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The Perfect Damask Duffle

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When packing for a short trip or weekend getaway, it can be hard enough to choose what to bring. Why add the stress of trying to figure out what to put all those choices into? Rolling luggage is overkill. Your standard tote is not big enough, and its open top is a recipe for disaster. A roomy duffle is the perfect solution. Does that have to mean an athletic style bag with a giant logo on the side? Nope! Because you can make your own stylin’ duffle. And you can make it in the season’s most fashionable colors and prints. Don’t be put off by the size, structure or professional finishes. This duffle is much easier to make than you might think. Let's give it a go!

Flip through the pages of trendy catalogs and magazines and you’ll spot duffles from some of the biggest designer brands. And they have the designer price tags to match! Thanks to a great Sew4Home step-by-step tutorial and stunning fabric picks, you can save money without sacrificing style by creating your own signature bag.

Our exterior is a home décor weight cotton duck in bold damask. The original sample was created from a Riley Black Fabrics print that is no longer available, but we found a very similar option from Swavelle/Millcreek. As a home décor fabric, it was wonderfully wide (54”). So even with extra special fussy-cutting to feature the large motif on all sides, we were able to cut all the pieces from just 1½ yards. The base is a coordinating canvas and the interior is rip stop nylon. And those jet black exterior accents are standard packaged piping – fast and easy. 

The warm gray and cream color palette is one that works for any season and is distinct yet subtle. You can carry this duffle without feeling as if it’s overpowering what you’re wearing. Speaking of carrying, the handles are sized to work both over the shoulder or hand held.  

The plastic sport zipper wraps down each side so you can open the duffle wide for packing and unpacking. As we mentioned, we chose rip stop nylon for the lining so the interior is water resistant and easy to wipe clean. 

Just the word “lining” scares off many sewers, but not to worry. We’ve designed this bag to have interior seams, which makes the construction much simpler. But we haven’t sacrificed the look. The deep interior and the dark color of the rip stop make those seams barely visible. We used a standard machine sewn overcast to finish the raw edges. You could also use a serger or even bind the edges for a sleeker appearance. 

Our spacious duffle finishes at approximately 20" wide x 11" high x 7” deep. The handles have a 12” drop and the wrap-around zipper opens a full 27”.

If you are lovin' this Duffle style, check out the modern spin we gave it for our Dots and Blocks Duffle.

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies


NOTE:
The quantity given for the main fabric allows you to do a perfect fussy cut for all the panels on a very large motif. If you have a smaller motif, you may be able to get away with one yard. However, for this design, we do recommend a large bold print for the best look.

Getting Started

  1. From the exterior fabric, find the exact center of your main motif, measure 10½” to the right and left of center then capture as much of the main motif as possible within the 8½” height of the panel. You are fussy-cutting ONE 21” wide x 8½” high panel. 
  2. Using this first cut panel as your guide, cut two additional 21" wide x 8½" high panels that exactly match the original fussy cut. 
  3. Select one of the three matching panels. This will become your pocket. Along the top edge, slice off ¼”. This allows for the piping while still maintaining your perfect fussy cut. 
  4. Find the exact center along the trimmed top edge. Mark this center point. Measure 4¾” down from the top corner along each side. Mark these two side points. 
  5. Using a ruler, connect the center point with each side point and draw in two diagonal cut lines. 
  6. Cut along each of the drawn diagonal lines. A ruler and rotary cutter will give you the smoothest slice. 
  7. Also from the main exterior fabric, fussy cut TWO 38” x 8” rectangles with the motif running lengthwise. Cut 4¾” from each end. Set aside two of these 4¾” x 8” panels for the side units. The other two are extra – toss in your scrap bin. 
  8. Slice the two main pieces (the 28½” pieces) down the center, creating two sets of 28½” x 4” panels. These will form the zipper panel.
  9. From the solid canvas, cut the following: 
    TWO 21” wide x 4½” high rectangles for the front and back base accent
    TWO 8” wide x 4½” high rectangles for the side panel accents
    ONE 21” wide x 8” high rectangle for the base
  10. From the rip stop lining, cut the following:
    TWO 21” wide x 12” high rectangles for the front and back panels
    TWO 8” wide x 8½” high for the side panel lining (below the zipper)
    ONE 21” wide x 8” high rectangle for the base
    Using the trimmed exterior pocket as a pattern, cut a matching angled piece for the pocket lining.
  11. From the mid-weight interfacing, cut the following:
    TWO 21” x 8½” rectangles from the front and back upper exterior panels
    TWO 8” x 4¾” rectangles for the upper side panels
    TWO 28½” x 4” rectangles for the zipper panel
    Using the trimmed exterior pocket as a pattern, cut a matching angled piece for the pocket interfacing.
  12. From the fusible fleece, cut the following: 
    TWO 20” x 11” rectangles for the front and back panels
    TWO 7” x 7¼” rectangles for the full side panel below the zipper
  13. From the fusible foam, cut ONE 20” x 7” rectangle.
  14. Cut the webbing into TWO 30” lengths.

