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The Retro Diner Bucket Bag

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It's a fabulous fifties flashback with a modern twist. Our Diner Bucket Bag is retro cool but with current features that make it easier to construct and stylish to carry - even without the perfect sweater set and pearls. The bag has a great structured shape thanks to the Pellon: Flex-Foam™ behind the classic sparkle vinyl exterior.  

As a classic bucket, our Diner Bag hits all the right notes. To start, there's the bold chevron accent on the bag's front and back, reminiscent of the two-tone tail fins of 1950s era automobiles.

Fashion buzzwords in the mid-fifties were "shape" and "sheen." We checked-off "shape" with a chunky 4" boxed bottom in combination with big round grommets to hold the handles. And of course, the sparkle vinyl fabric wraps up "sheen" with the perfect retro look. We chose two of the most popular colors of the time period: ivory and taupe. You can find good color selections of sparkle vinyl at Vogue Fabric Store, Fabric.com, and Online Fabric Store.

We even added extra topstitching detail to mimic the look of the booth upholstery in an old-school diner. And the quilting cotton lining has a great retro geometric design. 

Vinyl can be tricky to work with if your layers get very thick. To make sure our bag construction was as easy as possible, and with as few layers as possible, we came up with unique ways to create the handles as well as how to achieve that dramatic front chevron. We also show you when and where to cut back the vinyl and/or the foam to help reduce bulk. 

Pellon Flex Foam is very easy to sew through and adds body without being too rigid. Plus, there's no grain, so you can cut in any direction. We used the sew-in Flex Foam for this project, but you can also find it as a one-sided fusible and even a two-sided fusible

And though our bag isn't designed for anything other than a simple wipe-clean, Flex-Foam™ itself can be machine washed, which makes it a great option for washable projects. Pellon recommends washing in warm water on gentle cycle, and tumble drying on low heat.

Our Retro Diner Bucket Bag finishes at approximately 13" wide x 14" high x 4" deep with two generous loop handles.

If you're new to working with vinyl, take a look at our tutorial: Working with Laminates and other Sticky Stuff

Our thanks to Portland, Oregon landmark, Fairley's Pharmacy for letting us photograph our Diner Bag at their classic counter. Their soda fountain has been serving up shakes and malts since 1913!

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

  • ⅝ yard of 54"+ wide medium-weight sparkle vinyl or similar for the top exterior, handles and binding
  • ½ yard of 54"+ wide medium-weight sparkle vinyl or similar for the bottom exterior
  • 1¼ yards of 44"+ wide standard weight cotton for the lining and strap backing
  • FOUR 1" plastic grommets; we used 1" Dritz Home Grommets in Satin Nickel
  • FOUR purse feet (optional, but a great professional finish)
  • 1 yard of 20" Pellon Flex-Foam; as mentioned above, we used the sew-in Flex Foam, you could also use the one-sided fusible Flex Foam
  • ½ yard of 20"+ wide lightweight interfacing for strap and lining pocket; we used Pellon Shir-Tailor
  • Plastic canvas or super firm interfacing for bag base - you need an approximate 4" x 13" rectangle
  • All purpose thread to match fabric for lining
  • Heavy weight thread to match vinyl for construction and topstitching
  • See-through ruler
  • Fabric pen or pencil
  • Seam gauge
  • Seam ripper
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Pressing ham and pressing clothoptional but helpful when working with vinyl
  • Straight pins
  • Fabric clips for working with vinyl; we used Clover Wonder Clips
  • Parchment paper; optional, but it was our choice for some of the topstitching on this extra-sticky sparkle vinyl 
  • Seam sealant, optional - we used Dritz Fray Check

Getting Started

  1. From the fabric for the top exterior, handles and binding (the ivory sparkle vinyl in our sample), cut the following:
    TWO 18" wide x 7" high rectangles for the exterior
    TWO ¾" x 34" strips for the straps
    ONE 1¼" x 36" strip for the top binding
  2. From the fabric for the bottom exterior (the taupe sparkle vinyl in our sample), cut TWO 18" wide x 16½" high rectangles.
  3. From the lining fabric, cut the following:
    TWO 18" wide x 16½" high rectangles for the main lining panels
    ONE 10" wide x 14" high rectangle for the lining pocket
    On the bias: TWO 1¾" x 35" strips for the strap backing
  4. From the foam, cut TWO 18" x 16½" rectangles.
  5. From the lightweight interfacing, cut the following:
    FOUR ¾" x 17" strips for the straps
    ONE 10" x 14" rectangle for the pocket
  6. From the plastic canvas (or super firm interfacing), cut ONE 3¾" x 12½" rectangle. 

