I sew stuff for my kids all the time- dress up clothes, stuffed animals, bean bags…. But, I usually decide what to make and just dump it in their lap when done. Although they love and use a lot of my creations, they don’t get a lot of say in what they get. For this travel bag project, I intentionally included my little guys in the design process. And they LOVED watching their ideas come to life.
It all started when my 5 year old, Grant, asked me to sew him something to carry his legos in while on vacation. We had a 10 hour road trip to Charleston coming up, and sewing small bags seemed like a great way to avoid all the planning and packing!
So, we sat down and talked about what he wanted —a zip pouch, a tote bag. He settled on a tote bag with Velcro to keep it closed. We talked what size the bag would be and the supplies we needed to make it. The next day, I took him to Jo Ann Fabric and let him pick what he wanted. We ended up with orange straps, superhero fabric and blue lining. What did I expect? Take this boy into a fabric store and he will find the one bolt covered in superheros — it is like he has some kind of superhero radar….
Clearly, we couldn’t leave his sisters out, so we brought home more licensed fabric – Marvel Superheros, Minnie Mouse and My Little Pony — definitely a first in this house. I am usually more of a hand dyed or small print kinda girl.
Once home, there was that constant chanting chorus of “Are they done yet?” Apparently, I am supposed to have those superhero powers…..they loved being part of the planning process. I was surprised how much ownership they took in the making of the bags, even though I was the one doing the sewing!
With a 1/2 yard of the print, I made each kid a tote bag, travel pillow and velcro wallet. We “toted” these bags from Akron, Ohio all the way to Charleston, South Carolina. Back home, they have been coming in handy too – great for any long car rides. This was such a fun project to make with the kids while everyone was getting excited about our big trip! Here is how I made these:
- 1/2 yard of quilting cotton weight fabric for outside of bag
- 1/2 yard of quilting cotton weight fabric for lining
- 1 yard of 1 in wide webbing for straps
- 4 inches of velcro
- low loft cotton batting, felt or fusible fleece to interface the bag – two 15 by 14 inch pieces and one 7 by 9 inch piece
Time and Skill Level:
This is a pretty quick project. I found that cutting out the fabric and getting together the supplies took as much time as the sewing. It would be a good beginner level project.
Here we go:
Cut the Fabric
I used a 1/2 yard of outer fabric to make a bag, pillow and “wallet.” In order to do this, I had to be very creative with my cutting. Fold your fabric in half. From the side with raw edges (opposite the folded edge) cut out a 15 inch long by 14 inch high rectangle. This will leave a piece of folded fabric that, when unfolded, measures 18 by 16. The scrap strip of fabric can be cut down into a few 7 inch by 3.5 inch rectangles – you will need three for the wallet.
For the rest of the bag: From both the lining and batting, cut two 15 wide by 14 tall rectangles. You now have six 14 by 15 inch rectangles for the bag. From the bottom corners, cut out 2 inch squares on each side. Check out the Bag Pattern for more detail. Cut your webbing into two 18 inch pieces.
For the wallet: From the lining and batting fabric, cut out a 7 inch by 9 inch rectangle. Cut a two inch length of Velcro for the wallet.
Layer the outer fabric with the batting, placing the right sides of the fabric together (batting on the outside and stitch three seams with 1/2 inch seam allowance. Two side seams and one along the bottom. Leave the cut in squares on the bottom edges unsewn, like in the below picture. Do the same for the lining fabric.
To give the bag shape, open up the cut out squares and pin the seams together. Sew the corner seams with a 1/2 inch seam allowance. These new seams will go an opposite direction from the ones in Step 1. Do the same with the lining fabric. Check out that dimension! I love a good boxed bottom for a bag!
Turn the outside of the bag, right side out and insert the lining. Match up the bottom bag corners with the lining and smooth the lining up the side of the bag. It is okay if the lining is longer than the bag at some points. You will fold that extra into the top seam and never see it. The goal here is to have an evenly lining bag without excess lining bunching down inside it. Fold down the top edge of the bag one inch, towards the inside and pin. Fold the lining fabric towards the wrong side and pin as well. At first everything looks like a mess, but it will come together.
Measure three inches in from the side seam and pin the straps in place, slipping the edge of the webbing into the pinned edge Be sure to check that your straps don’t get twisted when you pin them!
Top stitch the edge of the bag to finish. I always like to extra back stitch the straps for added strength. Tote bag is done!
This pillow is the easiest part of the whole thing.
Pin the pillow together as a 9 by 14 rectangle. Sew a 1/2 inch seam around the perimeter, leaving a 3 inch gap for stuffing.
Turn right side out, pushing out your corners and stuff with fiberfill. I like to understuff, especially for a pillow that will be a car seat/booster seat travel pillow.
Hand or machine stitch the opening closed.
The Velcro Wallet
Sew the three scraps together on the 7 inch side (using a 1/4 inch seam allowance) to make a 7 by 9 piece of fabric. Don’t worry, once the wallet is folded up, you won’t even see these seams – so it doen’t matter if the pattern matches at the seams.
Layer your fabric like the picture above – batting, then outside fabric right-side up, and last lining fabric with right-side down.
Sew around the perimeter of the rectangle, leaving a 3 inch gap on one of the long sides for turning. I used a 1/4 inch seam allowance and clipped the corners when done.
Turn your wallet right side out, poking out the corners. Center and pin a piece of Velcro about 1/2 inch down from the top edge. Stitch Velcro in place.
Fold the wallet in thirds so that it has a top flap. Pin the sides together and zigzag stitch close to the edges to secure the pocket. Next, pin and sew the Velcro to the top flap, making sure that it lines up with the Velcro on the body of the wallet.
Wallet is done!
If you have multiple children, repeat the whole process until everyone is happy. Now the kids are ready to travel in style.
Here are some close ups of the color combinations we used: