To me, Tula Pink is the I Spy of the fabric world. I can stare at her design collections over and over, and every time I find something new: a sailing ship in a courtier’s elegant hair style, bumblebees and swallows hiding amongst the berries, a seagull bobbing on the waves. We’ve loved every one of Tula’s collections for FreeSpirit Fabrics, and the brand new Salt Water collection made us fall head over heels again. We were inspired to create a sleek urban shoulder bag. Über trendy with bold graphic motifs and solid accents, anyone would love this handsome, functional bag. There are generous pockets both front and back, an extra zippered pocket in the front for secure storage, an inset zippered closure at the top, and a divided pocket inside the lining. At a finished size of 15″ wide x 10″ high with a 2″ base, it’s large enough to fit a standard laptop as well as additional papers, pads and pens. The shoulder strap adjusts to fit any height.
This project is a bit more advanced than most we have here at Sew4Home, but we’ve included a substantial number of in-progress photos along with our famous step-by-step directions. One of our goals at S4H is to never assume our visitors know a specific technique. We either explain it right on the page or link you to one of our detailed how-to tutorials. You should never be afraid to tackle a S4H project – even if you’re brand new to sewing. Just read it through once or twice, then give it a go.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Any Sewing Machine (we recommend the Janome 3160QDC)
- Zipper foot (optional; we used our regular presser foot -if you are new to zipper insertion, use a Zipper foot)
- 90/14 Jeans/Denim needle (best for the Cordura®)
Fabric and Other Supplies
- 1 yard of 44-45″ wide cotton fabric for the main bag exterior and strap top; we used Sea Stripes in Seaweed from the Salt Water collection by Tula Pink for FreeSpirit Fabrics
- ¾ yard of 44-45″ wide cotton for the the bag lining; we used Float and Sink in Seaweed from the Salt Water collection by Tula Pink for FreeSpirit Fabrics
- ½ yard of 44-45″ wide cotton for the the exterior pocket linings; we used Octo Garden in Seaweed from the Salt Water collection by Tula Pink for FreeSpirit Fabrics
- ¾ yard of 60″ wide Cordura® nylon or a denim, twill or similar décor weight fabric for the exterior side panels, inset zipper trim and strap bottom; we used uncoated 160 Denier Cordura® in Dark Charcoal from TheRainShed; this fabric is water repellant, breathable and treated with Dupont™ Teflon for soil and stain repellency.
- 1 yard of 20″ wide light-weight fusible interfacing; we used Pellon 950F ShirTailor®
- ¾ yard of 20″ wide medium to heavy weight sew-in interfacing (you can’t use fusible with the Cordura®); we used Pellon 40 Sew-in Stabilizer
- 1 yard of 1″ nylon webbing, we used black
- ONE 10″ heavy, weather-resistant zipper; we used black
- ONE 14″ heavy, weather-resistant zipper; we used black
- TWO 1″ plastic swivel hooks; we used black
- TWO 1″ plastic D-rings; we used black
- ONE 1″ plastic slider: we used black
- ONE magnetic purse clasp
- All-purpose sewing thread in colors to match fabric
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- See-through ruler
- Straight pins
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Iron and ironing board
All our cotton pieces were carefully fussy cut to make the best use of the beautiful motifs in Tula’s Salt Water collection. If you are new to this technique, check out our tutorial on How To Fussy Cut.
- From the Cordura® (or similar), cut the following:
ONE 2″ x WOF (width of fabric) strip for the strap
FOUR 4½” x 12″ rectangles for the side panels
FOUR 1½” x 16″ strips for the zipper trim
TWO 2″ x 18″ strips for the facings
- From the fabric for the lining (Float and Sink in Seaweed in our sample), cut the following:
TWO 18″ wide x 11″ high rectangles
ONE 10″ wide x 14″ high rectangle for the interior pocket
- From the fabric for the exterior pocket linings (Octo Garden in Seaweed in our sample), cut the following:
TWO 11″ wide x 9½” high rectangles for the front and back large pocket linings
ONE 11″ x 11″ square for the zippered pocket lining
- From the fabric for the main exterior (Sea Stripes in Seaweed in our sample), cut the following:
TWO 2″ x Width of Fabric or Length of Fabric strips for the straps (you need a total length of apx. 60″ – base your cut on your motif, we cut length of fabric for our stripes)
TWO 11″ wide x 12″ high rectangles for the center panels
ONE 11″ wide x 9½” high rectangle for the plain exterior pocket
ONE 11″ wide x 6½” high rectangle for zipper pocket 1
ONE 11″ wide x 3″ high rectangle for zipper pocket 2
TWO 4″ wide x 2½” high rectangles for the zipper tabs
NOTE: We carefully fussy cut the fabric so the stripes on the finished pockets would match the stripes on the center panels.
