The Olivia Bag Tutorial

June 22, 2011
By dixiemango

** Don’t forget to enter this weeks giveaway! It ends Thursday night.**

Who doesn’t need a new bag… or 10!?  So, here’s one that is oh so easy to make and customize the pockets to whatever YOU need.  How fun is that??  I made this for one of my sweetest of friends who is going far far away oh too soon and needed something small, yet big enough, zipper pockets to hide stuffs you need hidden when traveling yonder and fro, and above all else pretty.  This is what I came up with!

Ready to make your own??

I used a canvas weight material for the outside and a quilting cotton weight for the inside.  Use whatever ya like, but make sure you add interfacing accordingly.  I used fusible fleece and duck cloth (my favorite interfacing hands down!).

First you will need to create a pattern piece using the diagram below.  I like to make my patterns on freezer paper so I can iron them on the fabric shiny side down and cut around it and peel it off and repeat.  Freezer paper is the best!  To make this pattern, I started with the 18″ side, found the center, measured up 11 3/4″ from there and then measured out 3 1/4″ from each side of that mark making the 6 1/2″ side.  See diagram for the rest!  You can do it!

So, this is what ya need:

Using the pattern piece for the body, cut: 2 main fabric, 2 interior fabric, 2 fusible fleece, 2 duck cloth

From the interior fabric, cut: 1 pocket piece 8″ x 4 1/2″, 1 strap piece 3 1/2″ x 41″

From the main fabric, cut: 1 pocket piece 8″ x 4 1/2″, 2 zipper pocket pieces 9″ x 5 1/2″, 1 strap piece 3 1/2″ x 41″

From medium weight fusible interfacing, cut: 1 piece 2 1/2″ x 9″

From the fusible fleece, cut: 1 strap piece 2 1/2″ x 41

7″ zipper (optional)

magnetic snaps (optional)

strap pieces are not in this picture

Seam allowances are 1/2″ unless otherwise stated


Start by fusing the fleece to the interior body pieces and fuse the medium weight interfacing to the top of one of the zipper pocket pieces.

Then layer duck cloth, main fabric body piece right side up, main fabric body piece wrong side up and then duck cloth again and pin.

Sew down each long side and across the bottom.  Press seams open.

Pinch out the corners forming a triangle and measure 3 1/2″ and draw a line with a disappearing marker (make sure it is nice and straight by putting the seam line along the 1 3/4″ mark). Pin, matching the 2 seams and sew along this line.  I like to sew on this line twice for strength!

Trim the triangle leaving a 1/2″ seam.

Do the same to the other corner.  Now, turn right side out and you should have fancy looking corners like so!

So far, we have this!

Admire.  You are a total rock star!  Okay, next take your 2 pocket pieces and sew them RS (right sides) together using a 1/4″ seam allowance and leaving a space for turning at the bottom.  Clip corners.

Turn right side out, press out corners really well and press pocket.  When pressing, make sure your opening is tucked in nice and neat as to make it looked closed up.  You will close this opening when you stitch it onto the bag.  I like to add a 1/2″ seam line along the top to give it a finished feel.

Pin it 3″ from the bottom of one of the interior body pieces.  Top stitch it on along the 2 sides and bottom.  Then determine the size you want your pockets.  Here I added a 1″ pen pocket in the middle.  Make sure you reinforce the top of your pockets where they will get the most pull by sewing over the top 1″ or so several times.

On the other interior body piece, you will add your zipper pocket if you want.  Otherwise you can create a pocket much like the one we just did.  In order to not reinvent the wheel you can click here to get instructions on how to create an interior zipper pocket.  Our fabric piece is a different size, but you will use a 7″ zipper so everything else is the same!  Pin the pocket on 3″ from the top.

Follow the directions in the link to end up with this.

Okay, once you have all your pockets in place add your magnetic snaps (I don’t add the button holes like shown in the link, but if ya want, I’m sure it would add crazy sturdiness to your snap).  Add the snaps 1 1/4″ from the top and centered.  Be careful to make sure it is centered on both sides so they will match up.

Now lay your interior body pieces right sides together and sew along the sides and bottom leaving a 4″ or 5″ opening at the bottom.

