Saturday, April 9, 2011

Tutorial: Convertible Tote and Backpack or Diaper Bag - Free Diaper Bag Pattern

The idea for this bag was inspired by the Ellington Stella and Lucia convertible totes.  What was inspiring about them was that they convert from bag to backpack without any special adjustments. It is how you lift up the bag that makes it either be carried by hand or on the back.  I thought that this could be really useful as a diaper bag on the fly, when you need to get up and move quickly.
I also liked the use of exterior and interior pockets. I liked the leather of the Stella but the pockets of the Lucia. They were both roughly the same size, at around 12" by 12" with a 12" hang from the top of the strap to shoulder.  The Lucia was an inch wider than the Stella, at 3" instead of 2".
I chose to make my bag 4" wide and have a 12" hang from the straps.  The exterior front has a lined pocket separated into three sections.  One snaps closed. The exterior rear has a zippered full pocket plus a snapping pocket.  It snaps closed.  The interior has a zippered pocket and key fob on one side and a double pocket with snaps on the other side.  One of the interior side walls has a snapping pocket.

I like it overall.  The straps are a bit more awkward than I had hoped, but I think the addition of D-Rings (as I had originally planned and include instructions for) on the opposite sides for the straps to guide through would help.  I also think a sturdier fabric than the quilters cotton with interfacing that I used would improve the bag tremendously. I chose denim for the interior and it could easily be made into a diaper bag with a waterproof/ easily wipe-able fabric as the lining like PUL or oilcloth.

So-- let's get started. First, assemble your supplies (see above photo-- and there are a few extra supplies in that photo).  You will need:
  1. slightly less than .5 yd. exterior material (I used lightweight quilters cotton but heavy would be better)
  2. slightly less than.5 yd. lining material (I used denim but would prefer oilcloth) (can also use less of this and also use a contrasting lining)
  3. slightly less than .5 yd. interfacing
  4. 6 snaps (I used plastic but you could use magnetic or velcro)
  5. 1 10" zipper for exterior back
  6. 1 7" zipper for interior 
  7. 1 key fob
  8. either a zoomed print of the above photo or to draw yourself a pattern that is to be used on the fold and is 12" high and 6" wide with a curve on the top and bottom segments.
Next, cut your material.  You will need:
  1. Full size cuts of pattern: 2 exterior pieces (one elongated by 1" in middle, then cut straight across 8" from bottom), 2 interfacing, 3 lining
  2. Top 1.5" of pattern, curved (for top of interior and exterior): 4 exterior pieces, 4 interfacing
  3. 1.5" x 5" (to connect curved pieces you just cut): 4 exterior, 4 interfacing
  4. Measure up 5.5" from middle and edge of pattern and draw a curve (for front open pockets- cut bottom section only): 1 exterior, 1 interfacing, 1 lining
  5. 36" x 5" (for side pieces): 1 exterior, 1 interfacing, 1 lining
  6. 8" x 5" (for exterior rear snapping pocket): 1 exterior, 1 lining
  7. 8.5" x 8.5" (for back of double interior pocket): 2 lining (note- can be contrasting lining)
  8. 6.5" x 6.5" (for front of double interior pocket)2 lining (note- can be contrasting lining)
  9. 7" x 6.5" (for side interior pocket)2 lining (note- can be contrasting lining)
  10. 10" x 10" (for pocket of interior 7" zipper): 1 lining (note- can be contrasting lining)
  11. 2" x 5" (for key fob): 1 lining (note- can be contrasting lining)
  12. 34" x 4" (for straps): 2 exterior, 2 interfacing
Now, let's get started.  First, iron all of your pieces.  Attach interfacing where appropriate.
Let's start on the back exterior zipper pocket.  To make it, take the exterior full size piece you made that was elongated that you cut into two pieces.  Stitch the pieces 1" on each side.  Iron the seam (and hem where there is no seam) flat.  Place the 10" zipper into the opening, lining up the starting side of the zipper with one edge.  If it doesn't fit perfectly, then the ending side of the zipper is where to let it hang off the seam.  Pin the zipper into place and stitch it on all four sides from the front (so you can see what it will look like).

