I “inherited” a stash of lightweight men’s suiting fabric. Since it isn’t “suit”able for quilting fabric, I’ve been at a loss as to what to do with it. Finally the thought came to me that it would make nice bags/purses/totes, so I jumped right in.
When I’m making bags, I start with the zipper. I cut two pieces of fabric the length of the zipper plus about 2 inches and stitch those to the zipper. In the case of the bag above, the strips I used were vintage denim.
Then comes the main body of the bag. The width needs to be the same as the length of the top bands, but I cut the body for each side in three pieces to make it easy to add pockets. If I want the center section to be 9 inches wide when finished, then I cut is 10 inches wide. Then the other two sections are cut to make the total width. The pockets are added to the center section before they are stitched together.
Next comes the straps. I usually cut the fabric for the straps five inches wide then fold it in fourths. Most of the time I add a strip of batting to make them padded. The straps need to be stitched to the main body of the bag before it is stitched to the top band.
Then I cut the pieces for the bottom of the bag. In this case, it is the same vintage denim. The bottom can be cut in one piece, but I find it easier to cut it in two pieces. On one side of each piece, I cut out a square that will form the dart for the bottom of the bag. Then I stitch the bottom pieces onto the body of the bag before stitching the seam for the two bottom pieces.
With the bag turned wrong side out and right sides together, I stitch the side seams. I press those seams open, then stitch across the raw edges at the bottom corners to make the square shape.
Using these general directions, you can make a bag any size you want. I usually start with the length of the zipper! The depth can be anything you wish.
Here’s what happened when I started with a 23 inch zipper. It ended up measuring 21 inches by 19 inches!