I love making bags. I always want something fun, tough and new which can be tricky to find or expensive. There are two main types of messenger bag I like to make. One is more utilitarian. It's bigger, it's tougher, it's my biking, hauling, ass kicking bag. It's in the Chrome Industries direction. The other type is a bit smaller, more stylish and while not a purse (I have too much stuff for that), I can wear it with a pair of heels. Think Queen Bee bags with a bit more edge.
It's essentially the same pattern and with some variables. And once you get the idea, you can make the perfect bag to carry you life in.
If it's your first time making a messenger bag, this is a good pattern to go with since it can be pretty forgiving, but, like most utility sewing, it can be rough on a machine if you use heavy weight fabric.
*** Per the urging of my friends, I've got a couple of bags up on Etsy that you can check out here ***
Step 1: Materials
First off, get all your materials together. Check out the notations on the pic for more info.
I wanted to make this bag a bit tough, so I used a marine vinyl for the lining so I could just wipe out the smushed peaches after riding home from the farmer's market. For the exterior I used a nylon that had a waterproof backing. It was the only thing that was the right color and weight... and it was on sale, so there you go. The price can vary wildly on fabrics depending on where you go and what you select. This pattern will work with almost any fabric, but works best mid to heavy weight.
If you use 54" or wider fabric, you can get away with a half yard for each the lining and exterior.
Thread: I forgot to put thread in the pic, but you'll need it to match the colors of your bag, lining and stripes.
The pattern is dead simple for the main part of the bag and pockets. It's a rectangle that is 41"x18" with rounded corners on one side. I use a bowl to make sure the rounded parts are even. If you're only making one, you don't even need to make a pattern, just measure it all out on the fabric.
Strap wings: I recommend making a template for these. Draw a right triangle at 10.5"x7.5". Use the same bowl from above to round out one side of the triangle and then snip the bottom of the the other side so that there it is 3/4" across.
Step 2: Velcro, Pockets and Stripes
Now, we're finally going to get sewing! First things first, we put all the bells and whistles on what will be the exterior and interior of the bag. The stripes, pocket and velcro.
1. Measure and draw a line for where the stripes will go since it's easy for them to migrate while sewing
2. Stitch the webbing as close to its edge as possible.
I put the pocket to high on this one, so I'd recommend dropping it another 3 or 4 inches.
1. Hem the top edge of the pocket
2. Put right sides together and stitch down the bottom of the pocket.
3. Flip the pocket up and sew up the sides.
Just measure and stay as close to the edge as you can. This part of the bag should have the soft side of the velcro.
Before you sew on the large velcro, be sure to match it up to the front of the bag. Perfect measurements don't always line up in an imperfect world.
1. Finish three edges of the fabric. and
2. Sew on the fuzzy side of the small piece of velcro.
2. Sew the bottom of the pocket to the lining, right sides together. Check out the pic.
3. Flip the pocket up and measure where the other side of the velcro should go.
4. Sew in that side of velcro.
5. Flip it up again and press the velcro together.
6. Sew up the sides of the pocket.
Step 3: Front Flap
1. Put the two sides right side together and line them up as best as possible.
2. Draw a line 12.75" from the bottom of the flap.
3. Make a 3/4" cut from either side.
4. Sew the two sides together keeping a 3/4" seam allowance.
5. Trim the corners and snip the seam allowance so you get a nice curve when it's right side out.
6. Top stitch the front flap.
Note: I skipped top stitching over the red stripes to keep a nice clean line.
Step 4: Strap Wings
The wings help keep the flap down when it's on your back and it fits more naturally when you've tightened it up before jumping on a bike. They are also key to how the bag holds it's shape.
1. Cut out the four wing pieces, making sure 2 are reversed
2. Put right sides together and stitch around the edge.
3. Turn right side out.
4. My blue fabric was pretty flimsy, so I tucked a piece of the lining fabric in before top stitching.
5. You guessed it. Top stitch.
1. Take about 18" of strap and sew it down onto the left wing. Sew a box stitch at the top (an X inside of a square).
2. Do the same on the other side with the remainder of the strap.
Step 5: Sewing Up the Sides
This is where the bag finally starts to look like a bag!
1. Baste the wings into place. Check out the pic.
2. Sew up the sides of the bag with 3/4" seam allowance. Of course, it's more important that the sides are even, matching and everything lines up than to keep that exact amount.
3. I usually trim down the seams and use bias tape to cover the rough edges.
Sorry, some of the pics of this are blurry, but I think they are still clear from a technical standpoint.
1. Take that nice seam you just made and push it down so it's laying on the bottom of the bag.
2. Wrangle it until you get a nice triangle shaped edge.
3. Make sure the seam it's exactly centered, then draw a line across the triangle that is 4" or however deep you'd like your bag to be.
4. Double stitch that seam.
5. Do it again on the other side.
1. Flip it right side out.
2. Attach the buckle and/or sliders with nice box stitches.
Step 6: Variations
Now you've got the raw skills to make any messenger bag your heart desires! Smaller, bigger, leather, embroidered, classy, upcycled, and all sorts of other things.
And, as promised, here is the black and white bag from the the very beginning of this journey.
Fancy Pants Messenger Bag
It's all the same basic steps as the larger bag, but with key variations:
- I usually use soft vinyl or faux leather since it's a little more classy
- Since the lining doesn't need to survive a flood, you can have more fun with color and fabric.
- The strap is sewn directly to the side of the bag.
- It can get pretty thick, but the strap should straddle the side seam.
The front flap
As you can see, it isn't rounded, but is angled to reflect the shape of the bag. This can be done in the pattern or after completion like the bag in the pics.
If I'm not stuffing it super full and strapping it to my back, velcro just gets in the way. With the constant in and out of wallet, phone, keys, bus pass etc, a flap is sufficient.
This should be done in step 2 instead of the velcro and small pocket.
1. The lining of the pocket should be twice the length of the pocket plus 2" for the color peek.
2. Sew the pocket and the lining good sides together, flip and topstitch.
3. Sew the color peek side of the lining to the exterior fabric first and then top stitch.
4. Sew the lining and the open pocket where you'd like the bottom of the pocket to rest.
5. Flip it up. The lining and pocket should be secure at the bottom with the color peek at the top.
6. Stitch the sides of the pocket to the edge of the exterior fabric. 1/4" or 1/2" seam allowance is fine. It will be secured when you sew up the sides of the bag.
7. A single seam up the middle makes one pocket into two.