Saturday, September 10, 2011

Mini Book Bag - Tutorial

Today I went to a 1st birthday party for one of the bub's in my mums' group and wanted to take a gift.  I hate giving "more toys" because most kids these days have too many.  I'd given books as a gift previously so wanted to do something a little different.  I decided on making a mini book bag.  It's not big enough to be a school library bag, but is great for toddlers small board books, and I'm sure it will get used for all sorts of other things too.
His mum loved it and was showing it around to everyone.  She even said to someone "did you see this?  Oh, you did... will here, see it again!"
It's a great little item that's quick and easy to make, and turns into a really special, personalised gift.

A note on size
There are three books in my bag, the largest is 6" x 7-1/2" and all the books together are 1" thick.  My finished bag is approximately 7-1/2" wide x 9" tall and the books just fit nicely.  You can make your bag any size you want depending on what size books you have.  Just cut your fabric 1" larger in both directions than your desired finished bag size.  If you make the bag wider you will also need to allow extra twill tape for the handles.  When considering size, don't forget to factor in the thickness of the books as well as the height and width.

What you'll need
2 rectangles of main fabric 8-1/2" x 10"
2 rectangles of lining fabric 8-1/2" x 10"
2 rectangles of batting  8-1/2" x 10"
2 pieces of 1" wide twill tape, each 12" long
Embroidered name panel (optional)
I made my name panel using the built-in fonts in my embroidery machine, and then trimmed the panel leaving 1/2" all around the name.  You could easily hand embroidery a panel, use fabric paint/pens/crayons or even screen printing.

Fold over 1/4" all around the name panel and press.  I like to add scraps of fusible web to the back (which I save specially) to help hold the piece in place when I'm sewing it down.

Position the name panel where you would like it and press it onto the bag front then sew close to the folded edge.

Lay out your fabrics in the following order from bottom to top (as shown in photograph):
Bag back - right side up
Bag front - wrong side up
Make sure all your fabrics align around the edges, I have just laid them out like this so you can see which layer goes where.

When all edges are matched up, sew down one long side, across the bottom and back up the other side with a 1/2" seam allowance.

Place your two lining pieces right sides together.  With a seam allowance slightly larger than 1/2", sew down one long side, across the bottom, then 1"-2" up the other side.  Reinforce your stitches (reverse) and then stop sewing.  Sew 1"-2" down from the top on that side, ensuring you reinforce at the edge of the opening. (Click on the image for a better view)

Trim the corners on your bag and lining pieces, ensuring you don't cut too close to your stitching.

Turn the bag (with wadding attached) right side out, but leave your lining as it is.  Pin your handles to the outside of the bag.  The handles should fall down the side of the bag which raw edges lined up to the raw edges of the bag (back handle is folded up for photo only).  I've placed my handles 1"-2" in from the side seams, you may need to adjust this measurement if you have changed the size of your bag.  Baste handles in place if you like to baste things (I just use pins)

Place the bag with the handles inside the lining.  Match up the side seams and pin in place.

Sew around the top edge with a 1/2" seam allowance, reversing over the handles to reinforce.

Trim the wadding from the seam allowance to reduce bulk

Pull the bag out through the opening in the lining, then push the lining into the bag (get it right down into the corners) and check the top edge.  If the lining rolls to the outside too much you can turn it all inside out again through the opening and increase the seam allowance along the bottom edge of the lining.  In my case, it was just right, the little bit of roll you see will be fixed with a good press.

Pull the lining out of the bag again and lay flat.  Press the seam allowance in the opening and make sure the two edges line up neatly.

Top stitch the opening close to the edge.  If you prefer a neater finish you can slip stitch the opening closed by hand.

Push the lining back into the bag, remembering to tuck the corners right down into the bottom.  Press the top edge neatly and fill with books!


  1. Thank you, Karen, for a great tutorial! That makes a great birthday gift!
    By the way, I LOVE your new banner!!!

  2. Oh my goodness how cute is this - and once again, I'm asking permission to use your pic! I'll have to link you for sure!
    ps - love your new banner too!!!

  3. Nicely done Karen! Congratulations on such a lovely tutorial too! very clear and good directions!!!

  4. What a great idea Karen.. Wish I had thought of this when my kids were little...



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