Introduction: Shark Attack Messenger Bag

About: Where there's a will, there's a way! Never give up, never give in...BE the good you want to see in the world. :)

Here's a fun messenger bag that looks like a shark attacking you when you wear it!

You can make it ultra-realistic for an adult bag, super cute for a kids bag, or somewhere in-between.

The choice is yours. :)

Step 1: What You'll Need...

Here are the basic supplies needed to make this bag:

  • 1 yard white canvas
  • 1 yard gray canvas (I couldn't find gray canvas, so I used heavy-duty gray cotton)
  • 1 yard red lining fabric (I chose cotton)
  • Thin foam for the chest strap (I cut out a piece from an unused yoga mat)
  • Fiberfill
  • Zipper (I used a 12"-14" zipper...I would suggest using a regular or heavy-duty zipper, not an invisible zipper, because regular or heavy-duty zippers are stronger and don't require any special equipment to install)
  • Sharp scissors (I bought a new pair for this project)
  • Tough sewing thread (I used machine embroidery thread) in these colors: white, gray, red, and black (to match the color fabrics you got)
  • Two large black buttons (I used 1 1/2" buttons, but size yours according to your bag size)
  • Tape measure
  • Chopstick (or other similar item to turn out the teeth with)
  • Tough machine needles (I got jeans/denim needles)
  • Hand sewing needles
  • Dimensions of the person you're making it for (1. measure from the middle of the right shoulder to the middle of the hip -- where you want the bag to sit across from head to tail. 2. Measure from the middle of the same shoulder across the chest to the same hip to measure your strap size -- make sure it's looser so it's comfortable to wear.)
  • Dimensions of what you want to put in the bag (for example, if you want to fit in anything specifically, like a laptop, make sure you know how big the laptop is so you can plan accordingly)

Optional additions:

  • Elastic (if you want to make a holder for a water bottle, this would be for the rim to secure the bottle in place)
  • Buttons, straps, buckles, adjustable strap adjuster, etc if you want to add or change the way the backpack opens/closes, looks, etc.
  • Additional fabric (if needed) to add pockets
  • Additional zippers or closures if you want to add pockets

Step 2: Cut Out the Fabric

I was creating this bag as I went along from my own I made a lot of mistakes, did a lot of research, tested a lot of theories (some worked and some didn't), and seam ripped A LOT (lol), but I will try to relay to you what you should do in the first place.

NOTE: if the written directions in a step don't match up exactly with my pictures, it's because I'm telling you what I wish I had done, and had to learn the hard way to figure out, so you won't have to make the same mistakes I did. ;)

Use the dimensions you came up with in the previous step, apply them to the pattern I have here, making the sizes bigger or smaller accordingly. Make sure to add 1/4" seam allowance to EVERY side that will be sewn.

On the pattern I drew here, it shows the exact measurements of what I used for this exact bag (mine shows the cuts you need to make INCLUDING seam allowance).

Here are this bag's exact cuts (these INCLUDE seam allowance). The pattern is drawn to scale, so just blow it up to actual size to use it.


1 - 7 3/4" (cut on fold) x 15 1/2" Gray

1 - 7 3/4" (cut on fold) x 15 1/2" White

2 - 15 1/2" x 15 1/2" Red (separate pieces, do NOT cut on fold)


Dorsal (top): 2 - 6 1/2" x 5" Gray

Pectoral (sides): 4 - 8 1/2" x 5 1/2" Gray

Tail: 2 - 12" x 4 1/2" Gray (pattern says 4", but it's 4 1/2")


1 - 8" (cut on fold) x 11" Gray

1 - 15 1/2" (cut on fold) x 11" White

TEETH AND GUMS: Wait until you get to the step requiring it. You will need the mouth shape cut out first in the "head" step to determine your gums. And the gums will determine how many teeth you need.

MOUTH COVER / LINING: Wait until you get to the step requiring it. It needs exact measurements from your finished piece as sizes may vary.

