This modern canvas bucket bag has great slouchy style and tough construction details, making it a good choice for men or women. It’s a serious shoulder tote that’s ready to head out into the elements. Load it up for a weekend adventure, use it as a holdall for gym gear, or simply sling it crossbody or over your shoulder for the trek into work or school each day. We were inspired by vintage rucksacks and European satchels to create a rugged design with strapping, topstitching, and an interesting lining fabric that adds a bit of fun on the inside.
Part of the secret to our perfect slouchy finish is the washed heavyweight canvas. We always recommend pre-washing your fabric when appropriate, but for this cool, already-worn-in look, pre-washing is the ticket.
We chose a neutral palette for our sample, but the selection of canvas at most retailers is quite wide and varied, allowing you to select from basics to pastels to jewel tones and more. We found 59″ Duck Canvas in 27 different Colors at Joann Fabrics. The lining is a standard quilting cotton. Once again, you can choose a neutral tone or follow our suggestion to use the lining to feature a fun coordinating print.
Our bucket bag finishes at approximately 12″ wide x 14″ high x 6″ deep. The strap is fully adjustable.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing Machine and standard presser foot
- Quarter Inch Seam foot; optional but helpful for exact topstitching
- 100/16 Denim Needle
Fabric and Other Supplies
- ½ yard of 58″+ wide medium to heavy-weight cotton canvas or similar for the main bag exterior panels and the exterior pockets
- ⅝ yard of 58″+ wide medium to heavy-weight cotton canvas or similar for the bag exterior accent panels and straps
- 1 yard of 44″+ wide standard quilting weight cotton for the bag’s lining, the exterior pockets’ lining, and the lining pocket; we originally used Urbanista by Michael Miller Fabrics, Neutral 20/20 Glasses
- TWO 1-9/16″ plastic grommets; we used Dritz Home Plastic Curtain Grommets in Rustic Brown
- TWO 1¼” D-rings; we used Dritz D-rings
- Scrap of lightweight fusible interfacing (you need just an 8″ x 4½” piece); we used a scrap of Pellon ShirTailor
- All purpose thread to match fabrics
- All purpose thread in a slightly contrasting color for all topstitching; we recommend Coats Dual Duty Heavy thread or Coats Dual Duty Jeans Topstitching thread
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Iron and ironing board
- Straight pins
- From the fabric for the main bag exterior panels and the exterior pockets (Khaki Canvas in our sample), cut the following:
FOUR 10″ wide x 13½” high rectangles for the main panels
TWO 5½” wide x 6″ high rectangles for the exterior pockets
ONE 3″ wide x 1¼” high rectangle for the optional label backing
- From the fabric for the bag exterior accent panels and straps (Moss Canvas in our sample), cut the following:
FOUR 10″ wide x 4¼” high rectangles for the upper accent panels
TWO 19″ wide x 6″ rectangles for the bag base panels
ONE 3½” x 58″ strip for the long shoulder strap
ONE 3½” x 9″ strip for the short shoulder strap
TWO 3½” x 12 strips for the grommet-side body panel straps
TWO 3½” x 8½ strips for the plain-side body panel straps
- From the fabric for the bag’s lining, the exterior pockets’ lining, and the lining pocket (Urbanista in our sample), cut the following:
TWO 19″ x 19″ squares for the lining
ONE 8″ wide x 10″ high rectangle for the lining pocket
TWO 5½” wide x 6″ high rectangles for the linings of the exterior pockets
- From the interfacing, cut ONE 8″ x 4½” rectangle.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Create the horizontal upper accent panels
- Find the four 10″ x 4¼” panels.
- On two of the four panels, insert a grommet. The grommet should be centered top to bottom within the panel with the center point of the grommet 3½” in from one raw end of the panel.
- Use the provided template to mark the grommet hole. If you are new to using these grommets, check out our step-by-step tutorial: How To Use Snap-On Grommets.
- If you’d like to add your own label to your bag, find the 3″ x 1¼” backing rectangle, center your label on the right side and stitch in place. This backing rectangle is designed to have raw edges.
- Stitch the label rectangle to one of the two plain (no grommet) 10″ x 4¼” accent panels, placing it to match the grommet: centered top to bottom within the panel with the center of the rectangle 3½” from one raw end of the panel. We used a simple decorative stitch in the gray thread we will use for all the topstitching accents.
- On each of the four panels, fold back the 10″ raw sides ½” and press well to create two finished edges on each panel.
Create all the straps
- Find all SIX 3½” strap strips. Fold each strip in half lengthwise, right sides together, and pin in place.