Now would be a good time to add the back exterior snap pocket (I did it at the end-- so there aren't any photos here).  Take the 8" x 5" pieces and sew them, right sides together, leaving a 2" hole for turning along one side (not at a corner).  Turn it.  Iron flat.  Stitch across one of the long sides.  Pin it in place above the zipper and stitch it on three sides, making sure to add extra stitching on the top right and left, where there will possibly be more wear and tear.  You can add the center snap on the top of this pocket now or later.
Set one of the lining pieces next to this finished piece, top up.  The purpose of this piece is to be able to see a finished lining when unzipping the full-size pocket when in use.

When making this again, I may do the zipper differently in order to hide the zipper (and rear of the exterior fabric) completely. I would do something like Jody did with this wristlet tutorial to hide it.

Next make the front exterior triple pocket.  Stitch the top only of the curved pieces you cut 5.5" up from the bottom of the pattern piece.  Then turn it right side out and iron flat.  Next topstitch along that top seam.
Pin it to the other exterior full pattern piece, matching up the bottom and edges.  Fold the piece in thirds, and mark the lines.  Stitch along those lines, creating the divisions that will be the pockets (you can do it in half if you prefer larger pockets).  Note this doesn't account for the seam allowance.  If you want to have them equal in size, measure in 4.5" from each side and mark the lines there.  Then each pocket will be 4" wide.
Attach a snap to the middle if you would like (my photo is of the awl marking my snap hole to be made with my Kam snap press).   I then added my label to the right pocket, making sure not to stitch through to the back and close the pocket (doh!).
Now take the 36" x 5" exterior side piece and use it to complete the exterior.  Stitch, right sides together, starting at one corner of the rear piece.  Include the lining you set behind the exterior front.  Go slowly as it curves, making sure to keep the seam allowance equal throughout.

Now do the same for the front to attach it to the side piece.  Make sure to stitch the sides of the triple exterior pocket into the seam.  You can backstitch here for added stability.
Next, make the straps.  Iron them in half, then fold each side into the halfway seam and iron it again.  Take one side of each strap and fold it under 1/2".  Iron this and make sure no raw edges are showing.  Stitch up and down each piece, and around the edge that you folded under.
One of my favorite tricks is to stitch one piece then the other without cutting them apart (to sneak one into the machine as the other one is finishing).  I think it saves a bit of time and thread.
Next make and attach the 1.5" curved pieces to the tops of the interior and exterior.

For the interior, attach the curved pieces to the main body pieces and the squares to the side piece (note in my example I used denim-- I should have used the exterior fabric here).

For the exterior, first pin the unfinished edge of each strap to the opposite side of the bag, with one on the front and one on the back, and one on the left and one on the right.  Line up the rough edge of the strap with the rough edge of the exterior piece, with the bulk of the strap hanging down toward the rest of the bag.

Take the 1.5" pieces and sew two curves pieces and the side pieces into a loop and stitch them on as a loop, making sure to match curve to curve and side seam to side seam.  Backstitch where the strap attaches to the exterior of the bag.  If you wish, you can then fold the strap up and box stitch it to the loop portion you just attached for added stability.  I may do this next time.  As you sew around the back of the exterior, make sure that the top of the top pocket stays out of the seam.
Topstitch the curved pieces.  This holds the seam flat and adds extra strength to the seam, as well as making it look more finished.
Now make the zippered interior pocket. Take the 10" x 10" lining piece and center it, face down, onto the lining.  Pin it down.  I chose to use a contrasting lining, but you can do as you wish.  Mark an 8" x 1/2" square onto the back of the fabric about 1.5" from the top of the zipper lining piece (I use pen but you can use whatever you like best).  Stitch along your lines.

Cut a line through the center of your stitching, stopping 1/2" from the sides.  Cut towards each corner on each side, going as close as you dare to each corner, but making sure not to cut the stitching.
Stuff the lining through the hole.  Work the lining as much as possible to make it flat/ invisible, using an iron as needed.
Place the 7" zipper through the hole, again matching up the side where the zipper sits when closed and letting the other side hang off as needed (it should fit just right, though).  Pin into place, keeping the lining invisible.

