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Bags in round or barrel shapes make a great style statement, but they can seem intimidating when you’re new to sewing. If you’ve passed over these projects before, it’s time to stop, look, and listen. We’ve cleverly adapted the construction of this duffle to allow you to do the majority of the steps with flat pieces. 3-D is great when watching the latest super hero movie, but flat is friendlier for sewing.

The striking Geo Pop Canvas 2 fabric by Emmie K for Robert Kaufman Fabrics was a perfect choice for this project, so much so, we named the bag after it! It’s bright and fun with a retro energy, and the canvas weight helps the bag hold its circular shape. Although this particular collection is an older one and so can be harder to find at retail, the options in lightweight canvas are many and varied. Could you use solids? Of course, but with such colorful options out there, why not go for bold?!

Two different types of interfacing work together to create the best structure. Pellon’s woven Shape-Flex fusible is a lightweight that gives the main body of the bag and the exterior pockets good stability without being too rigid. Then, on just the round end panels, we used a heavyweight fusible (Pellon Peltex) to provide some extra structure to keep the proper dimension whether the bag is open or closed.

We love the piping accents along the end panels and the top of the pockets. It’s a sleek finish that really adds to the pro-styling of this bag. Even better, it’s all applied when the panels are flat, so application is as easy as possible. We also link below to our full tutorial on working with piping.

We accented the top, full-width zipper panel with horizontal stripes to either side. As with most elements, the zipper is inserted while the pieces are flat. It’s one of our favorite no-fear zipper techniques!

The bag’s lining is a classic rip stop nylon, which is lightweight and water resistant, making the duffle a good option as a gym bag. We matched the color of the lining to the color of the zipper, which gives the top opening a smooth unbroken line as you look inside.

All our pieces were fussy cut to make the best use of the gorgeous geometric motifs. We also fussy cut the exterior pockets to match the body of the bag. Although it might seem counter-intuitive, it’s actually almost more important to keep your design straight when working “in the round.” If things get off, the curve of the project can call attention to a wonky cut. Plus, creative blending of colors and prints plus careful fussy cutting can really take your project to a new level! If you’re new to the technique, check out our fussy cutting tutorial.

Our duffle finishes at approximately 16″ wide x 8″ high with an approximate 26″ circumference.

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

  • 1 yard of 44″+ wide lightweight canvas or similar for the exterior body and pockets; we originally used Square on Point in Emerald from the Geo Pop Canvas 2 collection by Emmie K for Robert Kaufman Fabrics
    NOTE: We recommend a full yard to have enough fabric to fussy cut for a precise motif match of the pockets against the main exterior panels. 
  • ¾ yard of 44″+ wide lightweight canvas or similar for the exterior end panels, bias cut piping, and zipper accent panels; we originally used Stripy in Emerald from the Geo Pop Canvas 2 collection by Emmie K for Robert Kaufman Fabrics
    NOTE: As shown below, we recommend cutting the bias strips for the end panel piping as single lengths, which does require a bit more fabric but is a nicer finished look. 
  • ⅝ yard of 44″+ rip stop nylon or similar in a coordinating color for the lining
  • 2½ yards of 1″ cotton webbing in a coordinating color
  • 1½ yards of 15″+ wide mid-weight fusible interfacing; we used Pellon Shape Flex 
  • ⅓ yard of 20″+ wide heavyweight fusible interfacing; we used Pellon Peltex 
  • ONE 16″ sport zipper
  • 1 yard of paracord or similar for the extra-long zipper pull (optional)
  • 2 yards of apx. ¼” piping cord; we used Wrights 6/32″ (just under ¼”) piping cord
  • All purpose thread to match fabric and webbing
  • See-through ruler
  • Fabric pen or pencil
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • Tape measure
  • Seam gauge
  • Seam ripper
  • Straight pins
  • Hand sewing needle

