My middle school students have trouble keeping track of their stuff. We don't use binders in our school, but students have a Chromebook, homework folder, reading book, calculator and pencil pouch. Because our classrooms are small, we can't allow student to drag their backpacks from room to room, but we thought a smaller bag might do the trick.
I have memories of Israeli Air Force messenger bags that were the rage when I was in college (great for laptops), which made me think of the old Swiss gas mask bags that many folks used as a purse (the Reagan years were a bit too into militant kitsch). The size was right, but I needed something my students could cut and sew with little to no experience. I made one design, which I liked, but then figured I could cut the sewing down to a single stitch line and a bit of hand sewn work: The Pant Leg Messenger Carrier Bag!
Note: There are a number of ways this can be improved on, especially in the strap. It's a prototype, so feel free to put positive solutions and suggestions in the comment area for others to learn from. Thanks!
Step 1: Materials
There are few.
Pair of pants. The fabric cannot stretch; mine were khaki pants from Lands End that that had a pen explode in the pocket (40" waist, 34" inseam). In the next step, you'll see how to make sure the pant leg is large enough for your contents. For mine, holding a Chromebook, reading book and some other miscellaneous items the width of the leg, laying flat, was 11 inches. One pair of pants makes two bags (one from each leg)!
Strap. I used a tie here. Be careful, because after I put the stuff in the bag I realized the tie had a bit of stretch (the loose nature of this tie was why I always hated it, and thus sacrificed it for the prototype). For another bag, I used an old tie-down strap. I've seen old seat belts used, but for our entire class we just bought 1" webbing.
Binder or similar object to size leg before you cut.
Sewing machine, needle, thread.
Step 2: Sizing the Leg/Bag
Even though our final bag is too small for a binder (by design), I used a 1' binder to make sure the pant leg was more than roomy for what we did want to stuff in it.
Push the binder (or other measuring object) gently down pant leg until it won't go further without force. Remember, you want the bag to be roomy, so don't force it. For my pants (40" waist, 34" inseam), that was about six inches from the cuff.
First, cut across about two inches below the binder (the end by the cuff). This will be the bag's bottom, and these two inches will be where you will sew the bag shut.
Then, cut across about four inches above the binder. I did not want an open bag, so the four inches will flop over the top of the supplies creating a flap.
Note: You may find that the cuff of the pant is the width you want. Great. Just measure up from there.
Note: When the two bags were cut out, I was left with a nice pear of cut-off work shorts! And, because the sewing machine was already out, I even hemmed them.
Step 3: Sew the Bottom
Pant legs taper. Because you want the top of the bag to be ready to take your stuff, you want the narrower end of your leg segment to be the bottom. So, make sure you are working with the end that was near the cuff.
Turn the leg segment inside out. This way, your stitch will be hidden when done.
I ran a simple zigzag stitch across it. Done.
If you want, you can sew it by hand. Just use a simple overcast stitch. Go over it a few times as the weight of your contents will test your work over time.
Turn the leg segment right side out.
Note: I did not bother making a nice hem around the opening of the bag. You can, which will stop future fraying.
Step 4: Sew on Strap
Your leg segment is now right side out, so that no seam stitching can be seen.
Again, I used a tie. On another bag I used an old tie-down strap from my car. I've seen seat belts used, but a yard of strapping is cheap. This is a good place for originality; there are so many great ties.
Whatever you use, make sure it does not stretch. The tie I used has a bit of give, and once I loaded the Chromebook and book into it I knew, in a month, the bag would be at my knees. Others ties are made of stronger stuff.
Because I wanted my bag to have a flap on the top, I attached my strap two inches below the top edge.
Put the narrower end of the tie on the seam where you want it (for me, two inches below the top edge). The strap should lay flat against the pant leg when you sew it.
With the sewing machine, I just ran it around in a kind of one inch box shape. Not very professional, but this was for the concept. You can also sew it on by hand, but make sure you do it the entire width of the tie. Know that all of your weight will be on this stitch, so don't get stingy here.
For sizing, you will need the person who is going to use it. Put the leg segment where you want the bag to fall on the person's body when done (I like the bag to be on my hip, with the opening at my belt line). Take the end of the strap not attached to the bag. Put your strap over the person's shoulder (as they would wear it) and pin the loose end of the strap on the other seam of the leg segment.
Let go. This is where the bag will hang. Don't be afraid to take the strap in an inch or two, as the weight of the contents will put it down taunt.
Carefully, take it off of the model and sew it like you did the first end.
Note: Because I used a tie, and the second end is wide, I folded it over when I attached it to the bag.
Step 5: Clean Up, If You Used a Tie
For those who used a tie....
Because the tie I used was kind of wide, I had folded it in half when I attached the wide end. That caused it to flap around and look messy.
I ran a simple running stitch up that half of the tie, keeping it folded. Where the tie was narrow enough, I reinforced the stitch and stopped.
Step 6: Done
It will do the job.
By using more interesting pants this project would improve 100% Some careful stitching and that jumps up even more. But even if you don't, you'll still find this a sturdy, useful and really easy to make carrier bag.