The Duffels Are Complete (Weekend Duffel, Part 5)

At long last, my Weekend Duffel Project has come to an end.

Actually, I finished them last weekend.

960x720_GOPR0016Photographs I make with the artificial lighting in my home always look terrible; I prefer natural light but am at work on weekdays.  This past Thursday, I took the bags to work and photographed them in the beautiful natural light my office gets.

The photos here were shot on a GoPro Hero4 Black action camera.  It’s not optimal for this purpose – the camera is meant for wide-angle shots and is not good at close-focus work.  But it was part of the bargain for shooting the photos on company time.

Click or tap on any of the photos for a closeup.


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End Panels

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More Outsides

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Inside Pockets

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Handle Grips

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Construction Notes

After cutting myself with the scissors, I put the yellow bag on hold because the next step was hand-sewing the inside lining in place.  Instead, I began to construct the blue bag to get it to the same level of completeness as the yellow bag, then finished the two together.

Stitching on the end panels is challenging due to the bulk and layers involved. To assist in getting an even stitch with the blue bag, I traced a stitching line for a 3/8 inch seam allowance and stitched on the line.  This turned out well.


I generally try to use pins sparingly when sewing nowadays, but this is one of the situations where I thought it best to just pin the daylights out of the thing rather than expect the end panels to ease nicely. I got one or two puckers on the seam, but it’s nothing that bothers me much.


Stitching the cotton webbing to attach the straps was pretty straightforward. I didn’t have to be precise, because the black thread disappears almost completely into the strap webbing.

To attach the bag handle grip, I used black thread in the top needle and yellow/blue thread in the bobbin. The black blends in with the webbing or velcro, and the yellow/blue matches the canvas. A bit of the black thread shows on the yellow bag canvas, so I increased the thread tension slightly on the blue bag for a better result.

To stiffen the bag base, I used plastic canvas of the type used for cross-stitch projects, as recommended by the Craftsy class. I took the additional step of cutting the corners round with a scissors before inserting the plastic into the bag base.



I had to do a few rounds of trimming the plastic canvas to size before it fit nicely into the base, then I handstitched the plastic inside the lining.

Handstitching the bag bases shut was a major hurdle for me.  I have very little experience with handsewing, and certainly not enough to really sew the lining inside neatly, without puckers or gaps.

The narrow ends of the lining are sewn shut with a “ladder stitch”, also known as a “slipstitch”. The Craftsy instructor demonstrates the stitch on-camera. But I felt I needed a basic primer on handstitching and so I turned to an article from Threads magazine, “Hand Stitches to Be Proud Of”, from the August/September 2001 issue.

The article was a good help in getting started with hand stitching and taught me how to properly start and end a stitch, how to knot the thread, really basic stuff that I should know by now but don’t. For handstitching there’s no substitute for practice, and so I did some test stitches on muslin scraps. The first two attempts ended up as disasters, but eventually I got some passable results.

At first, I wanted to practice until I had built up my skills. But the evening I decided to work on my income taxes rather than practice my handstitches was a clue.  I decided then to just finish off the bags and accept whatever result I produce.

The slipstitch, when done correctly, isn’t visible.  Mine had a few gaps in the stitching because the stitches were spaced a bit far apart and the thread tension was a bit loose.  Also the corners turned out pretty mushy because outer canvas seam allowances got in the way of the lining stitches. I didn’t trim the seam allowances all the way down, partly because I was concerned about blowing out the corner stitching and partly because I was wary of the sharp scissors that bit me the first time.

Scotch Gard

The bright colors of the bags makes them prime targets for dirt and stains. In fact, while bringing the bags back home from work, I bumped the yellow bag into my front door and got a big dirt stain on it. I managed to scrub most of it out with a toothbrush and diluted laundry detergent, but the message was clear.

I got the idea for using Scotch Gard from one of my fabric books, suggesting it for cotton canvas. I’m not big on Scotch Gard because this stuff has to be both (a) toxic, and (b) terrible for the environment. I suppose I could wax the canvas instead; waxed canvas bags and garments seem to be all the rage these days. But I don’t want to compromise the bright pop of the colors by dulling them down with a wax sheen.

