Retro Travel Bag: A tutorial

TERMS OF USE: This pattern is offered for free with the understanding that my readers will use it for personal use only.  If you would like to sell Retro Travel Bags, please purchase a pattern here.   You may not sell or distribute copies of this pattern to others; instead, please refer others who are interested in this pattern to my blog so they can download it for themselves. Questions? Please feel free to email me. I have already happily made exceptions for charity, but please ask first.


Click here to purchase a PDF download of this pattern

It includes: Printable Pattern Pieces (you won’t have to draft your own pattern, just print cut and tape up the pattern)

Additional Instructional Step by Step Photos

Instructions for optional handles (view 2), made from fabric (not purchased purse handles)

Instructions for enclosed side placket

Retro Travel Bag Sewing Pattern

Retro Travel Bag Pattern View 2

Just a note! If you were in my Retro Travel Bag class this tutorial is updated with all of the information discussed in our class. 

Retro Travel Bag Tutorial


did you notice… it’s made from Laminated Chevron Fabric???? Oh- be still my heart love that laminated fabric!  I combined it with my new favorite fabric line, Millie’s Closet!!

Retro Travel Bag

Just a note this project is an intermediate/advanced level… mostly because of the laminate and the interior lining.  It would be a great one to tackle if you’re looking to hone your sewing skills. It will also give you a great reason to use some of those feet that came with your sewing machine!

Chevron Laminate Bag

Here’s what you need to make it – After MANY MANY requests I’ve included links of online retailers that carry the supplies to make the bag. Just click through to order each one.

1 yard of laminated cotton fabric – Riley Blake Laminate Medium Chevron Aqua

1 1/2 yards total different prints for the lining, pockets and contrast tabs – I used Millie’s Closet

1 yard 45” wide Fusible Fleece –Heat’n Bond High Loft Fusible Fleece Stabilizer White

1 yard 20” wide Medium Weight non fusible interfacing –Stitch’n Sew Non-Woven Tear-Away – Medium Weight – White – 20” – By the Yard

1 1/2 yards 20” wide Heavy weight sewn in interfacing such as Thermoweb Heavyweight Non Woven Interfacing or Soft and Stable or Decor Bond. – Stitch’n Sew Non-Woven Craft Sew-In – Firm White 20″ – By the Yard

26″ separating zipper- very important it must separate –Coats & Clark Molded Parka Dual-Separating Zipper 26″ White

2 packages of piping – Bias Tape Maxi Cord Piping 1/2” x 2 1/2” Yards Scarlet

2 packages of extra wide double fold bias tape – Double Fold Bias Tape Extra Wide 1/2” x 3 Yards Scarlet

2 purchased purse handles – Purse n-alize-it. Bamboo Purse Handle 7.75” x 7”

Teflon Foot

Cording Foot

Zipper Foot

Walking Foot (only needed if you want to quilt the lining, this step is optional).

(most except the walking foot probably came with your machine, look in the box)

Spray Paint (if you want your handles red)

Piece of extra interfacing or heavy tissue paper or newsprint to make a pattern piece

Basting Spray

4 2″ pieces of 1″ wide ribbon

Cutting Guides:

From the laminate fabric cut:

2 pieces from your pattern piece. Make sure that the chevrons are running horizontally across the bag.

2 pieces 3” x 27” for the zipper panels

1 piece 6” x 30” for the bag bottom piece

From the Lining Fabrics cut: (you can divide up the cuts as you want based on the fabric prints you have)

2 pieces from the bag pattern piece

1 piece 6” x 30” for the bag lining bottom piece

8 3” x 3” pieces to be used as the contrast fabric on the ends of the zipper

2 pieces 3” x 27” for the zipper lining

2 pocket pieces, made by folding down the top of your pattern piece 3”.

8 Handle tab pieces (more on that later in the tutorial)

From the Heavyweight Interfacing cut:

2 pieces 13” x 23”

1 piece 6” x 28”

From the Medium Weight Interfacing cut:

4 pieces 3” x 3”

2 pieces 3” x 27”

From the fusible fleece cut:

2 pieces from your bag pattern piece

1 piece from your pocket piece

1 piece 6” x 26”

All seam allowances are 1/2” unless otherwise noted.

