The Olivia Bag Tutorial

June 22, 2011

** 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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84 Responses to The Olivia Bag Tutorial

  1. […] The Fun and Flirty Bag  The Out and About Olivia Bag […]

  2. emily on September 30, 2014 at 2:50 pm

    Do you have a link to print the pattern and instructions? Im new to sewing and would love to make this beautiful bag. Thank you.

  3. Diana Sue King on July 2, 2014 at 3:29 am

    Thank you for the great tutorial. It is wonderful. I’m looking forward to making several of these purses.
    Thank You Sue

  4. Diana Sue King on July 2, 2014 at 3:25 am

    love the purse patterns. Pictures are wonderful.

  5. Helen on March 17, 2014 at 9:56 am

    I love this bag and I’ve had so many compliments about mine! Thank you so much for a great pattern & easy to follow tutorial. How can I send you a pic?! :)

  6. Olivia Bag on January 29, 2014 at 10:11 am

    […] Get the free bag pattern here […]

  7. Amanda Jones on November 15, 2013 at 3:42 pm

    I did it! Now how do I post a picture? BTW I loved the tutorial!!! Thank you.

  8. S-J on October 27, 2013 at 5:24 pm

    I’m 2 years late to the party. I wish I’d found you sooner! The bag is amazing. As for your ironing board cover, I think it shows that you use it a lot and I love that fact. :)

  9. Wendy on September 28, 2013 at 11:56 pm

    I just made my third Olivia Bag. This one has a Black Vinyl exterior. I needed to lighten my load so I threw in a pocket from a wallet I had previous made now I have place for my cards and such. I also put a zipper pocket on the outside above the slip pocket. This pattern is so versatile. I will be making more from canvas soon for the holidays as gifts. Like you say in the beginning of your tutorial “who doesn’t need a new bag or 10.”

  10. Donna Davidson on August 16, 2013 at 5:46 pm

    thank u thank you love it

  11. Donna Davidson on August 16, 2013 at 5:44 pm

    Thank u thank u love this can’t wait to start mine! think I will make it for my 60th Birthday!

  12. Ruth Young on August 3, 2013 at 1:57 am

    Dear Carrie, what an awesome purse. I had some fabric with a beautiful peacock on it that I wanted to use to make something with. I decided that this purse was just the item to make with it. It turned out awesome. I will have to talked a picture and send it to you. Thanks for your fabulous instructions and generosity in sharing it with us.

  13. Kayla on July 10, 2013 at 3:00 pm

    I know it’s been a while, but I love the bag and thought you’d like to see my latest creation, for my daughter who graduates from university tomorrow, made using “Nevermore” fabric by Gillian Fullard and lined with a burgundy dress lining fabric. I changed the internal zip pocket to an external one and made the internal pocket into two, one the right size for a typical smartphone and one a slot for a pen.

    I think she’ll like it – she drooled over the fabric when she saw it, even though she didn’t know it was for her!

  14. Bag lady | Two Frogs and a Grasshopper on July 1, 2013 at 3:00 pm

    […] two. I used the body of the Pleated Tote by Artsy-Craftsy Babe and the strap and pockets from the Olivia Bag by Dixie […]

  15. Kristen on June 20, 2013 at 6:27 pm

    Help! i can’t figure out how to sew the straps in. I don’t really understand the instructions


  16. […] HERE is the […]

  17. Theresa on June 1, 2013 at 11:18 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this tutorial. I have linked to it on my blog –

  18. Julie on May 14, 2013 at 4:14 am

    HI–I love this bag! I design and sew bags as well and this is just beautiful :) I looked for information on use of your tutorials and couldn’t find any. Are you open to my using this tutorial to make bags to sell in my shop? My email address is myvibrantdesigns @ gmail . com

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