Tutorial: Personalised Library Bags for School

Welcome to my post for the Sew Much Fun Blog Hop!! This is my first time being involved in this sort of thing but I’m really looking forward to it! Looking forward to seeing what everyone else in the blog hop shares too!

So onto the post! Now, some people would already be aware but … I’ve got a bit of a THING for personalizing stuff. I like making personalised cushions, tote bags, heatpackstea-towelswall-hangings… and the list goes on!

So when it comes to making Library bags, there’s no exception. I’ve make a few over the years (and there’s more to come!) but I thought I’d share how I do it!

So I’ve put together a bit of a tutorial and supply some of the things I use for making them!

So… before we get down to business… Aren’t my 2 little boys cute modeling these bags?

Ok, so getting serious new.

What you will need…

  • interesting/feature fabric for the majority of the bag
  • plainer coordinating fabric for the personalised/embroidered part
  • fabric for the lining (either one of the first two fabrics or a completely different fabric)
  • coordinating yet contrasting embroidery thread for the name
  • cord for the drawstring

But, before we get too carried away with cutting up our fabric, we need to talk about the personalizing bit. You have a few options here – you could use machine embroidery like I have done it, but if you don’t have an embroidery machine, you could:

  • Use hand embroidery
  • get fancy with a fabric marker and a stencil
  • use a fabric marker without a stencil (my writing is too messy for this one!!)
  • heat transfer vinyl

It doesn’t matter which way you choose to go, but if you are using a manual system you will need to cut your plain fabric to 14″ wide x 6.5″ high (35.5cm wide x 16.5cm high).

But for this tutorial I have used an embroidery machine. If you have a machine with a hoop that is 14″ x 6.5″ (or larger) then I have a little free download for you!

If you DON’T have a machine with that size embroidery area, then cut your plainer fabric to the dimension above and hoop the fabric, placing the embroidery like you would placing embroidery designs doing any other project.

BUT if you DO have a machine with the larger embroidery field, here’ the free download that will help you along with this project! Below is a download link for a machine embroidery file that has both a placement stitch as well as a tack down stitch for the plain fabric. You can add the embroidery for the name to this design yourself using whatever embroidery editing software you use – or you can add it using a font your embroidery machine might have built in. You can even choose where you want to place the embroidery. Then the embroidery is completed: unhoop it and cut along the line of the tackdown stitches – this is the exact size that fabric needs to be! That’s right – I’ve sized the placement and tackdown stitches to be the exact size that this panel needs to be. Easy!


Now about machine embroidery font. The font I used below is this one here.

It’s a great Outline font that is nice and fat so it is as “obvious” as it needs to be for such a project, but it’s not so think that it dominates the fabric. Also, being an outline font – it doesn’t use a huge amount of thread.

Here’s one I prepared earlier …

Now onto cutting the rest of your fabrics. You need to cut your fabrics like so…

1. For the front, you already should now have your plainer fabric cut with the name in place

2. Cut your interesting fabric to 14″ wide x 9.5″ high (35.5cm wide x 24cm high)IMG_20170809_092429_wm

3. Cut your lining for the fabric to 14″ wide x 15.5″ high (35.5cm wide x 39.5cm)
Here’s my two lining pieces…

4. Cut two small pieces of fabric for the backpack tabs. These need to be 4″ wide x 2″ high

5. Cut the cord into TWO pieces of cord each being 66″ (167cm) long.

Now about cutting the rest of the pieces…

You might notice when you look at the two bags that made for this tutorial, the backs of the two bags are different – one has the same 1 third/2 thirds contrast on the back, the same as the front. The other bag has only ONE fabric (this one uses the “interesting fabric”) on the back. It doesn’t really matter which way you choose, but I will give instructions for how to cut out the fabrics depending on which design you want to make…

Here’s how to cut the remaining fabrics for this design…

6. You will need another piece of your plain fabric the same size as your personalized piece – 14″ wide x 6.5″ high (35.5cm wide x 16.5cm high).


7. AND you will need another piece the same size as the interesting fabric – 14″ wide x 9.5″ high (35.5cm wide x 24cm high).

Here’s the two pieces I cut for my “1 third/2 thirds” bag.


Here’s how to cut the remaining fabrics for this design…

6. You will need another piece of your interesting fabric cut the same size as your lining piece – 14″ wide x 15.5″ high (35.5cm wide x 39.5cm).


So now your cutting is done!

Now to start stitching it all together!

NOTE: This tutorial assumes a 1/4 inch seam allowance unless otherwise stated.

Step 1

With the interesting fabric right side up, place and pin the plain (personalised) fabric right side down so that the bottom of the interesting fabric is lined up with the top of the personalized plain fabric.

Stitch along this edge to stitch the 2 pieces together.

Fold the plain fabric down and press it flat.

If you are making the 1 third/2 thirds back design, then do the same to the pieces for the back.

Else … go to Step 2.


