This messenger bag project was designed by Becky Skuse who loves sewing and all things crafty. She has been lucky enough to work in craft magazines for many years and she likes to make practical items for modern lifestyles, yet also enjoys making items with a little bit of whimsy. She blogs at makemedo.wordpress.com and has an Etsy shop at www.etsy.com/shop/MakeMeDo
Thrown over one shoulder or slung across the body, a messenger bag is both practical and pretty. This one is made out of sturdy canvas, with an inner lip for extra security, weather-proofing and style. It’s a great all-rounder for any occasion, roomy enough for all your essentials (and more!), and the simple shape means that men will like it, too.
You will need…
Canvas weight outer fabric – 0.5m of fabric 150cm wide (we used Art Gallery Fabrics Sketchbook Ink Outburst Canvas kindly supplied by Hantex. See here for stockists)
Cotton lining fabric – 0.5m of fabric 114cm wide (we used Art Gallery Fabrics Blueberry Zest Pure Elements kindly supplied by Hantex)
Medium-weight iron-on interfacing – approx 106cm x 46cm
Lightweight iron-on interfacing – approx 100cm x 73.5cm
Webbing for strap – 4cm wide, approx 110cm long
Zip – 2.5cm wide, 30cm long
Threads to match your lining and outer fabric
Use a 1.5cm seam allowance throughout, unless otherwise stated.
Finished bag measures approx 36cm high, 32cm wide and 5cm deep.
Strap height is approx 55cm, but can be adjusted to suit you.
Internal pockets are optional – if you wish, you can also sew on additional outer pockets using leftover pieces of the outer fabric.
Many of the steps have a diagram to illustrate the step rather than an image – please see PDF step diagrams – you may find it helpful to print out the PDF file to refer to as you sew.
Following the relevant cutting diagrams, on the PDF step diagrams, cut the following pieces.
Canvas outer fabric:
Cut 1 Outer Side, 106cm x 11cm
Cut 2 Inner Side Top, 13cm x 10cm
Cut 2 Outer Front/Back, 39cm x 35cm
Cut 4 Inner Front/Back Top, 35cm x 8cm
Cut 4 Zip Side, 35cm x 5cm
Cut 4 Strap Tab, 10cm x 8cm
Cut 2 Zip End, 8cm x 7.5cm
Cotton lining fabric:
Cut 2 Inner Front/Back Bottom, 35cm x 29cm
Cut 1 Inner Side Bottom, 86cm x 11cm
Cut 1 Inner Pocket 1, 55cm x 35cm (optional)
Cut 1 Inner Pocket 2, 28cm x 11cm (optional)
Following the Interfacing diagram, add interfacing to all the pieces, as follows.
Medium-weight iron-on interfacing:
Outer Side, 106cm x 11cm
2 Outer Front/Back, 78cm x 35cm
Lightweight iron-on interfacing:
4 Inner Front/Back Top, 35cm x 32cm
4 Zip Side, 35cm x 20cm
2 Inner Front/Back Bottom, 35cm x 58cm
Half of the Inner Pocket 1, 27.5cm x 35cm
1 Inner Side Bottom, 86cm x 11cm
2 Inner Side Top, 26cm x 10cm
4 Strap Tab, 20cm x 16cm
2 Zip End, 8cm x 15cm
Half of the Inner Pocket 2, 14cm x 11cm
Round the Corners
Refer to step 3 diagrams on the PDF step diagrams
Take the two Outer Front/Back pieces and on each piece, round off the two bottom corners, approx 4cm from the corner – you can either do this by eye or draw a curve at the corner, as shown in the diagram.
Measure 4cm from each corner and mark (A), then join these marks. Measure halfway along this line and mark (B), then join this mark to the corner. Measure 1cm from point B towards the corner along the line and mark (C). Then draw curves from point C to points A.
Take the two Inner Front/Back Bottom pieces and repeat this process at the two bottom corners. Take the Inner Pocket 1 piece and repeat at each of the four corners.
Taper the Sides
Refer to step 4 diagrams on the PDF step diagrams
Join the Inner Side Top pieces (at the 10cm edge) to either short end of the Inner Side Bottom piece, as shown in the diagram. Make sure you position the Inner Side Top pieces centrally. Press the seam allowance towards the lining fabric and topstitch to secure. The pieced Inner Side and the Outer Side piece should now be the same size.
