Cargo Duffle Turned Flight Bag: A Cautionary Tale

Cotton and Steel Flight Bag Collage tiger hatbox print fabric

This bag all started when I wanted to make a version of Noodlehead’s Cargo Duffle Free Pattern on Robert Kaufman’s website. However – it calls for a 26 inch zipper – something I don’t currently have. Since I’ve got several different types of bags under my belt I decided to loosely follow the instructions and change the dimensions. Using graph paper, I sketched out what I wanted my version to look like.

Here are the dimensions I ended up with to incorporate a beautiful gold 14 inch zipper I wanted to use:

  • Exterior top panel – 5 x 10 inches
  • Exterior bottom panel 3 x 10 inches
  • Zipper top gusset (after zipper is sewn in) 5 x 14 inches
  • Bottom gusset – 5 x 22 inches

Cotton and Steel Hatbox Tiger Print Flight Bag Construction

Quite honestly, I think I’m going to stick with making bags that incorporate linings or can be easily modified to include one. The original plan was to add handles on each side in between the top and bottom panels along with a slip pocket, but I totally forgot to do that…So Plan B ended up being to add D rings in between the top and bottom gussets to use with an adjustable strap on swivel clips – using Sew Sweetness’s awesome tutorial.

I’m so used to being able to hide raw seams with a lining that I ran into several roadblocks like covering up the seam where the top and bottom panels met. (Later – as in today – I realized that Noodlehead’s pattern calls for the top panel to be the full dimensions of the panel (with fabric/batting/interfacing) and then to just sew on the bottom “panel” as just another layer of fabric over all of it. Ugh!) My “fix” was to sew a thin piece of folded fabric over the seam inside, but those stitches are now visible from the outside of the bag and aren’t the most attractive. (Don’t look too closely!) Same thing with the location where the gusset pieces meet.  I did not take into account that my 14 inch zipper is really more like 16 inches with the end pieces, so when I sewed my zipper in there was no room for seam allowances or for say – sewing on binding tape as the pattern calls for.  I ended up hand sewing that portion.

Cotton and Steel Hatbox Tiger Print Flight Bag Interior

Because I wanted to carry this bag as a purse – I really needed to have at least one pocket inside for my phone.  Of course – this also had to be hand sewn in.  My fingers were so sore the next day!

For interfacing, I really went off the reservation.  Instead of using cotton batting and canvas – my exterior fabric was Cotton + Steel’s Hatbox tiger print canvas, batting was substituted for Bosal In-R-Foam Plus, and I used a Target Threshold Performance cotton sheet for the interior. Often I find them seriously on clearance and have been using them for linings and recently tried a flat sheet as a quilt back.  Works just fine and is much more affordable. I’ve tried both Annie’s Soft and Stable and the Bosal In-R-Foam Plus. Here’s my opinion – Annie’s is more lofty, but Bosal is more stable with slightly less loft – Bosal is also slightly cheaper. (That’s a relative term, because both are pricey to begin with) For the bottom gusset, I had a scrap piece of Peltex 70 ultra firm sew in interfacing that was the perfect size.

Cotton and Steel Hatbox Tiger Print Flight Bag Close Up Exterior

Sewing the quilted portions together was relatively easy, but I did have to be careful not to get any puckers, as it would be extremely noticeable. I used Wonder Clips to hold the pieces together, and lined them up by marking the centers on all pieces using an air soluble marking pen.

The most difficult step was adding binding tape to the exposed interior seams. This was a b$&#ch. I suspect it’s for two reasons, mainly.  Much thicker interfacing than the pattern called for, and because I used my vintage Singer 201 2 to construct most of the bag. (Still no replacement walking foot for my Brother SE 400 – shopping around for a new sewing machine and don’t want to spend money accessories for it) The Singer is great for sewing through thick layers, but it’s hard to control where your stitches are going. My binding tape looks terrible up close.

Singer 201 2 vintage sewing machine
Looks beautiful, but don’t let that fool you!

By far, the easiest thing out of this whole project was making an adjustable strap on swivel clips, using the Sew Sweetness tutorial.  That took just under an hour and the strap looks great!

This bag ended up looking not at all like the Cargo Duffle – I’m going to call it a “Flight Bag” – but it does show that you can take any bag pattern that you already love (or have never tried before, as in my case!) and modify the dimensions or add/subtract features to customize it to your liking.

Cotton and Steel Flight Bag Finished

Each project I tackle has challenges, and I always learn a few new things to take with me to the next project.

Today, I am participating in’s WIP Wednesday!

See you next time!


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