June 2, 2013

Beach Bag Tutorial

It is finally warn enough here in Northern Ohio to think about the beach....or the pool. The shores of Lake Erie are not close enough nor enticing enough for me, but our nearby club pool has been  my summer hangout for a very long time. Once my kids got older and out of the house, I thought I had no excuse for idling in the sun, but then WATER AEROBICS came along and now I can justify four days a week to get healthy and slim (less chubby).

Of course, you need the right gear for any athletic endeavor and perhaps the most important is the carrier to get it all there. I completed my new beach/pool bag in time for the opening of the pool for Memorial Day weekend. As per usual in this part of the world, it was chilly and dismal. But this week the sun has shone and I got to fill it up and take it for a spin. If you would like to make one here's how.
The Beach Bag Tutorial

Choosing fabrics: I found a great coated fabric much lighter than oilcloth but water resistant to avoid stains and lined it with rip-stop nylon. Neither was a fabric I had sewn before, so I practiced a bit with it before starting. The stripe was sticky ( a friend suggested a Teflon presser foot…what will they think of next?) and the nylon was slippery. And pinning was prone to creating small holes, so not the type of project for a complete beginner. Another fabric choice would be much different.  I suggest a canvas or duck and wouldn’t this Graphics Fairy image look great?

      Outer fabric: 2 yards of 45” wide
       Lining: 2 yards of 45” wide
       Straps : 3 yards of webbing or similar. You could make fabric straps. I don’t give instructions for those.

1.Cut 2 pieces 21” x 18” of each main fabric.  Cut 2 pieces 21” x 19”from lining fabric. The extra inch will provide a fold over binding.     Cut 2 pieces 21 x 13 from main fabric for pockets. Cut 2 pieces 21 X 14 from lining fabric. Again  the extra inch  will be for the fold over binding.
2.  Cut 2 pieces of medium weight interfacing 20 x 18 for the main body of the bag and 2 pieces of  the same interfacing 20 x 13 for the pocket.  The interfacing will not be as wide to avoid having extra layers in the side seams. It will go all the way to the top and bottom.
 1.With the interfacing on the wrong side of the main fabric, lay the main fabric and lining right sides together and sew along the top edge leaving a 3/8 inch seam allowance.   for both sides of the bag and also for each outer pocket. I know this pic shows a 1/2 inch but I now know 3/8 is better.
This is to show the layering


A 3/8 seam allowance is better
2. Open out the lining and main fabric (pic:#4) on each of the pieces and fold the lining fabric back over the wrong/interfacing side of the main fabric. This will leave the seam allowance covered by the lining fabric.
3. Stitch directly “in the ditch” down the front of the fabric. Try to keep any pins in the ditch as well, to avoid pinholes if using a coated fabric. Repeat this on the top edge of the remaining large piece and both pockets pieces.

4. Lay out the pocket on top of the main body of the bag and pin in place along seam allowances. Then lay out strap material over both, aligning the straps about 5.5 inches from the outside edge. This will create one large pocket and two smaller pockets. Use your judgment on placement and length. I tried to align mine with the repeat in the fabric stripe. I would have made them a little bit longer if I had more.  Mark where the lower edge of the strap will hit, lay the strap right side down, with the strap running off the bottom and sew across the bottom from the wrong side  Do this for all ends of the strap fabric being careful not to twist the straps. Then fold the straps back over the ends and lay them in place. Fold the main lining fabric up out of the way as you will not sew it down. You will leave the lining in place for the pocket material.
Stitching on the bottom underside of strap
Straps folded back over fabric pinned and ready to topstitch
 Using a thread that will blend or accent your straps, top stitch completely around the straps. In one step you will have attached the straps and sewn the pocket fabric to the main fabric leaving the lining and the top binding area free.
 EXTRA: I found something to add after using the bag. You may want to make a line of stitching across the width of each side of the bag where the straps end. I found that when the bag folds under to form the bottom that small things can drift into the bottom of the bag and are difficult to find and retrieve!!
 5. Lay the two side of the bag, right sides together and without catching in the interfacing or lining , stitch around the sides and the bottom.
 6.   Sew the lining pices right sides together down each side leave at least a 12” opeing at the bottom of the lining. You will have to pull the main part of the bag back through this opening. Repeat the same corner process on the lining
7. With the main fabric section of the bag inside out, fold out corners to create the bottom. (pic#11) Mark the fabric to line what will be the fold forming the  bottom of the bag with the ends of the straps. You will sew across the triangle you have formed and cut off the triangle.
 8.  Sew the lining pices right sides together down each side leave at least a 12” opeing at the bottom of the lining. You will have to pull the main part of the bag back through this opening.  Repeat the same corner process on the lining

8. Sew the lining pices right sides together down each side leave at least a 12” opeing at the bottom of the lining. You will have to pull the main part of the bag back through this opening. Repeat the same corner process on the lining as shown above.
9. With the bag inside out fold the interfacing over the shape of the bag and without stitching create a fold at the bottom but simply cut off the excess fabric. You want the support it provides without bulk in the seams. See pics below.
Corner of interfacing folded
AND clipped
10. Pull body of the bag back through the lining (sorry, no pic) Then with the lining still outside the bag fold under the seam allowances in the lining opening and stitch across the opening close to the edge. You could do this by hand for an invisible seam if you are OCD but I feel it is already invisible enough inside the bag!

11. I did not like the way the top of the side seams looked. And so as a final step I took a 2” x 3” scrap on each side and created a fold over “tab” to conceal it. You could make this out of either fabric or even the strap webbing. See below.
PLEASE LET ME NOW IF YOU LIKE OR USE THIS TUTORIAL. I welcome your thoughts. It took me longer to write this blog than to make the bag!


  1. What an adorable little beach bag! Coming over from The Graphics Fairy and a happy new follower!


  2. Hi Cheryl. I like your blog. I found your blog through your comment on Peter's hilarious madras fabric post.

  3. Thank you very much for your lovely tutorial!

    Kisses, Juliëtte