How to Create Your Own Duffel Bag

Written by kelli shaw
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How to Create Your Own Duffel Bag
Drawstring duffel bags can be made at home. (camera lens bag image by Marilyn barbone from

Duffel bags come in various sizes, shapes and with all different types of closure systems. You can use a duffel bag to carry clothing to the gym or for an overnight trip. It is also useful to store sports equipment in a duffel bag so it is easily transportable. Many people use a duffel bag to transport their laundry to the laundromat. The simplest type of duffel bag to sew is a tubelike duffel, similar to a military sea bag, with a drawstring closure system on one end.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • 2 yards of heavy fabric
  • Sewing machine
  • Straight pins
  • Measuring tape
  • Heavy duty sewing machine thread
  • Scissors
  • Cord for drawstring
  • Drawstring hardware
  • Safety pin
  • Pencil

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  1. 1

    Purchase a heavy weight fabric for the project; denim and canvas work well. It is best to choose a darker colour to hide dirt and marks from usage. Lay the fabric out on a flat work surface or on the floor, so that you can easily measure and mark the cut lines for the duffel bag.

  2. 2

    Determine the diameter of the bag you wish to create. The style of the bag is a tube, so you will need a circle for the bottom. Mark a circle onto the fabric the size of the desired diameter (for example, if you want the bag be 15 inches across, mark out a circle that is 15 inches across). To easily mark a circle, use an item from the kitchen as a template, such as a pan lid or a pizza baking tray. Cut out the circle.

  3. 3

    Determine how long you want the bag to be, add 1 inch and mark that measurement on the fabric with a pencil. To figure out the width of this piece of fabric, take your circle diameter measurement and multiply it by 3.14 (round the answer up to the nearest whole number). For example, if you want a bag that is 20 inches long with a 12 inch diameter, this piece of fabric needs to be marked at 21 inches by 38 inches. Cut out the rectangular piece of fabric & set it aside.

  4. 4

    Measure and mark a piece of fabric 6 inches by 20 inches if you would like a strap on the bag. Cut out the strap section and fold the piece lengthwise so the good sides of the fabric are together. Sew a straight stitch down the length of the fabric and one end. Invert this tube and press in the open end's raw edge using an iron, approximately 1 inch.

  5. 5

    Pin the handle tube to the rectangle piece parallel to the long side of the fabric, 5 inches from the top and 2 inches in from the edge. Pin the other end of the handle as desired; it is normally placed around the halfway point in the bag, but this can differ depending on the user's body size. Machine zigzag stitch the handle top and bottom in place, repeating the stitches a few times for added strength.

  6. 6

    Fold the large rectangle of fabric in half along the longest sides, with the right sides of the fabric together (so the handle is "inside" this tube). Pin the edge closed and sew a straight stitch down the entire length. Stitch it twice, for added strength, if you plan to carry heavy items in the bag. Pin the circle bottom to the end of the tube, right sides together, and sew around the edge. You have just attached the bottom of the bag.

  7. 7

    At the top of the bag, on both sides of the side seam, sew in two button holes 2 inches down from the top of the bag, about 2 inches apart. This is for the drawstring. Fold down the top of the bag 1/2 inch and then again an additional inch, creating a pocket for the drawstring. The button holes should be visible on the inside of the bag. Straight stitch around the casing.

  8. 8

    Invert the bag and feed the drawstring through one button hole by attaching a safety pin to one end and pushing it through the casing. When it appears at the other end, pull it so that you have equal amounts of cord on both ends. Install the drawstring hardware per the directions.

Tips and warnings

  • Choose your fabric carefully; you will want a heavy duty fabric that will withstand use.
  • Zigzag stitches add strength to a seam; adding a row of zigzag stitching to the seam will make them stronger.
  • Use a large safety pin to thread the drawstring cording through.

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