Hobo Bag Pattern + Tutorial

DIY / Sewing bag TUTORIAL : How to make a hobo shoulder and crossbody bag

I don't know why these are called hobo bags, because I can't imagine a hobo having the time to whip up this little number. However, I have to say, I like the shape very much and somewhat got over my aversion to sewing curves. Fabric shown is Peapod (outside) and Leaflet (inside) from the Modern Flora Collection.
Materials Needed:

    1 yard fabric for exterior of bag
    2/3 to 1 yard fabric for interior of bag
    2/3 yard of heavy stabilizer (I used Pellon 65)
    piece of closed cell foam 2" x 18" (I use 3/16" to 1/4" thick- see footnote 1)
    magnetic snap
    2 round rings for straps
    1 8" long zipper (if inside pocket is desired)
    Fabric 10" x 12" for pocket (again, if desired)
    Purse pattern downloadable here. Prints on six 8 1/2" x 11" pages with guides to tape together.

Step 1:
Put together the pattern matching the circles. The pattern pages overlap by 1/2". Then cut your material following the pattern instructions.

Step 2:
I trim down my interfacing about 1/4" all the way around so that I can follow the fabric edge when I sew. Place the exterior fabric right side down on a flat surface and pin the interfacing to the fabric.

Step 3:
Baste (the longest stitch on your matchine) the interfacing to your fabric, between the seam allowance and the edge. I like to sew mine with the interfacing side up, as it tends to feed more evenly.

Step 4:
Now stitch the bottom/side pieces together using a 1/2" seam allowance. Stitch on the end closest to the notches.

Step 5:
About 1/2" before and after the notches, clip to just short of the seam allowance (1/2"). An apparel sewer would clip more than that, but I get nervous because I sometimes clip too far and everytime I clip I feel like I'm just adding a new place for the fabric to unravel.

Step 6:
Now pin one side of the bag to the bottom/side piece. Don't panic- I took a picture of the inside of this bag, but you are still working on the exterior piece. Match the center seam of the bottom/side piece with the center notch on the bag front. Then match the notches on the curves as you curve the side piece around.

Note that I pinned the bag on opposite sides. That is because I stitched from the center and sewed around to the top and did the same for the other side. I found my curves came out more uniform when I sewed them from the same direction, and if your fabric shifts as you sew, you are only dealing with half of your seam at a time, reducing the chance of the shape getting really wonky. Also, when you sew, stop your stitching 1/2" from the top of the front and back of the bag and backstitch to secure your stitching.

Repeat this process for the other side of the bag. And if your ends don't end up meeting perfectly, we can adjust that later. (On one side, my front and back pieces were 1/2" off.) 

Step 7:
The side piece that extends beyond the bag will be used to attach the round hardware. Pin under the 1/2" seam allowance along the sides. Then top stitch from the top to where this piece is attached to the purse front and back. (That's why you stopped stitching 1/2" from the edge in the last step- so you can treat those "loops" separately from the bag.) Note that I showed you the side of the bag in this photo where the front and the back of the bag match. You'll see the wonky one later. 

Step 8:
The next two pictures I actually did in reverse order, but do I say, not as I did. (Because I had to go back and redo.) Now you can turn down the top of the bag in the front and back 1/2" and pin in place.

 Step 9:
Place your hardware on the strips of fabric and turn down the "loops" about 1 1/2" inches from where they are sewn to the front and back and pin in place. Since you nicely turned down the front and back seams first, you can tuck those raw edges under the loops.

By the way, this is the side where the back and front side did not meet at the same point on the side. I adjusted that by just turning down more of a seam allowance on the one that came up too high. You can't tell when you look at the bag straight on and now it is even with the front when you look at it from the side. Of course, you can't see the finished result in this picture, because I hadn't done that part yet, though I should have.

 Step 10:
Here you can see the inside of the bag after I adjusted the seam allowance on the one side. You can also see how the raw edges from the front and back are hidden underneath the loop.

Now you can baste all around the top of the bag. When you get to the sides, just connect the stitching from the front to where you will start stitching on the back.

Step 11:
I don't have a picture for this step, as the ones I took were worthless. I cut a piece of closed cell foam 2" x 18". I marked the center (at 9") and glued it to the inside of the bag bottom to provide some structure. However, I'm not very confident with that method. It was difficult to get the foam to stick and I'm very suspicious with wear and tear it will separate from the bottom and just float around in the purse.

So here is what I have done in the past and I should have done here. Take some scrap fabric and cut two pieces about 2" wider and longer than the foam (in this case, 4" x 20"). Enclose the foam in the fabric and stitch all the way around. If you use your zipper foot, you can sew very close to the foam. Then, you can turn the exterior bag wrong side out and stitch the sides (the 18" long ones) to the purse seam allowances. Now the bottom of your bag won't sag oddly depending on what you put in it and the foam will stay put no matter what.

