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Posts Tagged ‘sewing school bags’

New School Bags

My girls needed new school bags this year and since I’m sooo on top of things, I started thinking about them in early summer.  I fiddled with some designs on paper wanting to make a new pattern, but thanks to busy summer days that flew by faster than a roller coaster ride, that plan flew out the window.

In the end I came back to what was comfortable and easy, and made the wonderful free pattern from Larissa from Mmmm Crafts.  It’s the same pattern I used two years ago, the last time I made school bags.

Larissa’s pattern is for a messenger bag, but needed altering to make it large enough to serve as a school messenger bag. I altered the sizing last time around, but since my girls are bigger and love to carry lots in their bags, I made them even larger this time.

The changes I made to the sizing are as follows:

  • For the body and lining:  17″ x 28″
  • For the flap:  15″ x 15″
  • Outside pocket: 12″ x 8″
  • Inside pocket: 11″ x 6″
  • Strap:  45″ x 5″ (I cut ours down to 37″ for my girls and still feel like it’s a bit long.  Definitely adjust to suit the child!)

After having used their bags for a couple of years, I also planned some improvements to the pattern to give it added stablility.

Last time I made the bags, I scored on Denyse Schmidt home weight fabrics for $4 a yard, bringing the total of the finished bags to just about $5.  This time around there was no such luck.

I opted for a light-weight dark denim from JoAnn’s using a 50% of one cut of fabric coupon.  This was a great inexpensive option, at less than $10 for the fabric for both bags.  Plus the denim hides the dirt nicely and wears well.

I did splurge and paid full price for the trim and fabric for inside of the bags.  It’s a Lecien Old New Fabric, a 1930′s inspired strawberry print.  I would have liked something with apples for school, but I love the strawberry print too.

The fabric inspired the simple design I created of strawberry and flowers.  I used the Slice Fabrique to cut the flowers from the Spring Has Sprung design card.

I couldn’t find a strawberry in the design cards I have, so I went looking for a template and found a perfect one online at a kid’s crafts website.

I traced the pattern to the paper side of my Making Memories Fusible Web which I really love working with, by the way.  It’s easier to trace on than Heat n’ Bond Lite, my previously favorite fusible web.

Just like last time, I made pencil dividers and little pocket dividers on the inside pocket.

Something new I added this time was 2 inch nylon strap material to the inside of the strap.  I cut a 5 inch strap from the fabric, pressed the 1/2 inch hem down both sides, and pressed the strap in half.  Then I snugged the nylon down under one of the folded hem and pinned the strap together.

Then stitched down both sides, thus securing the nylon inside the strap.  The pressure is on when you are stitching a light thread on a DARK demin.  There is no hiding your lines.  But I wanted the classic look of the light thread on denim, so I used nice yellow tan.

The strap turned out fabulous and is much more comfortable for the added stability.  It won’t be rolling up or twisting up like their last bags.

One last great improvement (that I did part way last time, and all the way this time) was to add fusible fleece to the bag.  Last time I added it to the main body only.  This time I added it to the entire bag.  Adding it is simple.  I fused the fleece to the main body of the bag and the flap.  I even added to the outside pocket, since I was using all quilting fabric.

The fusible fleece gives the bag a nice heavy, stand up feel.

The girls are so in love with their new bags.  Emma came home from the first day of school to say, “I have the cutest bag in the 4th grade, maybe in the whole school.”   She knows just how to butter me up.

Sewing School Bags


My kids started school last Thursday.  I started sewing school bags for them on Wednesday and optimistically thought I might be able to finish their bags that day.  But I didn’t.  It took me until Sunday to get them finished.  And it wasn’t because they were hard…  they weren’t.  In fact they were really fun and easy to make.

It was the design that had me stumped.  Emma wanted an owl on her bag.  Lily wanted first a butterfly, then a hedgehog and finally a squirrel.  Lily’s fabric (above) had a lot going on, so the design really competed with the fabric.  Emma and I disagreed on the owl.  She liked one with feet and sort of a side view… I liked a front view design.  It was her bag… so I did what she wanted (and we are both pleased with the result.)

The bag pattern I started with was from a totally wonderful and well illustrated free Messenger Bag pattern from Larissa at mmmcrafts.

