February 6, 2012

Braided Belt Messenger Bag Tutorial

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Hello Dolls,

I am so excited to bring you all this tutorial! I was in love with this bag the second I finished it! I am also so happy because the more I sew the more comfortable I feel designing bags myself without looking at another tutorial - and you can too! I looked at multiple tutorials for messenger and tote bags and then combined and changed different elements that I liked about them into one "super" bag. I recommend reading lots of tutorials when you are beginning to sew. There are many times I will just sit and read tutorials without even sewing. I like to mentally picture what the tutorial is asking me to do and try to figure out why each step is necessary; I feel like this is helping me when I try to design something by myself. Maybe my fiancé's analytical and scientific nature is rubbing off on me :)

I hope you all enjoy this bag as much as I do! It was surprisingly easy to make and didn't take long at all. If you have any questions feel free to contact me!

Now, onto the tutorial...

[1] Exterior Fabric (for body)- 14.5" x 13" CUT ON FOLD*
* By cut on fold I mean that you should cut your fabric so the bottom is on the fold of the fabric. You should essentially have one piece of exterior fabric that is 14.5" x 26" and then folded in half

[2] Lining Fabric (for body)- 14.5" x 13"

[2] Pellon SF101 Interfacing - 14.5" x 13"

[1] Exterior Fabric (for flap) - 14" x 12.75"

[1] Lining Fabric (for flap) - 14" x 12.75" CUT ON FOLD*
*You are going to cut the lining fabric for the flap on the fold just like you did with the exterior part of the bag. I decided to do this instead of use interfacing because I wanted to make sure there wasn't a risk of the lining fabric on the flap wrinkling because of the interfacing because it will be visible a lot of the time. By cutting on the fold you are going to have 2 layers of lining fabric to add weight

[2] Exterior Fabric (for pocket linings) - 9" x 6.25"

[2] 9" Zippers in a coordinating color

[1] Magentic Snap closure

[1] Leather Braided Belt - I got mine at the Thrift Store. I chose to use a men's belt so it would be long enough to wear across my chest. Make sure you also have a needle for sewing through leather. You won't be able to use a regular fabric machine needle because it will break trying to go through the leather.

Gorilla Glue
Scrap heavyweight interfacing for stabilizing fabric where the magnetic snap will be

Cut fabric pieces and fuse interfacing to wrong side of lining fabric body pieces


First, buckle your belt so there is just a little bit of excess after the buckle. 
Then, using paper clamps, clamp your belt so it does not unbraid when you cut it. 

Use your Gorilla Glue to coat the ends of the belt where you just cut to ensure that it does not unbraid after you remove the clamps. Set the belt on top of a piece of scrap paper to catch drips and set aside until the end of the project. 

Lay one of your zippers on top of one of your body lining pieces of fabric 2" down from the top

Mark on your lining fabric about an inch shorter on each end than your zipper

What you are doing here is measuring your zipper on top of your lining fabric to create a rectangular opening in your lining fabric where the zipper will show through. You want this rectangular opening to be slightly smaller than your zipper to ensure that the fabric will overlap the zipper for when you sew it onto the fabric. 

This is what your rectangular marking on your fabric should look like. 

Next, you need to cut a line through the middle of the rectangle you just drew. 
Use the drawing on the photo below as reference.

Now you will fold back the excess fabric from the lines you just cut in your rectangle 
and fold and iron them back towards the wrong side of your lining fabric. 

Place your zipper so it shows through the opening you just created. I used scotch tape to hold my zipper in place while I sewed because I was having trouble holding the fabric and zipper at the same time to pin them in place. Top stitch around your zipper sewing as close to the edge of your opening as you can to ensure that you are sewing through the fabric and the zipper.

Lay one of your pocket pieces so it is right side down on top of the lining piece - lining fabric should be wrong side up
Pin in place. 

Sew around the perimeter of the pocket fabric.

You should have an awesome pattern lined pocket now! Good job! 

