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!



7 03 2011

I was browsing through Michael’s the other day and came across these cool iron-on transfers on clearance.  I thought it would be a fun way for BB to design his own shirt, and sure enough, he really enjoyed it!  I have yet more and more and more raglans coming out of my old t-shirt pile, so we took the plain shirt, the transfers, and BB picked the biggest eye, the biggest mouth, and put the arms as legs…hey, there are no wrong ways to make a monster, right?  He placed everything on, and then I ironed it on:


He is so excited about this shirt!  He can’t keep his hands off it!  “Mike!”, he says.  “I haven’t seen you in years!”  Mike, of course, being the monster from Monsters, Inc.  We did the transfers on Friday (onto the front piece of the shirt) and I finished sewing the shirts last night, so I guess he has been missing his monster friend.  I thought one of the best things about making our own shirts was avoiding the commercialism of store-bought ones, but I guess there is no escaping the Disney juggernaut.  He’s never even seen the movie!  I made a monster for LB using extra features from the kit (there was only one iron-on monster body so I sewed on a piece of green fabric to make his) . 


BB was very disappointed that this one didn’t look like Sulley.  I gave him horns, but when he starts out as a green blob, there is just no way he is going to look like Sulley.  LB, of course, doesn’t care about it one way or the other.  He looked at it and said “car!” which I guess is approval, since that’s his favorite word.  My little models workin’ those new shirts:


Bottom left is LB having a fit because he can’t play with BB’s cool spelling toy.  Upper right is BB “posing” for me.  He’s getting to be a real ham for pictures!  And LB sees the camera and says “cheese!” (middle shot); he’s a great little model!  LB’s pants are new too, I’ll be posting more about them soon….

Scavenger Hunt Bag

28 02 2011

Well, it’s finished.  19 pieces and 3 days later, it’s all assembled and ready for the big reveal.  I tell BB about it and he is excited; I explain that we can carry it with us when we go hiking and he can use it to collect interesting things he finds.  “Oh!” he says.  “Like leaves and rocks and…shiny rocks!”  At this point I’m excited too because guess who usually gets to carry all the rocks he finds on our hikes?  I’ll give you a hint: it’s not him.  Sadly, that was as far as the enthusiasm went.  He willingly tried it on, and it’s a great size (I was a little worried since the strap is not adjustable), but he didn’t want any part of it.  I was a little crushed because I worked really hard on it and thought he might be a little more excited, but then I should know better by now.  That’s why I like doing clothes; they don’t even notice them, they just wear them and I get to enjoy seeing them use something I made.  Handmade toys?  Forget it.  I think I’ll tuck this away until it’s warm enough to use it, then maybe it will be received enthusiastically again.  The tutorial was great, and I thank Steffanie at Sew grown for providing it.  The fruit of my labors:

02 February3

It started out as half a pair of jeans (the other half having gone into baby pants) and scraps of linen from a sling (plus some Alexander Henry 2D Zoo that I have been looking for an excuse to use).  I skipped the piping, which looks great, but I am sticking faithfully to my no-buy. 


The bonus is that the inside has pockets too, from the jeans, as well as one that I cut out and stitched onto the back of the bag.  Then I used the button from the jeans to make a closure for the bag.  Of course, that means BB will have to learn to open and close a button, but that’s a useful life skill anyway.



I can’t wait for warmer weather so we can get outside and try it out!  (Can you tell I am sick of winter?)  I read about letterboxing the other day and I was so excited to try it out that I almost dragged the kids on a winter hike (which we do occasionally), but then I realized that even if we could follow the clues to the right location, the box would be well and truly buried in the snow.  Then comes the season of unending mud, but by May we should be good to go so… 3 more months?  I hope we survive; we are all getting some serious cabin fever!

Refashioned Raglans

24 02 2011

Nothing fancy today, just a few shirts I have finished up this week for Celebrate the Boy!  I’m continuing to raid the giant box of old t-shirts I have retired. The pattern is the Patrick Raglan, which at first I thought was too complicated but now I can crank out in no time, and I really like the look.  Before:


LB gets plain white and grey (left), BB gets an old favorite of mine (and his), my “Free Cookies” shirt I got for donating blood ages ago.  LB’s shirt was sort of plain so I decided to try some decorative serging on the outside, and did a freezer paper stencil of a car, his favorite thing in the world:


I think he likes it!


Here is BB’s shirt:


Arrrgh, the neckline got puckered when I was sewing on the collar!  I didn’t see any good way to fix it so I just figured (1) BB would never notice and (2) it would probably be less noticeable when worn, which I think is sort of true.  A modeling shot:


I got these pictures first thing in the morning; I was so excited to try them on the kids.  Wouldn’t you know, by lunchtime they had both managed to stain them.  BB with blood (aack!) and LB with jam and poo (ugh! ick!).  As much as I loved the ideas for dressing up your little man on Made today, looking them over the outfits are $50-$100 apiece and it’s hard to justify that, no matter how adorable it is, when you know the outfit will be dirty (and possibly ruined) by midday.  Maybe my kids are messier than most?  Or maybe they’re just BOYS!  Anyway, it’s a nice feeling to make them an outfit that looks OK and that they like, and it was made of FREE materials, so when they bleed on it (*sigh*) you don’t have to panic about it!  (Well, maybe panic about the bleeding, but at least you don’t have to worry about the shirt.)

