Tips on sewing the Jump Start Duffel bag

pattern by Sara Lawson of SewSweetness

Made by Natalie Santini of Hungryhippie Sews

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This is a breakdown to help you through the trickier bits. It is not intended as a full on tutorial, pattern, or cheat sheet. The pattern is available in Sara's latest book Windy City Bags, available here on Amazon or get a signed copy through Sara's blog. (I did!)

Part One. 
Cutting Out the pieces. 

I always make labels for my cut pieces and pin them to each set. That way later on when I'm sewing I don't have to search forever and re-measure to find the piece I need. 

Also plan your fabric layout before cutting. For this bag, the measurements are roughly 19" x 9" x 8" finished-so you need to mark the "top" of your bag on the fabric if it is a directional print. Note in the pattern she does say the 20" sides are the TOP and bottom of the bag pieces. (You cut two rectangles for exterior and two for lining, please note the orientation of your fabric!)

There is only ONE pattern piece to trace from the paper pattern. I trace mine onto plastic template material (like old overhead projector plastic sheets)-- so that it will last many many sews.  I love how Sara's books/patterns are printed on high quality paper and are very clearly labeled and drawn. It helps a ton.

When cutting the Soft and Stable foam interfacing I use the already cut fabric piece as the template. I find this easier, and later I can trim it if need be after it's basted together. 

Foam interfacing is a game changer.
Do it.
It's easy to sew, easy to manipulate, and gives a sturdy structured bag finish. I love this stuff.

1.Attaching the interfacing is easy- iron on the Shape Flex and baste on the Soft & Stable.
2. Attach the zippered pockets. Sara is very detailed here, so I won't go into it. Make sure to follow each step and look at the diagrams. Attaching zippers is simple if you take your time and follow the directions. I find with "handbag zippers" (larger tape area) I don't have to change my sewing foot. If I use a normal zipper, I definitely do need to use a zipper sewing foot.

Page 86 in the book shows these zipper steps in even further detail.

BEFORE sewing the pocket sides closed, pay attention and LIFT it away from the bag body. 

See how I fold my bag out of the way when I'm closing the pockets?

You will make a front and a back body piece exactly like this.


The trickier part is attaching the top loading zipper--but actually it's genius. It's NOT hard.  I've always sewn with patterns that have an inset zipper, with panels and what not. This one is simplified and quite amazing. Let's see it in photos:

Repeat for the lining pieces.
On the wrong side of the lining pieces draw these lines (as stated in the pattern):

Position the lining pieces on the bag body pieces right sides together and pin, as shown in the pattern.

We will now sew the zipper box just like you make the zipper box for the other four zipper pockets. The "middle" --which will be the opening once we unpick it, is where the zipper will lay. (lie?)

I chose to unpick the center seam. I suppose you could slice it with a rotary cutter or scissors as well, but I feel this gives a better finish. It doesn't take long. Unpick a few stitches and then slip the unpicker into the seam with the round tip down and slide it up. It is so fast--even pressure is the key. 

Fold the "lining body pieces" into this opening and tuck them to the wrong side of the exterior. Press well. I like to hold mine in place with wonder clips.

If you find your corners are misbehaving, I've learned that if I unpick just a couple of stitches right in the corner they will lay flat. I also trim away the triangle of foam interfacing on the wrong side. This does wonders!

Remember- just a couple unpicked stitches. Don't go nuts. LOL

Press press press.

Lay the zipper on the opening, as you did the previous pockets and stitch into place. I pin mine and it does fine, but I've heard that double stick tape does wonders to hold zips in place. 

Sew in the zipper.

Now it's easy breezing until the very end.

Make the handles and strap and strap extender.
Sew on as directed.

*Remember to sew the handles on so that one strap is on ONE side of the bag, the other strap is on the opposite side of the bag. I was a nerd and attached them so they were crossing the top zipper! Don't be like me. bahahaha  Or --be like me and unpick later as you freak out.

Also--another tip. Don't do this:

PIN your pockets in place in EACH corner before sewing on the handles. 

Use tools to help sew the ends down. Also a denim needle is called for in the pattern- it's a MUST.


Remember to MATCH UP the handles when sewing the bottom together. 

After sewing the lining and exterior end panels together as instructed, sew the end panels onto the bag slowly, checking seams and making sure you sew them on right side up. (Not that I would know ANYTHING about that.)

Attach the binding to all raw edges.

Finished! Turn it right sides out and admire your geniusness!

Get the Jumpstart Duff  pattern today and start sewing! :D


  1. Holy cow, dude! This is impressive!

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I appreciate every comment, thanks so much for taking the time. It means A LOT to me. :)