Crafts bags: sewing tutorial


A duffle bag tote is an ideal type of luggage that no traveler should be without. The duffel bag is one of the most versatile and functional forms of luggage. It can be used as a carry-on for plane trips, and can also serve as the perfect overnight or weekend bag. Duffel bags can be made in a variety of styles, designs, colours and fabrics. Therefore, anyone from a business traveler, to a camper, or everyday vacationer, will find use for a duffle tote bag.

Dimensions: approximately 17″ high / 20″ wide / 11″ deep with a 40″ [1 m] detachable shoulder strap and exterior pocket. [43 cm x 51 cm x 28 cm]

Construction Method: Turned finish – this method may be recognized by noting the lack of machine-stitching that is visible at points of assembly on the exterior side of the bag.  This is possible by placing the material, or parts, face to face, machining and turning right-side out. It is the most commonly used assembly process.

Material Used: 100% cotton denim, 54″ wide; trim: 100% microfiber suede cloth, 45” wide.
You will need:
  • 1 heavy-duty closed zipper
  • 2 D-rings, 1 ½” dia. [38 mm]
  • 2 swivel latches, 1 ½” dia. [38 mm]
  • 4 or more yards [4 m] of polyester web strapping, 1 ½” wide [38 mm]
  • Approx. 1 yard [1 m] of canvas/upholstery weight fabric, 54″ wide [137 cm]
  • Approx 1 yard [1 m] of contrast fabric, 45” wide [114 cm] for piping trim.
  • 2 ½ yds. [2.3 m] of wide cotton bias tape, 1” wide [25 mm]
  • 2 yds. [2 m] or more of cable cord, ½” dia. [12 mm]
  • 1 small piece of hook & loop tape
  • Coordinating thread
  • Kraft paper


The size of your duffel tote bag is based on the circumference of a circle. The larger the circle, the larger the bag. Look for a circular object to use as a template or use a compass. (I traced around a large pie plate).

Next, measure the circumference of the circle pattern using the edge of the tape measure. This amount is X.
eg: an 11″ diameter pie plate has a circumference of 34 ½”.

Add 1″ [25 mm] ease to the circumference measurement.
The amount X + 1″ is double the bag height . (see diagram)

Now, to determine the width of the duffle, choose your desired zipper length. The longer the zipper, the wider the bag. (I chose a 20″ large-toothed metal zipper). Measure the zipper tape, end to end, with the tape measure. This is the bag width.

Draw out a rectangle pattern (height x width).

Fold rectangle pattern into thirds to create a vertical grid. Open the pattern flat.

Mark out strap placement lines on the gridlines. Allow one-third free from top edges of the front and back sections or 1/2 of the pattern. (see diagram)

Draw a horizontal line one-third down from top edge of pattern between the strap placement lines. Measure down 6 “[15 cm] from this line and draw another line parallel to it. This will be the pocket position.
Trace out the exterior pocket pattern onto a separate piece of paper. (A-B-C-D)

* Add seam allowance to all pattern pieces.

Self Fabric:
Body – cut 1X
Pocket – cut 1X
Circle Gusset – cut 2X

Contrast Fabric:
Cut bias strips (equal to X + 6” [15 cm] extra) for piping. (see bias cutting)
Cut 6-inch strips for handles (equal to 2 times strap width)
Cut tabs to fit D-rings and swivel latches. (equal to 2 times diameter)

Cut length equal to 3 X for handles.
Cut 40” [1 m] length for detachable shoulder strap.


  1. Attach swivel latch to each end of webbing and turn under ends. Secure with X-stitch.
  2. Make up piping by covering cable cord with bias-cut strips. Use a cording foot or zipper foot attachment and make enough to go around circumference of both circular gusset ends.
  3. Bind top edge of exterior pocket with bias-cut strip, using a Hong Kong finish application.
  4. On inside edge of pocket, secure hook side of H&L tape. (I hid the stitching by covering the spot with a patch made from the contrast fabric).
  5. Trim seam allowance from top edges of the body piece and bind edges with bias-cut strips, using a Hong Kong finish technique.
  6. Attach zipper to one side of bag opening by overlapping piped edge on zipper tape and “stitching-in-the-ditch” along the piped seam, using a zipper foot attachment. On underside, trim away any excess protruding from under zipper.
  7. Sew the 2 short ends of the webbing together to create a loop for the strapping and press seam open. Be sure not to twist the webbing.
  8. Using the pattern as a guide, lightly chalk the placement lines for the strapping on the fabric.
  9. Place the webbing over the placement lines and pin in place. Begin by dividing the strapping loop in half. Position the seam of the loop and its opposite end, at the center of the body piece. Pin along placement line to within one-third of the bag opening, in both directions. (I used 2.8 yards of webbing for the bag strapping).
  10. Attach exterior pocket between the strapping by applying it FACE down 6” [15 cm] below the pocket placement line and stitch across the bottom. Fold the pocket upward towards the top of the bag and lay pocket sides under the strapping. Align and add the loop side of the H&L tape to the body of the bag.
  11. Following the dotted lines on the diagram, topstitch the webbing to the fabric as shown. Ensure you catch the pocket sides in the top-stitching. To reinforce the bottoms of the strap loop, sew an X-stitch through the webbing at each of the 4 points. (I used contrast fabric to trim this area).
  12. Using a zipper foot, place the other piped top-edge over the zipper tape and stitch as previous method (step # 6) along piped seam.
  13. Apply piping trim to each circle gusset, using the zipper foot.
  14. Cut 2 pieces of contract fabric about 6” [15 cm] long. Wrap each piece through a D-ring. Stitch each D-ring tab on the gusset ends with an X-stitch.
  15. Divide the bag ends in quarters, beginning at the zipper position. Divide each circle gusset into quarters. Pin/baste gusset to each end of bag so that the D-ring aligns with the bag opening and stitch around each gusset end. (Be sure to open zipper halfway so you can turn bag right-side-out and you may have to clip the straight edge to sew into the curved edge to release any buckling of the fabric.)
  16. Check for any uneven stitching then do a second row of stitching on top of the first to reinforce the seam. Bind the raw edges with cotton bias tape to neaten. Turn the bag right side out through the zipper opening.
  17. Latch shoulder strap onto D-rings on dufflebag


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