Step 2

Optional – I sometimes like to top- stitch this seam.  It isn’t essential. But can make it look nice I think.


Step 3

Take your 4″ x 2″ tag pieces. Fold and press each of them in half across the width (right sides out) so they are now 2″ x 2″.

Open up the folds and now take the outer edges of the length and fold them so the short edges meet up in the middle on the fold line just created. Again they are now 2″ x 2″ but the edges now meet.

Fold these in half again now with the 2 folded edges meeting up and the raw edges now hidden inside the fold.

Top stitch these folded edges together on each piece. I even like to topstitch the other edge – just for looksies.

Fold and press these tabs info half.


Step 4

Place front piece of your bag right sides together with one of the lining pieces, lining up the top of each piece.


Pin and stitch along the top edge of the pieces.


Open out and press the seam flat.

Do the same to the back of the bag with the other lining piece.


Step 5

Place the front and back halves of the bag right sides together, endeavoring to get all edges lined up well. I like to line up the seams between the outer of the bag and the lining of the bag first. because if THAT is off … then it will be really visible when the bag is finished. You can’t really tell in this pic – but here are my seams all lined up!

Place a few pins down the side seems to hold them in place. But make sure that the last 4″ at the bottom of the outer of the bag has no pins in it.
Gently flip back the top layer on one of these bottom corners.

Measure up 1″ from the bottom on one side of the outer of the bag and place the bottom edge of a folded tag (make in a previous step) at that 1″ point – making sure that the raw edges of the tag are lined up with the edge of the fabric.  (That way the folded edge of the tag will poke or the side when it’s all finished).

Fold the previously flipped top layer of the bag and pin the front and back of the bag together with the tag sandwiched into that seam.

Now do this to the other side of the bag at the bottom.

Step 6

Now DON’T stitch the side seam YET!

Next measure 0.5″ either side of the seam (at the top of the outer). Place a pin at these points. When you stitch the side seams, you will NOT stitch past these points. ie there will be a 1″ gap in side seam centered over seams joining the outer and the lining of the bag.


Step 7

Stitch up the side seam starting at the bottom of the outer of the bag. You may like to do some reverse stitches over the tab that is sandwiched in the seam. That will provide it some extra strength. Stitch up towards the top of the outer but stop at the point you marked in the previous step, and then starting again at the next marked point – 1″ along.

Here’s a close up of the gap in the seam…

Step 8

Now turn the bag right sides out and press the side seams flat.

Step 9

For this next step you need to use the free arm of the sewing machine…

Open up the bag and thread it over the free arm of the machine…

Maneuver the bag to get one of the little gaps in the side seam under the needle.

Our aim now is to put a small line of stitches just in from the edge of the hole created by not stitching that 1″ in the side seam. We want these stitches to go through both the top layer of fabric and the little piece that is folded underneath (the bit that is the seam allowance further down. Put one line of stitching on either side of each hole.

Step 10

Turn the bag inside out so it’s back to right sides together. Pin together the bottom of the outer of the bag and stitch it closed.

Step 11

Pin together the lining of the bag. However this time, mark a gap of about 5″ in the middle of this seam. (You need to leave that section UNSTITCHED because you will want to turn the bag right side out through that gap later.)

Using a 1/2″ seam allowance, stitch along this seam but stop at the point you just marked … and then continue stitching to the end at the other end of the 5″ gap.

Trim the corners. It helps the corners sit nicely when they are turned.

Step 12

Turn the bag right side out through the 5″ gap you left in the last row of stitching.

Press the base of the lining of the bag, pinching the gap closed with the seam allowance on the side. Pin the gap closed then top stitch along the full length of the base of the lining.

Use a coordinating thread for this row of stitching so that it disappears into the lining and is not obvious.

Step 13

Poke the lining down into outer of the bag.

Press the top seam flat.

Lining up each base of the hole in the side seam, stitch around the top of the bag about 1/2″ from the top edge. This provides the pocket for the draw string.

Step 14

And we’re almost done! All that’s left is to take the draw strings and thread them through the draw string pockets. You will want one string to go left to right then back right to left through the other pocket. And the other string will go right to left then back left to right through the other pocket.

To thread the string, you can use a safety pin to work it through. However I like to use this cool little dooviwacker thing.

It’s really easy to insert said dooviwacker through each channel…

Then hook the string over the hook on the little dooviwacker…

Then you pull it through – easy peasy!

Bring the strings down each side of the bag. Poke the end of one string through the tags at the base of the bag.

Tie a knot at the end of each pair of strings.

Trim the excess strings. If the strings are made out of nylon (NOT cotton ie flammable!), I like to melt the ends of the cords a little. It just makes sure they don’t unravel.

And … you are done!!


Hi! My name is Michelle. I live in Newcastle, NSW. I am a wife to my darling husband and a mum to my 4 gorgeous kiddies.
I have a blog called “Pretty Practical”. I’m a pretty practical person – I like things to be useful … BUT I also like them to be pretty. Thus … pretty practical!

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