray, so we need to hem all those edges.

Step 2: Cutting Bolt Fabric

For those using fabric bolts, here's how we cut the bolt quickly and simply, this also gives us extra materials for outside (or inside) pockets.

1) Slide all the bolts together the same as directed for normal fabric.
2) Fold over  one outside edge to move it out of the way of our cuts.
3) Measure the material from the bolt fold edge to half a shorter panel length (In my case it was 22").
4) Cut at this line.

This gives you your flap, spare material for making pockets, or test sewing the fabric, and makes everything line up neatly.   It is rather wasteful on fabric however, so choose between doing it this way, or folding the material out off the bolt and cutting that way, whichever you prefer to do.

Step 3: Hemming the Edges

So, so now we need to hem all the edges, I found it best to pin the tops of each of the material slots, and the front of the bag one direction, then pin the flap hem the other way.  Now we are going to double hem the flap, so make your first hem as close as you feel comfortable to the edge of the fabric.

Hem all the fabric ends, then we return to the flap, here we fold the hem over itself and hem again.  However, you can give yourself a little break here, and hem to the width of the hook and loop fastener material you will be using.  If you would like a cleaner edge on your inside edges, go ahead and double-hem those too.  It does make the bag smaller however...

We also need to hem down a little on the flap sides.  If you have access to a Serger, feel free not to worry about this at this time, you'll be hemming the entire side in one pass later in these instructions.  Of course, if you have access to a Serger, feel free to hem all your hems this way, aside from the double-hem on the flap, you want the edge there to be very strong and not cutting the material should give you the best edge to the material overall strength.

Step 4: Adding Pockets

If you wish to add pockets to your bag, now would be a good time for that, though the pictures herein are for adding pockets to a mostly finished bag... I forgot to add them originally *grin*   Hopefully yours should line up better than mine will, and you will have more choices of location of pockets, I had to settle for what I could reach with the sewing machine, which meant outside only.

Now, I should mention this here, if using Hook and Loop fastener or some other larger method of enclosure, you will get the best finish by sewing it to the pocket and flap and getting them lined up before you pin and sew the pocket and flap down.  If using a button or other hand-stitched enclosure method (there are many, and most craft stores have entire aisles of that sort of thing), you can hand sew it on later, so don't worry about it now, adding buttons/whatever are not covered in this Instructable however, I'll have another one later (most likely) that covers that sort of thing.

1) Cut pocket fabric to size, if you are putting a closure flap on, make sure to cut it also.
2) Hem the pocket (and flap) fabric (frayed edges are the bane of good work).
3) Line your lower pocket piece (the actual pocket) on on the panel you wish to sew it to, where you wish to sew it.  Bear in mind that on the outside panels you will be putting handles later, so leave space for those, pin and sew it down on three sides.
4) If you are adding a flap, line it up, making sure you have space to sew in your enclosure, pin and sew along one edge.
5) Sew on your enclosure method.

If you forgot this step and wish to add pockets later, you will be restricted to where your sewing machine can reach (or you'll need to sew them in by hand).  I forgot, hence all my pockets are on the outside of the bag, but I actually did not want any inside anyhow, so it's all good.  It would have been much easier to sew them on at this point though... *sigh*  (The second picture shows the awkward handling to try to get the outside pockets on, so if you want pockets, and want to do this simply, do them now!)

Step 5: Hemming the Sides

First off, pin along the sides of your bag and make sure you can get material in and out without needing any effort (other than holding the material).  This is important as you will be losing width as you hem the material, which is why I pinned the material much further "inside" the material than I needed to.

Those of you with access to a Serger, this next part is the simplest, and remember earlier when I told you not to worry about hemming the edge of the flap?  Here's why it's not important.... Serge along each side of the bag from top to bottom.  You're done with the Serger now :)

Those making this without a Serger, here's how to do it.  I actually like the look of this method, and once I get myself access to a Serger, for this sort of bag I will probably use the Serger, then finish up with the second part of this.

