Tutorial – A cross body bag

Despite my intentions to prepare and post tutorials throughout the year, it has taken me quite a few months to actually sit down and write one up. I decided that if I was going to prepare one, it had to be for a bag that I like to make, and that I hadn’t already seen a tutorial for. So here we have my design for a cross body bag.  I love the versatility of these bags – great for slinging across your body when you are travelling, walking, shopping, or for having over your shoulder when you are feeling a bit more dressed up and business like!  The options for mixing and matching fabrics are endless – you can bling it up, or use recycled jeans, patchwork it, or have classy linen in muted tones.  As usual, the only limits are your imagination!

The qualifiers that I feel compelled to include up front include that the photos were taken at night with dodgy lighting, and then in the day with great natural light, so they aren’t terribly consistent in their quality.  Also, I made a couple of mistakes along the way – so I share those with you, and how I fixed them up.  The lesson – don’t copy me – learn from my trial and error!!  The pattern includes instructions for an outer pocket and an inner pocket – but of course I didn’t follow these instructions in making the bag in the photos, so the outer pocket photo is from a different bag, and the inner pocket is different dimensions….but you will get the drift – I promise!

Final dimensions – 9″ wide, 9″ long and 2″ deep.

Materials (in each case slightly more than you will need) (NB Edited to correct fabric requirements on 10 Jan 2014)
1/2 yard outer cotton
1/2 yard of inner cotton
1/2 yard fusible fleece (I like Vilene H604 as it is thicker and gives better body)
A magnetic snap (14mm or 18mm)
1 1/2 inch tri-glide strap adjustor and matching rectangle ring
Strong interfacing – 2 pieces approx. 2″ square (support for the magnetic snap)

Cutting pieces
Outer cotton
Body – rectangle 10 1/2″ x 21″
Flap – rectangle 10 1/2″ x 8 1/2″
Adjustable Strap – 2 x (1) 2″ x 10 1/2 plus 2 x (2) 2″ x 44″ (Width of fabric). (2 pieces – your choice whether you make it all from the outer fabric or a side from the inner)
Pocket – 5″ x 10″

Inner cotton
Body – rectangle 10 1/2″ x 21″
Flap – rectangle 10 1/2″ x 8 1/2″
Pocket – 2 x 8″ x 5″  (In these photos I used the outer fabric for the inner pocket – it provides a nice contrast, and highlights the process at the same time!)

Fleece (designed to be a bit smaller than the fabric to allow for tidy seams)
Body – rectangle 10 ” x 20 1/2″
Flap – rectangle 10 ” x 8″
Adjustable Strap 1 1/2″ x 10 1/2 plus 1 1/2″ x 44″

Notes on fabric
It is up to you whether you use all the same fabric for the inner and outer, or whether you mix it up and use the lining fabric for the outside pocket and the outer fabric for the inner pocket, whether you have a combination of fabrics on the strap, or just one. This one pattern can look very different through using very different fabrics. It is also a great pattern for embellishing with applique on the flap. I have made it using drill cotton, quilting cotton, decorator weight cotton, duck cloth and combinations of all of the above! Using the fusible fleece gives it body and form, even when it is lightweight fabric.

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If you want to make a standard strap, without the adjustable slides, then just use the 44″ width, without the shorter piece. The magnetic snap is optional – but I find it useful to be able to close the bag for a bit of added security.

In this pattern the orange Chinoiserie (by Anna Griffin) is the outer, and the green millefiori (by Kaffe Fassett) is in the inner.

Instructions
1. Fuse the interface (the 2″ x2″ pieces) to the outer body piece, and the inner flap piece.  This interfacing is for providing support to the magnetic snap.

For the outer body piece, the interfacing will be attached to the wrong side of the fabric, so that it covers the point 7″ from the top of the piece (the top is the 10 1/2′ width), and half way across. (I usually just fold it length wise to find the middle, then put the piece of interfacing across the half way mark. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

For the inner flap, the interfacing will be attached to the wrong side of the fabric, 9″ from the top of the flap (or 1 1/2″ from the bottom!), and half way across.  (The flap is 8 1/2″ wide and 10 1/2″ long). When determining which is the ‘top’ of the flap, consider the direction of any pattern – the snap will be at the bottom of the flap, so at the bottom of any directional print.

2. Fuse fleece to wrong side of outer fabric – body of the bag, the flap, and the strap. The fleece will cover the piece of interfacing that you have attached to the wrong side of the outer body.

3. Sew the strap. Place the wrong sides of the two short pieces together, and sew down either side with a 1/4″ seam.

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Turn inside out. Press the strap flat, with the seams flat, and top-stitch along both sides approximately 3/8″ from the edge. If you want to, you can stitch another row parallel to this, about the same distance in.  I usually turn the strap by attaching a safety pin and feeding it through the inside of the tube.  It can be a bit tight, but is manageable.
Repeat with the long strap pieces.

