This tutorial turns any 9-1/2″ unfinished Row by Row Junior block into a useful Messenger Bag. We used a “Big Wheels” block but it would be great in a “High Tops” or “Friendship Bracelets” block too.

Here are the materials needed:

12 – 14″ nylon zipper

Thread to match bag. Plus contrast thread if desired.

Kitchen Parchment paper (optional)

Blue painter’s masking tape (really good to have)

All rotary cutting should be done by an adult.

Bag and Strap – 1/2 yard.  Cut into 1:  9-1/2″ x 12″ rectangle for the bag back, 1:  9-1/2″ x 2-1/2″ rectangle for the bag front above the zipper, 1:  9-1/2″ square for the background of the front Big Wheels block, and 1:  4″ x Width of Fabric  for the strap.

Lining  –  1/3 yard.  Cut into 1:  9-1/2″ square, 1:  9-1/2″ x 12″ rectangle, and 1: 9-1/2″x 2-1/2″ rectangle.  We used the same fabric as our Big Wheel for the contrast lining. 1/3 yard is enough fabric to do both the wheel and the lining.  Using a contrast print for the lining is fun to see when you open up your bag.

Lightweight Paper backed Fusible Web like Heat n Bond Lite or Wonder Under  –  5/8 yard.  Cut into 1:  9-1/2″ square, 1:  9-1/2″ x 12″ rectangle, and 1:  9-1/2″ x 2-1/2″ rectangle.

Let’s begin. It’s a good idea to read through all the instructions first.

Make your 9-1/2″ unfinished block following the Row by Row Jr. pattern instructions. See all the Row by Row Junior rows here.

Shown above is a tip for making the spokes of the Big Wheel on darker or printed background fabric. Place a strip of blue painters tape along the fold lines to make them easier to see.

Make the strap by folding the 4″ strip in half with wrong sides together and pressing it flat.  Open up the strip.  Fold and press each side to meet the middle crease. Press the sides together along the middle crease to make a strap about 1″ wide.  Topstitch along both edges. We used contrasting thread.  Younger kids should use matching thread so imperfect stitching is less noticeable.

Make the bag fabric sturdy by fusing it to a lining fabric.

Start by placing a large sheet of kitchen parchment paper on your ironing surface to protect it.  Fuse the 9-1/2″ square of fusible to the back of the Big Wheel block.  Fuse the 9-1/2″ x 12″ rectangle of fusible to the back of the bag back and the 9-1/2″ x 2-1/2″ rectangle of fusible to the back of the upper bag front.  Peel the paper backing away from all the shapes.  Match them up with their lining pieces. Fuse the lining pieces in place WRONG sides together. Now you have bag pieces that feel firm and sturdy enough for your Messenger Bag.

Learn about a zipper foot (left) and how it works. Ask an adult to show you how to change out your regular presser foot (right) and position it as shown.

Lay your zipper FACE DOWN along the top edge of your 9-1/2″ block with just a tiny bit (1/16th”) of the block front peeking out as shown. Let a couple inches of zipper extend evenly on each side of the block. Use blue painters tape to hold the zipper in place. You could pin it in place too but the tape is so easy and smooth to use.  Using the zipper foot stitch along the top edge of the zipper as shown.

Untape the zipper and fold it right side up. Finger press the block away from the zipper. Place the bag upper top, right side down (lining will be up), along the top edge of the zipper as shown. Tape in place. Carefully flip the front over so you will be sewing on the back side of the zipper. (Sewing on the back side of the zipper is just a little easier than the front in this step.) Use the zipper foot and sew just like you did before.

Finger press the bag upper front away from the zipper. You can use an iron to press this step but be very careful your iron is not too hot or it will melt the nylon zipper coil. Put the regular presser foot back on your sewing machine. Topstitch about 1/8″ away with matching thread on each side of the zipper as shown. This step can be omitted for younger kids.

Let’s add the straps.

Place the straps on the bag front as shown 1/2″ from the bag sides and extending about 1/4″ beyond the top.  Tape or pin the straps in place and baste across the top to hold them in place. Ask an adult to show you how to adjust your machine for large baste stitches and how to set it back to a normal stitch length for the next step.

NOTE:  Strap length can be adjusted before basting in place. “Try on” the bag and strap to make it a length that fits you.  This is the best part about learning to sew.  You get to make things that really fit YOU.

The next step is VERY IMPORTANT.

>>>SLIDE THE ZIPPER PULL TO THE MIDDLE OF THE BAG.  Opening the zipper half way like this creates the opening we will use to turn the bag right side out.  Use a piece of blue tape to hold the open zipper sides together as shown.  Use another piece of blue tape to hold the long strap in place so it won’t get caught when we sew around the sides.  Although they are still visible in the illustration, the pins and tape holding the basted straps in place at the top of the bag should be removed before the next step.

Sew the bag back to the front.

Place the bag back, lining side up, on top of the bag front. The lining should be the same size as the front but sometimes things don’t always line up as shown in the picture above due to fusing shrinkage and zipper width.  It’s OK to trim a little from either the front or back as needed so the front matches the back.  Pin the back to the front all the way around. Sew around all four edges using a quarter inch seam.  Pivot in the corners.  See Row by Row Junior’s 2 part tutorial for quarter inch seams here.

Sewing your bag with the front against the bed of your machine is easier.  Ask an adult to help you carefully “walk” your sewing machine over the zipper.  Keeping the pins in place and sewing SLOWLY over them is recommended too.

We’re almost finished.

Ask an adult to help you change to a zig zag stitch. Zig zag around all the sides of the bag as shown.  Trim the excess zipper tape on both ends as shown with kitchen scissors.

Reach in through the open zipper and turn your bag right side out. Poke out the corners. Press it nice and flat. Use care pressing around the zipper.

YAY!!!  Your Messenger Bag is finished.  Add a ribbon or tassel to the zipper pull if you like. Make Messenger Bags for your friends too. Enjoy!

Our Row by Row Junior mission:

We want to enhance your Row by Row Experience with “kid friendly” educational materials that foster the love of fabric and machine sewing, strengthen inter-generational family relationships, and support local quilt shops everywhere.”

Kids can!  All they need is opportunity, practice, a few good tools, and a willing adult.  

Learn more about the Row by Row Junior Program here.

Find all the Row by Row Junior free support resources here.

Let us know how you like Row by Row Junior.  Share your experiences with us. Leave a comment below.

Jeannette Kitlan, your Row by Row Junior author and designer.