Getting Started and Pattern Download

  1. Download and print TWO copies of the Duffle Bag Side Piece pattern. 
    IMPORTANT: The pattern consists of ONE 8½” x 11″ sheet. You must print the PDF file at 100%. DO NOT SCALE to fit the page. There is a guideline on the pattern to confirm your printout is to scale.
  2. Cut out each piece along the solid line. Following the drawn arrows, butt together (do not overlap) the two pieces to create the full circle pattern. Tape in place.
  3. From the fabric for the main exterior and the pockets, fussy cut the following:
    TWO 12″ high x 17″ wide rectangles for the main body panels
    TWO 12″ high x 7″ wide rectangles for the pockets
  4. From the fabric for the end panels, piping, and zipper accents, fussy cut the following:
    Using the pattern, cut TWO circles; we cut knowing we wanted the motif running horizontally across the ends.
    TWO 2½” x 17″ strips; we cut knowing we wanted the motif running vertically to either side of the zipper, and wanted the “stripes” to be slightly off-set.
    TWO 1¾” x 28″ strips on the bias for the end panel piping
    TWO 1¾” x 7″ strips straight cut for the pocket piping
  5. From the lining fabric, cut the following
    Using the pattern, cut TWO circles
    ONE 26″ high x 17″ wide rectangle
  6. From the mid-weight interfacing, cut the following:
    TWO 12″ x 17″ rectangles
    TWO 7″ x 5½” rectangles
    TWO 2½” x 17″ strips
    ONE 4″ x 16″ rectangle
  7. Trim away the seam allowance from the end panel pattern and use this smaller circle to cut TWO from the heavyweight interfacing.
  8. From the webbing, cut TWO 39″ lengths.
  9. From the piping cord, cut TWO 8″ lengths and TWO 29″ lengths.

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

Create the main panels with the center zipper

  1. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse the interfacing to the wrong side of the two 12″ x 17″ main body panels and the two 2½” x 17″ zipper accent strips.
  2. Find the zipper.
  3. Attach a Zipper foot.
  4. Place the zipper face down along one edge of one of the zipper accent strips, aligning the edge of the zipper tape with one 17″ raw edge of the strip. Pin in place. Then, align one 17″ raw edge of the second zipper accent strip with the remaining edge of the zipper tape. Pin place.
  5. Stitch along each side of the zipper, running your seam as close to the zipper teeth as possible. As you stitch along each side, you are going through just the zipper tape and one interfaced layer of the accent strip; make sure the other layers are folded out of the way.
  6. As with all zipper stitching, it is easiest to start with the zipper about half way open. Stitch until you are just about to the zipper pull. Stop, with the needle in the down position and gently twist the fabric in order to allow you to close the zipper. Reposition and finish the seam.
  7. If possible, attach a Quarter Inch Seam foot.
  8. Re-thread the machine if necessary with your chosen topstitching thread color. We used navy for all our topstitching. Slightly lengthen the stitch.
  9. Press the accent strips away from the zipper and topstitch both strips in place. As above, you will again need to stop and move the zipper pull out of the way.
  10. Find the two interfaced main panels.
  11. Place the remaining raw edge of one zipper accent panel right sides together with the top 17″ edge of one exterior panel. Pin in place.
  12. Re-attach the standard presser foot and re-set the stitch length to normal.
  13. Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch the body panel to the accent panel.
  14. Repeat to attached the top edge of the second exterior panel with the remaining raw edge edge of the second zipper accent panel. Stitch in place, using a ½” seam allowance.
  15. Press both seam allowances toward the zipper unit. Be careful not to place the iron directly against the zipper for any length of time; you could melt the plastic teeth.
  16. Flip the panel to the right side and topstitch the seam allowances in place, stitching within the zipper accent panel on each side. We switched back to our Quarter Inch Seam foot and lengthened our stitch to exactly match the topstitching along the zipper.

