The Big Mommy Giant Beach Bag: Free Tutorial

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Want to see me lose my mind? Give me more than 2 things with straps to carry at one time.

This always seems to happen at the beach. As I wrangle SPF-greased kids, one of these strapped vessels will inevitably fall off of my shoulder and land in my elbow pit. This unforeseen engagement of my meager biceps muscle is what gets the BP on the rise. While still holding this isometric curl, I swoop down to stop Layla from eating what appears to be a sand-coated raccoon turd, and my cross-body cooler bag will ride up and start simultaneously strangling me and giving me an Indian sunburn that strongly resembles a hickey right on my bright white neck.

Shortly hereafter I will reach my breaking point, throw everything off of me like a dog trying to escape from under a blanket you've hilariously thrown on top of him, sit down on the boardwalk and pout.

Welcome to summertime!

In an effort to NOT end up salting beachfronts and pool sides everywhere with my bitter, bitter tears, I decided to make myself a custom beach tote.

The standard one we have counted on for the past 6 summers was metallic silver with rhinestones spelling out SUPERMODEL and featuring Heidi Klum’s face on it:

Wait; please let me explain before you judge.

I got it free with a Victoria’s Secret purchase at some point in my distant and cellulite-free past where shopping there for more than "one gray cotton bra that I never have to wash, please" was a reality.

But we all know Heidi is a petite lady. She just can’t hold a lot. She was great for those carefree DINK days of summer, but, as time went on, she was maxing out at just our towels and sunscreen, and as we added family members, ("OKAY! where did all these offspring come from and how do we stop the flow?!?!), we needed to add extra bags: the cooler bag for snacks and drinks, a diaper bag, a bag for a dry change of clothes, a toy bag, floats, and a wet bag.

Surprisingly, the mounting bag-count and ensuing coat-rack-ed-ness that this trend made me resemble wasn’t enough to clue me in that maybe we needed a better option. No, no, I just piled more things on myself in addition to Heidi and took my stress meltdowns in stride, using them to catch a few extra rays during my sandy pout-sessions until I was ready to rejoin the group and be liberated from my nylon prison of straps for a few hours.

No, what finally did send Heidi into full blown retirement was when I randomly used her as my work bag one week last fall and forgot to eat the plum that I had packed for a snack. There it stayed until I pulled out Heidi this spring and found that she had spent the winter as a distillery: fermenting my forgotten plum into what smelled like purple moonshine. Needless to say, she was plastered and needed to dry out. But even after that, she was forever stained and smelly (and just possibly age-inappropriate) so she got tossed in the "free" pile at our yard sale.

Now bereft of a bag, it dawned on me that I can in fact sew and maybe I could make a bag that I really liked: in size and in rhinestone-free-ness. I scoured Pinterest and got my inspiration from this bag, and then Frankenstein-ed it into my own pattern by adding a lining, changing the dimensions, and adding 7 new pockets!!!

And so was born the Big  Mommy Bag:
this bag is my lover.

6 pockets (2 inside/4 outside), chic cabana-stripe in indigo blue, durable canvas straps, exterior fabric that is stain and water-resistant and fade proof up to 500 hours in direct sunlight. fully lined interior.

and the capacity? ohhhhhhh the capacity!!!!

so what do you say? you want a tutorial for this bad boy? i got a little ahead of myself and ordered the fabric in 6 25 different colors because i am selling these here in my etsy shop anyway, but if youre into sewing, this would also be a great project even for beginners.


this is a seriously easy and straightforward project. dont be intimidated by the size of the post. i added tons of pictures because i am overprotective of yall that way and want to pamper your with lots of visuals. even the most beginner sewist could handle this project!


