Hobo Bag Tutorial

by Kelsey Norwood

in Crafts,Tutorials

I made this hobo bag a while ago and loved it so much I wanted to teach you how to make it. I love this pattern because it’s easy and very functional – the size is perfect. I use mine almost exclusively now, I like it so much. I would say this project would require an intermediate sewing skill level (but here is a great sewing beginner ebook that I recommend)

If you’ve never sewed a purse before, you might want to try something else first, but if you’ve had 1 purse making success story, you should be good to go with this one. Good luck!

If you’re new, you might want to check out two other tutorials that I’ve posted on my blog:  Hand Made Burp Cloth Tutorial & Pillowcase Tutorial

Click to learn how to sew a few other fun items like a teepee & accessories for kids, classy designer straight skirt, multi-purpose mat tote bag, or a tee hoodie.

Hobo Bag Materials and Supplies

1 yard fabric for exterior of bag
3/4 yard fabric for interior of bag
1 yard heavy stabilizer – Pellon 65 or 70 (non-fusible)
1 – 12×18 sheet of plastic canvas
Pair of square or round rings for straps
1 – 9″ zipper for interior pocket
10″ wide x 16″ tall rectangle for interior pocket (or 10″ x 12″ for smaller pocket)

(supplies and pattern from jcarolinecreative.com)

To Begin

1. Download pattern here, and tape pieces together.

2. Preshrink fabric – wash and dry according to instructions on bolt.

3. Pin pattern to fabric and cut out using the instructions on the pattern – match selvedge edge with pattern center front

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(picture of all four pattern pieces for the exterior of the bag)


I was confused for a minute about how to cut the purse straps. On the pattern it says, “Cut 2 adding 2 ” for short strap, Cut 2 adding 16″ for long strap.” At first I thought that meant I needed to choose if I wanted short or long straps, but you need to cut both of them. You’ll be cutting a total of 4 purse strap pieces, 2 adding 2″ and 2 adding 16″.

The long purse straps are the two pieces in the middle, the ones that aren’t completely covered by the pattern. Just measure with a ruler, mark with a chalk wheel or fabric pencil, and cut carefully.

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(picture of the lining fabric)

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(picture of the pocket fabric)

I cut this piece 10″ wide x 12″ tall. Next time I make this bag I will make the pocket deeper by cutting this piece 10″ x 16″ or 18″. The width is good, so don’t cut it any wider than 10″.

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4. Trim interfacing 1/4″.

You want the interfacing to just barely be in the seam allowance.

Cut the interfacing according to the pattern, remove the pattern, and trim 1/4″ off each side of the interfacing for both the bottom/side and front/back pieces. I like to be exact, so I measured and marked my cutting line.

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5. Pin interfacing to both bottom/side pieces to the wrong side of the fabric.

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6. Baste (longest stitch length – usually 4) the interfacing to the fabric.

I lined up the edge of my fabric with the right edge of the presser foot so the stitching will be inside the 1/2″ seam allowance.

Sew with the interfacing on top – it’s much easier.

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As I got sewing, I decided it was easier to sew without the pins so I took them out. The fabric stretches and the interfacing doesn’t, so just be careful that the fabric stays smooth and even.

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7. Sew the two bottom/side pieces together using a 1/2″ seam allowance and regulation stitch length (2.5).

DON’T FORGET TO CHANGE THE STITCH LENGTH!! Sew the two ends closest to the notches.

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8. Clip bottom/side piece 2 or 3 times on either side of each of the 4 notches.

Clip in a little less than 3/8″ – be very careful to stay inside the seam allowance.

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9. Pin the bottom/side piece to the front piece, matching the center seam on the bottom/side pieces with the center notch on the front piece.

Pin one side at a time. You’re going to want to start in the center and sew up one side, flip the bag over, and sew from the center up the other side. This means you’re going to have pins on opposite sides (as seen in the pictures above).

Pin the center first, then match the notches on the two pieces, and then finish pinning the rest. When you sew the bottom/side piece to the front/back pieces, stop sewing 1/2″ from the top of the front/side pieces.

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Again, start in the center and sew up the side. When you go around the corner, be careful not to let the fabric get bunched up or you’ll end up with tucks. I find it easiest to sew to about the middle of the curve, stop with the needle down in the fabric, lift up the presser foot, and push the bunched up fabric from in front of the needle to behind it. Lower presser foot and continue sewing.

Remember to stop sewing 1/2″ from the top of the front/back pieces.

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(picture after both sides have been sewn)

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10. Notch the seam allowance on the front/back pieces.