Back to reality (+ shirt showcase)

17 01 2011

Hi all!  (To all 2 people who might be reading this.)  I’ve been gone again from the blogosphere, on vacation again, and then sick with a stomach bug.  But now things are getting back to normal and I thought I’d share a few pics.  They are all taken with my iPod (a Christmas gift) because on vacation I didn’t carry a purse, so I didn’t carry my camera, but I found I could carry the iPod in my pocket.  I am completely in love with it, and may have gone a little hipstamatic-crazy (much to my husband’s annoyance; he likes pictures SOOC, but I think the iPod photos are so sub-par it doesn’t hurt to make them more interesting).  Here are some of my favorite pictures:


(There is a gecko in the lower right-hand picture).  Oh, these are from the Dominican Republic, which is where we had our big family-reunion-type vacation.  I have it in mind to print these 4 pictures and make a real collage like this to hang up…

Anyway, I made the boys matching shirts, but unfortunately BB refused to wear his.  That’s gratitude for you!  Here’s LB sporting his:


Here he is wandering off in his beach shirt while I have a beer:


Yeah, it was nice to be on vacation. 

The shirt is another raglan.  Now that I’m familiar with the pattern, they go together super quick and I really like the look.  The fabric was this jersey I got ages ago in a red-tag clearance at Joann, it has a print of palm trees and waves, and some tiki-looking things, very tropical.  I was so bummed that I couldn’t get both boys in them together.  Oh well!  Gotta pick your battles.  I also have some pictures of LB in his birthday shirts that I made a while ago (for his birthday obviously, which was in November). 


This one says “all-star birthday” on the front and has his name and the “01” on the back like a sports jersey.  I did the same thing for BB’s 1st birthday so I didn’t want LB to be left out.  I also made a shirt that said “Look who’s 1!”  What can I say?  I got motivated, he got shirts!


We had a great time, but it is nice to be back at home!

Baby maternity pants and more recent sewing

28 12 2010

With Christmas behind us, our advent activities over, and a mountain of new toys to entertain the boys, I finally mustered up the energy to do some sewing for LB.  He has a closet overflowing with clothes (ah, the life of a younger brother) but most of his pants don’t fit very well.  It’s largely due to the bulk of cloth diapers, but even in disposables most pants either drag on the ground if they’re big enough to cover his tush, or fail to cover his backside if they’re a good length.  So for a little bit of practical sewing I took an old and beloved pair of corduroys and used them to make some made-to-measure pants for LB.  I used a pair of pants that fit in the waist but were too long, and used that to make a pattern that was just a bit shorter.  I used the legs for one pair and the top for another.  In the process I had a very “duh’ moment where I cut two left legs, thinking for some reason that they were symmetric…nope.  So I ended up having to cut the waist very short, and I added a waistband of knit fabric.  In the end I was really happy with that pair, and even though my husband laughed that they looked like maternity pants, they fit really well and look so comfy.  I know I loved wearing maternity pants, it was one of the best things about being pregnant!


The other pair was made from the top of the pants, and it was a bear to sew because of the thickness of the layers.  They look a little goofy but I like them anyway.  Then I made a matching shirt that ended up not matching all that well…oops.  It was super quick though; I finally figured out how to do a blind hem on my serger and WOW it makes hemming so quick and painless!  The shirt took about an hour total.  I did the whole set in a day and a half, some while the kids were sleeping and quite a bit while they played with all the great new toys they got for Christmas.  I didn’t realize what a gift they would be for me, also!

12 December1

I’ve already cut up some jeans and an old corduroy shirt to make him some more “maternity” pants, oh boy!  So I currently have some enthusiasm for sewing boy stuff, but we are also expecting a NIECE so there will be some girl sewing going on around here!  Yay!

KCWC wrap-up

26 09 2010

Well, the week is over and I managed to sew at least an hour a day every day except for today.  I could be sewing right now, I suppose, but I had to watch The Amazing Race premiere (note: timing a weeklong challenge to coincide with the premiere week of fall tv…not a great idea.  So much temptation to watch tv instead of sew!).  Today I am a little burnt out with sewing and I did a little in the morning but didn’t finish the pants I started because I was out of elastic. 

What I did finish this week:


These cute Owl PJs for BB!  I think this was day 4.  The owls are a thermal fabric that used to be the bane of my existence but finally I learned that it’s manageable as long as you don’t even THINK about hemming it.  It’s not so hard to serge cuffs onto it, so once I leaned that I was able to use these owls, and the lobster fabric from my last post.  I don’t have a modeling shot, but they fit well and BB is sleeping in them right now.  (I washed them to get my marker markings off first!)

IMG_2631 IMG_2634

A pair of kneepatch pants and a LBB hoodie for LB.  I thought they would look good together but in the end I think he looks sort of like a tiny escaped convict. 

IMG_2638 IMG_2640

Well, maybe the prison break look will be in this fall?

What I didn’t finish:

  • Wool pants for LB (almost done, just need elastic)
  • T-shirt pants (same deal, so close!)
  • Converting short-sleeved shirts to long sleeve.  It was hard to work on that because it got so hot here that I was using short sleeved shirts and couldn’t even think about making them long sleeved. 

What I wasted a lot of time on rather than finish my boring sewing tasks I had hoped to complete:


Making cute tags!  Now that I make more and more clothes I really needed size tags, and rather than buy some, I decided to make some, and along with the size tags I made some labels.  The logo was from my etsy shop, I figure the clothes look more legit with a real label in them, haha!  I really wasted a LOT of time on these, mostly time spent on the computer and swearing at the printer.  Grrrr…  I love them though, and I think it was worth the time, even though I failed to finish everything I planned to do. 

All in all, I loved having the motivation of a challenge and looking through everyone else’s creations!