Tweaking a Travel Bag with Remnants

Sometimes I like to take off at the spur of the moment and pack a few clothes, not a whole big suitcase full.

travel bag

my old travel bag; it’s seen better days

This is my old travel bag. The side zipper is busted, and I’ve been pinning it together with big safety pins. I held it by the hangers that stick out the hole in the top: not too easy on the hands. But it did fold up triple and it could be bunched up and carried in a bundle.

Butterick pattern for travel bags

The pattern I (loosely) used to make a new one

I searched to find a pattern for a new bag, and I found this one right in my own pattern stash.

The outcome of any of my projects depends greatly on the fabric I have on hand. I would never, ever, consider making a travel bag like one in this pattern, and go out and buy brand new pre-quilted fabric at full cost. I had three rolls of pre-quilted fabric remnants in the stash, however, they were three different colors: brown, beige, and off-white. After letting the idea swirl around in my head for a long time, I figured I’d make a tri-toned travel bag.

Funnily enough, both of the largest-size remnants, the brown and the beige, were the exact same length, and it wasn’t the full length called for in the pattern. I saw two options: 1) make the bag shorter or 2) add a piece to the length of both pieces. The bag in the pattern had 3 large zippered pockets on the outside of the front piece. The back piece had a 48-inch zipper down the center of it.

I chose to add the two smaller pockets to the inside of the bag, and the larger pocket that stretched across the width of the front piece, to the front. That kept me from exercising option #2, because I didn’t have enough of the brown fabric to add to the length after I made the wide pocket. I also chose to make the front pocket after I started embroidering a motif on the front and realized I was putting it on upside-down. I stopped the embroidery and re-did it on the pocket, right-side up, then sewed the pocket to the front.

The bag in the pattern had side pieces that were 5 inches wide. I chose to add 3-inch sides to my bag because I didn’t want a big hefty cumbersome boxy bag, and I also didn’t have enough fabric to make it that thickness.


turning the loop

I needed to make a loop for hanging the bag from a hook. This involved sewing a tube and turning it, which you may know is the utter worst thing I ever do in my entire sewing repertoire. To avoid making and turning more long tubes for the handles, I used a length of brown woven strap for the handles.

bag in progress


The pattern called for making a bias binding for the edges of the bag. I had 3 packages of blue denim bias binding that I got on a clearance sale; I hoped that would be enough. I darn sure didn’t want to make my own bias tape.

bias tape

Clearance bias tape

bias tape edging

binding the edges with double fold bias tape

Because I knew I wanted to use denim blue bias tape on a brown and beige bag, I wanted to find an embroidery motif that had some blue and beige in it to sort-of pull all the colors together (I hoped!)

tree embroidery motif

World Tree Embroidery Motif

When I saw this embroidered tree motif in green, it just looked like a tree. But when I used light blue for the leaves and beige for the branches and trunk, I realized the leaves of the tree make up a world map. Appropriate for a world traveller, huh?

back of bag

zip side

front of bag

front side, with pocket

folded travel bag

Finished and ready to go

Spending Memorial Day weekend watching war movies. Our prior generations saw it, lived it, we don’t want to forget it!


7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. ethgran
    May 24, 2014 @ 15:46:51

    You done good, Hon! Love the embroidery motif – perfect!


  2. KerryCan
    May 25, 2014 @ 06:05:35

    I’m so impressed! It looks great AND you made do with what you had on hand–very cool!


  3. kealoha625
    May 25, 2014 @ 09:08:25

    Holy cow, Jennifer! This bag is awesome. It’s so awesome that you can do this stuff!


  4. ksgentry
    May 26, 2014 @ 21:55:18

    That tree design is perfect. What a great travel bag!


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