“Goin’ to Camp” Duffel Bag Tutorial

on April 14 | in Sewing Tutorials + Patterns | by | with 14 Comments

Deanna McCool of SewMcCool and Birdsong designed this “Goin’ to Camp” Duffel out of laminated fabrics. If you’ve ever had a child go away to camp you know how dirty these bags can get (inside and out) by the time the kids come home! Wipe-free and worry-free, the bag is sewn without a separate lining to make the project a little easier for “confident beginner” sewists.

Deanna enjoys all types of fiber arts, from ribbon crafting and garment sewing to quilting. Learn about her upcoming book, her patterns and more in Deanna’s introduction, and be sure to visit the Birdsong shop and SewMcCool blog.

The “Goin to Camp” Duffel is a worry-free duffel to send with your kids as they head to summer camp. Sturdy webbing provides the perfect straps, and the mesh side pocket is a great solution for storing wet bathing suits. Two outside pockets between the straps are perfect for a notebook, or those envelopes they’ll need to send letters home to Mom and Dad!

What You’ll Need:

  • Duffel Template
  • 1 ¾ yd Fusible Fleece
  • Fabric A: 1 ¼ yd 54-in-wide Laminated Fabric (The fabric shown here is Robert Kaufmann’s Urban Zoologie Ladybug.)
  • Fabric B: ¾ yd 54-in-wide Laminated Fabric
  • Fabric C: ¼ Cotton Fabric for Piping
  • ½ yd Sport Mesh Netting Fabric
  • ½ yd Cording; about ¼” wide
  • 3 yd 1 ¼”-wide Webbing. (Can be purchased at The Ribbon Retreat.)
  • ½ yd Fold-Over Elastic (FOE). Also can be purchased at The Ribbon Retreat.
  • 22-in long fully separating Plastic Sport Zipper
  • Sewing Machine + Regular Sewing Supplies, including a universal 80/12 needle
  • Teflon-Coated Foot, or a regular foot lined on the bottom with painter’s tape
  • Iron + Cotton Pressing Cloth
  • ¼”-wide Double-Stick Basting Tape
  • Rotary Cutting Mat, Ruler, Rotary Cutter
  • Polyester Thread that matches the fabric, piping + webbing
  • Marking Tool
  • Lighter or Woodburning Tool to seal the edges of the webbing
  • In addition to regular sewing scissors, you may use pinking shears to finish seams in the final step.

All seam allowances are ½” unless otherwise stated.

Cutting Instructions:
Cut four circles from Fabric B from the Duffel Template, on the fold, as well as two circles from the fusible fleece. Use the same template.

Cut two rectangles from Fabric A that are 20” wide by 38” long. Also, cut one rectangle from the fusible fleece in the same dimensions as the fabric rectangles.

Cut one or two rectangles from the mesh fabric, measuring 15” wide by 8” high. You can choose to add mesh to either one or both circle ends of your duffel. I only added the mesh to one side.

Cut either one or two pieces of FOE to 11 ½” long (depending on if you’re adding the mesh to one or both sides).

Cut four rectangles from Fabric B measuring 8 ½” wide by 7 1/2” tall, for center pockets.

Sew and cut 17” of piping. You don’t know how to sew piping? It’s easy! Learn more in my tutorial on creating bias for piping.

Fabric Preparation:
Yes, you can fuse onto the back of laminated fabrics… Very carefully, using a pressing cloth and a slightly lower temperature. Did I say “very carefully?” Yep. For more on working with and sewing laminates, see my laminated fabric sewing tutorial.

Fuse the two circles of fusible fleece onto the backs of two of the Fabric B circles. Next, fuse the rectangle of fusible fleece to the back of one of the Fabric A rectangles.

After fusing baste the fused pieces to their matching laminated piece, wrong sides together, making fabric “sandwiches” with laminates on either side. Baste a little less than a ½ seam allowance, so that the basting stitches won’t be visible later. When you’re done, you’ll have two circles in with Fabric B on both sides, and one rectangle with Fabric A on both sides. All pieces will have the fusible fleece in the middle.