Press seams open and make your corners the same way you did with the main body of the bag.  Now you will have this.

At the last minute, I decided to add a key fob thingy by cutting 7″ of ribbon, adding a hook and stitching it to the inside of the bag and inch or so from the corner.

Next is the strap.  Fuse the fleece onto the center of one of the strap pieces.

Umm… yes, I do know how disgusting my ironing board cover is… who wants to make me a new one???  huh, huh??  Okay, pin the two strap pieces right sides together and stitch down each long end (note: you are using 1/2″ seam allowance here).  You should be stitching right along side of the fleece.  Turn it right side out and press really well.  Top stitch down each long side.  I used a double stitch here using 1/8″ top stitch and then 1/4″.  I just liked the added fancy!

Pin and baste it to the outside of the purse with matching fabrics facing.  Make sure not to twist the strap.  You will notice that the strap is an inch thinner than the tabs.  This is to allow for the seam allowance when stitching the bag together, so line up the strap to the center of the tab like in the picture.

Now, put the exterior of the bag inside the interior of the bag with right sides facing, line up the top edge nicely and pin.  Stitch along the whole top of the bag.  Then make a slit in each of the corners making sure not to cut into the seam.

Clip the corners of the tabs.

Turn the bag right side out from the opening in the interior bottom of the bag.  Press the top really well being sure to press out the tabs and corners really well and then top stitch.  I used a double stitch here again like in the construction of the strap.

Yay!!  Look how pretty your bag is!  You’re a sewing super star!  Okay, so for the bottom… you can either just top stitch the bottom closed or you can add something on the inside to make the bottom sturdier.  I like to do this to many of my bags.  To do that you need that plastic grid stuff for yarn and some batting.  Cut the grid stuff the same size of the bottom of your bag.

Wrap batting around this piece and stitch around it.

Trim around this piece and then insert it into your bag from the opening in the interior.  Lay it out nicely on the bottom of the bag.

Lastly, pull out the inside of the bag, tuck in the raw edges of the opening and top stitch it closed.

Tuck that back into the bag and Voile!!  You did it!  Now you will be the talk of the town with your new fancy bag!  Nice job, friend!

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58 Responses to The Olivia Bag Tutorial

  1. Diane on December 20, 2012 at 5:30 pm

    I love this bag!! Perfect in size, all the extras I add you have! I am making it this weekend!
    Thank you

  2. [...] a new purse is on your list, be sure to check out the Olivia Bag (it looks quick and easy to sew, [...]

  3. Southern Gal on December 19, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    Oh, I love this! Thanks for sharing your talents. I wish I had this in November so I could have sewn a few handbags for gifts. Lovely.

  4. maryanne melchiorre on October 27, 2012 at 10:52 pm

    getting ready to make a dozen bags for Christmas and 2 larger versions of the Olivia bag for my two grand daughters to carry their ballet gear to their classes, i made one for my daughters Mother-in-law and she absolutely loved it, looked classy on her shoulder!

  5. Ranjani on October 7, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    It’s superb. I like it very much

  6. [...] The Olivia Bag from Dixie Mango/ Gathered Bag from Bumble Bee Bliss [...]

  7. Tutorial Round Up: Bags | And Sew We Craft on September 12, 2012 at 1:00 pm

    [...] 7. Denim Tote- Between the lines 8. Up-cycled Tote Bags- The Sewing Dork 9. The Olivia Bag- Dixie Mango [...]

  8. Ally on September 7, 2012 at 9:52 pm

    Getting ready to make this for my 11 year old cousin, but I’m going to try and add a buckle to the strap so she can lengthen/ shorten it so it will grow with her!

  9. Natascha on August 6, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    I love the bag… I am in the process of making it. One question. Why do you wait until the end to put in the batting wrapped grid? Why not put it in before you put in the lining?

  10. Natascha on August 6, 2012 at 2:37 am

    Love the bag… halfway through it. Just wondering why we should not put the batting/plastic grid in before we put in the lining and sew. Why leave a space in the bottom of the lining to shove it in at the last minute? Is there a good reason for this? Thanks!!!

