Back to School ~ Messenger Bag

on August 5 | in Sewing Tutorials + Patterns | by | with 88 Comments

Rebecca from Our Busy Little Bunch shows you how to whip up a cute messenger bag in today’s tutorial, complete with an optional divider. Give students a little handcrafted style, whether they’re taking the messenger to the first day of kindergarten or to a big college class! Learn more about Rebecca and her sewing and giveaway blog in her introduction, then be sure to visit Our Busy Little Bunch. Rebecca also has a Busy Bunch shop, where you can purchase some of her quilts and more. Rebecca modified the messenger to create a lunch sack for her daughter too. Enjoy today’s tutorial!

Step One: Cut out all your pieces

  • For the main bag piece – cut one from outer print and one from lining – 28″ x 18″
  • Also cut one or two layers of interfacing, batting, or fleece ~ depending on desired thickness of finished bag
  • For the inside pockets – cut the following from outer print – 10″ x 10″ (for divided pocket) and 8″ x 12″ (for zippered pocket)
  • For the bag flap – cut from outer print and desired batting/interfacing/fleece layer – 32″ x 11.5″
  • For the strap – cut from outer print and desired batting/interfacing/fleece layer – 10″ x 40″ (to be cut down to desired length later)

You will also need: a 7″ zipper, an 8″ piece of double-fold bias tape (or make your own), an 8″ piece of hook-and-loop tape (Velcro), 12″ piece of trim such as large rick-rack or ribbon, 6″ x 11″ dense foam or very stiff interfacing (for base of bag), thread, and basic sewing supplies.

All seams are 1/2″ and finished bag is approx 12″ wide x 11″ tall x 6″ deep.

Step Two: Make the pockets

For the divided pocket – Fold fabric in half, right-sides together, and sew side seams. Turn right-side out, tuck in lower edge about 1/4″ and press. Center on right-side of main lining piece, about 4″ from top. Sew side and bottom edges, making sure to sew bottom seam closed. Top stitch some pencil-sized pockets if desired.

For the zipper pocket – Fold fabric in half, right-sides together, and sew side seams. Turn right-side out, tuck in lower edge about 1/4″ and press. Attach zipper to upper edge of pocket, making sure to tuck in ends. Now pin and sew a piece of double-fold bias tape to top edge of zipper, tucking zipper between folds of tape, and again tucking and sewing in ends neatly. Center on right-side of main lining piece (opposite side from other pocket), about 3″ from top. Sew side and bottom edges, making sure to close bottom open seam. Also sew upper and side edges of double-fold bias tape.

Step Three: Prepare the main bag

Sew Velcro strip (hook side) 9″ from top of main fabric piece, centered.

Sew side seams of outer main bag, right-sides together. Now box out the bottom corners – mark and sew corner 3″ from point to stich line, 6″ accross. Make a second stitch line 1/4″ from first to reinforce.

Repeat above steps for main lining piece of fabric, but leave a 6″ opening in side seam for turning the bag through later.

Step Four: Prepare the flap piece

Fold fabric in half, right sides together. Lay piece of trim between layers, and pin to side seams about 1″ from folded end, making sure it is smoothed out. Stitch side seams. Turn flap right-side out and press. Place the non-sticky (loop) part of Velcro to the opposite side of flap as the trim. Center it, and make sure it lines up evenly with the trim on the opposite side. Pin on trim side. Stitch close to top and bottom edge of trim, all the way accross.

Step Five: Prepare the strap
Press fabric in half wrong sides together, then fold these halves to center and press again.

Insert batting/interfacing/fleece layer and then press in half. Finished strap should be 2.5″ wide. Topstitch close to both long edges of strap. Pin strap to unfinished main bag piece and check for desired finished length of bag. Cut strap accordingly.

Step Six: Assemble the bag

Center bag flap on main bag piece, right sides together, and stitch. Center strap on side seams, making sure raw edges are together and strap is not twisted, and stitch.

Place outer main bag inside of main bag lining, right sides together. Pin top edge and sew, making sure to double stitch over straps.

Step Seven: Finishing the bag

Turn bag right-side out through opening in lining. Insert piece of dense foam or stiff interfacing for bottom of bag, pushing firmly into corners. Sew opening in lining shut by hand or machine. Machine stitch top edge of bag.