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

Create the bag exterior

  1. Find the two upper 18" x 7" vinyl panels (sparkle ivory in our sample). Place one panel right side up and flat on your work surface. 
  2. Measure to find the center of the bottom edge (9" from each raw side edge). Mark this center point. 
  3. From the upper raw edge, measure down 4" along each side. Mark these side points. 
  4. Place a clear ruler from the side point to the center point, creating a diagonal edge to follow. Using a rotary cutter, slice along the diagonal. 
    NOTE: You can cut with scissors if you do not have a rotary cutter, however, this edge should be smooth and sharp. If you must use scissors, they should be very sharp, and your cuts should be as long as possible. You don't want any choppy little cut marks. 
  5. Repeat to create a matching diagonal cut from the opposite side point to the center point, forming a "V".
  6. Repeat to create a matching "V" on the remaining upper panel. 
  7. Find the two lower 18" x 16½" vinyl panels (sparkle taupe in our sample). Place one panel right side up and flat on your work surface. Place a "V" cut upper panel right side up on the lower panel. Align the top raw edges and the side raw edges of both panels. The finished height and width should be 18" x 16½". Clip the panels together. 
  8. Thread the machine with a heavy weight thread in the top and bobbin to match the upper vinyl. Lengthen the stitch. 
  9. Using a Walking foot, Teflon® type foot or a layer of parchment paper, topstitch along the "V" through both layers. The topstitching should run about ⅛" from the diagonally cut edge of the upper panel within the upper panel.
  10. Repeat to stitch the remaining upper and lower panels together. 
  11. Flip each sewn front/back panel to the wrong side. Trim away the bottom panel along the "V", leaving just a ½" - ⅜" seam allowance. 
    NOTE: Hey.... I'm wasting a lot of vinyl! Well, yes, you will end up with some excess vinyl for your stash, but you will also end up with two perfect front and back exterior panels. Had we tried to cut the bottom panel as an inverted "V" and then attempted to align top and bottom, the chances of the two "V" cuts getting out of alignment would have been very high. With our method, you are stitching the cut piece to a flat piece – no shifting, no muss, no fuss. 
  12. Place the front and back panels right sides together. Carefully align the side edges of the "V" front to back; you want a perfect match along the side seam. Clip together along the sides and across the bottom.
  13. Re-set the stitch length to normal. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch along both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners. We continued to use our Walking foot
  14. With the bag still wrong side out, create 4" box corners, which means your "box" will be half that size or 2".
  15. Cut out the corner boxes. To reduce the bulk of the vinyl in the corner, trim away an additional ¾" along both the side and bottom, leaving a ¼" seam allowance from the original side/bottom seam. Your corner will have a bit of a stair-step look. 
  16. Flatten each corner, aligning the side seam with the bottom seam. Clip in place.
  17. Using a ½" seam allowance, double stitch across the corner.
             
    NOTE: If you are new to this technique, check out our tutorial: How To Box Corners for more details.
  18. Turn the bag right side out and push the corners out into position. 
  19. Find the plastic canvas (or heavy interfacing rectangle). Drop it into place at the bottom of the bag. 

Optional purse feet

  1. If adding the optional purse feet, find them now. Measure ½" in from each corner and use a pin to mark the position for insertion. Cut a small hole at each marked point on the base.
  2. Following manufacturer's instructions, set each foot in place, inserting them from the outside through to the inside.
  3. Secure them on the interior of the bag through the plastic canvas.

Lining

  1. Find the 10" x 14" lining pocket and the 10" x 14" interfacing panel. Following manufacturer's instructions fuse the interfacing to the wrong side of the fabric panel.  
  2. Fold the fused panel in half, right sides together, so it is now 10" x 7½".
  3. Pin along both sides and across the bottom, leaving a 3-4" opening along the bottom for turning.
  4. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch along both sides and across the bottom. Remember to pivot at the corners and to lock your seam at either side of the 3-4" opening. 
  5. Clip the corners and press open the seam allowances. 
  6. Turn right side out through the bottom opening. Use a long, blunt end tool, such as a knitting needle, chopstick or point turner, to gently push out the corners so they are nice and sharp. 
  7. Press the pocket flat, pressing in the raw edges of the opening so they are flush with the sewn seam. 
  8. Measure to find the center of the lining pocket and draw a vertical guideline at this point.
  9. Find one of the two lining panels and one of the two foam panels. 
  10. Place the foam flat on your work surface.
  11. Place the lining panel right side up on the foam, aligning all four sides of the fabric with the foam. 
  12. Place the pocket on the layered foam/fabric panel so it sits 3½" down from the upper raw edge of the panel and is centered side to side. Pin in place through all layers.
  13. Edgestitch the pocket along both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corner. This edgestitching secures the pocket in place and closes the original opening used for turning. You are stitching through the fabric layers as well as the foam.
  14. Stitch along the center drawn line to divide the one pocket into two sections.
  15. As above, layer the remaining foam panel and lining panel. 
  16. Place the two lining/foam panels right sides together, sandwiching the pocket between the layers. Pin in place along both sides and across the bottom. Make sure all your layers are flat.
  17. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch along both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners. 
  18. Following the same steps as above, measure for 4" boxed corners, cutting out 2" squares from each corner. Trim back the foam to about ¼" to remove the bulk from the seam allowance.
  19. Flatten and double stitch each corner as above.

    NOTE: As mentioned above, you could use the one-sided fusible foam. If you choose this option, your foam cuts should be ½" smaller all around than your fabric panels. Simply center a foam panel on each lining panel and follow manufacturer's instructions to fuse in place. All other steps remain the same.

