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How To Make A Pattern For Duffel Bag


by Cayla Dowd



When it comes to travel, having the right essentials and accessories can make all the difference. One item that is a must-have for any traveler is a duffel bag. Not only are duffel bags versatile and spacious, but they are also durable and easy to carry. However, finding the perfect duffel bag can be a challenge. That’s why learning how to make your own duffel bag pattern can be a game-changer.


By creating your own duffel bag pattern, you have the freedom to customize the design, size, and functionality according to your specific needs. Whether you’re an avid traveler or just looking for a stylish and practical bag for weekend getaways, making a duffel bag can be a fun and rewarding project.


In this article, we will take you through the step-by-step process of creating a pattern for a duffel bag. You will learn how to choose the design, measure and draft the pattern, cut the fabric, sew the side seams, add the zipper, attach the handles, sew the bottom panel, and add the finishing touches. So, let’s dive in and discover how to make a pattern for a duffel bag that is perfect for your next adventure!


Materials and Tools Needed

Before you begin creating your duffel bag pattern, it’s important to gather all the necessary materials and tools. Here’s a list of what you’ll need:

  • Fabric: Choose a sturdy and durable fabric that can withstand the weight and rough handling of travel. Canvas or nylon are popular choices.
  • Lining Fabric: Optional, but recommended for added durability and a polished look.
  • Thread: Select a high-quality thread that matches your fabric color.
  • Scissors: Sharp fabric scissors for cutting the fabric.
  • Measuring Tape: To accurately measure and mark the dimensions of the bag.
  • Pins or Clips: To hold the fabric in place during sewing.
  • Zipper: Choose a heavy-duty or chunky zipper that is at least the length of the bag opening.
  • Sewing Machine: A sewing machine will make the process faster and easier, but you can also sew by hand if you don’t have one.
  • Iron: An iron will come in handy for pressing and flattening seams.
  • Pattern Paper or Large Sheets of Paper: Used for drafting the pattern.
  • Ruler or Straight Edge: To ensure accurate measurements and straight lines.
  • Fabric Marking Tool: A pen, chalk, or disappearing ink marker to mark the fabric.
  • Handles: You can choose to make your own handles using fabric or purchase pre-made handles.

Having these materials and tools ready before you start will ensure a smooth and efficient process. Additionally, make sure to create a comfortable and organized workspace with ample lighting and a large enough surface to lay out the fabric and pattern. Once you have everything prepared, you’re ready to move on to the next step of creating your duffel bag pattern.


Step 1: Choosing the Design

When it comes to choosing the design for your duffel bag, the options are endless. You can create a basic, no-frills bag or get creative with different pockets, compartments, and embellishments. Here are a few factors to consider when selecting your design:

  • Size: Determine how big you want your duffel bag to be. Consider your intended use, such as a carry-on bag or a gym bag, and think about the capacity you’ll need to fit your belongings.
  • Style: Decide on the overall style of your duffel bag. Do you prefer a sleek and minimalistic design, or do you want a bag with more character and unique features?
  • Pockets and Compartments: Think about the number and placement of pockets and compartments. Consider what items you’ll be carrying and whether you need specific sections for organization.
  • Closures: Determine how you want your bag to close. You can choose between a zipper closure, drawstring closure, or a combination of both.
  • Straps and Handles: Decide on the type of straps and handles you want for your bag. Should they be adjustable, removable, or fixed? Consider both comfort and functionality.
  • Decorative Elements: If you’re feeling creative, think about adding decorative elements such as fabric panels, embroidery, or hardware embellishments to make your duffel bag unique.

Consider your personal preferences and needs when choosing the design for your duffel bag. It’s helpful to gather inspiration from existing bag patterns, online tutorials, or even from your favorite store-bought bags. Once you have a clear idea of the design you want, you can move on to the next step: measuring and drafting the pattern.


Step 2: Measuring and Drafting the Pattern

Measuring and drafting the pattern is a crucial step in creating your duffel bag. This process ensures that your bag will have the right dimensions and proportions. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Measurements: Start by determining the dimensions you want for the main body of the bag. Measure the desired length, width, and height, keeping in mind any seam allowances you’ll need to add.
  2. Side Gussets: If you want your duffel bag to have a wider bottom or expandable sides, you’ll need to add side gussets. Determine the desired width and height of the gussets and add them to your measurements.
  3. Pockets and Compartments: If you plan to include pockets or compartments in your bag, measure and determine the dimensions of each section. Make sure to consider seam allowances and how they will affect the overall size of the bag.
  4. Add Seam Allowance: Once you have your measurements, add a seam allowance of around ½ inch to each side. This allows room for sewing the pieces together and creates a clean, finished edge.
  5. Draft the Pattern: Using pattern paper or large sheets of paper, draw out the main body piece of the bag based on your measurements and seam allowances. If you have additional sections like pockets or gussets, draft those as separate pieces as well.
  6. Label and Mark: Label each pattern piece with the name, dimensions, and indicating any markings like pockets or notches. Mark the grain lines as well, which indicate the direction of the fabric’s weave.

