You (yes you!) can sew a beautiful duffle bag! This free sewing pattern uses cotton fabric and foam stabilizer to make a designer-style duffle bag that all your friends will swoon over. You’ll love my easy method for sewing in a zipper. I used 1 yard of cotton fabric for the interior, 1 yard of cotton fabric for the outside, and less than 1 yard for the binding and straps.
The boxy style means that you’ll only have to sew straight seams – no curves! The pockets and D-ring tabs on this bag are optional. But who doesn’t love pockets? And if you want to carry this bag with a shoulder strap, the D-ring tabs on the ends will make that possible.
This blog post has been converted to an optional PDF that’s optimized for printing. Find it here. The free Boxy Duffle Bag Pattern is included in the blog post below and is free to read, print, and sew! Just hit CTRL +P on your computer to print. The Optimized for Printing PDF pattern for $3 is optional. Did you know you can get ALL the Optimized for Printing PDF files organized in a library to access anytime you want? Check it out.
The boxy duffle bag is approximately 19” wide, 8” tall, and 8” deep, not including the handles or straps.
I have a similar pattern for a bag called the Boxy Zipper Bag Pattern. It has a similar cute shape and is the right size for a purse or a largish cosmetic bag! AND I wrote a free sewing pattern for a much smaller pouch called the Boxy Zipper Pouch.
All of these bags are beautiful and professional looking thanks to flexible foam stabilizer that is sandwiched in between two layers of quilting cotton fabric before cutting it into the bag shape. The hardest part will be deciding which size to make so here’s a tip: make them all!
There is easy binding (in straight lines only – no curves) on the top edges of the pockets and on some of the interior seams.
The zipper on this boxy bag is one of the easiest you’ll sew using the same insertion technique that I teach in my free Designer Zipper Bag video course. You will love how the zipper extends around the top of the duffle bag, making it open up wide to show what’s inside and to help you pack.
This duffle bag pattern does not come with a printable template. I started making a template for you, and then realized that it would need at least 8 pages to print out. Cutting and taping the template together would likely result in less accuracy than simply cutting your quilted pieces to the correct dimensions. Therefore, only cutting instructions and how-to images are included with this written pattern.
Zipper and Bag Hardware Information
I highly recommend size 4.5 or 5 handbag zippers for this project. They are durable and wide and provide a more professional finish than regular dressmaking zippers. Regular dressmaking zippers may be substituted but will not provide the same look. Here are tips for using metal zippers
For my pink bag, I used size 5 zipper by the yard from Amazon. The zipper teeth only look metallic, they are actually made of nylon and easy to sew over. Metallic zipper pulls are sold separately. There are so many zipper choices these days!
Using zipper by the yard also allows you to use two zipper pulls so the bag opens from the center. It’s
For this large bag, I think that 1 1/2” wide tabs look best, so I used matching gold 1 1/2” d-rings at the ends. Then later I can add a shoulder strap. Here are instructions for making adjustable straps in any size.
Needle and Thread Tips
I recommend using a heavy-duty size 90/14 or 100/16 needle for this project because you will be sewing through many layers. My favorite needles are Superior Titanium Coated Topstitch Needles that can be found in your local quilt shop and on Amazon.
For bags and pouches, I always use polyester thread because it has a tiny bit of stretch, unlike cotton thread.
So are you ready? Let’s sew a boxy duffle bag!
Boxy Duffle Bag Pattern
you will need:
- 1 yard of quilting cotton for the exterior
- 1 yard of quilting cotton for the interior
- 1 yard of fabric for the binding and straps
- a 36’’ x 42’’ piece of foam stabilizer, quilt batting, or fusible fleece (I used Soft and Stable foam stabilizer)
- 1/2 yard Pellon 809 Decorbond fusible interfacing for the straps
- 1 handbag zipper 24’’ or longer (please refer to zipper tips above)
- fabric pen or marker
- a safety pin for turning
Initial Cutting and Quilting
1. From each piece of fabric for the duffle bag interior and lining, cut 2 rectangles 18” tall x 42” wide.* Cut 2 pieces of stabilizer the same size. I used Soft and Stable foam stabilizer because I love the shape and body that it gives my pouches. But you could substitute quilt batting or fusible fleece.
