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The quintessential bandana. It can be a head scarf or a neck tie. It can protect your nose and mouth in a dust storm. It can decorate a straw hat. And now… it can be a pretty sack-style shoulder bag! This fast and easy project is excellent for young kids or anyone just learning to sew. The panels are simply layered and secured with an X Marks The Spot quilting seam. All exterior seams and the top of the bag are bound raw edges. It just doesn’t get any simpler than this!

You’ll start with two standard bandanas. The size of bandanas vary, but you’ll want to aim for the most common 22” x 22” square. You could go a bit smaller, but we wouldn’t recommend any larger. The lining can be a denim or mid-weight canvas; you want something that will add some body to the bandanas. We used a nice red denim.

Although we opted for the ultra-classic red bandana, we had a fun shopping through the myriad of color and motif options available in-store and online. You can get bandanas in neon colors, pastels, and jewel tones. The motifs run from traditional paisley to unique illustrations blended into a variety of circular kaleidoscope designs.

A standard quilting cotton in a coordinating color (we used a leather shade) is perfect for the binding and as the accent strip on the front of the webbing handles.

As described below, we recommend you pre-wash all your fabrics with a fabric softener to remove any starch and creases as well as to give the bag its signature slouchy look and feel when done. The boho look is all about comfort and ease; no hard edges here!

We added a fun pom pom tassel tie around one handle. The easy steps are detailed below to create it… it’s like stringing a popcorn garland. You can go with multi-color poms as we did for a splash of crayon brights or choose more coordinating tones for a subtle textural look.

If you are brand new to sewing and/or making bags, this is a perfect first project. There’s not a box corner or zipper in sight; the sack style of the bag means you’re working with straight seams throughout. Teaching someone to sew? This bag will go together in a snap and give the new sewer something she/he will be so proud to show off!

Our S4H Boho Bandana Bag finishes at approximately 19” x 19”. The handle loops have an approximate 12” drop.

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

  • TWO approximate 22” x 22” bandanas for the exterior panels; you could use a slightly smaller bandana but we don’t recommend going much larger; we used 22” x 22” bandanas in the traditional red star design
  • yard of 44″+ wide denim, lightweight canvas or similar for the lining; we used a standard 54”red denim
  • ¾ yard of 44”+ wide quilting weight cotton in a coordinating solid for the binding and handles; we used Kona Cotton in Leather
  • 2 yards of 1” webbing for the handles; we used 1” poly-cotton webbing in tan
  • ½ yard of multi color pom trim – or approximately 9-11 individual poms in a variety of colors for the optional tassel; we used pom trim
  • ONE skein of pear cotton for the optional tassel; we used black
  • 2¼ yards of 20”+ wide lightweight fusible interfacing; we used Pellon ShapeFlex
  • Iron and ironing board
  • See-through ruler
  • Fabric pen or pencil
  • Seam gauge
  • Seam ripper
  • Scissors 
  • Rotary cutter and mat
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Large-eye embroidery needle for the optional pom tassel
  • Straight pins
  • Clips for working with the webbing; optional

Getting Started

  1. We recommend washing both the bandanas as well as the lining fabric and the binding fabric with fabric softener prior to cutting. The bag is meant to have a “slouchy” look and feel and new bandanas are often starched with deep creases thanks to being folded up for a long time. Denim and canvas is also usually quite stiff right off the bolt. Wash and dry both then press flat. The bandanas’ color might run, especially if using a red as we did, so it’s best to launder them separately. For more information on pre-washing and pre-shrinking, we have a full tutorial you can review with laundry product recommendations.
  2. The bandanas should be cut at approximately 19” x 19”, however, the exact size of the full scarf as well as the motif will vary. The best way to cut is to simply measure ½” beyond the edge of the motif.
  3. Measure and trim along each of the four sides of the motif
  4. From the fabric for the lining, use one of the cut bandana panels as a pattern to cut TWO lining squares.
  5. From the lightweight fusible interfacing, again use one of the cut bandana panels as a pattern to cut FOUR interfacing squares.
  6. From the quilting cotton, cut the following:
    TWO 32” x 2” strips on the bias
    Enough 2” straight cut strips to equal about 100” of binding when finished and seamed together
    NOTE: Bias strips are cut at 45˚. Cut the strips in as long a continuous length as you can based on the amount of fabric you are working with. The goal is to have as few joining seams as possible. 
  7. From the webbing, cut TWO 30” lengths.

