There are many easy ways to make a bag from pants: the easier way is to cut legs, sew the holes, close the opening and add a strap. It will look nice and grunge but, when stuffed, it will probably look like an ass.
Here you will learn how to make a box looking bag, with seams so neat that you can make it reversible!
You will get some tips on how to design your bag, then you will follow me in making a bag with this tecnique.
There will be zippers, pockets, loads of details: if you are new to sewing you might want to become a bit accustomed to your sewing machine before starting. It is a long project: you can definetely make it, but you will need some time. Be aware that, in general, bags are build starting from the small parts up to the big parts and usually on the wrong side and will turn right side out only at the end, this might be a bit confusing at the beginning.
If you are not in to sewing machines you can make it by hand, but it will take longer. You might prefer thin fabrics, i.e. linen trousers, instead of jeans: jeans is a stiff fabric, quite hard to sew by hand.
Last note: this instructable has been written by a non native english speaker, loose grammar and wierd phrasing ahead! Let me know my mistakes and help me improve.
Step 1: Drafting the Bag
Decide the 3 main measures (see picture 1)
Things to consider while designing:
main zipper: it will end along the side or at the edge; it can be off center (see picture 5)
strap loops: must be on the upper half of the side panel or the bag will tend to rotate and turn up side down
you need at least one zippered pocket to finish the bag perfectly (you can put it off center, or put more than one, see picture 4)
strap colour: in a reversible bag you need a colour that can compliment both sides, the easiest colour is black (or another neutral colour), to pull everything together you might want to use zipper, strap and thread of same colour.
Here I will make a reversible bag 33 x 20 x 10 cm suitable as a second on board bag for lots of low cost companies.
I will make the two faces slightly different: a jeans face (picture 2 for design sketch), with edges that match the actual edges of the bag, a plain fabric face (picture 3 for design sketch), with patches that are a bit off the bag edges. You can choose to make both faces with the same look and the same fabric. You can choose to make it not reversable (but I think it is more fun this way!)
Step 2: Tools and Stuff + Measurements
To make the bag I am making you will need:
old pants (two if you want the side in a different colour than the fronts)
scraps of fabric
fusible (it is not strictly necessary, but it will help your bag keep some shape)
21 cm of zipper (for pocket)
15 cm of zipper (for another pocket)
55 cm of reversible zipper with two cursors
4 D-rings (2 for a non reversible bag)
For the strap:
2 belt snap hooks
1 slider (as wide as the belt snap hooks)
110 cm of fabric, to know the width measure the hole of snap hooks and multiply by four (mine are 4 cm so I need the fabric to be 16 cm wide)
Sewing machine, sharp scissor, pins, thread, needle, measuring tape, ruler. You need a strong needle to sew jeans, be aware that, if needle bends, it might damage your machine. If your needle gets stuck too often, maybe it is bended.
List of measurements
Before cutting, remember to add 1,5 cm as seam allowance all around the piece.
2 zipper panels 49 x 4,2 cm
2 front/back pieces 20 x 33 cm
1 bottom piece 57 x 10 cm
2 lining pieces for zippered pocket 30 x 15 cm
2 zipper panels 49 x 4,2 cm
1 back 33 x 17 cm
1 bottom 39 x 16 cm
2 sides 10 x 9 cm
1 outside front pocket 33 x 14 cm
1 lining front pocket 33 x 17 cm
1 main front panel 33 x 20
2 lining pieces for zippered pocket 20 x 15 cm
Step 3: Undo Your Pants
I mean rip the seams open :) By deconstructing the pants you will have more design freedom and a less ass-y more box-y look.
Cut open all the seams. Wash and iron your fabric, take care to flat the fabric near the seams.
Now decide how you want your bag to be. Personally I prefer a clean back side and something more fancy on the front. I will put the zippered pocket on the back and will put pants pockets on the front.
Use pins to block the fabric untill you are satisfied with the look, take pictures of the solutions so you can compare them.
