Ultimate travel bags

I’ve been wanting to make myself a weekend bag which doubles as a bag to hold all the stuff I take on planes, including my knitting, and have looked at patterns, thought about designing my own, then put it all on the back burner as being too hard, as I wanted something quite specific. I found a pattern for  “The Ultimate Travel Bag” and decided that it was just what I wanted. Then I noticed that Craftsy had a course on sale for pretty much the same price as the pattern, so I went with that and couldn’t be happier.

There is a lot going on with this bag, it has zipped pockets and slip pockets, mesh pockets, and even a strap to go over the handle of the suitcase. This makes for many pattern pieces, so many in fact, that there are labels included with the pattern which are essential for identifying what goes where.


For my bag I used fabric from both My Fabricology and Materialise. All hardware is by Emmaline Bags and also came from My Fabricology.

For Mark’s bag I used some heavy cotton drill that I had used to keep the light off my stash before I reorganised it, and some cotton lining that I found at the local recycling centre, REmida, which I was going to return after Mark had claimed it was creepy, but then he decided that it might be good in the bag, so I used the borders for the trim and the creepy bug print for the insides. Again, all the hardware came from My Fabricology and it was nice to have a conversation over messenger as Susan, the owner, and I decided on the colour of zips and mesh. The colours chosen were her suggestion and she did brilliantly – I was heading towards bright green!

There are very explicit written instructions as well as the video instruction and I found I learned a lot from both media. The first thing to do is to assemble all the components, which makes quite a neat pile. IMG_9572

There is a product called “Soft and Stable” sandwiched between the outer and inner of this bag and there were occasions where there were more than three layers of sandwich. The only way to hold the whole thing together was with wonder clips.


Did you know that wonder clips are designed so that the clear part is supposed to go underneath so they just slide out. If you use them upside down they don’t work nearly as well.

One of the many hints I gleaned from the video tutorial was to use a stiletto to squash some of the thickness of the layers and also to hold things together and keep everything aligned. Note how much fluff has attached to my foot – I’m not sure where this came from, but suspect that Soft and Stable.IMG_9574

I got so used to using the stiletto that I now use it for all sorts of sewing.

Every component of this bag is beautifully designed. All edges are bound and I found that I got quite a workout doing it. Here is Mark’s bag turned inside out, showing the zipped mesh pocket


and the other mesh pockets, which have a little tuck in them to give room to put in water bottles or other bulky things. IMG_9576

On the bottom are optional feet. Annie Unrein, the designer, suggested using buttons rather than compromising the fabric at the bottom by piercing it for bag feet. I had a little rummage in my button stash and found these buttons that I had found in an op shop in Tasmania that didn’t have proper holes. I simply slotted another button over the top and they worked perfectly. After stitching them on I used fray stop on both sides to help stop the thread from wearing through. I may revisit the outside with a dab of silicone before I take this bag on a trip.

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There is a base inserted into a sleeve in the bottom of the bag, which gives it a firm bottom. I used some heavy card that I got from REmida. You can just see it poking out from the sleeve here.


The pattern requires that the bag be shaped fairly heavily. The sides are tapered in, as is the zipped part at the top. This gives quite a feminine, elegant feel to the bag, but I couldn’t help thinking that it wasted quite a bit of my lovely fabric when I cut it off, and also reduced the internal dimensions of the bag quite significantly. IMG_9369

When I made Mark’s bag I decided not to do this shaping and you can see it has much more of a duffle feeling. If I make another one I think I will make this shape again.


I have an expensive designer bag that I usually take away with me and, although it has a slot for the suitcase handle, I find that it swings round and annoys me intensely. This bag has a strap with a velcro strip that can be firmly attached to the handle. I do wonder if the strap is just a smidge too high, but time will tell on that one. IMG_9738

I loved the process of making these bags, but specially Mark’s bag. He would come and check on progress and spent a lot of time inspecting the bag as it was assembled. I can’t describe his joy when it was finished and it took pride of place on the sofa for a few days. I had to laugh one evening as we were watching television and I glanced over and he was examining every pocket, and even discovering the ones at the ends, which he hadn’t realised were there. IMG_9589

A quick snapshot of some of the features included in these bags: they have a double ended zip opening, short handles and an adjustable shoulder strap with thick pad for comfort. This shoulder strap is removable as it has a swivel clip on each end. There is a slip pocket either side which hides the strap to which the shoulder strap is attached. IMG_9577

At the front is a slip pocket and a zipped pocket, and on the other side is a slip pocket. I used these lovely triangle rings to attach my shoulder strap, and used rectangular hardware for Mark’s bag.

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This is such a thoughtfully designed pattern that it even includes the zip pulls. I spent nearly five days making my bag and three and a half days making Mark’s so would consider this to be quite a slow sew. It was lovely to take my time and really enjoy the process, and it will be even nicer to take these bags on our excursions and holidays.



39 thoughts on “Ultimate travel bags

  1. Fabulous bags Sue! Adore the color combinations, particularly yours. Interesting how each bag has its own unique ‘personality’ though same basic pattern.

  2. For a moment I thought I had that class and hadn’t made it yet but sadly it’s a different class. Those bags are lovely and I’m sure you will enjoy using them on your travels. I’m undecided now as to whether to buy that class next time there’s an offer. I probably shouldn’t since I have other unused classes lined up but that doesn’t mean I won’t!

