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What should you use to carry your school stuff this year? Well, if you’re all about form and structure, the venerable back pack is your friend. But if you want something comfortably soft and slouchy, then go with the book bag: the wild child of school totes. Ours uses no stabilizer, only a lining. The exterior fabric is a velvety corduroy from Valori Wells with the thinnest of wales. Wooden beads, stone buttons and waxed cording create the closures. And, tiny golden rivets attach the strap. So cute… maybe you should keep it as your everyday bag!

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What should you use to carry your school stuff this year? Well, if you’re all about form and structure, the venerable back pack is your friend. But if you want something comfortably soft and slouchy, then go with the book bag: the wild child of school totes. Ours uses no stabilizer, only a lining. The exterior fabric is a velvety corduroy from Valori Wells with the thinnest of wales. Wooden beads, stone buttons and waxed cording create the closures. And, tiny golden rivets attach the strap. So cute… maybe you should keep it as your everyday bag!

 

A big thanks to our friends at Fat Quarter Shop for providing the cool Valori Well’s Nest Corduroy for this project. It’s called “Autumn Paisley”, which conjures up the perfect swirl of falling leaves and colors.

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

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  • Fabric for bag exterior: 1¼ yard of 44-45″ wide fabric: we used Valori Wells’ Nest Corduroy from Free Spirit Fabrics in Autumn Paisley
  • Fabric for bag lining: ½ yard of 44-45″ wide fabric: we used Moda Fabric’s Bella Solids in Natural
  • Two 1″ buttons
  • Two ¾” buttons
  • Eight rivets: we used ¼” brass plated rivets
  • Hole punch, hammer and rivet setting tool
    NOTE: See our How To Rivet tutorial for more details on these tools.
  • 18-19″ of 2.5 mm waxed cotton cord to match fabric: we used dark brown
  • Two large-hole wooden beads
    NOTE: Hole must be large enough to thread onto waxed cord.
  • All purpose thread in color to match fabric
  • All-purpose thread in color to contrast with fabric: we used dark brown
  • See-through ruler
  • Seam gauge
  • Fabric pencil, pen or chalk
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • Straight pins
  • Hand sewing needle

Getting Started

  1. From the exterior bag fabric (Valori Wells’ Nest Corduroy from Free Spirit Fabrics in Autumn Paisley in our sample), cut the following:
    NOTE: We wanted the corduroy’s wale to run vertically for our bag, and so cut all our pieces accordingly.
    ONE 15½” wide x 36½” tall rectangle for the bag body.
    ONE 15½” wide x 20½” tall rectangle for the exterior bag pockets.
    ONE 8″ x 8″ square for the interior bag pocket.
    ONE 6″ wide x 39″ long strip for the bag strap.
  2. From the lining fabric (Moda Fabric’s Bella Solids in Natural in our sample), cut one 15½” x 33½” rectangle.

At Your Sewing Machine

  1. Fold the main exterior bag piece in half and press well to form a crease.
  2. Unfold and lay this piece flat, wrong side up, on your work surface so you can see the crease.
  3. Use your fabric pen to draw a line straight across right on the crease line.
  4. Draw two parallel lines to this line, one 1¼” above and one 1¼” below.
  5. Draw two intersecting vertical lines 1¾” in from each side.
  6. The resulting 2½” x 12″ rectangle is the bottom of the bag.
    Diagram
  7. Repeat these same markings on what will be the wrong side of the lining.

Exterior pockets

  1. Make a simple 2″ hem along each 15½” side of the exterior pocket piece. To do this, fold in the raw edge ½” and press, then fold in again 1½” and press again. Stitch in place close to the folded edge. Repeat for the opposite edge.
  2. Fold the hemmed pocket piece in half and press well to form a crease.
  3. Unfold and lay this piece flat, wrong side up, on your work surface so you can see the crease.
  4. Use your fabric pen to draw a line straight across right on the crease line.
  5. On the right side of your fabric, draw a vertical line down the exact center (7¾” from each side).
  6. Thread your machine with contrasting thread in the top and bobbin.
  7. Stitch in a straight line following the marked vertical line.
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  8. Lay the exterior body piece flat, right side up, on your work surface.
  9. Lay the exterior pocket piece, also right side up, on top of the body piece, aligning the bottom crease lines and the raw edges of both sides. Pin the pocket piece to the body piece.
    Diagram
  10. Fold the pinned together piece in half and check to make sure the top hemmed edges of the pocket piece are even when the bottom crease lines are aligned. Un-pin and adjust if necessary to make sure the top hemmed edges are even.
  11. Un-fold, and stitch the pocket piece to the body piece, going right over the top of the existing center stitch line. That’s all, just stitch together along the center line.
  12. Sew two buttons in place at the center line, one at the top hem line and a second one just above it.
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Side seams and boxed bottom corners