*Note: if you are already experienced sewing fabric pieces to foam stabilizer and quilting them, you may choose to make a 36” x 42” quilted piece instead of two smaller pieces. Smaller pieces are easier to handle on a domestic sewing machine, so they are suggested first.
2. Smooth an exterior rectangle of fabric over your stabilizer (right side up) and baste all the way around 1/8’’ from the edge. Here’s a how-to blog post and video for this step.
Note: if you are using fusible fleece, you could press to fuse for this step instead of machine basting.
3. Smooth a lining piece of fabric over the back of the stabilizer (right side up) and baste all the way around 1/8’’ from the edge.
4. Quilt the fabric and stabilizer together however you like. Easy straight line quilting is a good option if you’re in a hurry.
Repeat Steps 2-4 to make one more quilted piece. Skip this step if you decided to make one extra large 36” x 42” quilted piece.
If you have a long-arm quilter, you can use up extra backing fabric at the bottom of your quilts by adding any stabilizer you like and other fabric. That is how I often make my quilted pieces of fabric and stabilizer.
Second Round of Cutting
1. From your quilted pieces (or piece), cut two rectangles 16 3/4” tall and 32” wide.
For the pockets and D-ring tabs, also cut:
- 2 rectangles 7 1/2” tall x 8 1/2” wide for side pockets
- 2 rectangles 5 3/4” tall x 8 1/2” wide for end pockets
- 2 rectangles 1 1/2” tall x 4” long for the D-ring tabs
2. Use the fabric marking pen to draw two horizontal lines on the right side (exterior fabric side) of a 16 3/4” x 32” quilted piece.
- 1 line that is 4 1/2” away from the bottom edge
- 1 line that is 4 1/4” away from the top edge.
Connect these two lines with vertical lines that are 6 1/4” away from the side edges.
3. Use sharp scissors to cut out the rectangles drawn on the sides of the piece.
4. Then measure and cut 4” pieces from the top edge. The top edge should now measure 24” wide. The bottom edge should still be 32” wide.
Repeat to cut the other quilted duffle bag piece this same way.
5. Use a long basting stitch to sew all the way around the bag side pieces and the pocket pieces to seal the edges. Baste 1/8” away from the cut edges.
Binding and Strap Pieces
Use a single layer of cotton fabric (not quilted fabric) to cut the following binding and strap pieces. You can use fabric from either fabric print or a different fabric like I did.
- 2 rectangles 3’’ x 4’’ for binding the 1 1/2” wide tabs
- 6 rectangles 2 1/4’’ x 8 1/2’’ for binding the pockets and interior short seams
- 1 rectangle 2 1/4’’ x 32’’ for binding the interior long seam
- 2 strips 6” x 42” (for the straps)
- 2 squares 6” x 6” (to make the straps longer)
From the Pellon 809 Decorbond fusible interfacing, cut 2 strips 6” x 45”. Then cut two pieces 6” x 2 1/2”, so that you’ll have enough to cover the back of each strap entirely.
Use a 1/4” seam allowance throughout this duffle bag pattern.
Sew Binding to the Tabs
The tab binding uses a different technique than the pockets and interior seam binding.
1. Place a 3” x 4” rectangle right sides together with a 1 1/2” x 4” quilted tab piece (the exterior side of the tab against the right side of the binding fabric rectangle). Pin or clip the long edges together.
2. Sew along the long edge with a 1/4” seam allowance.
3. Line up the remaining long edge of the fabric with the remaining long edge of the quilted tab piece. Pin or clip in place. Sew with a 1/4” seam allowance.
