Monday, 14 January 2013

Library Bag Tutorial...

A library bag is a very easy first sewing project. If you are new to sewing, this tutorial will show you how to easily make one.

Here in Australia, it will soon be the beginning of the school year and a library bag will be on the supplies list for Primary School aged children. Sewing your child's library bag, will ensure they can readily find it amongst the array of shop bought Disney and Dora bags.

The finished dimensions of the library bag are 12.5" x 15.5" (32cm x 39cm), which will accommodate most picture books. I've deliberately made the handles short, to help prevent the bag from dragging on the ground.

  • 2 pieces 13" x 16" (33cm x 41cm) - main colour for the outside of the bag
  • 2 pieces 13" x 16" (33cm x 41cm) - contrast colour for the lining
  • 4 pieces 10.5" x 1.5" (26cm x 4cm) - main colour or contrast colour for the handles
  • 2 pieces 10.5" x 1.5" (26cm x 4cm) - sew in medium weight interfacing for the handles
  • 1 piece roughly 3" x .5" (7cm x 1cm) - tape for the name tag


All seams are 3/8" (1cm), unless otherwise indicated. The seam allowance is not critical, as long as you are consistent throughout the project.

  1. With right sides together, sew the side seams of the lining.
  2. Sew the bottom seam, leaving roughly a 4" (10cm) gap in the middle.
  3. Finish seams with a zig zag stitch

Name tag:
If your library bag is going to be used in a school setting, a name tag is a must. Whilst your child will recognise the bag from the fabric, when they accidentally leave it somewhere (and they will), the teachers won't know who it belongs to, unless it is labelled. Attach the name tag to the inside of the bag.
  1. Turn the lining right sides out.
  2. On the right side of the lining, measure 3" (7cm) from the top of the bag.
  3. Turn under the ends and attach the tape. If you don't have tape, use a piece of plain fabric and turn under all 4 edges.
  4. Turn the lining wrong sides out again.

Outside of bag - sew front to back:
  1. With right sides together, sew the side and bottom seams
  2. Finish seams with a zig zag stitch.
  3. Turn right side out.

  1. Place two handles pieces right sides together.
  2. Place one piece of interfacing on the wrong side of one of the handle pieces.
  3. Sew the long edges together.
  4. Finish seams with a zig zag.
  5. With a safety pin, turn the handle to the right side.
  6. Iron the handles.
  7. Increase the stitch length and topstitch 1/8" (3mm) from the edge of the seams. (I use a stitch length of 2.8 to topstitch.)
  8. Repeat for the second handle.

Join the handles to the bag:
  1. Place each end of the handle 3.5" (9cm) from the side seam, on the right side of the main fabric, at the top of the bag.
  2. Baste (hand sew) into place.
  3. Machine sew the handle to the bag. I go back and forth a few times for added strength.

Attach the lining to the outside of the bag:
  1. Place the bag inside the lining. ie: the right side of the bag is next to the right side of the lining.
  2. Line up the top edges of the lining and the outside of the bag.
  3. Tuck the handles between the outside of the bag and the lining.
  4. Baste (hand sew) the top edges of the lining and the outside of the bag.
  5. Sew a 5/8" (1.5cm) seam to join the top edges of the lining and the outside of the bag.
  6. Reinforce where the handles join the bag. I find it easiest to sew a 2nd row of stitching inside the 1st and stitch back and forth a few times, when I get to the handles... saves stopping and starting.
  7. Finish the seams with a zig zag stitch.

Turn the bag right side out:
  1. Put your fingers through the hole in the bottom of the lining.
  2. Gently pull the right side of the bag out through the lining.
  3. Edge stitch the lining to close the gap, or you can hand stitch if you would prefer
  4. Push the lining back into the bag.
  5. Iron the top edge of the bag.
  6. Increase the stitch length and topstitch 1/8" (3mm) from the edge, around the top of the bag.

Your library bag is finished. It takes me just under an hour to sew one of these bags. Even if you are new to sewing, it could be finished in an evening. 

To make a larger bag, just vary the measurements. You could probably go as large as 15.5" x 17.5" (40cm x 45cm).

The key to making this Library bag a hit with your child, is in your choice of fabrics. Maybe even consider involving your child in choosing the fabric.

With the exception of the two solid coloured linings, all of this fabric was given to me; by a friend who was destashing and by my daughter, over at Little Ladybird. Thanks!!!