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

Create the front pocket

  1. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse the mid-weight interfacing to the wrong side of the pocket. 
  2. Cut a length of piping to fit along the pocket panel’s top angled edge. At each end of the piping, pull out and trim away about ½” of the cording. This helps flatten the piping so it lays better within the side seams.
  3. Using a Zipper foot, baste the piping along the top angled edge. The raw edge of the piping should be flush with the raw edge of the fabric. You may need to clip into the seam allowance at the peak to get a smooth curve. You are basting right along cording.
  4. Find the pocket lining. Place it right sides together with the pocket exterior, sandwiching the piping between the layers. Still using a Zipper foot, and following along in the basting seam, stitch along the top angled edge only. The sides and bottom remain raw. Again, you may need to snip into the seam allowance at the peak to get a smooth curve.
  5. Turn the panels so they lay wrong sides together and the piping is revealed along the top angled edge. 
  6. Topstitch along the top angled edge. We lengthened our stitch and used our Ditch Quilting foot to keep a super even seam along the piping. 

Assemble the full front and back panels

  1. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse the mid-weight interfacing to the wrong side of the 21” x 8½” front panel.
    NOTE: Your front and back panels should be identical, but if you feel you have one panel that’s a better match to the front pocket, use it as your front panel. 
  2. Place the fused front panel right side up on your work surface. Place the pocket right side up on the front panel. The bottom raw edges of the front panel and the pocket should be flush. Make sure the top piped peak of the pocket is sitting just over ½” down from the top raw edge of the front panel. This is to insure the peak of the pocket goes right up to but not into the top seam. Pin the pocket in place on the front panel. 
  3. Cut a length of piping to fit along the bottom of layered pocket and front panel. As you did above, at each end of the piping, pull out and trim away about ½” of the cording. This helps flatten the piping so it lays better within the side seams. Pin the piping in place through all the layers.
  4. Using a Zipper foot, baste the piping in place. The raw edge of the piping should be flush with the raw edge of the fabric. As above, you are stitching right alongside the cord.
  5. Find one of the 21” x 4½” base panels. Place it right sides together along the bottom of the layered front/pocket panel, sandwiching the piping between the layers. Pin in place. 
  6. With the Zipper foot still attached, and using the original piping basting line as your guide, stitch together through all the layers. 
  7. Press the seam allowance together and down toward the base panel. 
  8. Topstitch along the piping within the base panel, lengthening the stitch to match the topstitching you did along the top of the pocket.
  9. With the front panel complete, leave a few pins in place to insure the pocket panel is laying perfectly flat. 
  10. Draw in three parallel guide lines for the pocket divisions: one at the exact center point - in line with the top peak of the pocket, one 5” to the left of center and one 5” to the right of center.
  11. Find one of the 20” x 11” fusible fleece panels. Center it against the wrong side of the completed front panel so there is ½” of fabric showing beyond the fleece on all sides. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse the fleece in place. 
  12. Topstitch along each drawn pocket division line through all the layers, including the fleece. As above, lengthen your stitch to match all other topstitching. 
  13. You are stitching right up to but not on the top and bottom piping. You can actually roll the piping a bit with your finger to get as close as possible with your stitching. If possible use a lock stitch to secure your seam at the beginning and end. If you do not have this feature, leave the thread tails long and knot them at the back to secure. 
  14. Find one of the 21” x 12” panels of rip stop lining. Place it wrong sides together with the completed front panel. The raw edges should be flush on all four sides. 
  15. Machine baste the layers together along all four sides, keeping the basting within the seam allowance; a ⅜" seam allowance is a good option.
  16. Complete the back panel in the exact same manner but without a pocket.
  17. Find the two 30” lengths of webbing.
  18. The webbing should be placed against the each panel so the raw ends of the webbing are flush with the top raw edge of the panel with 10” between the inner edges. Pin in place. You can also baste in place for extra security during the remainder of the construction. 
  19. Make sure the handles are exactly aligned front to back and that there are no twists or turns in the webbing loops. 

