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When you want something to be more fun, you give it a nick name. Alexandra is someone who shops Rodeo Drive with a small dog in her Louis Vuitton® bag. Lexie is your BFF who cruises the flea markets with you. Metropolitan can feel crowded, expensive and snobby. Metro is hip, trendy and cool… just like today’s bag! One of the things that makes the bag unique are the ribbons. “Where are the ribbons?” you ask. That’s the secret! We created “ribbon fabric,” taking one ⅝” wide ribbon and stacking it to create perfectly matching accents of varying widths: single, triple and quadruple. It’s not only an amazing embellishment, it adds a patina and texture you can only get from a woven ribbon.

We originally used David Butler’s Parson Gray World Tour fabric for FreeSpirit Fabrics, which is no longer available. But there are scads of new alternatives for both a heavier weight exterior canvas and the interior quilting cotton. We loved this design so much, we re-made using the same fabric and ribbon collections, but in different colorways.

Our thanks to Renaissance Ribbons for sponsoring the project and originally providing the ribbon. It’s a collection by David Butler that is no longer readily available since he is no longer designing ribbon or fabric, but Renaissance Ribbons is always our go to for beautiful ribbon so there are dozens more options from which to choose.

This project also answers the many requests we get for more “guy friendly” items. We selected richly muted colors and motifs that give them a masculine appeal – although several women here at S4H were ready to grab this Metro Bag for their own.

We prefer to stitch ribbons in place with a clear monofilament thread in the top and bobbin for a nearly invisible finish. This is not mandatory, but it is a nicer look against the ribbon. For best results, you may need to loosen your upper tension slightly. It’s also a good idea to lengthen your stitch and sew at a slow and even pace. This type of thread does not stretch as well as regular thread and can break more easily under pressure, especially if it accidentally slides off the spool and wraps around the spool pin. Using a spool cap against the spool helps hold it in place on the pin, and again, going slowly and evenly helps the thread to feed correctly off the spool. Finally, always sew in the same direction along both sides of the ribbon. This will help prevent shifting and puckering. If you’d prefer not to use invisible thread, choose colors that very closely match your ribbon.

Our special thanks to our Metro Bag Model, Ben of Melbourne, Australia. Fresh from hiking over 2,000 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail, he was a very good sport and an ace model for the bag.

The Metro Bag finishes at approximately 14″ wide x 16″ high with a two-piece adjustable strap that can be adjusted to be worn cross body or over the shoulder.

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

  • 11 yards of ⅝” wide ribbon; this yardage is enough to allow proper fussy cutting
  • 1 yard of 54″+ wide heavyweight 54″ fabric for the bag exterior, strap backing, and lining pocket; we used a canvas
  • ½ yard of 44″+ wide quilting weight fabric for the bag lining
  • 1½ yard of 45″+ wide mid-weight fusible interfacing; we used Pellon Décor Bond
  • ½ yard of 45″+ wide fusible fleece; we used 45″ Pellon Fusible Fleece 
  • ONE large and thick button; we used a 1¼” faux wooden button
  • TWO 2″ D-rings
  • All purpose thread to match both fabric and ribbon
  • Invisible thread; optional but our choice for ribbon stitching
  • 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

NOTE: All our cuts are determined based on our selected ribbon. If you choose a ribbon of a different width, you will need to measure each of your ribbon stacks to insure the height and width of your fabric cuts. Your interfacing strip cuts would also be different with a different width of ribbon.

  1. From the ⅝” ribbon, cut the following lengths – we staggered our ribbon’s motif similar to how you would offset rows of tiles:
    THREE 54″ lengths
    THREE 21″ lengths
    EIGHT 15″ lengths
    ONE 12½” length
    ONE 8″ length
  2. From the fabric for the exterior, cut the following:
    TWO 15″ wide x 17″ high rectangles for the bag front and back panels
    ONE 12½” wide x 8″ high rectangle for the exterior pocket, fussy cut to match the bag panel.
    NOTE: If you are new to matching a pocket to a panel, check out our full tutorial prior to starting.

