06 Sep 2016
September 6, 2016

Messenger Bag Upcycle

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Hey there, super-sewist – today’s the day to shop the thrift store or raid the back of the closet. Using a well-worn pair of Cargo Pants, we’re going to make magic with a Messenger Bag Upcycle from the Noodlehead blog!

Messenger Bag Upcycle finished

Your Messenger Bag Upcycle will need lining fabric, bias tape and thread along with the Cargo Pants. I suggest adding woven, fusible interfacing to the list to stabilize the shoulder strap. If you don’t mind piecing the interfacing a little, ¼ yard should do. Plan to interface the whole strap, not just half. As always, read through the instructions before you purchase supplies or start cutting and sewing. Take particular note of the ¼” seam allowance that Anna used for the project. Most of us are accustomed to a wider seam allowance and you’ll want to make sure you stick to the ¼”.

Messenger Bag Upcycle cutting

Now it’s deep breath time because the first step is to cut through the inseam and crotch of those Cargo Pants. There’s something a little unnerving about cutting up a piece of ready-made clothing if you haven’t done it before. I promise there will be no “stop the cutting” police on your doorstep, though, so cut with glee! You’ll have two large pieces of outer bag fabric to work with when you’re done.

Messenger Bag Upcycle sewing

Okay, it’s time for the super cool, magic part. The Cargo Pants pocket becomes the front flap of your Messenger Bag Upcycle! You’ll be adding a few pockets to the front of the bag under the flap, too, but those are easy-peasy. Not needing to make an actual cargo pocket saves lots of time and gives this bag it’s fabulous reconstructed vibe.

Now that you’ve cut the front flap, you’ll make the strap. If you’re working with Cargo Pants in a small size you may not have fabric long enough for the strap. Anna pieced her strap and you can, too – so, no problem. Start your sewing with the front flap – stitching your cargo pocket piece to the lining you’ve chosen. You’ll edge the flap in purchased or self-made bias tape. I love the look of handmade binding and it offers you lots of choices as a design element. If you’ve never made your own, click here for a video from Amy Barickman that will show you how. Before stitching, pin the binding on stretching it slightly along the curves to help it lay flat.

Messenger Bag Upcycle finishing

Once the bag is sewn to the lining, you’ll be turning the bag inside out. Be sure to leave an ample opening as you’ll be working with several layers. Once turned, you’ll finish your Messenger Bag Upcycle by topstitching all the way around. Stitch slowly and keep breathing for the best results. Anna did a great job of taking you step-by-step through the rest of your bag assembly. I feel confident that you’ll really enjoy her project! She has good sewing hints and tips worked in that you’ll love. Click here for Anna’s tutorial.

Now – press and admire. Maybe even pat yourself on the back, because this is pretty, fabulously cool!

Messenger Bag Upcycle open

The Messenger Bag Upcycle is a terrific back to school project and your teen or tween may want to help. Once the word gets out that you can upcycle cargo pants into a messenger bag . . . look out. They’ll be lining up at the door with their old pants and you’ll be taking orders all day long. No problem – just wave your magic upcycling wand and sew on!

About the Author


Annette Millard began sewing at the age of three, made her first dress at ten and is always happiest with needle, fabric and thread in her hands. Annette feels very privileged to have spent most of her work life in the sewing industry and loves teaching, making her own handmade wardrobe and writing about sewing. She spent over ten years as the newsletter and web site content writer for the Pacific Northwest's largest locally-owned family of fabric stores and is now thrilled to have the opportunity to share her passion for sewing with the Sewing Secrets community. Follow Annette and more of her sewing adventures on her own blog, www.sewfullife.com.

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