1) Sew along each side with a double-row of stitches.
2) Trim any material sticking out, we are trying to get this neat (or maybe you got lucky and everything lined up wonderfully... yay!
3) Cut your hemming tape to a little longer than the sides of the bag (about an inch or two, whatever you feel comfortable for a normal hem).
4) Fold the end of the hem tape over itself and then fold the hem tape around the edge of the side.
5) Pin in place.
6) Check, make sure it's lined up the way you want (fix as necessary, I've never gotten this sort of thing perfect in one positioning).
7) Sew the hem tape to the side of the bag, making sure you sew the folded ends in as well.

In my bag, I did a double row of stitching, but a single should be enough, I double-stitched, and it is very strong, and it doesn't look all that bad either :)

Step 6: Adding the Main Flap Enclosure

Okay, so here is where things get interesting, while we could have done this earlier (before sewing the sides in), and that would have meant a simpler connection, lining everything up before your bag is very steady overall I find to be difficult... so I wait until it's sewed together.   Now, there are ways to make sure it all stays in place right, special pinning patterns and such, but seriously, this sort of transport bag will get beaten up and you'll probably want to replace it every year or two (or more or less, depending on how often you use it).

So, when using Hook and Loop fastener figuring out which side should go on what piece is always difficult.  The rule of thumb I use is that you want the hooks to be somewhere they won't catch on everything (as they will), so I generally attach those to the flaps of things, that way they are less likely to catch on other stuff.  Your preference for sides, the pictures here will show it the way I do it, but that is just a preference of mine, not a requirement, you just need to make sure you have one hook side and one loop side matching on each enclosure you want....

So, cut the hook side of a strip to about 2" shy of  the current length of the flap (the flap size will be different depending on how you have the hems done, so measure it!  Don't assume it's the right size!), pin it along the flap about a 1/2" in from the edge.  Sew this in place, I looped the entire piece, making sure to do multiple passes at the ends (same as when starting/stopping a regular sewing line, just all the way across the fastener material).

Cut the loop side of a strip to where your sewing machine can easily reach on the main bag placement.  Most sewing machines have a removable section to allow you to slip a looped object over (such as a pant leg), now is the time to remove that piece and check on the bag.  The longer this loop piece is, the easier it will be to keep the bag closed.

Next, with a fabric pencil in hand, fold the flap down so it's what you want it to be positioned as when "tight", pin in place with one/two pins, and mark a few points for the "outside" edge of the fastener strip on the non-flap piece of the fabric.  Unpin the piece and use the marked lines to pin the loop side down.  Sew as the hook side, making sure you are only sewing it to the outside piece of the bag (We are trying to maximize the amount of slots for materials *grin*)

Step 7: Adding the Handles

Okay, so the bag is done... right?.... oops, forgot the handles :)

Actually, it's fairly standard I have found to attach these at the end of the work, however you could easily have added these before sewing the sides of the bag together, just bear in mind you're positioning is going to be a touch more difficult if you do this before you put the bag together.

Now, in my bag, I wanted two sets of handles, one for carrying the bag normally, and one for putting it on the hook in the garage.  In both cases, the handles are positioned so there are at least 5" of webbing sewed to the bag.

You need to position the handles such that the bag flap does not interfere with the handles, I recommend therefore closing the flap to how you want it positioned, and then pinning the handles in place.  Then open and close the flap, if the flap opens and closes comfortably, then you can proceed to sewing the handles in place.

Doing so is going to be really difficult with a regular sewing machine, due to the positioning of the bag, however with light fabric such as the rip stop nylon, you can roll/scrunch the bag up as you move it around to sew the handles in place.  Make sure you stitch heavily on each end of the strap to hold it in place nice and tightly (and also again, make sure you are just sewing through the outer layer).

When you are done with the handles, rejoice, and be merry! *ahem*  You have the bag completed... Now go and then fill with spare materials and then go make a bunch of neat stuff and tell us how you did it :)

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