- On the 58″ and 9″ shoulder straps, use a ¼” seam allowance to stitch down the long side and across one end. Clip the corners on the one stitched end.
- On the remaining four body panel straps, use a ¼” seam allowance to stitch down the long side only. Both ends of each of these strips remain open and raw.
- Turn all six straps right side out. Press flat with the seam running along the side edge.
- With your machine threaded with the topstitching thread in the top and bottom, topstitch down the exact center of each strap, then topstitch ¼” to the left of the center seam and ¼” to the right of the center seam, resulting in three topstitching seams the length of each strap.
NOTE: Throughout our project, we slightly lengthened our stitch for all topstitching.
Assemble the front and back upper panels
- Find the four 10” x 13½” main body panels. Place them in two pairs right side up on your work surface.
- Find the four horizontal accent panels. Place a grommet panel right side up on each RIGHT panel of the pairs. The top folded edge of the horizontal panel should sit 2″ down from the top raw edge of the body panel. The sides of the panels should be flush. Pin in place.
- Place a plain horizontal panel right side up on each LEFT panel of the pairs in the same position. Pin in place.
NOTE: Remember that these grommet panels will be opposite one another on the bag, which means (wrap your head around this one!) they are on the same side as you look at the bag. The grommet panel is the right panel on both the front and the back. Then, when you place the completed front and back panels right sides together to sew together, these panels/grommets are now opposite one another. This seems counter-intuitive when you are making the bag, but try it with a couple sheets of paper, it really does work – allowing you to thread the final strap from one side to the other.
- You can simply leave the panels pinned in place, however, we chose to machine baste our panels in place to insure there was no shifting during the construction process. It’s super important the panels remain perfectly horizontal.
- Pin each pair of panels together along the center 13½” edges, being very careful to line up the horizontal panels.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch each center seam. Press open the seam allowance.
- Flip over each panel and topstitch ¼” to the left and ¼” to the right of each seam. Again, make sure your machine is threaded with the correct topstitching thread and that your stitch is slightly lengthened.
Attach the body panel straps and the handle straps
- Find the front and back body panels. If you machine basted the panels in place as we did, use your seam ripper to open up the basting seam directly above and below the grommet.
- Find the four body panel straps – two are slightly longer than the others. The longer ones will loop through the grommets. Start with these longer straps.
- Place one end of the strap through the bottom portion of the grommet, bringing the strap over the grommet, behind the grommet and the panel, coming out about ½” below the folded edge of the panel.
- Pin the strap in place. The inner edge of the strap should sit 2¼” from the center seam of the panel. It’s very important the strap is perfectly straight and parallel with that center seam.
- Repeat to attach the remaining longer body panel strap through the grommet on the back bag panel.
- Find the two shorter body panel straps. These go below the plain panels. As above, if you machine basted the panels in place, open up a bit of the seam at the center of the panel along the bottom edge. Slip the raw edge of a strap into place under the panel about ½”.
- Just like the other side, the inner edge of this strap should sit 2¼” from the center seam of the panel. Pin in place. Triple check that both straps on each panel are super straight and evenly spaced.
- Find the front panel and the SHORT handle strap. Slip the raw end of the strap around the top portion of the grommet in the same manner as you attached the strap through the bottom, bringing the raw end up from beneath the folded edge of the panel by about ½”. Again, opening up any basting stitches.
- Pull the strap straight up into position. It should be directly above the bottom strap and perfectly straight. Pin in place.
- Repeat to attach the LONG handle strap around the grommet on the back panel.
- When all SIX straps are pinned in position, topstitch across the top and bottom edges of the horizontal accent panels through all the layers. This secures the panels in place and all the strap ends. Remove any machine basting that still shows after topstitching.
- When the topstitching is complete, pull back the four grommet straps and cut away the excess raw edge, trimming each strap as close to the accent panel as possible.
- Place the bottom straps back down into position against the bag. Re-check your measurements to insure everything is still straight and parallel. Pin all four straps in place.
- Topstitch each strap in place along the OUTSIDE of each strap, staying as close to the edges of the straps as possible. Stitch from the bottom raw edge up to the where the strap disappears under the horizontal panel. Do not stitch onto the horizontal panel. Leave the inner edges un-stitched.
Create and place the exterior pockets
- Find the exterior pocket panels and the lining panels. Place each pair right sides together; all edges should be flush. Pin in place along the top and bottom (the 5½” sides).
- Using a ½” seam allowance stitch along the top and bottom. Press the seam allowances open and turn right side out through the open sides. Press the pockets flat.
- Flip both pockets to the right side.