Make the piping

  1. Find the 1¾” bias cut and straight cut strips and the four lengths of piping cord.
  2. Wrap an appropriate length of fabric around each length of piping cord. The right side of the fabric is facing out. Align the long raw edges of the fabric and pin in place. The cording should be centered so it extends beyond the fabric by about ½” at end of each piece of piping.
  3. Re-attach the Zipper foot. Machine baste the raw edges together, running this seam right along the piping.
  4. Set the four lengths of piping aside.
    NOTE: If you are new to this technique, take a look at our full tutorial on creating and attaching piping

Make and place the pockets and attach the webbing handles

  1. Fold one 12″ x 7″ pocket panel in half, wrong sides together, so it is now 6″ x 7″. Press to set a center crease.
  2. Open the pocket, wrong side up, so the crease line is visible. Find the 7″ x 5½” piece of interfacing. Align one 7″ side with the center crease line on the wrong side of the pocket panel. The side edges of the fabric and interfacing should be flush and there should be ½” of fabric extending beyond the interfacing along the opposite 7″ edge. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse the interfacing in place.
  3. Fold back each 7″ raw edge of the pocket panel ½” and press well.
  4. Find one of the short lengths of piping. Place the piping across one folded back edge of the pocket (this will become the top of the pocket). The raw edges of the piping should be flush with the folded back raw edge of the pocket panel; the piping cord itself is sticking up above the fold.
  5. Bring the opposite 7″ edge up into position. This folded edge should sit right below the piping and should be in alignment with the opposite folded edge, sandwiching the piping. Pin in place through all the layers.
  6. Re-attach a Zipper foot and re-set for a lengthened stitch. If need be, re-thread the top and bobbin with the topstitching thread color. As mentioned above, we didn’t need to re-thread; we used navy for all our stitching.
  7. Topstitch across the top of the pocket through all the layers, running the seam as close to the folded edges as possible. Be sure your layers are securely pinned so this one seam accurately catches both sides with a nice, straight stitch. The sides of the pocket are raw. This is correct as they will be covered by the webbing handles.
  8. Repeat to create the second pocket. We added our Sew4Home label to the front pocket just below the piping.
  9. Find the main body of the bag. Position a pocket on each side panel. The bottom of the pocket should sit 2½” up from the bottom raw edge of the fabric panel and be centered side to side. Pin along the bottom of each pocket.
  10. Still using a Zipper foot and a lengthened stitch, edgestitch along just the bottom of each pocket.
  11. Find one of the two lengths of webbing.
  12. Center the webbing over the raw edges of the front pocket. The raw ends of the webbing should be flush with the bottom raw edge of the fabric panel. Each side of the webbing is centered over a raw side of the pocket. This means the inner distance between the webbing should be 6″ and each outer edge should be 4½” from the raw side edge of the fabric panel.
  13. Pin each side of the webbing in place from the bottom up the side and stopping 1″ above the top of the pocket’s piped edge. As a double-check, this stopping point is 2½” below the zipper accent panel seam.
  14. Double check that there are no twists in the loop of your handle.
  15. If necessary, re-thread the machine with thread to best match the webbing in the top and bobbin. We continued to use our Zipper foot.
  16. On the first half of the handle, edgestitch up one side, stop at the marked point 1″ above the pocket piping, pivot, stitch across the webbing, pivot, then edgestitch back down to the bottom.
  17. Repeat to stitch the second half of the handle in the same manner.
  18. Create a 1″ securing “X Box” of stitching at the top of each half of the handle. If you are new to this technique, we have a full tutorial on creating a perfect X Box.
  19. Repeat to attach the remaining webbing handle over the opposite pocket.

Attach the side piping

  1. Find the two remaining lengths of piping – the bias cut piping.
  2. Place the main panel right side up on your work surface.
  3. Place a length of piping along each 28″ side. The raw edges of the piping should be flush with the raw edge of the fabric panel. Pin the piping in place.
  4. Using a Zipper foot, machine baste the piping in place.
  5. At each end of each side, there should be about ½” of piping cord extending beyond the fabric.
  6. With a seam ripper, open a few stitches and gently peel back about ⅝” of fabric.
  7. Trim away the piping cord to this depth.
  8. Replace the fabric back into its original position. By removing the ends of the piping cord, you remove its bulk from what will be the bottom seam of the bag.

    NOTE: Although this is a “less-traditional” way to work with piping, it’s one of the clever ways we came up with to make our duffle easier to construct. You do end up with a tiny seam in your piping rather than a completely continuous circle, but because of the barrel shape and the fact that this seam is at the very bottom of the bag, it is not at all noticeable.

