Messenger Bag - Embellishment Options

12Projects #3 (1)

It's week three of our 12 Projects of Christmas newsletter series and this week we're making a messenger bag. Man or woman, boy or girl, everyone needs to carry things. A messenger bag is an ideal gift, especially for those hard to shop for men or teens. Fair warning though, once you make one, you'll want one for yourself too. 


Our pattern, written by Valori Wells, is the perfect size to hold all the essentials with pockets inside and out for extras. The bag is fully lined for a beautiful and durable finish. Experienced sewers can complete this bag in an afternoon, and all the straight line seams make the project achievable for confident beginners. 


Because the pattern will lead you through the construction of the bag, we are going to focus on ideas for customizing your bag. As you can see, the outside of our sample bag is embellished with a block printed pattern. You can carve your own or use a purchased stamp of your choice. In the video below Valori shows you how to properly ink a stamp and apply it to your bag.  

Try a simple pattern in one section of the bag like we did, or apply an all over pattern before you sew your sections together.

If you're an artist paint or draw your own design with fabric paint and/or pens. Pictured below is an example of our logo tote bag embellished with fabric paints by June Jaeger. We wrote a post about it and embroidering a tote last November. 


The front flap of the bag is a great spot to show off some applique, embroidery, or a combination of the two. Experiment with your own designs or choose a design from a book to spruce up your bag. We like Simply Stitched, Creative Stitching, Organic Applique and Organic Embroidery. Or, try one of our wool applique kits to add some color and texture. 


Instead of using a solid fabric for the large exterior piece customize your bag with your favorite patchwork, or simply add a stripe or other shape with contrasting fabrics like the bag pictured below. 


Not interested in coming up with your own designs for embellishment? Pick a fun print (this is a great time to show off a large scale print) and add a bit of stitching to enhance it (or just let the print shine on it's own). In the pictures below we added a simple embroidery stitch to a floral print. 


More ideas to customize the messenger bag:


  • For a quilter/sewer: Sewing kit  - personalize it with a pieced front flap and customized pocket sizes for tools
  • For an artist: Portable supply kit - personalize it with a painted or mixed media front and add a pencil roll. Customize pockets for sketch book, paint brushes, pens, etc. 


  • For a teen: Laptop bag - add soft and stable interfacing. Personalize it with an iron-on patch, applique their initials, or a stamped Kraftex patch. 


  • For a man: Laptop bag - add soft and stable interfacing. Personalize it with a photo transfer, turn a favorite old T-shirt into an iron on or paint/stamp a simple geometric pattern. Although, some men might like it plain and simple made with canvas or denim.

Messenger Bag Full Front

  • For a bike commuter: add padding to the strap and some reflective tape.
  • For a Knitter/Crocheter: add fusible fleece interfacing to keep needles from poking through and a coordinating yarn/project bag. Customize pockets to hold notions.

With a minimum of thought, possibilities for customizing this bag are nearly endless.

Quick Note: The pattern doesn't require any interfacing, but if you want a more structured bag you will need some. We recommend Soft & Stable for a padded and firm but flexible bag. Great for laptops! If you want a softer bag with some structure use Fusible Fleece. Lastly if you'd like any of the pocket to be stiff (like the large inside pocket) use TimTex. All the options listed are washable. 

Shop for Messenger Bag Supplies -  

Kits: Messenger Bag, Applique

Fabric: Quilting Cotton, Canvas, Denim, Flannel 

Interfacing: Soft & Stable, Fusible Fleece, TimTex

Pattern: Printed, PDF

Books: Simply Stitched, Creative Stitching, Organic Applique, Organic Embroidery