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4. To assemble the strap, fold the short piece in half, with the fabric that you want on the outer facing out. Slide the rectangle ring along the strap to the fold mark,

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then sew the ring in place securely, about 1/2″ away from the ring. (I normally use the edge of the presser foot as the guide.)

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Take the long piece of the strap, and fold it over the middle bar of the tri-glide buckle, and sew it down, tucking the raw end of the strap under to make it neat.  I normally sew a bit of reinforcing at this point.

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Then take the other end of the long strap, and slide it through the d-ring on the short piece, then back through the tri-glide buckle, going over the fabric attached to it.

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You now have your strap in one piece. If my pictures and description aren’t great then this tutorial by Nicole M Design is very helpful!

5.  The next step is to make your pockets.  For the outer pocket, fold the piece in half with the right sides together, so that you now have a 5″ square.  Sew along three sides, leaving a gap of about 3″ on one side, with a 1/4″ seam.  (The pocket in the photos is not the same dimensions, but the technique is the same.)

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Snip the corners carefully, then turn it inside out and press the seams flat.  Top stitch along the top of the pocket about 3/8″ from the edge.  (With a second line parallel to give it a nice finish if you wish.)

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This pocket will be attached to the rear of the bag, so you will be measuring from the opposite end that you measured for the interfacing.  I normally fold the pocket in half, and fold the body piece in half, so that I can line up the middle of the bag with the middle of the pocket.  Then measure 2 ” from the top of the bag, and, with the middle’s lined up, pin the pocket to the right side of the fabric.  Stitch along the side, across the bottom and back up the other side, making sure that you catch the seam that has been left open for the turning.  I normally try for about 3/8″ topstitching here too – and reinforce the tops of the pocket with a bit of extra stitching.  (I do love the reverse button on my machine for this!)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI didn’t put a pocket on the bag I was making for the tutorial – but here is a photo of one I prepared earlier!

6. For the inner pocket the process if similar.  Put the two pieces together with the right sides together, and stich around all four sides, again leaving a gap for turning it out the right way.  Carefully clip the corners without cutting the stitches, then turn it out, and iron the seams flat.  Top stich along the top of the pocket and then attach it to the inner body of the bag.  Again I like to match the middle by folding the pocket and the bag and then lining them up, 2 1/2″ from the top of the inner piece.

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Stitch down the side, along the bottom and up the other side, again reinforcing the stitching at the beginning of the stitching and the end.  Then stich a line from the bottom of the pocket to the top at the mid point mark, reinforcing the stitching at the top and bottom.  This then gives you two 4″ pockets which are the right size for slipping a phone into, or keys, etc.  (In this bag my piece was smaller than 8″ wide, because I was trying to use up pieces that I had already cut, so the pockets are 4″ and 3″.)

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7. Assemble the flap.  If you want to embellish your flap, this is the time.  Some ideas are to use a solid fabric that contrasts or compliments your main fabric, or to use the same fabric as your main fabric for the body of the flap, and then applique on to it.  Once this is done, then you will create the curve at the bottom of the flap.  To do this place the two flap pieces with their right sides together.  Fold the fabric in half lengthwise, and then mark a spot 2″ from the bottom outer corner up the side and 2″ along the bottom.  Using chalk draw a curve between these two points (there is no such thing as a wrong curve with an area this small), then cut it through the four layers of fabric.

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8.  Before you sew the flap together you need to insert your magnetic snap.  To do this, fold, or measure to determine the middle of the flap, and mark a spot 9″ from the top of the bag (or 1 1/2″ from the bottom!)

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Then take the round flat piece of metal that comes with the snap, and centre the middle hole over your mark.  Mark the two long pieces with pencil or chalk, then cut those two long marks with a seam ripper, or a box-cutter with a sharp blade.  Then place the non-magnetic piece of the snap on the right side of the fabric and pass the two prongs through the two cuts.

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On the reverse side now place the metal guide over the prongs, and then bend the prongs down into the centre of the snap as flat as you can.

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9.  Then place your inner and outer flap pieces, right side together, and stitch around the edges, using a 1/4″ seam.  Don’t sew across the top of the flap.  Clip the edges of the curve, without clipping the seam, then turn it inside out, and iron it flat, making sure that the seams are properly pushed out.  (I have a lovely enamel blue chopstick that I use for this purpose – part of a sushi set my sister gave me years ago!).

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Then top stich around the edge about 3/8″ from the edge.  Again, you can do a second row parallel in order to give it a nice finish.

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10.  Next is putting together the bag inner.  Fold the inner body piece in half width wise, with the right sides together, so that you end up with a square of 10 1/2″ by 10 1/2″.  Sew up the two sides, using a 1/4″ seam.  If you have an overlocker (serger) this is a good time to use it to finish off the seams for some extra stability.

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11.  Then you are going to square off the base of the bag.  To do this, fold the side seam of the bag so that it lies on top of the fold across the bottom of the bag.  This will leave you with a triangle from the corner of the bag.

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(This is the outer bag in the photo – because I forgot to photograph the inner!)

