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The Quilt Blogger's Messenger Bag with Recycled Denim

I needed a bag that I could carry all the stuff that I need as a quilt blogger.  Now, I know I could have gone out and purchased a messenger bag but that's not me.  As a quilter and a blogger, I want to make my own.  I had found an adorable Micheal Kors bag but it wasn't big enough.  Not only was it not big enough it wasn't in my budget.  Since it was a denim bag I knew I could make it out of my recycled denim.  Also since I was making it myself I could make it what I needed it to be.  I needed a bag that would hold my iPad, my planner, my phone, pens, graph paper, colored pencils, a ruler, and whatever else I might need that day.  The other thing I wanted was all that room without carrying a suitcase.  It doesn't matter if you are a quilt blogger or not this really is the ultimate messenger bag.  By shopping my stash I was able to make this bag for about $5.00.  There's no way you can get a designer bag for that price.

quilt blogger bag

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The two bags below are what inspired this whole project.  I liked the raveling of the first bag.  It makes me think of a rag quilt.  I liked the denim layout of the backpack.  It reminds me of quilt binding.  This bag is actually really easy to make.  As quilters, we all know binding is no big deal to make and that's what adds all the character to the bag.

I'm a huge fan of denim and that's probably why I was drawn to these particular bags.  I could live in jeans and my toe shoes or boots.  Jeans are pretty much the standard uniform around here for both males and females.

Supplies Needed To Make Bag

10 yards of denim binding
1 yard of lining fabric
1 waistband the length you want your bag to be, I used a 34" waist for mine
1 pocket from jeans
Patch from jeans - optional
Overlock Machine
Sewing Machine

Constructing The Bag 

The first step is to break down our denim.  Once you have your jeans broke down you'll want to cut 2 1/2 inch wide strips and sew them like you would binding with a 1/2 inch seam allowance.  You want that wide seam allowance to help make things lie flat.  Since denim is so much heavier than our normal fabric a quarter inch seam would be lumpy.  I varied the length of my strips so I'd get a nice striping effect.  I used three different pairs of jeans so I could get that light, medium, dark look like the backpack,  I also didn't cut around any stains or wear marks that didn't change the integrity of the denim.  I wanted my bag to have character.  Living in farming country jeans are the work uniform and I wanted to pay homage to my roots with this bag.

I used my overlock machine to put the panels together.  The overlock machine gives you a clean finish and a double stitched seam.  It also makes quick work of making the panels.  If you use a regular sewing machine you'll want to take a wider seam allowance where will change your overall bag size.  If you want the same size bag you'll need to make more denim binding.  If you sew on a regular machine you'll need to take a large seam allowance or make two seams.

We start by making the three panels.  One for the planner area of the bag, one for the iPad/work supplies area, and the third panel makes the back and the front.  The third panel has a little extra built in so we can have something a taller in the back pocket area.  This area can be used for a ruler, maybe a small cutting mat, or even a laptop instead of the iPad.


Panel one is 5 strips wide and each strip is 9 and 1/4 inches long.
Panel two is 6 strips wide and each strip is 10 inches long.
Panel three is 6 strips wide and each strip is 29 inches long.
Small Pocket side is 28 inches long
Large pocket side is 32 and 1/2 inches long

Once you have the three panels sewn together you need to cut a lining piece the same side of the panels and the sides.  Your panels should come out to 9 and 1/2 inches wide by 9 and 1/4 inches tall, 12 inches wide by 10 inches tall, and 12 inches by 29 inches tall.  You want to sew the lining to the panels and small pocket side along the top and the bottom with your overlock machine.  Turn everything right side out and give it a good press.  

Now it's time to put the overlock machine away.  We will be using our regular sewing machine from here on out.  Before you switch your machine thread over you want to baste the lining fabric to your large pocket side strip.  Our strap will end up being attached to this piece but it's nice to keep those two pieces together.  You'll use normal thread in the bobbin.  The bobbin thread can either match your lining fabric or your top stitch thread.  You want a denim needle in your machine.  You'll use the denim top-stitching thread in the top.  Denim top-stitch thread comes in a ton of different colors.  I went with traditional rust colored thread.  That's what Wrangler and Levi use and Wrangler and Levi are the standard jean in my area.

Note about using the denim top-stitching thread 

The top-stitching thread is a thick cotton thread.  You'll want to do some testing before you start sewing on the bag.  My Necchi BU hated the thickness of the thread.  It didn't want to feed the thread.  So I had to switch machines.  I went for the Rocketeer and it had no issue at all.  I believe the difference is the way the thread goes through the tension assembly.  You may also have to adust your tension.

So now that we have our machine set-up we can sew!!  We start by top stitching the top and bottom of the two smaller panels.  You don't have to top stitch the large panel because we are going to sew over that area later on.  I did top stitch because I wasn't thinking so I have double stitching in a few areas.  You also want to top stitch the side panel for the small pocket.  The hard part is done!

Putting All The Parts Together

Now that you have all the parts made we have to put them together.  I found making the parts to be the most time consuming part of the whole project.  The actual bag went together in under an hour.  Remember to backstitch at the begining and the end of your seams.  Read the directions on your snap and attach it at the point it calls for.

I started by finding the center of my large pocket and the small pocket.  I laid the small pocket on top and traced the sides.  This becomes our guideline for our sides.

We are going to sew this a little different than normal.  Instead of hiding our seams we want them on the outside.  This will help us get that great ravel effect.  So lining side of the side piece to the denim side of the pocket.  When you sew the sides on you want to stop 1/4 inch from where you need to turn so you can make that turn.  This is just like sewing binding on nothing we haven't done before.

Now we sew the small pocket.  We want the seam on the outside again.  We sew the pocket on the same way we sewed the side on.

We need to attach our handle.  We are using a waistband for this so you'll need to find a pair of jeans with the right size of waist.  I'm fairly short waisted so I went with a pair of jeans with a 34" waist.  I wanted the button showing so I cut the waistband in half on the back side of the waistband.  If you wanted to you could leave the belt loops.  Your strap would just be a little wider.

To attach the strap you need to unsew about an inch of the basting we did on that side piece on each end.  Once you have it open slide in the cut end of your strap and sew it all together.  I did two rows of stitching just to make sure that strap was in there well.  Attach the side panel to the large pocket the same way you did the small side panel.

I wanted a pocket for my phone on the inside of my bag.  I used a pocket off of a pair of jeans.  I actually bought a plastic shopping bag of pockets so I just dug through there to find the pocket I wanted.  You don't want a pocket with rivets though.

Since the sides are open on the back panel adding the pocket is no problem even without a free arm.  You want to put the pocket on what will be the backside of the large pocket.  I used the original stitching as my stitching guide.  This means that pocket will be good a sturdy.

To attach the back panel we are going to use the same method as before.  Since I wanted to do this as one contious seam I "pinned" the panel to the pockets.

 I did two seams on the sides and bottom.  This is where the bulk of the weight will be so I wanted to make sure it was good and strong.  Take out the basting on the large side.  At this point our bag is done.  Your snap should be added.  Each snap manufacture is going to have you do it differently so install it the way they tell you.

I wanted to doll it up just a bit so I cut off the Wrangler patch that they put on pockets.  I put this on the front over my snap on the front.  I used a fun varrigated thread for this because why not?

I hand stitched this down because there's just no way to do it by machine.  I doubled my thread too.

To get the ravel look we'll need to wash our bag.  When it comes out of the wash it will need a "hair" cut.  Once you get the big threads cut off you have a great bag.  It will ravel more each time you wash it. This is after one washing I will probably wash it two or three times more to really get that white fuzz going.

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quilt blogger messenger bag

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