Hmmm... perhaps I should have turned this letter fabric up the other way, as there's lots of upside down letters. Might be a bit confusing for a beginning reader.

All of these Library bags will be packed up and sent to Anglicare, where they will be distributed to disadvantaged children in Sydney. Before sending them off, I'll pop a book into each bag, courtesy of my Mum.

Over the next week or so, I'll be showing you variations and additions to this tutorial;
To finish off the series, there will be a round up post with links to different styles of library bags. If you make a library bag using this tutorial, I'd love you to add it to the Threading My Way ~ Sewn by YOU Flickr group. Feel free to add any projects made with Threading My Way tutorials.

I'll be adding this Library Bag tutorial, to the 300+ bags already linked to the Bags and Totes link party, here at Threading My Way.

... Pam


  1. Great tute Pam! I love the alphabet fabric!

    Thanks for linking to a Round Tuit!
    Hope you have a fabulous week!
    Jill @ Creating my way to Success

  2. Lovely tutorial Pam! I will definitely be handmaking my daughter's library bag for when she starts school next year, although I can't say for sure that it won't be Dora - I will probably take her shopping to choose some fabric!! I will avoid the licenced fabric at all costs though!

  3. Great tutorial and I love the fabrics you've chosen. I'm sure the kids receiving them will love them too! My son's only 7 months old but we do go to the library quite a bit and I just use a boring shopping bag. I think it's time to find some fun fabric and sew up a bag for him!

  4. Great tutorial! You could also use webbing for the handles and that would make it even easier/quicker.

  5. Wonderful tutorial Pam - nothing strikes fear into a new-to-school parent quite like needing to supply a library bag and you make it look so easy!

  6. So pretty!!! Love all fabrics especially the red one! Thanks so much for sharing another great tutorial! Have a fabulous day!

    Hugs from Portugal,

    Ana Love Craft

  7. Great tute Pam. Fabrics are lovely.

  8. very interesting tutorial Happy New Year

  9. great tutorial! I like that the bag is fully lined.

  10. Love this :) And, I love your choice fabrics. Visiting from DIY Home Sweet Home!

  11. Hi Pam,
    These look great! I just made 2 church/library totes for my kids, but I'm kinda wishing I had used a thicker fabric. Oh well...just an excuse to do more sewing, right?
    Jessica @ A Humble Creation

  12. Hi,Pam! I arrived here from "criar com tecidos" and I loved this tuto. Thank you so much.

  13. Great tutorial Pam, what cute Library bags! Thanks for sharing.
    Freemotion by the River Linky Party Tuesday

  14. These look great - I love the alphabet fabric - so cute! Also love where your sending them! Have a great day!

  15. Great idea! My youngest grand is homeschooled, and spends a lot of time at the library. This will be a good project for her.

  16. Great tutorial! This is so easy and easily customized for kids so that they want to got to the library!

  17. These are great! I especially love the bright ABC fabric. :) I'd love for you to stop by my weekly link party and link this up.
    Hope to see you there.

  18. Great tutorial! I've been wanting to make this for my kids. Thanks for linking up with Sew Cute Tuesday:)

  19. Cute! I would love if you would share this with us at our Mom's Library link up!

  20. Great tutorial. Thanks for sharing.
    Have a wonderful evening,

  21. Very cute idea, so sweet! Thanks for posting

  22. Hi Pam, how beautiful are the "Library Bag" you've done!!! I love the fabrics you used. Your explanations are great, thanks for the tutorial. You've explained all steps very well, and all your photos are a great help. As always a beautiful job, thank you!!!!!
    Marisa from

  23. Pam, I want to let you know that I pinned this library bag, I hope you don't mind. I love this project!!!

  24. I too have pinned this tute. The design is great, the choice in fabric is gorgeous, and the destination is inspiring. Thank you and God bless.

  25. Hi Pam,
    Your library bags look wonderful. I love the contrasting colors. Thanks for your easy to follow tutorial. I've been making the drawstring library bags in the past but wanted something different for my daughter and her friend (they just started school). We chose 2 favourite patterns for each bag and made this into a reversible library bag so they have 2 bags in one. We also decided to add a ribbon loop at the handles stage in between the handles on one side and a big button on the other side of the bag (one button for the inside print and one for the outside print - for reversing) We had some nice bright webbing for the handles. They absolutely loved the bags. Thanks again

    1. Adding the ribbon loop and button closure is a fabulous idea, as is using webbing for the handles. I'd love to see photos!


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