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Sewing: Vera Bradley -esque Duffel Bags

December 28, 2011

I made these wonderful duffel bags for Christmas! It was so much fun and I think the girls liked them.

I started with Simplicity Pattern 5535. I made the largest duffel which was 22″ long. I decided not to put the coordinating fabric band on the ends, but I wanted to add a pocket to the front and one interior end pocket.

The pattern called for a whopping 2 5/8 yards of pre-quilted fabric. This was discouraging since the pretty pre-quilted patterns were expensive. Oh, well, I decided that I would make just one to start with. I bought 3 yards since I wanted to add pockets.

HUGE blessing!!!! When I cut it out, I realized that there was so much waste because of the size/length of pattern pieces that 3 yards was actually enough fabric for two bags with the pockets! Yeah! Now my project was back on budget! (Tears of joy inserted here, since pre-quilted material is also reversible and no two bags would look the same!)

I decided to add piping to the bag ends and the handle edges (on the first one I even put a contrasting bias binding on the pocket edges). It takes three packages of corded piping to do this – but it makes it look so professional.

You should have seen the JoAnn sales associates face when I asked her where the piping was. I know she was thinking, “You know you are at a fabric store and not Home Depot.”

Here are a few explanations of the changes I made:

First of all, I spent 40 minutes looking for the “perfect” match on the binding/piping. You won’t find it, so pick the best one. I worried that it wouldn’t look right since it didn’t match exactly. It looked great! I wasted 35 minutes, so I will save you that time. 🙂

Secondly, I found that (after making three bags) it would be easier to sew the handles first, then sew them on the front and back bag pieces.

Placing the piping on the handles is self-explanatory. Follow the sewing directions, except place the piping in before sewing. The handles are sewn from the outside, so no turning is required.

If you want a pocket between the handles on the front of the bag, just cut a rectangle of fabric. the width equal to the measurement of the widest part of the handles less 1/2″, the length should be about 10″.

Finish the top edge of the pocket by a narrow hem or with bias binding to match your piping.

Place the pocket so the top of the pocket is within the markings for the reinforced sewing on the handles at the top of the bag. Sew the bottom edge of this rectangle to the bag with the right sides to each other, but so the piece will be folded up along the sewing to make the pocket. You may baste this piece to the bag at the pocket edges. You don’t need to finish the side edges since they will be covered by the handles.

Sew the handles to the bag at the markings. Then sew the bottom bag seam.

Because this seam, is so bulky it is not possible to use a flat-felled seam technique (which would have enclosed the edges). To pink these edges or to zig-zag them also left the seam looking raw. I choose to place a two-inch band of material over the seam in the bottom of the bag. This leaves a nice finish to the bag bottom. Also the wide width makes it easier to sew down. (I tried thinner, but with the bulk -10 layers of quilted fabric at the handle places!) – it was easier to make it wider.

Now, sew the zipper in according to the directions.

For the bag ends, I found it helpful to sew the piping on the right side of the bag so the corded edge (with the cording toward the bag center) was just at the 1/2″ seam line. It is extremely helpful to use a bobbin thread that is easily visible on the wrong side of your fabric. (You will use this bobbin thread as the guide when sewing the ends on the bag.)

When sewing the piping, don’t cut the piping to length. I choose to start my piping on the bag bottom in-between the corner and the bottom seam. Just pick a starting point and sew until you get back to the starting point and then cut even with bag edge..

start sewing on the bag then over the folded piping

To make a smooth start and end to this piping, because it will be visible: Pin the piping to the bag and then turn down at a 45* angle so the cord in on top and end hangs just off the bag. When you get to the starting place make another 45*- this time turn it under and place it just past the first turn. (The corded edges will lie right next to each other and come off the bag edge.) Sew it carefully right next to the corded part.

nice finish where the piping meets

To place a pocket on a bag end, cut an extra end piece. Cut the top part off about two inches and finish with a narrow hem or bias binding. Baste your pocket piece to the end piece. If you are making an interior pocket, you might want to use the contrasting side of the material to make it more visible. Then sew to the bag according to the directions like it was just one piece.

Pin the end sections (right sides together) on the bag, rounding the corners. With the piping accent it is easier to make the corners rounded rather that using a pivot at the corner. Sew the pieces together. (Remember to open the zipper so you can turn it when finished!) Sew these pieces with the bag section on top. You will be able to your bobbin thread as a sewing guide.

I didn't get a picture of Erin's before she left. (sad)

JP said I should open a etsy shop and sell them on-line. What do you think?

P.S. I think the binding on the front pocket (like the picture at the top of the post) makes it look better. Just a little more “pop.”

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Cheryl permalink
    December 28, 2011 2:51 pm

    Those all turned out gorgeous!! You could easily sell them on an etsy site.

  2. December 30, 2011 5:37 am

    Candy, they look great! I’m not as much of a “contrast” girl and I like the blend of the pocket better, so it’s probably a personal preference? Either way, great job!

  3. January 19, 2012 9:29 am

    Sewing: Vera Bradley -esque Duffel Bags candydawn is a fantastic blog post. I liked reading this. If you want, check out my own web-site.

  4. Misty permalink
    February 29, 2012 1:06 pm

    Yes! Please sell these on Etsy! These are beautiful and would make great bridesmaid gifts!

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