- On each pocket, topstitch horizontally across the top edge ½” down from the top seam.
- Using a fabric pen or pencil, draw an “X” across the pocket. The lines should go from the horizontal seam down to each corner.
NOTE: Remember, you are working on the right side of the fabric. Make sure your fabric pen or pencil will easily wipe or wash away or disappear with exposure to the air or the heat of an iron.
- Topstitch along each drawn diagonal line. Then topstitch ¼” below to create double topstitching lines. You could also use a double needle if you have that option.
- Find the front and back bag panels. Place a topstitched pocket on each panel. The top edge of each pocket should sit 1½” down from the bottom edge of the horizontal accent panel. The sides of the pockets should be concealed under the body straps. Make sure the middle “X” on each pocket sits right on top of the center seam of the panel.
- Fold back the straps and topstitch each pocket in place across its bottom edge.
- Place the straps back into position, covering the raw side edges of the pockets. Pin in place, then topstitch the straps in place along the entire length of the inner edge of each of the four straps, matching the edgestitching you did along the outer edges. This secures the remaining side of each strap as well as both pockets. As above, do not stitch up onto the horizontal panels.
NOTE: If you have a lock stitch, use this for your strap topstitching. If you do not have this option, leave your thread tails long and pull them through to the back, then hand knot to secure.
Assemble the exterior and box the corners
- Find the front and back exterior panels and the two 19″ base panels. Place a base panel right sides together with each exterior panel. Pin in place along the bottom of each panel.
- Using a ½” seam allowance stitch each base panel in place. Press the seam allowances down towards the base panel.
- Flip each panel to the right side and topstitch close to the seam within the base panel.
- Place the front and back exterior panels right sides together. Pin along both sides and across the bottom.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners.
- Create 6″ box corners, which means your “box” will be half that size or 3″.
- If you are new to this technique, check out our tutorial: How To Box Corners.
- Turn the main bag right side out, push out the corners and press.
- Find the 8″ x 10″ lining pocket panel and the 8″ x 4½” piece of interfacing.
- Center the interfacing on the wrong side of the pocket panel. It should be positioned on the top half of the panel, ½” down from the top raw edge and flush with the outer edges. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place.
- Fold the pocket in half, right sides together, matching all the raw edges. Pin in place along both sides and across the bottom.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch along both sides and across the bottom, leaving a 3” opening along the bottom for turning.
- Clip the corners and turn each pocket right side out through the bottom opening. Gently push out the corners so they are nice and sharp. A chopstick, long knitting needle or point turner works well for this. Fold in the raw edges of the pocket opening so they are flush with the sewn seam. Press the pocket flat.
- Find one of the two lining panels. Place it right side up on your work surface. Position the pocket on the lining piece. It should sit 3″ down from the top raw edge of the lining panel and 6″ in from each side.
- Pin the pocket in place along both sides and across the bottom.
- Edgestitch the pocket in place along both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners. This secures the pocket and closes the opening used for turning.
- Using the see-through ruler and a marking pen or pencil, find the exact center of the pocket and draw a vertical line to divide the pocket into two sections.
- Stitch along the drawn line. For the cleanest look, use a lock stitch at the beginning and end or leave your thread tails long and pull through to hand knot at the back to secure.
- Place the two lining panels right sides together, sandwiching the pocket between the layers. Pin along both sides and across the bottom.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners.
- As you did for the exterior bag, create 6″ box corners, which means your “box” will be half that size or 3″.
- As mentioned above, if you are new to this technique, check out our tutorial: How To Box Corners.
- Leave the lining wrong side out.
- Fold back the top raw edge of the lining ½” all around. Press well.
Final assembly of bag and strap
- Find the exterior bag. It should still be right side out. Fold down the top raw edge ⅜” and press, then fold an additional ⅜” and press again.
- Find the lining; it should still be wrong side out.
- Slip the lining inside the exterior so the two bags are now wrong sides together. The lining pocket should be against the back panel of the exterior.
- Slip the top folded edge of the lining under the folds of the top of the exterior bag.
- Pin in place all around, adjusting the folds as necessary to keep everything even all around.
- Pick a decorative stitch (we used the same simple “x-type” stitch that we used to stitch our label in place). Topstitch around the the entire top of the bag.
- Find the two D-rings. Slip the finished end of the short strap through both of the rings. Bring the finished end around to the back of the strap approximately 1″ and pin in place.
- Topstitch in place with a single short horizontal seam, running it as close as possible to the bottom of the D-rings.
- Thread the finished end of the longer strap through the D-rings and adjust to fit.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Debbie Guild