-1.5 yds indoor/outdoor fabric for bag exterior. Premier Prints from Fabric.com is hands down my favorite and they have the BEST patterns and prints The basic stripe is my fave).
-1.5 yds cotton lining fabric (I use a neutral solid that matches my straps, but go wild!
-2 yds heavy cotton webbing 1.25-1.5 inches wide. This is perfect.

let me warn you: this bag is large and in charge. it totally works for beach and pool, but would look a bit out of place just walking around town. if you want to make a smaller version, go forth with my blessing; the tutorial is exactly the same. you will just need to change the dimensions of your cut pieces. if you like the proportions of my bag, just scale down each of the dimensions by the same ratio (say, 2/3rds of my recommended size) or make up your own! this tutorial will work as long as your matching edges all have partners of the same length.


lay out your fabric. maybe roll around on it because it's so pretty and summery chic:

fold the length of the fabric in half, with right sides together:

* note the asterisk in the picture. this is to show you how my stripes are aligned perfectly among the 2 layers of fabric. this will keep everything nice and square if you are working with stripes.

time to cut your main (exterior/pretty) fabric.

i like to measure out my pieces with my ruler and use a fabric pen to draw my cut lines.

below is the most efficient way i have found to utilize the 1.5 yds. i'm no expert so there may be a better way, but if youre using stripes make sure your side pieces go in an opposite direction from the front, back and bottom pieces (pocket direction doesnt matter because they are square):

ONLY cut where the lines are dotted. do NOT cut along the top edge. you are utilizing the fold and dont want to dissect it. since you are cutting through 2 layers of fabric (except on the bottom piece as noted) these cuts will get you all the pieces you need.

now for your lining fabric you will need the following pieces. since direction doesnt matter at all for the inside, you decide the best cutting layout:

2 front/back pieces @ 24x20
2 side pieces @ 20x10 (what you cut will be 20x5 since youre on the fold but the piece, unfolded will be 10")
1 bottom piece @ 24x10
1 pocket-making piece @ 24x6

outside pockets:

grab your four 10" square pieces of exterior fabric. heat up the iron and fill that trusty spray bottle (note: mine is NOT trusty. it hates me, spits water exactly where i DONT point it and requires 4 pumps to get any water out at all).

spray along the top edge of two of the squares. for a striped fabric, you will want to turn these 2 pieces so the stripes run horizontally. this gives the pocket a nice pop of visual interest against the front & back pieces. if you are using a chevron or busier pattern it might be "too much." something to consider. (look at the 4 bags in the picture at the top...the stripes i turned the pattern direction, but the chevrons i didnt).

fold down about a half inch and press (this thick outdoors material can be hard to get a nice sharp crease out of. dont worry. we will prevail over the fabric soon). set aside

now, on the remaining 2 squares, orient your pattern up and down so its going the same way as your front/back pieces.


fold under a half inch and press. (see how my cuts were insane and uneven in the previous picture? i fixed this hereby folding the edge under and matching up the stripes perfectly to get a square edge.)

now take all 4 of these pieces with the pressed top edges and top stitch about 1/4" away from the fold to cement the finished edge into place (haha! take that unruly fabric!):

set aside 2 of the pocket pieces. if you made them with two different pattern directions like i did, then set aside the ones the run the SAME direction as the front pieces of your bag.

back to the ironing board. dammit.

fold the remaining 3 raw edges under 1/2":

uppity fabric resisting the press again. its okay as long as youve put a good visible crease in there.

now i will show you 2 ways to do the pocket corners:

METHOD ONE (fold then cut): spray the ever living mess out of one corner because we want this fold to count:

fold one of your bottom corners up at a 45 degree angle. you want this diagonal edge to be about 2 inches:


now you have this:

to get the edges perfectly symmetrical, fold the other side over so the sides match up:

and the fold back the remaining corner so that the angle matches up:
spuh-ray and press

in the words of the esteemed rufio: bangorang.

trim the folded under corner of down to about 1/2 so that you arent reaching in your pocket and feeling something tickle you and thinking its a roach wing:
i about died trying to look normal holding scissors in place with my left hand for 5 seconds. my right brain almost melted.

so this is what you have:
and that little piece of junk thinks it can boss us around by not laying flat. we'll see about that.

