Tuesday, July 30, 2013

How To Make A Hobo Bag

Several years ago, I bought a hobo bag from Forever 21 and absolutely loved it and used it all the time. It's always been on my mental project list to make one just like it and finally decided to make one for the Haven bloggers conference coming up in a few days.
I wanted to make  the bag with longer straps so it can be worn across the body and wanted to have pockets inside that would fit my cell phone, sunglasses and some room for pens. 
It's pretty easy to knock off a pattern from an existing cloth bag. Sewing this bag is another story and I had to figure things out as I went along.

For all you who just want to see the finished project, skip down.... a whole bunch!  This is a pretty long tutorial, so scroll down if you don't want to read through all the instructions. 
 Some of you might just want to pin this post to one of your boards on Pinterest for a later date.

Here are the details:
First off, I had one yard of fabric for the lining and straps(black fabric) and one yard of fabric for the patterned fabric. Your yardage may vary depending on the size of the bag you are making. 

To make the pattern, trace the bag on some pattern paper. You can use any type of paper or even a cut up paper bag.

To make sure the pattern is even,  fold the pattern down the center. Then add 1/2" seam allowances for every seam.

To make the pocket patterns, put a 1/2" pleat in the paper lengthwise and make the pattern a little larger than the item you want to put in it. Add 1 1/4" seam allowance at the top of the pocket and 1/2" on the other 3 sides.

The steps above are repeated for the other 2 pockets. Cut one of each. 

Since my fabric had a symmetrical pattern, I placed the paper pattern  over the patterned fabric and lined up the design on the fabric to line up with the center of the bag.
 Cut 2 of the patterned fabric and 2 of the contrasting lining fabric.

I measured the straps and added the length that I wanted to allow me to wear the bag across my body. 
Make your straps the length and width that you like. 

Starting with the pockets,  iron the seam allowances(1 1/4" on the top and 1/2" on the other 2 sides)

Sew the top 1" seam allowance. Fold over the seam allowance 1/4" and sew at 1" on each piece(don't sew it to the black lining yet)
Pin a 1/2" pleat at the bottom.

It's easiest to start with the small center pocket first by placing the pocket where it looks good on the lining. The bottom of the pocket is sewn to  lining first.

Stitch the right side of the pocket, then measure the bottom of the pocket and line up the left side of the pocket by making sure the top is the same measurement as the bottom of the pocket. 

Sew the left pocket next by placing the left pocket up against the small center pocket  and sewing the right side of the pocket and the bottom.

Line up the left side of the left pocket the same way as the center pocket. 

Place the right pocket up against the smaller second pocket, pin and sew the 3 sides. 
Voila! pockets are attached to the lining. Check the pockets to see if the items you want to keep in them will fit. 

Next, with right sides together of the main (patterned) fabric, I placed a pin 5" down on both sides. (the right side is shown) Then  I sewed  the side from the pin down, then continued to sew the bottom, then up the other side up to the pin on the left side. 
Your hobo bag might be a little different.

I decided to round off the corner by sewing across the corner. I also cut off the corner after.
 Repeat the above steps with the  lining fabric, only  don't sew the bottom...sew the sides only.

Turning  the right sides out, this is what they look like at this point. Notice the bottom edge of the black lining is not sewn.  You now basically have 2 bags.

This is a little tricky, but put the lining bag into the pattern bag, wrong sides of the lining fabric to the wrong sides of the outside fabric. Pin and turn right side out, just to make sure that you will be stitching the correct sides.

Stitch all but the tops (where the straps will be attached) and the bottoms of the bags

Clip the fabric  around  any curves.

I  clipped the fabric several times in the center  of the bag.

Sew the long sides of the straps with right sides together and then turn them right side out.

This is where it gets tricky again.  The straps will be attached to the body of the purse at the top ...see photo. The straps are in between the pattered outside fabric and the lining fabric(right sides together)

Sew the seam, then turn right side out to check again.  Here's what it should look like.

Pull the black lining out, press (iron) the seam allowance inside (with right sides together.) Then top stitch the bottom. 

I attached a button just for looks  and to add my blog name tag to it for Haven coming up on Thursday.

