Brancaster Bag Sewing Tutorial

The Brancaster pattern is a Tote bag with lots of optional add on features making this my all time favourite DIY DAY OUT BAG!

Recessed top zip and optional extra pockets make this bag so handy. I even designed the strap to carry a mat depending on what you are using your bag for, picnic, swimming, yoga? The possibilities are endless.

Freckles and Co Brancaster Bag sewing pattern

This bag can be as simple or complicated as you like.

For experienced stitchers the extra details will appeal, but if you are a beginner why not make the main bag and lining with no extras for practice and then pimp your next bag with the optional details as you build your skills.

You can make this bag with guidance on one of my Pattern Workshops or read on for the full instructions.

Before you start you will need to draft your pattern pieces to the measurements below.

Or grab a copy of my print at home PDF SEWING PATTERN.

Maxi size:
  1. Main - 28x25" (cut 2)
  2. Lining - 28x24" (cut 2)
  3. Outer pocket - 10.5x21" (cut 1)
  4. Inner pocket - 8x4" (cut 2) 8x15" (cut 2)
Tote size:
  1. Main - 22x21" (cut 2)
  2. Lining - 22x20" (cut 2)
  3. Pockets are same as Maxi

PDF sewing pattern comes in print size A4 and US LETTERFreckles and Co Brancaster Bag sewing pattern

Your pattern will also come with Graphic Instructs which you can print or view online.

Freckles and Co Brancaster bag instructs


For this project you will need to following kit:


Alternatively make your own straps finished size - 1.5" wide / 70" long x2

  • Zip 1 - Closed ended nylon zip - Maxi + Tote 9" (for optional inner zip pocket)
  • Zip 2 - Open ended sports zip - Maxi 20" / Tote 16" (for optional recessed zip closure)


Cut out all your fabrics in advance. Choose a good pair of sharp fabric scissors or rotary cutter which is my preferred cutting tool.

Sewing cutting tools

Now let's get sewing!

If your chosen fabrics fray easily finish your edges now with a zip zag stitch or overlock/serged edge.

Your Brancaster is made up of 2 bags the main outer and the lining, let's start by making the lining.


1. SEW side seams RST (right sides together) 5/8" or 1.5cm seam allowance and PRESS seam allowances open.

Freckles Brancaster Bag Lining

2. SEW base leaving a gap approx 4" in the center and PRESS

Freckles Brancaster Bag Base

3. SEW corners across base seam (matching base and side seam on top of one another)

     (Optional) INNER ZIP POCKET

    1. SEW zip tape to TOP of pocket lining and outer fabric by sandwiching the zip in between the fabrics RST (Right sides together). Start with small top pieces and note pattern direction. Sew using a zip foot.

    Freckles and Co Brancaster Bag Sewing tutorialFreckles and Co Brancaster Bag Sewing tutorial

    2. SEW zip tape to long BOTTOM pocket pieces.

    Freckles and Co Brancaster Bag Sewing tutorial

    3. PRESS fabrics close to zip teeth (don't melt the teeth)

    4. OPEN ZIP half way

    Freckles and Co Brancaster Bag Sewing tutorial

    5. Fold main fabric (1) up and OVER the zip. Fold lining fabric (2) up and UNDER the zip, match corners and PIN or CLIP.

    (Trust me at this point!)

    Freckles and Co Brancaster Bag Sewing tutorialFreckles and Co Brancaster Bag Sewing tutorialFreckles and Co Brancaster Bag Sewing tutorial

    6. SEW down either side of your layered pocket.

    Freckles and Co Brancaster Bag Sewing tutorial

    7. TRIM excess zip tape and clip corners.

    Freckles and Co Brancaster Bag Sewing tutorial

    8. TURN front Fabric (1) out over the whole thing. Ta Da!

    Freckles and Co Brancaster Bag Sewing tutorial

    9. BASTE/TACK pocket to Lining bag RIGHT SIDE

    Baste pocket to Lining bag

      (Optional) OUTER POCKET/S

      The outer pocket is a handy little detail for easy access to a water bottle, phone or purse/wallet.

      1. FOLD outer pocket piece in half WRONG sides together

      2. TOP STITCH top folded edge 0.5cm

      3. Lay pocket face down onto outer bag noting base line on pattern. STITCH along baseline side to side across pocket.

      4. FOLD pocket up and PIN ready for the straps.

        MAIN BAG

        You have a few different options with the straps here depending on whether you have added an outer pocket or want to leave a gap for a picnic/yoga mat.

        You can use the webbing that I recommended above or make your own 1.5" straps

        1. PIN a strap to each main outer bag side using guide on pattern. MATCH straps at base on each main Bag piece.

        Side option A - to catch in an outer pocket: SEW along outer edge of strap up to 17" from base seam, sew horizontally across strap and SEW back down the inner edge (catching your pocket sides)

        Side option B - leave a gap for a mat instead of the pocket

        SEW a cross detail at top and base line on strap.

        SEW main bag pieces at base first matching straps / PRESS seam allowance open.

        TOP STITCH strap wastage down at base seam.

        SEW main bag pieces then at sides RST / PRESS seams open

        JOIN base corners

        Freckles Brancaster Bag

          (Optional) RECESSED ZIP CLOSURE

          For this you will need an OPEN ENDED ZIP

          1. Measure zip end to end (exclude excess tape either end)

          2. CUT 2 strips 3" wide and same length as zip + 1", fold in half and NOTCH at center mark.

          3. Sew raw ends of one strip (1/4" seam allowance).

          Freckles Brancaster Bag

          4. PRESS seams open, TURN loop so that the seam is centred underneath as shown above.

          5. INSERT zip face up (be sure to have joining seam underneath)

          Freckles Brancaster Bag

          6. SEW using a ZIPPER FOOT

          7. TURN zipper out, PRESS and TOP STITCH (3mm stitch length) open the zip for the last inch to get around the bulky pull.

          Freckles Brancaster BagFreckles Brancaster Bag

          8. REPEAT to the other side of zip

          Freckles Brancaster Bag

          9. Split zip and tack/baste the strip to right side of main bag, centralize and match any notches.

            JOIN BAGS

            1. INSERT lining bag into outer bag RST, tuck in straps so they inside and not visible

            Make Brancaster tote bag sewing instructions

            2. MATCH side seams and SEW around top edge through all layers

            3. TURN through gap in lining (Note - Lining bag is less deep so it should pull 1" of outer pattern down inside the bag)

            4. If you added the recessed zip check that you have inserted this the right way? If not now is the time to fix that!

            5. FOLD, press and clip/pin the top edge of your bag (Note Lining bag is less deep so it should show 1" of outer pattern down inside the bag)

            6. TOP STITCH in the ditch (5mm stitch length) lift straps up so that they DO get caught in the top stitch.

              LASTLY - Close up the gap in your lining with 0.5mm top stitch

              Freckles and Co Brancaster Bag finish

              Well... how did it turn out?

              Make Freckles and Co Brancaster Bag

              If you are super pleased with the result please comment below and share your make with me over on Instagram @frecklesandcocraft #frecklessewingpatterns. 

              I will also make a video course to support this project so if you are interested go SUBSCRIBE to my YouTube channel

              Diy tote bag farmers market fabric

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