Diaper Bag Tutorial

February 5, 2013 in Projects

Know someone having a baby (or perhaps you, yourself)? This diaper bag is such a neat gift to give (or make for your own baby)! It’s a great size with lots of great pockets, sturdy, and professional-looking. (The embroidery is optional). When you make this bag, show us what you did with your creativity, post a picture on our Totally Stitchin’ Facebook page! We love to see what you’re making!

Baby bag_FNL (2)


Outside fabric: For 60″ fabric, get 1.5 yds, for 45″ you might get 2 yds to be safe. I used a 60″ stiff Canvas fabric (which is what I would recommend), but, you could use a different fabric and interface it with a stiff fusible interfacing (not illustrated in tutorial). Use a jean needle if you are using canvas or a thicker fabric.

Inside lining fabric: For 45″ fabric, 1.5yds. I just used a woven cotton for the inside

Thread: I used a complementary jean thread to topstitch (and set my stitch length to 3.0 mm when I topstitched) and a polyester all-purpose thread for all other stitching (standard 2.5mm stitch length). The jean thread looks really nice, but, if you are nervous about sewing straight, just use a matching all-purpose sewing thread for the entire project. (Embroidery thread for monogramming).

Zipper (optional): A metal zipper is recommended 15″ or greater (can be shortened)

Elastic: 1 3/8″ yd. of 3/8″ elastic (if you’d like to double the elastic for strength in the canvas casing like I did, double this amount)

Pellon Peltex Single-Sided Fusible Ultra Firm Stabilizer: 1/6 yd. (enough for a 6″ x 15″ rectangle; this is optional for extra stability in the base of the bag)

Optional: Patches or Embellishments (not shown in this tutorial, just an extra idea)

Cutting (see below picture for a little assistance as well):

Front and Back: 2 – 16″ x 14″ (from outer and lining each)

Sides: 2 – 14″ x 7″ (from outer and lining each)

Bottom: 1 – 16″ x 7″ (from outer and lining each)

Outside Front and Back Pockets: 2 – 25″ x 10″

Outside Side Pockets: 10″ x 10″

Facing (same as outer fabric): 1 – 2.5″ x 43″ (I cut my facing out of the same fabric as my outside fabric

Strap fabric (same as outer fabric): 2 – 4″ x 28″

Name pocket (optional): 5″ x 9.5″ (or whatever dimensions you prefer)

Inside Front and Back Pockets (from lining): 4 – 16″ x 8″

Elastic: 2 – 16″ cuts and 2 – 7″ cuts (if you are doubling your elastic, double the amount of cuts)

Zipper fabric (optional):  5″ x 16″   (zipper portion is optional)

Peltex (optional): 6″ x 15″ (optional for extra support on the bottom of the bag)

This picture illustrates cuts for the outer shell only…

Skip to step 3 if not sewing a name pocket.

1. If you’d like to embroider a name on the upper portion of the actual front piece or onto a pocket (so that it can be removed and replaced for use for future kiddos), go ahead and do so now (note you could also sew a patch or letter patches on the front piece at this point). I used the Mackenzie font from the digitizing embroidery software, MasterWorks III, enlarged it and changed the fill stitch to Corn Row 2. I embroidered the name with my Baby Lock Esante on a pocket.

2. I, then, folded the raw sides of the name pocket in (underneath) a 1/4″ and ironed. Then, I folded the lower raw edge of the pocket up about a half inch and ironed. Next, I rolled the top edge twice by ironing the top raw edge down a 1/4″ and then down again a 1/2″ so that the raw edges of the top of the pocket would be concealed. Then, I topstitched about 3/8″ from the top edge as seen below. Next, topstitch the pocket onto the front piece very close to the sides and bottom of the pocket as seen below.


3. Now, let’s begin some prepping! To ensure even ironing, I like to draw some lines with my chalk on the wrong side of the following pieces. You’ll want your facing, straps, front and back pocket (identical), and sides pockets. On the lower edge of your facing, you’ll want to draw a line 1″ down the length; on your straps, you’ll want to draw a line 1″ along the length of both long sides; for your front, back, and side pockets, you’ll want a line 3″ down from the top edge (all shown below).


4. Then, you’ll fold the edges in and iron on all 7 pieces (a set of front/back pocket pieces, a set of side pockets, 2 straps, and 1 facing) to the line that you drew (as shown below on the front/back pocket piece).