    ONE 8″ wide x 7″ high rectangle for the lining pocket
    ONE 3″ x 21″ strip for the back strap
    ONE 3″ x 54″ strip for the front strap
  3. From the fabric for the lining, cut the following:
    TWO 15″ wide x 17″ high rectangles
    ONE 1¾” x 15″ strip for the tie
  4. From the fusible interfacing, cut the following:
    ONE 1⅝” x 21″ strip for the back strap
    ONE 1⅝” x 54″ strip for the front strap
    TWO 2⅜” x 15″ strips for the front and back accents
  5. From the fusible fleece, cut TWO 15″ x 17″ rectangles.

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

Top ribbon accent bands

  1. Find the two 2⅜” x 15″ strips of interfacing and the eight 15″ lengths of ribbon. Separate into two sets; each set should have one strip of interfacing and four lengths of ribbon.
  2. Place and interfacing strip fusing side up on your work surface. You will build a stack of four ribbons. The outer edge of the top and bottom ribbons should extend beyond the interfacing strip by about ⅛”. All other edges will be butted together. The photo below shows how we have staggered the ribbons as described above in the cutting notes.
  3. Starting with the top ribbon, pin in place. Edgestitch this ribbon in place along its bottom edge only. The top edge that extends beyond the interfacing is not stitched at this time; it will be stitched in place on the bag.
    NOTE: Although we often use and recommend invisible thread for ribbon stitching, for this project we are using black thread to match the ribbon in both the top and the bottom. Because we are using a single ribbon, it was easier to get an exact color match. We do specify invisible ribbon for a topstitching step below, but all the main ribbon stitching was done with regular thread. In addition, what looks like stitching along the very edge of the ribbon (as viewed from the back in the photo below) is actually part of the weave of the ribbon.
  4. Butt the next ribbon into place below the top ribbon. Remember to stagger the motif. Edgestitch along both sides of this ribbon.
  5. Butt the third ribbon into place below the second ribbon. The motifs of this third ribbon should be aligned with the motifs on the first ribbon, which means they’ll be staggered with the second ribbon. That sounds confusing, but if you think about it like rows of tile, it will all make sense. Edgestitch along both sides of the third ribbon.
  6. Finally, butt the bottom ribbon into place. If you’ve been following along with our tile analogy, you know that the motifs on this ribbon should be aligned with the second ribbon. Edgestitch along just the top of this ribbon. As with your first ribbon, this last ribbon will have one free edge that extends beyond the interfacing. The photo below shows the stitching from the back, which is a bit easier to see than the black-on-black from the front (but that’s the idea, right?!).
  7. When all the stitching is complete, press the ribbons to activate the fusing. You now have a piece of finished “ribbon fabric.”
  8. Repeat to create the back accent band.
  9. Find the front and back exterior panels.
  10. Place an accent band horizontally across the top of each piece ⅝” down from the top raw edge. Pin in place.
  11. Edgestitch each accent band in place along the top and bottom edges; the edges that were left unstitched during the steps above.

Exterior pocket

  1. Find the 12½” x 8″ exterior pocket panel. Place it right side up on your work surface. Fold down the top raw edge ½”. Yes, this means the wrong side of the fabric is showing. Pin in place.

    NOTE: The substantial canvas fabric does not require a lining for the pockets, but we still want a clean folded edge top and bottom. By folding the fabric to the front and hiding its raw edge with the ribbon, we create that clean folded edge with just one layer of fabric. 
  2. Find the 12½” length of ribbon. Place it across the pocket, aligning the top of the ribbon with the very top folded edge of the pocket. The width of the ribbon will conceal the raw edge of the fabric. Pin in place.
  3. Edgestitch the ribbon in place along both sides
  4. Along the bottom edge of the pocket, make a standard ¼” double turn hem. To do this, fold back the raw edge ¼” and press, then fold another ¼” and press again.