  3. Great bags. They look really useful and so will have to look into this pattern. I made my first professional looking bag this summer using tweed and faux leather and it was a steep learning curve but am really pleased with the end result. I have purchased a few Craftsy classes and most have been excellent.

    1. Yes, the classes I’ve done have been useful and if you can get them on sale they are worth every penny. I think a well designed bag is a thing of beauty. I was fascinated by the process with these.

  4. They’re both excellent and I love Mark’s admirative expression over his. About the stiletto tool, how do you use it? You just press it against the layers of fabric to make them flat? Regular buttons as feet are just brilliant and so is your wise use of this “ugly” ehem! fabric.

    1. Thank you x Yes, the stiletto can be used to hold fabric down so it goes under the foot more easily, or hold things together so they don’t slide apart. Honestly, once you’ve mastered it, you’ll never look back! How good did the bug fabric look??

  5. Sue, these travel bags are brilliant! So distinctive with the gorgeous fabric and very well thought out with the number and variety of pockets and the spacious internal area. I love the bug fabric!

    1. Thank you Roma, I’m glad you like the bug fabric, I found out that it was an IKEA fabric – I can’t imagine what they did with it. Anyway, I got loads of it for free so am thrilled to have used it.

  6. These bags are fantastic, Sue! I did not realise how much work is involved in the construction of bags. I am not surprised that it takes days to assemble all the parts and sew them together. what an achievement!

  7. These bags are just fantastic and I am very inspired to make one. My mind boggled a bit as I read the stiletto tip and I worried that you may have been wrangling your Louboutins under the sewing machine foot. Phew, I’m pleased it was just a spiky tool!

  8. Great bags for travel with loads of pockets. I love the lining fabric of Mark’s bag. What you call a stiletto, I know as an awl. I was looking for the shoe! I have never heard it called that before. It seems a lot of work (and it is) but these kind of bags generally are expensive and/or you can’t get them with good design.

    1. I probably call them an awl too, but Annie called it a stiletto on the video, so I did the same! I have got an eye wateringly expensive travel bag and it is useless. This will be so much better. I hope!

  9. Absolutely gorgeous! I love all the zips and pockets. I would love to have a go at making something like this. Will go and have a look at craftsy. I haven’t taken a class there yet!

  10. Your bags are really beautiful! I love the patterns by Annie Unrein and I even have the stiletto called awl and I use it all the time for all of my sewing. It gives such a good control over the fabric without danger of sewing over your finger. I love that she would quilt the bags and then build the bag instead of sewing separate bags of self fabric and lining. The result is a bag without those baggy and shifting linings which make a bag looking „selfmade“. A sewing friend has made your bag and she uses it as transport bag for her sewing mashine for sewing bees.
    Have a lovely voyage you two!
    P.S. I suppose that the shifting around travel bag is due to the one stick handle of the suitcase. Guess why I know! A suitcase with a u shaped handle keeps the bag on place.

    1. Yes, I call it an awl too, but thought perhaps the rest of the world call it a stiletto, it gives fantastic control. Annie’s bags are really beautiful and I have just ordered another pattern. I think the bag I made would be perfect for carrying and sewing machine. Yes, the new style suitcases are difficult for putting a bag on the handle, but this one stays put so that’s a win!

  11. I know the fabric with the bugs, it is from IKEA and I have once used it to make a wearable muslin for a dress 🙂 Both bags look super practical and they must have been so much work! All those details! I would love to have one for myself, but I’m too lazy to even cut out all those pieces ;P

  12. Wow, fantastic bags! 👏 I love the stage when all the panels are assembled too 👍 and ALL THOSE POCKETS!!! 👏👏👏 You’ve really made me want to make another bag now! It’s like a treasure hunt finding all the pieces 👍🙏👏

  13. Really wonderful projects! I am also in a bag making mood and I just ordered some more hardware. I guess Christmas presents might be sorted 😬.

  14. So nice to be able to make exactly what will be most functional for you both!!
    And so great to have something special you can take and they’ll become part of your travel memories.
    I made a grainline portside- it got dirty the first time I used it and picked it up off the luggage carousel. At first I was devastated but then I actually thought, hey, we’ll im kind of glad it’s happened the first time I’ve used it, probably less upset than I would be if it first got dirty 10 uses in.

    1. It is lovely to have a bag with all the bits I need, and I think you’re right, it’s like the first scratch on the car! I don’t intend to put mine in the hold – strictly carry on, I hope!

  15. I don’t need any travel bags, but inspired by your post I looked the class up. Newly retired I’ve joined a local sewing group and I need a bag for carrying my machines. The class info showed the bag used for this, and there was a special, so my fate was sealed

  16. Sue, I loved these bags way back when I bookmarked this post!
    Now I’m wondering how you and Mark have liked your bags for travel?

    1. Hi Melody, we have loved our bags! We have taken them on flights to London and New York, a couple of rail excursions and I took mine on the ten day road trip to Broome and it held everything I needed for the entire trip! Mark’s is a bit bigger because I changed the shape of the top, but mine is fine too. I also use mine for all our trips to our holiday place. I can’t recommend them enough!

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