Mustangs are the beautiful wild horses of western North America. They are such a dramatic icon that in 1971, the United States Congress recognized the herds of mustangs as "living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West." We selected Melody Miller's striking Mustang collection for Cotton + Steel as the feature fabric for this handsome slim-style messenger bag. Paired with a deep navy twill, it's a classic combo that's ready to hit the trail to school, to work, or anywhere those wild horses pull your heart.
The Mustang fabric we used is a cotton and linen canvas, a perfect compliment to the twill in both weight and texture. We strongly recommend this heavier weight over a standard quilting cotton.
The clean, modern style of this bag features double tuck locks as the flap's closure. We have a step-by-step tuck (or push) lock tutorial that shows you just how easy it is to add this professional finish to your work.
The bag's great structure comes from a hidden layer of foam batting. Not only does this allow the bag to retain its tall, slim shape, it also gives it enough oomph to stand up on its own and adds extra padding so you can confidently carry a laptop, eReader or tablet.
Our bag finishes at approximately 12" high x 10" wide x 2½" deep. The 1½" strap is fully adjustable to be worn cross-body or over-the-shoulder.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing Machine and standard presser foot
- Quarter Inch Seam foot; optional, but helpful for the pocket stitching
Fabric and Other Supplies
- 1 yard of 44"+ wide medium to heavy-weight canvas or similar for the bag's flap, strap, large back pocket and small lining pocket; we used 45" Mustang Gallop Canvas in Gold (85% cotton and 15% linen) by Melody Miller for the Cotton + Steel Home Décor Canvas collection
NOTE: A bold motif with proper fussy cutting is important to the design of the bag. Extra yardage is included in the quantity above to accommodate this.
- ½ yard of 54"+ wide medium to heavy-weight cotton twill or similar for the bag's main body; we used 58" Micro Brushed Twill in Navy
- ½ yard of 44"+ wide standard weight cotton for the bag's lining and the front pocket; we used 44" 100% cotton Metallic Netorious in Goldilocks from the Cotton + Steel collection
- ½ yard of 18"+ wide heavy batting or foam interfacing; we used a foam option - byAnnie's Soft & Stable in black
NOTE: To give the bag the proper stand-up-on-its-own stability and form, we do recommend the foam over batting. It's very easy to sew and provides great body.
- TWO tuck lock clasps; we used 1½" tall x 1⅛" wide tuck locks in nickel
- TWO 1½" D-rings or Rectangular rings; we used black plastic D-rings
- ONE 1½" tri-glide slider; we used a black plastic tri-glide
NOTE: You could also use metal for the rings and slider; brass would be the best look for our fabric selections
- 1 yard of 20"+ wide medium-weight fusible interfacing; we used Pellon's Decor-Bond
- All purpose thread to match fabrics
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Iron and ironing board
- Straight pins
- Extra tools for tuck lock insertion: awl, flat head screwdriver, soft hammer
- Download and print out the Messenger Bag Corner Patterns. There is one pattern for the flap and one for the pocket.
IMPORTANT: This pattern is ONE 8½" x 11" sheet. You must print the PDF file at 100%. DO NOT SCALE to fit the page. There is a guide rule on the page so you can confirm your final printout is to scale.
- Cut out the two corner patterns along the solid line. Set aside.
- From the fabric for the bag's flap, strap, back pocket and lining pocket (Mustang Gallop in Gold in our sample), fussy cut the following, carefully centering your fabric's main motif:
TWO 14" high x 10½" wide rectangles for the flap
ONE 10½" high x 10" wide rectangle for the back pocket
ONE 7" high x 8" wide rectangle for the lining pocket
TWO 3½" x 6" strips for the strap tabs
TWO 3½” x WOF strips for the strap
NOTE: The two strap pieces will be pieced together to equal a final cut length of 60". If your fabric is 60" or greater, you can simply cut ONE 3½" x 60" strip.