Remember to double-check your measurements and make any necessary adjustments before cutting out your fabric. It’s also beneficial to make a mock-up or test version using inexpensive fabric to ensure the pattern fits well and meets your expectations.


Keep your pattern pieces safely stored for future use, and now that you have your pattern ready, it’s time to move on to the next step: cutting the fabric.


Step 3: Cutting the Fabric

Now that you have your pattern drafted, it’s time to cut the fabric for your duffel bag. Follow these steps to ensure clean and precise cuts:

  1. Prepare the Fabric: Before cutting, be sure to wash and press your fabric to remove any wrinkles or residues. This step will help prevent shrinkage and ensure accurate measurements.
  2. Place the Pattern: Lay out your fabric on a flat surface and place the pattern pieces on top. Take note of the fabric’s grain direction and make sure the pattern lines up accordingly.
  3. Pin or Secure the Pattern: Once the pattern pieces are in place, use pins or fabric clips to secure them onto the fabric. Make sure the pattern is flat and taut to avoid any shifting during cutting.
  4. Cut the Fabric: Using sharp fabric scissors, carefully cut along the edges of the pattern pieces. Take your time and cut smoothly, maintaining the shape and ensuring accurate cuts.
  5. Repeat for Additional Pieces: If you have multiple pattern pieces, repeat the cutting process for each piece. Take care to label each piece as you go to avoid any confusion later on.

Be mindful of any notches, markings, and pockets indicated on the pattern pieces. These details are crucial for aligning and assembling the bag correctly. It’s also a good idea to keep a small sample of the fabric along with your pattern pieces for future reference.


Once all the fabric pieces are cut, you’re ready to move on to the next step: sewing the side seams.


Step 4: Sewing the Side Seams

With the fabric pieces cut, it’s time to start assembling your duffel bag. Sewing the side seams is an essential step that brings the bag closer to its final shape. Follow these steps to sew the side seams:

  1. Prepare Your Sewing Machine: Set up your sewing machine with the appropriate needle and thread. Refer to your machine’s manual for guidance on stitch length and tension settings.
  2. Align the Fabric Edges: Take two of the main body fabric pieces and align the side edges together, with the right sides facing each other. Pin or clip the edges to hold them in place.
  3. Start Sewing: Begin sewing the side seam, starting from the top and moving downwards. Use a straight stitch or a suitable stitch for your fabric and make sure to backstitch at the beginning and end to secure the seam.
  4. Press the Seam Open: After sewing, press the seam open using an iron on a low to medium heat setting. This will flatten the seam and create a neater finish.
  5. Repeat for Other Side Seams: Repeat the process for the remaining side seams, aligning and sewing each one in the same manner. Press the seams open after sewing.

Ensure that your seam allowances are consistent and accurate throughout. Take your time and sew slowly to maintain straight and even stitches. It’s also a good practice to reinforce the seams by sewing a second row of stitches a few millimeters away from the original seam.


Once the side seams are sewn and pressed, you’re one step closer to completing your duffel bag. The next step is adding the zipper, which will allow easy access to the bag’s interior.


Step 5: Adding the Zipper

Adding a zipper to your duffel bag is an important step that allows for convenient access to the contents inside. Here’s how to add the zipper:

  1. Prepare the Fabric: Before attaching the zipper, finish the raw edges of the fabric where the zipper will be placed. You can use a serger or a zigzag stitch to prevent fraying.
  2. Measure and Mark: Place the zipper along the top opening of the bag and determine its desired placement. Mark the starting and ending points of the zipper on both sides of the fabric.
  3. Pinning or Basting: Pin or baste the zipper onto the fabric, aligning the marked points with the center of the zipper. Make sure the right side of the zipper is facing the right side of the fabric.
  4. Sew the Zipper: Attach a zipper foot to your sewing machine and sew along the length of the zipper, stitching close to the teeth. Take your time to ensure straight and even stitches.
  5. Test the Zipper: After sewing, test the zipper to make sure it opens and closes smoothly without any fabric getting caught. Make any necessary adjustments if needed.
  6. Secure the Ends: To prevent the ends of the zipper from unraveling, sew a few stitches across each end. This will secure the zipper in place and create a clean finish.

It’s important to note that adding a zipper requires a bit of precision and attention to detail. Take your time and sew at a pace that allows for accuracy. If you’re new to sewing zippers, don’t worry! It may take a few tries to get it just right, but with practice, you’ll become more confident in this skill.


Once the zipper is securely attached, you can easily open and close your duffel bag, making it functional and practical for your travel needs. Next, we will move on to attaching the handles, which will make carrying the bag a breeze.