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

Prepare the main panels

  1. Find the three sets of main panel elements: two bandana squares, four interfacing squares, and two lining squares.
  2. Place an interfacing square on the wrong side of the bandana squares and the lining squares. On each, the interfacing squares should be flush with the fabric squares on all four sides. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place.
  3. Layer a bandana panel with a lining panel wrong sides together (interfaced sides together). The layers should be flush on all four sides. Pin together the layers around the perimeter.
  4. With a fabric pen or pencil, draw a large X from corner to corner on the bandana side of each layered set.
  5. Remember, you are working the right side of your fabric, so make sure the marking tool is one that will easily wipe away or will vanish with exposure to the air or the heat of an iron.
  6. Thread the machine with thread to best match the bandana in the top and to best match the lining in the bobbin. Slightly lengthen the stitch.
  7. Stitch along the drawn lines of the giant X through all the layers of each set.

Create and place the handles

  1. Find the two webbing lengths and the two 32” x 2” bias cut strips.
  2. If you were unable to cut continuous bias strips, first seam together all your strips end to end to create the two 32” lengths. To do this, place the ends together at a 90˚ angle. Pin in place.
  3. Re-thread the machine with thread to best match the binding strip in the top and bobbin. Re-set the stitch length to normal.
  4. Using a ¼seam allowance, stitch across the ends.
  5. Press the seam allowances open and flat.
  6. Fold back the 32” sides of each fabric strip ½” so they meet in the middle and press well, creating a 1” wide strip.
  7. Place the webbing lengths flat on your work surface. Place a fabric strip on top of each length of webbing. The fabric strip should be centered edge to edge with 1” extending beyond each end of the webbing. Pin or clip in place.
  8. Wrap the excess 1” of fabric around the raw ends of the webbing. Pin or clip in place. The photo below shows the wrong side of the handle with the end wrapped into place.
  9. Re-thread the machine with thread to best match the binding strip in the top and to best match the webbing in the bobbin. Re-set the machine for a slightly lengthened stitch.
  10. Edgestitch the fabric strip to the webbing, running this seam along each side and across each end. Remember to pivot at all the corners.
  11. Find the two main panels, which should already be layered with the giant X stitched through. Measure to find the exact center along the top of each panel.
  12. Place a handle into position on one panel. The bottom ends of the handle loop should be approximately 4” down from the top raw edge of the panel and each side of the loop should be approximately 3½” from the center point of the panel, which means there should be 7” between the ends and each side of the handle should be about 5” in from the raw edge of the main panels. Pin the handle in place. Before stitching, make sure there are no twists in the loop of the handle.
  13. Re-thread the machine, keeping thread to best match the fabric strip in the top and changing out to thread to best match the lining in the bobbin. Keep a slightly lengthened stitch.
  14. Stitch each end in place with an approximate 1” X Box or Open Box. We used a simple Open Box. If you have new to this technique, we have a full tutorial on how to use an X Box Stitch to secure handles and more.
  15. Repeat to attach the opposite handle on the remaining main panel in the exact same position, using the exact same method.

Bind the sides

  1. Re-thread the machine with thread to best match the binding strip in the top and bobbin. Re-set the stitch length to normal.
  2. Find the 2” lengths of straight-cut binding. Stitch them together end-to-end to create one continuous, approximately 100” length.
  3. Fold the strip in half wrong sides together and press to set a center crease.
  4. Fold back each long raw edge to meet at the center crease line.
  5. Fold in half again so the long folded edges are flush. Press well.
  6. Re-set the machine for a fully lengthened stitch – a basting stitch.
  7. Place the main panels lining sides together. Pin along both sides and across the bottom.
  8. Machine baste along both sides and across the bottom, staying close to the raw edge. A seam allowance would be good.
  9. Cut a length of binding to fit along both sides and across the bottom, plus about 2” for flexibility.
  10. Starting at one upper corner, and with about 1” of binding extending beyond the fabric panels, slip the binding over the raw edges of the layered panels. Continue down the side, pinning or clipping as you go.
  11. At the corner, form a diagonal point then continue across the bottom.
  12. Create a matching diagonal point at the opposite bottom corner, and continue up the remaining side.
  13. Finish at the opposite upper corner to where you started, leaving an approximate 1” tail.
  14. Re-set the machine for a zig zag stitch.
  15. Topstitch the binding in place along both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners. Go slowly with an even speed so the zig zag is symmetrical and to make sure you catch both the front and back of the binding in this one seam. The zig zag stitch is a bit more forgiving than a standard straight stitch when it comes to catching both sides thanks to the back and forth swing of the needle.
  16. Trim the excess binding at the top corners flush with the top of the panels.