Assemble, bind, and add grommets

  1. Leave the lining wrong side out.
  2. Find the exterior bag. It should be right side out. 
  3. Slip the lining inside the main bag so the two bags are now wrong sides together. Align all the seams, the bottom corners, and the top raw edges. Clip all around the top.
  4. Baste together the exterior and lining, running the seam about ⅜" from the top raw edges. 
  5. Trim back the foam to the basting line to reduce the bulk. 
  6. Find the four grommets. 
  7. Each grommet should be placed 1" down from the top, and the inside edge of each grommet should be 4" from the center of the bag. The drawing above helps show the position of all the elements.
  8. We clipped a tape measure onto the upper edge to make measuring easier. First find and mark the center. Then measure 4" to either side of this center point and mark. Finally, measure 1" down from the top at each 4" marked point. 
  9. The Dritz Home Grommets come with a template, which we clipped into place in order to trace the circle. 
  10. Cut out the circle through all the layers. Then carefully separate the vinyl and lining and trim back just the foam ⅜” - ½” from the original cut circle. This is necessary to reduce bulk so the grommet will fit and can easily snap shut.
  11. Following manufacturer's instructions, or our Plastic Grommet tutorial, snap each grommet into place. 
  12. Find the 1¼" x 36" binding strip. 
  13. Fold the strip, wrong sides together, just shy of exactly in half. One side should drop about 1/16" below the other. This will help insure you catch both the front and back of the binding with one seam. Clip the fold in place.
  14. Starting at a side seam, slip the binding over the top raw edge. That slightly longer side of the binding goes to the inside, against the lining. To maintain an even fold, just unclip a few inches at a time. Unclip the fold, then re-clip in place over the top raw edges.
  15. Your two ends should butt together at the side seam. If necessary, you can trim just a bit to make sure the two edges are flush. 

    NOTE:
    The vinyl is too thick to overlap. It looks best to simply butt together. The vinyl is sticky enough that this tiny slit doesn't really show. If you are concerned about it or it doesn't seem to be coming together correctly for you, add a dot of vinyl epoxy to adhere the two edges. 
  16. Topstitch the binding in place all around. We used both our Walking foot and a strip of parchment paper. You are stitching through quite a few layers at this point. Use matching thread (the heavyweight thread) in the top and bobbin, lengthen the stitch, and go slowly. 

Create the straps

  1. Find the two ¾" x 34" vinyl strips, the two bias cut 1¾" x 35" fabric strips, and the four ¾" x 17" interfacing strips. 
  2. Place the fabric strips wrong side up and flat on your work surface.
  3. Place two interfacing strips down the middle of each fabric strip, centering them side to side. The interfacing strips should butt together at the center of the fabric strip. Following manufacturer's instructions, fuse the interfacing in place.
    NOTE: If your interfacing is wider, you may be able to cut two ¾" x 34" strips of interfacing. If so, you can simple center one strip on each strap. 
  4. Fold in and press the long raw edges of each fabric strip towards the center. One side should be pressed in ½" and the other side should be pressed in ⅜". The finished width of the fabric strip should now be ⅞".
  5. Fold in each end ⅜" to make a finished square end tab. We used a bit of seam sealant along all the cut edges. 
  6. Place a ¾" vinyl strap down the center of each folded fabric strip, covering the raw edges of the fabric. There should be only about 1/16" of fabric showing to either side of the vinyl as well as at either end. Clip in place the length of the strap. 
  7. Edgestitch the vinyl in place along both long sides. As above, use matching heavyweight thread and lengthen your stitch.
  8. Loop each end through a grommet from front to back. Double check to make sure there are no twists in the loop of your strap. 
  9. Pin each end against the back of the strap approximately ½" above the bound top edge. 
  10. Topstitch across each end to secure. 

Contributors

Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Debbie Guild

Section: 

Comments (6)

Larri said:
Larri's picture

I absolutely love this and cannot wait to grab some sparkly vinyl and give the bucket bag a try!

Thanks for sharing such an in-depth tutorial. Though many steps, you've thoroughly covered each one. 

Happy Sewing! 

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

@Larri - Thank you! We are pretty proud of the way we put together our instructions, so we're always glad to hear it's a help! Enjoy the pattern.

denise said:
denise's picture

Hello, 

I would like to know how to box  a corner on a bag and not have it angle in. In other words the top and bottom of the bag are the same finished width ? Thank You in advance

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

@Denise - when you make a boxed corner it is the same top and bottom. What you're seeing may simply be an optical illusion depending on the structure of the bag. The top of a bag is often curved or is pulled together by a snap or other fastener - so that kind of makes it look like the top is narrower than the bottom, but if you are starting with rectangular panels, they are actually the same. 

LynneinNC said:
LynneinNC's picture

Wow! so many techniques I've been wanting to work on in ONE tutorial -- working with vinyl; grommet; purse feet; heavy weight pellon. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

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

@ LynneinNC - Excellent! Let's us know how yours turns out.. and whether you get a malt or a shake 

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