You’re going to have some bunchiness in the curve of the front piece seam allowance. Pinch the excess out with your fingers and snip it off. Getting that extra fabric out of there will help the seam lay down flat. Be careful not to cut too close to the stitching.

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This is what it should look like once you’ve sewn the bottom/side piece to the front piece.

11. Sew the bottom/side piece to the back piece now, using the same method as above.

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12. Trim the interfacing down as close to your stitching line as possible.

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13. Cut a 1.75″ x 18″ piece of plastic canvas. The plastic canvas will help the bottom of the bag to stay rigid.

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14. Cut two pieces of scrap fabric 4″ x 20″ to enclose the plastic canvas.

These scrap pieces are now 2″ wider and longer the plastic canvas. To enclose the canvas in the fabric, sew across the top and down one side, 2″ from the edges (as shown above). Then slip the stabilizer piece between the two layers and push it up against the stitching. Pin down the opposite long edge to keep the stabilizer in place and sew using the zipper foot to get your stitching right up next to the plastic canvas. Sew across the other short end last.

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Mark the center of the long side of the stabilizer piece by clipping. Be sure to mark the center of the stabilizer, not the center of the fabric. You’ll use this mark to line up the stabilizer with the center front of the bag.

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There are two methods for the next step. I prefer the second method, but here are both of them, numbered 15a. and 15b.

15a. Sew fabric-enclosed plastic canvas to the bag seam allowance. Trim all seam allowances to 1/4″. (Don’t trim the sides that extend above the purse.)

Line up center front on the bag and the clip in your stabilizer piece. Pin and sew the stabilizer piece to the bag. Be sure to sew in the seam allowances or you’ll change the shape of your bag.

This step is difficult – the stabilizer is rigid and difficult to keep from shifting. You need the 1.75″ wide stabilizer piece to stay exactly centered in the bottom/side piece of the purse. I had to redo this step several times – finally I decided not to sew around the corners, just along the bottom and then again on the sides.

Hobo Bag Tutorial

15b. Cut two strips of scrap fabric, 4″ x 20″, and sew both strips to the seam allowance of the purse along the bottom and side edges (don’t sew them to each other first).

Hobo Bag TutorialHobo Bag Tutorial

Slip the stabilizer piece in between the two layers. Hand sew across the top of the scrap fabric to enclose the stabilizer piece and keep it from shifting up.

In the first method, keeping the stabilizer piece exactly between the seams was very difficult. Sewing the fabric to the seam allowances and then slipping the stabilizer in after was much easier.

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16. Pin the 1/2″ seam allowance on the purse sides that extend above the bag.

17. Topstitch to where the side piece meets the front/back piece (topstitching is sewing on the surface of the fabric, 1/4″ from the edge).

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18. Pin down the top of the front and back of bag 1/2″.

19. Thread the side piece through the metal ring and pin down about 1 1/2″ from the top of the bag.

20. Baste all the way around the top of the bag.

After this step you’re finished with the outer portion of the bag for a little while.

Making the Pocket

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21. With a chalk wheel or fabric pencil, mark a 8 1/4″ x 1/2″ rectangle on the wrong side of the pocket fabric.

The top of the rectangle should be 2″ down from the top of the pocket and 7/8″ in from the left and the right so it’s centered.

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22. Find the top center of the pocket and front lining pieces.

Fold the lining fabric and the pocket fabric in half to find the center along the top. Mark.

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23. Mark a line 1/2″ from the top of the lining fabric.

Draw a line on the wrong side of the lining fabric 1/2 from the lowest point of the top. This is difficult to measure and get straight because the top is curved, but just eyeball it.

24. Place the top of the pocket fabric on that line, matching the centers.

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25. Pin the two layers, right sides together, and sew around the rectangle using a shorter stitch length around the corners and the short ends of the rectangle.

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26. Mark a line down the center of the length of the rectangle.

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27. Cut carefully along the center of the rectangle and stop 1/2″ from the ends. To be more precise, I marked a line at 1/2″ as you can see in the picture above #26.

28. Cut diagonally into the corners. The closer you can get to the corners without cutting the stitching, the nicer your zipper will look when you’re finished.

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29. Push the pocket fabric through the hole you just cut and press so that the pocket fabric is not visible from the front.

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(Back view)

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30. Lay the lining piece face up on the table.

Pull back the side of the lining piece to expose that little triangle that was created when you cut diagonally into the corners.

Sew the triangle down to the pocket fabric, as close to the front piece as possible.

