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Father's Day: Pendleton Wool Spirit of the Peoples Messenger Bag

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Do you have a dapper-dad-on-the-go? Then he'll love this wool messenger bag made from the classic Pendleton Indian design: Spirit of the Peoples. There are tons of messenger bags and casual briefcases out there, but we bet none are as unique or fashionable as this one. Besides, we have it on good authority that if you get him another tie this year, he's writing you out of the will! This project is more complex that most of the tutorials here at Sew4Home. But don't let it scare you away. We've written very detailed instructions and included lots of great pictures. I'm confident YOU are up to the task, but one word of warning: make sure your machine is up to the task as well.

With Janome as our Signature Sponsor, we are lucky to sew on Janome machines, which are known for their powerful motors and precise needle penetration. Many of their machines also have an extra-high presser foot lift, which helps when sewing through multiple layers. We were able to stitch through the thick seams of this project with no problem. This may not be the case, if fact I KNOW it won't be case, on other models. In fact, I didn't add my usual 'other machine' options at the end of this article, because, although I'm sure there are other machines out there that will work just great, I'm not 100% confident to make a recommendation. I would suggest testing your machine with a multiple layer ‘mock-up' first. Or, better yet, I would recommend getting/using a Janome. Remember: the better your tools, the better the finished project

Pendleton's Woolen Mill Store provided the beautiful wool jacqurad fabric used for the exterior and well as the bag's flap lining. The pattern we used, Spirit of the Peoples, is wildly popular and, unfortunately, currently out-of-stock. They tell us the re-order should be in soon, but in the meantime, browse through their eBay store for alternatives. They have dozens of great weaves to choose from. The Rimrock design is awesome (in khaki, blue or coral) as is Desert Sun.

The finished bag is 15" wide x 11" high x 3" deep with an interior canvas pocket/divider and an adjustable shoulder strap from 1½" cotton webbing.

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

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  • 1 yard of 60" wool fabric for exterior: we used Pendleton's Spirit of the Peoples wool jacquard
  • ½ yard of 60" wool fabric for the flap lining: we used Pendleton's Eco-Wise wool in Maize
  • 1 yard of 50" fabric for the bag lining and pockets: we used a medium-weight natural canvas
  • 1 yard of 1" cotton webbing to attach the buckles to the flap and the key clip to the inside of the bag: we used a black cotton webbing
  • 1 yard of 1½" cotton webbing for the shoulder strap and attachments: we used a black cotton webbing
  • 1 yard of medium-weight fusible interfacing
  • ½ yard of heavy-weight interfacing (not fusible) or other stiffener: to stiffen pocket area
  • 2 1" luggage clip buckles for bottom closure: we used black plastic
  • 1 1½" adjusting buckle for strap adjustment: we used black plastic
  • 1 heavy-duty 1" metal snap hook
  • 2 heavy-duty 1½" metal O-rings
  • 1 heavy-duty 1½" metal swivel snap hook
    NOTE: We found all our metal hooks and rings at a hardware/tack store not a fabric store. A store that caters to horse people or professional metal crafters is much more likely to have a good selection of heavy-duty pieces. You might also try a marine supply store.
  • All purpose thread to match fabrics
  • See-through ruler
  • Fabric pen or pencil
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • Straight pins
  • Regular hand sewing needle
    Optional for interior seam binding:
  • 2 yards of 2" wide ribbon: we used a chocolate brown grosgrain
  • Fusible seam tape, such as Stitch Whitchery or Steam-A-Seam

Getting Started

  1. From the exterior wool fabric (Pendleton's Spirit of the Peoples in our sample) cut the following:
    3 @ 16" x 13½" for the front, back and flap
    2 @ 4" x 12" for the sides
  2. From the interior wool fabric (Pendleton's Eco-Wise wool in Maize in our sample) cut the following:
    1 @ 16 x 13½" for the flap lining
  3. From the lining fabric (natural medium-weight canvas in our sample) cut the following:
    1 @ 27" x 16" for the bag body
    2 @ 4" x 12" for the sides
    1 @ 16" x 28" for the pocket insert
  4. From the medium-weight fusible interfacing cut the following:
    3 @ 16" x 13½"
    2 @ 4" x 12"
  5. From the heavy-weight interfacing/stiffener cut the following:
    1 @ 15" x 11" to support the inner pocket.