Trim the Outer Side piece so the ends are tapered, as shown in the diagram. To do this, measure 35cm from both short ends and mark on both sides (A). Mark 8cm centrally along each short end by measuring 1.5cm from the corner and mark (B). Join point A to point B at each corner and trim off these corner triangles.
Trim the Inner Side piece to match the Outer Side piece.
Refer to step 5 diagrams on the PDF step diagrams
Join one of the Inner Front/Back Top pieces to the top of one Inner Front/Back piece, along the straight 35cm edge, with right sides together. Press the seam allowance towards the lining fabric on the wrong side and topstitch approx 0.5cm from the seam, to secure the seam allowance. Repeat with the other Inner Front/Back piece and one Inner Front/Back Top piece. You’ll have two Inner Front/Back Top pieces remaining – save these for later.
Refer to step 6 diagrams on the PDF step diagrams
If you’re adding pockets, fold the large Inner Pocket 1 piece in half, wrong sides together to encase the interfacing. Press. Topstitch along the folded edge, approx 0.5cm from the edge. Pin the pocket to one of the Inner Front/Back pieces, lining up the top of the pocket with the top of the lining section. Baste the pocket in place along the sides and bottom, approx 1cm from the raw edge.
Take the Inner Pocket 2 piece and fold in half with right sides together (the interfacing will be exposed on one side). Press. Sew together as shown in the diagram, using a 1cm seam allowance. Carefully trim off the corners and turn right sides out through the gap. Press. Hand sew the remaining gap together, if desired. Topstitch along the top fold of the pocket. Pin the pocket to the other Inner Front/Back piece, lining up the top of the pocket with the top of the lining section. Topstitch the pocket in place down one side, along the bottom and up the other side, approx 0.5cm from the edge of the pocket.
Refer to step 7 diagrams on the PDF step diagrams
Take two of the Strap Tab pieces and place right sides together. Sew together down both long sides. Turn right sides out. Press. Topstitch along both long sides, approx 0.5cm from the edge.
Pass the Tab through one of the D-rings, fold in half over the straight edge of the D-ring and line up the short raw edges. Sew the short edges together using a 0.5cm seam allowance, and then again using a 1cm seam allowance. Then zigzag stitch across the raw edges.
Repeat the above process with the remaining two Strap Tab pieces and D-ring.
Refer to step 8 diagrams on the PDF step diagrams
Take one Zip End piece and fold all four edges to the wrong side by 1.5cm. To do this neatly, fold in the corners first, as shown in the diagram, and press. Then fold in the sides and press. Topstitch in place, approx 0.5cm from all four sides.
Fold this piece in half along the longer side, with wrong sides together. Press. Insert the stopper end of the zip towards the folded edge. Make sure the zip is placed centrally and that the overlapping edge of the Zip End aligns with the zip stopper. Topstitch the Zip End in place over the existing stitches.
Repeat this process with the other Zip End piece at the other end of the zip, making sure you move the zip pull out of the way first.
Refer to step 9 diagrams on the PDF step diagrams
Measure the length of your zip, between the two Zip Ends. Mine measured 30cm. Trim the length of your four Zip Side pieces to this measurement, plus 3cm. So I trimmed my pieces to 33cm long.
Take one Zip Side piece and fold one long edge and both short edges to the wrong side by 1.5cm. To do this neatly, fold in the corners first, as with the Zip Ends, and then the edges. Topstitch in place, approx 0.5cm from the three sides.
Repeat the above process with the three other Zip Side pieces.
Take two Zip Side pieces and place wrong sides together, sandwiching the side of the zip between the stitched edges. Overlap the side of the zip by just over 0.5cm. Make sure the two Zip Side pieces are lined up. Pin, clip or baste the Zip Sides to the zip. Stitch together as close to the edge of the Zip Side as you can. Then stitch again along the previous line of stitches at 0.5cm from the edge.
Repeat the above with the other two Zip Side pieces on the other side of the zip to form the finished Zip Panel.
Make Outer Bag
Refer to step 10 diagrams on the PDF step diagrams
Take one Outer Front/Back piece and line up the side, bottom and side edges with one long side of the Outer Side piece, with right sides together. Carefully pin in place around the outside, easing the fabric around the corners. Stitch together, moving slowly and carefully around the corners. Repeat with the other Outer Front/Back piece and the other long edge of the Outer Side piece. Press the seam allowances towards the Outer Side piece and topstitch approx 0.5cm from the seam, to secure the seam allowance.