Measure, pin and mark the point where this triangle is 2″ wide, with the 1″ mark falling on the side seam.  Repeat for the other corner.  Then sew across the mark.  Clip the corner off about 1/2″ from the seam.

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12.  Before assembling the outer body of the bag, you need to insert the other half of the magnetic snap.  Following the same procedure as you used for the flap, mark the spot 7″ from the top of the bag.  (If you like to have a bit more room to fill your bag a bit more, then you could move it up to 6 1/2″.)  This time you are cutting through the fused fleece, the interfacing, and the fabric, and inserting the magnetic half of the snap.

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13.  Then fold the outer body piece in half, right sides together, and sew up the two sides, with a 1/4″ seam.  Then square off the two bottom corners using the same method as the inner, and measuring 2″ wide.

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14.  Once this is done, turn the outer part of the bag so that the right side is facing out.  (Starting to take shape isn’t it?!)

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Now is the time to attach that strap, so take one end and pin it so that it sits long the outside of the side seam of the bag, and reaches just over the top of the bag’s top edge.  The right side of the strap should be facing the right side of the bag.  That means that the top of the tri-glide buckle will be facing in towards the bag.

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Sew across the top of the strap about 3/8″ from the edge to secure it to the bag.  Then, making sure that the strap isn’t twisted, sew the other side of the strap to the other side of the bag.

15.  Next up is the flap.  Line it up so that the top of the flap sits next to the top of the bag, with the right sides facing each other.  The flap should fill the gap between the two straps, and should be sitting on the opposite side of the bag to the side with the snap, and over the external pocket if you added one.  Pin it in place then stitch along the edge of the point where they join, about 3/8″ from the edge.  (This is to hold it in place and then you will stitch over it again a couple more times.  The main thing here is to remember that the next seam needs to be wider than whatever you have used here, so that your initial holding stitch doesn’t show.)

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16.  Now comes the magical part where the bits come together and turn into something greater than the whole of their parts!  (So poetic!)  Put the outer of the bag inside the inner bag, with the right sides together.  Tuck the flap and the straps inside in between the outer and inner so that they are flat at the top of the bag.  I like to have the inner pockets on the opposite side from the outer pocket, so the inner pockets go on the side away from the flap.

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17. Match up the side seams and pin along the edges, easing if you need to so that the two bags match up.  Then stitch along the edge of the top, using a seam between 1/4″ and 1/2″ – remembering that you need to cover the earlier stitching of the straps and the flap.  Start about two inches away from the middle on the front (the side where the magnetic snap is, and the flap isn’t) and sew all the way around, stopping about two inches from the middle on the front.  (In other words leaving a gap of about 4″ at the top to allow room to turn the bag out to the right sides.) Add some reinforcing stitching over the two straps, and the edges of the flap.

18.  Now turn the bag right side out by pulling it through the gap in the stitching.  You should end up with something like this below.

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19.  Now tuck the inner down inside the outer and iron the top so that the seam is flat and the gap is turned under ready for top stitching.  Next comes the top stitching.  As you will see, there are two options for this.  I started by sewing all the way around the top of the bag, making sure to catch the gap and close it, by sewing on the outside of the bag.

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20.  Unfortunately when I inspected my handiwork I discovered that this had happened to the inner lining.

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The top stitching over the flap was messy, had caught up the lining, and generally didn’t look very tidy.  So I unpicked it and re-stitched, this time sewing on the inside of the bag.

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And the finished product was much neater!

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A quick press with the iron and hey presto – you have a bag!

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I can’t wait to see what combinations you come up with to make your own bags – or bags as Christmas presents!  If you want to put a zipped pocket on the inside – or outside for that matter – then this tutorial from U-Handbag is a great guide on how to do it.  (And using a contrasting lining is always a nice touch!)

If you want to make the bag larger, it is just a matter of adding to the width, the length, and/or the depth (by making a wider triangle across the bottom corners).  To keep the flap covering the bag, you need to make the flap the width of the bag, less the depth of the bag.  In this case the width was 10 1/2″, and the depth was 2″,  so the flap needed to be 8 1/2″ wide.

Please let me know if you have any questions, and if I have missed anything along the way!  Happy sewing! If you want to use this pattern to make bags for selling, please credit me with the pattern by stating “Pattern by Theresa van Gessel of alittlebirdmademe.com.

4 thoughts on “Tutorial – A cross body bag

  1. Jessica

    Hi! I was reading through your tutorial – you have done a great job of breaking it down and I look forward to making one later today. My only question is on yardage. You state 1/4 of a yard, however that is only 9 inches wide, whereas you need to cut the pieces 10.5 inches wide. Can you let me know for sure?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    1. a little bird Post author

      Hi Jessica.
      You are quite right – 1/4 yard is not enough! It should say 1/2 yard. I have been caught out by a combination of a typo and the metric vs imperial conversion! My pattern tester thinks in metres so didn’t pick up my mistake. I will now amend it and send you much gratitude!
      Theresa

      Reply

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