I've been promising a bag tutorial. Sorry that it's taken me so long. Knitting next time.
Beach/Pool/Farmer's Market Bag
Here are the steps for the most basic of bags. From here modifications are yours to make - have fun. Follow these concepts and you'll be improvising in no time. This all assumes you know how to sew, have basic tools and know how to use them and have made a few things or quilted. If not, I suggest starting with any of the beginners books out right now. Now is a great time to learn sewing.
I made this bag in a morning. The pieces were cut and the pocket made the day before, but the rest was sewn over a few hours with all the typical breaks. It really is an afternoon project. I use these same techniques on my fancier totes, but with more details and fabric piecing.
This whole thing cost less than $10, probably closer to $5. Bought the 100% cotton decor fabric at JoAnn's for 50% off. The lightweight natural cotton lining was incredibly inexpensive (less than $2/yd). I used 100% cotton thread in a neutral color and a patch of iron-on stabilizer behind the pocket. A scrap of batting from a quilt project runs inside of the shoulder strap. The web handles were an odd bit from a sale bin at JoAnn's.
Finished bag size (all measurements in inches): 18w x 16h x 7d -- This is a big bag. There are four beach towels in the bag in the photos above. For a small bag follow all the instructions below, just change the body dimensions to suit.
The long strap is about 2.5 wide and is designed to cross over the body, but it turned out just a touch too long for me (I'm 5'2"). When I get the chance I'll nip it down. Shoulder straps would be shorter. Consider the strap width and style you prefer and run a tape measure over your shoulder and over some bags you have to get a good measurement.
Use a .5" seam allowance for all seams unless otherwise indicated.
Note: You can piece the outside however you like as long as the totals always add up. Remember to factor in the seam allowances whenever you make cuts. Don't stress minor mishaps. No one will know if the whole thing is 1/2" less than you planned - just recalculate and move forward.
Cut the Fabric:
Decor fabric 25 x 40
Lining 25 x 40
Decor fabric 4X the desired width of the strap (e.g., 10 wide for a 2.5 strap) and 2 - 4 inches longer than desired final length
Batting just a little shy of the final width of the strap (e.g. a smidge under 2.5") and same length or a smidge longer (you'll trim this later)
Fold the decor strip in half.
Open, fold each edge to the middle crease, then fold in half again (now 2.5 wide).
Iron to set creases.
Open the strip and lay the batting along one side of the center crease, then fold as above.
Pin down the center.
Sew close to the edge (a fat 1/8) along the open side first, then turn and sew the same seam width on the opposite edge.
Remove the pins and sew two channels down the strap, one on each side of the center. This will keep the strap from crunching and bunching. There are some close up photos of the strap further down.
Trim the ends. If making two straps, trim them to exactly the same length.
This photo is from another bag, but you get the idea.
Make and attach any pockets:
Sorry, but I'm skipping these instructions. Just make a patch and sew it on. You can see my inside pocket on the lining here. Just be sure that the edges of the pocket will not cross into the bottom or sides of the bag after it's sewn.
Make the Body and Lining (same instructions):
Fold fabric in half, right sides together, to create a 25 x 20 rectangle.
Pin along the sides.
Sew a seam from the fold to the raw edges on each side. Sewing from the fold allows any variances so push out the ends.
Keeping the pieces inside out, make the corners as follows (see photos below): Create a triangle at each bottom corner with the side seam centered on top. I love my large Olfa mat for this.
Cut so that the .5" seam will create the desired bottom width. Check this very carefully before cutting. In this photo I'm measuring the 7" seam. You might want to mark this with a pencil for sewing. Then I moved the ruler .5" up to create the .5'" allowance. Check again before cutting to be sure the side seam is straight on the mat and under the ruler lines and that the triangle edges are aligned.
Iron the side seams open and pin if desired.
Sew. Repeat on each bottom side of the bag and lining.
This is what your pieces should look like at this point.
Attach the Strap(s):
Important Note: I attached the side straps first and regretted that. When using center and side straps, attach the center ones first so the side seams will lie flat as you're trying to find center. I'm showing it here in the order I did it so the photos make sense. Obviously it's possible, but it makes centering the straps much more challenging.
Turn the bag right side out.
Place the strap(s) as desired with about 1" above the raw edge of the bag. For this bag I'm centering each strap end on a side seams (see photo). Be sure not to twist the strap.
Pin and sew only across the width of the strap a touch less than .5" from the top of the body. This is just to anchor the strap to the body for the final steps. Check the placement and test the length (better than I did).
For center handles, find the center of each side of the bag and attach the handles as above. I used webbing for this bag, but if you're making fabric shoulder straps you would attach them this same way. Align the straps very carefully. Check the centering, width between and total length very carefully. Check, pin, check, pin again.
Finish the bag:
Place the lining, still wrong side out, over the bag and pin along the top edges for a .5" seam around the top. The straps should be between the bag and the lining, which are now right sides together. A bit of fiddling is required at this point to get all the seams aligned. Align the side seams and then check the handles again to be sure they're even and going straight down into the bag. The more careful you are at this point, the better your bag will look. Take your time. This is a chance to correct any minor inconsistencies.
Sew around the top edges leaving a 4 - 5" opening. I generally leave this opening near a side seam, but not on the seam or a strap. Be sure to back tack at each end because this seam will be stressed in the next step.
Reach in the opening and pull the outside of the bag through the opening. Work slowly and try not to stress the top seam. This is a bit fiddly, so don't get frustrated. You'll figure it out as you go in one of those ah-ha moments. As you finish the lining will flip into its proper place inside of the bag.
Tuck the raw edges of the opening .5" between the layers even with the seam.
Iron all around the top edge and pin if you need.
Sew a narrow seam (a fat 1/8") around the entire top, closing the opening. I usually sew a second seam between .5 and 1" down from the top to reinforce the top and capture the strap ends (now between the layers) at a lower point.
Congratulations. You've made a bag.
Have a great weekend everyone.
PS: When I first published this I used indented bullet points for the instructions. It looked great on the editing screen, but published as centered text. I tried overriding it with left align HTML codes, but it didn't take. It reads OK on Firefox, but not IE. Not worth futzing with so I just removed the codes, but I'm sorry it doesn't read easier.