Create the zipper unit

  1. Find the four 28½” x 4” zipper panel rectangles and two 28½” x 4” interfacing rectangles.
  2. Place the interfacing against the wrong side of two of the fabric rectangles. These will become the top of the duffle, so if one of your pairs is a better fussy cut than the other, use that pair to interface. 
  3. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse the interfacing in place.  
  4. Find the 28” zipper. Measure your zipper teeth. Ours measured 28" with just enough at each end for a seam allowance. We bought a separating zipper in order to get the larger teeth and the right color and length. We had to cut out the bottom zipper stop because it was too bulky. The teeth are plastic, so it's easy to clip around the stop and wiggle it off. If you do this, remember to secure the zipper closed with a few hand stitches so it stays together during construction.
  5. Place an interfaced zipper panel right sides together with the zipper along each side. Adjust the seam allowance to give a full ½” reveal across the zipper teeth. Stitch each interfaced zipper panel in place, opening and closing the zipper to allow the presser foot to move around the zipper pull. 
  6. Press the panels out and away from the zipper along each side. 
  7. Place a non-interfaced zipper panel (the lining) right sides together with the sewn zipper panel, sandwiching the zipper between the layers. Using the original seam line as your guide (stitching with the interfaced panel facing up), stitch through all the layers. This confirms the ½” zipper teeth reveal will be the same both top and bottom.
  8. Press the lining away from the zipper. Be careful not to touch the iron to the plastic zipper for any length of time; it can melt the teeth.
  9. Repeat to attach the remaining lining piece to the opposite side of the zipper. 
  10. Topstitch along either side of the zipper teeth through all the layers, using the same lengthened stitch as above. 

Create the side panel units and attach to zipper panel

  1. Find the two 4¾” x 8” main exterior rectangles and the matching interfacing. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse the interfacing to the wrong side of the fabric 
  2. Cut two 8” lengths of piping, one for each fabric panel. As above with the other piping lengths, at each end of the piping, pull out and trim away about ½” of the cording. This helps flatten the piping so it lays better within the side seams.
  3. Using a Zipper foot, baste the piping along the bottom edge of each fabric rectangle. The raw edge of the piping should be flush with the raw edge of the fabric. 
    NOTE: Since you cut these rectangles off the piece used for the zipper panel, they should have a distinct top and bottom that will allow the motif to line up as best possible. Make sure you are attaching the piping along the bottom edge.
  4. Find the two 8” x 4½” side base panels (the solid). Place one right sides together with each upper panel, sandwiching the piping between the layers. Pin in place. 
  5. With the Zipper foot still attached, and using the original piping basting line as your guide, stitch together through all the layers. 
  6. Press the seam allowance together and down toward the base panel. 
  7. Topstitch along the piping within the base panel, lengthening the stitch to match the topstitching you did before.
  8. Find the 7” x 7¼” rectangle of fusible fleece. Center the fleece against the wrong side of the assembled bottom side panel. Following manufacturer’s instructions fuse the fleece in place.
  9. Find the completed zipper panel and the two 8” x 8½” rip stop lining panels. 
  10. Pin a rip stop lining panel against the back of the zipper panel. The wrong side of the rip stop should be facing up. Pin in place.
  11. Place the assembled bottom side panel right sides together against the front of the zipper. You have a sandwich: rip stop, then zipper panel, then side panel. 
  12. Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch together through all the layers. 
  13. Repeat on the opposite end of the zipper panel. 
  14. Bring the lining down, then bring the side panel down. They are now wrong sides together and the seam allowance is hidden between the layers. 
  15. Run a basting stitch around all sides of the completed zipper/side panel unit to hold all the layers in place. As above, keep your basting seam within the seam allowance – approximately ⅜" is good.