Sewing Instructions:
First, let’s add the mesh to the circle ends of your bag! Line up the FOE to the long, 15” edge of your mesh rectangle. Stitch the elastic to the top edge of the mesh using a zigzag stitch, and stretching the elastic to the length of the rectangle while stitching. It’s not hard, since the FOE is pretty stretchy! Stitching like this will cause the mesh to gather to the size of the elastic.

Next stitch the mesh, with the elastic attached, to edges of one of the circles. Place it a little more than half-way up. Be sure to stretch the elastic and keep the mesh flat against the circle so it covers the bottom of the circle. Use your ½” seam allowance and a zigzag stitch, backstitching at the elastic ends after you’ve sewn the semi-circle edge. Don’t stitch the top of the half-circle down (with the elastic) otherwise it won’t be a pocket!

When you’re finished, the circle will buckle because of the elastic, but it will work fine once you stitch the circle to the bag later! The elastic will assure that those wet swimsuits don’t flop out of the side of the bag. Repeat with the second circle if you’re adding mesh to both sides. Trim the excess mesh to match the edges of the circle (it’s shown untrimmed here).

Now it’s time to sew the center pockets!

Cut your piping in half, so that each piece is 8 ½” long. Sew it to the longer, 8 ½” side of one pocket rectangles. Be sure to sew your piping to the right side of the fabric. For more on adding piping to your projects, see my tutorial on sewing piping.

Layer a second piece of pocket fabric onto the piped piece, right sides together, to stitch the edges together with piping in between. Next, stitch the opposite long side of the pocket together with a ½” seam allowance, and then trim this seam allowance in half. Repeat the previous pocket steps with the remaining two pieces of pocket fabric and piping.

Turn both pockets right sides out, and top stitch along the piped edge and the bottom edge of each. Baste the sides closed with a ¼” or less seam allowance.

Now take a look at your rectangle in Fabric A. Fold it in half so that the short edges are both at the top. This is the top of your bag, where the zipper will go later. We’re going to place our center pockets on the bag, making sure the piped piece faces “up”; that is, parallel to and closest to the short edge of the Fabric A rectangle.

To place a pocket, measure 5” from the top edge of the Fabric A rectangle and 5 ¾ from each side. The pocket can be kept in place with the double-sided basting tape before stitching around the two sides and the bottom of the pocket with a ¼” seam allowance or less. Don’t stitch the top, piped edge down!

Repeat by adding the second pocket to the other end of the rectangle.

Now… Let’s add the straps!

Measure and mark 5 ½” from the long edges of the Fabric A rectangle, all the way down both sides. The edge of the webbing will be placed inside these lines so that it overlaps the pockets.

Seal the ends of the webbing with a lighter or wood burning tool. Find the approximate bottom of your bag by folding the rectangle in half again. Unfold and place the end of the webbing at this “bottom,” and pinning or taping it in place, inside of the line you drew.

Continue placing the webbing up and around the sides of the bag, carefully looping it over the top about 6 ½” above the short edges of the rectangle. Be careful not to twist the webbing or your handles won’t feel right! Once you reach the end– you’ll have just an inch or two left– trim and seal the edge of the webbing.

Stitch the webbing in place starting at the top of the pocket edge. Do not sew the webbing down all the way to the short edge of the rectangle! Stitch along the outside edge of the webbing and stop at the top of the other pocket. Repeat on the other side, and then stitch along the inside edges of both sides so that the webbing is secure. Now stitch the webbing about 1” above the pockets on all four corners, creating a cross with your stitches to make sure your straps are nice and sturdy for all of those camp clothes! You’ll have about 4” of strap– in addition to the 6 ½” handles– that isn’t sewn down on both sides.

Adding the zipper on this bag is really easy! Keep the zipper closed, and add your double-stick basting tape to one side. Fold the top of one of the short sides of the bag under by ½” and stick onto the tape, with the teeth of the zipper (and the zipper pull) facing up. Starting ½” from the top of the zipper pull, stitch close to the zipper all the way down. There will be some leftover zipper at the end, but that’s okay.

For the second edge, repeat with the tape on the zipper fabric and fold the second top edge of the bag over by ½”; tape it in place as before. Once it’s taped– and only then!– unzip the zipper and stitch in place. When you’re finished, you can zip the zipper back together so that you have an open tube!

