Men’s Sewing: Classic Gym Bag


At the beginning of the year, I set myself a goal of making Brandon 6 projects throughout 2018. When I asked Brandon what he would like, one of the things he asked for was a small gym bag. He was looking for something just big enough to carry a change of clothes and sneakers.


I’ve made him a duffel bag in the past, but he was very specific that he wanted this bag to be much smaller. I struggled to find an appropriate pattern for a while, but in the end settled on a tutorial intended for a kid-sized bag. It turns out this is just what he had in mind. I’ve included a regular-sized Nalgene bottle in these pictures to give you an idea of how big it is.

This is a simple bag, with no lining or pockets, and is made up of just 6 pieces: a large rectangle for the body, 2 zipper facings, 2 circles for the ends, and a long skinny rectangle for the handles. The tutorial walks through the assembly process step-by-step, and even includes a little calculator for how to adjust the pattern to be bigger or smaller. The hardest part of making this bag was attaching the end circles to the main body rectangle in the round. I had a hard time easing the two pieces together. It is not a completely smooth seam, but there are some puckers along the way. This is a gym bag, though, so I wasn’t too concerned about perfection.


Fortunately, I had almost all of the materials I needed for this bag in my stash. The handles are made from scraps leftover from a previous project, and the zipper was in my stash (my mom bought a collection of zippers at an auction a couple of years ago, and I’m still benefiting). I only had to order the main fabric. After doing quite a bit of research on materials used in RTW duffel bags, I ordered a 420 Denier nylon from The material was quite inexpensive, but there was a minimum order of 2 yards. I only used about ½ yard for this project, so I have plenty of fabric left to make more bags in the future.


Speaking of…. I really want to make a gym bag for myself now. I have a very specific design in mind, though, and I can’t find a pattern that matches that vision exactly. I want it to have a separate compartment for shoes, and maybe also a separate compartment for dirty clothes, so as to not contaminate the rest of the bag’s contents. I also would like it to have an external strap to securely hold a yoga mat. I will have to do some thinking in order to adapt an existing pattern to my vision. Stay tuned! It may be a while before that project comes to fruition.

Fabric: ½ yard maroon 420 Denier nylon from @ $7.99.yd, scrap from stash for handles
Notions: 18″ separating zipper
Cost: $3.99 fabric + zipper and thread from stash = $3.99
Time: 3 hours



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