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31. Pin the zipper to the fabric around the rectangle.

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32. Sew in place.

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33. Lay the fabric pocket side up.

Fold the pocket fabric in half matching the top and side edges.

Sew around three edges to finish the pocket - you can see the indentation where the pocket is sewed behind the fabric.

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34. Sew the side/bottom piece to the front/back pieces.

After this step I got so antsy to finish the purse that I didn’t take pictures.

Here are the rest of the steps:

35. After the lining is sewn together (front, back, and sides), put it inside the purse. Pin around the top.

36. Insert magnetic snap:

  • Find the center of the purse along the top edge.
  • Measure down from the top 2″-3″.
  • Dip the prongs of the magnetic snap into some chalk and mark the placement on the interior of the purse.
  • Carefully cut two slits through ONLY the lining fabric – you’ll have to cut through the lining and the pocket on the side with the pocket.
  • Insert prongs into slits, put backing on, bend the prongs outward to keep in place.
  • Attach the magnetic snap. Mark prongs with chalk on the second half of the magnetic snap.
  • Touch the opposite side of the purse with the prongs to mark cutting line.
  • Cut slits through only lining fabric.
  • Insert prongs into slits, put backing on, bend the prongs outward to keep in place.

37. Sew around the top of the bag, 1/8″ – 1/4″ from the edge.

38. Prepare straps:

  • Sew straps together leaving the bottom open – you should have two short pieces and two long pieces.
  • Trim seam allowances to 1/4″
  • Turn inside out
  • Press flat
  • Turn open end under 1/2″
  • Edgestitch all 4 sides (1/8″ from edge)

39. Thread the flat end of the straps through the loops about 1 1/2″ and edgestitch to the other side. Do for both purse straps.

40. Tie two ends together using a square knot.

FINISHED! I love my bag!

hobo bag purse tutorialhobo bag purse tutorial

Click to learn how to sew some other fun projects:)

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Allanna July 17, 2008 at 1:59 pm

Very cute.

Now if only I didn’t have a little phobia about my sewing machine. ^_^

2 Sue D August 29, 2008 at 6:30 pm

Very nice purse. I was actually looking at patterns today to make a purse but the one I wanted wasn’t on sale. I might try this first. I’m glad to see you use plastic canvas. I saw a lady making jean purses and she used cardboard and hot glue to put the bottom together. She sells a lot of them but I didn’t think they would be very practical–you wouldn’t be able to wash them.

3 Sally September 9, 2008 at 4:54 am

A very nice looking bag. I like the idea of the plastic canvas.

4 Lisa Marie September 12, 2008 at 6:09 pm

Thank you for making such a lovely tutorial with photos :)

5 Marsha December 1, 2008 at 10:33 am

Love the idea. I can’t get out to purchase a pattern, so, thanks.
I am looking for a pattern, like a hobo purse but one side has a short loop of habdle, the other side a longer one, thelarger is slipped thru the smaller for closure.
Thanks,
Marsha

6 Janet February 7, 2009 at 3:27 pm

Thank you very much for your tutorial. I love to make purses. I have been shopping all day for a purse pattern. This is the one that I like the best. You are so generous to make and give this tutorial away for free. I know that making a tutorial is a lot of work. I usually make my own patterns, but I don’t have the patients to write and illustrate a tutorial.
Thank you again.
Janet

7 Carla June 17, 2009 at 11:05 am

Thank you so much for this outstanding tutorial. Yesterday I had found this pattern at jcarolinecreative and last night I was looking over the instructions and there were some areas that were confusing, mainly the cutting of the straps. I was to the point of looking for a different pattern yet similar when I came across your instructions. Now I know I will be able to make this purse with no problem. You are a real blessing to be treasured.
Thank you so very much.
Carla

8 Sonya Brach July 10, 2009 at 11:22 am

Marsha

The pattern you are looking for can be found at http://www.allpeoplequilt.com
It is called the “Grab Bag”. You can download it from the site.

I have downloaded it and made it. It is exactly what you are looking for.

Good Luck!

Sonya

Thank you so very much for the hobo purse pattern. I have been looking for one forever! I finally bought a purse to take apart for a pattern, but now I don’t have to!! Yours is a much nicer purse than the one I bought.
Thank you again!

9 yolanda carlson August 25, 2009 at 7:23 am

Hi!

