These popular little bags are great for easy, one-handed access to your bike food, a spare water bottle, or other on-bike necessities. And they’re much easier to make than you might think!
In a free online presentation hosted by Charles River Wheelers on the evening of Thursday, May 21, I’ll demonstrate how to make one and answer any questions that come up along the way. You can purchase materials from a list of vendors I recommend (below), but if you don’t want to do that, I’ll even go over how you can make one using materials you probably already have around the house.
The pattern is very simple, and the basic version only requires a rectangle. The modified version isn’t a rectangle, but the non-rectangular part is pretty forgiving. You can print pattern pieces for both versions here, with dimensions annotated.
They’re provided both as PDF’s and as JPG’s. Be sure to print them at full scale, so the pieces don’t come out smaller than you expect. The basic version fits on two sheets of 8.5″x11″ paper; the flap version fits on four sheets. Once you print the images, assemble the pages so that the labeled dimensions measure what they should. You may need to trim or overlap the edges, or leave a gap. Since the shapes are very simple, if your printer does scale the images smaller, you can always cut in between the labeled parts and spread the pieces until the dimensions measure as they should.
This is a great project for beginners or experienced sewists. It requires only a small amount of materials, and is small enough that if you don’t have access to a sewing machine you can even sew it by hand in a reasonable amount of time.
We’ll also cover the quick’n'dirty basics of using a sewing machine, cutting your pieces accurately, and modifying the size or shape of the design to suit your needs. This basic design can easily be turned into a water bottle carrier with a shoulder strap, an extra pocket to strap onto your bag or backpack, or any number of other uses.
You don’t need a special or fancy or industrial sewing machine for this; even though you may use a heavy-ish fabric, you will not need to sew through many layers at once, so any home sewing machine should manage it just fine.
The short version is: Sturdy fabric, draw cord, and something to make straps out of, plus other hardware if desired.
The detailed version:
• Fabric for the outside, and fabric for the lining. A piece 14” x 14” will be plenty; a “fat quarter” will work.
I recommend a stiffer or heavier fabric for the outside and a thinner, lighter one for the lining. It’s nice if at least one of these is waterproof. For the sample I used coated Cordura nylon for the outside and coated nylon oxford for the lining. You can also find suitable materials by disassembling old bags or packs or jackets, blue jeans, etc. Even a tyvek envelope will work!
• Webbing for the straps, about half a yard for the straps that must be sewn onto the bag; a bit less than a yard for the mounting straps.
Flat weave nylon webbing is perfect, but lots of other things will also work. If you can’t get ahold of webbing, you can even fold your own straps out of fabric scraps.
• One “barrel lock” to hold the drawcord. Some barrel locks have slots on the side to tether them down, which makes one-handed access easier.
• Shock cord for the drawcord, about 18”. 1/8” shock cord is ideal and will work well with most barrel locks, but you can make do with other types of cord or even a shoelace.
• Buckles and/or straps to mount the bag. You can use straps you might already have, or you can make your own with buckles and webbing, or with velcro. A really quick and easy solution is Velcro “One-wrap”, which is often sold in rolls at hardware stores or even CVS, used for tying up cables and any number of other things. The type of buckle I used for the example is called “side release”.
• For flap-closing alternative version, you don’t need the barrel lock or the shock cord, but you do need a couple of strong magnets. I used a pair of round rare earth magnets, 3/8” in diameter and 1/8” thick. You might have something like this kicking around, or you can order a box of them for cheap from Amazon or many hardware or craft stores.
Where to order more specialized materials:
Outdoor Wilderness Fabrics, www.owfinc.com<http://www.owfinc.com>
Located in Idaho and still shipping during the pandemic. They will have everything you need including fabrics, webbing, and buckles. I recommend asking for Priority Mail, which is way way faster than UPS Ground from where they’re located.
Ripstop by the Roll, www.ripstopbytheroll.com<http://www.ripstopbytheroll.com>
They’re on the pricier side, but they do custom printing and also carry more high-end technical fabrics. Those are probably overkill for this project, but on the other hand, you only need a small amount so it’s not that big a splurge.
Custom printed fabrics using either your own designs you upload, or you can shop for designs uploaded by others. They don’t do technical nylon, but their heavier canvas for the outside with cotton lining would be a decent choice as long as you don’t mind that it’s not waterproof. It’s an easy way to make a personalized, customized, decorated, or monogrammed bag though.