Step 3: Sew & Stuff the Fins & Tail


When you cut out your fabric, you should have 2 pectoral fins (that each have 2 pieces of fabric per fin), 1 dorsal fin (that has 2 pieces for it), and 1 tail fin (that has 2 pieces for it).

1. To sew the three fins and tail, simply put the two pieces right sides together (the "right" side is the side that is brighter, the "wrong" side is can put a little sticker on the right sides of all fabrics so you don't mix it up because sometimes it's hard to tell) and sew along the edges leaving the bases open (the bottom of the triangles opposite the points) for the fins, and the middle of the tail.

2. Once you've sewn the fins and tail, turn them right side out and stuff ONLY THE FINS with fiberfill. Leave the tail unfilled. When stuffing, be sure to leave 1/2" space from the bottom of the fiberfill to the opening (because you need to sew this into the body, so it can't be stuffed to the very edge).

Step 4: Sew the Body (the Bag)

BEFORE you do this step, if you are adding any pockets inside the bag, sew them to the RIGHT side of the red lining fabric NOW. Also, if you want to sew on black gills (either hand-sewing with embroidery thread or sewing black fabric on with the machine), then add that to both gray pieces on the RIGHT sides NOW. When you have added all you want to any fabrics, then proceed with this step.

Layer your shark body as follows:

  1. Put a red piece down first (right side facing out)
  2. Now, put a white piece down next so that the wrong side of the white is against the wrong side of the red)
  3. Next, add your two pectoral fins in here, with the points facing each other on the inside of the body, and the edges of the fins straight along the edges of the body. Nothing should be sticking out of the body. (NOTE: Do NOT put in the dorsal fin or the tail.)
  4. Then you need to put down a piece of gray (the right side facing the right side of the white).
  5. Lastly, add the second red piece with the right side facing out (so the wrong side is facing the wrong side of the gray).
  6. Once you have everything layered, cut diagonally on either side from just under the pectoral fins, toward the tail side (as seen in the pictures).
  7. Pin everything down on the edges.
  8. Sew across ONLY the two edges with the fins, and the diagonals. Leave open the tail side and head side edges.
  9. Flip the bag right side out. When you do this, if you did it correctly, the outside of the bag will have the gray on top, the white on bottom, the two pectoral fins are sticking out on either side, and inside is the red lining.

What's ultra-fun about this bag is that when you open it's stomach (the bag part) it's red and it looks like you're really diving into a shark's belly! :D

Step 5: Insert the Zipper

I put the zipper on the belly of my shark, just under where the head will go.

The zipper I got was a 12-14" zipper, so I had to shorten it to 12". To do this, you simply cut 1/8-1/4" below how long you want the zipper to be. Then sew a straight line across the zipper teeth at the actual place you want the zipper to stop (so 1/8-1/4" above where you cut).

  1. Insert a hard book (or something hard) into the shark's body. Place it horizontally in the body where the zipper will go.
  2. Using your scissors or an Xacto knife, cut through the canvas AND the lining (NOT going through the other side's lining or the gray fabric...that's what the book is there for).
  3. After the line is cut, turn your bag inside-out again.
  4. Line your zipper in the cut you made (with the teeth facing the outside of the bag, so the side facing you is the zipper's wrong side). The teeth should be directly in the cut line. Pin the zipper in place.
  5. BEFORE sewing, make sure the second half of the shark (the second lining piece and gray piece) are out of the way and not under where you will sew. Most machines have it so you can just put this part under the machine (like when sewing a waistband on pants).
  6. Starting under the zipper pull, sew a small (the zigzags are closer together) zigzag stitch down one side of the zipper. When you get to the bottom corner, leave the needle down in the fabric, lift the foot, rotate the fabric 90 degrees, and lower the foot).
  7. Sew a small zigzag stitch across the bottom of the zipper. When you get to the corner, rotate it as you did previously.
  8. Sew up the other side of the zipper, leaving space below the zipper pull on that side as well.
  9. Once you've sewn the edges, unzip the zipper so the pull goes below where you stopped sewing at beforehand, and sew the edges of the top of the zipper in the same way you did for the bottom of the zipper.
  10. You can turn the bag right-side-out and sew over the top of the zipper to secure it more, but it's not necessary if you don't want to.

