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If you’re sending someone off to college or into their first apartment, you’re in for a lot of new experiences. There’ll be stories of all-night ‘study sessions,’ complaints about the new roommate who hogs all the closet space, whining about the food or lack thereof. And then… there’s the laundry. You will learn The Lesson of Laundry-Deferral. Or, exactly how long one person can go without doing the wash. Often, this can stretch all the way to winter break. So, send your laundry-deferrer off with this heavy-duty, jumbo duffle. It’s nearly three feet tall with a drawstring top that allows for easy stuffing. And, with its sturdy strap slung over-the-shoulder, he or she can arrive home with nearly his or her entire wardrobe in tow. Stock up now on detergent.



Even though those intelligence tests tell you not to attempt to fit a square peg into a round hole, we’re doing something similar with this project. The bag body is made from straight-edged rectangles. The base is a perfect circle. In order to match up these two geometric opposites, it is VERY important your cuts are exact. Measure twice, three or four times; cut once. We also outline how to go about cutting a perfect circle pattern, and we link to full tutorials on both circle making and base-into-tube tutorials.

Sewing Tools You Need


Fabric and Other Supplies

Click to Enlarge

  • 1 yard of 54″+ wide medium-weight cotton duck or similar for the top, pocket and base: we originally used Premier Prints Bubbles in Black/Chartreuse
  • 1 yard of 54″+ wide medium-weight cotton duck or similar for the bottom and strap: we originally used Premier Prints Ele in Chartreuse/White 
  • 3 yards of ¼” color-coordinated cording: we used bright orange
  • All-purpose sewing thread in colors to match fabric
  • Small scrap of medium-weight fusible interfacing; you only need a 7″ x 7″ square
  • 7″ plastic zipper to match top fabric: we used white
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • See-through ruler
  • Tape measure
  • Seam gauge
  • Seam ripper
  • Straight pins
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Large safety pin

Getting Started

  1. From the fabric for the top, pocket and base (Premier Prints Bubbles in our sample), cut the following:
    ONE 41″ wide by 19″ high rectangle for the bag top
    ONE 8″ x 8″ square for the pocket
    ONE circle 13¾” in diameter.
    NOTE: To make a circle pattern: Fold a 15″ x 15″ square of pattern or graph paper into quarters. Make sure your original square is even and true. Place a see-through ruler at the exact center of the upper left corner (the ‘all-folds’ corner) of your folded square. Swing the ruler from the top to the bottom of the square, like a pendulum, measuring and marking a dot at the 6⅞” point (half the diameter of your desired 13¾”circle) in three to four spots. You are creating a semi-circle. Draw an arc to connect the marks. If you own a large compass, you could also use it to create your 6⅞” arc. Cut along the arc, then unfold the circle. When attached to the bag, the seamed circumference will be at 12¾”.  For you math geeks, you’ll see that Pi times the diameter (or 3.14 x 12.75) equals 40″, which is the finished circumference of the upper part of the bag. Cool huh? Math rocks! You can also check out our full tutorial on drawing a circle without a pattern
  2. From the fabric for the bottom and strap (Premier Prints Ele in our sample), cut the following:
    ONE 19½” high x 41″ wide rectangle for the bag bottom.
    ONE 5″ x 44″ strip for the strap.
  3. Cut ONE 7″ x 7″ piece of fusible interfacing.

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

  1. Pin the top and bottom rectangles right sides together along one 41″ side.
    NOTE: If you use a directional fabric as did, make sure the fabric is going the right way. Who wants upside-down elephants?!
    Click to Enlarge
  2. Stitch together, using a ½” seam allowance.
  3. Press the seam allowance together and toward the bottom half. Topstitch very close to the pressed seam on the bottom half (the elephant half). Then topstitch again ¼” from first line of stitching.
    NOTE: You could also use a double needle for this topstitching.
    Click to Enlarge

The pocket

For those industrious souls who actually make it down to the laundry room, our duffle’s handy zippered pocket can hold keys, quarters for the machines, and ID.

  1. Center the 7″ x 7″ fusible interfacing on the wrong side of the 8″ x 8″ pocket piece so there is ½”of interfacing showing beyond the fabric on all sides. Adhere, following the manufacturer’s directions.
  2. Measure 1½” from the top of the pocket piece and make a horizontal cut. You now have two pocket pieces: one at 1½” x 8″ and one at 6½” x 8″.
    Click to Enlarge
  3. Press back each of the two edges you just cut ½”.
    Click to Enlarge
  4. Place the zipper face down along these two pressed edges so the pressed edge of the fabric is ¼” from the teeth on each side. Pin in place.
  5. Change out your regular sewing machine foot to a Zipper foot.
  6. Sew the zipper in place with contrasting thread.
    Click to Enlarge
  7. Press the edges of the pocket under ½” all the way around.
    Click to Enlarge
  8. Pin the pocket in place on the top half of the bag. It should be centered side to side and the bottom edge should be approximately 1″ above the middle seam.
  9. Edgestitch in place around all four sides of the pocket, pivoting at the corners. Go slowly and carefully along the ends of the zipper, hand-walking the needle if necessary to better pass.
    Click to Enlarge

