$7 Messenger Bag




Introduction: $7 Messenger Bag

About: I'm a 37 year old theatrical designer and educator. I have boundless curiosity, chimerical aesthetic, and Sisyphean perseverance. The results of my whimsical adventures can be found here and on my instagram.

It was a dark cold morning when I woke to find my old messenger bag in tatters. Well I did not really awake to find it in tatters it was a long and slow decline. I did however awake having succumb to the fact that it was time to say goodbye to my old messenger bag. It being 4:00 AM at the time I searched instructables for a guide on making a messenger bag. There were many but none seemed quite right for me. The only thing to do now was to design my own!  I figured while I was at it I would do my best to document and describe the process.  Sorry some of the steps don't have a lot of pictures I get caught up in making things and forget to grab the camera sometimes.

With out further ado..."The $7 Messenger Bag!!!"

Step 1: Dream Then Doodle

Think of what you want from your bag. For me I wanted side pockets, a main pouch, a back pouch for papers/thin things, and a pen holder. As for size I took a tape measure to my tattered bag I liked so much to get rough dimensions. Using these dimensions and the knowledge of what I wanted my bag to do I did a wonderfully not to scale doodle of all the parts.

If you are making this exact bag you don't have to dream or doodle you can just take a look at the image of my design. Starting from the top of the drawing then going from left to right we have the pieces. Strap, Front, Right Side, Bottom, Left Side, Right Side Pocket, Back and Fold Over Flap, Left Side Pocket, Back For Paper Pouch. I added an 1/2 inch(1.27cm) seam allowance when working on the bag so I increased all the the measurements show in the design doodle by 1 inch(2.54 cm). If you skip that part your bag will just end up a bit smaller not the end of the world.

Well now that I knew what I wanted to make it was time to get stared.

Step 2: Amass Raw Materials and Tools

To Make my bag I used most of 1 yard (.9144m) of red cotton upholstery fabric I got at my local discount fabric. I have found they are a great place to go if you know the qualities of the fabric you are looking for but do not have any plans for how it will look. In my case I wanted a rugged strong fabric so I ended up with upholstery fabric which they had on sale for $6.50. The thing about upholstery fabric that is neat is it is like 5 feet (1.52m) wide so you get quite a bit of fabric in one yard. Now on to the lists of what I used to make my bag.

•1 yard(.9144m) upholstery fabric(you can use any fabric you like but you may need more)
•Thread* (Black is what I had on hand so black is what I used)
Tools (I made it at the techshop which had all the tools on hand)
•Rotary Cutter
•L Ruler Thing* (I can never remember it's name)
•Tape Measure
•Seam Ripper* (hopefully not but mistakes happen)
•Cutting Mat
•Sewing Machine*
•Pen or other fabric marking implement*
•Notebook (preferably with a doodle on front)
Optional Tool
Laser Cutter for fabric etching*

*not show in the picture

Step 3: Measure and Cut

Now using the right angle ruler and pen I marked mark out all the pieces.  Then using the rotary cutter on the cutting mat I cut them all out.  Once I had all my pieces cut out I laid them out like in my doodle.  You may notice something I did not notice till an hour later*.

*I had forgoten to cut out the bottom piece.

Step 4: Ironing Your Pieces

I used the iron to crease the top hem of all the pieces.  This way I could sew the top seams before I get to sewing all the pieces together.  In reality I did not catch on to this until after I sewed the first few pieces together.  I put this step in out of the order I did it in because it was much easier with the top hems done first.

Step 5: Time to Get Sewing

I wandered across the room over to the sewing machine and logged in.
Then to thread the sewing machine I just followed the diagram printed on the machine.
Once it was all threaded it was time to sew.

Step 6: Staking Your Side Peices and Sewing

So to start I began with sewing the right side and right side pocket to the right side of the front panel.  If you are using a fabric with a pattern or an obvious side you want to face out to the world here is how you want to layer the pieces.

2.Right side with pattern facing you
3.Right side pocket with pattern facing you
4. Front panel with pattern facing the table

when you sew them together the seam will function like a hinge with the pattern facing the same direction on both the sides and front panel.