4. Attach a safety pin to the quilted tab piece at one end. Use the safety pin to turn the tab right side out through the tunnel made with the fabric rectangle. Press the tab piece flat.
Repeat to sew a binding piece around the remaining 1 1/2” x 4” tab piece.
Prepare the Pockets
1. Fold four 2 1/4’’ x 8 1/2’’ fabric rectangles in half lengthwise, wrong sides together.
Pin or clip a binding piece to the top edge of the back (lining fabric) side of each pocket rectangle.
2. Stitch with a 1/4’’ seam allowance. Flip the binding over to the front (right) side of the pocket and stitch close to the fold.
Repeat to bind the top edge of both pocket pieces.
3. Next, we’ll sew a 1/4” single hem at the bottom edge of the pockets. To make this easy, sew a straight line of stitching 1/4” away from the bottom edge. Use this stitching to help you fold the bottom edge under by 1/4”, press.
Sew along the folded bottom edge, 1/8” from the edge.
Repeat to hem the bottom edge of the other pockets. Set the pockets and tab pieces aside for now.
Make the Duffle Bag Carrying Straps
1. In order to be comfortable and useful, the straps need to be longer than than 42”. Sew a 6” rectangle to the end of each 6” x 42” strap piece. Press the seams open.
2. Fuse the Pellon 809 Decorbond interfacing to the back of the strap pieces. It’s okay if you need to use more than one piece of interfacing to cover the back of a strap. Decorbond comes in both 45” and 60” wide bolts, but it is unlikely that any store will carry both.
3. Fold each strap piece in half lengthwise, wrong sides together and press. Open and fold the long edges to the center, press. Fold each strap in half again to make a 1 1/2” x 47 1/2” strip, press.
4. Top stitch along both sides of each strap, about 1/8” from the edges.
Attach the Zipper to the Bag Pieces
1. If you are using Zipper by the Yard (from ByAnnie or a different brand), add two zipper pulls from opposite ends of the long zipper. Then cut a 24 1/2” long piece of zipper. Sew across the ends to prevent your zipper pulls from accidentally coming off.
2. Center the zipper across the top edge of one bag body piece, with the top of the zipper face down against the right side (exterior fabric) on the bag piece.
Pin or clip in place.
3. Switch to the zipper foot on your sewing machine and sew the zipper to the pouch piece with a 1/4’’ seam allowance.
3. Flip the piece over. Carefully trim 1/8’’ away from the seam allowance, cutting the fabric and foam only, not the zipper tape. I love my Gingher double curved embroidery scissors for this step (I have tried other brands and they are not as sharp).
Then fold the zipper away from the panel and finger press the zipper tape against the back of the panel, covering the trimmed seam allowance.
4. Topstitch on the right side, 1/8’’ away from the zipper.
Make sure the zipper tape underneath is flat against the back so the trimmed seam will be enclosed for a neat finish.
5. Place the piece face down (exterior fabrics right sides together) against the remaining bag body piece. Pin or clip the remaining zipper tape to the top edge of the pouch piece underneath. Make sure that the sides of the bag pieces are lined up with one another.
6. Stitch with a 1/4’’ seam allowance.
7. Trim the seam allowance and top stitch as before.
Add Side Pockets and Carrying Straps
1. Retrieve the 8 1/2” wide by 7 1/2” tall pocket pieces for the sides of the duffle bag.
Center a pocket on one side of the bag with the bottom edge of the pocket along the line that you drew 4 1/2” away from the bottom edge of the bag piece.
The pocket should be about 5 1/2” away from each side edge. Secure the pocket in place with pins.
2. Topstitch along the bottom edge of the pocket, right on top of the hem stitching.
3. Lay one strap over the side of the bag so the strap extends vertically from the bottom of the bag, up and over one side of the pocket, and then down over the other side of the pocket and ending at the bottom of the bag as shown.
Note that you will not stitch past the horizontal line on the bag that is now approximately 4” below the zipper. You do not need to place pins above that line.