We spent some time carefully fussy-cutting our exterior wool fabric (Pendleton's Spirit of the Peoples wool jacquard in our sample) to get the best look.

  1. When you lay out your exterior fabric, plan your cuts to capture your favorite part of the woven design and keep it centered. We first fussy-cut the front and back 16" x 13½" panels to be identical, centering the woven pattern both vertically and horizontally and taking into account the seam allowances. We labeled one front panel and one back panel and marked which edges were the top.
  2. Make a 16" x 13½" paper pattern for the front flap. You want the woven pattern on the front flap to match to the front panel of the bag after it is finished. On your paper pattern, draw a line ½" away from all four edges to mark the seam allowance, and make a big arrow pointing up. The arrow points to the top edge of the flap, which will seam to the back panel of the bag. Now draw a line 3" down from the top edge; this marks where the front flap bends over the top opening of the bag. The rest of the pattern is what will overlap onto the front of the bag.
  3. Now, take a deep breath and try to stay with me here. Lay the front panel piece you cut on top of the remaining fabric and match up the pattern exactly. Next, lay the paper pattern on top of the front panel piece, matching the line you drew at 3" along the top cut edge of the front panel piece. Hold the paper pattern in place and slip the front panel piece out of the stack. Pin the paper pattern to the remaining fabric. Cut, label and mark the top edge. (If you can get through this step, you can pull out the tablecloth from beneath all the dishes at your next family gathering!)
  4. For the side panels, cut the two 12" x 4" pieces so the pattern goes lengthwise.
  5. As I mentioned above, make sure to label each piece you cut and make note of which edge is the top of each piece.
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At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

As we mentioned above, this is a complex project, so we will work through it in sections.

Front and back of the bag

  1. Following manufacturer's directions, iron the fusible interfacing to the wrong side of ALL the cut pieces of exterior wool (Spirit of the Peoples in our sample) .
  2. To create the bag's bottom center seam, place the front and back exterior panels right sides together and pin along the bottom edge. Measure and make two marks evenly spaced and centered along this center seam line. This is the placement for the buckles that will hold the front flap closed.
  3. Cut two 3" long pieces of the 1" cotton webbing and slip one on each male end of each buckle (the end with the prongs). Finish the top end of the webbing with a small double turn hem and stitch flat. Slip the raw end in between the two layers of wool at the marks you just made and pin in place.
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  4. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch the center bottom seam.
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  5. Press the seam open and top stitch down both seam allowances. Make sure you pull the clasps flat against the FRONT exterior panel so the topstitching catches them, securing and reinforcing the webbing.
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  6. The seamed front and back exterior of the bag now measures the same as the single piece of canvas you cut for the lining of the bag. Place the canvas and wool right sides together, matching the top front edges. Pin in place.
  7. Cut another 3" long piece of the 1" cotton webbing and slip it through the snap hook. Fold the raw ends together and insert them into the top edge seam near one corner of the bag.
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  8. Stitch through all the layers with a ½" seam allowance. It's a good idea to stitch over the webbing a second time to make it super secure.
  9. Press the seam allowances towards the canvas lining. Fold the webbing with the snap hook down towards the lining and stitch again all the way across on the lining. This secures the lining in place against the seam allowance and secures the snap hook against the lining so it will fall to the inside of the bag.
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The bag flap