  11. Frances on May 26, 2012 at 6:45 pm

    Love this bag!!!!!!!! So cute!!!!
    Thanks to your tutorial, I just made an adorable bag for my niece.
    I hope she loves it as much as I do!

  12. Sarah on May 15, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    Really lovely, thank you!

  13. Márcia on May 9, 2012 at 8:06 pm

    Hi, I loved this tutorial !!! I’m from Brazil and I’m starting sewing but I’ll try to do this bag !!! Sorry for my worst english !!!
    Thanks !!

  14. The Olivia Bag Tutorial | Sew What Sherlock? on April 14, 2012 at 9:21 pm

    [...] I love love love this bag. I used the technique but with my own dimensions etc. I made a few mistakes, quite honestly, but overall it turned out pretty well. The bag has since been claimed by a former teacher. Yay! The tutorial/this image is from Dixie Mango. [...]

  15. Komplettset: Rock, Tasche, Schal | Binenstich on April 11, 2012 at 7:21 am

    [...] der Reststoff? Der reichte genau für eine Olivia Bag und einen passenden Schal. Schwupps – alles aufgebraucht, kein Stoff mehr übrig. [...]

  16. tamilselvi on April 9, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    I’m from India. Olivia tutorial is simply superb! What a excellent illustrations and explanations! I’m going to stitch a bag like this. Thank you for your tutorial. keep going…

  17. jana on March 20, 2012 at 10:31 pm

    this brought me to sewing! when i saw this tut i said “i need to learn how to sew” and got a sewing machine for xmas, i already made three olivia bags and i absolutely love it!! thank you so much!

  18. Dora on March 18, 2012 at 6:38 pm

    Hi Carrie!

    So grateful for free tutes online… I can really learn to sew here! I’m a beginner (using with a borrowed machine), but do like a challenge and you promised it was easy so I give it a go :-) Planning to do it for mum, unless it doesn’t turn out well, then I’ll just keep it.
    I was thinking however that it might be bigger than what I’d like. I can easily adjust the straps, but can’t figure out how big the bag is at the bottom, because of the cuts on the corner. Could you please tell the approx dimensions of the finished bag? It would help me a lot.
    Thank you! It’s a great tutorial!

  19. Friday Favorites–Purses « Crafty Staci on March 2, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    [...] I love the square opening on the Olivia Bag from Dixie Mango. [...]

  20. Amy on November 29, 2011 at 5:52 am

    So I’m a little late to the game here, and I realize you might not see this, but figured it couldn’t hurt! I’m pretty new to sewing but I think I might be up to tackling this project. I’m still a little unsure about different types of interfacing though. Can you let me know which sides (respectively) you used the duckcloth and fusible fleece on (lining or outside)? Thanks!

  21. Pam Willett on November 27, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    LOVE this bag!! Perfect size. Awesome tutorial! Thanks for sharing. :-)

  22. The Olivia Bag « Keepsmeoutofmischief on October 26, 2011 at 5:38 pm

    [...] [...]

  23. Claire @ keepsmeoutofmischief on October 23, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    Love it, definitely adding this to the ‘to make’ pile for Christmas presents!

  24. Sew a bag with the free bag pattern | Sew Easy on September 7, 2011 at 1:26 am

    [...] olivia bag [...]

  25. Zima on August 28, 2011 at 8:49 am

    What a great bag! Thank you for the tutorial.

    • dixiemango on August 30, 2011 at 1:25 am

      Thanks! You’re welcome!

  26. [...] Inspiration 1. vera bag, 2. Geek Bag, 3. Crush, 4. Mail Sack, 5. 241bluedetail, 6. Jenny Bag, 7. Oversized Owl Bag, 8. Go Anywhere Bag, 9. Oliva Bag [...]

  27. Esther on August 4, 2011 at 7:23 am

    Oh my, look at that. SO pretty!!! And I love the tuto (though I have to study on the strap and zipper part…), so thank you!!!

    • dixiemango on August 18, 2011 at 1:09 am

      You’re very welcome!

