Cargo Scarf: Free Your Hands, and Your Mind Will Follow!




As much as I love purses, they're a pain. Aside from getting dropped, lost, and snatched on a regular basis, they almost always leave their carrier without a free hand for everyday tasks. A cargo scarf is the perfect, inconspicuous way to hold all your small essentials--keys, cash, pens, cigs, cell phone--without tying up your hands. Plus, it helps you stay warm on cold nights all year round.

This instructable is for the Etsy SewUseful contest...

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Step 1: Materials

To make a cargo scarf, you will need:

1/2 yard 45" wide cotton for outer layer
I chose a cute banana-print cotton; any decorative or fashion fabric will do, but it should be woven (not a stretchy knit).

1/2 yard lining
This is the part of the scarf that will be against your skin, so choose something warm and comfortable. Softer felts, flannels or fleeces are all good options.

Decorative trims
These can be lace, eyelet tape, or whatever else you prefer. If you plan to adorn all the edges, you will need 4 1/2 yards of trim for a 68" scarf. To decorate only the short edges, 1/2 to 3/4 of a yard will do; vertical accents will require 2 yards of trim each, and horizontal accents will only require 6 inches of trim each.

D-ring and nylon webbing
These are for creating a decorative accent and/or ring to clip your keys to. You can substitute the nylon webbing (only a few inches are needed) with a piece of matching or contrasting fabric.

Narrow Elastic
This is for constructing a pen or pencil sleeve. You only need a few inches; choose a color that complements your lining and fashion fabrics, as it will be visible.

Bias square, measuring tape, or ruler

Chalk or marking pencil

Sewing Machine
This project can sew by hand with a needle and thread, but a machine will make it much faster and easier.



Step 2: Mark and Cut Fabric

A) Mark and cut your fashion fabric--you'll need two 6" wide strips the length of the fabric, as shown.

B) Cut two identical strips from the edge of the lining fabric.

Step 3: Sew Strips

With right sides together, sew together the two strips of fashion fabric. Then, sew together the two strips of lining fabric. This will give you a very long strip of each fabric. Press the seams open with a warm iron.

Try on one of the strips to determine the desired length for your scarf, and mark. Lining the two strips up, right sides together, trim one end at an angle at this point. Mine is 68" on the longest side; you can keep yours longer if you prefer.

Step 4: Draft Pocket Patterns

For flat objects (credit cards, ID, etc) a pocket pattern can be drafted simply by tracing around the object and adding a 5/8" seam allowance all around. For thicker objects (such as a cell phone), trace around the object, add a space equal to the object's thickness all around (in this case an inch), and then add 5/8." The result will serve as a custom pocket pattern for all your necessities.

Step 5: Sew Pockets

Using the patterns you have drafted, cut the desired number of pockets out of the remaining lining fabric. Mine has only two, but you can make as many as you need--just be sure that all the pocket openings will point upwards, and won't press on your neck when you're wearing the scarf.

For each pocket, cut a strip of fashion fabric 1 1/2 inches wide, and as long as the top edge of the pocket. Place these strips right-side together with the pocket pieces, and stitch 5/8" from the edge. Fold the seam open as shown, press, and turn the edges to the wrong side of the pocket, leaving a small (about 1/4") line of fashion fabric visible on the right side. On the right side, stitch along the first seam, securing all the loose fabric edges to the wrong side of the pocket.

Fold in the other sides of the completed pocket, 5/8" from the edges, and secure with pins. Pin to the right side of the lining strip in the desired location, keeping in mind that the outer 5/8" of the strip should be left clear for the seam allowance. Stitch the pocket in place, approximately 1/4" from the pocket edge.

Step 6: Sew Pen Holder

To make a simple pen holder, cut two small pieces of elastic (two or three inches each is plenty). Fold the ends under and pin the strips a few inches apart--in the example, they are placed towards an edge, so I've left the outer ends unfolded, as they will be anchored by the side seam.

First, stitch down one folded edge of each piece. Next, push up the centers of the elastic strips so that they form small arches just large enough to hold a pen snugly (as shown), and stitch the remaining edges. Test your pen holder to make sure the arches are the right size for a pen or pencil; if they are too loose or too tight, take out the second set of stitches, adjust the elastic, and sew again.

Step 7: Attach Key Ring and Trim

You'll need to cut a piece of nylon web (or matching/contrasting fabric, if you prefer) about 5 inches long. Fold it in half, thread through the D-ring, and pin in place. I chose to center it near the bottom of the front (fashion fabric) side, but you can just as easily hide it on the lining side as you did with the pockets.

Sew the webbing in place, coming as close to the D-ring with your stitches as possible.

Once the D-ring and webbing are attached, sew on any decorative trim you plan to use on either front or back surfaces. You don't need to attach trim that will decorate the very edges of the scarf; this will come after you've sewn the two faces together.