- From the fusbile interfacing (Pellon Shir-Tailor® in our sample), cut the following
THREE 1″ x Width of Fabric strips (you need a total length of apx. 60″)
TWO 11″ x 12″ rectangles for the center panels
ONE 11″ x 9½” rectangle for the plain pocket
ONE 11″ x 6½” for zipper pocket 1
ONE 11″ x 3″ for zipper pocket 2
TWO 4″ x 2½” rectangles for the zipper tabs
- From heavyweight, sew-in interfacing (Pellon 40 Sew-in in our sample) , cut TWO 18″ x 12″ rectangles.
- Cut the nylon webbing into two 11″ lengths for the handles and two 3½” lengths for the D-ring loops.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Create inset zipper unit
- Find the 14″ zipper, the four 1½” x 16″ zipper trim strips, the two 4″ x 2½” zipper tabs, and the zipper tab interfacing.
- On each zipper trim strip, fold back each end ½” and press in place.
- Place one trim strip right side up on your work surface. Place the 14″ zipper right side up on top of the trim strip. The trim strip should be centered on the zipper so the one folded end is exactly in line with the bottom zipper stop and the opposite folded end is in line with the top zipper pull. The raw edge of the strip should be flush with the edge of the zipper tape. Pin in place.
- Repeat with a second trim strip, but place this trim strip wrong side up. You have sandwiched the top side of the zipper between the two strips. In the photo below, we’ve unpinned and pulled up the back strip a bit so you can see the “sandwich effect.”
NOTE: We used our regular presser foot for the next step and shifted our needle position as close to the zipper teeth as possible. You could also use a zipper foot, but with the “chunkier” sport-type zipper, we wanted to be a bit farther away from the teeth than with a standard zipper, and we found using the edge of our regular presser foot was a good guide to run along the edge of the zipper teeth.
- As with most zipper insertions we do here at S4H, start with the zipper about half way open. Stitch to the middle, where you’re approaching the zipper pull. Stop with your needle in the down position. Lift up your presser foot. Twist your fabric around slightly in order to be able to carefully close the zipper. Re-position your fabric and finish sewing to the end.
- Fold the two trim pieces away from the zipper teeth so the two trim pieces are now wrong sides together. The remaining long raw edges should be flush as should the folded-in ends. Pin the folded ends together. Press.
- Edgestitch up one end.
- Pivot, edgestitch along the zipper seam.
- Pivot again and edgestitch down the opposite end.
- Repeat to attach the remaining two zipper trim strips to the opposite side of the zipper, taking care to make sure the ends of this second set of trim strips are exactly aligned with the first set. The zipper and both trim “wings” should measure 3″ across when finished. If necessary, trim equal amounts from each side in order to get to the 3″ width.
- Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse an interfacing rectangle to the wrong side of each zipper tab.
- Fold back each 2½” end ½”. Press well.
- Fold in the sides so they meet in the middle. Press well.
- Place a tab wrong sides together with the tail ends of the zipper. The folded end of the tab should be just above where the “wings” attach to the zipper. Pin in place.
- Fold the tab in half so all its folded edges are flush. Pin in place.
- Edgestitch around all four sides of the tab to secure.
- Repeat to attach the remaining tab to the head ends of the zipper. Set the inset zipper unit aside.
Create the zippered pocket panel
- Find two 4½” x 12″ side panels, one 11″ x 12″ center panel, the 11″ x 6½” zipper pocket 1, the 11″ x 3″ zipper pocket 2, the 11″ x 11″ zipper pocket lining, one 11″ x 9½” pocket lining, the fusible interfacing for the center panel and zipper pockets 1 and 2, and the 10” zipper.
- Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse the appropriately-sized interfacing to the wrong side of the center panel and the two zipper pocket panels.
- Place zipper pocket 1 right side up on your work surface.