NOTE: Normally you would definitely use a straight stitch, but I found that with my canvas it was shedding a lot. Meaning the threads were pulling away from where it was raw cut. So if this happens to you, using the zigzag stitch will ensure it's stronger (and the zipper holds in the canvas and doesn't rip away), and it will stop the shedding from occurring.

Step 6: Add the Dorsal Fin

To add the dorsal fin:

  1. Insert something hard (like a book) into the body of the shark, and line it up under where the dorsal fin will go.
  2. Using your scissors (opened so you're just using one of the two blades), cut a straight line where the dorsal fin will go. Be careful to preferably only cut through the gray fabric (not into or through the red lining). Using your scissors instead of a box cutter (aka Xacto knife) will help to control how deeply it cuts.
  3. Insert the fin into this opening, and pin it in place.
  4. Fold the bag in half so that the dorsal fin is pointing out of one side, and the bag is on the other side.
  5. Sew along this straight line.

Step 7: Sew the Top Closed

Sew the top of the bag (the opening opposite the tail, where the head will go) closed.

Why are we sewing this closed? Don't we need to put the head of the shark in here?

Well, I found out that if I were to make the head of the shark (which is 3-dimensional and thick...since the bag is not filled) that it would be too hard to add into the shark's body (like we did the pectoral fins) before sewing down the edge. Plus if I sewed it in, the tail side isn't large enough to pull the head and the rest of the bag through, so it'd be stuck inside the bag forever LOL. So I discovered that it was just easier to add the head on to the completed body of the shark at the end.

If you find a way to add the head into the body a different way, please let me know in the comments below! :D

Step 8: Add the Tail

1. Turn the bag right side out through the tail's opening if you haven't already.

2. Squish the tail down so the two tips of the tail are touching. This creates a horizontal flat line in the tail (where you will add the tail to the body).

3. Place this side into the opening in the body. Pin in place. It should be flat.

4. Sew straight along this line.

5. Once this is sewn into the body, fill the tail through the opening.

6. Hand sew the opening in the tail (the place you filled it at) closed.

7. If you did it right, your tail should stand perpendicular to the body of the shark, and all openings in the bag should now be sewn shut.

Step 9: Make the Head

My pictures on this step don't show #7-9 below. I did it a different way that was totally the hard way around it. So I put these steps in order of what I would've done should I have done it right the first time. :)

1. Keep the gray and white pieces folded as they were when you cut them.

2. On the RIGHT side of the gray fabric, lightly draw a line from the point of the nose to the bottom corner of the rectangle. If you aren't certain about the look of this line, use quilting chalk (also known as tailor's chalk) to draw with instead of a pen. NOTE: Sharks don't have a perfectly straight line between the gray and white, so I made my line a little curvy.

2a. Also, cut out the curve of the head at the top corner opposite the nose on the gray fabric.

3. Cut this out so that the fold is on top and the cut is underneath.

4. Put this newly cut gray piece over the white fabric (with the white fabric RIGHT side out).

5. Trace the curve of the gray fabric's line onto the white fabric (again, on to the RIGHT side of the white fabric).

6. Cut out the white fabric on this curvy line. Also, cut out the diagonals for the mouth now (my bag was 8" for the upper jaw and 4" for the lower jaw).

7. Now, open up the gray and white pieces so that each one lays flat.

8. Put them right sides together, matching up the curvy lines on the edges.

9. Small zigzag stitch ONLY on the curvy lines (to connect the gray fabric to the white fabric).

10. Keeping the head right sides together, flatten the pieces so you are looking at the head from the side (the white and gray fabrics should meet in the middle of each side, and you should see the opening for the mouth).