  1. Making sure the pocket panel stays nice and flat from edge to edge, and the top pocket hems are even (as checked above), fold the bag body in half right sides together. The crease line should be at the exact bottom… right at the fold – makes sense, huh?
  2. Re-thread your machine with thread to match the fabric in the top and bobbin.
  3. Stitch both sides together from the bottom to the top, using a ½” seam allowance.
  4. With the bag still wrong side out, the next step is to box the bottom corners of the bag.
  5. Using both hands, pinch and pull apart the bottom corner.
  6. As you keep pulling, the fabric will begin to make a little peak with the corner point at the top and the seam line running down the middle of one side.
  7. Carefully and precisely, line up the side seam with the bottom crease line.
  8. You should also be able to see the placement line you drew earlier (the 2½” side of the bag bottom rectangle).
  9. Pin your folded ‘peak’ and stitch along this drawn line.
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  10. Stitch back and forth along the line two or three times to reinforce. Trim away the peak on each side to about ½” from the seam line.
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  11. Turn right side out and push out to form the boxed corners.
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Interior pocket

  1. Find the 8″ x 8″ interior pocket piece. Orient it on your work surface so your fabric design is running the right way.
  2. Fold in ½” on both sides and the bottom and press well.
  3. Fold in along the top ½” and press, then fold again 1″ and press.
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  4. Re-thread your machine with contrasting thread in the top and bobbin.
  5. Stitch close to the folded edge to create a simple hem along the top of the pocket.
  6. Find your lining piece and lay it flat, right side up, on your work surface.
  7. Position the pocket piece approximately 4¼” from the bottom crease and both raw sides. Pin in place.  
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  8. Edgestich the pocket in place along both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners.
  9. Fold the lining in half, right sides together, sandwiching the interior pocket to the inside.
  10. If you want, re-thread again with thread to match your lining. Since it is a lining, I didn’t bother to switch thread as the seam lines won’t show.
  11. Stitch both sides from the bottom to the top, using a ½” seam allowance.
  12. Box the bottom corners of the lining following the same steps you used for the body of the bag.
  13. Set aside.

Strap

  1. Find the 6″ x 39″ strip.
  2. Fold in half, right sides together, so it is now 3″ x 39″.  Press. Pin in place.
  3. Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch along one short end and all along the 39″ side. Leave the opposite short end open.
  4. Clip corners and turn right side out.
  5. Press well, keeping the seam along one edge.
  6. Press in the raw open end to match the sewn seam. Slip stitch closed.
  7. Set aside.

Assembling lining and bag

  1. Insert the finished lining into the finished body of the bag, wrong sides together. The interior pocket should be against the front of the bag.
  2. Push the lining all the way down into the bag, matching up the bottom boxed corners and the side seams. The top raw edge of the lining will stop about 1½” from the top raw edge of the bag.
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  3. Turn down the top raw edge of the bag ½” and press. Then fold down an additional 1½” and press again. This second turn will fold the lining along with the body of the bag. Pin in place.
  4. Edgestitch all around the top of the bag. If you have a free arm on your machine, now is a good time to use it.
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  5. Hand stitch one 1″ button at the center of the top hem on the front of the bag, measuring to make sure it is exactly in line with the two buttons at the center of the pocket panel.
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  6. Hand stitch the other 1″ button at the center of the top hem on the back of the bag.
  7. Find your length of waxed cord.
  8. Thread a bead on each end and knot to hold in place.
  9. Hook the cord around the back button and tie a knot to secure.
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  10. To close the bag, holding both cord tails together, bring them up and over the top of the bag, and loop them counterclockwise around the front button, pulling straight down to secure. 
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Riveting the strap in place

  1. Find your completed strap.
  2. Fold under each end 1½”.
  3. Pin in place, centered on the side seam.
  4. Mark four corner points, ¼” in from each top/side and bottom/side.
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  5. Insert a rivet at each marked point.
  6. Repeat to attach the opposite side of the strap.
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  7. If you are new to riveting, take a look at our tutorial.

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Contributors

Project Design: Alicia Thommas  
Sample Creation and Instructions: Liz Johnson

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