Now to the final product!

 Tada! I'm always excited when something comes out well.
hobo bag, sewing project, fabric hobo bag

hobo bag, sewing project, fabric hobo bag

hobo bag, sewing project, fabric hobo bag
Phew! That was a long post...maybe my longest post EVER!
Check another project off the list...
feels so0000 good. 

Leave me a short comment and tell me what you think- I read every one!


You might like to see how I made a Basket From A Wine Box. 
You can find it here. 

 p.s. I found my fabric at Fabric.com. They did not compensate me in any way for this post.
Disclaimer: The above post is how I made our my hobo bag.  I don't take any responsibility for any errors or results obtained from using this information. When using power tools, use safety equipment.


  1. your bag turned out amazing and the tutorial almost makes me want to give it a try. I'm just too timid to use a machine for sewing.

  2. Love your hobo, thanks for the "how to"! Love the fabric pattern!

  3. Lovely bag! My sister has a design your purse business and when I lived closer to her I would help her out! It was so much fun with the material and different choices of purses! Nice job! Thanks for your visit!

  4. Love how this bag has pockets inside; great tutorial! I just got into sewing and this is the perfect starter project!

  5. Love it! I have been wanting to make one for the longest time. Thanks for the tutorial. I will be sure to make one now!

  6. Love it! Is there any way i could convince you to upload a printable pattern? ;-D <*insert big cheesy grin here* lol

  7. @ Chelsea, you have "no reply blogger" checked and I couldn't reply by email. Unfortunately, I don't know how I would upload the pattern as it is pretty large. I did find a similar one online and you can find it here: http://www.ehow.com/clips/3540620/ Hope that helps.

  8. Great tutorial. I'm just starting out sewing, looking for bag ideas and this one is great and gives the right amount of information. Thank you!

  9. lovely bag and very useful tutorial.Thank you very much.

  10. Cute and practical! and looks so simple- thanks for sharing this DIY tip :)
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  11. Loved your tutorial. Thank you.........

  12. Nice been looking a long time for a pattern, Thanks just love yours.

  13. Great job on the hobo bag, I am definitely going to give this a try. I love your pattern of choice and I am hoping I can find something like it as well. Thanks so much for your instructions, they were very easy to understand

  14. I can't wait to try this! Just got super cute fabric today. I have an idea for simplifying your instructions and will post if it works out thanks for showing us how to do pockets never thought of pleating the bottom.

  15. Pam, How would I go about making a zippered pouch for the opposite side of the pouches for pens, pencils, etc. I also don't have a bag that I would like to make a pattern of. I also have never worked with patterns on paper so please help! Any advice would be great?

    1. Just cut out a piece of paper the size you'd like the pencil bag, remembering to add 1/2" seam allowance. You can use any type of paper. Then cut your fabric out. Sew the zipper in first, then do the other seams. If you don't have another bag to make a pattern of, just make your own out of paper. If the first one doesn't come out just the way you want it, you can adjust the pattern for the next one. Don't buy expensive fabric for the first bag just in case.

  16. I don't understand how to sew the inch and then the 1/4 inch on the pockets. Help please!

    1. Another way to say it: Take the piece of fabric that will be the pocket. Press the top edge 1/4", then again 1". (so your piece of fabric is 1 1/4" shorter). The 1/4" raw edge is folded under, then it's folded again at 1" and sewn at 1". Hope that makes sense.

  17. I still don't know how to make the bag pattern. Can you give the dimensions of the bag? Thanks

  18. This tutorial is amazing - it has very clear pictures and instructions.

  19. Love everything about this bag! It's my next project! Thank you!

  20. How could I add a zipper closure to the bag?

    1. You would measure the length of where you want the zipper to go, purchase that size zipper. You would then follow the directions for installing the zipper on the zipper insert. You should probably install the zipper first before doing the other steps.

  21. Do you have dimensions for this bag.. I don't have a hobo laying around to make a pattern out of... Thanks!

  22. Wondering what kind of fabric is best for this type of bag??? Thanks!

    1. A lightweight canvas or a medium weight cotton.


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