How to sew a travel bag

The first thing you need to do is make a pattern piece for your bag.

not to scale

Start with a rectangle that is 22″ wide by 12″ tall.  Measure in 2″ from each side of the top corners and place a mark.

Draw a line connecting the 2″ mark to the bottom corner.

Cut off extra.

Use a CD to round each of the 4 corners of your bag.

This is the pattern piece you will use for your bag, bag lining and inside pocket pieces

Using your pattern piece, cut out 2 pieces from your bag outside fabric.  You will notice that I cut with the chevrons running across the bag.  Don’t worry about the grain of the fabric at this point.

Travel Bag Sewing Pattern

Spray baste the bag front to your 13” x 23” interfacing piece. Loosely trim the interfacing so that it’s about 1” bigger than your pattern piece on all sides. The spray baste will help keep the laminate from sliding as you sew the layers together. Add a few pins just to be safe.

Using a piping/cording foot (or sometimes a zipper foot will work) stitch your piping to the edge of the bag. The raw edge of the piping will be lined up with the raw edge of the bag. Make sure as you stitch on your piping that your needle is hitting close to the existing stitching line on the piping. You may need to adjust your needle right or left to get a proper position.

For this step I find it easiest to pin as I go rather than to pin the piping all down at once, but do whatever is easiest for you. You can use this tutorial to see how to join the ends of the piping together.

Chevron Bag Sewing Pattern

After you have sewn the piping to the outside of the bag, trim the interfacing as close to the seam as possible.

Repeat for other bag piece.

Next the zipper:

Pin the medium weight interfacing to the wrong side of 4 of the 3”x3” pieces and the 2 3” x 27” laminate pieces.

Sew one 3″ x 3″ piece of fabric to each of the ends of each of the 2 laminate 27″ pieces.

Sew the un interfaced 3” x 3” pieces to the ends of both of your two 3” x 27” lining pieces.

Now with your zipper separated take one part of the zipper (I find it helpful to mark the top right side of the zipper while working).  Pin the right side of one side of the zipper to the right side of the laminate piece of fabric.  Matching the center of the zipper with the center of the laminate piece of fabric.  Pin right side of the the lining piece to the wrong side of the zipper.

The zipper should be approximately the same length as your 27″ pieces- the 3″ tabs should be hanging off the ends. (see photo below)

Stitch with your zipper foot the lining to the laminate fabric, using a 1/4” seam allowance.  It’s helpful to move the zipper pull out of your way as you sew.

Repeat for the other side.

Zip your zipper to make sure it works. Top stitch the entire length of the zipper piece including the tabs on the ends. You will want to use a teflon foot for this step.

Measure your piece, it should be 6″ wide.  If it’s not adjust the width of your 6” x 30” laminate and 6” x 30” lining pieces (within 1/2” is fine).

Stitch one end of the bag bottom to your zipper piece.  Top stitch. Leave the other end open for now. (you will eventually have a big circle piece)

Find the center of the top of one of your bag pieces and mark it with a pen.

Find the center of your zipper piece and mark it with a pen.

Matching centers begin pinning bag piece to zipper piece, right sides together.

When you get to the other side (the part of the bag bottom not attached to the zipper piece) note where the two pieces should meet then go ahead and stitch the bag bottom to the other side of the zipper piece.  Note: adjust only the length of the bag bottom piece, not the length of the zipper. Finish pinning and stitch zipper piece/bag bottom to bag.

Here’s a tip to make your piping look great on the outside.  You know that stitching line you made to attach the piping the first time? Just sew right on top of that same stitching line. That way you know that your piping will be in the right spot.

Mark the center of your other bag piece.  Pin it to the other side of the zipper piece and stitch as you did in the previous step.  You should now have a completed outside bag.  Clip rounded corners.

To make tabs to attach the purse handles.

