Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Fairytale: Satchels for the Journey

Well, maybe "satchel" isn't quite correct, seeing that this bag has no front flap and it isn't made of leather. But "cross-body messenger bag" wasn't quite as catchy and the kids started calling it a satchel, and the name stuck, so "satchel" it is.

We started with a good thick piece of kraft paper - like a grocery sack. We made this bag as a darted tote, exactly as if it were fabric. Fold it in half as shown.

Then fold the sides 1/2" in (BOTH layers as one):

If you are mass-producing like I was, you should fold all the sides now.

Using your paper needle (i.e. the one you reserve for non-fabric sewing), sew those side folds down. You'll now have a flat pouch.

Dart the corners like you would any fabric darted bag (but RS out!). My dart was 3" across.

Fold the darts down onto the base and hot-glue them in place. 
These darts will give your bag an angular, boxy look, which is ugly for a paper satchel. So let's fold each of those four base corners in by 1/2" as shown.

This gives more contoured, rounded corners

and an overall saddle-bag look.

Fold 2" - 2.5" of the top edge of the bag to the WS (inside) to make a broad hem at the opening. You can stitch that down if you like. I did for all the other bags but the one who's starring in the rest of this tutorial.

Here is a photo showing that folded-in band. Next, we're going to reinforce the areas of the button-clasp with mailing tape. I cut a rectangle of tape and stuck it to the inside of the bag as shown.

Next, we make the button clasp.

Twist the twist tie a few times to make a button shank

before inserting the ends of the twist tie through one reinforced area (poke holes with a seam-ripper, then widen the holes with a toothpick).

Poke another pair of holes in the other reinforced area and insert the ribbon, tying a knot to secure it.

The completed clasp.

Don't limit yourself to circular buttons - you can use all shapes.

Now make the strap. We started with a 39" - 40"- (adjust shorter or longer according to height of child using the bag) long strip of paper, 2.5" wide. We folded it and stitched down the middle to hold the fold down.

In addition to keeping the layers together, the stitching is also decorative.

Then we sewed about 1.5" of each end onto the two sides of the bag and reinforced those two anchor points with mailing tape on the inside of the bag (tape AFTER sewing to prevent gunking up your needle). Remember that this is paper, and all those stitching holes weaken the paper, which leads to tearing. 

The completed satchel:

Our satchels lasted throughout the party and beyond (ours are still hanging up in the playroom), which is exactly what we meant them for. And they offered the guests the opportunity to write their names on and decorate, which some did. However, if I were making bags for dress-up and pretend play, I'd recommend fabric over these any day. I mean, they're paper, after all, and get crushed and wet and grungy and even ripped.

Here's Emily surrounded by her satchels - you can see the different strap lengths on them. 

Next: rings!


  1. I love the look of the stitched paper, and the button fastening is brilliant.


Thank you for talking to me! If you have a question, I might reply to it here in the comments or in an email.