Cargo pants to purse: a tutorial

29 09 2011

A long time ago I mentally bookmarked this tutorial from noodlehead to make a messenger bag from a pair of cargo pants.  I even went to a thrift shop and bought a pair… and they sat, and sat, and sat down in the “to recycle” pile.  Note to self: mental bookmarks are not the way to go when your brain is like swiss cheese!  Anyway, I finally got around to it when I decided my old purse wasn’t working out.  I love it, but it’s so open on top that things fall out of it.  After losing my phone in the car a few times I decided to get serious about making a new purse.  So I went back to that tutorial, and realized it was too much like the scavenger hunt bag I made for BB in its construction (ie. too much work).  In light of that, I came up with a similar bag with a simpler construction.  (At least it was supposed to be simpler, until I decided to add pockets on every available surface, because really, what good is a purse that is not full of pockets?)  Here it is!



It has 2 pockets on the inside plus 2 carabiner loops, and 2 more pockets on the outside.  Here’s how I made it:

Gathering the materials:

  1. I cut out one big piece of the outer fabric and one of the lining.  They measured 25” x 11”, but it could be made any size.  In retrospect I think it should be shallower (less than 25” long would be better, I think).  The pocket from the cargo pants will end up on the outside of the bag.  IMG_4200
  2. I did some math.  I was going to sew up the sides to make the bag, using a 0.5” seam allowance, so the final width of the bag would be 10”.  The strap is going to be 2” wide, centered on the seam, so 1” on each side left an 8” opening for the flap.  I cut 2 pieces 8×10”, one of the lining and one of the outside, and rounded the corners.  (10” long was just how big I wanted it, not a calculated number.)IMG_4198
  3. I wanted a 2” wide strap, and the length I just eyeballed based on draping it over my shoulder – very scientific!  The easy way would be to cut pieces 3” wide of outer and lining, but I was running out of lining fabric so I cut a 2” wide piece of the lining fabric and a 4” wide piece of the outer fabric.  Also pictured: sort-of-matching bias tape used to trim the flap.  IMG_4201

Bag construction:

  1. Sewing the flap: put the wrong sides together, pin in place, and sew on the bias tape on three sides as shown:IMG_4212
  2. Constructing the strap: place inner and outer pieces right sides together and sew. IMG_4213 Then match up the other side to make a tube, wrong sides together, and sew.  IMG_4215 Turn the tube right side out, center the contrast fabric, and press.  IMG_4216 Topstitch along the edges. IMG_4217
  3. Optional: add pockets!  I cut out a cargo pocket from the pants (they had a lot of pockets) and just zig-zag stitched it onto the lining.  The only thing to make sure is that it’s right side up!IMG_4218 I added another scrap of cargo pant to the other side for another pocket (this one is oriented the other way, so it will be right side up in the end).  IMG_4219 And I sewed another scrap pocket onto the outside piece:IMG_4220
  4. Sew up the sides: put the right sides together for the outer piece and sew up the sides to make a pouch:IMG_4221 It doesn’t look like much, just an inside-out pouch!  Do the same thing for the lining.  (Oooh, I almost forgot, at this step I added two loops on the side of the lining.  I just stitched closed some of my bias tape and tucked it in the side seams, about 1.5” down from the top edge.  These are my carabiner loops which I love for holding keys and things when I don’t have pockets.)
  5. Square the corners: There may be better instructions out there but I’ll try: flatten the bottom corners as shown:IMG_4222 I wanted to make a 2” wide corner, so I made a line where it was 2”, then sewed along it.  Snip off corner.  Done!IMG_4223 Repeat on the other corner, and for both corners on the lining.
  6. Final assembly: With the outer part of the  bag right side out, pin the straps in place, right sides together.  Then pin the flap in place right sides together.  Finally, turn the lining inside out and shove everything into it, matching up side seams.  Pin all around.  Sew, leaving an opening to turn.  It’s pretty bulky, 3” should do it.  IMG_4224
  7. Turn right side out and if you did everything right in the previous step you have a purse!  Topstitch that opening closed and you are done.  Take a picture before you even wash off the marker!IMG_4232

I didn’t do a closure, I think the flap stays closed fine without any help.  I am in love with this pocket-laden, messenger-style, machine washable bag.  Only a mom could be so geeked out about this, but that outer cargo pocket (on the back) holds a diaper and wipes, so this is my diaper bag too!  Hope this inspires someone to make their own!

I am entering this in A Lemon Squeezy Home’s Purse week, check it out for some way better tutorials and substantially more fashionable entries!




2 responses

30 09 2011

I LOVE this bag! Thanks for sharing 🙂 Those cargo pants are so fun because they already have so many pockets. Good luck in the Purse Week competition!

10 10 2011

What a great bag, Monica! I am several years behind on making a bag for a friend of mine and this pattern might just inspire me…

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