Cut 8 pieces of fabric to 2″ x 2.5″.  I chose to fussy cut the purses from the Millie’s Closet fabric. If you are fussy cutting you can change the size of your tabs to fit, the size is not that important.

Cut 4 pieces of heavy weight interfacing the same size.

Pin interfacing to the back of 4 of the 8 fabric pieces.

Place 2 fabric pieces (one fused and one not) right side together and sew around 3 sides, leaving the top open.

Clip corners.

Turn right side out and press.

Turn under the top seam (un sewn seam) 1/4″ and press but do not sew it yet.

Cut a piece of ribbon to 2″.  Fold in half and stuff down the tab, so that about 1/2″ is showing above.

The placement of the tabs on the bag will depend on the handles you choose. Pin the tabs to the bag 1″ down from the piping and lined up so the handle will be in the center.

Stitch around 4 sides of tab, double stitching over the top piece.  The ribbon should now be secured in the tab. Do not attach handles yet.

To make the bag lining: (Quilting the bag lining is optional)

Iron the fusible fleece onto the 2 bag lining pieces, and one bag pocket piece.

Iron the 6” x 26” fusible fleece onto the 6” x 30” bag lining piece, you will have 2” of fabric on each end that does not have interfacing. This is correct.

Using your walking foot on your machine, quilt straight lines through the lining and fabric.

Using a piece of double fold bias tape finish the top edge of the pocket piece. (Click here to see the proper way to attach bias tape)

Place pocket piece onto of one of your bag lining pieces and baste in place. If desired stitch lines into the pocket to divide pocket.

Okay, here’s where things get tricky… just go slow and you will be fine.

Find the center bottom of your bag lining bottom piece, mark it on both sides.

Find the center bottom of your 2 bag pieces mark it.

Pin one of your bag pieces to your bag lining bottom piece, right sides together.  Match the centers, it’s very important.

Stitch bag lining bottom to bag piece.

START stitching where the fusible fleece is, and finish stitching where the fusible fleece ends on the other side of the bag bottom.    You will have approx 2″ of fabric on each side of the bag bottom piece that is not attached to the bag.

Repeat with the other bag lining piece. Again, make sure you match your centers.

Clip curves.

Now turn your bag outside piece inside out and your bag lining piece right side out (or so that the fabric is showing and not the fusible fleece).

Pin the 6” x 28” piece of heavyweight interfacing to the bag bottom piece as shown in the photo above. If necessary trim the width interfacing piece so that it fits snugly in between the 2 seams of the bag bottom.  (You will most likely end up trimming this piece by 1/2” ) You do not need to sew this piece down, it will stay in place by itself when the bag and bag lining pieces are sewn together.

Slip your bag outside piece into your bag lining piece.  Match centers and curves.

Pin well.

Stitch from the bag bottom piece around the top down to the other side of the bag bottom piece.  You’ll leave that 2″ of fabric on the bag bottom lining NOT sewn down. Once again stitch along your previous stitching lines to ensure that your piping on the outside looks good.

Repeat for other side. You now have a completed bag, just with some raw edges.

To cover the raw edges, use double fold bias tape.  Pin the bias tape OVER the raw edge and stitch down one side. (again refer to this tutorial on the proper way to attach bias tape). Hand stitch the 2nd side of the bias tape down, using a quilt binding stitch.

Leave about 1″ of bias on each end not sewn down.

Turn the bag right side out and check to see if you need to adjust the length or position of that 6” x 28” piece of interfacing in the bottom.  Afterwards, turn the bag wrong side out again.

To finish the bag, fold down the 2″ piece of fabric (on your bag bottom lining piece that does not have interfacing behind it). Pin it to the bag and hand stitch the bag opening closed.  Stuff the ends of your bias tape into this little flap and hand stitch them in place also.

Attach your handles according to the directions for the handles (I spray painted mine red!)

YOU ARE DONE!! Just turn the bag right side out!


This tutorial is for personal at home use only. It may not be duplicated, copied or distributed. You can not make these to sell. You can not teach a paid class from this tutorial.

