Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Tutorial: Toddler Messenger Bag

I have a new sewing blog, hillmade. You will be redirected to this same post at in 5 seconds. Follow along with me there!

Today is the start of the Sew-vivor competition on Family Ever After! Go to the blog and vote for me! Voting is today only, so don’t put it off! (Only if you think I deserve it, of course.) For some reason it looks like the voting isn’t live yet. I expected it to be live at 6 am MST. I’ll update when it is. The poll is up! Go vote!  Thank you for your votes! I made it to the Top 8! Another week, another project. Voting will be next Wednesday (April 11.)

The challenge for week 1 was to use or base our project off of a tutorial from one of the judges’ blogs. 

Remember the backpack Kyle made Hailey? Since he made that, we’ve thought it would be fun to make her a messenger bag. Ashley at Mommy by Day Crafter by Night had a messenger bag tutorial. Perfect! So I began with her tutorial and scaled the bag down to Hailey size. After working with it, it transformed into my own project.

And I love it! I think Hailey thinks it’s fun. After I finished it she took it into her room and filled it up with her shapes. She was excited to show me what she had done.

I made the bag specifically big enough to fit her coloring book, without making the bag too big. It’s also deep enough to hold a few books or other toys. I included an extra front pocket that unzips to show spots for markers or pencils, and two pockets for crayons or whatever else Hailey wants to put in there.

toddler messenger bag 05_touch up

The zippered front pocket is open at the top so we can access the pocket without unzipping it.


Want to make your own toddler messenger bag? I’ll show you how to make a simple bag. How you embellish it is up to you.

You will need: These yardages are estimates. I had 1/2 a yard of all three fabrics and was running a little low. It worked, but I had to piece some pieces together to make them long enough, so that’s why I say possibly 3/4 yard. If you use a one directional print you may need even more. But don’t quote me on it, direction didn’t matter on my prints.

  • 1/2-3/4 yard of heavyweight fabric for bag exterior
  • 1/2-3/4 yard of fabric for bag interior
  • 1/2 yard of fusible fleece (to add stability to the inner bag)

Cutting: Cut one of each piece in the fabrics listed after the dimension, except the strap- you need 2 of those! I would also recommend cutting the side piece and strap first- they need a lot of length! Before you cut, if you are using a one directional print be sure you measure so your print is going the right direction- I’ve made this mistake many times.

  • Front body piece: 9.50 x 11.75 (heavyweight fabric, interior fabric, fusible fleece)
  • Back body piece with adjoining flap: 11.75 x 19.0 (heavyweight fabric, interior fabric, fusible fleece)
  • Side piece: 2.75 x 32 (heavyweight fabric, interior fabric, fusible fleece)
  • Strap-cut 2: 2.75 x 26- you may need to lengthen or shorten this length. My 2 year old daughter is a size 3T. Measure your child to be sure. (heavyweight fabric, fusible fleece is optional if you want to add more padding, I chose not to.)

01_inner pieces

Pictured are my pieces for the lining (interior fabric and fusible fleece.) The pieces for the outer bag are the same size, but I just used heavyweight fabric, and no fusible fleece. Iron the fusible fleece to your interior fabric using the instructions it came with.

Follow the rest of the instructions for the both the outer bag (heavyweight fabric) and the lining. I’ve only pictured the lining construction, but it’s the same for the outer, so just repeat the steps.

02_circle trace

On both your exterior and interior fabrics you will trace a rounded edge. Do this using a mug, cup or something else round, line it up so it just touches the edges of the fabric. Using a disappearing ink or water soluble marker, trace around the curve of your object. Do this to two corners of the front body pieces (the small horizontal rectangle) of both fabrics (the top corners won’t be rounded.) Round all four corners on your back body pieces (the big vertical rectangle.) Cut along the lines with scissors.

02a_circle trace

Hopefully this picture illustrates that well enough.

03_mark inner back piece

Put your smaller front piece over the top of your bigger back piece and line up their bottom edges. Make a mark on your back piece at the very top of your front piece. Do this to both sides. I show marking on the backside, but it really needs to be on the front side. Sorry.

Now we get to start sewing! Yay! Cutting and preping is my least favorite part. All seams are approx. 3/8 inch. I prefer to use the edge of my presser foot as a guide. It ends up being somewhere between 1/4 inch and 3/8 inch. Either seam allowance is fine, just be consistent.

04_sew side piece to front of inner bag

With right sides together, sew your side piece to your smaller front piece. I really should tell you to pin. But I didn’t pin. I try to avoid it. The rounded corners can be a little tricky, so if you’re not comfortable sewing rounds I would recommend pinning before sewing. It’ll make you happier.

