How To Make a Fabric Messenger Bag

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Hello Dolls,
I am so excited to bring you this tutorial as a guest post for Kristina J. while she's away in Hawaii! I was in love with this bag the second I finished it! I am also so happy because the more I sew the more comfortable I feel designing bags myself without looking at another tutorial. I hope you all enjoy this bag as much as I do! It was surprisingly easy to make and didn't take long at all. 

Materials and Dimensions:
1.  Exterior Fabric (for body)- 14.5" x 13" CUT ON FOLD*
2.  Lining Fabric (for body)- 14.5" x 13"
3.  Pellon SF101 Interfacing - 14.5" x 13"
4.  Exterior Fabric (for flap) - 14" x 12.75"
5.  Lining Fabric (for flap) - 14" x 12.75" CUT ON FOLD*
6.  Exterior Fabric (for pocket linings) - 9" x 6.25"
7.  9" Zippers in a coordinating color
8.  Magentic Snap closure
9.  Leather Braided Belt - I got mine at the Thrift Store. I chose to use a men's belt so it would be long enough to wear across my chest. Make sure you also have a needle for sewing through leather. You won't be able to use a regular fabric machine needle because it will break trying to go through the leather.
Gorilla Glue
Scrap heavyweight interfacing for stabilizing fabric where the magnetic snap will be

Cut fabric pieces and fuse interfacing to wrong side of lining fabric body pieces
First, buckle your belt so there is just a little bit of excess after the buckle. 
Then, using paper clamps, clamp your belt so it does not unbraid when you cut it. 

Use your Gorilla Glue to coat the ends of the belt where you just cut to ensure that it does not unbraid after you remove the clamps. Set the belt on top of a piece of scrap paper to catch drips and set aside until the end of the project. 

Mark on your lining fabric about an inch shorter on each end than your zipper

What you are doing here is measuring your zipper on top of your lining fabric to create a rectangular opening in your lining fabric where the zipper will show through. You want this rectangular opening to be slightly smaller than your zipper to ensure that the fabric will overlap the zipper for when you sew it onto the fabric. 

Next, you need to cut a line through the middle of the rectangle you just drew. 
Use the drawing on the photo below as reference.

Now you will fold back the excess fabric from the lines you just cut in your rectangle 
and fold and iron them back towards the wrong side of your lining fabric. 

Place your zipper so it shows through the opening you just created. I used scotch tape to hold my zipper in place while I sewed because I was having trouble holding the fabric and zipper at the same time to pin them in place. Top stitch around your zipper sewing as close to the edge of your opening as you can to ensure that you are sewing through the fabric and the zipper.

Lay one of your pocket pieces so it is right side down on top of the lining piece - lining fabric should be wrong side up.  Pin in place. 

Sew around the perimeter of the pocket fabric.

You should have an awesome pattern lined pocket now! 

Now, repeat the above process for the pocket on the front of your bag. 
I marked this one 4" down instead of 2" down. 

Pressed back excess fabric

Pocket lining piece pinned in place

And Ta Da! Another pocket...most of the hardest parts are done now! 

Now lets make the flap...
Place your exterior flap fabric right sides together on top of the lining flap fabric 
and sew 1/4" seam on 3 of the sides leaving the bottom open

Attach your magnetic snap so it goes through both the lining pieces of fabric but not the exterior fabric. 
Here is a great tutorial from Little Birdie Secrets for attaching magnetic snaps. She uses fray check in her process which I didn't do but it does sound like a great idea if you have some on hand!

After my snap is attached I like to fuse another scrap piece of interfacing on top of the snap so you won't feel the hard metal as much through the exterior flap fabric. After that step flip your flap piece right side out and press it well. 
Top stitch around the three sides, continuing to leave the bottom open 

Fold your Exterior Body Fabric so the right sides are together. 
Pin in place and sew along the side with a 1/4" seam.

Now to box the corners...squeeze the bottom corner of the bag so the side seam is in the middle and pressed against the bottom of your bag. What you are looking at in the picture below is my side seam. 
If you need a refresher on boxing corners, try checking my Sewing Tips for Beginners Post.

Mark 2" from the corner point and sew on that line directly across

Trim the excess
You can turn the exterior of the bag right side out at this point.

Repeat the same process above for the lining fabric. Place the lining fabric right sides together and sew along three of the sides leaving the TOP open. Measure the same 2" when boxing the corners. Do not turn your lining body right side out yet. Leave it inside out.

Pin the flap to the back of the exterior body piece with about 2" sticking up over the top of the bag. 
The right side of the flap should be facing the back of the body of the bag. 
Sew 1/2" seam to attach the flap to the bag. I sewed one direction and then flipped the bag and sewed back the other way to add stability and strength. Trim the excess flap fabric that is sticking up past the top of the bag. 

Place your exterior body right side out inside of the lining body (which is still turned inside out so it is wrong side out.) Line up the seams on the sides and pin. The flap of your exterior body should be facing the lining pocket. 
Sew along the top of the bag but leave 3" on each side where the side seams are. 
This is where you will turn your bag right side out. 

After you sew the top of the bag together use one of the 3" openings on the side to reach in and pull your bag right side out and push the lining into inside of the bag. The two 3" openings at the top where your seams are is where you will place your leather belt strap.

I didn't take photos of me attaching my leather straps because honestly it was pretty difficult sewing through the leather and I got distracted and forgot about my camera ;) 

Use your leather sewing needle and use the knob on your machine to hand crank the machine to sew through the leather belt. I went over the belt as many times as I could to ensure that the strap was attached well. The 3" opening will be wider than your strap so after you attach the strap top stitch around the whole top perimeter of the bag (this will create a professional touch and ensure the rest of the 3" openings are closed)

After the straps are attached flip the flap over the bag and mark where the magnetic snap hits - This will be where you attach the other side of the magnetic snap. Mine went through the very bottom of the front pocket so I just reached into the bag and attached the snap through the front of the bag so it goes through multiple layers of fabric. 

You're done! Now give yourself a big pat on the back and enjoy your bag! 


  1. Hello Caroline, nice to meet you!
    Very useful tutorial!
    Carmen (from Italy)

  2. This bag is so cute! And it's such a great idea. I can't wait to reuse some of my old belts.


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