The New York Bag for Hand Sewers

The New York bag for hand sewers is the result of a mild case of OCD brought on by my inability to find the right bag for our monthly “Crazy Friday” open sew group.  I don’t really sew in 3 dimensions, but I had no choice.  I’ve made it more times than I want to talk about, and each time it gets a little better.  On the plus side, it has everything I want.  On the minus side, it’s over-engineered, fiddly, takes 3 days to make, and has more hardware than fabric.  If you don’t have a case of OCD, you should walk away from this project.  If you DO have OCD, then you should not walk away, you should run.

Front of Bag A
Back of Bag B


Two bags are held together by velcro.  There are holders for almost everything, plus extra pockets.  The bottom is a beanbag, for stability.

Bag A (front bag)

  • Covered cloth loop to hold scissors
  • Detachable magnetic pincushion
  • Detachable magnetic pencil holder
  • Detachable small coin purse
  • Internal thimble pockets
  • Pocket divider
  • Felt needle tab
  • Ribbon holsters for extra equipment, such as rulers, markers, awls,  and the “purple thing”
Inside of Bag A, with thimble holders

Bag B (back bag)

It’s less complicated, and can be ripped off the back of the front bag and left home if you are travelling.  It has

  • Internal pocket with magnet closure
  • External tool caddy
  • More ribbon holsters



  • About 1 yard fabric for exterior of bag (I used New York fabric) – more if you fussy cut.
  • About 1 yard lining fabric (I use plain white cotton)
  • ½ yard vinyl fabric for bottom panels.  Note:  you can make your own vinyl with cotton fabric of your choice and Thermoweb Heat’n Bond Iron-On Vinyl.  Follow directions on the package or watch this video
Vinyl fabric for bottom, left. Lining (white) is from Mood, and NYC fabric is available from


  • A square of hobby felt
  • Iron-on fusible foam for bags OR use bag foam with MistyFuse
  • Iron-on interfacing – lightweight for pocket, medium for lining
  • Felt ball for pincushion
Mistyfuse and Wonder Tape
  • Two zippers, at least 12 inches, the kind that separates at the bottom.
  • Velcro: 1 ½-inch width
  • 7/8” grosgrain ribbon for narrow holders
  • 1 ¼” grosgrain ribbon for ruler holder
zippers, ribbons, cords, elastic. Try Pacific Trimmings on 38th Street
  • 3 -inch wide strong and stretchy waistband elastic for tool caddy
  • 2 inch elastic for thimble holders (optional – 3 -inch works too)
  • Covered cord for scissor holster
coin purses, from Amazon or street fairs
  • Small cloth coin purse
  • Wondertape – optional, but it helps
  • Half-inch wide hem tape or twill tape to finish edges
  • Double fold extra wide bias tape to finish inside seams
  • ¼ inch wide elastic for divider


Various hardware – local hardware store or Home Depot.
  • Plastic beads, rice, or lentils for bean bag bottom.
  • A household funnel
  • 2 large metal disks
  • 7 small metal disks
  • Balsa wood, as thin as you can get it
  • 7 small magnets
  • 2 medium magnets
Felt and balsa wood – from Michaels


Download Templates

Magnetic Pincushion and Pencil Holder

  1. Superglue the medium-sized magnet on the bottom of the drawer pull cup.  Let dry.
  2. Using Elmer’s wood glue, glue the felt ball inside the cup. 
  3. Weight with towels or bean bags, let dry overnight
  4. Attach a medium-sized magnet to the back of the adhesive pen holder.
Needed for the pin cushion


  1. Download paper templates. See link above, or go here.
  2. Using Pattern 1, place line on the fold and cut 4 pieces of exterior fabric and lining
  3. Using Pattern 2, place line on the fold and cut 4 pieces of foam and medium interfacing.
  4. Using Pattern 3, place line on the fold and cut 2 pieces of vinyl and lining.
  5. For the divider, cut a square of liner fabric about 8 x 12 inches.  It will be folded and trimmed later.
  6. For pocket, cut 10 x 7 inch square of
    1.  liner fabric
    2. outer pocket fabric.
    3. Lightweight interfacing
  7. Cut 6 inch long piece of velcro
  8. Cut 1 ½ piece of velcro to make a square for coin purse
  9. Cut narrow strip of felt for needle tab 1 ¼ by 2 or 3 inches
  10. Cut felt for tool caddy – 3 1/2” wide by 10” long (it will be trimmed later)
  11. Cut elastic for tool caddy – 10 inches long (it will be trimmed later)
  12. Cut piece of ¼” elastic for the divider – 9 inches long
  13. Cut one piece of cord for scissor loop – 6 inches long (it will be trimmed)
  14. Cut ribbons lengths needed for all tool holsters – add enough for seam allowances top and bottom edges.
  15. Cut 2 pieces of elastic for thimble holders – 3 inches long each.