I sewed the stack I just made together.  I used a straight stitch but you could use any stitch you like.

Once I had had sewn the Right sides to the front panel I did the same with the Left side pieces.

Then it was time to stack the Back Panels and sew them together.

1. Table
2. Fold over panel with pattern facing you
3. Back panel with pattern facing you
4. Side pocket with pattern facing the table
5. Side panel

Once I had done this I had what looked like an inside out messenger bag that was missing the bottom.

This is when I realized I was missing the top hems and a bottom of the bag.

Step 7: (Optional Step)Take a Break and Play With Lasers

After realizing I had to do the top hems and cut the bottom out before going on I decided to take a break.  I was lucky and the laser cutter was free so I decided I would play around with trying to laser engrave a design onto my bag.  I tested out levels on some scrap.  and once I was happy with power levels I engraved my flying hot dog design onto the front flap.

The engraving looked great but if it gets washed almost all the awesome color goes away so maybe I need to spray whit bag with scotch guard or something after it is etched to protect the design.  On the other hand I could probably do some bleach silk screening and achieve a similar look, but there would be no lasers so it would not be as fun.  I will let you know what solution works best once I figure it out.  Feel free to let me know if you have any ideas.

Step 8: Laser Time Is Over Back to Work

I measured and cut the bottom piece out of the remaining fabric.  Once I had my bottom piece I ironed down the side pockets so they would line up flat with the bottom of the bag.  With the bag inside out I lined up the right side of the bottom panel with the right side of the bag.  Then I sewed the starting with the right side and worked my way around.  Once the bottom was on I only had two more pieces before this was an honest to goodness messenger bag.  Those were the pen holder and strap.

Step 9: Pen Holder

This step probably should have gone way back before I had connected the front panel to anything.  Here is where I did it and although it might not be on straight it works and that's good enough for me.

I took a random scrap piece of fabric about 7 inches(17.8cm) wide by 5 inches(12.7cm) tall.  I sewed a 1/2 inch (1.27cm) hem around all the edges.  I then placed the patch on my bag where I thought a pen holder should go.  After that I sewed down the left side of the fabric.  To make the pen pockets I got my marking pen out and placed it under the fabric like it would be in a pen holder.  Then with the pen in place I sewed down the pen holder fabric alongside of the pen.  I repeated this step till I was out of pen holder fabric.  I ended up being able to hold 5 pens which is 2 more than my last bag could hold.

Step 10: The Strap!

The Strap is super easy and I took lots of pictures go figure.

I took the piece of fabric I had cut for the strap and folded it in half.(If you have a pattern you want the pattern facing in.  We are going to turn it right side out later.)  I then ironed the fold to get a good crease.  Next I sewed along the edge of the fabric that is not creased making a tube of the fabric.  Finally I turned it right side out.

I did this last step starting at one and and inserting my finger into the tube and slowly feeding the fabric out.  It took me 20 minutes so there has got to be a quicker way.  I think if I had a piece of pvc pipe I could have used to sleeve the fabric over it would have worked better.

Once it was right side out I ironed it flat.

Step 11: Attach the Strap to Your Bag

I attached the strap to my bag by placing the strap about 1 1/2 inches(3.81cm) from the top edge of the bag on the side.  I made sure the seam of my strap would be facing the inside of the bag.  Then sewed it on with a square with an X through it to make sure if was super connected.  I repeated for the other side Making sure my strap was not twisted.  The strap was not going anywhere.

Step 12: Enjoy Your Bag

I was done so I headed home had a friend take the picture of me wearing the bag and started this instructable.  Hope it has been helpful.  If you make a bag let me know I would love to hear how it turned out.  I am enjoying mine quire thoroughly. 

If you are interested in the techshop you can check them out at techshop.ws.

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    3 Discussions


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I really like this. I will make one, probably a bit different of a design, but you have inspired me! (as soon as I go to the store and get fabric)


    8 years ago on Introduction

    nice tutorial dude.. now i can make one for myself


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I've been wanting to get me a messenger bag for a while, but I just can't seem to find one i like, your instructions are just what I've been looking for .....thank you for writing this great instuctable.