5. For the straps, you have ironed in both long edges (on both straps) approximately a half inch. Now, fold the entire strap in half (long ways) and press, matching your 2 ironed edges as best as you can.


6. For the front, back, and side pocket pieces only, fold the piece (that you just ironed in) in half again and press again (as shown below; so that it’s ironed down a half inch and then again).


7. We are going to create an elastic casing on all outer pockets. Then, either trim down the excess (as shown in the picture below) or serge off along your FIRST fold (as shown 2 pictures below).


I serged all of mine to eliminate bulk (but, the trim-down method works just as well) with my Baby Lock Evolution Serger.



8. Now, stitch your casings down on all outer pockets (I topstitched because I was using a heavy jean thread, but, if you are using matching thread you can stitch on the underside if that is easier for you to line up) making sure that you are creating a 1/2″ elastic casing for your 3/8″ elastic. Then, draw chalk lines on your front and back pocket pieces to divide pockets evenly 8.5″ from the left and right (your middle pocket should measure 8″ before we gather).


9. Now, we want to gather the lower edge of the front, back, and side pockets. I would use the zig-zag over a thick thread or ribbon to gather method on canvas (check out this detailed  tutorial for this method, as well as, other gathering tips and tricks).

10. Then, place a safety pin on your 16″ piece of elastic and thread through the front pocket elastic casing. Stitch one end in place and then feed your elastic through the other end and stitch down (you can adjust and pull your elastic through more if it appears you have really stretchy elastic; optional: I actually threaded 2 pieces of elastic through on one safety pin to combat the strength of the canvas fabric). Do the same for the back pocket elastic casing and then again, with your 7″ elastic pieces for the side pockets.


11. Now, we’re going to put our side, front, and back pockets on (front and back pockets are the same). Place your pocket even with the lower portion of the side pieces and stitch sides and bottom of pocket in place (I just stitched like a 3/8″ seam allowance using a longer stitch like 3.5mm or 4mm).


12. Do the same with the front and back pockets. Then, change back to your standard stitch (and your coordinating topstitch thread if you so choose) and with your needle in the center, stitch along the 2 drawn lines to create your pockets for your front and back pieces (I reinforced the stitch several times at the top of the pocket stitchline).

13. Now, it’s lining time! Take your 4 lining pocket pieces. Place right sides together for 2 pieces and then, do the same to the other 2 pieces. Stitch a 1/2″ seam along the top edge of each. (Sorry, the picture is kind of blurry).


14. Now, turn the 2 pocket lining pieces right side out and press your top seam flat.IMG_1642

15. Divide your pockets by drawing a chalk line; I chose to make 3 pockets on one side and 2 pockets on the other side. For 3 pockets, draw a line at 5.5″ from either side of the inside pocket piece (as shown below, your middle pocket should measure 5″).


16. For 2 equal size pockets, divide in 2, drawing a line at the middle at 8″IMG_1646

17. Pin each pocket lining piece to an inside front/back lining piece and along the drawn stitchlines. Stitch the right, bottom, and left sides of the entire pocket lining piece down (inside front and back) to hold in place (stitch at 3/8″ at 4.0mm stitch length). Then, stitch (standard 2.5″ stitch, center needle) along your drawn lines to create your pockets.IMG_1647

If you are not sewing a zipper in, skip to step 28.

18. Get excited, it’s zipper time (see the picture below step 20 to see what it is supposed to look like)! The zipper is a nice touch and very professional, but is also optional. Draw a 1″ line along one short end of the wrong side of all 4 of your zipper fabric pieces,(hopefully that makes sense; ignore my other line shown in the picture, it’s unnecessary).