Step 4: Sew the Front/rear/side + Interface + Details
Once you made your decision, sew together the pieces. Place one piece on top of the other, right sides together. (picture 2)
Pin and sew. Try to make a straight not wavy seam, if the seam is straight the fabric will lay nice and flat. You can use a ruler to check how straight the seam is. Pay attention to rivets or you will break your needle. Once the seam is done, cut away the excess fabric. Iron the seams flat open, then topstitch (sew on one or both sides of the seam), this will give a neater more professional look to your bag. (picture 3)
Cut your interface to the exact shape of the faces of your bag: you will use the edge of the interface as a guide line for your next seams. Iron interface to the wrong side of your fabric: on the right side, mark where you want the edge of the finished bag to be, turn the fabric, place the interface using the pins as guide and iron.
It will be hard to fuse the interface to the front panel because of how thick the pockets are. Mark the edge of the panel using long hand stitches and iron the interface avoiding pockets. (picture 4 and 5)
If you want to add some details (labels, decorations) do it now. I removed loops from the pants and I was left with two noticeble marks, I covered one with a label, another with a loop. (picture 6)
Step 5: Make the Zippered Pocket
You cannot skip this! But why should you: zippered pockets are handy and easy to make.
Lock the zipper ends with few stitches. Measure the width of the cursor and the length of the zipper. Mark the center of the edge of the fabric and the center of the zipper (if you want your zipper to be centered). On the wrong side of the back piece measure where you want your zipper to be and draw a rectangle as long as the zipper and as wide as the cursor: here is where you zipper will be. Place the lining of the pocket on the right side of fabric, right sides together, use pins to show the rectangle on the right side, you want the lining to be on top of the rectangle. Pin. (picture 1)
Sew all around the rectangle you have drawn. To make the angles, sew to the corner, leave the needle down through the fabric, push up the foot, turn the fabric, push down the foot, sew. Draw the centerline of the rectangle and draw four diagonal lines at the ends to join the centerline with the corners of the rectangle. Cut both layer of fabric on theese lines, be carefull: don't cut the seam! Push the lining through the hole you cut. Iron it till it lays flat, sometimes it is easier if you iron one layer at a time, by opening flat the seams. (picture 2)
Place the zipper in the hole, teeth peeking out on the right side of fabric. Pin and sew. This can be tricky: you might want to baste the zipper in place with some hand stitches before sewing. I like danger so I usually sew without basting, but it is not a good idea. Remember to use the foot for zippers. I find it easier to sew the zipper if it is closed. While sewing you will get to the cursor and it will be to thick for your foot to work: place the needle through the fabric, push up the foot, push the cursor out of the way, press down the foot, sew. The easiest way is to start sewing 'after' the cursor, sew all around and when you'll get to the cursor the zipper will stay in place as it is almost completely sewn. (picture 3)
Take the other piece of lining and put it, right sides together, on the piece of lining you have sewn to the zipper. Sew three side of the pocket, but leave the bottom open and leave the zipper open. You will use this hole to turn the bag inside out. (picture 4)
Step 6: Put Everything Together
Arrange all the pieces together on your table and put them in the correct positions. Place the zipper panels near the upper edges of front and back pieces. Pay attention to pockets: the opening must be near the zipper panels. The seams will be on the edge of interfacing, you can mark the correct position on the right side using pins. (picture 1)
Take the bottom piece and measure 12 cm (or the 'h' measure of your draft) from the corner of the interface. Mark it with a pin: this is the point the bottom corner of the front/back piece will lay. Place the bottom edge of your front piece on the edge of your bottom piece, right sides together. Pin, baste if you want to play safe, sew. Do the same for your back piece. (picture 2)
Take the zipper panels and measure 8 cm (or the 'g' measure of your draft) from the corner of the interface. Mark it with a pin: this is the point the upper corner of your front/back piece will lay. Place one of the zipper panels on the upper edge of your front panel, right sides together. Pin, baste if you like, sew. Do the same for your back piece.
A straight seam will give you a nice flat piece: use a ruler to make sure you make a neat job.
It sounds confusing, but you can make it, just have a look at the last picture to see where you are going.
Step 7: Move to the Other Face
Decide what you want on this face of your bag: pockets? zippered pocket? nothing? I decided for a huge pocket on the front and a zippered pocket on the back. (you have all the measurements of this face at step 2) I am using left overs with travel themed prints. Play around with what you have untill you find something you fancy. Take picture of the different solutions and compare them. When you are happy with the result, cut the pieces, adding a seam allowance of 1,5 cm all around.
