Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Make A Bag Chapter 9: Gusseted Tote

The Gusseted Tote today.

This is a very popular structure in bags because it's so versatile. It gets its thickness/depth from a strip of material, commonly called a gusset, running around its sides and base. Sometimes the gusset is a single continuous piece of fabric and sometimes it's a strip made by joining the base and sides (with possibly side pockets added) end-to-end. 

Let's jump right into the pattern. 
Keeping in mind the volume and dimensions,

the pattern is two flat front-and-back pieces and the gusset,

which translate to fabric thus:

To assemble, you sew one long edge of the gusset to the Front piece. Here's a photo of another random bag in progress showing this.

Then you sew the other long edge of the gusset to the Back piece.

You can keep the corners square if you like. I often round them off a little bit.

For this bag, I made a closed-ended strap that buttons onto tab pieces sewn into the side panels.

Bags with this single-strap design often gape open at their opening (due to some law of Physics involving forces) so it's almost always necessary to close that opening somehow - with a magnetic snap, a zipper, a tie or a flap, for instance. If the flap were of the same width as the bag, this would be a messenger bag. I picked a narrower flap that buttons on. 

I personally think this flap is a bit too long but it is a very gapey bag, after all, thanks to the completely vertical sides. I didn't want to change the shape of the bag too much in this tutorial so that you could see the 6" x 7" x 3" dimensions of the finished bag more clearly. However, if I were to do this differently, I'd taper the sides in towards to top, resulting in a less gapey opening, which would then need a shorter (and more proportional-looking) flap. Something like this:

The lining is just another, identical bag sewn in a different fabric and edge-stitched together to the outer bag around their openings.

And apart from the strap buttoning on in an outside-in way, this could be a reversible bag.

Here are more examples of Gusseted Bags:

Backpacks are Gusseted-all-around Bags.

Instead of leaving a top opening, the gusset is sewn around the entire bag and a zipper inserted along one of those gusset seams (or in the middle of the top of the gusset) to make an opening.

This suitcase-style bag is also a Gusseted-all-around Bag.

Remember how I said the Gusseted Bag structure is really versatile? See - I even use it in cardboard:

The all-around gusset seam is a natural place to make an opening to the bag. You could insert a zipper, for instance, as in the case of backpacks. You could also turn the bag on its side and make one of the main faces the lid, as in the case of these cardboard suitcases. Did anyone notice that in this orientation, the Gusseted-all-around Bag takes on the Bucket Tote structure? Sneaky!


  1. Hi Lier, At the outset, i must confess i am a huge fan of your blog and thanks a lot for those really informative posts on making bags, i love all your creations, and keep trying them. With respect to the last post, where your showed the back packs for the kids, I see you've attached a front pocket, could you please explain how I could construct something similar to that, after the front side is done. Thank you, Anitha

  2. Another awesome post, thank you. You make sewing them look so easy, and it really is pretty easy, just needs practice. ( That is I need more practice)

  3. I love this kind of bags! I think round corners and think they might be probably easier to sew. Thanks for sharing your time and knowledge!

  4. Lier, let me just say that I love the course you are sharing on your blog. I first found you when you were doing the drafting series...and followed since. Your bags and explanations are superb.

  5. Hello,
    Have you ever used cork fabric to make a bag or tote? I'd be interested to hear any suggestions you might have. Thanks for all the tutorials.

  6. This series is just amazing! Thanks so much for taking the time to put this together. I'm a pretty adventurous sewist and love making bags but I've learned a lot by this series which I found last night. I've been devouring everything! I know this took a long time to put together so thanks for your generosity!

  7. beautiful bags. love the gussets.


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