Friday, September 20, 2013

Mesh Wet Bag Tutorial Part II

These are the instructions for making the wet mesh bag from Jenna's pool party here. Check out Part I which contains tips on how to work with the materials used in this bag: cargo netting, ripstop nylon, vinyl tubing and webbing.

Stage I: The Patch Pocket
This stage is actually optional if you don't want a pocket. Feel free to skip ahead to Stage II. I picked the simple patch pocket because it was quick to make (since I was mass-producing about a dozen) and adds a lot of color to an otherwise largely black bag. You could also use cargo pockets for more volume, or patch pockets with flaps (and velcro/button/snap) for more security.

Incidentally, if you already know how to make a lined patch pocket, go ahead and skip this section. Just make your pocket and topstitch it to the RS of the main bag.

I cut my pocket double-size and folded it along its lower edge with RS together. Leave an opening for turning out on one of the other edges and stitch it into a closed rectangle.

Finger-press open the top seam, particularly where the opening is.

Prepare the corners for turning out. I don't snip the corners off ripstop nylon because it weakens it. Also, ripstop nylon is not bulky, so I prefer to double-fold the corner

before turning RS out 

to a perfect, sharp point.

Finger-press (or use seam ripper to ease out the seamline) the edges

before topstitching onto the body of the bag. Separately topstitch the top edge of the pocket to close the hole, then topstitch the remaining three sides directly onto the bag.

Here's a shot of the black version of this bag, because the topstitching on the pocket is helpfully illuminating: the blue lines are the top edge of the pocket, sewn before attaching the pocket to the main bag. The orange lines are the stitches that attach those three sides of the pocket to the bag.

Here is that pocket, centralized on the bag body. Ignore the darker black region at the bottom edge of the mesh piece. It's like mesh selvedge. I photographed different bag innards models for different stages of construction, so you'll see that selvedge appear in funny places throughout this tutorial. 

Stage II: The Base Trim
In the next stage, we'll be attaching the Base Trim to the bottom edge of the bag body. With regular cotton fabric, we'd sew a seam, serge the SA, press it, topstitch on the RS and be done. However, the raw cargo netting SA does not hold up to serging, and needs to be bound. You can bind it with something like bias tape (convenient but not waterproof for this bag) or nylon ribbon but we're going to do a self bound hem using the Base Trim fabric itself. This part is a little challenging to visualize if you've never done a self-bound hem, so don't be surprised if you only "get it" after seeing all the photos. 

In the first picture below, the RS of the orange Base Trim and the black netting Body are touching. However, the orange Trim is upside down so that that exposed edge you see is actually its top edge. Begin with this alignment as shown, with the Trim protruding below the netting by approximately 1". That 1" is the hem allowance we'll be folding. Sew a line of stitching to connect the netting to the Trim.

Make the first fold - approx 0.5"

and then the second - another approx 0.5", to meet the stitching line.

Flip it over

and fold the entire orange Trim down from that stitching line.

Topstitch through all the layers to hold that folded hem in place. You can do it either on the WS 
or on the RS.

This is what we have so far - the bag Body, the Pocket and the Base Trim (folded up to show how it's attached).

Stage III: Main Seam 
This is the main seam of the bag and because it involves solely the cargo netting, the SA will again need to be bound. 

We bound it with some heavy duty grosgrain ribbon. Easy.

Stage IV: The Strap
The following sequence demonstrates how to create an adjustable slide-and-loop system.  That plastic piece in the first photo is called a slide. We're working with the 1.5" webbing now.

Now introduce the other plastic piece, called a loop.

Pull that free end until that big circle of webbing is reduced to a short double-layered length between the slide and loop.

Now introduce a shorter piece of webbing, looped through the plastic loop, doubled over itself and its free ends sewn together. This shorter piece of webbing is called the strap anchor because it holds the whole strap system to the bag while allowing the longer portion of the strap to adjust in length.

Sew the free edge of the main strap to the top edge of the bag Body, protruding by about 0.5". I positioned the strap directly over the main bag seam we made in Stage III. This extra bit of strap will get sewn onto the webbing that frames the bag opening later. Having it protrude gives us more strap length to securely attach to that webbing.

Sew the strap anchor to the bottom edge of the base trim. 

Here's how it looks from the side.

Stage V: The Bag Opening

We're going to attach the 2" webbing around the rim of the bag. In preparation for attaching the carrying handle in the next stage, we're deliberately positioning the ends of this webbing off-center by 4". First, seal the fraying ends (both) of the long strip of 2" webbing using the Candle Method. Lay the cargo netting edge on top of the webbing as shown and sew to attach. 

The webbing is longer than the circumference, so overlap the ends

and sew them together as shown. I used a rectangular stitch configuration. These ends will remain exposed, hence the need to seal them earlier. Also sew down that 0.5" bit of strap from Stage IV onto the 2" webbing (later photo shows this more clearly). 

Cover the exposed edge of the cargo netting with some kind of trim - I used random black ribbon. This is very similar to the technique used to bind the inside seams of T shirt collars.

Here you can see that 0.5" bit of protruding strap, X-stitched onto the 2" webbing.  

Stage VI: The Base and the Piping
I'm going to speed through this section and refer you to my old tutorial on SewMamaSew for making and attaching piping to a circular base. Essentially, you wrap piping fabric around the piping cord and, with a zipper foot and a sideways-positioned needle, baste the fabric over the cord to make piping. 


