bag tutorial

A new bag for a new season – the Osoberry bag by Kate from FoxFlat.

Made from large fabric scraps and/or thrifted clothing items (this bag is made from some IKEA fabric and two pairs of ladies’ pants), and the construction is simple enough to make this a one-day project.

I like a good fabric handbag. They’re inexpensive to make, so I don’t feel guilty about owning a half dozen. They’re washable, which is great for me and my exploding pens and leaking lunch containers (and good for you too – they can carry anything from books and laptops to nappies, craft projects and shopping). And best of all, they can be made from all sorts of thrifted items that, despite a beautiful color or pattern, should not be walking the streets in their current form (fashion police community service!).

My preference is a bag design that doesn’t necessitate closures. This is based purely on impatience (I like to finish projects in a day) and laziness (I don’t like fussing with zippers or button holes). I was admiring the construction of the reusable bags at our local grocery this spring, and realized that with a few tweaks it could be the new design I was looking for.

Osoberry is named after a plant that’s native to the Pacific Northwest. Also called “Indian Plum,” Osoberry is often one of the first plants to flower in spring! The bag expands to fit a knitting project or groceries for dinner, but folds over for when you’re just carrying the essentials. The pocketed exterior keeps cellphone and keys handy, and the reinforced bottom means you can safely carry a small laptop or a stack of library books.

Below you’ll find illustrated step-by-step instructions for making your own Osoberry. If you’d like a 2-page summary of the pattern, click here for a pdf to print and keep.

– Sewing machine, sewing shears, pins, ruler
– Contrasting thread color
– Some combination of fabric scraps and/or thriftstore items (my favorites are vintage bedsheets, printed cotton dresses, and ladies’ summer pants)
– If any of the fabric is flimsy or see-through, back it up with lightweight iron-on interfacing

The Pieces
Cut apart any thriftstore items so the fabric lies flat. Press. If needed, iron on lightweight interfacing. Use ruler to mark and cut pieces shown in drawing below [click for larger image]

How to make
Step 1: With right sides facing, sew top and bottom edges of pocketed exterior and lining (C & D). Turn right side out and press.

Step 2: With bag exterior (A) right side up, place pocketed exterior and lining (C side up) on top, matching side edges. Place a pin every few inches. Stitch horizontal and vertical lines through all layers as shown in drawing. These lines create the reinforced bottom and the exterior pockets.

Step 3: Fold bag exterior (A) in half, with right sides facing. Sew side edges as shown. Press seams open. **Flatten bottom of bag exterior (A) so that edge indicated by “Arrow 1” matches edge indicated by “Arrow 2”. Pin and sew. Repeat from ** for other side.

Step 4 & 5: With right sides together, sew edges of interior pocket (E) and lining (F), but leave a 2” length of edge unsewn. Turn pocket and lining right side out and press, turning unsewn edges in and pressing in place.

With bag lining (B) right side up, place pressed pocket 7” from top edge of lining (B), with the unsewn edge of the pocket at the bottom. Sew in place, starting at one upper corner and sewing down and around to the other upper corner. Repeat Step 3 with bag lining (B).

Step 6: With bag exterior (A) right side out and bag lining (B) wrong side out, place A inside B as shown. Pin top edges together.

Step 7: Sew top edge through all layers. Open a 2” portion of a side seam on lining (B) and pull bag right side out. Press, paying special attention to the upper edge. Topstitch upper edge through all layers. Sew shut the open portion of lining seam.

Step 8: With right sides facing, sew short edge of straps G&G and H&H together. Press seams open. With right sides facing, match all edges of G&G and H&H and sew. Leave one short end unsewn, and turn strap right side out. Press, paying special attention to the edges.

Final Step: Pin strap on bag, 4” from upper edge, and test length of it. Cut the unsewn end of the strap to shorten as needed. Turn unsewn edge in and press in place. Topstitch around the entire strap edge. Pin strap to bag, 4” from upper edge, and sew an “X” shape at strap end through all layers. (Attaching the strap 4” from upper edge allows the bag to fold over). Voila!


Fabric that looks like paper + paper that acts like fabric – how could I resist?

I used Kraft paper fabric on the body – its a material that traditionally has been used for cement and other industrial packaging, but now it is being sold and packaged for the craft market. I purchased it from a Korean Etsy store – don’t cha just love the global market? Anyway I was pretty intrigued and wanted to see what I could do with it, and as I purchased some newspaper print fabric at the same time I knew this would be a fun pairing.

I started off by seeing how well it would sew – and yes it is quite heavy and unyielding – it is stiff and therefore cannot be easily manipulated underneath the machine. I haven’t tried washing it yet as I am enjoying the crispness of my new bag – but it is supposed to be able to be washed and then leaves a crinkly texture finish.

To make a simple day bag:
Kraft paper fabric – 2 pieces cut into 13x9inch / 25x22cm piece
Kraft paper fabric – 4 pieces cut into 2.5×4 inches / 7x11cm rectangles
Strip of fabric (newspaper print) 5inch / 13cm wide x 60 inches / 158cm long
zip – 13inches /25cm long (if its a bit longer don’t fret you can cut it)

Step 1. Using a zig zag stitch sew your zip to the top edges of your two large pieces of Kraft paper fabric. Use a zipper foot if you have one handy. Because I am not turning this right side out and the stitching and raw seams will be seen at all time, you should try to sew in a straight line (unlike me – mine went a bit wonky as sewing the paper can be a little slippery – the feed dogs don’t grab it from underneath and it can slip to one side if you are not paying attention).

Step 2. Next sew the bags sides and bottom together. Then to create a bit of shape in your bag, fold the bottom corners and stitch across the seam, an inch in from the corner will do. This gives the bag a bit of body so it is not a flat envelope.

Step 3. Make your shoulder straps from the strip of newspaper print fabric, simply by folding in each raw edge and over stitching down the entire length, then stitch along the other length. Cut the strip into 2 even lengths. Trim the corners from your 4 small rectangles of Kraft paper fabric to create slightly rounded corners and fold them in half. Place the raw ends of your shoulder straps inside the folded rectangle and place it where you would like it on the bag (about a third in from the side and a couple of inches down from the top. Place the bag in your sewing machine and sew these straps to your bag, sew back and forth through the layers a few times to strengthen the strap. You won’t be able to turn it around as the Kraft paper fabric has no give in it – so here I chose a messy scribble back and forth stitch.

Enjoy your new bag – it is surprisingly roomy and comfortable.


mairuru has a lovely tutorial showing us how to make this origami style drawstring bag.


Laura has made a bag* out of her Spoonflower fat quarter. Link. * Must be a colloquialism. Australians will refer to their handbag as their “bag”, whereas I think Americans call their handbag a “purse”. Australians call our wallet our purse…Confused?


What a great idea from Lisa at U-Handbag. Link.