19. Iron the one end into that 1″ line you drew on all 4 pieces (look 4 pictures down, I ironed after I sewed to zipper, but thought it would be better to iron at this point instead). Now, pair up your zipper pieces with pretty sides together, ironed seam allowances facing out, matching. Pin your zipper, teeth facing out, sandwiched between the 2 layers, as shown below in the next 2 pictures. You will sew an “L” shape at about a half inch seam allowance (don’t sew the ironed up edges, sew over them but not parallel to them). I used my regular sewing foot and lined up with the seam and then, close to the zipper teeth (you can feel them through the fabric, you don’t want to stitch too close to the zipper teeth, it makes it difficult to close/open the zipper). Also, when you are sewing over the zipper teeth to pivot, use the handwheel very slowly so as not to break your needle on the metal zipper teeth!! If your needle is hitting a “tooth” when you are pivoting lift your foot up while holding firmly onto your fabric to ensure little movement, and push it forward ever so slightly to clear the needle of the teeth. (Also, just to be clear, the ironed edge in my photo would be on the left, had I ironed before I sewed, that is the edge I do not want to sew down yet). Also, when pinning, I lined the start of my zipper feet at about a 1/2″ down from the edge of the fabric (right side of the photo); your ironed in edges will be at the end of your zipper.IMG_1649

The image below shows the “sandwiched” zipper.IMG_1651


The below picture is terrible, but it shows the edges sewn.IMG_1652Shows short ends ironed up.


20. Now, fold your fabric right side out and press and topstitch around the entire rectangle close to the edge. You may want to pin your unsewn edges before you sew. The outer long edges are raw at this point.IMG_1656

21. If your zipper is too long, you can shorten it by zig-zag stitching several times in place (take your stitch length to 0mm and wide enough so that your needle doesn’t hit the zipper feet). Then, with non-fabric scissors, cut zipper off, snipping in between teeth very carefully so as not to ruin your scissors!IMG_1658

22. To cover your zipper end, cut a 3″ x 5″ piece of scrap fabric to hide the zipper end. Iron down a 1/2″ along a 3″ edge to the wrong side of the fabric.


23. Place fabric on zipper as shown, lining up the ironed edge just a bit above the zipper (as shown). Stitch through fabric and zipper no larger than a 1/2″ seam allowance only for the width of the zipper.


24. Then, fold down and iron.IMG_1662

25. Flip your zipper over and iron down the other raw edge a 1/2″IMG_1664

26. Then, fold and iron the fabric piece over the zipper.


27. Next, fold your raw edge under and in and iron again (if you need to trim down the fabric, that is perfectly fine)! Stitch close to the edge around the entire square of folded in fabric. Again, be very careful when sewing over the metal teeth at top and bottom of square; use the handwheel and if you need to advance your fabric forward a tiny bit to clear the teeth, go ahead and do so!IMG_1666

Here is the prepped zipper ready to be sewn into the diaper bag!IMG_1667

28. Let’s start sewing this thing together! We’re in the homestretch! Take an inside front/back lining piece and line your side pieces up and pin. Sew a 1/2″ seam allowance from the top, stopping a half inch from the bottom (this is important to allow for ease of sewing the bottom piece on).IMG_1669

29. The below picture shows my 1/2″ stop mark. After sewing 2 sides to one front/back piece, sew the other raw edges of the 2 side pieces to the remaining front back piece, again, stopping a half inch from the bottom.IMG_1670

30. Now, we are going to sew the bottom lining piece on (you will be pinning the bottom lining piece to the bottom (obviously) where we had stopped a 1/2″ short on all 4 corners in the last couple of steps). Pin the long sides, right sides together and sew with a 1/2″ seam allowance, starting and stopping a 1/2″ from the top and bottom of the stitch line.IMG_1672

31. Now, we will stitch the bottom, lining sides at a 1/2″ seam allowance, starting and stopping a 1/2″ from the top and bottom of the stitch line.


This picture just shows my marks to stop/start at 1/2″ from the beginning and end.


This picture just shows how I pushed excess seams that I didn’t want in my stitchline out of the way.IMG_1677

Same here…IMG_1678

32. Finally! Let’s sew the cutest part of the bag together, the outside shell! (Optional, I serged my outer shell fabric pieces with my Baby Lock Evolution to keep the gathered lower edge together better).


