Messenger Bag

My daughter saved up some money a few months ago and bought herself a notebook computer.  So far, it’s saved us all some grief.  She can do her homework and keep up with what’s happening on Facebook without anyone in the house losing my mind.  I mean, their minds. She wanted to be able to take it to school once in a while, but was afraid to try to carry it in any of the bags she has because none of them are padded.  I’ve been wanting to try a messenger bag idea I’ve been carrying around in my head, so we gave it a go.

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This project is a little more complicated and has a lot more pieces than most I post here, but you start out with nothing but rectangles and if you read through the directions before you start you’ll get thought it just fine.  I’m going to refer to the pieces by a letter and number to make it easier to follow.  This is also my most photo-heavy tutorial yet.

You’ll need outer fabric, lining fabric, medium weight interfacing and cotton batting or other thin padding.  Here’s the pieces you’ll need to cut from your fabric:

  • A – bag – 20” wide x 15” tall

  • A1 – cut two from outer fabric

  • A2 – cut two from lining fabric

  • A3 – cut two from interfacing

  • A4 – cut four from cotton batting

  • B – top flap – 20” wide x 7 1/2” tall

  • B1 – cut one from outer fabric

  • B2 – cut one from lining fabric

  • B3 – cut one from interfacing

  • C – closure tab – 3 1/2” wide x 11” tall

  • C1 – cut two from lining fabric

  • C2 – cut one from interfacing

  • D- closure loop – 4” wide x 1” tall

  • D1 – cut one from outer fabric

  • E – tab for strap hardware – 4” wide x 5” tall

  • E1 – cut two from outer fabric

  • E2 – cut two from interfacing

  • F – outside pocket – 12” wide x 12” tall

  • F1 – cut one from lining fabric

  • F2 – cut two 2” square pieces of interfacing

  • G – outside pocket flap – 12” wide by 5” tall

  • G1 – cut one from lining fabric

  • G2 – cut one from interfacing

  • H – inside pocket – 7” wide by 11” tall

  • H1 – cut one from outer fabric

That’s a lot of pieces, so keep the list handy as you go through the instructions so you know which piece I’m referring to.  Everything is sewn using a 1/2” seam unless otherwise noted.  Also, if I tell you to turn and press something, always trim the seam and clip the corners first.

You’ll also need two 1 1/2” D rings, a 1 1/2” button, two 1 1/2” by 3/4” pieces of Velcro and about 1 to 1 1/2 yards of webbing for the strap.

Iron the interfacing onto the back of pieces A1 (the one you intend to use on the back), A2 (the one at the front of the bag), B1, C1 (either one), E2 (both) and G2.

Fold D1 lengthwise with right sides together.  Stitch down long side with a 1/8” seam.  Don’t trim seam.  Turn and press.

Lay out B1, right side up.  Pin ends of D1 8 3/4” in from each end.  It should measure 2 1/2” between the ends when you’re finished.  Lay B2 on top, right side down.  Stitch sides and bottom (the side where you pinned D1).  Double stitch over D1 ends.   Turn and press.  Top stitch close to edge.

Fold H1 in half lengthwise.  Stitch all sides except fold, leaving an opening to turn.  Turn and press.

Measure 7” in on each side and 4” from top on A2 (the one with interfacing) and pin H1 with fold on the top edge.  Stitch close to side and bottom edges.  Stitch a row from top to bottom of pocket 1 1/2” from one side.

Fold G1 in half lengthwise with wrong sides together.  Press fold.  Open, right side up.  Position a 1 1/2” x 3/4” piece of Velcro 1” from edge at side and 1/4” from crease on both sides.  Stitch both pieces on securely. 

Fold G1 with right sides together.  Stitch around all edges, leaving an opening for turning.  Turn and press.  Top stitch sides and creased edge.

Fold F1 in half lengthwise with right sides together.  Press fold.  Unfold and turn wrong side up.  Iron a 2” square of interfacing 3/4” from edge and even with fold on both sides.

Turn F1 right side up.  Pin remaining Velcro 1” from edge and 1/2” from fold on both sides.  Stitch securely in place.

Fold F1, right sides together.  Stitch around all sides except fold, leaving an opening for turning.  Turn and press.  Top stitch edge near Velcro.

Lay A1 (with interfacing) right side up.  Place F1 4 1/2” from edges on sides and 4 1/2” from top edge.  Make sure Velcro is on the outside and near the upper edge.  Stitch sides and bottom close to edge.

Pin G1, Velcro down, 4” from upper edge.  Velcro and sides should match up with F1.  Stitch close to top edge of G1.

Pin both C pieces right sides together.  Stitch sides and bottom end.  Turn and press.  Top stitch sewn sides.

Stitch a buttonhole the width appropriate to your button (mine is 1 1/2” but you could go smaller) 1 1/4” from stitched bottom end of C.

Fold E in half widthwise with right sides together.  Stitch long (5”) edge.  Turn and press with seam centered.  Repeat with second piece.  Top stitch both long sides on each.

Layer these pieces:  A4 (one); A1 (with pocket) right side up; C1 centered, even with top edge and buttonhole end away from edge; A1 right side down; A4 (other one).  Stitch sides and bottom.  Backstitch over C1.  Trim seam.  Press side seams open.

Flatten bottom corners so bottom and side seam meet.  Draw a line at the point that measures 2 1/2” across (a little over 1” from the corner). 

Stitch along that line.  Trim off the corner below stitching.

Repeat the entire process from layering with lining pieces A2 and remaining two A4 pieces, excluding piece C1.  Leave a 6” opening in the bottom for turning.

Thread a D ring onto each E1 piece.  Fold in half and stitch close to edge to hold.

Turn outer bag, A1, right side out.  Pin each E1 piece onto A1 (on the back - side with the pocket) 1 1/2” from the side seams.

Pin top flap, B, on top, sides matching bag side seams, raw edges even and outer side (B1) down.  Stitch around top 1/4” from edge.

Stitch around bag lining, A2, 1/4” from edge.  Stuff outer bag, A1, inside lining, A2, with inner pocket facing the front of the outer bag.  Pin edges, matching seams.  Stitch 1/2” from the edge.  Trim seam.  Zigzag edge for added strength.

Turn the bag right side through the hole in the lining.  Push out the corners.  Stitch the opening closed. 

Push the lining into the bag.  Press the upper edge.  Topstitch close to edge.

Feed the closure tab, C1, through the closure loop, D1, and make a mark in the center of the buttonhole.  Sew button at mark, so button faces out when tab is fed through loop.

Feed one end of the webbing through the hardware tab, E1.  Fold the end under about 1 1/2”, then under again about 3”.  Stitch securely through 1 1/2” section in several directions.

I made the strap adjustable using the necessary hardware but it broke the first time she used it because it was plastic.  I recommend adjusting the strap to the desired length, feeding the remaining end through the other D ring and sewing it in place, which is what I’ll be doing with her bag now.

I’m pretty sure it took me a lot longer to write this tutorial than it did to actually make this bag, so don’t be intimidated by the length of these instructions.  One step at a time, and you’ll be carrying your notebook in style.