  28. Lindsey on August 2, 2011 at 12:43 am

    Wow! What a great bag and a wonderfully detailed tutorial. I have made several bags and just learned about 8 new things from you. thank you so much. x

    • dixiemango on August 18, 2011 at 1:15 am

      Thanks!! And thanks for stopping in!

  29. Liz@HoosierHomemade on July 30, 2011 at 11:01 am

    Love this!! I’ve been looking everywhere for a shoulder purse this size, and had finally decided that I would sew one.
    Thanks for sharing!

    • dixiemango on July 31, 2011 at 2:08 pm

      Yay! I would love to see how it turns out!

  30. AnneH on July 29, 2011 at 5:59 am

    Fabulous bag! Thanks so much for sharing the tutorial with us – I know it must have taken ages to do. Have added this one to my ‘to do’ list!

    • dixiemango on July 29, 2011 at 7:51 pm

      Yay! Thanks so much!

  31. Claire @ keepsmeoutofmischief on July 22, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    That’s a fab tutorial!

    • dixiemango on July 25, 2011 at 6:46 pm

      Thanks so much!

  32. Michelle on July 5, 2011 at 9:32 pm

    Thanks for the tutorial! I just finished making the bag and it looks *great*! It was an ambitious project for me, but your directions were very clear and complete. Can’t wait for the compliments to start rolling in : )

  33. Simple Saturday Tutorials on July 3, 2011 at 4:17 pm

    [...] The Olivia Bag via Dixie Mango [...]

  34. laura huffman on July 2, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    so cool. bookmarked this bag and said ‘i’m going to make that’ . well i made it!!!! love it. instructions so awesome. thank you, thank you, thank you. i shortened the strap and made it an over the bag. love it. oh yeah i said that already. you rock.

    • dixiemango on July 2, 2011 at 10:33 pm

      Yay!!! So fun! You MUST send me a picture. I love show and tell!!

  35. Mai on June 26, 2011 at 4:57 am

    Yay, another bag to make! Thank you for the well- written and wonderfully illustrated instructions.

    • dixiemango on June 27, 2011 at 12:06 am

      Yay! You are so welcomed. Thanks for the compliment and for stopping by!!

  36. edith21 on June 24, 2011 at 8:09 pm

    je ne connais pas l’anglais.
    mais avec les photos je vais essayer.

  37. Betty on June 24, 2011 at 5:30 pm

    BTW, I love the name, Olivia. I’ll make my first Olivia bag for my daughter Olivia.

    • dixiemango on June 24, 2011 at 10:58 pm

      oh fun!! Send pics!

  38. Betty on June 24, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    Wow! Really nice bag! Thanks for the pattern.

  39. Trish on June 24, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    I just read through this tutorial and it is very well written and photographed! Thank you for taking the time to do this! I plan on making this for my best friend’s birthday.

    • dixiemango on June 24, 2011 at 2:20 pm

      Awesome!! Thanks so much! I’d love to see a picture!

  40. Michelle on June 24, 2011 at 5:02 am

    So lovely! Thanks for posting this great tutorial! I look forward to making one!

    • dixiemango on June 24, 2011 at 2:21 pm

      Thanks so much!! Thanks for popping in!

  41. Jenny on June 24, 2011 at 12:39 am

    I love the shape of this bag. I’m not sure if I’m ready for this, but I’m bookmarking it for the future. My sister would love one of these! Thanks for your time and effort to make the tutorial!

    • dixiemango on June 24, 2011 at 1:55 am

      Thanks for stopping by!! Please send pictures if you do make it! It’s really not that hard if you take it one step at a time… promise!

  42. Andrea Stoddard on June 23, 2011 at 2:04 am

    Fantastic bag Carrie! Sophie and some friends are starting a homeschool Home Ec co-op for the summer, and I think this will be right up their alley! And mine!

    • dixiemango on June 23, 2011 at 3:29 am

      That would be so fun! I’d love to see pictures if you end up doing this!

  43. Amber on June 22, 2011 at 6:37 pm

    it’s gorgeous! Great tutorial Carrie – hope your foot gets better soon!

    • dixiemango on June 22, 2011 at 8:33 pm

      Thanks, Amber…on both accounts!

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