11. Sew all of the edges EXCEPT for the mouth (where the teeth will go) and the back of the head (which will attach to the body). Even though the fabric is folded, it makes a nice clean seam to just sew all of the edges anyways.

12. Where the big opening is (that will connect the head to the body), hem the edges of this opening. This will be so important when it comes time to connect the head to the body.

Step 10: Cut Out the Gums & Teeth

I wanted my bag to include those jutting jaws that great whites have when they are biting or attacking something, so I added red gums to my teeth before connecting it to the mouth.

To do this:

1. Using the curve of the top of the mouth, trace it on to the red fabric. The length of the upper jaw on my exact bag was 8".

2. Cut out 4 strips of red fabric that are 8 1/2" long by 1 1/2" wide (or whatever your length is of the upper jaw by enough width to look proportional with the shark's mouth).

3. Now cut out 4 strips of red fabric for the bottom jaw. The bottom jaw on my bag was 4", so I cut out strips that were 4 1/2" long by 1 1/2" wide. Also, the bottom jaw for me was not curved, so this was easy straight strips.

Leave these for now to cut out the teeth.

Trick to cutting out the teeth:

For my specific bag, I cut out 1 1/2" wide by 2" tall teeth. These cuts INCLUDE the seam allowance. You can make your teeth bigger or smaller accordingly. NOTE: the teeth don't need to be perfect...they look more realistic if they're not.

1. First, cut out a strip of however tall your teeth are (including seam allowance). I cut a 2" strip on the white canvas.

2. Cut your first triangle out of this strip.

3. Turn over your first triangle to cut out the second triangle from this strip. Going back and forth (with the pointed part facing down, then up) will give you the most teeth per strip.

4. Now use the first two triangles, layer them on the strip (going back and forth as aforementioned), and cut the lines in-between. This will double how many triangles you have cut (from 2 to 4).

5. Continue cutting triangles using this method until all the triangles you need (two per tooth) are cut out. I used 14 teeth in the finished bag, so I needed to cut out 28 individual triangles.

Step 11: Sew the Gums and Teeth

NOTE: I did this the hard way, too (hence some of my pictures may look different from your outcome). But I would've saved myself a lot of time and heartache doing it the way I listed for you below.

You should have the gums and teeth cut out already.

1. Take two upper jaw red strips, face them right sides together (aligned on the curve).

2. Add teeth on the OUTSIDES of the red strips (so the teeth are on the wrong sides of the red fabric. (Make sure there are two individual pieces per tooth, and place them one half of the tooth on the outside of one red strip, and the other half of the tooth on the other outside red strip.)

3. Pin teeth and gums in place.

NOTE:Think of how the shark will look from the front. Meaning, if you have the tooth closest to the middle of the head when you're looking at it from the front (it's on the furthest end of the red strip), then for the second part of that gum line, start the strip with the first tooth further down so there's not two teeth super close together.

4. Sew all of the edges but DO NOT sew the top of the red strips that's opposite the teeth, and DO NOT sew the tops of the teeth. Only sew up and down the sides of the teeth that go into the point.

5. Turn the gums and teeth right side out. (Remember, this part takes hand strength and patience..also a chopstick helps immensely!)

6. Repeat this process for the other upper jaw and the two lower jaw parts.

7. When finished (and all four parts have been turned right side out), sew the two pieces of each gum part shut. For example: with the first upper jaw part, sew a straight line at the top to close up the gums (sew the part I told you earlier not to sew shut). Do this for all four parts using red thread.

Step 12: Finish the Mouth

Using white thread and a small zigzag stitch, sew the teeth onto the wrong side of the white fabric (by turning the head inside out) for each part of the jaw (four parts total).

When this is done, the mouth will be full of teeth!

Step 13: Eyes

Now for those black, piercing eyes...

Hand sew the eye buttons on to where you designated them to go on either side of the head. Make sure they're secured well.

