Sea Shell Collecting Bag Tutorial

I love the beach.  The sand, the waves, the sun….and especially the shells.  There is something so relaxing about going for beach walks and poking around at what the tide bought it. My kids and I could spend forever walking beaches, looking for driftwood, crab shells, seaweed and sea shells.

So,  I have been working on the perfect sea shell collecting bag.   I had a basic idea of where to start – a cross body bag with a mesh base so that I could wear it hands free and all the sand and salt water would drip or shake right out.  Before our trip to South Carolina this summer,  I sewed up three cross-body bags – one of canvas and fiberglass screening, one of cotton and polyester mesh (like for a laundry bag) and one of ripstop nylon and fiberglass screening.  I gave one to each kid and made a large one of my favorite for myself.After a week at the beach – there was one clear winner – the ripstop nylon and screen bag.  Lightweight, quick drying, resistant to mildew, and able to survive being dragged through the ocean AND thrown to the bottom of the toy bag looking no worse for the wear.  Perfect!

We will be including these on our packing list for future beach trips and even for walks in the woods here at home.  What better to hold the million flowers, rocks and leaves my kids find?

Here is a tutorial to make your own:

Sea Shell Collecting Bag Tutorial


This bag is essentially a fancy version of a basic tote.  The bag will be 10 in wide by 11 in high when done.  All raw edges on the bag are enclosed in french seams because ripstop nylon can fray easily and screen just looks a bit more finished that way.  We will first sew the nylon top on both ends of the bag and then fold in half and sew the side seams.  The cross body strap is added last, making it easy to customize the length.

Time and Skill Level:

This is  probably an intermediate sewing project, not because the design is tricky, but because the fabrics are unusual.  Ripstop nylon can be a bit slippery to work with and none of the materials can be ironed. Time wise, it is fairly quick, less than an hour.


  • Fiberglass mesh screening – a 17 by 11 inch piece. I picked this up at the hardware store in a huge roll.  It is easy to cut – just use your craft scissors or an old rotary cutter
  • Ripstop nylon – two 6.5 by 11 inch pieces
  • 1 in polyester webbing – between 50 to 56 in for an adult or about 36 in for a child


Step 1

Fold your pieces of nylon in half to form two 3.25 by 10 in pieces.  Gently press with a warm dry iron to crease.  Be careful not to melt your nylon.  I always use a pressing cloth for this step – too much heat and your ripstop nylon will start to pucker.

Step 2

Clip or pin the folded ripstop nylon to your piece of screening at each end.  The raw edges should be placed against the edge of the screen.  If you use pins, be sure to pin within the quarter inch  seam allowance.

Step 3

Enclose the raw edges in french seams —

Stitch a seam along each 11 inch edge, leaving a 1/4 in seam allowance.

Trim the seam allowance to 1/8 in.

Next, fold along the seam encasing the raw edge between the nylon and screening.  Stitch a new 1/4 inch seam along each edge.

You now have a 1/4 wide flap on each side that encases the raw edges.

This is the inside of your bag.  Lay the flap flat against the nylon and stitch a new seam, about a 1/8 inch from where the flap meets the nylon.  Repeat for other side.

Step 4

Sewing the side french seams —

Fold your bag in 1/2, with right sides out, so that the two nylon bands meet.  Stitch a seam along each edge, leaving a 1/4 in seam allowance.

Trim the seam allowance to 1/8 in.

Next, turn the bag wrong side out, with the raw edges encased between the nylon and screening.

Stitch a new 1/4 inch seam along each edge.

You now have a 1/4 wide flap on each side that encases the raw edges.  Turn the bag right side out and voila! A mesh and nylon bag with finished seams.

Step 5

Measure a length of webbing – about 36 to 40 inches for a child or around 50 to 56 inches for an adult.  I like to pin or clip it to the bag to test out the length before I start sewing.

Fold the end of strap under about a 1/2 inch.  Place the folded edge against the seam where the nylon meets the screening and stitch in place, covering the side seam.  I  like to start at the base and stitch the full rectangle around the area of webbing that is touching the ripstop nylon.  Do the same to the other side when done.

Step 6

Your bag is ready to use!  But I usually like to add a bit of extra embellishment.  A stencil in fabric paint or a permanent ink stamp design would look great.

A tutorial for making your own hand carved stamps can be found here.

Tips for stenciling can be found here.

Have fun making something unique!