Stitch the zipper into place along four sides.
Fold up the pocket and stitch it into a square, enclosing the zipper inside.  Make sure to only stitch the zipper lining, and none of the bag lining.
Add the key fob by first taking the 2" x 5" piece and ironing it in half, then folding in each raw edge to the ironed line and ironing it again.  Stitch up and down along the long sides.  Tuck the snap hook onto this, making a loop. 
Using a seam ripper, open a small hole in the lining.  Put the key fob loop into this hole and re-stitch the seam. 
Then make a box stitch just below the seam to make it secure.  Note: A box stitch is just a square with a "X" in the middle that is used for seams that will potentially hold a bit of weight.
Then make the double interior pocket.  Take both the 8.5" and 6.5" squares and sew them, right sides together, leaving a 2" hole for turning along one side (not at a corner).   
Turn them using your favorite turning tool to press the corners out (you see that mine is a small pair of scissors).  
Iron flat.  Stitch across one of the sides on each piece (this will be the top-- and it doesn't matter if you enclose the turning hole in this seam or not).

Line up the squares with the smaller on top, matching bottom right corners.  Stitch together along the left seam of the smaller piece. 
 Pin them in place below the key fob and stitch it on three sides, making sure to include all of the pieces where the pocket is doubled. Attach your snaps to the centers of each pocket.  Also attach the snaps for the top center of the lining now.  Make sure that these are centered in the top loop exterior fabric and facing up (so they will match each other).
The pockets will take up most of that side.
To make the side pocket, Take the 7" x 6.5" pieces, and stitch the top and bottom.  Turn it inside out and iron flat.  Topstitch along the top.  Measure 7.5" from one side of the lining side piece and attach one side of your snap to the center.  Attach the other side to the center, just below the top where you just topsticthed.  Stitch along the bottom seam, snapping it while it is being sewn to assure correct placement.
Attach the side piece to both sides of the lining pieces now.  Again make sure you go slowly along the bottom curves and keep the seam allowance the same throughout.  Also make sure that the side with the pocket on the side keeps the pocket facing up, and that the pocket sides get sewn into the seam on both sides.
Pin the bottom edge of the strap to the opposite side of the bag, measuring 12" of hang from the top of the bag to the top of the strap for placement.  Mine ended up just below the rear exterior zipper pocket line.  But try it on and make sure it fits nicely.  The bags I patterned this after have adjustable straps, but I chose not to do this, thinking I would be the only one using it and could adjust it once and stitch it into place.

My idea for making the straps adjustable, if you want to do this, is to attach a button on the bottom of each side exterior, then make three or four buttonholes along the strap.  I had debated using snaps, but thought a button would be more secure.  I had also thought of using belt hardware like they do in the bags I patterned this after, but didn't want to spend the money or go to the store.

This is when you would add the D-Rings that I chose not to add.  They would go on each side of the exterior, 1" from the other side than the strap is attached.  You would attach them by making two 2" x 4" strips of exterior fabric with interfacing and ironing them in half then tucking the edges in and ironing them again, then tucking the ends in and ironing them again.  You would lace a D-Ring through each and box stitch it onto the exterior fabric 1" from the edge.

You would lace the other strap through it before pinning it to the opposite side.  The advantage of this is that it would help the bag have a bit more structure when it hangs.  The disadvantage is that it may make it a little harder to convert to a backpack/ it may sit a little awkwardly.  I think I will try it next time.

Then box stitch the bottom straps, attaching the straps to the exterior.
Tuck the exterior into the interior, making sure your right sides are facing and that the zipper side of the lining is lined up with the rear of the exterior piece.
Let your sweet child sit on your lap for a moment and play with the sewing machine.
Pin lining and exterior together, making sure curved sides line up and edge seams line up.  Leave a 3" hole for turning in the middle of one of the curved seams.  I like to mark the start and end of this hole with two pins to make sure I don't forget about it or miss it when I am sewing.
Turn it right-side out through the hole.
Topstitch around the top of the bag from the outside, closing the turning hole as you pass.
Here is the finished interior/ lining.
Here is the finished front exterior.
Here is the finished back exterior.
Enjoy! If you make this, please link to your bag or send me pictures and let me know how it goes!

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