  1. Find the exterior wool piece you cut for the front flap (Spirit of the Peoples in our sample) and the lining piece of wool (Eco-Wise Maize in our sample).
  2. On the exterior wool flap piece, mark the placement for the female ends of the buckles (the blunt ends) on the bottom edge of the flap. Use the same measurements you made for the male ends of the buckles so they match up perfectly.
  3. Place the lining piece right sides together with the exterior flap piece, sandwiching the buckles in between these layers. Stitch along this bottom edge with a ½" seam allowance, double-stitching at the webbing.
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  4. Place the top edge of the exterior wool flap piece, right sides together, with the bag front. Match up the woven pattern of the wool. Pin in place. Stitch, using a ½" seam allowance.
  5. Laying out flat, this is what the bag should look like now.
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  6. Now you are going to make this flat piece into a giant loop by stitching the bottom raw edge of the canvas lining to the top raw edge of the wool flap lining... right sides together, of course.
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  7. Flatten our your 'loop' so the wool flap lining and the wool exterior flap are laying right sides together. Align the sides and pin in place. Stitch both sides, using a ½" seam allowance stop at the seam where the flap attaches to the bag. Clip the outer corners and clip into the seam allowance so when you turn right sides out and press the flap, the seam allowances for the bag are exposed.
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  8. Press the whole bag flat and smooth.
  9. Measure and mark 1½" from each side of the bag's bottom center seam and draw two parallel lines. If you measured correctly, these lines should be 3" apart on the canvas lining. This will become the bottom of the bag. 
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  10. Stitch through all the layers along these two lines. These two seams will help keep the bottom of the bag square and firm. Clip into the ½" seam allowance at these marks - to either side of each seam.

Side panels and carry strap

  1. Find the bag side pieces, two from the exterior wool and two from the canvas lining.
  2. Cut two 3" long pieces of the 1½" cotton webbing. Thread one piece through each O-ring.
  3. Fold the webbing in half and pin an O-ring/webbing unit to the center of the top edge of each side exterior wool panel.
  4. Place one canvas lining side piece right sides together with each exterior wool side piece, sandwiching the O-ring in between the layers. Stitch together through all layers, double stitching at the webbing.
  5. Turn, pull the O-rings out, press. Topstitch around all four sides of each piece.
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Interior pockets

  1. Place the 16" x 28" canvas piece on your ironing board. Fold up one end 11" and press. Slip the 15" x 11" stiffener in between the layers up against the fold.
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  2. Pin and stitch along the open edge.
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  3. Turn and stitch a double fold hem along the raw edge. You should have 5½" from this hem to the edge you just stitched down.
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  4. Fold up this 5½" section over the stiffened canvas. This will become the pockets.
  5. Measure and mark pockets as you choose, remembering to leave a ½" seam allowance at each edge. We marked ours at 6" twice to accommodate an iphone and a wallet, then made three 1¼" pencil/pen pockets.
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  6. Stitch along these lines, back tacking at the beginning and end of each seam. Finally, topstitch along the top folded edge (the top of the entire lining piece, not the top of the pockets - it already has a hem).
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Final assembly

  1. Place the bag body right side down on your work surface.
  2. Lay the canvas pocket piece you just made right side up onto the back lining of the bag, matching the bottom of the pocket piece to the stitched line marking the bottom of the bag. The top of the pocket piece should be just shy of the top seam where the flap is sewn to the bag back. Stitch the pocket piece to the bag along both sides, staying within the ½" seam allowance. This step allows you to treat the pocket/bag as one unit.
  3. Working right sides together and matching up the top edges, pin a side panel into place along both front and back of the bag. The clips in the seam allowances of the bag body should match up with the bottom corners of the side panels.
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  4. It's okay to trim and fudge at this point. The most important thing is to keep your top edges even. Your ½" seam allowance should be exactly flush with the edge of the flap.
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  5. Turn the bag right side out.
  6. Thread the remaining length 1½" cotton webbing through the large clip. Fold under the raw edge and stitch in place to secure. Clip onto one O-ring.
  7. Thread the opposite end through the plastic adjustment slider, then through the opposite O-ring, and finally back up through the slider again. Fold under the raw edge of the webbing and stitch in place to secure.
  8. We also added one of our Sew4Home labels to the outside corner of the front flap.
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OPTIONAL: Binding the inside raw seams

  1. Because we made this bag in the easiest way possible and tried to keep the layers to a minimum for home machines, our design leaves raw edges on the inside. If this doesn't bug you, you're done. If you'd like a more finished look inside. You can wrap the four seams with 2" wide grosgrain ribbon, adhering them with fusible seam tape.
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  2. Turn the bag inside out, exposing the raw-edged seams. Following manufacturer's direction, adhere a piece of fusible seam tape to one side of the seam allowance.
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  3. Fold under the raw edge of one end of the ribbon. Align this finished edge with the very top of the seam. finger press in place against the seam tape.
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  4. Iron in place to secure.
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  5. Continue in this same manner around the bottom edge and back up the opposite side. Add another piece of fusible seam tape to the other side of the seam allowance and wrap the ribbon around to this side, covering the raw edges.
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  6. Press in place with your fingers and then iron in place to secure as before.
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  7. Repeat to finish the opposite side. Turn the bag right side out and push the out the bottom corners. The very top edges of the seam allowances will still show a bit, but the majority of the raw edges will be covered. And, when the flap is closed, these top edges do not show.
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Project Concept: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation, Pattern Design and Instructional Editing: Kathy Andrews, What Sew Ever



