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May 16

Diaper bag with a divider

I’m pregnant, and I recently bought a fancy-pants designer diaper bag that’s compact and looks like a purse. But, really, who am I trying to kid? I could maybe fit the contents of my purse in there, but with baby stuff, too? No way. I mean, every day when I walk into work I have a tote bag, a purse and a lunch cooler that looks like a purse (and they are all in different patterns, so I look like some sort of mismatched hobo). Add a baby’s needs to this, and I had to get serious and accept the fact that I’m going to need something bigger. Much bigger.
I set off on a quest to make the most useful diaper bag I could. I had made some for friends before, but I really wanted a center divider. You can carry your stuff and baby’s stuff, all in one bag. It’s a biggun, measuring about 19″ long, 12″ tall and 6″ wide.I completely redesigned and came up with this one. I’ll admit, I was winging it and wondered if somewhere I’d realize I’d made some fatal miscalculation on how it would all come together. But guess what? It came together perfectly. Now I’m going to walk you through the same project.What’s exciting about this bag? It’s full of useful surprises! It’s got a divider inside and lots of pockets, including some with elastic that pull out, which are great for bottles. 


ETA: This is a complicated bag; some beginners have felt that this bag is a little tough. I am always happy to answer your questions — just leave a post in the comments at the bottom and I’ll reply there. You can search our blog for other, simpler bag tutorials if you’d like something more basic. Please note, in regard to questions, that I’m always happy to answer them but that I did this project in 2010.
If you’ve ever wondered how to put a divider in a bag, I’ll walk you through that. This bag also has a lot of body, so it stands up on its own. As always, if you need help or don’t understand something in my instructions, please contact me using the e-mail link in the “contact” page to the right.

Share your bag!

NOTE: This is one of our more popular projects. If you make it, please share pictures with us on our Flickr page! Also, submit anything made with fabrics from Warehouse Fabrics Inc. to our gallery page. Simply click “Add Photo to Gallery” just above the pictures.

Adding a zipper

NOTE #2: Many have asked about adding a zipper to this bag. I eventually did another bag tutorial with a recessed zipper. If you’d like to add a zipper to this bag, I’d recommend that method. Please visit this post.


(Click fabrics for direct links for purchase at Warehouse Fabrics Inc.)

Sundeck black - ODSUKBLK

Sundeck black – ODSUKBLK

Elizabeth black/yellow – ELHBLW

Fancy black/yellow – FAYBLW

Melrose black/yellow – MEEBLW

Strap hardware

Stiff interfacing

Fusible fleece


1/4″ elastic

I used a yard each of the black and the Elizabeth. I used half a yard each of the Melrose and Fancy. I used about 66 inches of piping cord, 4 purse strap hardware squares, 1 magnetic snap, 1 yard of fusible fleece and 2.5 yards of Craft Fuse interfacing. I would guess that I used about 30″ of elastic, but I actually was using up scraps.

The pattern

I didn’t make a downloadable pattern this time because all of the pieces are rectangles. Just draw pieces to these dimensions. (Yep. There’s a lot of cutting!) (numbers are width x height, in case you are using a directional print)Bag front/back, exterior and interior:20″x13″cut 2 main fabric (in my case, black) cut 2 lining fabric #1cut 2 fusible fleececut 2 interfacing (I used Craft Fuse)Bag sides, exterior:7″x13″

cut 2 main fabric

cut 2 fusible fleece

cut 2 interfacing (I used Craft Fuse)

Bag bottom, exterior:


cut 1 main fabric

cut 1 fusible fleece

cut 1 interfacing (I used Craft Fuse)

Bag sides, interior:


cut 4 lining fabric #1

Bag bottom, interior:


cut 2 lining fabric #1

Divider, interior:


cut 2 lining fabric #2

cut 2 interfacing

Exterior pockets:


cut 4 lining fabric #1

Straight pocket, interior:


cut 2 lining fabric #3

Long elastic pocket, interior:


cut 2 lining fabric #3

Side elastic pockets, interior:


cut 4 lining fabric #3

Straps (makes 2):


cut 2 main fabric

Strap tabs (makes 4):


cut 4 main fabric


1.5″x 21″

cut 3 lining fabric #3

Note: There is a piping tutorial here, but in this particular case I did not cut on the bias. I just cut along the grain line. I don’t need my piping to hug any curves in this particular case, so non-bias piping is fine.