Here you can see a polka dot fabric, it will look better if you sew following a polka dot line. The beige fabric with stamps and stuff is better read in one direction only, so I put it in place in the correct direction.
The bottom piece has a cross-looking shape, theese dents will allow the piece to 'fold around' the bottom edges of the bag. Make the dents as squares, you need them to be as large as they are wide. Here the side is 3 cm (see picture 1, the bottom is on the right, drawn in blue).
Iron interface to pieces. Remember you will use interface to guide your seams, try to be as precise as you can.
Take your time, think a bit, take a break and you will make it!
Step 8: Zippered Pocket + Back/bottom Pieces
Follow the instruction at step 5 to add a zippered pocket.
The lining can be sewn all the way around (or it can be a long piece of fabric folded in half and sewn, as in picure 2)
Place the back panel on the bottom panel right sides together, match the corners of the interfacing of the pieces, pin and sew. A straight seam will give you a nice flat piece: use a ruler to be sure you make a neat job.
Step 9: A Huge Pocket (lined) + Front/bottom Pieces
Sew front and lining of the pocket, right sides together. Iron the seam flat open, then turn the right side out and iron again: it will look sharper this way. You can topstitch it if you want. Add details, like a label, before sewing everything else. (picture 1)
Sew the front, not the lining, to the bottom: match the corners right sides together, pin and sew. Iron the seam flat open, topstitch it if you want. The lining is longer than the front piece, so the pocket can go all through to the bottom of the bag. (picture 2)
Take the back of the pocket and sew it to the lining, not the the bottom: this way this seam will be hidden inside the bag. (picture 3)
Sew front, lining and back of the pocket together on the short edges, make this seam is outside the interfaced area, this way you will not see the seam once the bag is done. (picture 4)
This pocket might be a bit loose and not very safe, you might want to add a sew in the middle and turn it into two smaller pockets.
Step 10: Sew Everything Together
Place the little side pieces on the bottom piece's short edges, right sides together, align the edge of interfaces, pin, baste if you want, sew. (picture 1)
Measure 8 cm (or the 'g' measure of your draft) from the corner of your interface on the zipper panels. Mark it with a pin: this is the point the corner of your front/back piece will lay. Place one of the zipper panels on the upper edge of your front panel, right sides together. Pin, baste if you like, sew. Do the same for your back piece. (picture 2)
As usual, go for straight seam to get a flat piece.
Step 11: Make the Loops for Your Strap
Cut a strip of fabric twice as wide as your D-rings. Fold sides to the center and secure with a zig zag stitch. (picture 1)
Fold around the straight side of the D-ring and stitch it in place. Try to sew as close as you can to the D-ring, if you leave space the D-ring will turn inside the loop, it is not a real problem, but it does not look nice. (picture 2)
Place it on the right side of the side panel, but 'up side down'. Pin it and sew outside the interface, so this seam will be hidden (picture 3).
Do this for both faces of the bag, if you are making a reversible bag (picture 4). If you go for the 'normal' bag, place the D-ring only on the outer face.
Step 12: Sew the Main Zipper
Choose how you want to arrange your faces: I want the zippered pockets to be always towards the 'bag carrier', both the outside and the inside pocket, so the back pieces (the ones with the zippered pockets) have to be attached to the same zipper panel.
Make a sandwich as in picture 1: one face, zipper, other face. Right sides together, zipper towards the 'inside' of the sandwich, the zipper must be 'hidden' in the sandwich. (picture 1)
Align the eges of interface on the two zipper panels. Pin one face first, then do the other. Baste and sew using the foot for zipper. Make a seam as straight as possible. Fold the seam so the right sides of fabric are outside. Iron the seam and top stitch. (picture 2)
Bend the two sides of the bag, so you can make another sandwich. Align the ends. Pin, baste and sew as you have done for the other panel. (picture 3)
Turn the tube of fabric you just made until the right sides of fabric are outside. Iron the seam. Open the zipper to top stitch this side of the zipper. (picture 4)
The zipper is few centimeters longer than needed, this allows to push the cursors out of the way while sewing. Push the cursors to the center of the zipper and cut the excess zipper.
