Introduction: Multi Pocket Bag of Holding

About: Corporate drone who likes to create things in my free time

"It isn't fair, my precious, is it, to ask us what it's got in it's nasty little pocketses?”

I don’t think you have nasty pockets, but I can help you create a bag with lots of pockets for holding many things. This useful bag can be upsized for bigger items or reduced for smaller. I advise keeping the outer circle between 4 and 6 inches larger than the inner as you adjust sizing. Remember, bigger pouches require more fabric. Bigger pouches should also have a stronger drawstring to handle the heavier load it can hold. And, stronger drawstring material is often thicker so make sure to figure that in your sewing plans (larger differential between the 2 circles to have a bigger drawstring channel AND a bigger buttonhole to fit the bigger drawstring). You can choose to make more pockets inside (what has he gots in his pockets, my precious?) You can choose to go monochrome and use just one fabric or use up to 4- one for each layer. I will give you the basic instructions for a 1 or 2 fabric bag with a final, sewn outer diameter of about 11.5 inches. Let me show you how to make my little pocket bags of happiness.


Supplies needed:

  • If using 1 fabric- you need ½ yard of minimum 36” wide fabric (IE 18 by 36-inch piece) If using 2 colors- you can use 2 fat quarters (pre-cut 18X22 inch pieces- this will have some leftover fabric) or a cut 13 inches by 22 inches of each. Flannel makes nice soft pouches that are good for jewelry. I generally use a patterned fabric outside with a complementary solid lining. This is a good project for remnants- just make sure you have at least 13 inches for 1 pouch (18-inch length if using the 1 fabric for all layers- 13+9 X2 is exactly 44 inches- with many fabrics you lose a little pattern in the selvedges and flannels are usually only 42 inches wide. So, the 9-inch circles are cut tall (think figure 8) hence the 18 in length. If your fabric is 60” wide, a 13-inch length will work).
  • Drawstring material- about 2 yards of ribbon or cording for drawstring
  • Thread and basic sewing supplies- I prefer to do these on a sewing machine. They can be hand-sewn but it will take you a long time.
  • A ruler, compass & protractor are helpful for getting a good pattern and even sized inner pockets (look at the dollar store, Walmart, etc.)
  • Chalk, washable ink pen or pencil for marking lines, etc.

Step 1: Step 1: Cutting

Decide your fabrics- you will need to cut 2 (two) 9-inch diameter circles and 2 (two) 13-inch diameter circles. I like to leave a 1-inch extension on the edge for the turn spot. If using 2 colors of fabric, cut 1 circle of each size from each fabric (IE fabric A gets a 9 inch and 13-inch circle cut out and then fabric B the same). Stacking your fabric right sides together before cutting and then cutting both layers at once saves time and helps your pieces match each other better.

Step 2: Step 2: Button Holes

If you are doing this project on a sewing machine- sew your buttonholes now. Check your specific sewing machine instruction book for how to do buttonholes. I like to do a buttonhole on each side, so I can run a double drawstring through the channel. I use a tiny 1/4 or 3/8-inch button to set the hole size if I am using ribbon for my drawstrings. Thicker string means bigger buttonholes are needed. Also, if using a thicker drawstring, you may need to reinforce the buttonholes with interfacing or an extra scrap of fabric behind them. NOTE- Two buttonholes are a personal choice- a single drawstring requires less “string” but may not be as secure or easy to open and close. Fold the fabric you chose for the outer side of the large circle in half, mark at 1.5 inches in from the outer edge on each side. Sew a buttonhole on each side, perpendicular to the edge of the circle. Carefully cut open your buttonholes.

Step 3: Step 3: First Sewing

Place your circle sets right sides together and sew the edges, leaving the spot open for turning right side out. Push out seams (a ruler or knitting needle works great), iron flat. Top stitch around the circumference (fancy word for the outer edge) at a ½ inch or smaller seam allowance. This can be a fun excuse to use some of the decorative stitches on your sewing machine.

Step 4: Step 4: Folding & Marking the Center

Fold each circle in half and then in half again to find the center point. The shape you end up with should look like 1/4 of a pie. Mark it with a pin from the outside (buttonhole side) of the large circle through the inside (lining fabric side) of the smaller circle. I like to keep the pin standing in the center for my protractor to set the pocket lines. I like to pin the center circle to the outer circle in line with the buttonholes, so a pocket seam doesn’t line up with a buttonhole.

Step 5: Step 5: How Many Pockets?

I find an even number of pockets works best. More pockets mean each individual pocket is smaller. Think about what you want to hold and how big it is for best pocket size to item match. Tiny pockets can be a pain to pull items out of.