- From the fabric for the bag's main body (navy twill in our sample), cut the following:
TWO 15½" high x 13½" wide rectangles for the main body panels
ONE 6” x 1½" strip for the hanger loop
- From the fabric for the bag's lining and front pocket (Netorious in Goldilocks in our sample), cut the following:
TWO 15½" high x 13½" wide rectangles for the bag lining
ONE 11" high x 7" wide rectangle for the front pocket
- From the fusible interfacing, cut the following:
ONE 9½" x 13½" rectangle for the flap
TWO 1½" x 5½" strips for the strap tabs
THREE 1½" x WOF (20") strips for the strap (you can cut as one strip, or cut several pieces and butt them together for the 60" fabric length, which is what we did)
ONE 9" x 9" square for the back pocket
ONE 5" x 6" for the front pocket
ONE 5½" x 7" rectangle for the lining pocket
- From the foam interfacing, cut TWO 15" x 13½" rectangles for the main body panels.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Create the flap
- Find the two 14" high x 10½" wide rectangles for the flap and the one 9½" x 13½" interfacing rectangle.
- Place the fabric panels right sides together, making sure the raw edges are flush all around. Make sure the panels are in their proper orientation (14" high) with the motif running in the right direction.
- Place the interfacing panel on top. There should be ½" of fabric showing beyond the interfacing on all sides.
- Using the Flap Corner Arc pattern, trim around the two bottom corners of the interfacing...
- ... and the two bottom corners of the fabric panels.
- Following manufacturer's instructions, and maintaining the ½" of fabric showing all around, fuse the interfacing to the wrong side of one fabric flap panel.
- Place the two flap panels right sides together again, aligning all the raw edges. Pin in place along both sides and across the bottom. The top remains open.
- Thread the machine with thread to match the fabric in the top and bobbin.
- Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch both sides and around the angled bottom. Go slowly to maintain a consistent seam width around the corners. You are stitching right along the edge of the interfacing.
- Clip the corners, cutting right up to but not through the stitching.
NOTE: The interfacing acts as a firm edge to press against. This is important because you want the corners of the flap to be very smooth curves. If you want to learn more about curved seams, check out our tutorial: Sewing Smooth Curves.
- Press open the seam allowance, pressing first one side against the interfacing and then the other. As mentioned above, this further helps maintain that lovely smooth curve to the corners.
- Turn the flap right side out through the top opening and press flat.
- Re-thread the machine if necessary with your chosen topstitching thread, we used navy throughout. Lengthen the stitch.
- Using a ¼" seam allowance, topstitch along both sides and around the bottom. The top still remains raw and open.
Make the hanger loop
- Find the 6" x 1½" hanger strip.
- Fold it in half, wrong sides together, and press to set a center crease.
- Open up so the crease line is visible. Press in each side so the raw edges meet in the center.
- Fold again along the original crease line so the raw edges are now completely hidden to the inside. Both ends of the little strip remain raw and open.
- If necessary, re-thread the machine with thread to match the hanger strip in the top and bobbin. Re-set the stitch length to normal.
- Edgestitch along the length of the folded edges.
- Find the exact center along the top raw edge of the flap. Create a loop from the sewn strip. Align the raw ends of the loop with the top raw edge of the flap so there is approximately 1" between the inner edges of the loop. Pin in place. You can also machine baste in place for extra security. Simply stay within the ½" seam allowance. Set the flat aside.
Baste the foam/batting in place
- Find the two exterior panels and the two foam panels.
- Layer each main exterior panel with a foam panel. The edges should be flush along the sides and across the bottom, but the foam should sit ½" down from the top edge of the fabric. Pin in place.
- Machine baste in place, staying within the ½" seam allowance.
NOTE: Neither the foam nor the twill we are using really had a right or wrong side, but if your fabric does, you want to layer wrong sides together.
NOTE: Some manufacturers have fusible foam, which would also be an option for this project. We like Pellon's Flex Foam.
Prepare the back pocket
- Find the 10½" high x 10" wide rectangle for the back pocket and the 9" x 9" square of interfacing.
- Place the fabric panel wrong side up on your cutting surface. Make sure the panel is in the proper orientation (10½" high) with the motif running in the right direction.
- Place the interfacing panel on top, positioning it ½" in from both sides, ½" up from the bottom, and 1” down from the top.