METHOD TWO (cut then fold) for pockets:

using the handy dandy lines that come on your cutting board:

line up your two squares so that the bottom right edges hang over 2 inches below and to the right of the 45 degree line (you can do these 2 at a time):

using your ruler right along the line and a rotary cutter, cut those corners with the precision of an experienced rabbi:
then you will spray and press all around the raw edges, folding under 1/2 inch. even if you use this method, the fabric shant obey. dont take it to heart. our day is coming.

now we take our revenge:

position your pocket in a friendly location on your front and back pieces (lay them so that the longest edge is horizontal and the shorter on is vertical. it should be wider that it is tall). a nice and centered pocket feels good to my heart:

pin down around the edges to affix those pressed creases into place. enjoy shoving the sharp objects through the disobedient folds:

take the pinned pieces to you machine and sew around the 5 pinned sides. back stitch a few times at the beginning and end to tack your pocket down well at a place that will receive the most stress:

then stitch all the way down in a digital U shape (dont sew your pocket closed!)

and if your NOT like me, you amight be OCD and like snipping your threads before moving forward. do that now, weirdos. i like to wait until the end and then get allll the loose threads:
this photo is staged. done believe i actually did it

hooray! a FUNctional pocket is complete. let's whisper into it how many fun things will go inside of its shady climes: fruit snacks, ipads, sunscreen, books, dirty diapers!!
hahahaha type-A people, more loose thread whiskers!

repeat for the other pocket and front/back piece

now grab those other two pocket pieces that we laid aside, and get your 2 side pieces (10x20) too. you are going to align the bottom raw edges with right sides facing up:
again, my cuts are a bit ragged, but i just make sure my stripes are parallel or perpendicular where needed, and all is right.

pin in place:
repeat for both pockets and side pieces

now the stage is set to construct the bag:


take one side piece (with pinned pocket) and one front/back piece and line them up along one raw edge, right sides facing. pin in place making sure your pockets open to the same UP direction:
sew or serge along the dotted line, at about a 1/2 inch seam allowance (remove the pins before serging. yikes!)

repeat for the other pair of side/front pieces (line it up the EXACT same way as you did before).

so now you have 2 of these:

making sure your pockets are all pointed in the same direction (seriously, i have done this wrong and felt a FOOL!) put one of these side/front pieces atop the other, right sides facing, matching up raw edges.

pin in place:
i need to shave my arms. this is what the inside will look like when pinned.

sew or serge these last 2 edges.

turn inside out and get really fluttery about what you've made so far:

now we attach the bottom. its tricky to explain, but really pretty easy to do:

lay your bottom piece (24x10) in front of you:
yes, i was in my bathrobe

put the main body section on your lap, right side up with the pocket opening toward you:

flip the bottom piece down onto your lap, on top of the main section, aligning the bottom raw edges of the bottom piece and one of the bottoms of your front/back piece and making sure right sides are facing:

match up the corners of both pieces:

even given the fact that you main piece has been sewn and has a seam, when you pull it taut, the lengths should match perfectly since the are the same (24"):

pin in place:

start in the middle of the long side you just pinned. sew with a 1/2" seam allowance:

stop when you are about 1/4" from the end, and then backstitch to 1/2" away from the edge:

.make sure you need is down here:

lift your pressor foot and rotate just the top piece of fabric (which is the bag bottom) so that the short edge that WAS perpendicular to the edge you just sewed is now lined up with it:

rotating to meet:

this may create some bunchiness, but that's okay, just shove it as neatly as possible under the pressor foot as you start back up, now sewing the short side of the bottom of your bag:

i made a video of this process that may end up making you more confused or giving you seasickness because i video'd with one hand while sewing with just my left hand. this is tricky enough two-handed and i may have even made it look harder than it is, but it might help you realize that there is some turning and a bit of shoving that can go into this part (it is a 3-way seam, after all) and still be okay:

repeat this method for all 4 corners.