I am in the process of making your hobo purse and I find (as I have when making other purses) that the lining appears to be too large for the bag. The tops match but the inside is bunchy. What am I doing wrong? I decided to make the bag a bit smaller as I am short and the pattern worked fine. The instructions were good so this is not the problem of the patter. Thanks for sharing and for your comments. Yolanda

10 Baba September 9, 2009 at 11:53 pm

I love a good size bag like this! Thanks so much! I’ll have to make one as soon as I have my sewing room.

11 perrine October 21, 2009 at 11:10 pm

Hello!
I really like your how to. I was wondering if I could translate it in French and add it to my list of how to as explained in my french post (http://www.petitcitron.com/index.php/form_howto.html)
Of course, your website would be quoted and there would be a link!
Thank you,
Perrine

12 Kelsey October 22, 2009 at 11:41 am

Absolutely! Thanks for asking!

13 Diana March 28, 2010 at 1:32 pm

I’m kind of confused when it comes to the straps. It says add 2″ for the smaller one, but yours looks longer than that. How long did you make yours?

14 Lisa May 29, 2010 at 8:32 am

I made this bag using the Jcreative instructions and swore I’d never makeit again..However, my sister in law wanted one and having thrown out the pattern I had to search again. I am glad you were here!! your instructions are so much easier.

15 Kelsey May 31, 2010 at 7:01 am

Well I’m glad you had a better experience the second time around. I’m sure it was easier because you’d already made it! I’m glad my instructions helped a little.

16 Nancy July 3, 2010 at 8:07 am

I have made a couple of these purses. I added little ties about 5″ the middle before sewing the lining on. this allowed me to close it.
This is also a great pattern to use for very customized purses- strap one fabric, side another, body a third. I haven’t tried it yet, but what about a slip in pocket on the outside by using the front piece but cut about 2 ” shorter from the top. This would look cute with a bias strip at the top. Darn, now I may just haave to go and make one.

17 Teal July 22, 2010 at 1:48 pm

i just need the patern so i can make my own. i need a printout patern. ima use it for school, so i need it ASAP

18 Zerique February 5, 2011 at 7:29 am

I love this and thank you so much for taking the time to do this tutorial.

19 Bobbie E June 4, 2011 at 5:49 pm

Thank you so much for such a great handbag pattern! One question regarding that sewing gauge/marker on your sewing machine – where did you get it?
Cheers,
Bobbie

20 Kelsey June 6, 2011 at 7:44 am

I ordered it from Clotilde – here’s the link:

http://www.clotilde.com/detail.html?cat_id=12&prod_id=410

21 Vi December 23, 2011 at 5:13 am

Thank you for this excellent tutorial. I had tried to make this purse before and gave up and did it my own way, but your instructions are so easy to follow I made another one for a gift to my granddaughter for Christmas and it turned out fantastic. Can’t wait to make another one for my daughter and myself.

22 LubbyGirl July 15, 2012 at 8:39 am

Love this pattern – I just yesterday finished a purse from an old pair of jeans, using this type of idea. If I’d had a pattern it probably would have gone a bit faster. Wish I’d found this sooner, but now that I’ve found it, I’ll be referring back to it. I found it through a link from linnyjcreations. I’ll have to go there and thank her for the heads up on this.

23 Susan August 13, 2012 at 8:42 am

I love your bag but–I want to make mine with a zipper top and more pockets. Help!!!

24 Ila October 27, 2012 at 10:06 pm

this pattern looks great . I made one. But when it came to the handleit was not so easy. If anyone has any idea of how to make it easier let me know.I have 2 more to make for the holidays

25 tammy pfieffer November 18, 2012 at 1:21 am

thank you this was just what i was looking for. and yeh where did you get the gauge marker. if you could let me know send it to my e-mail harleyfeen@hotmail.com thanks again

26 Barbara February 1, 2013 at 5:04 am

Thank you for your tutorial! If you don’t mind I’m going to adv your tutorial on my blog on my next post!
Happy to visit your website
Barbara

27 ro August 20, 2013 at 11:26 pm

wow .. I love it! it is exactly what I was looking for. thank you for the excellent pics and tut. :)

28 Marie August 31, 2013 at 10:20 pm

Hi thank you so much for a lovely pattern!!

29 Kerri January 7, 2014 at 11:02 pm

Hi,

I really love how to make the jean tote but can’t seem to get the pattern from above. Any ideas where to get it or where to look?

Thanks
Kerri

30 wendy falla July 28, 2014 at 6:50 am

Great bag, when I tried to download pattern it was fine but when it came time to get the PDF for the pattern pieces the rot set in and get taken to another page but there was no download for it.shame as it looks like it would be an easy bag to make

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