Refer to step 11 diagrams on the PDF step diagrams
With the Outer Bag right sides out, place one of the Strap Tab pieces against one of the Outer Sides. Line up the raw edges at the top, with the D-ring down. Baste the Tab in place, 1cm from the raw edge, stitching over the previous line of stitches. Repeat with the other Strap Tab on the other side of the bag.
Make Inner Bag
Refer to step 12 diagrams on the step diagrams
Take the Inner Front/Back piece with Inner Pocket 1 and pin the outside edge to one long edge of the Inner Side piece, with right sides together. Carefully line up the lining seams and pin in place. Don’t worry, the Inner Side is supposed to be taller than the Inner Front/Back piece at this point. Stitch together around the outside, starting from approx 1.5cm above the lining seam, around to approx 1.5cm above the other lining seam.
Repeat the above process with the other Inner Front/Back piece with Inner Pocket 2, but this time, leave a gap of approx 10cm at the bottom of the bag for turning later.
Press the seam allowances towards the Inner Side piece and topstitch along the lining fabric only, approx 0.5cm from each seam, to secure the seam allowances. At the turning gap, press the fabric to the wrong side by 1.5cm on both the Inner Side and the Inner Front/Back piece. Topstitch the seam allowance along just the Inner Side fabric to finish the edge and keep the stitching consistent, but also keep the gap open.
Insert Zip Panel
Refer to step 13 diagrams on the step diagrams
Turn the Inner Bag so that it’s wrong sides out. Take your Zip Panel and make sure the zip pull is facing up (this is the right side). Place the wrong side of the Zip Panel against the right side of the Inner Bag – line up one long raw edge of the Zip Panel with one of the long raw edges at the top of the Inner Bag. Make sure the Zip Panel is placed centrally and that the Inner Side pieces are folded out of the way. Take one of the unsewn Inner Front/Back Top pieces and place it right side down on top of the Zip Panel – line up the raw edges carefully. Stitch the three layers together. On the wrong side of the bag, fold the seam allowance open and press. Topstitch the seam allowances down, approx 0.5cm from each seam, on both sides of the Zip Panel – make sure you fold the Zip Panel out of the way each time.
Repeat the above process to join the other side of the Zip Panel to the other long raw edge at the top of the Inner Bag, and the remaining unsewn Inner Front/Back Top piece. This time, it will help to undo the zip to work the topstitching.
Finish Inner Bag
Refer to step 14 diagrams on the PDF step diagrams
Now you can sew up the top of the Inner Front/Back pieces to the Inner Side, finishing the seams you started in Step 12. Make sure right sides are together. Press the seam allowances towards the Inner Side and undo the zip. Topstitch from the top of the Zip Panel to the top raw edge of the bag, approx 0.5cm from each side seam, to secure the seam allowance. This is rather fiddly, so just do your best.
Join the Bags
Refer to step 15 diagrams on the PDF step diagrams
Both bags should now be finished and you can join them together. First, make sure the zip is undone. Turn the Outer Bag so that it’s wrong sides out – the Strap Tabs will be on the inside. Turn the Inner Bag so that it’s right sides out. Place the Inner Bag inside the Outer bag, so that right sides are together. Line up the top raw edges of both bags, making sure the side seams line up and that the Strap Tabs are sandwiched between the two bags. Pin or clip in place. Sew the two bags together around the top.
Carefully turn the bag right sides out through the turning gap in the Inner Bag. Press the top of the bag and then topstitch around the top, approx 0.5cm from the seam.
Once you’re happy with the finished bag, sew up the gap in the Inner Bag by hand.
Refer to step 16 diagrams on the PDF step diagrams
Take your length of webbing for the strap and fold over one short end by 1.5cm to the wrong side. Press. Thread this end into the D-ring of one Strap Tab – the wrong side of the strap should be facing the zip of the bag. Fold over approx 4cm of the strap back on itself, with the 1.5cm end tucked inside. Stitch the strap in place, 0.5cm from the first fold and then again 1cm from the first fold.
Repeat the above process at the other end of the strap, with the other D-ring, making sure you keep the strap straight – you can adjust the length of the strap at this stage.
Tidy up any loose thread ends and press well to finish. Now your messenger bag is ready to use.
If you enjoyed this messenger bag project do visit our projects page to find more bag making tutorials.