    NOTE: With a narrow hem like this, you can also fold back the raw edge ½” and press and then turn the raw edge down into the crease and press again. The result is the same, but the second way can be easier for some as working with a wider width often saves a burned finger or two.
  5. Find the front exterior panel. Place it right side up and flat on your work surface.
  6. Place the pocket on the panel. The left edge of the pocket should be flush with the left raw edge of the panel. The bottom hemmed edge of the pocket should be 2″ up from the bottom raw edge of the panel. Pin in place.
  7. Measure 5½” in from the left raw edges and draw a vertical line, using a fabric pen or pencil. This is the pocket dividing line.
  8. Edgestitch along the bottom of the pocket. Run a second line of stitching approximately ⅛” from the first.
  9. Create the same double line of stitching along the drawn pocket dividing line. Do not run the pocket stitching lines over the ribbon at the top of the pocket. Stop the seams at the bottom edge of the pocket.

    NOTE: You could also use a twin needle for this double stitching.


  1. We created “ribbon fabric” for the bag straps in the same manner as for the accent band, but with three lengths of ribbon rather than four.
  2. Collect the lengths of ribbon, canvas and interfacing into two sets. One set for the 54″ front strap and one set for the 21″ back strap. As above, your ribbon motifs should be staggered.
  3. Because these lengths are much longer than the accent band, it is easier to do the center ribbon first then the outer ribbons.
  4. We started with the 21″ back strap. Remember the interfacing is fusing side up. Place the center ribbon down the exact center of the interfacing. Pin in place, then edgestitch in place along both sides.
  5. Butt an outer ribbon into place and pin. As above, the ribbon will extend beyond the interfacing.
  6. Edgestitch this ribbon in place along only the inner edge. The outer edge is free as it was with the accent band.
  7. Repeat to attach the third ribbon. Again, edgestitch it in place along the inner edge only.
  8. Press the “ribbon fabric” to activate the fusing.
  9. Press in each long side of the canvas strip ½”.
  10. Place the canvas strip and the ribbon strip wrong sides together, centering the ribbon on the canvas so there is approximately 1/16″ of canvas showing to either side of the ribbon strip.
  11. Edgestitch the layers together along the two long sides, which also secures the two free edges of the ribbon.
  12. Create the 54″ front strap in the same manner except you will finish one end. To do this, fold back one end of the canvas ½”. And, fold back the aligning end of the ribbon ½”.
  13. Pin together so the folds are flush.
  14. Then, edgestitch along both long sides and across the folded end, pivoting at the corners. The opposite end remains raw.

Attach the straps to the bag

  1. Find the exterior back panel (the panel without the pocket). Place it right side up and flat on your work surface.
  2. Find the 21″ strap. Place it 2½” in from the right side of the panel, ribbon side up. The bottom raw edge of the strap should be flush with the bottom raw edge of the panel. The top will extend beyond the panel. Pin in place.
  3. If possible, re-thread with invisible thread in the top and bobbin. This will provide the best look as there is one line of stitching across the ribbons for each strap. The stitching will disappear against the canvas edges and will be barely visible for these horizontal seams across the ribbons.
  4. Your edgestitching should run within the rim of canvas the extends beyond the ribbon.
  5. Go up one side. Stop at the base of the accent band. Pivot. Stitch straight across the ribbons. Stop at the rim of canvas on the opposite side. Pivot. Edgestitch down the opposite side to the bottom.
  6. Find the exterior front panel. Place it right side up and flat on your work surface.
  7. Find the 54″ strap. Place it 2½” in from the right side of the panel, ribbon side up. The bottom raw edge of the strap should be flush with the bottom raw edge of the panel. The top, with its finished end, will extend way beyond the panel. The left side of the strap will cross over the pocket concealing its raw edge. Pin in place.
  8. Edgestitch in place in the same manner as the back strap.

Sew front to back

  1. Place the front and back exterior panels right sides together, aligning all the raw edges. Be especially careful to align the top accent bands along the sides. The two straps should be on opposite sides of one another. Pin in place along the sides and across the bottom.
  2. Re-thread with thread to match the canvas in the top and bobbin.
  3. Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners.
  4. Clip the corners, press the seam open, and turn right side out.
  5. Using a blunt end tool, like a chopstick or knitting needle, gently push out the corners so they are nice and square.
  6. The bottom ends of both straps are now nicely contained in the bottom seam of the bag.