Now, repeat the above process for the pocket on the front of your bag. I marked this one 4" down instead of 2" down. 

Pressed back excess fabric

Pocket lining piece pinned in place

And Ta Da! Another pocket! You are on a roll...most of the hardest parts are done now! 

Now lets make the flap...
Place your exterior flap fabric right sides together on top of the lining flap fabric 
and sew 1/4" seam on 3 of the sides leaving the bottom open

Trim excess fabric and clip corners

Use your scrap heavyweight interfacing and fuse it onto the lining fabric to add stability for your magnetic snap.
Now, attach your magnetic snap so it goes through both the lining pieces of fabric but not the exterior fabric. 
Here is a great tutorial from Little Birdie Secrets for attaching magnetic snaps. She uses fray check in her process which I didn't do but it does sound like a great idea if you have some on hand!

After my snap is attached I like to fuse another scrap piece of interfacing on top of the snap so you won't feel the hard metal as much through the exterior flap fabric. After that step flip your flap piece right side out and press it well. 
Top stitch around the three sides, continuing to leave the bottom open 

Let's make the body of the bag now! 
Fold your Exterior Body Fabric so the right sides are together. Pin in place and sew along the side with a 1/4" seam.

Now to box the corners...squeeze the bottom corner of the bag so the side seam is in the middle and pressed against the bottom of your bag. What you are looking at in the picture below is my side seam. 
If you need a refresher on boxing corners, try checking my Sewing Tips for Beginners Post.

Mark 2" from the corner point and sew on that line directly across

Trim the excess
You can turn the exterior of the bag right side out at this point.

Repeat the same process above for the lining fabric. Place the lining fabric right sides together and sew along three of the sides leaving the TOP open. Measure the same 2" when boxing the corners. Do not turn your lining body right side out yet. Leave it inside out.

Hang in there, there's not much more to do...don't you feel so awesome already? 
Keep thinking about how great those internal zipper pockets look! 

Attaching the flap to the exterior body...

Pin the flap to the back of the exterior body piece with about 2" sticking up over the top of the bag. 
The right side of the flap should be facing the back of the body of the bag. 
Sew 1/2" seam to attach the flap to the bag. I sewed one direction and then flipped the bag and sewed back the other way to add stability and strength. Trim the excess flap fabric that is sticking up past the top of the bag. 

Place your exterior body right side out inside of the lining body (which is still turned inside out so it is wrong side out.) Line up the seams on the sides and pin. The flap of your exterior body should be facing the lining pocket. 
Sew along the top of the bag but leave 3" on each side where the side seams are. 
This is where you will turn your bag right side out. 

After you sew the top of the bag together use one of the 3" openings on the side to reach in and pull your bag right side out and push the lining into inside of the bag. The two 3" openings at the top where your seams are is where you will place your leather belt strap.

I didn't take photos of me attaching my leather straps because honestly it was pretty difficult sewing through the leather and I got distracted and forgot about my camera ;) 

Use your leather sewing needle and use the knob on your machine to hand crank the machine to sew through the leather belt. I went over the belt as many times as I could to ensure that the strap was attached well. The 3" opening will be wider than your strap so after you attach the strap top stitch around the whole top perimeter of the bag (this will create a professional touch and ensure the rest of the 3" openings are closed)

After the straps are attached flip the flap over the bag and mark where the magnetic snap hits - This will be where you attach the other side of the magnetic snap. Mine went through the very bottom of the front pocket so I just reached into the bag and attached the snap through the front of the bag so it goes through multiple layers of fabric. 

You're done! Now give yourself a big pat on the back and enjoy your bag! 

Here are some photos of my finished product: 
(A big "Thank You" to my amazing fiancé for taking the photos of me wearing the bag)


  1. Melanie,
    I actually got it in the remnants bin at Joann Fabrics! It turned out to be the exact amount I needed to make this bag. It is a heavy, decor weight fabric. Isn't it great? I was so happy when I found it there!

