Safari Duffle


Sometimes I can track how my latest obsession came into being and sometimes I have no idea where it originated from.  This project falls distinctly in the latter category because I can't quite remember when I became smitten with the idea of sewing up a duffle bag.  I'd like to think that it has a little something to do with all the childhood associations I have with duffle bags.   You see, we moved a lot when I was a kid and every move meant packing up my duffle bag and heading off to the next place.  This continued well into the teenage years and, in fact, when heading off to college, that's all that I took with me - 2 duffle bags of belongings.  Even as an adult, duffle bags continue to hold a special place in my heart and being the stubborn person that I am, I've refused to purchase a suitcase with wheels and instead continue to lug duffle bags and backpacks around airports.  The only problem is that our last remaining duffle bag is humongous and not particularly practical for all occasions so I knew that a smaller duffle bag would end up getting a lot of use.
In determining what pattern to use, I considered the Grainline Studio Portside Duffle but in my googling spree I cam across this free Safari Duffle Pattern offered by Sew4Home and it jumped to the top of my list because:

1) It's free and free is my favorite price
2) Look how fantastic it is!

I'm not the most experienced bag maker so I was a little leery of using a pattern and tutorial from a website that I wasn't familiar with but I'm happy to say that this one was fantastic.  I would say that my biggest feedback on this pattern is that it should include some instructions on reinforcing vital seams - something that I learned from making the Desmond Backpack.  I ended up sewing all the bag seams twice and reinforced the straps with 5 rows of stitching on top of each other since they'll be under a considerable amount of stress and I don't want them to come off.
As for the fabrics, I spent a lot of time debating what to use.  In the end I used an incredibly heavy canvas from Seattle Outdoor Fabrics for the main exterior fabric.  It's seriously heavy - something like 16 oz, so I opted to leave out the interfacing called for in the pattern.  On a side note, I love that store but bringing two rambunctious kids there is a bit of a nightmare.  At one point they almost knocked over a 6 foot tower of packages to be sent out and I kept thinking that they were going to knock over and be buried under giant bolts of fabric (Spoiler alert - we all survived).  The inner lining is Canvas Jungle by Cotton + Steel, allowing me to give into my deep love of fabric with animals on it. I'm kind of kicking myself for not paying close attention when cutting out the lining and ending up with sideways tigers but in the words of Alanis - you live, you learn.
The duffle has 2 exterior pockets but I felt the need for interior pockets as well so I added two elasticized interior pockets.  The zippers were just purchased from Joann Fabrics (of note, the pattern called for a separating zipper but that's not really necessary) and the hardware is all from the Bag Maker Supply shop on Etsy.  It's probably not the cheapest place to get them from, but they have an amazing selection and I'm so happy with my purchases.  It's not easy to find brass hardware in the wild and I love the way that it coordinates with the brass teeth on the zippers.
As for the bottom fabric, my original idea was to make it out of Moda black duck cloth and to use quilting to add stabilization rather than interfacing.  Once it was all sewn up though, I quickly realized that the difference in stiffness between the sides and the bottom was just too great and I ended up sewing in a layer of the exterior fabric to the back of the bottom to add some more structure.  It wasn't the most well thought out solution but it seems to have worked out okay.
Oh, and if you have an eye for detail you'll notice that I made a typical Carolyn mistake in sewing up this bag in that I reversed the placement of the D-rings and swivel clasps.  I felt like a complete and total idiot for making that mistake, but as it turns out it doesn't affect the functionality of the bag at all and I'm guessing that most people wouldn't even notice (except that I just pointed it out to you).
And that, folks, is a wrap on my new favorite project.


  1. What needle did you use in your machine? Thank you.

  2. Completely awesome! And all, I assume, on a regular sewing machine! There are some heavy duty layers there. I do love that you won't buy a wheeled suitcase. Most luggage is just so utilitarian and ugly isn't it? By the way, the sideways tigers are charming, because they look like they're trying to prance out of the bag.

  3. This is so impressive! Sideways jungle cats and all. We are definitely team rolling suitcase for our moves, but when I get to travel without kids (all two times that has happened since having them) I like a duffle, too.

  4. I love that this is a "small" duffle bag?! Dear heavens, how large is the large one??? This is a fantastic make, I love the lining and the details. The upside down hardware sounds like something I would do too.


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