Note for not-reversible bag: place the teeth of the zipper towards the outer shell, not towards the lining. This way the zipper will be in the right position, with the teeth on the outside. Take a look at picture 1: zipper teeth lay on the jeans side, once the sewing is done, the teeth will be on the jeans face. Picture 4 shows the fabric face, you can see the 'back' of the zipper.
Step 13: Do the Sides of the Box
Now you have a tube with the right sides of the bag outside. (picture 1)
Just place your hand between layers, grab and pull. Go on pulling until the inside are outside. Don't be afraid! (picture 2)
Take the 'short' ends and make a sandwich: use the parts with loops as the bread and the zipper end as the filling. The loops will be on the inside of the sandwich. The lenghts don't match, so pull and tug untill you have everything neatly alligned: the interface is your reference. Pin, baste if you wish and seam. It is a bit tricky, so you might need to sew twice on the same spot to secure everything in place. I like danger so I don't baste, but it is wise to pin - baste - sew. (picture 3)
Step 14: Corner the Box
Pick one corner of the bottom piece and pull. (picture 1)
Find the correspondent upper corner and pull. (picture 2)
Tug and pull until you get a straight line, with interfaces' edges matching. Remember the cross shape of the bottom of the plain-fabric side? You want the inner corner of the angle of the cross to be at one end of the straight line you are making; you also want the outer corners of said angle to match (see picture 3)
The upper corner will be a bit hard to find, it is on the side of the zipper panel, you will need to cut the seam allowance to make a neat seam. Don't cut the thread. Take your time and you will make it. (picture 4)
This seam is also hard because on one side you will have the side seam of the previuos step, this will give extra thickness to a part of the sewn area. You can see the seam mark in red in picture 5, .
Match the edges of the interfaces, pin, baste and check: you want your seam to be on the edge of all the interfaces: this will give your bag the exact shape and size you want. When you are happy with the result, sew.
There are four seams like this. At the end you will have a 'sandwich' of wrong sides. (picture 6)
Step 15: Turn the Outside... Outside
Turn your 'sandwich' around by pulling the fabric from the foldings inside, untill you find the zippered pocket you left open. (picture 1)
Pull the fabric from the inside of the pocket to the outside. Keep pulling until everything gets out. (pictures 2 and 3)
Sew the bottom of the pocket, by folding the raw edges inside, then pin and sew. (picture 4)
Step 16: Make the Strap
You can reuse a strap from a old bag, or make a new one. The easiest way is to buy a ribbon as wide as the loops and stiff enough to be strong and comfy. Grosgrain is a good option. But it is handy to know how to make a strap from fabric: this will give you more aestethic options, like matching strap and bag using the same fabric or use that scrap that lays around, too long and narrow for anything but a strap.
A good length for an adjustable strap is 110 cm so take a piece of fabric this long and four times the hole of the slider wide.
Fold the fabric in half lengthwise, iron it to mark he centerfold, fold the sides to the center and iron again: you will get a long strip with raw sides hidden in the center fold. (picture 1)
Open the strip. Take the short ends and fold twice to hide the raw edge, pin and sew. You might have a selvedge on one edge (I have it on one short edge, you can see it on the right of picture 3) you don't need to fold it because it will not fray. (picture 2)
Fold the fabric with the raw edges on the centerfold, pin and sew along the open edge. To give the strap a more professional look, sew on the center fold and the strap will look symmetric. Sew the short ends. (picture 3)
Fold one end around the center of your slider, pin and sew as close as you can to the slider, use the foot for zipper. (picture 4)
Take the other end of the strap and pass it through the hole of one snap hook. Check the strap: you don't want it to be twisted. (picture 5)
Pass the strap end inside the slider and pass it in the hole of the other snap hook, pin and sew. (picture 6)
Step 17: And.... You Are Done!
Choose the side to sport around and attach the strap hooks to the right D-rings. Detache the strap hooks, turn the bag inside out to change the face and reattach the strap hooks.
Congrats folks! You have a new, funny, convertible bag!
Runner Up in the
Before and After Contest 2017