Bag Sides

All pieces cut
  • Using something temporary, mark each outer bag piece to say if it is the front or back of bag A or B.  You’ll have 4 pieces:
    1. Bag A – front
    2. Bag A – back
    3. Bag B – front
    4. Bag B – back
  • Position and cut out the circles for the metal disks in the foam on the front of Bag A. 
    1. I like the one for the pincushion to be dead center, about an inch from the top
    2. the one for the pencil holder should be on the opposite side from the scissor holster, 2 or 3 inches from the top and not too far from the side fold edge.
Foam fused to exterior fabric
Front of Bag A, foam fused, with the disks in place.
  1. Fuse the bag foam piece to wrong side of exterior fabric, using MistyFuse.
  2. Mark quilt lines on exterior fabric.
  3. Place large metal disks in holes, and baste a small piece of fabric over to hold them in place.  Tip: I like to sew a subway token over the metal disk for the pincushion, but this ruins the magnet effect. Apparently, old subway tokens aren’t made of a magnetic metal. So, I place a magnet on the metal disk first, so they will be sure to attract. Play around with this before you sew anything down.
  4. Stitch the quilt lines, making sure to circle around the metal disks.  Tip: turn the machine by hand so as not to hit the metal disk.
One disk is based, the other has been quilted.

Lining and Bag Bottoms

  • Mark side and top seam lines on the lining fabric, and iron interfacing to wrong side of lining fabric, inside the marked lines.
  • Sew thimble holders inside lining. 
    1. Start about 1 inch below top edge, and make sure they will have the center metal disk between them.  Also be aware of where the exterior items (like the scissor loop) will be before you start sewing.
    2. Sew down either side, making a loop for thimbles.  Sides should be about 1½ inches apart.  
    3. I like to sew a straight seam, and then zigzag for strength.  Using a sewing awl to hold everything down helps.
    4. Finish raw edges of elastic with twill tape.  A sewing awl helps here, too.
    5. Sew bottom closed.
Thimble loop
Finished thimble loop with thimble inside.
  1. Mark stitch line for vinyl bottom pieces on all 4 exterior pieces.  Mark on the inside (the foam side).  It is easier to measure from the bottom up.
  2. Also mark the stitch line on the inside of the vinyl bottom pieces.
  3. Attach vinyl bottom to front of bags, matching on the stitch lines.
  4. Attach the backs of bags to the vinyl in the same way.
  5. Do the same thing for the lining bottom pieces.
Sew line from the foam side.
Sew line from the vinyl side.
Two sides of one bag, attached at the bottom edges to the vinyl base. Lining will look attach the same way.

Zippers and Top Stitching

  • Decide what side the zippers should open for each bag and mark.
  • Mark the side seams.
  • Line up top edge of zipper against right side of exterior fabric.  Let it hang off each side by at least 3 inches, so you can make the pull tabs. Zipper is open but not separated.  Tip: place zipper teeth against the foam edge as a guide.
  • Use a zipper foot, and baste.  Start and stop 1/8 inch from the side seams (edge of foam)
First step – zipper is basted to exterior fabric.
  • Place lining, face down, on top of the zipper, matching the top edge of the exterior fabric. There is now a sandwich, with the zipper in between the lining and the bag sides. Sew about 1/8 inch inside the baste line.  Start and stop 1/8 inch from the side seams.
  • Close zipper. Press the lining and exterior fabric away from the zipper.
  • Place the second exterior side of the bag over the free edge of the zipper. You are going to do the same thing to this zipper edge that you did to the first edge.
  • Pin and baste to exterior fabric. 
  • Open zipper, separate, and place bag flat.  Attach second piece of lining to zipper, making sure to start and stop 1/8 inch from the side seams.
Add the lining
After sewing.
  1. Turn right side out.  Press.
  2. Top stitch zipper, making sure everything is flat and  making sure to start and stop 1/8 inch before you get to the side seams.
  3. Top stitch vinyl on the exterior side of the fabric.
  4. Top stitch the bottom of the exterior pieces through the lining, along the bottom of the foam. Sew from the right side.  This will help the vinyl bend later, and can be used as the sewing line.
  5. Mark all side seam lines on all pieces, on the lining side.  The edge of the foam is the side seam. 