if you have a serger, i find it's easier to just run 4 straight lines of stitching aronud the perimiter , crossing over the previous line to ensure full closure, rather than pivoting on a sewing machine.

either way, flip your bag inside out and check on your sexy corners.


and oh, baby, this is now officially a bag. though we arent finished, it does technically satisfy the definition of "a bag."

ok now we are going to do pretty much the exact same thing for the lining with just a few tweaks.

take your 24x6 piece of lining fabric and lay it on your ironing board. we are going to make four 5" square pockets the fastest way i know how.

*note, if you want to add more pockets, less pockets, smaller pockets, bigger pockets GO FOR IT. make your dream bag. just follw the same procedure outlined below to get the size you want. (finished size will be about an inch smaller vertically and horizontally than the rectangle you cut to begin with)

spray it like it's a girl with daddy issues on spring break. (dont worry, she'll find jesus in her senior year and go on to marry a great guy).

fold down the top and bottom long edges and press. about 1/2 inch:
thats funny, i dont remember drinking before i ironed. dont fear. your creases will be more sober.

now topstitch along 1/4" from the fold of JUST ONE of these creases. all the way along the side:

on your cutting mat, cut the long strip into four 6-inch wide sections:
back at the ironing board, take each of your 4 rectangles and spray and press under the 2 remaining raw edge sides.

you will now have four 5" squares with all their edges folded under and the top edge stitched down:

grab your two front/back lining pieces and position and pin your pockets where you'd like them (again, freestyle this mofo and put them wherever you want. you can put them on the interior sides if you'd prefer, do just one big centered pocket...whatever gets your motor running):

now sew the pockets on in the same U route you did before, backstitching at the beginning and end of each pocket:

repeat for all of your pockets.

now you are going to construct the lining JUST like you did the exterior: sides to main pieces and then sew those 2 pairs together and then the bottom nonsense. (see above where all the crazy (*&#@%) characters are for a refresher)

a lining sack:

this is getting spine-tinglingly awesome, no?

time to add the straps!

cut 2 one yard pieces of heavy cotton webbing:
Oh, hi. this is what 50 yards looks like. yours will likely be smaller.

Take each of your yard-long sections of webbing and pin them with raw edges lined up to the top of the bag like so:
i've found that running the straps along the side of the main pocket leaves them at a really good width for carrying and it centers them as well. make sure youre straps arent twisted when you pin them in place.

repeat for the other side of the bag too.

now leave your exterior right side out, and flip your lining inside out. take the exterior and slide it inside the interior (aka, pockets will be facing):

shimmy it down in there all the way:
this is kind of sad because your pretty exterior fabric is getting eaten by the less exciting lining. dont worry. beautiful regurgitation is impending and the exterior will come out just as sparkly and debonair as lando calrissian did after his emergence from the great sarlacc of tatooine.

twist and rearrange things so that all the seams line up exterior to interior and pin each of the main seams in place:
i also pin in the middle of the long side so that it's not flapping in the wind. i also add another pin through the exterior/interior/straps to keep them well in place.

starting on one of the side pieces, backstitch and then sew all the way around the top raw edges of the bag:

stop sewing and backstitch when you cross over the 4th side seam, leaving about a hand's width gap turning. you want to make sure you have sewn over all 4 straps:
*in this pic my gap is between the straps, but the gap works better on the side as described

now the magic. reach inside the opening (all your pins better have been removed!!) and grab the bottom of the bag and pull it all out through the opening:

this is the best part of sewing for me. i cant help but feel like i have just successfully executed a transfiguration spell when this beauty springs forth from that little opening:

this is what we have now. our bag and attached lining with our hands-width gap still open. 