Trim your seam allowances down to about 1/4".

Step 12:
Now you will start working on the interior bag. I decided to put in a zippered pocket, but if that freaks you out, but all means skip it or just sew in a patch pocket. But, it is not as hard as you might think. Take the piece of fabric you cut for the pocket and place it wrong side up. 10" is the width, 12" is the height. 2" from the top, mark a rectangle (centered width-wise) that is 8 1/4" long and 1/2" wide. Now pin the pocket fabric to the interior back piece, right sides together, placing the pocket approximately 1/2" from the top.

Stitch around the rectangle, using a very small stitch length on the short ends and corners.

Step 13:
Carefully cut down the center of the rectangle and about 1/2" from the ends, clip toward the corners as close as you can without clipping the stitching. That corner clip determines how smooth the zipper rectangle will be.

Step 14:
Turn the pocket material right side out through the zipper hole you just cut. Using your iron and steam, press the rectangle flat, working the pocket fabric until it is hidden when viewed from the front side.

Step 15:
Flip back the sides of the interior fabric, revealing the little triangle formed by your clipping. Stitch across the triangle to secure as shown by the black line.

Step 16:
Place the zipper under the rectangular hole and pin. Stitch around the rectangle (about 1/8" from the edge) to secure the zipper. 

Step 17:
Fold the pocket fabric in half (parallel with the zipper) and pin on three sides. Stitch to form the pocket.

Step 18:
Assemble the interior of the bag the same way you assembled the exterior, with a couple of minor changes. Since you want this bag to fit neatly inside the exterior bag, use a seam allowance a "tad" over 1/2". (Tad is a technical term indicating a small measurement. So stitch a seam allowance somewhere between 1/2" and 5/8".) And when you stitch the side/bottom piece to the front and back, you can stitch all the way to the end of the side pieces. Trim your seam allowances.

Step 19:
Place the interior bag inside the exterior bag, wrong sides together. Fold under a 1/2" seam allowance on the interior bag, and adjust the seam allowance where necessary to make it fight nicely within the exterior bag. Pin in place.

Before the interior and exterior bag can be sewn together, the magnetic snap needs to be installed. Find the center of the front or back interior piece of the bag. Cut two small slits about 1/8" long to fit the prongs of the snap. Apply fraycheck, if desired, to keep the holes from raveling or ripping. Undo any pinning that gets in your way and install the pointy side of the snap through the slits and slip the backing onto the snap inside the bag. Bend the prongs outward to hold the snap. Now mark the pointy part of the snap with grease pencil or chalk. Hold the purse so that the sides are even and rub the snap against the other side (as shown in the picture). Now you can install the magnetic part of the snap on the other side using the chalk mark as your guide. Repin any pins your removed.

 Step 20:
Stitch around the entire top of the bag. I changed my bobbin thread to match the interior bag. Make sure you have sewn the interior and exterior bag together at all points around the bag. Remove the basting stitch you put in earlier.

Step 21:
Place the short straps right sides together. Stitch together using a 1/2" seam allowance, leaving the bottom open. Trim the seam allowance to 1/4". Using a dowel rod or the handle of a wooden spoon, turn the strap right side out. Use your iron and steam to press the strap flat. Use your fingers to work the seams open. On the bottom of the strap, fold the 1/2" seam allowance towards the inside and press in place. Topstitch all around the strap. Repeat the same for the long strap.

Step 22:
This picture shows both straps sewn together and topstitched ready to sew onto the bag.

Step 23:
Place the straight edge of the strap through the ring hardware and stitch about 1 1/2" from the ring. Repeat for the other strap. Then tie the ends into a square knot. 

1. Closed cell foam is a dense, thin foam that doesn't compress much. It is usually black, blue or white. It is not the cushy yellowish foam you find in your seat cushions. Where do you find closed cell foam? The easiest solution if you want just a little is to buy Foamies or another brand of foam sheets at a craft store and glue them together to get a thickness of a 1/4" or so. If you want closed cell foam in bulk, find a marine or auto upholstery business. If you're lucky, maybe they will give you a small piece to play with before you commit to a 10 yard roll! I'm sure you could also find it on the internet, but it is bulky (and thus expensive) to ship.

If you can't find any closed cell foam, your next best option is chair cushion foam or cardboard. The disadvantage of chair cushion foam is it has to be thicker (like 1") to provide any rigidity. The disadvantage of cardboard is if it gets crushed or bent, it doesn't recover. It also disintegrates when wet.
copyright  j. caroline designs, l.p.

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