Optional: Divider

Cut one piece of fabric 12″ x 21″, and two pieces 12″ x 16″. Press smaller pieces in half wrong sides together so they measure 12″ x 8″. Layer two small pieces on top of each other. Now fold large piece of fabric in half, right-sides together so it measures 12″ x 10.5″. Lay smaller pieces inside larger piece of fabric, lining up all raw edges. Stitch side seams. Turn right-side out and press, you will now have a divider piece with a pocket on each side. Slide an 11″ x 10″ piece of stiff interfacing or cardboard into opening on bottom, and stitch closed. Handstitch top and bottom corners of divider into desired place in bag.

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88 Responses to Back to School ~ Messenger Bag

  1. mandi says:

    I live this! Can not wait to try it!

  2. Clare says:

    I love this!!! I’ve just got a bag of random trimmings and there is some giant rickrack just waiting for this pattern!!!

  3. Jen says:

    This turned out simply adorable and my 8yo daughter loves it!! Thanks!

  4. amanda says:

    Great idea! I will be trying this tutorial soon!

  5. Chiara A says:

    I really like the bag and the fabric, where did you get the fabric? Great tutorial.

  6. Melissa B. says:

    I want to make one!
    Melissa B.

  7. Lorri says:

    Love this bag. Looks sew easy to make. I will definetly give this a try!!!


  8. PattyC says:

    This is a great bag – I have 4 kids – It would come in handy !!

  9. Linley flugge says:

    Love this, will definately try x

  10. Dan says:

    Great bag. I might have to give this one a try.

  11. Robyn says:

    Hi Rebecca

    Great step by step guide, thank you so much

  12. Alyssa says:

    This is adorable! I may even make it just as a casual handbag for myself 😀

  13. Cat says:

    What a sweet little bag

  14. This would also make an awesome bag for a senior resident at a nursing home. I think I’ll try one for a senior man (without ric rac!) because I think they might carry a messenger bag instead of a tote. Thanks for this great tutorial.

  15. Kari says:

    Oh I might have to make one of these for me!

  16. Deb says:

    I am going to get started on making one of these bags TODAY!

  17. Teresa Block says:

    Makes me wish I had a cute little someone who needed a new school bag!

  18. Fawn says:

    What a really great bag; I’d love to make one for me & one for my niece!

  19. Sue D says:

    The fabric is so cute–great tutorial.

  20. Kristine says:

    love the idea of the divider, but was never able to think of how to execute it, so thanks for sharing!

  21. Colleen says:

    What perfect timing! I have the fabric ready and was on the look out for an inspiring tutorial to make my step-son’s messenger bag. Thanks! 🙂

  22. Sherry J says:

    that is so cute and looks really easy to make which is even better.

  23. Michelle B says:

    That is super cute!

  24. Penny says:

    Wow that is so cute! Thanks!

  25. Tamar says:

    How cute! Thanks for the tutorial.

  26. amorette says:

    very cute! love the ric rack.

  27. Christine says:

    Way cute. I need one for myself.

  28. Jess says:

    This is adorable!! I made the messenger bag out of One Yard Wonders for my son, and I’ve still got the fabric cut to make one for my daughter but um, yeah, I haven’t quite gotten around to it yet. Oops!

  29. Beth T says:

    Cute. I’d love one of these in Joel Dewberry’s Heirloom. I think that would take it from darling to sophisticated immediately.

  30. Pam says:

    Fabulous instructions…

  31. Martina says:

    Love this. It looks so cute and the steps seem to be easy! Will have to try this!Thanks a lot!

  32. Naomi says:

    Oh this is just too cute! I am going to have to make one for my daughter immediately and then one for the Year 1 class at work. They are being postal delievery people this term, delivering mail between Year 3 and Year 7 🙂 This is perfect for transporting all of those letters 🙂 Thank you!

  33. Julie says:

    so cute!

  34. Cute bag!

  35. Jamie says:

    I love the messenger bag and think I might give a try!

  36. VickiT says:

    What a cute little bag. I’m sure any little one heading off to school will love this, especially with it being such adorable fabric. Thank you for the tute.

  37. Melissa says:

    Great tutorial! I’m going to have to make a couple for my girls.

  38. Narelle says:

    very cute! Hoping to sew more with my girls soon!

  39. Susan Shreve says:

    Love this bag! So simple!