Tool attachments

  • Decide where you want all the attachments, and mark. When you sew them down, you will sew through lining and exterior fabric.
  • Coin purse
    1. Sew one side of the vecro (rough side) to outside back of coin purse.
    2. Attach the smooth side of the vecro square for coin purse on front of Bag A. Position using wondertape, then sew.
  • Attach scissor loop. Start 3 inches down from zip teeth, and 3 inches from side edge.  Make sure you have a big enough loop in it, but not so big the scissors will fall out.
    1. Right side will extend past the side seam line, and will be fixed in place by the side seam. Baste it now, to hold it in place.
    2. Zigzag the left side to hold in place, then cover the stitching with twill tape. Hold the twill tape in place with an awl as you sew it.
Back of coin purse
Attaching the covered cord as a scissor loop.

Ribbon Holsters

  • Attach all ribbon holsters where you want them
  • Turn the raw edges at top and bottom of ribbon to the inside, and top stitch the edges before you attach them. Don’t use wondertape here – it sticks to the tools later.
  • Some ribbon holsters will be hope top and bottom, and some you can sew closed at the bottom. For those that are open at the bottom, a small felt pad will at the bottom will prevent things like rulers from sliding out.
  • For narrow tools, you can sew the bottom closed only partially, leaving a center gap for the tool to extend out.
Ribbons to hold a pencil along the top and a seam ripper on the edge.


Attach velcro on the back of Bag A and the front of Bag B. Position each piece of velcro in center, 2 inches down from top foam edge, using Wondertape. Soft side goes on the back of bag A, and rough side goes on front of Bag B.

  • Sew velcro — I like to use the zipper foot for this.  An awl helps hold it down.
  • Put a spare piece of velcro temporarily over the rough side on Bag B, so those little hooks don’t catch and rip things when you turn it inside out later.
Velcro with Wonder Tape, ready to be flipped over and sewn down.

Tool Caddy, back of Bag B

  1. Decide what tools and how many will live in the tool caddy.
  2. Position felt with Wondertape.
  3. Position wide elastic at left edge, about 1/2 “ in from side seam line (foam edge) and about ½ inch down from top of felt.
  4. Zigzag down side to anchor.
  5. Start making loops for each tool, sewing up and down twice to anchor. Measure before you sew, using the actual tool you will put in that loop.
  6. Final side is anchored using zigzag.
  7. Top stitch felt around sides and top.
  8. Trim felt and elastic close to the final seam.
  9. Add twill tape to cover raw ends.
Tool caddy – place and pin.
Tool caddy – decide where everything should go.
Tool caddy- left edge is sewn, and first section pinned and ready to sew.
All sections sewn, trimmed, and twill tape covers the raw edges.

Inside Pocket, Bag B

  • Pocket goes inside, back of Bag B. It is attached to the lining side.
    1. Iron interfacing onto wrong side of lining. 
    2. Right sides together, sew tops and sides.  Size should be 9 inches wide and 6 ½ inches long with a raw edge on the bottom.
    3. Turn and press. 
    4. Turn inside out again.  Glue small metal disks to the back of pocket, so that metal is facing magnet and not the superglue.   Otherwise, magnets don’t work.  Using tweezers helps to place.
    5. Clamp and let dry.
    6. Turn pocket right side out.  Metal disks are on the inside. Top stitch below metal disks.
    7. Turn bottom edge in so that total height of pocket is 6 inches.  Press.
    8. Place pocket, inside of bag B back.  Top should be 1 inch below zip teeth with the bottom turned edge lining up against the foam.
    9. Center pocket, top-stitch sides along the fold lines.
    10. Top stitch bottom, just above the foam.
    11. Position magnets over metal disks in pocket.  Place a dot of super glue to the back of each magnet, then press and hold to fabric. 
    12. Clamp and let dry.
Pocket is inside out, with metal disks glued.
Pocket is turned right side out, ready to have side seams sewn to attach to the inside of the bag.


