Weekly trips to the library are a highlight of the summer in our house! Mo Bedell from lime gardenias joins us today with this cute Summer Reading Book Bag, which is already being put to great use by her daughter! The bag will get you ready for a summer full of reading adventures…

Mo has contributed some fantastic tutorials for us before; here’s her introduction. (In addition to being a talented sewist Mo also designs fabric!) You’re sure to love her Easy Patch Pockets and Hanging Vase tutorials.

Every summer we like to take advantage of the summer reading program at our local library. The only problem is that it is easy for all of the books and tally sheets to go missing. If there is one thing that makes me crazy it’s having to look for things!

This bag is my answer to keeping the library things organized (which should save us some money on fines this summer!) and managing the number of books that come home each week. She can still get a good amount of chapter books in here but it will help her avoid the library equivalent of her eyes being bigger than her stomach. The idea is on our weekly trips she can fill her bag with books, keep her tally sheet in the front pocket and her library card has a pocket too. She can hang the bag on a hook in her room and I think this should help her stay better organized as she can store the books there in between trips. I designed this bag around my 9 year old daughter who enjoys chapter books. I think if you added a couple of inches to the dimensions you could make this work for picture books as well.

You will need:

  • One half yard of canvas (You could use a home dec weight cotton as well.)
  • Approx. one half yard for pocket lining, strap lining, appliqué and library card pockets. You can use scraps for these.
  • Brown embroidery floss to stitch the apple stem
  • 7”x7” piece of medium weight double-sided interfacing
  • Thread
  • Sewing machine needle for heavier weight fabrics
  • Apple template

Cut these pieces:


      Cut 2: 14” by 14” pieces from the canvas for the front and back


      Cut 1: 10” by 14” from canvas for the front pocket


      Cut 1: 11” by 14” from quilting weight cotton for pocket lining


      Cut 1: 36 “ by 3.25“ canvas for the strap


      Cut 1: 37” by 3.25” in quilting weight cotton for the strap lining


      Cut 1: Apple (download pattern



Library card pocket:

      Pocket: 3.25” wide by 3.75” tall


    Piece above pocket (under which you will sew the rubber band): 3.25”wide by 3.5” tall

To make:
Assemble the front pocket:

1. Following package instructions, fuse interfacing to fabric scrap for the apple appliqué. Using the pattern, trace the apple and cut out. Fuse the apple to the front right side of the pocket about 1.5” from the right edge. Using a zig zag stitch, sew the apple to the pocket. Using a pencil, lightly draw on an apple stem and embroider with embroidery floss. I used dark brown and used all six strands so I would get a nice thick stem.

2. Fold over the top half inch of the pocket lining piece and press. Fold it over another half inch and press again. This pressed folded edge becomes the top edge of the front pocket. Lay the canvas pocket front on top of this piece and fold the pressed edge over as shown. Sew in place.

You will have a nicely bound edge that continues into the pocket as the lining. Your pocket piece is complete.

Sew the bag:
I am a stickler for nicely finished edges so this bag will have French seams. If you haven’t tried French seams, this is a great place to start. It is really not at all difficult and the end result is worth it.

3. With wrong sides together, layer the bag pieces and pocket piece all together, right sides out as it will look in the finished product. Be careful to really square up all your edges and trim any edges that don’t match up nicely. This will ensure successful French seaming. Pin the pieces in place.

Sew very close to the edge (quarter inch), making sure you are getting all your layers sewn together.
4. Turn your bag and press nice and flat. I love spray starch and suggest using it so you can get nice flat seams and get things to behave the way you want them to. Take your time to really get your bag turned out well and use a chopstick or large knitting needle to poke out your corners. When you have it turned and pressed nice and flat, sew around again with a 3/8”” seam allowance. Now all your raw edges are sewn inside!

5. Make the corners. Fold out the corners and line up the side seams feeling around until you feel them lying on top of one another.

Smooth it down until it looks even on both sides of the seam and the side seams are facing the same way, towards the back of the bag.

From the very tip of the corner, measure in 1.5” and draw a pencil line. This is where you will sew.

I put two lines of sewing to reinforce. Sew both corners. Turn bag right side out and press. Doing corners this way will give you a nice structure to your bag.

6. Cut (at an angle as shown) the very top half inch off the edge of the side seams; this will decrease the bulk so you can easily turn and stitch the top hem of your bag. Fold over the top half inch of the bag and press; using starch will help you with this bulky fabric. Be mindful to make sure your seams lay in the same direction (towards the back of the bag) on the top of your bag as they do on the bottom.

Turn over another half inch, press and sew to create the hem.

Assemble strap:
The strap is meant to be worn across the body and the placement of the library card pocket can go on either end of the strap. My daughter is right handed and her preference was to have the pocket on the left so she can wear it on the front of her body. If you have a lefty, or just want it on the other end of the strap, the directions are the same. Just be mindful to make sure you assemble it carefully so that the pocket is not upside down. If you do choose to do the pocket on the right side, you might want to adjust your apple appliqué to the left side of the bag.

7. Fold down the top ¼” of the pocket and press, turn the next ¼” and press again then stitch to create to top hem of the pocket. On the bottom edge of the pocket, fold and press down ¼”. Fold and press ¼” on the top and bottom edges of the piece that will hold the rubber band.

8. Place the pocket 2 ½” from the bottom edge of the left side of the strap. Pin in place and then sew the bottom edge of the pocket to the strap. Place the second piece 1” above the top edge of the pocket. Pin in place and sew just the top edge to the strap.

Create the button loop:

9. Using a hair elastic (they come in the best colors) tie a small length of thread at the top of the elastic band to keep the top edges together. Carefully secure the top ½” of the rubber band under the bottom edge of the fabric square above the pocket. Stitch the bottom edge to the strap, running an additional line of stitching for added strength.

IMPORTANT: When pressing, press around the elastic as an iron on cotton setting will likely damage or melt the elastic.

10. With right sides together, pin the canvas strap and cotton strap lining together. Stitch up both sides leaving both ends open using a 3/8” seam allowance. Turn the strap and press nice and flat. (Again– Watch that elastic!)

After pressing sew the length of each side again, as close to the edge as you can get. You have an extra ½” on each end.

Press this edge over the end of the strap.

This will cover the raw edges on the ends of the strap. Pin the strap to the inside of the bag, 1” down, centering the strap on the side seams. Sew the strap to the bag by sewing a rectangle of stitches so it is nice and secure.

Almost done! Add the button to your library card pocket. Gently pull the elastic down to the pocket, taut but not pulling so much that you will get a pucker in your strap. Make a dot with a pencil at the very bottom where the elastic is comfortably pulled.

Sew your button on this dot. I suggest using a shank button so it is easier for smaller fingers to wrap the elastic around.

Check out the front pocket!

You are finished! Happy reading! Here are a couple of additional resources for summer reading programs:

Library card? Check!

Ready for lots of summer reading…

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