    1. I work at Joanns and we still carry this fabric! :) Its $10.99 a yard its a home essentials fabric in the home decor section :D

  2. Lovely tutorial. Never thought of doing zippered pockets this way, but it is much simpler and you arn't left with a bunch of bulky fabric. Can't wait to try this one out!

  3. I love this! Well done! Thank you for sharing, it is fantastic.

  4. I'm so awful at these things! I guess it just takes practice, wish you could buy this somewhere, because I'm in love! Fabric is amazzing! Thanks for sharing!

  5. Thanks!! I'm glad you like it! This bag is actually for sale on my Etsy shop at: http://www.etsy.com/listing/92451901/braided-leather-belt-messenger-bag?ref=af_shop_favitem


  6. ive got to find someone who can sew to help me make this!!!

  7. Great tutorial! You've been featured on the Quality Sewing Tutorials blog.

    We hand select only the best free tutorials and patterns for the home sewist.

    Grab a brag button!

  8. I just started sewing...and these zippered pockets seem a LOT easier than the way I have been doing them..(with the folded over pocket inside zipper-sorry, don't know the technical term! lol) Definitely going to try this soon!!

  9. I just finished making this bag (with some modifications)for my friend for her birthday..your tutorial was so easy to follow thank you so much! My friend will absolutely love it!! And I was even able to find the fabric you used!!!!

  10. Thank you ! It's so cute ! I'm gonna try ... just need to find a fiancé's belt ^^

  11. Hey Caroline - can you help me out? I'm about to purchase fabric to make this lil cutie - how many yards does it require for the lining fabric and the exterior fabric? Thanks oodles!! ~Vicki H

    1. We bought 1 yard of exterior and 1 1/8 yard for the lining, and it was plenty.

  12. I would definitely buy one of these from you in a heartbeat! You should think about starting up on Etsy! Let me know if you ever do! ashtonwenz@gmail.com!

  13. Hey Caroline, I am trying to put the zippers in for the pockets, and I'm having a lot of problems with it. How wide of an opening did you cut for the first (and second) zipper? My zipper looks fine except at the ends and the angles don't line up right; there's a gap between the sides of the zipper and the end of the zipper. I hope this makes sense. All I can figure is that the opening must be pretty small, and the angle cuts at the end must not be very steep?

  14. ooh, love that bag! Thank you so much for the tutorial, I've got to make one of these. You look fab in those photo's, by the way. Thanks again! x

  15. GREATTTTTTTTTTTTTTT ABSOLUTLY GREAT TUTORIAL! thank you for sharing!!!!!!!!!!!

  16. How much did it cost to make it? Great tutorial by the way! I need to find someone who sews...

  17. Thank you SOOOO much for the awesome tutorial! I have made 3 of these bags now! They have all came out really well thanks to your detailed directions! I used sew-on velcro instead of the magnet clip, but it will looks good

  18. You really put together a wonderful tutorial! I just saw this on Pinterest. We would LOVE for you to stop over and share it in our Crafty Showcase! I'm personally bookmarking this for my teens.

    Have a great week!

    Susie @Bowdabra

  19. wow you make this sound so easy that I, as a person who has never even used a sewing machine, feel like i could do this.

    at least...i could do it as soon as my mom shows me how to use the sewing machine.

  20. Your bag is beautiful. I plan on making one. Thanks

  21. I'm going to make one but one question. Is it big enough for school stuff like folders ect. ?

  22. I've actually been looking at bags for sophomore year but so far everything is much too expensive (at least to spend my well-earned and short funds on). I've just within the past year or so been getting into sewing, so this will be a fun project to do. Thanks so much for this great tutorial! Will definitely be heading off to the fabric and craft store soon! (:

  23. Thank you so much - I feel really inspired by your clear tutorial and logical instructions. Just off to find a belt to have a go.

