Back-to-school means back to the books, which also means carrying those books from class to class. It’s supposed to be a digital world, yet we still have an awful lot of stuff to haul around! Use this classic messenger style brief to carry it all with both good looks and smart functionality. We used mid-weight cotton duck fabric from Premier Prints with bold, modern graphics, and adding an unexpected splash of bright color on the flap. The bag would work equally well in solids or you could even turn your brief bucolic with a unique floral combo. It’s a crisp, cool style that’s right on trend for either guys or gals.
The bag’s lining is soft cotton and features four pockets. At 2″ deep, it’s roomy enough to easily fit a laptop or eReader, as well as standard notepads, folders, books, and more. There’s a magnetic snap at the top covered by the flap.
The exact fabric selections we used for our original sample are no longer readily available. However, Premier Prints comes out with a wide selection of new options each season as well as offering classic designs in new colors.
The strap is fully adjustable so it can be worn over one shoulder or cross-body. And, there are cool accent buttons where the strap ends attach to the bag. Get creative with the look of these. There are so many incredible button options out there – especially the handmade choices!
Our messenger brief finishes at approximately 14½” wide x 13″ high x 2″ deep.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing Machine and standard presser foot
- Quarter Inch Seam foot; optional but helpful for exact topstitching
- Zipper foot; optional but helpful for tight stitching next to the magnetic snap
Fabric and Other Supplies
- ½ yard of 54″+ wide medium to heavy-weight cotton twill or duck for the bag’s flap and the smaller lining pocket
NOTE: A bold motif with proper fussy cutting is important to the design of the bag. Extra yardage is included in the quantities above and below to accommodate this.
- 1 yard of 54″+ wide medium to heavy-weight cotton twill or duck for the bag’s main body and strap
- 1 yard of 44″+ wide standard weight cotton for the bag’s lining and the larger lining pocket
- ONE magnetic purse clasp
- TWO 1½” D-rings or Rectangular rings; we used D-rings
- ONE 1½” double-loop slider
- TWO 1¼” – 1½” decorative buttons; we used brass buttons that matched our motif
- 2 yards of 20″+ wide medium-weight fusible interfacing; we used Pellon Décor-Bond
- All purpose thread to match fabrics
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Iron and ironing board
- Straight pins
- Hand sewing needle
- From the fabric the bag’s flap and the smaller lining pocket, fussy cut the following, carefully centering your fabric’s main motif:
TWO 13″ high x 14″ wide rectangles for the flap
ONE 15″ high x 11″ wide high rectangle for the smaller lining pocket
- From the fabric the bag’s main body and strap, fussy cut the following:
TWO 15½” high x 18½” wide rectangles for the main body panels
ONE 10″ high x 15″ wide rectangle for the exterior pocket
NOTE: It will look best if you cut this panel to exactly match the bag body. If you are new to this technique, check out our tutorial on Perfect Pocket Matching.
TWO 3½” high x 6″ wide strips for the strap tabs
ONE 3½” high x 54″ wide strip for the strap (the width of the fabric in our sample)
ONE 3½” high x 8″ wide strip also for the strap
NOTE: The two strap pieces will be pieced together to equal a final cut length of 60″. If you fabric is 60″ or greater, you can simply cut ONE 3½” x 60″ strip.
- From the fabric for the bag’s lining and larger lining pocket, cut the following:
TWO 15½” high x 18″ wide rectangles
ONE 17″ high x 15″ wide rectangle for the larger lining pocket
- From the fusible interfacing, cut the following:
TWO 1½” x 5½” strips for the strap tabs
ONE 1½” x 54″ strip for the strap (we cut as one strip, but it could be pieced and butted together for the 54″ fabric length)
ONE 1½” x 8″ strip also for the strap
TWO 15½” high x 17½” wide rectangles for the main body panels
ONE 9″ x 14″ rectangle for the exterior pocket
ONE 7½” x 10″ rectangle for the smaller lining pocket
ONE 8″ x 14″ rectangle for the larger lining pocket
ONE 13″ x 14″ rectangle for the flap
TWO 2″ x 2″ squares to stabilize the magnetic snap
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Create the flap
- Find the two 13″ high x 14″ wide rectangles for the flap. Place them right sides together, making sure all the raw edges are flush.
- Place the panels on your cutting mat in the proper orientation (14″ wide). Trim the bottom two corners at a 45˚ angle. You want to orient the cuts with your motif, centering the design and insuring the two cuts are exact mirror images of one another. Our cuts were approximately 4″ along the diagonal.
NOTE: Many cutting mats have 45˚ grid lines, which would be perfect to employ for these cuts.
- Using your see-through ruler and a rotary cutter, slice away the corners through both layers.
- Repeat to cut matching corners from the 13″ x 14″ interfacing rectangle.