Wrap the zipper/side panel unit around the front and back panels

  1. As mentioned above, we are creating this duffle with interior seams that will be finished. This allows for easier construction than a traditional lining and is a solution used often in ready-made bags and totes. 
  2. Find the front panel. Pin the zipper/side panel unit in place in an arc from one bottom corner, up and over the top and ending at the opposite bottom corner. 
  3. The key points are: to make sure the bottom raw edges are flush, the base piping lines-up, and the zipper panel is straight and even across the top. The zipper should curve from the top down the sides approximately 3” on each side.
  4. Clipping a notch at the center of the zipper/side panel, along both the top and bottom edge, is also a helpful guide to keeping everything straight and even. Align this notch with the center peak of the pocket on the front panel. On the back panel, clip a matching center notch along the top raw edge to align.
  5. Ease around the upper corners, don’t be afraid to use lots of pins. Remember to keep the webbing loops out of the way.
  6. Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch the first edge in place. As you stitch into the top corner, stop ½” from the raw edge and lock your seam. Remove the project from under the needle, turning it to be able to access the next side. Clip into the corner approximately ⅜” to allow the corner to curve.
  7. Start again at the corner point (½" from the raw edge) and stitch into the next corner. Repeat the steps: stop ½" from the raw edge, lock your seam, remove the project from under the needle, turn it once again, and stitch down the final side to finish. 
  8. Pin and then stitch the remaining raw edge of the zipper/side panel unit to the back panel in the same manner. 
  9. If you feel you seam is not as smooth and even as you’d like, it’s okay to use additional lines of stitching. Check from the right side to make sure all your basting seams are hidden within the seam allowance. If not, you can stitch around again to hide. Although it is usually okay to simply remove basting stitches, in this project, there are quite a few and they could be hard to remove, so it’s best to hide them within the seam. 
  10. Once you are happy with both your seams, trim the seam allowance back to ⅜” and overcast to finish. If you prefer, you could also bind the raw edges with commercial double fold bias tape for a smoother finish.

Insert the base to finish 

  1. Find the canvas, foam, and rip stop panels that make up the base. 
  2. Center the foam on the wrong side of the canvas panel so there is ½” of fabric showing beyond the foam on all sides. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse the foam in place. 
  3. Layer the rip stop wrong sides together with the fused canvas, sandwiching the foam between the layers. 
  4. Baste in place along all four sides. 
  5. Unzip the zipper about half way. 
  6. You should have marked the center of the bottom edges of both the front and back panels with a clipped notch. 
  7. Along both long sides of the assembled base panel, find the exact center and clip notches at these points. 
  8. Starting on one 8" side, pin the base panel right sides together with the body of the bag. The corners of the base panel should align with the seams of the zipper/side panel unit. Pin in place.
  9. Starting ½” in from the corner, and using a ½" seam allowance, stitch along this first side. Stop the seam at the opposite corner, ½” from the corner. In other words, your seam is starting and stopping ½" in from the edge of the base panel, similar to how you just stitched the side unit in place.
  10. Remove the project from the machine. Turn the corner and pin along the next side of the bag. To help make the turn, as you did above with the top corners, you can clip the base of the bag at the corners. You are clipping into the corner at a diagonal at a depth of about ⅜". This frees up the seam allowance so you can stitch each side of the bag independently.
  11. Use a ½" seam allowance to stitch the next side of the base to the body of the bag. Start and stop at ½” in each corner.  
  12. Repeat to stitch the final two sides/corners in the same manner. 
  13. When done, trim back the seam allowance to ⅜” as you did above and overcast to finish.
  14. Turn the duffle right side out through the open zipper.
    NOTE: If you are new to inserting a base panel, check out our step-by-step tutorial: How to Insert a Rectangular Base into a Tube.

Contributors

Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Kathy Andrews, What Sew Ever

Section: 

Comments (6)

Mischa said:
Mischa's picture

I love this choice of the fabric!! I went to the link to look at the damask though, the sample picture does not look like the one here. Are they different?

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

@Mischa - As with all fabric and fashion - we can't control how quickly a collection or fabric will sell out after using it for a sample. The exact fabric we used is no longer readily available; we searched and linked to the very closest alternative we could find. 

Momo said:
Momo's picture

Need.  NEED.  REALLY DO NEED.  Will have - SOON.  Have to go buy a zipper.  Thank you.  Seriously, thank you. 

Momo said:
Momo's picture

I'm hoping I can get more of the same fabric I used for my Compact Messenger Bag!  Matching it would be nice.  I'm SO pleased with how it turned out!  I loved making it, and I love carrying it, and now I'd love to match it with a duffle!  

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

Ohhhh - that would be so cool. Be sure to share a photo of the pair if that works out. How awesome.