Step 8: Assembly

You should now have both faces of the scarf completed: the lining should have all the pockets attached, and the fashion fabric should have its key ring and any decorative trim.

Place the two strips right side together, and stitch along the two long edges and the angled short edge, leaving a 5/8" seam allowance. Turn right side out, push out corners, and press flat.

Fold in the raw edges on the open end; press flat and topstitch. This is a good time to sew any trim to the edges; simply pin to the back if you only want the edges of the trim to show (as with lace), or pin to the front if you want all the trim to show (as with eyelet tape). Then, topstitch to secure.

Step 9: Finished!

Trim any loose threads, stash your stuff, and leave your purse behind! What a feeling.

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    79 Discussions


    3 years ago

    You could even tie it around your hips like a sash, at times.


    3 years ago

    Fantastic idea, hope to make it when I have time. Good for walking the dog, hands free.


    3 years ago

    This is Genius!!!! I'll definitively do it!!!


    5 years ago

    Have to try it! Love the idea of carrying your stuff and not a purse. That way the weight is distribute evenly, you don't have to carry around more of what you need and I think that your shoulders would appreciate the thought. ;)


    5 years ago

    wouldn't it be heavy and hazardous to the neck because that is what i think.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you so much for this idea-pattern , I am in a wheelchair & it is hard to keep everything handy , purses are awkward . This is so perfect again thanks .


    6 years ago

    also I forgot to mention, I didn't do it on the one I made, but I will on my next cargo scarf...
    if you want to cover your pockets for added security, take another piece of fabric and sew it above your pocket (make sure it matches up with the sides and end of your scarf before sewing). let it cover your pockets and at the bottom of your scarf, attach Velcro or snap buttons. your pockets are now concealed!
    though I bet this would only work well on thinner fabrics, I don't know because I haven't tried it yet, but I think it might look too bulky with anything too heavy.


    6 years ago

    let me start by saying this, I am a waitress, and I love my server apron. I can carry practically everything but the kitchen sink in that thing when I'm at work, all hands free. I love that, and let me tell you, I got spoiled by it. if it were acceptable for me to wear my waitressing apron everywhere as opposed to a purse, I totally would, but that would look slightly too silly for me. haha!

    but this scarf is amazing, and the same wonderful hands free idea like my apron. of course, you can't carry everything but the sink in it, but that's totally okay. how much of that stuff in your purse do you really need? (unless you're a mom, in which case that question doesn't apply to you.)

    I made it with a few personal alterations. I love soft flannel. I put in 4 pockets, two on each side, front and back, and I used the items I knew I'd be storing as the guide for how big the pockets would be. I didn't want to give myself extra room, because then I would be carrying too much non essential things with me. on my right side, I made a pocket for my car and house keys just big enough for the keys, and attached a zipper because I do not want to lose those. since the keys are heavy, I wanted to balance out the weight. behind them, I put the pocket (also with a zipper) for ID card, debit card, cash, and Chapstick. I divided the pocket so that my Chapstick wouldn't get in with my money, ect. but I left space above that stitching so I only had to use one zipper. the other side of my scarf, I put a zipper pouch for my iphone, and a non zipper pouch for cigarettes and a lighter (trying to balance out the weight again). I love my scarf. I will be making more. I used a gray scale flannel so this one goes with anything, but I need MORE!

    totally recommend. 10/10 stars all the way!

    Love this! Think I know what my mom is getting for Christmas this year. :) I might make one for my sister too. I'll have to figure it out.


    6 years ago on Step 9

    Wow this is amazing! Found it just in time to make a bunch for christmas too!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    As a guy who carries a shoulder bag wherever he goes, I don't think I like the concept. Wouldn't that be cool, but really uncomfortable?


    7 years ago on Introduction

    When I was making this, I did not understand the step about opening the seams with a warm iron. Maybe, could clarify this for other people?

    Thanks :)

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    cannot figure out a way to edit my comments (Wait, surely I am missing something), but I also wanted to add that I was phased for a while on the idea of the "wrong side". I think something that indicates "inside" or "non-outside face side side" [but...less confusing..] would make it clear for people who are clearly having a difficult brain day.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Hey, I made two of these! one for me and one for a special someone, Here's mine, hers is the exact same with the same checkered fabric, but black and white and used on both sides. Instead of the solid colour on one side

    I skipped the lace and such ;) but my mother being the professional seamstress that she is, added a zipper on the bottom pocket for loose objects and kept the top pocket open for phones and such.

    The special someone loves hers and uses it everyday!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    This pattern/scarf is pretty awesome and I made it being an amateur. I do have to give warning on the warm fabric you use. I used a really fluffy fabric and it was a real pain to sew and cut because the edges were falling off. Now that it's done it was worth it but just a heads up =D


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I showed this to my daughter some time ago, she made one and I couldn't find the "ible" but it's back on the front page. Everyone liked hers, now her sister, sister in law, a couple aunts, MY sister and 2 sister in laws all have one. Really great idea