Except this piping "cord" is actually vinyl tubing that people use for plumbing. Very waterproof but also very stiff and has a mind of its own. 

Attach the piping on the RS of the bottom edge of the base trim.

This is a sequence of photos showing how to join the ends of the tubing when you've sewn around the entire circle. Unlike with soft piping cord, this tubing will not produce a smooth join without help. I cut the tubing to fit, broke a round toothpick into thirds and shoved them into one end of the tubing to connect to the other end. Wrap the junction with electrical tape (or something else that can stand water). The result is a smooth join.

Make quarter marks on the circular base (I basted two layers of ripstop nylon together to make a double-layered base) to help you attach the base trim to it.

The process is identical to the fabric version in my SMS tutorial. However, be warned that ripstop nylon, paired with very unyielding vinyl tubing piping cord, takes some brute force to manipulate. It will tend to pull away from your zipper foot, so be patient and always keep the needle down when you raise the foot to reposition anything. 

Here are the finished base-and-base-trim-and-piping.

Turn the entire bag inside out and bind all those raw SA with another round of trim (ribbon, grosgrain tape, etc.) 

Part VII: The Grommets 
This is the funnest part of the bag, which is saying a lot, because the earlier bits were tough to do. Yes, they were - I'm being honest.; they are a rite of passage for bagmakers.

But back to the grommets: all grommet packages come with detailed instructions on how to set (i.e. install) grommets, so don't worry if you don't understand my version here at all, okay?

We're going to first install just the two grommets that will be tucked under the carrying handle.  Make two holes (I used the tip of my scissors and gouged them out) 3" apart, symmetrical about the strap of the bag.

Work with the WS of the webbing facing up ALWAYS. See that grommet part in the background - the one with the sharp protruding bit? Poke that through the hole, from the RS of the webbing.

Like so. And slide the smaller half of the grommet setting tool under it.

Then put the washer-shaped grommet bit on, followed by the long half of the tool. Pound it hard with a hammer.

Side view

Two grommets installed.

Stage VIII: The Handle
Fold in 0.5" of one end of that 9" piece of webbing

and position the folded edge 3" from the point centrally between the two grommets. Sew down that folded edge of the handle - I used a 5/8" wide rectangular stitching pattern.

Repeat to attach the other end of the carrying handle. 

Finished handle.

Stage IX: Remaining Grommets And Cord
Install the other 6 grommets equally spaced around the remainder of the webbing framing the bag opening. 

Thread the nylon cord through the grommets, so that it lies on the outside of the bag between those two grommets we first installed. 

This will allow the cord to weave in and out alternately through the remaining grommets 

to emerge in the front of the bag 

where they can be threaded through the cordstop.


Remember, this is a technically challenging bag to sew, so if you made it this far, even if your bag looks lumpy and irregular, give yourself a pat on the back. If your bag looks somewhat professionally-made, go share your photos on flickr or someplace and claim all the bragging rights you want. 

They're very useful, these mesh bags. My kids use theirs for carting their gear to swimming lessons all the time. 

And I've "borrowed" them for my own swimming paraphernalia when I head to the pool for laps. 

If you'd rather buy one than sew, I made an extra green bag that's in the shop. Go here to buy it. 


  1. I KNEW that toothpick would be used for something cool! HA!

  2. yep that tubing is genius. I was trying to figure that part out the first time you posted the photo of the bag. nicely done!

  3. That tubing as piping is genius - gives it great form! I was trying to figure that out the first time you posted photos of the bags.

  4. Would you share where you bought the cord pulls? I like the shape of those, more button than ball-like. Thanks for the tute!

    1. ddidits-blog: I got those from Singapore, where I stock up on hardware whenever I am back there to visit. Unfortunately, I didn't buy enough for mass-producing mesh swim bags, it seemed, and had to supplement with these from JoAnn:

      They're small but they have two separate holes to accommodate thick cord better than the ball ones which squish both cords through a single hole. Surprisingly, it was hard to find any really nice cord stops/locks here in the US - even on etsy. I looked, and gave up. Even the barrel cord locks you can buy in JoAnn were for skinny cord. I am guessing that if you have access to a marine fabric warehouse (the sort that sells fabric for upholstering boats and outdoor stuff and stocks neoprene and vinyl and nylon packcloth and such), they will probably have larger and better cord stops/locks than the ones on etsy or physical retail stores. Good luck!

    2. I haven't found any nice looking cord pulls either. I'll try the marine stores since I'm literally on the coast. Thanks for that tip, and awesome tutes!

  5. Read your entire bag series in one go , staying up till 1 am :) After the first tutorial on the mesh bag , I was inspired ! No tubing to be found , but I had some old USB cables which were the perfect size for piping the camera bag that I self drafted ( Gusseted type , see I memorized your descriptions :) . I am struggling with the padded lining , but so far quite satisfactory progress . I love your blog and especially your limericks ! Greetings from India , your blog is amazing and one of the funniest on the WWW.

  6. Made one the other day and starting on #2 today. Using one for our kayak ropes and the second one for when we go bike riding and our wet clothes after sweating so they can dry some on the drive home. Thank you for publishing this bag. Gave me new experiences with the cargo net.


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