stuff the linig into the exterior:
at this point there is probably urine everywhere because you have peed your pants with excitement over how awesome this project is turning out. or is that just me and my weak pelvic floor?

use your fingers to fold under the unfinished edges in the gap area so that it looks just like the rest of the sewn perimeter. starting there, topstitch around the entire top of the bag about 1/8" from the top seam. this will not only close the turning gap but also reinforce your straps and give the bag a crisp finished look:

and just like that...BIG MOMMY BAG RISES!!!!

run promptly to your nearest body of water. feel free to carry everything you own because you now have room for it. make one for everyone mom you know within 1 miles. you are mommy. you are hero:

leave me any questions you may have in the comments section and i will try my best to answer them all.

again, if you're a lover not a fighter or a buyer not a sewer...you can just buy one of these bags from me in one of 30 fabrics HERE.

onward babes of summer!
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  1. Very Exciting K8! It looks amazing!!

  2. I love this bag and am drooling over those fun navy stripes! As much as I would like to attempt to make one, I think in order to use it this summer, I'm going to have to buy it from your shop :)

    1. i'm telling you, its all rectangles! you can do it.

  3. Why do we do this to ourselves? I too often wonder why I opt for being a pack mule instead of using a bigger bag. I can't sew, but I love love your version!

  4. Replies
    1. i am considering a summer childcare-for-beach-bag bartering system

  5. Def. want the tute. Go you! Your description of being burdened with bags made me lol, LOL I TELL YOU, because it was so true and apt and painfully real. Here's what I've found: if you wait long enough, your children get big enough to start carrying bags for you! And if you hit them at just the right time, they think it's a treat. Winning.

    1. ok i really had to sit here and gather myself because i thought you were saying if you literally hit your kids at the right time, they think it's a treat. i was concerned that you were both abusive and manipulative. hahaha.

  6. Oh please help me make this bag! My girls are nearly the exact ages your are (may 24, 09 and oct 13, 10). I'm exhausted just thinking about all I need to pack to do anything outside the pit we call a home! I am just learning to sew and you (and reachel at finding my feet) and my big inspirations. So keep up the good work!! I need you!! :)

    1. yay! you will so totally be able to do this bag and it will be carrying your whole life to the pool/beach. so cool how close our kids are

  7. Great bag, yes please to the tutorial! I have some great canvas that just might work if you share your steps to create the big bag!

    1. coming soon! i have already started shooting

  8. please please please post a tutorial asap. i love it!

  9. Where did you order your fabric? I can't find anything at JoAnns that is beach-bag-sufficient :)

    1. fabric.com! search finnigan. and always use a coupon code from retailmenot.com. i was SO bummed at joann's selection too.

  10. this tutorial is amazing! only wish I had a beach or pool to go to...dumb alaska and 50* weather! but--can you tell me the cursive font you used on the tutorial pics? thank you!

    1. i mean dont you need a winter carryall too for all of those arctic adventures? this would look just as cool in that setting. hahaha

      dont you LOVE that font? i am addicted. it's japan and i got it free here: http://www.dafont.com/japan.font

  11. You had me at "Lando Calrissian" and "weak pelvic floor." This tutorial is the bomb dot com!

    1. lando was 100% written with you in mind/heart.

  12. I love your tutorials. Quick question though - I'm in the Atlanta area too and can't find a great place to get fabric. Sometimes Hobby Lobby and Jo-Ann don't cut it. Have you found a place you love?

    1. yes...despite actually cutting it, they figuratively struggle...especially in this category. go to fabric.com. that is where i got my entire selection. they have free fast shipping when you spend $35 (easy for fabric addicts) and free return shipping too if something doesnt work out. ad they ALWAYS have at least a 15% off coupon if you check retailmenot.com. my stripes are called "finnigan" on that site...hope you can find something you like!

