Making a 1950s duffle and tote bag

One of the benefits of designing and printing your own fabric is that you always have a plentiful supply on hand for those little craft projects that you’ve always been wanting to make.

A while ago I bought a pattern from Etsy seller ‘My vintage wish’ for a 1950s tote bag.  I liked the look of it for just general carting around of stuff (something I do a lot of)

It came together relatively easily and to be honest I probably didn’t really need a pattern since all it consisted of was a circle for the base and a rectangle for the sides.

It was lined though, and I did appreciate the markings for the eyelets – if I’d had to work that out myself I’d have ended up with the wrong amount and they would probably be spaced incorrectly. 

It also had a circle of stiffener between the base and the base lining which gives it a sturdier feel, and I would probably have struggled with trying to work out how to make that work.

1950s 50s sewing bag pattern

How to sew 50s rucksack

midcentury rucksack

Once I had finished it I wasn’t 100% happy with the handles. The way they worked on the pattern was to make a carry handle rather than an over the shoulder duffle bag, which didn’t work for me since it dragged on the ground when I carried it, so I unpicked a small part of the seam where the base joined the side and sewed it back up with a loop of cord caught in it, which I then passed the main cord handle through to make a duffle bag I could carry over my shoulder, as per the pics.

1950s boomerang rucksack

1950s bag

hand made rucksack

Luckily I had loads of eyelets in my stash from my art college days (never throw anything away, it might come in handy 30 years later!) Took me a while to remember how they were inserted but got there in the end.

Whilst I was in the mood I also sewed up a tote bag in the other colourway of the same print.
For this one I just found a basic pattern on the internet and it was really straightforward. I wish I’d made the straps a little shorter – they look slightly too long to me, but they were sewn in between the main fabric and the lining and I just didn’t have the inclination to unpick and restitch.

Boomerang midcentury tote bag

1950s 50s tote bag

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