  • Divider goes inside, back of Bag A. It is attached to the lining side.
    1. Using the square of lining fabric, fold raw side edges in to make a width of 6 ½ inches.  Sew down the sides.
    2. Turn top edge over and press.
    3. Place elastic in the channel, and sew top edge so that elastic is left free – don’t sew over it.
    4. Super-glue 2 small metal disks about 1 inch or so left and right of the center on the top edge.  The felt needle tab will go in between, so give enough room.  Clamp and let dry.
    5. Fold bottom raw edge so that the total height of divider is 6 inches.  Press.  Place bottom edge of divider against the top-stitch line of foam and sew.  At sides, sew up from bottom about 1 inch  to keep things from sliding out.
    6. Tack elastic down at the side seam lines.
    7. Place magnets over the metal disks.  Place drop of superglue on each magnet.  Press against the fabric, clamp and let dry.
  • Sew felt needle tab, center of back of Bag A.  It can tuck inside the divider.
Divider, edges turned and elastic in the top channel.
Divider, with seam sewn at bottom edge of foam, elastic tacked at the side, and felt needle tab at top.

Side Seams and Bottom

  1. Fold bags to face right sides together, lining side out.
  2. Close zippers.
  3. Line up foam bottom edges exactly.
  4. Line up vinyl edges
  5. Trim tails of zipper to about 3 inches. Make sure you don’t let the zipper separate after this, or you will never get them back together.
  6. Fold zippers to inside, clamping to keep out of the way.
  7. Sew side seams.
    • Start at the zipper top stitching line and end at the bottom of the foam. 
    • Keep zippers folded inside.
    • Trim side seams.
Fold zipper to inside to keep it out of the way before you sew the side seams.
Side seam is sewn
  1. Mark bottom corners
    • Measure 1 inch along the bottom edge of foam, starting at the side seam. 
    • Mark the sew line.  It will make a 1-inch square.
    • Cut inside marked lines to make ¼” seam allowance.
  2. Make corner. 
    • Pinch the corners together, matching centers, and making sure the bottom is flat.
    • Clamp both sides, but only sew one side first.
    • Sew just under bottom edge of foam, not on the foam, to make the first corner.
Bottom corner
Clip inside the 1 inch mark
View from the bottom of the bag, with corner clamped and ready to sew.
  • Before you sew the second corner seam, add beans for bean bag.
    • Using a funnel, add the plastic pellets or rice inside the bottom section.  Don’t overfill.
    • Sew the final corner to keep the rice in place.
    • After sewing, distribute the rice evenly along the bottom.
Adding the plastic pellets using a funnel and a bowl


  1. Add finishing tape down the side seams.  I did this by hand, but you can pinch the seams together, fold the binding over raw edge, and sew on the original seam. Or just leave them raw.
  2. Turn bags right side out.
Zipper tab, inside out
Zipper tab will go where the clamp is, over end of zipper.
Tab on end of zipper.

Zipper Tabs

  • Make zipper tabs for each end of the zippers, 2 for each bag. 
    1. Sew 3 sides of a square, leaving final side open.   Tabs should be around ¾ inch squares – maybe a little longer than they are wide. You may want to make rounded corners.
    2. Trim, and turn right side out, press. 
    3. Clip zipper tail to 3/4”
    4. Place zipper tails inside tabs, folding the raw edges of the zipper tabs to the inside. 
    5. Stitch tab closed at the open edge, over the zipper, being careful not to break a needle.
    6. Repeat for all zipper ends. For the side where the zipper is open, it helps to hand stitch the end closed first.
    7. Top stitch under the ends of each zipper, starting from where the top stitch left off before.
Balsa wood and lining
Glued on the back and drying

Covered Wood Bottom Inserts

Create two covered wooden inserts to make a flat bottom to the inside of the bag.

  1. Cut 2 rectangles of balsa wood measuring 8 ½ inches by 1 ¾ inches, using a box knife or utility shears.
  2. Clip the corners, and make sure they fit into the bottom of each bag.
  3. Cover wood with lining fabric,  using Elmer’s glue.  Only the top has to be smooth.
  4. Clamp and let dry overnight.
  5. Make sure the rice filler is distributed evenly in the bottom of each bag – press it out towards the corners.
  6. Place Elmer’s glue on the bottom of the inserts, then press into the bottom of the bags.
  7. Weight and dry overnight.


Other Bags that are Easier to Make

Here are some other bags that I discovered while doing research. They are much easier to make and just as good.

A makup bag tutorial is here

An Open Wide pouch blog is here

Two-sided zip case is here

Feel free to use these instructions for personal use.  If you wish to make and sell these, please contact me at and I’m sure we can work something out.

Copyright 2019

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