  40. Ginger says:

    cute bag

  41. Samantha says:

    Totally making this!

  42. Ariane says:

    This is such a great tutorial!!! I think I might make one for my daughter!!! Thanks!!!!!

  43. Carla says:

    Adorable fabric! Thanks for a great tutorial! 🙂

  44. Denise Baird says:

    great tutorial – would like to see bag from all sides.

  45. Emma says:

    i adore messenger bags! such a pretty bag, cute for any little muchkin 🙂

  46. I love it! I think bumble bee fabric will be great for my little one.

  47. Mikaela says:

    Very cute!

  48. Stephanie S says:

    Love this!

  49. Maya says:

    That is really cute. Thanks for the tutorial.

  50. Joy S says:

    My older daughter starts 10th grade on August 22, which is also her birthday. This would be a great gift for her! Sturdy bag and I can make it in fabric that fits her perfectly!

    Thank you for the great tutorial!

  51. Patty says:

    I can’t believe you posted this today. I was looking for a tutorial for a messenger bag with a divider just last night. I couldn’t find one that met my requirements. This is the one I need!! Thank you.

  52. Janet K says:

    This is great! I was literally just planning to look for a messenger bag tutorial or pattern when I saw this post in my google reader – thank you!

  53. Tara says:

    Oh I adore this! Thanks for sharing!

  54. Margie Bennett says:

    Such a cute back to school bag!!

  55. Lisa says:


  56. Sherrie says:

    Very cute and a great idea for gifts!

  57. Brenna says:

    I have been debating making a bag/backpack for my new kindergartener, but I think this looks doable!

  58. Mama Lusco says:

    My girls would love this! Thanks so much.

  59. Ginger says:

    great tut! You make it look so do-able! Will be trying this weekend.

  60. debbie lindsay says:

    Have to try this! Thanks for sharing.

  61. Kelly W says:

    Very nice!!!

  62. Barbara says:

    My godchild would love one of these!

  63. Melissa says:

    My daughter would love this! Thanks for making it so easy to duplicate:)

  64. Amy says:

    I was just looking for messenger bag patterns, Thanks for this great tutorial!

  65. Lauranie says:

    So cute…and she makes it look too easy! Great tutorial, thanks!

  66. LisaC says:

    I love this bag! Such cute fabric too.

  67. mary gontjes says:

    This is so cute..
    You pick such cute fabric….
    Thank you for sharing,
    Mary Gontjes

  68. Maureen says:

    Great tutorial with a different shape pouch.

  69. Maureen Rummel says:

    Very cute! I have a granddaughter that is going to love this!

  70. Margaret says:

    great project! Love it!

  71. Cassie says:

    So cute!

  72. jen says:

    oh this is just adorable & I love that it has a divider in it!

  73. Amy G. says:


  74. Ramona says:

    Cute messenger bag. Love the fabric for a little one.

  75. Rebecca says:

    That is a really cute bag!

  76. Brooke Gilbert says:

    This is so cute. I will be making one of these for my daughter who is starting preschool this fall.

  77. Martha says:

    Wow this is beautiful and something I have been looking for. They used to make these all the time but now it so hard to find one that is a decent size. I do believe I shall have to try this.

  78. Tammy says:

    This is adorable! I was already thinking of sewing a bag for my daughter, to replace her diaper bag. She will soon be out of diapers (hopefully! LOL) but still need something to carry a change of clothes, her snack, etc. This will be perfect!

  79. Becki says:

    This is so cute, thanks for the great directions!

  80. kaholly says:

    Great tute! I’d like to see a few more photos of the completed bag. Perhaps even one of her daughter modeling it. Thanks, karen

  81. Ellen says:

    This is adorable! Thanks for posting it!

  82. Liz says:

    Love the Messenger Bag Instructions.

  83. What a great tutorial! I want to make one out of a tapestry print! 🙂

  84. Tina says:

    Very Cute! my daughter is off to college in a couple weeks, I must attempt to make this for her. 🙂 Thanks for the awesome tutorial 😉

  85. LOVE this!

  86. Rachel says:

    I think I’m gonna try this tonight!

  87. Alisa says:

    Aww, I love this bag! Can’t wait to try it.. thanks so much for sharing 🙂

  88. Cute as a button…easy to sew.

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