When my daughter was young, I’d always make a special back-to-school something for her. It might be a special dress or t-shirt, other times a pencil pouch or lunch bag. But now that she’s in middle school, there’s not much I can make her that she’d be seen carrying to school.
Gone are the days of kitty cat book bags and fluffy flowers on her dresses. At this age, cute is out and functional is in. With that in mind, I created my Campus Messenger Bag for all the older kids, teens, and college students heading back to school this fall.
It’s just big enough to hold a small laptop and notebook, perfect for college students dashing to class or heading to the library for a study session.
The wide strap is comfortable on the shoulder and long enough to wear cross body.
There’s a zip pocket on the inside to hold your smaller items, like a phone or memory stick or ear buds, so you don’t have to dig around in the bottom of the bag to find them.
I made mine from denim and camo canvas. I’m not normally a camo and denim kind of girl, but it seemed to work for a utility style bag. You can use any home dec weight fabric for the main bag pieces, and any cotton or home dec fabric for the flap. The front flap can be embellished with trims and appliques, but I opted to keep it plain and instead just pin on some of my daughter’s flair buttons.
Finished dimensions are 14” wide x 10.5” tall x 3” deep.
Here’s how to make it!
1 yard bag body fabric (for bag body and strap)
1 yard lining fabric (for lining and pocket)
½ yard bag flap fabric (can also be cut from the bag body fabric)
½ yard bag flap lining (can also be cut from the bag lining fabric)
½ yard fusible fleece
½ yard fusible interfacing
6” (or longer) zipper
Cut and prep your pieces
Cut out all pieces. The free pattern includes pattern pieces for the pocket and flap, as well as a cut list for other pieces to cut from your fabric.
Fuse the fusible fleece to the back of the bag body pieces.
Fuse the interfacing to the back of the flap piece.
Transfer zipper markings on the pocket pattern to the wrong side of ONE of the pocket pieces.
Make the pocket
Place the pocket piece with the zipper markings on one of the lining pieces, right sides facing, `1” from the top and centered horizontally.
Sew the box marked on the pocket piece.
Cut the line marked down the center of the box and make angled cuts toward the corners. Cut right up to the stitch line in the corners, being careful not to cut through the stitching.
Pull the pocket piece through the hole to the back of the lining piece. Press the edges and corners. You should now have a rectangular opening in the center of your lining piece.
Working from the front of the lining, center the zipper behind the hole. Glue baste in place. Stitch around the rectangular opening close to the edge.
Turn the lining piece over, so it is wrong side up. Place the remaining pocket piece on top of the pocket piece sewn to the back of the lining, right sides together.
Sew the pocket pieces together around all 4 sides with a ½” seam allowance, moving the lining out of the way as you sew. Sew only the pocket pieces; DO NOT sew through the lining.
Make the bag body and lining
Place the bag body pieces right sides together. Sew around sides and bottom with a ½” seam allowance.
Box the corners to give it a 3” bottom. If you haven’t boxed corners before, here’s a good tutorial showing how.
Place the lining pieces right sides together. Sew around sides and bottom with a ½” seam allowance, but leave 5” open on the bottom for turning the bag.
Box the corners to give it a 3” bottom.
Make the flap
If you want to embellish the flap, go ahead and do it now.
Place the flap piece and flap lining piece right sides together. Stitch around sides and bottom with a ½” seam allowance. Leave top (long straight side) open.
Clip curves. Turn right side out.
Top stitch ¼” from edge.
Make the strap
Fold the strap in half lengthwise and right sides together. Sew down the long edge with a ½” seam allowance.
Turn right side out. Press.
Topstitch down both sides ¼” from the edge.
Assemble the bag
Center the flap across the top of the bag body, right sides together and raw edges touching. Baste in place ¼” from edge.
Being careful not to twist the strap, center the ends of the strap across the side seams, right sides together and raw edges touching. Baste in place ¼” from edge.
Turn the bag body inside out. Place it inside the lining, right sides together and raw edges touching. Sew around the top with a ½” seam allowance.
Turn the bag right side out through the hole in the bottom of the lining. Press the top edge and then topstitch around the top ¼” from the edge.
This being a back-to-school bag, I thought it fitting to take photos on a school campus. More specifically, my high school alma mater, Little Rock Central High (“Hail to the old gold, hail to the black…”). If the name sounds familiar, that’s because Little Rock Central High played a significant role in desegregation efforts of the Civil Rights movement. Read about the Little Rock Nine and the 1957 desegregation crisis here.
It is a National Historic Site and also a functioning high school. My daughter hopes to attend next year. I might be a little excited about that! The campus is absolutely beautiful, with a grand front stair case and a reflecting pool and a tiger mosaic. As luck would have it, the campus currently undergoing repairs. All of the beautiful architectural details were covered with construction fencing and equipment, but I was able to grab this carefully cropped photo of the tower above the front doors.