4. Begin sewing at the bottom of the strap on one side. Sew on top of the topstitching on the strap toward the top of the pocket.
Continue sewing until you reach the marked line that is 4” below the zipper. Pivot and stitch across the strap. Then sew down the other side of the strap (sewing on top of the topstitching until you reach the bottom edge.
At the place where you pivot and sew down the strap, sew a box with an ‘X’ shape inside for added strength, if desired.
Attach the other end of the strap over the pocket on the opposite side. Then sew the remaining strap to the other side of the duffle bag.
Sew and Bind the Boxy Duffle Bag Bottom Seam
1. With the bag pieces right sides facing, pin or clip the long bottom edges together.
2. Sew with a 1/4” seam allowance.
3. Fold the 2 1/4’’ x 32’’ binding strip in half lengthwise, wrong sides together.
Pin or clip the binding to the raw edge of the seam.
4. Sew the binding strip to the bottom edge of the bag with a 1/4” seam allowance.
Flip the binding over to the other side of the seam and stitch close to the fold.
5. Press the bottom of the bag to flatten it and make the seam fold to one side. Sew across the ends to help the bound seam stay in the direction that it is pressed.
Add the Pull Tabs and End Pockets
1. Keep the bag wrong side out so you can work on the ends that extend to the sides. We’ll refer to these as ‘flaps’ for now.
1. Fold a D-ring tab piece half, pretty side out, and press. Thread it through a D-ring, if desired. Stitch across the end to secure the D-ring.
Pin or clip the tab to a flap right over the seam. Make sure to pin or clip it to the exterior fabric on the flap with the raw edges together.
2. Sew across the end of the tab a scant 1/4” from the edge to secure it.
Repeat to attach a tab to the other side.
3. Slide a pocket piece underneath each tab. The bottom hemmed edge of the pocket should be lined up with the bottom of the flap that sticks out. The pockets may be a little wider than the flaps, but that’s fine.
Secure the pockets with clips or pins.
4. Sew across the bottom of each pocket, right on top of the hemstitching.
Sew the Bag Side Seams
- Finishing the rest of this boxy zipper pouch pattern may not be possible without a heavy duty needle.
- The width of the top of your bag (with a zipper) may not be exactly the same as the width of the bottom of your bag with the bound bottom seam (see the image above). This can be expected because of slightly varying seam allowances, bulky fabric, and the width of your zipper. Please make sure to match up the side seams as best you can, and don’t worry about slight differences in width. It will turn out great!
1. With the bag still turned inside out, pin or clip one of the top side edges of the pouch (with an end of the zipper) to the short straight edge of the flap on that side. Repeat on the other side.
2. Sew across each end with a 1/4” seam allowance.
Trim away any excess zipper and binding in the seam allowances.
3. Fold a remaining 2 1/4” x 8 1/2” binding piece in half lengthwise, wrong sides together. Pin or clip it to the underside of the seam, against the bound seam on the bottom of the bag.
Sew the binding to the seam with a 1/4” seam allowance.
4. Flip the binding over to the other side of the seam (against the bottom side of the zipper) and stitch close to the fold.
5. Pin or clip the side seams of the bag together at one end. Make sure that the pockets are flat against the bottom flap and not bunched up.
6. Sew each side seam with a 1/4” seam allowance. There are four side seams total, two on each side of the bag.
7. Finish the side seams with a zig zag stitch or with additional binding.
I do not feel that these seams will be very noticeable when using the bag, so I chose to trim away the extra threads and zig-zag stitch over the edges. My zig-zag was set to 5mm wide and a width setting of 1.
If you make this free boxy zipper bag sewing pattern or any of my other ones, I hope you show me by posting a picture to Instagram and tagging me @sewcanshe or #sewcanshe.
Make sure you check out my other free bag patterns too.
Disclosure: some of my posts contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through one of those links I may receive a small commission, so thank you for supporting SewCanShe when you shop! All of the opinions are my own and I only suggest products that I actually use. 🙂