Bottom seam and interfacing

  1. With both sides of the piping in place, fold the main body of the bag right sides together. Match the bottom edges, being careful to insure the ends of the webbing are flush and the ends of the piping are aligned.
  2. Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch across the bottom edge. We double stitched for extra security on this important seam.
  3. Press the seam allowance open and flat.
  4. Find the 4″ strip of mid-weight interfacing. Draw a line down the exact center, 2″ in from each side.
  5. Place the strip of interfacing over the bottom seam allowance, centering the drawn line on the interfacing over the seam. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place. This extra layer of interfacing reinforces the bottom of the bag and helps give the bottom a flatter base.
    NOTE: The main body is an open tube at this point, but the open ends are plenty wide enough to accommodate an iron. 

Insert the round side panels

  1. Find the two round side panels and the two circles of heavyweight interfacing.
  2. Center a circle of interfacing on each fabric circle. There should be ½” of fabric extending beyond the interfacing all around. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place.
  3. On each end panel, place a pin at the exact center top, exact center bottom, and the center of each side. Think of it like at clock, with pin points at 12:00, 3:00, 6:00, and 9:00. Because we had a strong horizontal motif to maintain that would have looked very wonky if off, we carefully folded our end panels in half one way then in half the opposite way, clipping the fold points each time as marks. This insured our 12:00, 3:00, 6:00, and 9:00 points were exactly matched to the horizontal lines of the fabric.
  4. Create matching “clock points” at each open end of the duffle. The center of the zipper is the 12:00 point and the bottom seam in the 6:00 point. Flatten the duffle so these two points align. The folds that then extend to each side are your 3:00 and 9:00 points. Place a pin at each of these points.
  5. Place the end panel right sides together with circular opening of the duffle, aligning all the pin points. Easing the fabric, fill in the rest of the circle with pins. If you have done garment sewing, this is very similar to putting in a sleeve.
  6. Re-attach the Zipper foot. Stitch the layers together, using a ½” seam allowance, which means your seam is following right along, but not on, the edge of the interfacing.
  7. We stitched around a second time for extra security.
  8. Repeat to attach the opposite end panel.
    NOTE: If you are new to this technique, we have a full step-by-step tutorial on how to insert a flat circle into a tube
  9. Turn the completed exterior duffle right side out.

Create and insert the lining

  1. Find the 26″ x 17″ lining panel.
  2. Stay stitch each 26″ side of the lining. Stay stitching is a single line of stitching that simply helps stabilize the fabric to prevent stretching or distortion. In this project, it will also provide us with a seam line to follow.
  3. Clip to, but not through, the line of stay stitching every ½”. This gives the stiffer rip stop nylon a bit more “give” to form a circle.
  4. Press under ½” along the each 17″ edge.
  5. Find the two lining end panel circles.
  6. Following same method as you did for the exterior, find your quarter points (your “clock point”) on both pieces.
  7. Pin the lining to the circles, leaving a ½” gap at what will be the top of the lining (the 12:00 point). When inserted into the bag, this gap will allow the lining to smoothly straddle the zipper.
  8. Stitch the ends in place, following along in the original line of stay stitching.
  9. With the completed lining still wrong side out, insert it into the exterior bag.
  10. Pin the lining in place along each side of the zipper.
  11. Hand sew the lining in place with a tiny slip stitch, being especially carefully with your stitching as you straddle each end of the zipper. We also took a few stitches along the bottom of the bag to tack the lining down into place. These tacking stitches were done at each side and hidden alongside the piping.
  12. As a final touch, we loop-knotted a 24″ length of paracord to the zipper pull. Since the paracord was polyester, we simply lightly burned to ends to seal them.


Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Debbie Guild

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2 years ago

Where can I find the geopop canvas ?

Liz Johnson
Liz Johnson
2 years ago
Reply to  Mark

Hi Mark – As we mention above, “Although this particular collection is an older one and so can be harder to find at retail, the options in lightweight canvas are many and varied.” This project is from 2016 – and just like ready-to-wear fashion, fashion fabric comes and goes with the seasons each year. Sometimes you can find out of-of-print fabric on Etsy by searching on the name, such as “Robert Kaufman Geo Pop Canvas.”

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