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Melissa Mortenson is the author of the Polka Dot Chair blog which is in its 7th year of sharing fresh and creative ideas with readers. She is the author of “Project Teen, Handmade Gifts your Teen will Actually Love”. Her first fabric line “Derby Style” debuted in January 2015 through Riley Blake Designs. A mom of 3, she considers herself lucky to be living in Kentucky.


  1. says

    I have made one of these! It is so darn cute and turned out so awesome–I just love it. It isn’t difficult to make, just a bit cumbersome at times but take the advice and go slow and you will be thrilled with the results. Also make sure you have the teflon foot if you are using the laminate fabric.

  2. Mindi says

    Do you ever sell items you make? I would love one of these, but can’t sew worth a lick! It is BEAUTIFUL!

  3. Sherri says

    Love, love, love this bag! I’m dying to make one. Aqua and red are my favorite colors for this summer! Where did you get the laminated chevron fabric?

  4. Patricia says

    I absolutely LOVE this bag. however, I was wondering if you could email me the same tutorial except using 1 fabric lining rather than 3. Im new to sewing, so I need something less advanced:)

  5. says

    I added a pic and link to this post on my blog. Please let me know if you want me to remove it. Thank you so much for a great tutorial! Love it!

    • says

      I used a 1/2″ seam allowance, although most of the bag is zippers and piping so you would use what ever seam allowance you need to attach those items.

  6. Dawn says

    Hello! I’m excited to create this bag! However I got a little confused about the zipper. If you could help me it would be great! You listed 2 – 3in by 27in strips. Is that correct? Also the little tabs are 2in by 3 in. Then you say to sew the 3 by 3 tabs together. Sorry if I’m not understanding right. Thanks for any help you can give!

    • says

      Yep! Typo sorry about that here’s the corrected text:
      Cut 2 pieces of laminate fabric to 3″ wide by 27″ long
      Cut 2 pieces of lining fabric to 3″ wide by 27″ long

      Cut 8 pieces of contrast fabric to 3″ long by 3″ wide

      (this step not shown because I messed up the first time *wink*)
      Sew the 3″ x 3″ piece of fabric to the ends of each of the 2 laminate 27″ pieces and the 2 lining 27″ pieces.

  7. Dortha Agnew says

    I have been sewing over 60 yrs. and have tackled many difficult projects but I would never have figured this one out without your EXCELLENT tutorial! Thank you for sharing your expertise, Dortha

  8. DAISY STARKS says

    Dear Melissa, would you happen to know about WHERE I could rent a sewing machine? Since you have inspired me with your laminated summer purse. You are very creative and so was I once. My grama taught me how to make patterns out of newspaper. We were very poor. Nothing much has changed since. I broke my machine and never replaced it. Just thought I’d ask. Especially you.

  9. Monique says

    Hi Melissa,
    Having trouble with the pattern. Does the bottom lining get sewn to the bag or to the bag lining?. Thanks.

  10. Harmony says

    This bag is so fun! I made mine out of a heavy canvas with a groovy floral pattern. It looks fantastic! The only thing I might suggest is to tack down the heavyweight bag bottom interfacing. Mine shifts around a lot and keeps getting bunched up in there. The directions are easy to follow for the most part – the only section that gets a little hairy is assembling the bag lining and connecting it to the bag. This section, where it says:

    “Find the center bottom of your bag lining bottom piece, mark it on both sides.
    Find the center bottom of your 2 bag pieces mark it.
    Pin one of your bag pieces to your bag lining bottom piece, right sides together. Match the centers, it’s very important.
    Stitch bag lining bottom to bag piece.”

    …I’m pretty sure it was meant to say “bag lining pieces” everywhere that it says “bag pieces”. That past threw me off just a bit, but overall I’m quite pleased with how my bag turned out. Thank you!

      • Shani says

        Glad I looked through, I was just going to ask the same question. Book marked this so I can find it again, because I really have to practice first.
        This is an awesome bag and a few of my friends have already asked me to try to make one for them, SO I will definitely need to buy this pattern soon.


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