- Lay the zipper upside down on top of the top edge (teeth facing down on the right side of the fabric). The edge of the zipper tape should be even with the fabric’s raw horizontal edge. Make sure the zipper is centered between the left and right sides of the panel. The zipper tabs will extend beyond the raw edges of the panel. Pin in place, being careful to pin through just the top of the zipper. You need to be able to open and close the zipper; you can’t do that if you’ve pinned through the whole thing.
- Place the lining right side down on top of the zipper. We had a directional print and so made sure we aligned the top edge of our fabric with the top of the zipper. Re-pin through all the layers.
- Using a regular presser foot with your needle in the left-most position as we did or a Zipper foot, stitch as close to the zipper as the foot will allow, removing the pins as you sew.
- Go slowly. As you did above with the inset zipper, when you get to the middle, where you can start to feel you’re approaching the zipper pull, stop with your needle in the down position. Twist your fabric around slightly and carefully close the zipper. Re-position your fabric and finish sewing to the end. Be very careful and go slowly; you want your seam line to be super-duper straight.
- Press each layer (exterior and lining) away from the zipper teeth. The remaining raw edge of the zipper will stand straight up between the two layers.
- When pressed, fold the fold layers down into position so they are now wrong sides together. Press again.
- Edgestitch along the seam to hold the layers in place.
- Flip the pocket so it is lining side up. Fold up the bottom raw edge of the lining to meet the remaining raw edge of the zipper. Pin in place. The photo below shows this step from the lining side.
- But you should pin from the exterior side.
- Place zipper pocket 2 right sides together along that same remaining raw edge of the zipper, creating another “zipper sandwich” as you did above. Re-pin through all the layers.
- Stitch through all the layers, maintaining the same distance from the zipper teeth as you did for the first side. We used our regular presser foot with the needle moved all the way to the left. You could also use a Zipper foot.
- Press zipper pocket 2 up and away from the zipper teeth.
- Find the 11″ x 9½” pocket lining piece. Place it right sides together with the pocket unit, aligning the top raw edge of the pocket lining piece (remember, if you use a directional print as we did, make sure it is the top edge) with the top raw edge of zipper pocket 2. Pin across the top. Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch across the top. Press the seam flat.
- Fold the lining down into place so the lining and the zipper panel unit are wrong sides together. Edgestitch across the top to help hold the layers in place.
- Find the fused center panel and place it right side up on your work surface. Place the completed zipper panel right side up on top of the center panel, aligning the sides and bottom edges of the two layers. Pin in place.
- Find the two side panels. Pin one to each side of the center panel, right sides together, through all the layers.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch each side panel in place.
- On both sides, press the seam allowance toward the side panel and topstitch close to the seam through all layers.
- Following manufacturer’s instructions, insert a magnetic clasp, working between the layers of the pockets to incase the back prongs of the clasp. The closure should be centered 1″ from the upper edge of the pocket.
Create the plain pocket panel
- Find the two remaining 4½” x 12″ side panels, the one remaining 11″ x 12″ center panel, the 11″ x 9½” plain exterior pocket, the remaining 11″ x 9½” pocket lining, and the remaining fusible interfacing for the center panel and the fusible interfacing for the plain pocket.
- Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse the appropriately-sized interfacing to the wrong side of the center panel and the plain pocket.
- The plain pocket panel is created using the same steps as above but without all the zipper steps.
- To summarize: simply stitch the pocket and the lining pieces right sides together along the top edges. Fold wrong sides together and press flat. Place the lined pocket panel right side up on the right side of the center panel. Attach the side panels. And, insert a magnetic clasp.
- You now have two finished panels.
Apply the sew-in interfacing, place the handles and D-rings, box the corners
- Find the two pieces of sew-in interfacing. Pin an interfacing piece to the wrong side of each completed panel.
- Find the nylon webbing lengths. Position an 11″ handle length at the center of the top raw edge of each panel. The raw ends of the webbing should be flush with the raw edge of the panel with the loop hanging down as shown in the photo below. The sides of the handle are 2″ in from each side panel seam. Pin in place.
- Loop a 3½” length of webbing through each D-ring and fold so the ends are flush with one another. Place the loop 2″ in from the right-most edge of each panel. Pin place.
NOTE: Make sure you are placing your loops on the right edge on each panel, looking at that panel right side up. Done correctly, when the bag is assembled and turned right side out, the rings will then be opposite one another to attach the shoulder strap.
- Baste around all four sides of each panel, securing the interfacing to the panel and the handle and loop in place.