Loop closure

  1. Find the 1¾” x 15” strip of lining fabric.
  2. Press the strip in half lengthwise, fold in each edge towards the center crease, then fold together to make the finished skinny tie.
  3. Edgestitch the length of the tie.
  4. Cut the 15″ strip into two lengths: one at 7″ and one at 8″. Tie a knot in one end of each length and trim close to the knot. We did not finish the ends of the ties since the tie was so skinny. You could dab some seam sealant, like a Fray Check, on the ends to prevent raveling.
  5. Find the exterior bag. On the back panel, measure and mark the center along the top accent band. Pin the raw ends of both ties at this point. The ties should be side by side with no gap in between. The raw ends of the ties should extend 1″ below the raw edge of the panel. The knotted ends of the ties are extending out and away from the bag.
  6. Machine or hand baste the ties in place.


  1. Find the two lining panels and the fusible fleece panels. Following manufacturers instructions, fuse the fleece to the wrong side of the fabric.
  2. Find the pocket panel and the 8″ length of ribbon. This pocket is made in the same manner as the exterior pocket except both the sides and the bottom of the lining pocket have a ¼” double turn hem.
  3. First attach the ribbon to the folded-forward pocket top and edgestitch in place along both sides of the ribbon.
  4. Hem both sides and the bottom, using a faux miter in both corners to keep the pocket flat.

    NOTE: If you are new to narrow hems and clean corners, we have a great step-by-step tutorial
  5. Find one of the fused lining panels. Place the finished pocket on the panel. It should be centered side to side and the top of the pocket should be 4½” down from the top raw edge of the lining panel. Pin in place along both sides and across the bottom.
  6. Stitch the pocket in place along both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners We used a double line of stitching to match the double stitching on the bag exterior.
  7. Place the two lining panels right sides together, sandwiching the pocket between the layers. Leave an approximate 6″ opening along the bottom for turning.
  8. Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch along both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners. Lock your seam on either side of the 6″ bottom opening. Clip the corners.

Secure the back strap through the D-rings

  1. Find the two D-rings. Slip the raw end of the back strap through both D-rings from front to back.
  2. Let the D-rings fall back against the stitched part of the strap so you can work with the raw end. Pin the raw end of the strap to the top raw edge of the back panel. The raw edges should be flush. Make sure the strap remains straight. You are pinning the canvas side of the strap against the right side of the back panel.

Stitch together the lining and the exterior

  1. Find the exterior bag. It should be right side out.
  2. Find the lining bag. It should be wrong side out.
  3. Slip the exterior bag inside the lining bag so the two bags are now right sides together. Align all the seams and the bottom corners. Make sure the straps are folded down out of the way of the top seam along with that D-ring tab you just made and the loop closure ties.
  4. Pin around the entire top of the bag.
  5. Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch around the entire top of the bag. Press the seam allowance open.
  6. Turn the bag right side out through the opening you left in the bottom of the lining.
  7. Press the lining down into place, smoothing the exterior. Pull the strap, the strap tab and the loop closure ties out into position. Press flat around the top of the bag. There should be an ⅛” reveal of canvas showing beyond the ribbon accent band all around the top of the bag.
  8. Topstitch through all the layers around the top of the bag within the ⅛” canvas reveal.
  9. The D-ring tab should be pulled up into place and your topstitching seam should run across it. This will give that tab some extra security against the weight of the D-rings. Do NOT stitch across the longer front strap. It should be pulled out of the way of this final topstitching seam.
  10. Pull out the bottom of the lining. You can either edgestitch the opening closed or hand stitch it closed. We chose to hand stitch closed.

Button and loop

  1. Mark the center front of the bag directly opposite the loop closure ties.
  2. Stitch the large button in place. You need to double up your thread to not only securely attach the button, but to give the button stitching the right heft.
  3. Pull the two skinny ties away from the bag. Place them side by side and make sure they are laying flat. Measure approximately 3″ down from the top of the bag and pin the ties at this point.
  4. Keeping the ties side by side, not overlapped, stitch across both ties at the 3″ point. This turns the ties into a handy loop for the button.
  5. Place the end of the long strap through the D-rings, making sure to not twist the strap, the ribbon side should always be facing out.


Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation: Debbie Guild

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