- Using the Pocket Corner Arc pattern, as you did above with the flap, trim around the two bottom corners of the interfacing and the two bottom corners of the fabric panels.
- Following manufacturer's instructions, fuse the interfacing in place.
NOTE: This exterior pocket is not lined, so you may want to finish the raw edges of the pocket panel. We used a serger, but you could use a simple zig zag stitch or another sewing machine finish.
- Clip the curves and fold back the edges of the fabric panel along the edge of the interfacing all around.
- As you did above, you are using the rigid edge of the interfacing as your folding guide. Fold back the sides and bottom ½" and fold back the top 1".
NOTE: Some other tricks for a smooth curve with a single layer include: 1) stitch a curved guideline to follow in a matching thread, 2) use the pattern to cut a piece of card stock or cardboard, then place the card on top of the interfacing to act as an even more rigid line to press against; 3) cut a small matching corner piece, stitch it right sides together with the main fabric panel, then turn and press the corner - like a mini, corner-only lining piece.
- At the top corners, we made modified clean finished corners so the angles would be sharp and precise. If you are new to this technique, take a look at our tutorial.
- When all the raw edges are pressed, flip over the pocket and topstitch the top 1" hem in place. We also added one of our Sew4Home labels to the pocket's top band. Lengthen the stitch. If necessary, re-thread the machine with the topstitching thread.
Prepare the two small pockets
- The 7" x 8" lining pocket is made in the same manner as the back exterior pocket. It is one layer, so it's best to finish all the raw edges.
- Place the 5½" x 7" interfacing rectangle on the wrong side of the pocket panel. It should sit ½" in from the sides and bottom and 1" down from the top. Following manufacturer's instructions, fuse the interfacing in place.
- As above, fold back the edges against the interfacing. The top edge is folded back 1" and the sides and bottom are folded back ½". This pocket does not have any rounded corners, so we used a modified clean finish method at all four corners.
- When all the raw edges are pressed, flip over the pocket and topstitch the top 1" hem in place.
- The small front pocket (in the metallic cotton in our sample) is made like a traditional two layer, turned pocket.
- Find the 11" x 7" pocket rectangle and the 5" x 6" interfacing panel.
- Center the interfacing on the wrong side of the fabric panel. It should be positioned on the top half of the fabric panel ½" down from the top raw edge and ½" in from each side. Following manufacturer's instructions, fuse in place.
- If necessary, re-thread the machine with thread to best match the fabric in the top and bobbin. Re-set the stitch length to normal.
- Fold the pocket in half, right sides together, so it is now 5½" x 7. Pin along all three sides, leaving an approximate 2-3" opening along the bottom for turning.
- Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch around all sides, pivoting at the corners. Lock your seam on either side of the 2-3" opening. Clip the corners.
- Turn right side out. Push out the corners so they are nice and sharp. A chopstick or long knitting needle works well for this.
- Fold in the raw edges of the opening so they are flush with the sewn seam. Press well.
- Lengthen the stitch. 1" down from the top folded edge, topstitch across the pocket to create a faux top band.
- Your flap and all three pockets are now complete.
Place the exterior pockets
- Find one of the 15½" high x 13½" wide main body panels with the foam interfacing basted in place. Place it right side up on your work surface.
- Place the exterior back pocket right side up on the body panel. Position the pocket so it sits 3" down from the top raw edge of the body panel and is centered side to side. Pin the pocket in place.
- If necessary, re-thread the machine with thread to match the pocket in the top and bobbin. The stitch should still be lengthened.
- Edgestitch the pocket in place along both sides and across the bottom. Remember to go slowly around the corners. It's also a good idea to use a generous backstitch at the start and end (the top corners of the pocket) as these are pocket stress points.
- Place the remaining body panel right side up.
- Place the exterior front pocket right side up on the body panel. Position the pocket so it sits 3" down from the top raw edge of the body panel and is centered side to side. Pin the pocket in place.
- If necessary, re-thread the machine with thread to match the pocket in the top and bobbin. The stitch length still remains lengthened.
- Edgestitch the pocket in place along both sides and across the bottom.
