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Pumpkins and Gourds and Pie, Oh my!

We went pumpkin hunting a little early this year. It was worth it because we had so many pumpkins to choose from. If it had not been raining and windy we would probably still be there trying to pick the perfect pumpkins (or in my husband's case, trying to rescue the homeliest one in the patch). Along with a huge patch of pumpkins and gourds, we also enjoyed playing in the kiddy barn, checking out all the farm animals, and admiring the people who actually hit the target at the pumpkin slingshot. We even tasted a little pumpkin pie, Oh my!

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diy duffel bag handles

76” X 6” fashion denim (or similar fabric)

 Fold the 6” wide strip in half , iron. Open and lay flat.

Fold the outside edges into the middle, iron.  

And finally, fold in half, making it 1½" wide, and iron.  
Pin along the open edge.

Top stitch the open side first, then repeat on the inside edge.

Click the button below to return to the RETRO DUFFEL tutorial. 


Boys, boys, boys. The silly things they say and do keep me laughing all the time. In fact, as I was working on this post my three year-old came blasting by, one arm outstretched, clutching his toothbrush, shouting (in a deep manly voice) "Oh, Mr. Plaque I am coming to get you!"  Dental Superheros make my day!

My favorite part of making this tutorial, by far, was the photo shoot.  Not just because the pictures crack me up, but that my boys actually agreed to do it,  AND enjoyed it!  Normally (98.7% of the time) they want nothing to do with "crazy mom and her camera," but for some reason, this time was different.  They totally hammed it up, AND they happily agreed to wear the short-shorts I made. Wow! Shocking. I am still in a state of disbelief - but also still smiling just thinking of their silly poses in front of the camera.  Oh, how I love those two!

I am so excited to share this project with you because it is as fun as my two silly boys.

The design of the RETRO DUFFEL is based on the original Duffel Bag - the manliest of all the bags in the luggage family. The simple, functional design, and durable fabric make this an ideal boy bag.

This is a miniature version of the typical duffel bag, perfect for an overnight stay at Grandma's, hauling gear to the big game, or for storing my all-time favorite gift - the FORT KIT!

OK, lets get started!

  • 1/2 yard Fashion Denim (or similar fabric) 
  • 16” SEPARATING zipper* (the key to this project is the separating zipper)
  • Jean/denim sewing machine needle  
  • 76” of 1½” wide webbing OR make your own (77” X 6” white fashion denim, or similar fabric)
*if you have trouble finding a 16" zipper, a larger size will work fine.

You will find the how-to for the handles HERE


  •   26” X 16 ½” - body
  •   (2) 8 ½” circle - end
  •  (2) 16 ½” X 5” - zipper lining

Part 1: Attaching the Zipper

Hem one long side on each of the 16 ½” X 5” zipper lining pieces.  If you don't have a serger, no biggie.  Simply fold (and iron) the edge over ½” and stitch. 

  Next, make a zipper sandwich:
  1.  You will need the body piece (26” X 16 ½”), and one of the hemmed zipper lining pieces (16 ½” X 5”).   
  2. Lay the body piece down first - RIGHT side facing UP.   
  3. Next, lay the zipper on top of that, with the WRONG side facing UP.
  4. Then, lay the zipper lining  piece on top with the WRONG side facing UP.

Carefully pin in place. 

Using your zipper foot, sew the sandwich together...

moving the zipper out of the way as you go (you may need to raise the presser foot to wiggle the zipper through).

Then, fold the two sides down, exposing the zipper, and iron.  

Top-stitch along the edge.

REPEAT the sandwich on the other side:
  1. First, lay the second zipper lining piece down - RIGHT side UP.
  2. Next, the zipper - RIGHT side UP 
  3. Then, grab the other end of the body and fold it over - RIGHT side DOWN (facing the right side of the zipper)
Pin and sew.

Then, Unzip and fold the 2 sides down, exposing the zipper, and iron.  Top-stitch.

Part 2: Attaching the Handles
 Lay the body piece flat, right side facing up. Find the center, by folding and finger creasing the length and width.  Mark the centers (both sides and the middle) with a pin.
Measure 1.5” from the marked center points in both directions and, again, mark with a pin (blue dots). The distance between the marks (the blue dots) should be 3".

Using the marked points in the center of the bag, start pinning down the handle.

 At the edge, measure out 11½"  - this will be your handle.

Continue pinning the rest of the way around, checking the spacing as you go (3" apart).  Then overlap the two ends, and pin.

Measure and mark 1 ½” from all four edges.  This is your stitching guide.  

 It should end up looking something like this.

Once the handles are just right, start at the overlap and sew along the outside edge.
As you come to the end of the bag, turn at the 1 ½” mark.     

Sew across and down the inside edge, continuing until you reach the starting point. Zig-zag stitch over the seam to secure.

REPEAT on the other side. 

Sew a square 1 ½” from the edge of the bag, and then sew an “X” in the center to add strength to the handles.  Repeat on the other 3 edges.
The last step is to finish the handles.

If you are using store-bought webbing this step should be fairly easy. 
If you made handles, like I did, you may need to wrestle the fabric to get it aligned just right in your machine.  I didn't have any problem sewing through all of the layers, but if that proves to be too much of a pain, then hand stitching may be a better alternative.
  1. Find the center of the handle, measure and mark 3" on both sides of that point.
  2. Fold the handle in half between the marks, and pin.   
  3. Carefully sew along the outside edge.

Part 3: Attaching the Ends

Zip the two sides of the bag together.

Starting with the end of the bag closest to the zipper pull, pin one of the circles in place.

Slowly and carefully, sew ½” seam around the circle. When you come to the zipper, you may need to adjust it a little to get the needle through.

Open the zipper ½ way, to allow for turning.
REPEAT the pinning and sewing on the other end.

Cut off the end of the zipper, (I had to use my kitchen scissors to cut through the tough sport zipper) and finish off the edges with a serger or zigzag stitch.   For a more finished look, add bias tape around the raw edges.
Turn right side out.

Part 4:  Admire Your Work!

Need a different size? 
 Adjusting the size of the RETRO DUFFEL is simple, with a little math. Here's how:
( d = diameter, c = circumference, pi = 3.14)
d = c/pi 
Using the body measurements of this bag (26"x16"), I was able to figure out the size of circles needed for the ends.  The circumference measurement of the bag is the width (from zipper to zipper), or 26" 

I plugged my circumference (26") into the equation.

   d = 26"/3.14
 d = 8.3"
To make life easier, I added a little to that number, making the diameter of the circles 8 1/2.".

Want to adjust the length? Simply increase or reduce the length measurement (16" for this bag) to match the zipper length.

Thanks for stopping by! 

If you make a RETRO DUFFEL, I would LOVE to see it.