  13. Thanks. What a great thorough tutorial! I just made it and will be using it all summer long!

  14. I have made this for myself, several friends, the woman i nanny for, etc. everyone LOVES it. One thing i added was pleating the outside pockets to allow easier access and increased carrying capacity. I'm also considering doing it with interfacing to make it more stable. It's awesome. Thank you so much!

  15. This tutorial looks awesome and you are hilarious!

  16. what do you think about using window screen or something similar for the bottom to let the sand shake out (and minimize the stinky mildew-ey factor when I forget to empty it out right away)?

  17. What do you think about making the bottom out of window screen or something similar to let the sand drain out (and to minimize the stinky factor when I forget to empty it out right away)?

  18. What are the finished dimensions? I would believe 24L x 20H x 10w

  19. What are the finished dimensions of the bag? 24L x 20H x 10W??

    1. about 25" W x 17" H x 15" D because of the way the fabric lays.

  20. Thank you! Your tutorial was so easy to follow. I made one for myself and am now getting ready to make one for my son's teacher as an end of the year gift. Thanks for sharing, this one is a keeper.

  21. <3 love this post, so funny and great!

  22. I am attempting to make this bag. It is only the 4th thing I've made with my sewing machine... I got to the point where I need to put the bottom on, and was hoping to watch the video you made, but it says it is private and won't let me view it. Any way you could send it to me? Or point me where I can see how to do a seam like that.

    1. yes! sorry about that. i just fixed it.

  23. Correct me if I'm wrong but I think I figured out why my 24x20 squares won't fit. Are the side pieces 5"x 20" cut but opened up 10"x20"?

    1. yes! you are cutting on the fold so the depth of your cut is really only 5" when the depth of the piece will be 10" upon unfolding. that was confusing. i am going to add a note in the instructions. thank you!

  24. Thank you very much!!!! I made my own bag today. I made it a bit smaller but it's still huge.
    If you'd like to see it: http://nahmamaschine.blogspot.de/2013/06/badetasche_23.html

  25. Thank you, Thank you!!! This is fabulous!! As a family of 6 I needed something large enough to hold ALL of our JUNK! I typically make my own patterns and you just saved me TONS of time. To see my version: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=669083723106380&set=a.551900604824693.140301.451522458195842&type=1&theater

  26. I just finished your bag tonight!! I love, love, love it!!! I have a 9mon and a 2yr old and going to the pool or park is such a hassle with multiple bags. We are going camping tomorrow and I just packed life jackets, towels, and EVERYTHING! It is perfect.
    And for the record, I'm a newbie sewer and I only had to rip stitches once on this project (somehow when I was sewing the bottom onto the inside linen piece, I had flipped something and the nice edge was on the wrong side (not sure if I'm even using the right terms there, but hopefully it makes sense).
    But anyhow, thank you for the awesome tutorial. I'm on cloud nine because of this accomplishment, lol!!

  27. Yes, it is a nice big bag, but I don't think the straps will really support a full bag and will not last very long. Is there some other way to make the bag straps stronger or offer more support for the bag?

    1. might not look like it, but i can assure you from actually USING the same bag for two years that it very much does last. our bag is carried stuffed full to dozens of pool trips and at least 2 beach trips a year and it hasnt so much as popped a stitch. the webbing is ridiculously strong, the only point of strain would be where the straps attach to the bag and as i say in the tutorial you can back stitch several times. if youre extra nervous, feel free to do a box stitch for even more support. i carried my 30 lb toddler around in this bag with ZERo problems.

  28. I actually saw these on your etsy site first when I was looking for a ginormous beach bag to make. I just tried to follow the measurements off of that and now that I'm at the end, I found your tutorial. Guess I'll just have to make another. :-) Thank you so much! This is the bag I've been searching for. With two toddlers, I get major outing-phobia because I've never had a bag big enough to fit all the crap! But now I will. And so will 5 other friends (the first one got me carried away...like normal). Thanks again!

  29. Thank you LORD for this pattern! I am loving making these for friends!