The bag wasn’t perfectly suited for a school bag however, so I made a few minor modifications.  Larissa’s finished bag is 12″ x 12″, not quite wide enough to hold school books.  So, I added an extra 2 inches to the width, and an additional 2″ width to the inside and outside pockets.  I added two pencil holders to the inside pocket, and because the girls will be toting around books in their bags I used a Pellon Fusible Fleece to give the bag more weight and stability.  Some other minor changes was to add a small loop near the side handle because my girls love to hang key chains or small toys from their bag.  I also made the strap two colored, but that was because I was a little short on fabric. I had 3 inches to cut the long 45″ strips and I did not want narrow straps!   So I used the lining fabric on the reverse, and I love how it looks.

Here’s what you need for this project:

  • 3/4 yard of  home weight fabrics (54″ wide) for the body
  • 3/4  yard of  home weight fabrics (54″ wide)  for the lining
  • Pellon fusible fleece (16″ x 25″ piece)
  • a small amount of fabric for decorating plus rick rack, and buttons
  • HeatnBond lite for the design

Here are the dimensions of the pieces for the bags I made:

  • strap, cut 2-  3″ x 45″  (For Lily and Emma I had to cut the strap down a lot…  You customize the length when the bag is nearly done.)
  • body and lining, cut 1 each- 16″ x 25″
  • Pellon fusible fleece, cut 1 – 16″ x 25″


  • flap and flap lining, cut 1 each- 14″ x 13.5″  (I used a cereal bowl to round my corners, Larissa recommends a 6.5″ circle.  I placed my fabrics right sides together, traced the rounded edge of the bowl and cut out the rounded corner of both the flap and the lining at the same time.)
  • outside pocket, cut 2 – 11″ x 7.5″  (again I cut one from the body fabric and one from the lining fabric)
  • inside pocket, cut 2 – 11″ x 5.5″ (ditto)
  • key chain loop, cut 1 – 1.5″ x 3″ (press in half, wrong sides together, then press a hem on both sides evenly.  Stitch close the the edge)


For the design of the bags I stumbled upon a wonderful template for the squirrels at The Long Thread.  The owl was a bit more tricky.  I had trouble finding a nice template.  With the popularity of owls I was really surprised.  I found this one from Martha Stewart.  But Emma didn’t love it.  I ended up drawing the owl free-hand based off an owl stamp Emma liked… and drawing the branch and leaves as well.  (If anyone is interested in the design, I can make a template.)


Start by tracing your design onto the smooth side of a piece of HeatnBond light or Wonder Under.  Iron the design to the back of your fabric.  Keep in mind that your design will be reversed when you cut it out.  IMG_5896

Using good scissors carefully cut around your design.

For the squirrel bag, I used a strip of brown fabric to offset the design.  I also used rick rack on the top and bottom of the strip.  Here is the technique for sewing on the rick rack.


Line your rick rack along the top edge of your fabric and stitch down the middle of the rick rack.  I sew to the right of center, but still in the middle section.


Press the outer edge of the rick rack under.  This flips the inside edge to the outside.


Now lay out your design and fuse your design pieces to the front flap.  Using a decorative stitch, stitch around your design pieces.  I used a machine blanket stitch.  You can also blanket stitch by hand.  Or use a machine zigzag… whatever you fancy.


For the owl bag, I used buttons for the eyes.  You’ll want to finish stitching and embellishing all your design elements before you assemble your bag.

Once you have had fun creating your design… and sweating over it like me… it’s time to assemble your bag.  Larissa at mmmcrafts has done an amazing job diagramming each step.

The only major change I made to her instructions (other than the changes to size) was adding the fusible fleece.  I did this by fusing the fleece to the liner of my bag after the inside pocket had been added.  Then when I was sewing the liner together in step 7, I changed my seem allowance to 3/8″ to give a little extra room with the added padding.  I squared the corners according to her instructions, but I had to trim the corner piece off after sewing about a 1/4″ from the seam.


The last small changes I made were adding in the little loop for a keychain (slightly out of focus above,) and sewing two seams in the inside pocket for pencils.  I made the pencil holders by measuring in 7/8″ line and stitching along from the outside seam of the pocket.  Then I measured one more.  Stitch down the line, making sure to back stitch at the top of each seam.  You could add a loop with a snap.  But for the girls I just added a small loop.


The girls can’t wait to fill the nice big pocket on the outside of the bag.


Emma’s off to school.  The girls love their new bags… now I want to make one for me.  Wait, wait… did I mention the fabric cost me $4 a bag?  Isn’t that the coolest?


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