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Sunday, 26 August 2012

How to make a PE bag

It's only a week and a bit left until the new school year (was that the sound of cheering amongst the mums?), I thought I'd give you some simple step by step instructions on how to make very simple PE bags. I promise you they are really easy to make, and hey, if you already have some fabric you could use, then it's one less thing to fork out for.

If you're buying fabric, you need some for the outside and some for the lining - I used upholstery weight. The amount you'll need for one bag is enough to make two bags. So, ideal if you have two children, or a bonus potential emergency birthday present to stash away in a cupboard for when the whole class birthday party invitations start rolling in.

You'll need:

Fabric A (outside) - one big piece measuring 42cm (height) x 70cm (width)
Fabric B (inside) - one big piece measuring 48cm x 70cm AND one little piece 10cm x 15cm
Thick cord - 1.5metres
Thread to match Fabric B
Fabric pen or ball point pen and big set square or ruler
Sewing machine
And, of course, a big mug of tea at your side...

So, on with the show.

Measure your fabric pieces. You need a big rectangle of each fabric - the lining piece should end up being about 6cm higher than the outside piece.

I use a disappearing fabric pen and big set square to draw straight onto the fabric - it wouldn't matter if you used an ordinary pen though.

Don't forget to cut a little rectangle, too - this will be for making the loops at the bottom of the bag, and we'll be sewing those first.

Evidence I can make things that are not pink!

It's the day of the biggest girl's birthday tea party. I put this here as evidence that I don't always whirr into home made loveliness for party bags - and you might wonder why on earth I am sat at my computer when I have a child's party looming. Procrastination, of course. See the THREE slabs of butter to the edge of the picture? They are waiting to be used for butter icing to smother over a big square cake until it looks like a princess castle. Which, by the way, darling daughter only requested a couple of days ago.

Those left over crispy bits couldn't possibly fit into another cake... (perk of job)
Ready to get going? (Tea still warm enough to be drinkable?)

Fold the little rectangle in half lengthways and sew a seam. My seams throughout this are about half a centimetre (i.e. lining the edge of the fabric up with the presser foot).

Give the seam a quick press open, and then push the tube you have made out the right way.

Press the tube, and snip it in half.

This may seem reckless (won't the seams come undone...?), but in this context, it will not matter at all, because the ends will soon be safely tucked up inside another seam.

Time to make the bag itself! Take the outer fabric, fold it in half so the shortest sides are meeting and the right side of the fabric is hidden.

Sew a seam, and press it open. If you really dislike ironing, the bag won't fall apart if you skip the ironing bits. Ironing at each stage gives the bag a nice crisp, professional finish - but, not forgetting it is still a bag destined to be crumpled amongst a pile of other PE bags at some point or other, so you have my permission to be a little lazier than normal when making this.

Once you have sewn your seam, take your little loop tabs...

The seam should be positioned in what will be the centre back of the bag - I have mine
slightly off centre, because I wanted to line the shoe print up so the shoes were centred.
Fold each one in half so that the seam is hidden, and position it at the bottom corner of the bag.

Gratuitous picture of chocolate brownies. (For the parents coming to the party)
Pin the tabs in place, and sew a big line the whole way across the bottom of the bag to sew them in place. I like to reinforce the tab seam a bit with some zig zag stitching, as this'll be the part of the bag that takes the strain (of all those toy bricks your children will be filling it with when not using it for its proper use).

Turn the bag the right way out... and iron it again.

Make the lining. Bring the two short sides of the lining piece together, just like you did with the outside piece.

Iron the seam open, and then sew a seam at the bottom of the lining. Once you've done that, iron a 1cm lip at the top of the bag - so that it is ironed outwards towards the wrong side of the lining.

Put the lining inside the bag - the wrong sides of the lining and bag should be touching. Get your hands inside and push the corners of the lining into the corners of the bag. Put a pin in each corner to keep the lining in that position whilst you sew.

Fold and iron over the extra long bit of the lining, and pin in place as you go. The finished channel I have made here measures 4cm - this is where the cord is going to be threaded through.

Sew the channel to the main bag - try and stay close to the edge. Start at the seam at the back of the bag, and leave a 2cm gap (to thread the cord through). To stop the opening coming undone, I made a little `L' shape at each end, as below, and backstitched carefully.

Apologies if this step is a bit obvious, but to overcome the annoyance of fraying cord, I just wrap a bit of sticky tape round the middle, and snip of the frayed bit.

Use this end, along with a safety pin through it, to push the cord through the channel and thread up the rest of the bag.


Time for another cup of tea, as you imagine the future glory you will enjoy in the playground, when other mums ask you where you bought that lovely PE bag from...

Thanks for reading - please feel free to share this link!


  1. Thanks so much Janet. Just made 3 for my kids, really easy to follow tutorial!

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  3. Fabulous, well done - really happy to have helped!X

  4. Thank you! This tutorial is amazingly simple to follow (and contains brownies - yummo!)

    Made my daughter one and will be uploading to my own blog (http://sewcuddlie.blogspot.co.uk/) before i go to bed. Also going to make my little boy one (and will probably be nagged until i make the baby one too!)

    Thanks x

  5. Thank you! My favourite bag tutorial by miles :) Easy peasy, both daughters now have their own custom bag to go back to school.
    Will be back :)

  6. Wow! Used this for one of my first real projects, and it has turned out so well! Really easy to make, and it looks good. Didn't try the brownies though, but defo had the cup of tea :)

  7. Thanks for the help. Really pleased with how it turned out and all ready for my big girl's first day at school. So simple, quick and individual.

  8. A great tutorial, thanks. Im a beginner sewer and I've just made my first ever PE bag for my daughter who starts school on Monday, eeek!!

  9. thanks Janet, I've made 2 for my granddaughters....now have an order for 3 more for ballet & tap shoes!!!!

  10. Hi, I've never sewn anything before and want to make this for my daughter but cannot find cord anywhere. Do you have any suggestions?

  11. If in UK, I would go to Dunelm Mill or John Lewis. But any half decent fabric shop will have upholstery cord. Good luck!

  12. Ebay have a search for barley twist cord. Thanks for the tutorial made my daughter's last year and just about to sew my son's>

  13. Thank you so much for sharing this tutorial. I have just made three of these for last minute back to school prep!

  14. So pleased I came across this...I shall use it to make a plate bag for my GD for camping with Brownies & Guides!

  15. Just finished 2 PE bags for my boys, just slightly smaller to suit the fabric I had for the lining.