Bag assembly and drawstring casing

  1. Following the manufacturer’s directions for your sewing machine, mark and make a vertical 1″ buttonhole, which will be the opening for the top casing. This buttonhole should be centered (use the pocket as a guide for centering) with the top of the buttonhole 2″ from the raw edge of the top fabric (the Bubbles fabric in our sample).
    Click to Enlarge
  2. Fold the bag panel in half and pin along the length of the bag, forming a tube.
  3. Sew together, using a French seam to create a finished inside seam. To do this fold the bag WRONG sides together and stitch a ¼” seam. Trim the seam allowance back very close to your stitching – to about ⅛”. Then, turn the bag inside out and sew the seam again, encasing the first seam, using a ⅜” seam.
    NOTE: If you are new to making a French Seam, check out our full tutorial
  4. To make the casing for the drawstring, fold under the top raw edge of the bag ½” and press. Fold again 1″ and press again. Pin in place.
  5. Edgestitch all around the top opening ⅛” from top fold and again ⅛” from the bottom fold.
    Click to Enlarge

Make and attach the strap and insert the base

  1. Find your 5″ x 44″ strip. Fold the strip in half (so it is now 2½”) right sides together. Pin in place.
  2. Using a ½” seam allowance, along the entire long edge. Leave both ends open.
  3. Roll the seam to the center back and press open the seam allowance. With the strip still wrong side out, use a ½” seam allowance to stitch across one end.
  4. Clip the corners.
  5. Turn right side out through the open end, poking/pulling out the corners so they are nice and sharp.
  6. Press flat. The seam should be centered as shown.
    NOTE: Take a look at our tube turning tutorial for some handy hints.
    Click to Enlarge
  7. Pin the right side of the strap’s finished end to right side of bag just below casing with the strap’s seam line matching the bag’s seam.
    Click to Enlarge
  8. Secure by stitching a rectangular box approximately 2″ long. Reinforce by stitching an ‘X’ through the middle.
    NOTE: Yep, we have a full X-Box tutorial you can check out if you are new to this technique.
    Click to Enlarge
  9. Pin the opposite, raw edge of the strap to the bottom of the bag with the seams matching, as above. The raw edges of the strap and the bag should be flush.
  10. Find your base circle piece. Fold it in quarters and mark each fold with a pin.
    Click to Enlarge
  11. Fold the bottom edge of bag in quarters and mark each of these folds with pins as well.
    Click to Enlarge
  12. Place the circle inside the bottom of the bag, with right sides together. Match up the pins you put in place on your quarter folds. Pin all around, making sure to catch the unfinished edge of the strap with your pinning. The quarter fold pins are like the face of a clock with marks at 12:00, 3:00, 6:00, and 9:00.
    Click to Enlarge
  13. Using a ½” seam allowance, sew around the circle.
    NOTE: If you are new to inserting a circular base into a tube, we have you covered with a full tutorial on the process
    Click to Enlarge
  14. Finish the raw edges of this seam allowance with a zig-zag or other machine finishing stitch.
  15. Press the seam toward the base and topstitch ⅜” from seam. This helps reinforce the base and the strap… so the bag can hold lots o’ laundry.
    Click to Enlarge
  16. Attach a large safety pin to one end of the cording and thread it through the buttonhole and casing.
  17. Trim the ends to a length you like. Knot each end. Then, melt the ends with a lighter to seal.
    Click to Enlarge


Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation: Julia Chapman

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Kathy Healey
Kathy Healey
10 months ago

I wanted to let you know that I have been making these laundry bags for the past decade. They are always a hit! I like to make them in the colors of the college the student will be attending.

2 years ago

When I used your print button the images were puny, and not helpful. I do plan on making this bag, but I am not a very sewer and having large images is helpful. I was able to use Print Friendly to create a better PDF. Just thought I’d mention it. Thanks for the free pattern.

Liz Johnson
Liz Johnson
2 years ago
Reply to  savannagal

Hi there – we’re glad to know found a project to love. And, yes – the Print Friendly option is a special monthly app we pay for that allows a user to increase/decrease both the image size and copy size for their best results. This way, as a newer sewer, you can print out at a larger size while someone concerned about the number of pages can print out at a smaller size. Everyone’s happy. Let us know how your bag turns out.

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