05_trim side excess

After you get all the way around your front piece, lay it on your cutting board and trim off the excess fabric. I gave a little bit of extra just in case it didn’t line up just right after sewing the corners.

06_match top edge of side piece to mark on the back piece

Sorry this really is not the best illustrating picture. You need to take your side piece (which is now sewn to your front piece) and with right sides together, match it up with the mark you made on your back piece. Pin it in place so it doesn’t move, or hold it really tight and get it under the presser foot as fast as you can (like I do.) Pin your back piece to your side piece. Sew all the way around. The other edge of your side piece should match up with the other mark you made on the back piece. Or at least be pretty darn close.

07_sew strap together

Now to sew your strap. I did it the hard way. With right sides together I sewed the two strap pieces straight down either side. Then I had the dreaded tube to turn right side out. I chose to do this because I think it just looks nicer than the alternative (which I’ll explain), but holy cow it that heavyweight fabric was extra difficult to turn right side out! Instead of sewing a tube, you can use your iron to press the edges down 3/8 inch and sandwich your two pieces together with wrong sides touching (so the right side is facing you.) Then topstitch them into place.

08_top stitch strap

After turning your tube, iron the strap flat and then topstitch to keep it tight and secure. I topstitched at 1/4 inch.

09_pin strap to sides of outer bag

Pin the strap to your outer bag.

10_put outer bag into inner bag

 With your outer bag right side out and your lining inside out, stuff your outer bag into your lining. The right sides of the fabric should be touching.

11_pin strap between inner and outer bag

To keep the strap extra secure so it doesn’t shift while you sew, pin it to the lining as well. The strap itself should be stuff in between your two fabrics right now. You don’t want it visible or it’ll end up on the inside of your bag!

12_pin inner and outer bag together, leave double pins for turning

Now pin your bag together. I definitely recommend pinning for this step. Remember to leave a few inches open so you can reach inside and turn the whole bag right side out. I placed double pins on the side of the flap to remind myself to stop before I sew the whole thing shut. Stitch all the way around the bag until you get to your gap where you’re going to turn it right side out.

13_leave needle in and pivot

When you get to the spot where you’re sewing on the flap and turning to sewing onto the side of the bag, this part can be a little tricky. This is the one part of the bag I haven’t nailed down yet. Sew about 3/8 inch past the top of the side, leave your needle in the fabric, lift the presser foot and pivot your fabric so you’re sewing across the side. It’s a little bit awkward and there’s a little bit of bunching fabric.

14_Notch rounded corners

After you sew all around the edges, notch the rounded corners on the flap. Turn the bag right side out! You’re almost done!

15_iron bag edges

Iron the bag edges, turning the unsewn portion in.

16_topstitch bag edges

Topstitch all around the bag edges.

17_two bags
You’re done!


  1. Renae that is awesome! I went to the blog to try and vote for you but I couldn't find where to go....

  2. That is so stinkin' cute! What a great idea for trips/sunday. I just may have to try it! You're very talented though, Renae. I'm not sure if mine would turn out right! Totally going to vote for you. :)

    1. Jessie I absolutely know you can do it! You sewed that dragon costume for Halloween. I know exactly how difficult that was. Jed would love it. We love taking Hailey's backpack when we visit family, so I know you'd find it useful when you visit yours.

  3. For the love. This is amazing. And when voting is up, I'm totally voting for you. And Drew will to, cause I'll make him. AWESOME!!!!!

  4. The bag turned out AMAZING!!!! I'm kind of partial to your little model too! LOVE YOU ALL! :)

  5. Awesome! You're a pro. I voted! (for you, of course)

  6. You are so talented. I totally want to learn how to sew like you! -Erin

  7. Oh sheesh! Not only is the bag awesome, but your finish work is fabulous! You can tell you took your time, and there were no shortcuts. Great piece :)

  8. Great bag - and awesome tutorial. Pinning it for future reference.
    ~Amy @ Permanent Kisses

  9. Oh my gosh Renea, absolutely amazing!! I totally want one or two for my girls. I don't dare make it though. :) You are so talented.

  10. It is really awesome! I missed voting last week, but I just finished voting for the Easter dress today. You are super awesome! Keep it up!

  11. I absolutely LOVE this bag, and the extra front pocket is one big reason why I do. :) I'm new at sewing and don't know enough to figure out how to add the zippered pocket on my own. I'd love to make this for my daughter for back-to-school. If you have time, would you mind emailing me how to add it, or maybe some tips or links that could help? My email is Thanks for taking the time to put together this great project!



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