So, to hell with the environment. I bought a can of Scotch Gard at the fabric store while it was on sale, and today I sprayed the outer canvas with the first of two coats. Fortunately the canvas pigments are color-fast; I tested it first on some scraps to be sure. I did the spraying outdoors, but even so the fumes from this stuff are pretty fierce.

Tomorrow I’ll put on the second coat of Scotch Gard and both bags will (finally) be ready for use.

Next Time

Pants, anyone?

11 thoughts on “The Duffels Are Complete (Weekend Duffel, Part 5)

  1. Mainelydad

    These are striking and your workmanship is amazing. Thanks for showing all the contruction details and how you solved some of the potential pitfalls.

    1. mportuesisf Post author

      Thank you! I want to find a way to link to these blogs from Craftsy so that other people who sign up for the class can learn from my experience. It’s a great pattern design and the project was well worth undertaking.

  2. Corey

    Great job! I think you should produce your own Craftsy course on making duffle bags and the many ups and downs you had with it. Speaking of Craftsy, i purchased David Coffin’s course and I am going thru it. It covers much the same material in his pant making book and dvd. I am such a fan of his, that I think I would purchase any book, dvd or course he does. (also fond of Janet Prey)

    1. mportuesisf Post author

      Craftsy has a place where you can upload and share projects, but it doesn’t really have a way for me to link to this blog.

      I’ve been going through David Coffin’s Craftsy course as well, and would like to put some of his techniques to work for the pants I’ve been planning to make. Did you know that David Coffin also has a new shirtmaking book coming out this year?

      My copy is already preordered.

      1. Corey

        Yes i did know that David has another book coming out and I will get it when it is available. This weekend, in a very long time, i went to the fabric store, and got some great fabric (last years and previous years stuff) on sale, about $5/meter. So I got some cotton twill with lycra, great cotton with lycra, a great blue cotton paisley for a “liberty of london” style of shirt. It was nice to have some good fabric to make a few new things for spring/summer. I alway find hours pass way too quickly when I am in a fabric store. I will probably do a notice stock up at some point as well. I will probably go back one more time. I love finding great fabric for under 5 bucks a meter.

        1. mportuesisf Post author

          I know what you mean about watching the hours pass away while in a fabric store. I’ll often stand transfixed for a half hour or more just trying to decide between two different colors or styles of fabric.

  3. John Yingling

    The bags look very nice; you really paid attention to all the details. Now, if you make another one, can you figure out another way to set in the lining without hand stitching? For example, the plastic stiffener could be inserted between two layers of lining bag bottom pieces. The trickiest part is sewing the lining to the zipper; one way is to treat the lining like a welt pocket bag. Another type of plastic for bag bottoms, if you want something a little stiffer than the mesh type you used, is 1/8″ polyethylene sheets that can be purchased at industrial plastics outlets, or see Tap Plastics retail stores either online or walk-in stores (I see they have several in the SF Bay area). No connection, just one of those stores that you can spend too much time looking at all the cool stuff.

    1. mportuesisf Post author


      I’ve used 1/8″ ABS sheets from Tap Plastics for prior projects (the astronomical sketchbook), and you’re right that something like that could work well in one of these bags. Since I had already purchased the plastic canvas, I decided to go with it. It works well enough, but for my next bag I’ll definitely consider your suggestion.

  4. Toby

    I have just started this course, am on the second or third video now but so far have not attempted to cut anything out … waiting for hardware … I am so glad to have seen your wonderfully detailed review (and awesome tags) … the bag looks HARD and I can see it will be a challenge for me .. I have made many bags however 28 of the same pattern (Professional Tote) and a few others thrown in but never a duffle … I do hope I haven’t taken on more than I can chew .. I have the Juki TL98Q and the F300 … love the Jukis … fab bags .. great colors.

    1. mportuesisf Post author


      I would like to give you some words of encouragement. I wrote out a big comment here, but I’ve turned it into a blog post all its own:

      You have a Juki F300 which is the same machine as my F600, and the TL98Q is a straight-stitch machine with a beefier motor than the F300/F600. So you have machines that are up to the task.

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