Insert the tuck locks
- Place the front panel, with the pocket in place, right side up on your work surface.
- Lay the flap, also right side up, over the front panel, covering the small front pocket. Center the flap side to side with the bottom curved edge of the flap 4½" up from the bottom raw edge of the front panel. The top edge of the flap will extend 3" above the front panel.
- Find center of the flap bottom and evenly space the two locks to either side of this center point.
- The inside edge of each of our locks is 2" to either side of center.
- Insert both halves of the two locks, then clasp together to confirm placement is correct and the flap is nice and flat. Remember, the top of the flap will extend above the top of the bag panel.
NOTE: If you are new to working with this type of closure, have no fear. It's actually quite easy, and we have a full tutorial: How To Insert a Tuck or Push Lock Closure.
- Unlatch the closures and set the flap aside.
Complete the exterior bag body
- Place the front and back exterior panels right sides together matching all four sides and sandwiching the pockets and the base portion of the tuck locks between the layers. Pin along both sides and across the bottom.
- If necessary, re-thread the machine with thread to best match the exterior fabric in the top and bobbin. Re-set the stitch length to normal.
- Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners.
- Create 2½" box corners, which means your "box" will be half that size or 1¼".
NOTE: If you are new to this technique, check out our tutorial: How To Box Corners.
- Turn the exterior bag right side out, push out the corners and press well.
- If necessary, re-thread the machine with thread to match the strap in the top and bobbin.
- For the strap tabs, find the two 3½" high x 6" wide fabric strips and the two 1½" x 5½" strips of interfacing.
- Place the fabric strips wrong side up on your work surface. Place the interfacing on one half of each strip. It should sit ¼" down from the top raw edge and ¼" in from each raw side edge. Following manufacturer's instructions, fuse the interfacing in place.
- Fold each fabric strip right sides together. Pin in place along the side and one end.
- Using a ¼" seam allowance, stitch across the end and down the side of each strip, pivoting at the corner. Remember to leave one end open and raw.
- Clip the corners and press open the seam allowances.
- Turn the tabs right side out through their open ends. Use a long, blunt end tool, such as a chopstick or knitting needle to gently push out the corners. Press both tabs flat.
- Lengthen the stitch. If necessary, re-thread the machine with the topstitching thread you've been using for all the other topstitching (we've used navy throughout). Edgestitch along both sides and both ends (including the raw ends) of both tab strips.
- For the long strap, as mentioned above, unless your fabric was wide enough to cut just one 60" strip, you will need to piece two lengths of fabric to create the finished 60". We used two 3½" x WOF (width of fabric or 44") lengths.
- Find your fabric strip(s) as well as the corresponding 1½" interfacing strips. Again, you may have one length or several lengths you plan to butt together. We used three 20" lengths.
- If necessary, re-thread the machine with thread to best match the strap in the top and bobbin and re-set the stitch length to normal.
- If you have more than one main fabric strip, attach the strips as you would multiple lengths of binding. Place the strip lengths at right angles to one another. Pin in place, then stitch across from top to bottom on the diagonal. Trim away the corner to approximately ¼" from the diagonal seam.
- Open out the seam allowance and press flat.
- Trim the final strip down to a 60" length. Fold the strip in half, wrong sides together, to set a center crease.
- Following manufacturers instructions, fuse the interfacing to the wrong side of the fabric strip. The inside edge of the interfacing should sit along the center crease line of the fabric strip; the outside edge of the interfacing should sit ¼" in from the outside raw edge of the fabric. Remember, we placed three 20" lengths, butting them together to equal our 60" fabric strip.
- Finish the strap in the same manner as the strap tabs above. Fold, stitch across one end and down the long side. Then turn right side out through the open end.
- Press the long strap flat.
- Lengthen the stitch. If necessary, re-thread with the topstitching thread. Edgestitch along both sides and both ends (including the raw end).
- Find the slider and the two D-rings.
- Turn under the raw end of the strap ½”. Loop this folded end through the center of the slider and pin in place. Stitch this folded end to secure the slider in place. You can use two lines of edgestitching or a box stitch. We used a narrow box stitch.