  24. Thank you for the tutorial! I made it, and it turned out great. My only suggestion would be to emphasize the dimensions and direction of fabric when cutting and sewing. I used a directional flower pattern, and ended up cutting the flap sideways. Thankfully I had enough to cut another piece, but others might not be so lucky. Thanks! Amy

  25. I LOVE this! I'm working on making one right now! I'm inspired to think of my own patterns for stuff like this! Thanks!! :D

  26. Looks great! Could I use this as a school book bag? By that I mean is it strong enough to carry some heavy books?

  27. Very cute!! Love the colors of the fabric

  28. This is a very good tutorial with specific measurements and great pics! Do you think I could use pleather for just the flap? I have a piece of turquoise I wanted to recycle.

  29. I love this bag....I have been looking for a new bag to use for school and i couldn't seem to find one. But what better way than to make my own!

  30. This is perfect! I was looking for an across the shoulder bag that I could use as a purse and I think this would work great! Also, I agree with your comment about reading a lot of tutorials before you make something so you can tweak it to your own pattern, it's what I do most of the time. Anyway, awesome job!!

  31. This comment has been removed by the author.

  32. What is the brand name of this fabric? What is the print name? Is it still available at Joann fabric, or online at Joann fabric?

  33. Great bag! Love the belt shoulder strap and the fabric. Remnants are awesome, especially at Joanne's because they discount even more. This pattern is a keeper. Thanks for sharing your talents! Yvette

  34. I don't sew but this makes me want to. Thank you for all the pictures and directions!

  35. Are you going to make anymore since the one of Etsy sold?? I would like to buy it!!

  36. Rachel,
    I am actually making a couple right now! :) Unfortunately I don't have any more of the original fabric (and I've gone back to Joann's looking for it about a million times and even asked them if they would special order it for me but they said they couldn't) - However, if you go on my Etsy store I have a bunch of fabric choices for Braided Belt Messenger Bags and I will have 3 more up shortly - you can find them at www.chwhcrafts.etsy.com

  37. i dont get how u say cut 14.5" x 13" and then tell us it should be 14.5" x 26" Dx and still lost on how the inside should look like when it is done + how to sew itD: so confused help~

  38. What was the overall cost for all of the materials?

  39. love the belt idea and what a nice fabric!

  40. That is so lovey. Thanks for sharing

  41. Made this bag and I love it! It's really cute and casual.

  42. What else do you use the interface for besides the magnetic snap? I'm just confused as to where else I would use it.

  43. Will you be making any more of these bags before Christmas were people can buy them? Cause these are really cute and I know even with your step by step instructions I couldn't make it turn out as cute as that. :) so please comment back as soon as you can and let me know! Thanks!!!

    1. I apologize for not getting back to you sooner! If you would like to take a look at my fabric selections on my Etsy shop and order by the 18th of December I might be able to get it to you before Christmas (depending on where you live) although there may be an additional charge for rushed shipping. You can find the bags at http://www.etsy.com/shop/chwhcrafts?section_id=11768645


  44. Just made your awesome bag. Thanks so much for the tutorial. You can see it here.

  45. What a wonderful tutorial. The instructions are well written and easy to understand. Thank you for giving me a new project for the New Year.

  46. I finally finished mine! Thanks for the great tutorial! See it here:

  47. I love it!! It is perfect!! Excellent tutorial!!

  48. Hi. I love this bag! I made it for a friend that was going to Ecuador! It was so awesome seeing pictures of her travels with this bag in most of them! :) Great tutorial too. I hadn't done a zipper before and you really made it easy! Thanks so much.

  49. Can i ask what type of sewing machine did you use for the belt ?A professional one ?i am afraid that my home machine will not easy sew the belt .

  50. I LOVE this tutorial- THANK YOU for posting it! I made my own and posted about it (of course I linked back to your blog a and post). I didn't do mine exactly like yours because I didn't have the patience and my sewing skills are lacking a little. But I really love your detailed tutorials, thanks again!


  51. How much Lining Fabric (for flap) do you need? 14" x 12.75" or 14" x 25.5" because you say CUT ON FOLD?

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