NOTE: It’s easiest and most accurate to use a rotary cutter for this step. If you do not have one, use the ruler to draw in cut lines to follow with your scissors.
- Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse the interfacing to the wrong side of one fabric flap panel.
- Place the two flap panels right sides together again, aligning all the raw edges. Pin in place along both sides and across the angled bottom.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch both sides and across the angled bottom. Go slowly to maintain a consistent seam width and remember to pivot at all the corners.
- Trim the corners and press open the seam allowance.
- Turn the flap right side out through the top opening and press flat.
- Using a ¼” seam allowance, topstitch along the entire seam (along both sides and across the angled bottom, pivoting at all the corners). We used our Janome Quarter Inch Seam foot.
- Set aside the finished flap.
Create and place the exterior pocket
- Find the 10″ high x 15″ wide rectangle for the exterior pocket and the 9″ x 14″ rectangle of interfacing.
- Place the interfacing on the wrong side of the fabric panel, positioning the interfacing so it is ½” in from both sides and the bottom of the fabric panel and 1″ down from the top. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse the interfacing in place.
NOTE: This exterior pocket is not lined, so you may want to finish the raw edges of the pocket panel. We used a simple zig zag stitch.
- Fold back the edges of the fabric panel along the edge of the interfacing. In other words, fold back the sides and bottom ½” and fold back the top 1″.
- We made clean finished corners so the angles would be sharp and precise. If you are new to this technique, take a look at our tutorial.
- When all the sides are pressed, flip over the pocket and topstitch the top 1″ hem in place. Don’t forget to re-thread your machine from the flap thread to thread that matches the main fabric.
- Find one of the 15½” high x 18½” wide main body panels. Place it right side up on your work surface.
- Place the exterior pocket right side up on the body panel. Position the pocket so it sits 2¼” up from the bottom raw edge of the body panel and is centered side to side (2¼” in from each side). Pin the pocket in place. If, as we suggested above, you made precise fussy cuts, the pocket should align nicely with the body panel.
- Find the exact center of the pocket and draw a vertical line through the pocket at this point. Use your see-through ruler and a fabric pen or pencil. You are working on the right side of the fabric so be sure the writing tool will easily wipe or wash away or vanish with exposure to the air or the heat of an iron.
- Edgestitch the pocket in place along both sides and across the bottom. Remember to pivot at the corners. It’s also a good ideas to use a generous backstitch at the start and end (the top corners of the pocket) as these are pocket stress points.
- Topstitch along the drawn center line, dividing the pocket into two sections. For the cleanest look, use a lock stitch at the beginning and end or leave your thread tails long and knot at the back to secure.
Assemble the main panels and box the corners
- Find the two main body panels (one with the pocket in place, one without) and the two 15½” high x 17½” wide rectangles of interfacing. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse interfacing to the wrong side of each body panel. The interfacing should be flush top and bottom, but will sit ½” in from each side.
- 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 3″ box corners, which means your “box” will be half that size or 1½”.
- 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.
- For the strap tabs, find the two 3½” high x 6″ wide fabric strips and the two 1½” x 5½” strips of interfacing.
- Place a fabric strip wrong side up on your work surface. Place the interfacing on the upper half of the strip. It should sit ¼” down from the top raw edge and ¼” in from each raw side edge. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse the interfacing in place.
- Fold the fabric strip right sides together. Pin in place along the side and one end.
- Using a ¼” seam allowance, stitch across the end and down the side, pivoting at the corner.
- Repeat to create the second tab.
- Clip the corners and press open the seam allowances.
- Turn the tabs right side out through the open ends. Use a long, blunt end tool, such as a chopstick or knitting needle to gently push out the corners. Press both tabs flat.
- For the long strap, as mentioned above, unless your fabric was wide enough to cut one 60″ strip, you will likely need to piece two lengths of fabric to create the finished 60″. We used a 3½” x 54″ length and a 3½” x 8″ length.
- Find the fabric strips as well as the corresponding interfacing strips (1½” x 54″ and 1½” x 8″ in our sample).
- Following manufacturers instructions, fuse the interfacing to the wrong side of the fabric strips. The inside edge of the interfacing should sit at the center of the fabric strip; the outside edge of the interfacing should sit ¼” in from the outside raw edge of the fabric.
- Attach the two strips as you would two lengths of binding. The two lengths should be at right angles to one another. Pin in place, then stitch across from top to bottom on the diagonal.
- Trim back the seam allowance to ¼”, open out and press flat.
- Finish the strap in the same manner as the strap tabs above. Fold, stitch across one end and down the long side. Then turn right side out through the open end.
- Press the long strap flat.
- Edgestitch along both sides and both ends (including the raw end).
- Find the slider and the two D-rings.