- With the strap laying wrong side up (so you can see the folded under end you just stitched in place), find one of the D-rings. Thread the finished end of the strap, bottom up, through the curved side of the D-ring (from the bottom up).
- Pull the strap through so it is now facing right side up and feed the end back through the slider, going up and over the folded end. This creates your adjusting loop.
- Find the remaining D-ring. Feed the finished end of the strap through the curved end of this D-ring and edgestitch in place, just as you did to secure the first D-ring. Before stitching, do a quick check to make sure there are no twists in your strap.
- Find the two strap tabs. Thread one tab through the flat side of each D-ring. Fold the tab together. The raw tab edge should sit about ¼" up from the finished tab edge. This will allow the raw edge to be concealed when the tab is sewn on the bag. In the photo below, only one tab strip has been looped into place.
- NOTE: If you are new to creating an adjustable strap, you may also want to review our Must Have Messenger Style Brief and our Unisex Urban Shoulder Bag – both use the same style of strap and have additional photos that may be helpful.
- Find the exterior bag. Place a tab at each side seam. The tab should be centered over the seam and the finished end of the tab (behind which is the slightly offset raw end) should sit 3" down from the top raw edge of the bag.
- Pin the tab in place, then secure in place with an approximate 1¼" x ¾" X box of stitching. Repeat to set and secure the opposite tab.
NOTE: If you are new to this stitching technique, we have a tutorial on the steps to create a precise X Box.
- Find the two lining panels.
- Place one panel right side up and flat on your work surface. Measure to find the exact center of the panel.
- Place the lining pocket on the right side of the lining panel. The pocket should be centered side to side and 3" down from the top raw edge. Pin in place.
- Using the see-through ruler and a marking pen or pencil, measure 1" in from the left side of the pocket and draw a vertical line to divide the pocket into two sections: one main section and one thin pen/pencil pocket.
- If necessary, re-thread the machine with thread to match the pocket in the top and bobbin. Keep the lengthened stitch
- Edgestitch the pocket in place along both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners and with a generous backstitch at the pocket top. This closes the opening in the pocket used for turning right side out.
- Stitch along the drawn line to create the pen/pencil pocket.
NOTE: For the cleanest look on all pocket stitching, use a lock stitch at the beginning and end or leave your thread tails long and knot to secure at the back.
- Place the two lining panels right sides together, sandwiching the pocket between the layers. Pin along both sides and across the bottom.
- If necessary, re-thread with thread to match the lining. Re-set the stitch length to normal. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners.
- As you did for the exterior bag, create 2½" box corners, which means your "box" will be half that size or 1¼".
- As mentioned above, if you are new to this technique, check out our tutorial: How To Box Corners.
- Turn the lining right side out, push out the boxed corners and press.
- Fold down the top raw edge of the lining ½" all around.
Attach flap and finish
- Find the exterior bag, it should be right side out.
- Find the flap.
- Measure to find the exact center of the top raw edge of the flap and the exact center of the top edge of the back of the exterior bag. Place the flap right sides together against the back of the bag. Align the two center-point pins. The raw edges of the bag and the flap should be flush and the little hanging loop should be sandwiched between the layers. Pin in place across the flap.
- Machine baste the flap in place.
- Lift the flap up into position and press the seam allowance down towards the inside of the bag. Across the front of the bag, continue folding down the raw edge ½" so there is a folded/finished edge all around.
- Find the lining, turn it wrong side out. Slip the lining inside the exterior so the two bags are now wrong sides together. Align the side seams and the bottom boxed corners. The top folded edges of the lining and the exterior should also be aligned. If these folded edges are not perfectly flush, adjust the lining's fold as needed. Pin in place all around.
- Thread the machine with thread to match the lining in the top and thread to match the exterior in the bobbin. Lengthen the stitch.
- Pull the flap up and out of the way and slip the top opening's folds under the presser foot with the lining facing up (this positioning is important – otherwise the thread colors indicated above will be wrong). Edgestitch around the entire top opening of the bag through all the layers, staying as close to the folded edges as possible.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Kathy Andrews, What Sew Ever