Step 6: Attaching the Handles

Attaching handles to your duffel bag is essential for easy and comfortable carrying. Whether you prefer fabric handles or pre-made handles, here’s how to attach them:

  1. Decide on Handle Placement: Determine the ideal placement for your handles. Measure the distance from the top edges of the bag and mark the desired positions.
  2. Prepare the Handles: If you’re using fabric handles, fold the fabric in half lengthwise with right sides together and sew along the long edge. Turn the fabric tube right side out and press it flat. For pre-made handles, skip this step.
  3. Pin or Baste the Handles: Securely pin or baste the ends of the handles to the marked positions on the bag. Ensure that they are evenly spaced and aligned.
  4. Sew the Handles: Attach a zipper foot or a suitable presser foot to your sewing machine. Starting at one end, sew along the edge of the handle, securing it to the bag. Reinforce the stitches by going back and forth a few times.
  5. Test the Handles: Gently tug on the handles to ensure they are securely attached to the bag. Adjust the stitching if needed, reinforcing it if necessary.

When attaching the handles, consider the weight and size of your bag. If you anticipate carrying heavy items, reinforce the handle attachments by sewing a square or an X pattern to provide extra strength and durability.


Remember to position the handles in a way that provides balance and ease of carrying. Test the bag with the handles attached to ensure that they are comfortable and secure.


With the handles successfully attached, your duffel bag is taking shape and becoming ready for its final steps. In the next step, we will sew the bottom panel to give the bag structure and stability.


Step 7: Sewing the Bottom Panel

As we near the end of creating your duffel bag, sewing the bottom panel is an important step that adds structure and stability. Follow these steps to sew the bottom panel:

  1. Prepare the Bottom Panel: Cut a piece of fabric according to the dimensions of the bottom panel specified in your pattern.
  2. Align the Fabric: With the right sides of the fabric facing each other, align the edges of the bottom panel with the bottom edge of the bag. Pin or clip the fabric in place.
  3. Start Sewing: Using a ½ inch seam allowance, sew along the edges of the bottom panel, attaching it to the main body of the bag. Start and end with backstitches to secure the seam.
  4. Press the Seam: After sewing, press the seam open using an iron on a low to medium heat setting. This will make the seam lie flat and create a polished finish.

It’s important to sew the bottom panel securely to ensure the bag’s stability and longevity. Consider reinforcing the seam by sewing a second row of stitches a few millimeters away from the original seam.


Once the bottom panel is sewn, turn the bag right side out and inspect the seam for any loose threads or uneven stitching. Trim any excess threads and make any necessary adjustments for a clean and professional finish.


Your duffel bag is almost complete! In the final step, we will add the finishing touches to make your bag truly stand out.


Step 8: Finishing Touches

Congratulations! You’re in the final step of creating your very own duffel bag. Now it’s time to add those finishing touches that will make your bag look polished and professional. Here are a few options to consider:

  • Topstitching: You can add topstitching along the seams or edges of your bag to give it a clean and finished look. This not only adds aesthetic appeal but also reinforces the seams for extra durability.
  • Trim or Piping: If you want to add some decorative elements to your bag, consider incorporating trim or piping along the seams or edges. This can add a pop of color or texture and elevate the overall design.
  • Embellishments: Get creative and add embellishments like patches, embroidery, or fabric appliqués to personalize your duffel bag. These small details can make a big difference and add a unique touch.
  • Lining: If you prefer, you can line the interior of your bag for a neat and professional finish. Cut and sew a lining fabric according to the dimensions of your bag and attach it to the inside before sewing the bottom panel. This will not only enhance the look but also add durability.
  • Hardware: Consider adding hardware elements such as metal D-rings, swivel hooks, or buckles to your bag for added functionality. These can be used to attach adjustable straps, keychains, or other accessories.

Choose the finishing touches that align with your personal style and the overall design of your duffel bag. Remember to sew any additional elements securely, paying attention to details and ensuring they are properly attached.


Once you’ve added the finishing touches, take a step back and admire your handiwork. You’ve successfully created your own duffel bag from start to finish! It’s now ready to accompany you on your future travels or serve as a thoughtful gift for someone special.


As you gain more experience and confidence, feel free to experiment with different designs, fabrics, and techniques to create even more unique and customized duffel bags. Enjoy the process and happy travels!



Learning how to make a pattern for a duffel bag opens up a world of possibilities. Not only does it allow you to create a bag tailored to your specific needs and preferences, but it also provides a rewarding and enjoyable DIY project. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can confidently create a duffel bag that is both functional and stylish.


Throughout the process, we covered important steps such as choosing a design, measuring and drafting the pattern, cutting the fabric, sewing the side seams, adding the zipper, attaching the handles, sewing the bottom panel, and adding the finishing touches. Each of these steps contributes to the overall construction and quality of your duffel bag.


Remember, practice makes perfect. Don’t be discouraged if your first attempt isn’t flawless. With each bag you make, you will refine your skills and improve your techniques. Embrace creativity and feel free to experiment with different fabrics, colors, and embellishments to make your duffel bag truly unique.


Whether you’re an avid traveler, a fitness enthusiast, or simply someone who appreciates a versatile and stylish bag, creating your own duffel bag pattern allows you to have a customized accessory that reflects your personal style and functionality needs.


Now, armed with the knowledge and skills you’ve gained, it’s time to put them into practice. Grab your materials, set up your workspace, and start bringing your duffel bag vision to life. Enjoy the creative journey and happy sewing!