- Place the two 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 2″ box corners. If you are new to this technique, check out our tutorial: How To Box Corners.
Create lining and attach the inset zipper unit
- Find the two 18″ x 11″ main lining pieces, the 10″ x 14″ lining pocket, the two 2″ x 18″ facing strips, and the inset zipper unit you completed above.
- Fold the pocket in half, right sides together, matching all the raw edges. Pin in place.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, sew both sides and across the bottom, leaving a 3” opening along the bottom for turning. Clip the corners and turn the pocket right side out through the bottom opening. Push out the corners so they are nice and sharp. A chopstick or long knitting needle works well for this. Fold in the raw edges of the opening so they are flush with the sewn seam. Press flat.
- Position the pocket on one main lining piece. The pocket should be centered side to side, and the bottom seamed edge should be 2½” from the bottom raw edge of the lining. 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 and with a generous backstitch at the beginning and end of the seam, ie. at the pocket top. This is a stress point for the pocket and it’s smart to secure the seam well.
- Using the see-through ruler and a marking pen or pencil, draw vertical lines to divide the pocket into three sections: two 4″ wide sections at each outer edge and a 2″ section in the middle.
- Stitch along the drawn lines, locking your stitch at the beginning and end.
- Center the inset zipper unit, right side up, along the upper edge of the lining/pocket panel. The right side of the lining should be against the wrong side of the zipper, and the raw edge of the lining panel should be flush with the zipper unit’s top “wing.” Pin in place.
- Place a facing strip over these layers, again keeping the top raw edges flush. Re-pin in place through all the layers.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch through all the layers. Press the seam allowance up towards the facing.
- Repeat to attach the remaining lining panel and facing strip to the opposite side of the inset zipper unit .
- Open the zipper.
- Fold the lining/facing unit right sides together, aligning the sides and the bottom, and matching up the facing seams. Pin in place.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners.
- As above, create 2″ box corners. If you are new to this technique, check out our tutorial: How To Box Corners.
Assemble lining and exterior
- Pin the zipper tabs out of the way for the next steps.
- Along the upper raw edge of the exterior, fold down the raw edge ½” and press.
- Along the upper edge of the lining’s facing, fold down the raw edge ½” and press.
- With the lining wrong side out and the exterior right side out, slip the lining inside the exterior so the two bags are now wrong sides together. Align the upper folded edge of the lining’s facing with the upper folded edge of the exterior. Also make sure the side seams are aligned.
- Hand baste in place.
- Working from the inside, edgestitch all the way around the upper edge through all the layers. Be careful to keep the handles and D-rings away from the seam.
- Smooth the lining all the way down to the inside. Edgestitch along the lower edge of the facing, starting and stopping at the zipper tabs.
- Remove the basting.
- Find the two long 2″ cotton strips for the strap, the 2″ x WOF (60″) Cordura® strip, the three 2″ x 20″ strips of fusible interfacing, the two swivel hooks, and the slider.
- Join the two cotton strips with a diagonal seam, as if making a binding strip, using a ½” seam allowance.
NOTE: If you are new this technique, check out our tutorial on how to make and attach binding.
- Trim the seam to ¼” and press open.
- Trim the strip to 60 ” to match the lenfth of the Cordura®.
- Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse the interfacing strips down the center of the wrong side of the cotton strip, very slightly overlapping the ends (just a fraction of an inch) to cover the entire 60″.
- Place the fused cotton strips and the Cordura® strip right sides together. Pin in place along each 60″ side.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch each long side, taking care to sew alongside the interfacing but not to catch the interfacing in your seam.
- Turn the strip right sides out through the open ends. Press flat.
- Edgestitch along each long edge.
- Turn under one end of the strap ½”. Loop this folded in through the slider as shown below. Edgestitch the folded end to secure the slider in place.
- With the strap laying back side up (black side up in our sample), find the opposite raw end of the strap. Thread this end, bottom up, through one of the swivel clips.
- Thread the raw end back through the slider, right side facing up, going up and over the folded end. This creates your adjusting loop.
- Turn under the remaining raw end of the strap ½” and loop it through the remaining swivel clip. Fold the end back onto itself and edgestitch in place, just as you did to secure the first swivel clip. Before stitching, do a quick check to make sure there are no twists in your strap.
- Clip the strap to the tote’s D-rings on the tote. Adjust the strap to your desired length.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Michele Mishler