- Turn under the raw end of the strap ½”. Loop this folded end through the center of the slider and pin in place as shown below.
- Edgestitch the folded end to secure the slider in place. Use two lines of stitching. One close to the folded edge, the second ¼” – ½” from the first seam.
- With the strap laying wrong side up (so you can see that folded-under end), find one of the D-rings. Thread the finished end, bottom up, through the curved side of the D-ring (from the bottom up).
- Pull the strap through so it is now facing right side up and feed the end back through the slider, going up and over the stitched-down end. This creates your adjusting loop.
- Find the remaining D-ring. Feed the finished end of the strap through the curved end of this D-ring and edgestitch in place, just as you did to secure the first D-ring. Before stitching, do a quick check to make sure there are no twists in your strap.
- Find the two strap tabs. Thread one tab through the flat side of each D-ring. Fold the tab together. The raw tab edge should sit about ¼” up from the finished tab edge. This will allow the raw edge to be fully concealed when the tab is sewn on the bag.
- Find the exterior bag. Place a tab at each side seam. The tab should be centered over the seam and the finished end of the tab should sit 2″ down from the top raw edge of the bag. Pin the tab in place.
- Secure each tab in place with an approximate 1¼” x ¾” X box of stitching.
- Thread a hand sewing needle and stitch a decorative button at the center of the X-box through all the layers.
- Find the larger solid interior pocket panel and the smaller decorative interior pocket panel along with their corresponding interfacing rectangles.
- Each pocket is constructed in the same manner.
- Center the interfacing on the wrong side of each fabric panel. It should be positioned on the top half of the fabric panel ½” down from the top raw edge and ½” in from each side. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place. It helps to first fold the panel in half and press to set a center crease line. You can then use this crease to align the edge of the interfacing.
- Fold each 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, sew 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. 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 pocket opening so they are flush with the sewn seam. Press both pockets flat.
- Find the two lining panels. Position one pocket on each lining panel.
- The decorative pocket should sit 4½” down from the top raw edge of its lining panel and 4″ 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 closes the opening in the pocket used for turning right side out.
- 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. As above for the exterior pocket, for the cleanest look, use a lock stitch at the beginning and end or leave your thread tails long and knot to secure.
- Position the larger solid pocket on the remaining lining panel. It should sit 2¼” up from the bottom raw edge of the lining panel and 2¼” in from each side.
- Using the see-through ruler and a marking pen or pencil, measure 9″ in from the left side and draw a vertical line to divide the pocket into two sections: one large and one small.
- As above, edgestitch the pocket in place along both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners. This closes the opening in the pocket used for turning right side out.
- Stitch along the drawn line. As above, for the cleanest look, use a lock stitch at the beginning and end or leave your thread tails long and knot to secure.
- Place the two lining panels right sides together, sandwiching the pockets 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 3″ box corners, which means your “box” will be half that size or 1½”.
- As mentioned above, if you are new to this technique, check out our tutorial: How To Box Corners.
- Turn the lining right side out, push out the corners and press.
- Fold down the top raw edge of the lining ½” all around.
- Measure to find the exact center of both the front and back of the lining. Place a pin at each point.
- Find the two 2″ squares of interfacing. Fuse one square to the wrong side of the lining at each of the center points. The interfacing should be tucked up under the fold.
- Find the magnetic purse snap. Following manufacturer’s instructions. or our own handy magnetic snap tutorial, insert one half of the snap at each center point of the lining. The snap inserts from the front through to the back.
Attach flap and finish
- Find the exterior bag, it should be right side out. Fold down the top raw edge of the exterior bag ½” all around.
- Find the lining, turn it wrong side out. Slip the lining inside the exterior so the two bags are now wrong sides together. Align the side seams and the bottom boxed corners.
- Find the flap. Measure to find the exact center along the flap’s straight raw edge. Mark this point with a pin.
- Lift the lining away from the exterior bag. Slip flap between the lining and exterior layers, aligning the raw edge of the flap against the inside of the exterior bag (the plain bag panel – not the pocket panel). The raw edge of the pocket should be flush with the folded down top edge of the exterior bag. The center point of the flap should be in line with the magnetic snap. Pin the flap in place against just the exterior bag.
- Baste the flap in place, keeping the lining and the front of the bag out of the way of the seam.
- Bring the lining up into place over the flap and pin the lining to the exterior all the way around the top of the bag. The folded edges of the two layers should be perfectly flush. If they don’t line up, simply roll one or both folds until they match up.
- Topstitch around the entire top opening of the bag through all the layers, staying as close to the folded edges as possible. We were able to use our standard presser foot, but if you feel you might have trouble stitching past the magnetic snap, switch to a Zipper foot.
- Remove the basting stitches that held the flap in place. Press well.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Debbie Guild