Tutorial: Super Easy Bag from Repurposed Clothing


Years ago I taught wearable art classes, and I’ve always had class samples hanging in my closet, most of them rarely worn.  I did wear this red quilted jacket a lot, and it was starting to show some wear, so I felt it was time to give it new life.  This little bag was the solution.  With this particular construction technique, you sew the lining and the outside of the bag all at the same time, so that they are permanently attached to each other along the side seams.  This way, your lining will rest more smoothly inside the bag, and you don’t have to worry about the lining not fitting quite right, as is often the case.

My finished bag measures approximately 6-1/2″ wide by 8-1/2″ tall, with a 3-1/2″ flap.  For this size you will need a 7″ x 21″ piece each of outer fabric and lining.  I also used a 2″ x 4″ piece for my button loop, and salvaged part of the jacket’s front band for the strap.  I won’t be showing you how to make a strap from scratch this time around, so you’ll need to take that into account when gathering your fabrics.  My lining fabric was a piece left over from another project, and the rest of the bag is made from pieces of my jacket.  I also used some thrift-store buttons.

First, I’d like to briefly talk about how I approached salvaging parts of the jacket for use in my bag.  The size of the bag was based on what I could reasonably get from one side of my jacket front. There was also a band around the front and the neckline of the jacket, and I thought that would make a nice strap. I liked the way the buttons looked on the band, so I decided that they would stay.  I thought my seams might be too bulky if I used fabric from the jacket for my lining, so I chose to use something else from my stash that wasn’t quilted.  I cut out what I wanted and put the rest of the jacket away for other projects.

The construction technique I used for this bag is so incredibly easy! Don’t be fooled by the huge number of photos — I just wanted you to see this from a variety of angles. The directions may sound confusing the first time you read them, so be sure to follow the photos.

I used 1/4″ seams throughout, but your seam allowance is entirely up to you.  Just be sure you add a little size to your pieces if you like to sew with wider seams.

First, cut one each of your lining and outer fabric.  In my case this was 7″ wide by 21″ long (8-1/2″ depth times two, plus 3-1/2″ for the flap and 1/2″ for my seam allowances).

Sew lining and outer fabric together across one end, with right sides together.  Turn right sides out and fold with wrong sides together.  Press seam flat.

Measure the desired depth of your bag (here, about 8-1/2″), beginning at the seamed end.  Mark that point on your lining and fold the remaining lining over to cover the seamed end, as shown.  Carefully turn the bag over and repeat this step on your outer fabric.

(The gold stars are on the inside of the jacket, and are now the wrong side of my outer fabric.  Too bad they won’t show when I’m finished!)

Pin everything in place.

Stitch all the way down both long sides of the bag, through all layers.

Now you will have an open end that has raw edges (this is the flap)….

…and an open end that has folded edges (this is the bottom).

At this point I like to partially stitch the end with raw edges, because it makes it a little easier to close up the flap later on.  So, I usually do about 1″ of stitching from one corner toward the center, and the same thing from the other corner toward the center.  Be sure to leave a large enough opening for turning the bag.  You can clip the corners if you like, just be sure you don’t clip through your folds at the bottom of the bag.

Now, reach into the opening and you will find the seamed edge that you pressed flat several steps ago.  Grab that and pull it through the hole, turning the whole bag right side out.  Fiddle with it until it looks like the photo below.  Press the bag flat, and press the edges of the opening to the inside.

Now we’ll make the button loop. Press the long edges of a 4″ x 1″ piece of fabric toward the center, as shown, then fold outer edges together and press.  Topstitch along the open edge.

Fold and place into bag opening and pin in place.

Next, close up the opening and secure the button loop by topstitching along the edge of the flap.

Now, I’ll make a strap.  I didn’t want a long shoulder strap, so I cut my band to about 24″.  One end of the band was already finished, so I just needed to finish the other end.  I opened the band at that end, stitched it right sides together, clipped the corners, then turned it right side out again.  I then topstitched along the entire open edge of the strap.

To finish the bag, I handstitched both ends of the strap to the back of the bag. I wanted some buttons here, so I added them at the same time.  Finally , I added a button to the front.