handmade with a smile
I thought it might be nice to share how I made this. Unfortunately, I didn’t think about making up a follow along post until AFTER I had already made the bag, but it’s on my mind to do so soon. I didn’t start with a pattern, I only had shirts I thought would go well together, to make something new out of things that weren’t as interesting or useful to me in shirt form.
Every part of this bag was dictated by the items I used to make it, three shirts. Two t-shirts, one a red-violet leopard print, the other all black with yellow cat eyes and whiskers, and the third shirt was a sleeveless linen/acetate top. The form of the leopard print was flared at the bottom and smaller at the top, giving it a shape I’ve seen in many messenger bags. The black cat face shirt was a LOT of black as the shirt was an XXL. I have no clue where I found it, but it was in with my stash. The sleeveless shirt was one my mom had purchased for me years ago, but I never got around to wearing, but really enjoyed the feel and color of the fabric.
I cut out the fold over flap for the bag with the cat face in the center, with rounded bottom. I found the center of the cat face, folded the shirt in half vertically. To help ensure I was aligning the eyes and outer most whisker tips, I stuck a pin thru the layers, so I could see where the images lined up with one another. I left folded and used it as a template for the interfacing and the lining, which was made from the sleeveless top I’d deconstructed. So much seam ripping.
For the outer body of the messenger bag, I simply cut off the bottom bad, sleeves and shoulder/neck area of the leopard print t-shirt. That left me with a somewhat bell shaped tube of leopard print jersey knit, sans curved top. It also had two inverted triangular gores at the top sides that I wasn’t quite anticipating. I trimmed the side gores to symmetry, then opened one over a piece of paper and traced it’s outline. I knew I wanted 2.5″ wide straps, so with that in mind I made a pattern for the bag-strap junction. I went with a diamond shape for the junction, giving a slight flare to the top of the bag, and lending to a better lay on the body.
I used fusible interfacing, so after ironing it onto the black cat face I place it, right sides together, with the red-violet sleeveless fabric and sewed them together, leaving a 2″ opening along the top, to pull it right side out. Next, I aligned all the seams, ironed them flat, and topstitched all the way around the edge.
Now it was time to tackle the liner. I wanted it all to be the sleeveless shirt, but after the flap I’d used a lot and still needed it for the strap. I decided to bring the black cat face shirt back into play in more than just the strap lining. Because I know the bottom of any bag has a tendency to make items disappear, I didn’t think putting the darker color at the bottom, with the red-violet top of the sleeveless peaking out for the wearer only. Using the leopard print body as my template, I laid 2 layers of the sleeveless fabric, with the ‘top’ at about the mid-way of the body. Then I laid 2 layers of the black above it, overlapping the sleeveless by 1/2″ for the seam allowance. I placed the leopard body on top of that, with the seam in the middle, traced and cut the liner pieces out. Once sewn together (black to sleeveless, side and bottom) it looked just like the leopard body, just like I hoped.
At this point I made an inner pocket out of some of each of the fabrics. I saw to pieces, remnants from what I was just cutting, that looked interesting together. I sewed them together and added a strip of the black across the top, with a length of the leopard print. I didn’t have any preconceived shape for the pocket, and am delighted with how it came together.
Straps are the easiest, but as I’ve already discussed, something I seem to get carried away with in cutting them as long as I can. Anyway, I lay out my black and sleeveless fabrics out, cut 3″ strips as long as I can, and make sure that I cut out 2 diamond body-strap junction patterns out of both fabrics. Sew like colored strips into a long strip with the diamond junctions on each end, doing this with both straps. I found the center (shoulder) of both, pinned them right sides together, sewed only the top of the diamonds and the length on both sides, leaving the bottom of the diamond open.
Using a drawstring cincher I salvaged from the sleeveless top, I was able to make the strap adjustable and create added texture with lovely ruffles at the shoulder. I was beyond joyed when I first cinched it up and saw the effect.
Here’s the hard part, sewing the straps to the outer body and liner, then sewing it all together. I first pinned the straps, then the outer and inner, but not all the way around, just enough to make sure I was in fact, putting everything together correctly. After I was satisfied I was going to have a bag with a proper outer shell and inner liner, I sewed the straps on, then the liner to the shell, leaving a 2″ opening to turn it all right side out through. I put the opening at the back, where it would be the least noticed and hidden under the fold-over flap. After turning it all right side out, everything tucked and lined up, I topstitched the edges all around. The very last thing was to attach the flap to the back. I placed the flap, face to the back and top to top. To attach, I basically sewed a rectangle along the top. Done! A messenger style bag from three shirts, following their form.