How to make a simple six-pocket bag
Make your own carry-all tote bag using patterned fabrics and easy-to-follow instructions.
Our latest addition to our ‘Covid 19 warrior projects’ is this roomy and stylish slouchy tote. Other projects have included our ‘fitted face mask’, ‘reversible peg bag’ and ‘circular bag project ; all designed to bring us together with a common goal in mind.
With a deep main compartment and six exterior pockets, you won’t be short on storage. The pockets of the simply sewn bag are cleverly formed when the straps are attached—no additional sewing necessary. Choose your favourite patterned fabric and this easy sewing project becomes as statement-making as it is practical. We’ll show you how to sew a bag in just six steps—this is a great sewing project for beginners.
What you will need
- 10” (0.25 m) cotton fabric (contrast straps)
- 60cm (24”) cotton fabric (pockets)
- Fat quarter Vilene Thermolam compressed batting 18” x 20” (45cm x 50cm)
- Lining and upper portion of bag 60cm-80cm of cotton fabric, (extra is for optional matching straps)
- Ironing board
- Quilter’s pins
- Sewing machine
- 6” (15 cm) sewing gauge
- Fabric shears or scissors
- Tape measure
- Pencil or pen
- 36” (90 cm ) Fusible web (optional)
Before you begin
- Bag size: 8” x 14” x 4” (21cm x 35.5 cm x 10 cm)
- Quantities are for 44/45” (115 cm) wide, 100 percent cotton fabrics.
- Measurements include 3/8” (1 cm) seam allowances.
- Sew with right sides together unless otherwise stated.
Steps to sew
Step 1: Cut Your Fabrics
Cut pieces in the following order.
For the pocket, cut two 17” x 18” (43 cm x 45” cm) rectangles; label each piece
For the lining, cut two 21” x 18” (53cm x 45cm rectangles; label each piece
For matching straps Cut two 4” x 34”-36” (10 cm x 85cm – 90 cm) lengths; label each piece
Cut two 10.5” x 18” (27cm x 45cm) rectangles thin, Vilene Thermolam; label each piece
Step 2: Layer Up Bag Pieces
Fold each pocket in half lengthwise with the wrong side facing in to make an 8½” x 18” (14 cm x 45 cm) pocket rectangle; press. Place thermolam down first; place main fabric/bag lining on top, matching lower edges. Place folded pocket piece on top of main fabric, so you have three different fabric layers. Pin through all layers across the bottom edge to secure.
Optional – Fold back the main bag/ lining to expose the Thermolam; Press fusible web along the edge. Don’t remove paper backing at this point. repeat this process for both front and back of bag.
Step 3: Assemble Straps
Fold straps in half lengthwise with wrong side inside; press. Open and fold long edges into the centre; press. Refold in half and press.
We just want to sew the middle of the strap to start with, leaving the ends that will be sewn to the bag open for now. So, measure from each end, 10.5″ up and mark with a pin or chalk pencil. This should correspond with the width of the Thermolam pieces.
Topstitch close to the folded edge on each side of the strap. Repeat on the second strap.
Step 4: Position straps to form pockets
Pin ends of a strap to the bottom edge of layered pieces, leaving 5” (12.5 cm) between strap edges. Centre this so that each strap is 2 ½” (6cm) away from centre.
Measure 11” (28 cm) up from the bottom edge and pin across strap at this point. This should be half -way up. Beginning at the bottom edge of layered pieces, topstitch one side of the strap up to the pin mark, remove the pin, sew across the strap, and topstitch back down to the bottom edge.
Repeat with the remaining side of the strap to complete one side of the handmade bag. Repeat to make the second strap.
Step 5: Stack Bag Layers
Stack both bag layers with right sides together; pin or use clips to hold layers in place. Check to ensure that the straps and pockets are evenly matched at side seams and bottom edges . Pin loose portion of straps in place to prevent catching them in stitching.
Join the bag around all edges, leaving a 5” (12 cm) opening at the top centre for turning through. Press seams open. Tip – To get a better fit with the lining trim 3/8” (1cm) away from the top of the lining as this will sit inside the bag to become the lining base, when complete.
Step 6: Finish Bag
To shape a flat bottom for bag, at one corner match bottom seam line to side seam line, creating a flattened triangle (Diagram 4). Use a sewing gauge to measure 2” (5 cm) from the point of the triangle, draw a line across the triangle. Sew on the drawn line. Trim excess fabric.
Repeat with the remaining bottom corner of the bag and the lining. Remove paper backing from web at this point. Turn bag right side out through opening and press seams. If desired, slip-stitch lining opening closed or machine stitch close to the edge. Fold lining inside bag to finish. Top stitch edge, if preferred.
Have fun making this project; we’d love to see your completed bag pics by emailing your images to us. We will add them to our Covid 19 warrior gallery!