So, time for some math: pull out that protractor and place the center hole over the standing pin. Oops, be careful not to poke yourself. Now, let’s keep going. Imagine an “equator” line across the inner circle. Your “equator line” is the 0/180-degree line on the protractor. You are going to do half of the pockets on each side of the equator (north and south). Line up the protractor so the buttonhole pins are NOT on a drawing line/degree point. Try to place them at a midpoint in a pocket if possible (example: for the 6-pocket plan, this would be at the 30 degrees mark).

Step 6: Step 6: Pocket Math

Once you have decided how many pockets you want, we need to draw some lines. Grab that pen or chalk and start marking.

4 pockets- draw lines at the 0, 90, 180 rotating to draw all the way around the pouch

6 pockets- lines at 0, 60, 120, 180

8 pockets- lines at 0, 45, 90, 135, 180

10 pockets- lines at 0, 36, 72, 108, 144, 180

More pockets mean each pocket is narrower and holds less.

Step 7: Step 7: Floor Please

For jewelry pouches or holding tiny items, I like to do a “base” to my pockets and place an inner circle of 1-1.5-inch radius. You can mark this at the same time as the pocket dividing lines. This way stud earrings aren’t lost in the center-point of the pockets. This is a personal preference and is totally optional. This can be marked at the same time as setting the pockets.

If you wish to enlarge the center "open space"- make the center base circle a little larger (1.5-2 inch radius) to leave a larger space.

Step 8: Step 8: Off to Sew We Go

Place your pouch under the presser foot at one of your drawn lines. I'm showing a different pouch as the stitching shows up better. I like to back stitch a bit for sturdier pockets. Sew across to the far side of the circle, more back stitching. Cut threads as desired, rotate to next line and sew back across. Repeat until all your lines are sewn. 2 lines for 4 pockets, 3 lines for 6, etc.

If you are adding the inner circle option, sew it now. Be careful to keep on track. If you wandered around a bit, seam rippers are your friend. Only 2 more stitch lines to go!

Step 9: Step 9: Casing the Joint

If you are doing hand sewn buttonholes- sew the drawstring casing, THEN sew the buttonholes centered in the casing lines. If you already have your buttonholes sewn, mark the buttonholes with a bit of chalk or washable pen on the inside of the pouch. Measure how far in they are from the outer edge. Sew a ring around the outer edge that doesn’t cut your buttonholes in half- this is usually 1 inch for me based on the half inch edge seam and buttonholes place 1.5 inches in from the original edge before sewing. Then, CAREFULLY, sew another circle edging your inner pocket piece. Your mission is to not sew the pockets closed OR sew across the button holes but end up with a nice drawstring casing at least ½ inch wide. You may need to break your stitch line at the button holes. Trim all those loose thread ends now. Looking good so far!

Step 10: Step 10: Drawing to a Close

I usually prefer to run the pouch through the wash before threading the drawstrings to remove the chalk/ink lines but if they aren't too obvious you can skip that step. If you’ve changed your dimensions from the 13-inch outer circle, you will want to do some math here before cutting the drawstring or you may come up short. The formula for Circumference is Diameter X Pi (3.14). Diameter is the all the way across measure, radius is half way across. Measure the pouch from center of drawstring channel to center of drawstring channel on the opposite side. This should be about 10.5 inches or so if you used my seam allowances. That gives a circumference of 32.97. Allowing for knotting, add at least 6 inches. So, cut about 39 inches per string. I like to use the type of ribbon shown. If I cut the lengths at 45 inches each, I can thread 4 pouches from 1 10 yard spool of ribbon (2 cuts per pouch X 4) Feed the drawstring into one buttonhole (a large safety pin works great for this), leaving a tail, feed around the channel, and back out the same hole, knot the ends. Then feed the second string through the opposite hole so you’ll have a pull tail on each side of the pouch.

Step 11: Step 11: You've Got a Brand New Bag

What next? Everybody needs a bag of holding! These are great for travel jewelry pouches and for gamers dice (the 6-pocket version can hold D4, D6, D8, D10, D12 & D20 with mini figs in the middle).

Here are 2 other fabrics I was working with.

Be creative, have fun- there are so many fabrics you can try. If you are making multiple pouches, TWO standard 44-inch-wide fabric cuts at about 2/3 of a yard or 24 inches long will make 3 two color pouches with little excess. Can you say bridal party / brownie troop / sorority sister gift?

How about making one in that fancy shiny satin or nice brocade remnant you were eyeing but wouldn’t normally buy with satin rat-tail cording for the drawstring as a prom purse or ren-fair bag? You can add some nice trim to the top edge in the first sewing stage- lace, piping, etc. depending on what look you are going for.

Experiment and show me what you have come up with.

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