My Most Difficult Project Yet: Messenger Laptop Bag

I saw this on Facebook the other day and I’m still laughing! It made me think of my latest sewing project, a padded messenger laptop bag. During the making of this bag I was swearing, drinking, at one point close to crying, wearing two-day old PJ’s. The women of the 1940′s would be appalled!!

Personally, I sew best in my PJ’s. I have a sewing room where I can close the door and block out all of the mess and most of the noise from my house; completely in denial of my responsibilities.  And I’m usually making it up as I go along. I really want to make this into a sign to hang in my sewing room so when I get frustrated I can have a great laugh!! Who knew lipstick and a pretty dress were the secret ingredients to sewing?

A friend asked me if I could make her a messenger style laptop bag and before thinking about it too much I said “yes.” I’ve made many bags before…mostly simple, a few more complicated. They all turned out great and I really enjoy making bags. I didn’t think much about making a messenger bag. How hard could it be?

messenger bag

Then my friend specified that she wanted a cross body style, a separate padded section for the laptop, and room for notepads and all her “stuff.” She also wanted colorful, fun colors…Amy Butler-style. She specifically loves the Wall Flower in Cherry print.

OK, no problem! (Sometimes I am little too confident.)

I started by picking out the fabric. That’s always my favorite part! I love putting fabrics together, especially unexpected prints and colors, which is what she requested. I was really excited to get started!

I found a diaper bag tutorial to get me started. I also purchased a messenger bag pattern ($2.13…seriously). I ended up not really using either of the patterns. I made my own but I wanted to read through a couple of tutorials by people who knew what they were doing. The only thing I couldn’t find was a tutorial on how to add the padding, what kind to use, etc. I thought it would just come to me. It didn’t. I had to force it!

I didn’t take photos during the making of this bag because I was too wrapped up in how it was going to come together. The bag itself was actually quite simple…cut some rectangles, make some pockets, sew together.

I worked on this bag for three days. On the first day I shut myself in my sewing room and only came out to pee and make food for my children. I pretty much neglected them all day. I said “yes” to everything they wanted…unhealthy snacks, playing dress-up in my closet, using all our white sheets and towels to pretend it snowed in the living room. My house was a wreck when I emerged and I had a half finished bag with no padding.

I stared at the bag on day 2 for quite some time trying to figure out what to use for padding and how to get the padding in and still be able to sew up the seams and turn it right-side out. I knew it would be too thick. I wanted to pad the back section, the bottom, and the divider inside.

I ended up using foam from an old baby changing pad I had stuffed in a closet and some 1 inch thick foam seat cushions. I didn’t insert the back section padding into the bag until after I had sewn up the top seam and turned the bag right-side out. I left the inside bottom seam open and stuffed the padding in. Then I hand sewed the inside bottom seam. My hand sewing is not pretty. I seriously need some lessons in that department. Luckily, I don’t think anyone will see that seam because it will be covered with a laptop.

It has several pockets. Now I’m thinking I should’ve put in more, but at this point I’m happy to have the bag finished and functional!

I made the strap adjustable and created this shoulder pad. It’s a little wide for the strap but I think it will work.

Visually, I am in love with this bag! Functionally, there are a few things I would do differently but I think it turned out pretty well for my first attempt. I used 3 yards of cotton quilting fabric (all Amy Butler). I ended up interfacing every piece because I wanted it to be sturdy, except for the flap. But now I wish I’d done the flap too. If I were to make this again (you’d have to pay me a lot of money) I would use decorator weight fabric, at least for the lining.

While this bag was the most frustrating thing I think I’ve ever made, I’m happy with the way it turned out and I’m a little proud of myself for making it work. If you’ve ever made a padded messenger-style laptop bag I’d love to hear how you did it.

What was your most difficult project?

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  1. 1

    Hi Heather
    I am wanting to make a Messenger bag with a divider in the middle… I make messenger bags and other designs, but this one would keep the computer separate.

    I have read through your blog, but unsure how you fitted the divider /separater inside the bag? Did you use maybe velcro. I understood you added a padding to the bag through a inside seam, and closed by hand. But the divider is not mentioned…

    I would appreciate your help

  2. 2
    Lily Bloom says:

    I didn’t follow a pattern for that part. I just figured it out…I made a divider (sewed the top and bottom), put in the foam padding, and sewed it in when I sewed together the back and side pieces (sandwich it between the sides and back). I did not attach it to the bottom seam. It was only attached at the side seams. It was a little difficult to turn it right-side out with the foam, but because I left a big opening on the inside bottom I was able to get it through. You could definitely use velcro tabs to attach it. That might be easier. Sorry I can’t give you more instruction. This part was trial and error. Good luck!

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