33. As you did with your lining, pin (make sure the top edges of your pockets line up) and stitch your sides onto your front stopping a 1/2″ short of the bottom edge.IMG_1681

34.Open these out.IMG_1688

35. Line up your back piece and sew the 2 remaining side edges at a 1/2″ seam allowance (again, stopping a 1/2″ short of the bottom).IMG_1689


36. Let’s sew the bottom on! Again, pin your long sides, sewing at a 1/2″ seam allowance, stopping short 1/2″ at the top and bottom of your stitch line (it might start getting thick and awkward to maneuver at this point, but, work with it, be patient, and we’ll get through it)!IMG_1691

37. This picture shows my marking to remind myself to start and stop short of the beginning and end. After, you’ve sewn your front and back bottom, stitch your bottom sides at a 1/2″ seam allowance, starting and stopping a 1/2″ from the beginning and end.IMG_1694

38. This next step is optional, but, adds extra stability to the base of the bag. I cut a piece of Pellon Peltex Single-Sided Fusible Ultra Firm Stabilizer about 15″ x 6″ (fits within the sewn rectangle at the bottom of your bag). I added mine at this step because if you add it before, it makes maneuvering to sew the base on more difficult and chunky. So, you’ll position the fusible side to the wrong side of the bottom as shown (technically, the inside of the bag, don’t fuse to the outside of the bag). Flip your bag over keeping the peltex lined up within all your stitch lines. With your iron hot and steamy, sneak it down into the bag and press down on the bottom piece (we’re fusing the Peltex through the outside of the bottom fabric piece (which is currently turned outside in)…hoping that makes sense). As you slowly press, move your iron around to meet all the corners. Check to see if it has fused well. Repeat pressing if necessary.IMG_1697

39. If you’d like to embroider a Bible verse or something similar to your strap, you can do so before you stitch your straps, or I had already topstitched mine close to the outer edges of my straps and thought of this idea, so, I cut a 2″ piece of fabric, embroidered on it, cut it down to desired length, ironed all my edges in and stitched it to my strap, 3″ up (make sure placement is correct as to where you would like it to show when used). (Tip: if your embroidery machine does not include the colon, you can spell out Jeremiah 29.11 for instance and then, add another period and place it as best you can…you may want to stitch it out first.) I used a built-in font from my Baby Lock Esante Embroidery Machine.

40. At any rate, your straps should be topstitched close to the edges as shown below (remember, you do not have to use jean thread if you prefer not too…I just like the look of it and chose a coordinating color that would stand out, but, you can still use your matching all-purpose thread if you prefer).


41. Getting really close to finished! Now, place your lining inside your outer shell, wrong sides together, matching seam lines, pin, and stitch about a 3/8″ seam allowance around the top edge.IMG_1700

42. Center one side of your zipper piece (making sure the zipper pull is facing up) between the seams of the front of your bag. Stitch a 3/8″ seam allowance to hold zipper piece in place. Do the same for the other side of the zipper to the back of your bag. Then, place your straps as desired, I placed mine 2″ from the side seams. You’ll pin them facing down, pretty sides together, 2″ (or whatever you’ve chosen) from a side seam. Then, stitch in place to hold.IMG_1701

43. Take your facing, open up your ironed edge (just at the ends), and stitch the short ends together at a 1/2″ and iron your seams open. Flip the ironed lower edge back up; you may need to re-press it at the seam.IMG_1702

44. Pin your facing (notice where the straps are and they are still facing down), right sides together (line up your facing seam at a seam, doesn’t matter which) with the upper edge of your bag (ironed up facing edge should be on the outside as shown). Stitch a 1/2″ seam allowance around the entire top edge of the bag. Then, flip your facing up and iron.IMG_1703

45. I, then, understitched (sewing close to the seam on the facing, sewing the facing to the 3 layers of seam allowance below it) around the entire facing (as shown). Now, fold your facing into the bag and iron (straps will now flip up as they should be).IMG_1705

46. Pin in place to hold.IMG_1707

47. Now, we’re going to sew around the entire top portion of the bag 1 3/8″ from the top edge of the bag to hold the facing down and create a nice professional-looking top to our bag making sure to catch the facing edge inside the bag (I used matching thread; we’re sewing through several layers at this point, so, I didn’t want any possible mistakes to be obvious)! Because I had a pocket that ran into my 1″ seam, I had to start sewing at the pocket and finish sewing at the other end of the pocket (as seen below).IMG_1708

48. Because I wanted the facing to be stitched down where my pocket was, I stitched a line just beneath and behind the top of my pocket (it’s really not noticeable at all). If you’d like to hand stitch a couple stitches through the corner of your bag to hold the lining in place, you may!

Guess what?!! You’re done!! Post a picture at our Totally Stitchin’ facebook site! We always love to see your artwork using our tutorials! 😀IMG_1712

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