social spark Aisling Beatha: Messenger Bag From Cargo Pants Tutorial


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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Messenger Bag From Cargo Pants Tutorial

With two teenage boys in the house, I often come across pairs of trousers (pants) that are beyond repair.  In the past these have gone in the rubbish bin (trash can), but since I got my craft room, I have begun to save anything like that, that I come across, to make into other things.

The great things about Cargo pants, is all those extra pockets.

Take your pair of Cargo Pants and cut the pockets off, leaving a fair bit all around. You will need to tuck this under for stitching them on.
The lining on the back of the pocket, often extends past the stitching line on the front, bear this in mind when cutting the pockets out, in fact, it might be better to cut from the reverse side.  I didn't do that and almost left myself not enough fabric to turn over and stitch.

Turn those edges under and top stitch all around.

For the body of the bag, use the leg, below where you cut off the lower pocket.
Trim off any unusable portion at the bottom of the leg.

You can get two bags from each pair of trousers.  You can use the waistband as the strap of the first bag.  Carefully trim close to the edge of the waistband and unpick any waistband loops.

For the second bag from each pair you will need to make a strap from any fabric not used in the main body of the bags.

You will have to adjust measurements depending on the size of your trousers and positioning of the pockets, but I managed to cut all these strips at 3 3/4 inches wide, from the remaining fabric.

Join the strips using the same method you would use for joining bias binding strips.
With right sides facing each other, place the strips at right angles to each other, pin and mark a line across the diagonal as shown.  Here I used a Frixion pen, because the pen marks disappear with friction or heat from an iron.
Stitch across the line, remove the pins and trim the seam allowance.  Finally, press the seam open and you will have one long strip with diagonal seams, so that all the seam allowance does not bulk up in one place.

Take this strip to the ironing board, and press in half along the length.
Open that out, and press the two sides into the middle.
Finally, press in half again.

To stitch along the strap, I moved the needle position to the right and then lined the edge of the fabric up against the right hand edge of the presser fooot.
If you do not have an adjustable needle position, find some mark either on the bed plate or on your presser foot, to keep you in line, and stitch down the length of the strap.

In order to prevent puckering of the fabric, it is best to do all rows of stitching down the strap in the same direction.  To do this, I moved the needle to the far left and lined the edge of the fabric up with the left hand side of the presser foot.

Because attaching the pockets is going to be a fiddly job, I prefer to first attach them with iron on hemming tape and then stitch, but if you prefer to pin then go ahead.  If using the hemming tape you will need your iron on it's hottest setting and to press hard, because of all the layers of fabric in the pockets.

Most trouser legs, have one side slightly wider than the other, you want the wider side to be the front and the narrower side to be the back.  If your cargo pants pockets come in two sizes, use the smaller one on the front, and the lager one on the back.
Position the pockets with their bottom edge at least 2.5 cm from the bottom edge of your usable trouser leg with whichever of the above methods you prefer.

Sew in place.  This is fiddly and needs to be done slowly and carefully.
I did one side and the top from the top end and one side and the bottom from the bottom end.  Working in this way using the free arm on my sewing machine for part of the time, and turning the fabric tube inside out as I worked I was able to get them sewn in place.

Take your time, and make sure your needle is down, into the fabric whenever you stop to check or adjust your fabric, and you should be able to complete this task.
If you are really not sure about this, you can machine sew the top and bottom using a free arm, but hand sew the sides.

Turn your fabric tube inside out so that right sides are facing each other and centre the two side seams.
Stitch in place.  I used two rows of stitching just to make sure it was all secure.

Turn your bag back the right way in and push the corners out.  I use a chopstick for this.  Then press.

I hope you can see the marks on these next photos.  I used the Frixion pen again, but you could use tailors chalk or some other method.  On the two seams that were the side seams of the trouser leg, make a mark that is in line with the top of whichever of the pockets is higher.  Make another mark 2.5cm above that.

Remembering that the front is the wider of the two sides of the trouser leg, and therefore the one with the smaller pocket attached to it, cut down the side of the seams, on the side nearest the front.  (so in these two photos following, the back is the side facing up).

With the front of the bag facing down, fold the resulting top flap up and mark and cut a line between the bottom of your two cut edges. 
REMEMBER, here you are cutting the front of the bag, the wider of the two sides of the trouser leg, with the smaller of the two pockets attached to it.

Go back to those side seams and extend the cut to the lower of the two marks you made.
Zig zag or finish in some other way, both raw edges, then fold in, press, and fold in and press again, before top stitching in place.

Attach the straps to the bag.  overlap the front of the bag, with the overlap going inside the bag, and line up the side of the strap with the side seam.

I used a triple stitch setting to make this as secure as possible, and did two rows of that triple stitching to be doubly sure!   On my machine the triple stitch setting is achieved by setting the bottom dial to straight stitch, and then turning the top dial to the blue S1, which gives access to the stitches that are marked in blue on the bottom dial.

Now it's time to make a closure for the flap.  I chose to use a button and button hole.  For the first bag I made, I used the button from the waistband of the trousers, on this second pair I used a button from my button box

The position for the closure happened to be  on the upper layer of the two flaps for the pocket on the front of the bag.  These two flaps were attached securely with stay stitching which made it difficult to stitch the button on.  So I used my handy seam ripper, very carefully and unpicked those stitches, opening the two layers up, enabling me to attach the button.

It was at this point that I realised it was a good job I had a spare button exactly the same for measuring to make the button hole.

You would be better making the button hole first, then attaching the button.

You could of course use whatever method of securing the flap you prefer, a magnetic closure, or other snap would also work.

And there you have it.  If your Cargo pants have 4 cargo style pockets, and you managed to use the waistband for the strap on one of the, you now have 2 messenger style bags from one pair of trousers!  Well done!

You can buy this bag, or it's matching bag, on my Etsy Shop.


  1. Great Tutorial! Cute Bag! Stopping by from the along for the Under the Table & Dreaming Party. I would LOVE for you to come link up to my party too & if you have time check out my giveaway going on until TONIGHT at midnight. Keep up the creativeness!

  2. Sorry Just realized you are overseas & the giveaway is currently for US only. I am now following you though =D Yay!

  3. Such a great project. Thank You for commenting on my paper star.
    Cheers from Bangalore ,India
    Dr Sonia S V

  4. Anonymous3:22 pm

    Great resource! Thanks so much!

  5. I'll be needing to revisit this tutorial in a few years when the pocket of their cargo pants are bigger than change purses! Thanks so much for linking to the Tuesday To Do Party!

  6. I am kicking myself for tossing my hubby's old pants! I love this! I would love it if you would link up to my Tuesday Confessional link party going on now:
    ~Macy from Confessions of a SAHM

  7. PhotoBucket has your pics hostage!


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