Comments (17)

yeena56 said:
yeena56's picture

Thank you so much for this pattern.
Although I had some problems (inches, centimeter and laguage) the bag became great.
I am an upcycling fan, so I modyfied 2 old jeans and finished the bag today.
My friends and I are thrilled!

By the way I use an 60 year old mechanical sewing machine :)

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@yeena56 - Wow - this is one of our older projects, so we're happy to hear you found it and were able to have such great success! Congratulations on all your conversions!

Julie Shana said:
Julie Shana's picture

I am ready to start this project as a college graduation gift for my son.  My question:  the Pendleton wool that I chose I like the front and back bag pieces centered on the pattern with the cross grain.  I can detect a very slight give in the material across the grain.  Do you think rotating the pattern 90 degrees will be a problem on the heavy weight Pendleton wool material?  Thank you.

I am anxious but get started but also wanting to be careful

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Julie Shana - I've not tried that, so I can't be 100% sure, but I really don't see any cuts and seams for which it would be a problem. I'm sure your son will love it - especially since YOU are making it for him. 

Abdelmoumene said:
Abdelmoumene's picture

Nice!!, i want to make one, can you make a Metric Version ??! 

romafluxe said:
romafluxe's picture

Thank you soooo much for the tutorial. I just finished making this awesome bag!! FYI: Although the pictures and instructions are very clear, the 1" cotton webbing for the male ends of the bottom front buckles should have been a bit longer than 3" to accomodate the 3" stitching that was to become the bottom of the bag... I needed at minimum 5 inches per 1" webbing to make it work. All in all, however, I am very pleased to have found the tutorial and to have given it a try. Thanks again!!

Anna Rozier said:
Anna Rozier's picture

I have been searching for the perfect pattern for a messenger bag, and this is definitely the one I am going to try! Thanks so much for posting!

Lee in Florida said:
Lee in Florida's picture

A am an engineer, sailor-wannabe with a Ultra-Feed walking foot sewing machine (and I am not afraid to use it!).

I am tired of briefcases and bags that were not really suited to carry my collection of e-toys and accessories for my trip to work. There are many details in this project that I can use for my custom man-purse.

of course mine will be made of old-sailcloth and sunbrella scraps .. but it will be fairly waterproof and ought to wear like iron.

A batten sewn into the top of the front flap would give the needed support for a grab handle.


Thanks for the tips.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Lee in Florida - sounds like a great spin on the project. Let us know how it turns out!

eliz547 said:
eliz547's picture
I'm so glad I found this site. I've actually been looking for a tote pattern for quite a while and love this design. I plan on using it differently than this and perhaps using the pocket inserts. When we travel, I like to have a tote with me for all the "stuff" that needs to be close at hand and this is perfect for my needs. I can't wait to find all the other great items and instructions this site has. Thanks so much.
peterchen said:
peterchen's picture
great stuff , indian style will make me have a try on this , thank you again for your great tips

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture
Hi tattfae - I believe you saw a "ghost pdf link" -- we have been working on ways to begin offering our projects as pdfs, but it isn't quite in place yet. There seems to have been a pdf link left on this project. It's gone now... but you were very quick and clever to have caught it smilies/cool.gif. Hang in there; we hope to be adding a pdf option soon.
Grandma G said:
Grandma G's picture
Just what I've been looking/waiting for!! I'm excited to give it a try!
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture
Thanks, Jerry! That is so great to hear. This one is a bit more challenging that we normally post, so I\'m super happy to hear you found it easy to understand. Let us know how you bag eventually turns out.
Jerry said:
Jerry's picture
EXCELLENT tutorial! Thank you for such clear instructions accompanied by great pictures. Though I won't be working on something like this for Father's Day, it will be something to keep in mind for a later project!