The circular ends can be a bit tricky! The template provided could be slightly larger than needed, depending on your zipper and the accuracy of sewing. You’ll know if it’s a bit large once you pin it in place… If it is you can trim it slightly, and then re-pin, so you won’t have any puckers.

To prepare for pinning and stitching the ends, turn the bag inside out.

Now clip all the way around the circles and the edges of the bag at 1” intervals, to help with fitting.

Pin one circle to the edge of the bag, all the way around. Be sure the mesh pockets (if used) are facing the correct direction, and that the pocket is straight! Stitch with the ½” seam allowance all the way around the circle, using your hand wheel to stitch slowly over the zipper. I usually stitch over the zipper a couple of times. Again, go slowly! I use my hand wheel and make any slight adjustments so that I don’t break my needle.

Once the first round end is sewn in place, unzip the zipper halfway. If you don’t, you won’t be able to turn the bag right-side out later. (And that’s no fun!) Stitch the second circle on the opposite end.

If desired, trim the raw edges with pinking shears. The fabric won’t fray though, because of the laminated surface.

Turn the bag right side out, and fill it with all sorts of camping goodies!

If you’d like to make a duffle bag out of quilting cotton, check out the Sewplicity tutorial for a Quilted Duffle!

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14 Responses to “Goin’ to Camp” Duffel Bag Tutorial

  1. Thank you, Bailey! I hope you enjoy making it!

  2. Bailey says:

    What a wonderful bag! And so fun to find that the tutorial is free 🙂 Thanks for the share. – Bailey

  3. Thanks, Amy! Glad you like it! 🙂

  4. Rachel says:

    We have quite a few laminated fabrics!


  5. Amy says:

    Love! Would love to see a tote pattern using laminated fabrics, perfect for taking poolside. Thanks for the link on how to sew with laminated fabrics, I look forward to attempting this project!

  6. Awe, thanks, Maris! My daughter loves hers…right now she’s using it as a “house” for various softies and dolls…she sets up little chairs and tables inside. Maybe they’re having a duffel bag party? Not the intended use of course, but glad she can enjoy it even when she’s not headed away for the night!

  7. Thanks Kathy! 🙂 So happy that you like the bag!

  8. Hi Manon,
    I actually purchased my fabric at my local quilt shop! But I do have links at the bottom of this post: http://www.sewmccool.com/sew-laminated-fabric/ . They’re Urban Zoologie by Michael Miller. 🙂 Glad you liked the fabric combination!

  9. Manon Fournier says:

    Thanks for the tutorial. This bag is perfect and the instructions are so clear.
    I was wondering where to buy the fabric. You give the reference, but when I try to buy some oilcloth or laminated fabric, it seems to always be the same designs, nothing as cool as this one.

  10. Maris Olsen says:

    Deanna – your duffel bag is BOTH adorable and so practical. What a great combination for kids! And your tutorial instructions are so clear that most sewists will be able to easily tackle this great for a summer carry-all. Kudos to you ,and thanks for writing such a great tutorial!

  11. Kathy says:

    great post! This makes it look very easy to do. Can’t wait to go shopping for some fun laminated fabric. These will be awesome for swim bags for my girls.

  12. Oh my goodness – how unlucky that the bag was pooped on by a bird! I can’t help but chuckle, but I’d be so disappointed! What are the odds? Of all things we have to worry about as sewists….that’s not one that I’ve ever thought of, lol!

  13. Nicole says:

    Oh, fantastic! You know, I just finished making Noodleheads great duffel bag, and wanted to make one for my daughter, but wipeable- yes please! Especially since the first time I went out with my brand new bag it was POOPED on by a bird! I didn’t even mind that it was on my shoulder on my old jacket, or that it was also on my hand- all I though was “My new bag!”
    So, yes, a wipe-clean bag is a very good idea indeed.

  14. Thanks so much for allowing me to contribute!!! I had a lot of fun designing the bag, and hope others love making it!

    Wanted to give a quick correction for those reading before the link can be changed – the link for how to sew with laminated fabrics is here: 🙂 http://www.sewmccool.com/sew-laminated-fabric/

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