Step 14: Nostrils & Optional "Eyebrows"

The buttons were a little too happy looking for me, so I added some optional "eyebrows" (for lack of a better word), just to make the shark look angry. Simply hand sew a back stitch for the eyebrow, and do two rows of it (down and back) to make it look darker.

Sharks have nostrils. It's true. And on a real shark, they kind of look like hooks, and they always seem to be where the gray and white meet on the nose. So I added those to my shark in the same way I added the "eyebrows" except I didn't do a second row (but you can if you want to).

Step 15: Add the Mouth Cover

In order to fill the head, the mouth can't have a giant hole in it! So it needs a cover (or lining) to finish it up. NOTE: contrary to what I originally wanted to do (a red mouth), sharks inside of their mouth is actually white. So I used white for this cover / lining.

1. Pin the white cover fabric down to the mouth line (all around the mouth on both sides), following the diamond shape it makes.

2. Sew this down by flattening the head at the mouth (to reveal the diamond shape), and making sure you don't sew in any part of the head when you sew this on. If you do get some parts of the head sewn in, just seam rip it and try again in that spot.

Step 16: Flip the Head Right Side Out

Flip the head right side out. Ta da! You have a shark head! Looks pretty cool, huh?

Step 17: Stuff the Head

You're almost done! Hip hip hooray!

Stuff the shark's head to your liking, but be sure to leave some space between the bottom of the fiberfill and the opening for attaching the head to the body.

Step 18: Attach the Head to the Body

This part is a little tricky. My machine is a cheaper one, so I could not sew this part on the machine because I couldn't fit the head into my machine easily. Whether you sew it by hand or by a machine, the process will be the same.

1. Flatten the back of the head width-wise (so it is slightly wider than the body of the shark...kind of like how you did with the tail). You should be attaching the head to the top of the bag that has the zipper nearest it.

2. Put the head's edges around the body's. It should look like the back of the head ate the top of the body (LOL). The white of the head should match the white of the body, and same with the gray matching gray.

NOTE: Be sure the head doesn't cover the zipper on the underside.

3. If possible, pin the head down to the body on this line.

4. Sew down this line. If using a machine, it's ideal to use the zigzag stitch. But if this is simply not doable, then maybe go up and down the same line twice (just to make sure it's connected well). If hand sewing, a simple back stitch all the way down this line is sufficient.

Step 19: Add the Chest/Shoulder Strap

Be sure to check the placement and size of the strap on yourself (or whoever you're making this bag for), and adjust as necessary.

1. Cover the foam of your choice with canvas. I used the white canvas, but if you have canvas in other colors, or you bought a special fabric for the strap, use that.

2. Wrap the fabric so the overlap is in the "back" of the strap (the part of the strap that will sit against your chest).

3. Sew down the back of the strap over the overlap.

4. Fold in the short sides like a present. (If you need to, cut the underside of the fabric that sticks out from underneath when you fold it over.)

5. Sew down the short sides.

6. Zigzag sew the top of the strap to the shark's mouth. I added it under the four front teeth of the upper jaw. This helped keep the shark "attacking" my shoulder. Match the thread color to whatever part of the mouth it connects to.

7. Zigzag sew the bottom of the strap to the shark's bottom of the tail. If you want the left fin of the shark to "hug" you when you wear the bag (and not flop down), then you can sew this to the strap where it naturally sits as well.

Step 20: You're DONE!

Now it's time to enjoy your bag! Phew! All that hard work comes to this :D

Try it on, make sure it fits everywhere properly. If the strap still needs adjusting, you can tweak it now, or add to it (for example, adding an adjustable strip to your strap like on a backpack).

Take some get-away selfies of you and your attacker LOL. :)

Test out how much your shark can eat (how much it can hold in it's stomach).

Surprisingly, this seemingly small bag can hold A LOT! He's definitely got a BIG appetite! (See the pictures for how much we stuffed in it of school-related supplies.) The biggest book I got in my bag was 8 1/2" x 11".

Thanks so much for visiting. I'd love to see your shark attack bags in the comments below!

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