Bind the top

  1. From the remaining length of binding, cut a final length to fit around the top of the bag. As above, include an extra 1-2” for flexibility and to finish the seam.
  2. Starting in the approximate center of what will be the back panel of the bag, slip the binding over the top raw edge.
  3. Wrap the binding all around the top raw edge, pinning or clipping in place as you go.
    NOTE: Remember, because your side seams are bound, you will need to fold them back at the top, flattening them to fit up into the top binding. Make sure you fold both sides in the same direction. We recommend folding both sides to the back.
  4. Topstitch the upper binding in place as you did with the side seams using a zig zag stitch. Remember to fold the handles down so they are out of the way of the seam.
  5. When you get back to the center point where you started, finish with your favorite method. We simply turned under the raw edge of the binding tail and overlapped the head by about 1”, trimming away any excess as needed.
  6. Pin or clip this overlap in place.
  7. Stitch across the overlap, making sure to match up with the existing seam.

Optional pom tassel

  1. Collect the multi-colored poms, the pearl cotton floss, and the large-eye embroidery needle. If using pom trim as we did, cut the poms away from the insertion tape. You need to start with about 9-11 poms in a variety of colors.
  2. Thread an approximate 36” length of twisted floss through the embroidery needle. You can use a single strand or multiple strands. 
  3. Make a double knot about 4” up from one end of the floss. The tail will be trimmed to its final length later.
  4. Thread the needle through the center of the first pom, pushing the pom down until it rests against the double knot.
  5. Tie another double knot in the floss, cinching it right up against the top of the pom. These two knots secure the pom in position on the floss. It’s okay if the floss strands become slightly untwisted.
  6. Leave about 2” of floss free, then make another double knot. Thread the next pom onto the floss, pushing it down until it rests against the new knot. Tie another double knot in the floss against the top of this second pom to hold it in position as above – remember to keep that 2” spacing while you’re knotting.
  7. Continue adding two to three additional poms in the same manner. It’s a little like stringing a popcorn garland.
  8. When you get to the final pom on this first side, leave an approximate 7” gap along the floss – knot to knot. This gap will become the center of the tassel that will loop around the handle of the bag.
  9. At the end of the 7” gap, start the second side of poms, attaching each pom in the same manner.
  10. It looks best if the tassel tails have differing numbers of poms. If you used 5 poms on the first side, use 4 poms on the second side. If you used 6 poms on the first side, use 5 poms on the second side.
  11. About ½” below the first and last pom, tie another double knot. Trim the excess floss, leaving just ¼” to ½” of floss below the bottom knots on each side. Fluff out these tiny tails.
  12. Loop the tassel over one side of one handle and tie in place or simply leave it to dangle.


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

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2 years ago

This is super cute and looks fun to make. I am curious as to why the binding has to be cut on the bias. It looks like it is all straight edges. Thank you.

Liz Johnson
Liz Johnson
2 years ago
Reply to  Cindy

Hi Cindy – So glad you like the bag – it will be fun to make. If you check the getting started section above, you’ll see that only the strips for the handles are cut on the bias as those of course will curve. The balance is cut straight for the sides and top:
TWO 32” x 2” strips on the bias
Enough 2” straight cut strips to equal about 100” of binding when finished and seamed together

2 years ago

I love this!!! I actually have some bandana in my stash that I bought from onlinefabricstore. They have very good prices. I plan to make a dress and whatever is left could be a future bag. THANKS for sharing … FIESTA 🙂

Liz Johnson
Liz Johnson
2 years ago
Reply to  MonicaAD

Hi MonicaAD – well I sounds like you are good to go. Let us know how it turns out.

2 years ago

This is very beautiful!! Just what I wanted, where can I purchase that exact bandana design to make my own?

Liz Johnson
Liz Johnson
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris

Hi Chris – all the instructions for both cutting your bandanas and assembly are right here on the page – nothing to buy fro S4H :-). If you mean the bandanas themselves – you can find those just about everywhere both in stores and online.

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