1/2″ seam allowances throughout

The process

Fuse interfacing to the two exterior side and front pieces, plus the exterior bottom (left). Not all pieces are shown here. Then fuse fleece on top of the interfacing (right). In my example, all of my exterior pieces are solid black. So, each piece of the exterior bag is fabric plus interfacing plus fleece.
You’ll make two straps according to the directions in the Non-Turn Strap Tutorial, but first press under a quarter-inch on each end so you have no raw edges when all is said and done (left). Then make three 22″ pieces of piping according to the Piping Tutorial. Please note that unlike in the tutorial, I did not cut these strips on the bias. It really wasn’t necessary since I’m not going to be hugging any curves (right).
NOTE: In this photo above, you are looking at my pocket pieces for the exterior. I have used a piece of solid black for one side and a piece of the print for the other. With raw edges together, sew the piping to one long edge of an outer pocket piece (left). You want the piping to end up 1/2″ away from the raw edge. Sew the other outer pocket piece over that, sandwiching the piping in between (right). This is much easier with a piping foot, but you can also use a zipper foot. Just try to get as close to the piping as possible.
I’ve opened up my piping sandwich, and this is what I have. Now press so that the wrong sides of those fabrics are together and the piping is at the top. You can see that one side of my pocket is black, one is the print.
In these photos, I’ve laid my outer pockets on top of my other front pieces. In one photo I have the black side of the pocket showing, in the other I have the printed side. I am trying to decide which I want to have facing out.
You see, I have a tendency to make lots of bags with bold prints, but then I spend a lot of time lamenting the fact that I don’t have a solid black purse or bag. So I promised myself that for this bag, the exterior would be primarily black. The fun would be on the inside, right? The pocket piping would give you a hint of the exciting stuff in the interior. I was going to arrange the outer pockets as in the photo on the left. Except then the prints got to me. WHAT DO I DO!?! Well, if you knew me at all, you wouldn’t even be asking that question.
So the print won. And I’m sure glad it did. I’m telling you, the bag is so much cuter this way! In this picture, I’ve basted the pocket onto the front piece by sewing along the sides and bottom ONLY. I’ve also sewn a line down the center of the pocket through all layers of the pocket and exterior bag piece to create two pockets of equal size.
Now sew the exterior bottom piece to the side pieces. In this picture, the white is the back side of the bottom piece. I’ve sewn through the bottom, the pocket and the main bag piece. Stop about 1/2″ from each end to leave room for other seams in a few minutes.
This is the exterior bag, laid flat, without the sides. #1 is the exterior front with pocket, #2 is the bottom of the bag and #3 is the exterior back with pocket (of course, front and back are the same in this case).
This is the bag laid flat. I hope the labeling helps you understand what you’re viewing. I’ve attached the exterior sides to the front panel. The tops of the pieces should line up exactly. Due to seam allowances, the sides will extend past the bottom of the front piece. This will give you seam allowance for sewing it to the bottom piece in a minute.
But before you sew the bottom piece to the side piece, sew the other side of the side piece to the back piece. Did that make any sense!? Now you’ve got a nice box, and the only thing that’s open is the top and the two side pieces where they meet the base of the bag.
Now you’ll sew that bottom seam where the base of the bag and the sides of the bag come together. It can get bulky, but try to sew from one existing side seam to the next. If you go from raw edge to raw edge, you won’t get as nice of corners.
Turn your bag right-side out, and your exterior is done, except for straps! Admire for a few minutes, patting yourself on the back for choosing the printed side of the pockets. Good choice! So what if you’ll clash with practically everything you wear?
Alright, that’s enough. Back to work. It’s time for the interior. We’ll start with the divider. Apply fusible interfacing to each divider piece. Sew the piping on and sew the pieces together just like you did for the exterior pocket. The sides and bottom will remain raw edges.
Because of the divider, instead of having one bag bottom piece like on the exterior, we’ll have two, one on each side of the divider. Sandwich the bottom (raw) edge of the divider between the two interior bottom pieces and sew. Press open. Now your only raw edges on the divider are along the sides.
Next up is the elastic pocket. I wanted pockets that could hold fairly large objects, like bottles, securely. Right sides together, place the long elastic pocket pieces together and sew a 1/2″ seam allowance along one long end. Turn right-side out and press.
Sew a casing for the elastic. I sewed mine about 1/2″ away from the finished edge.
using a safety pin, thread the elastic through the casing.
You’ll gather it up some (left), then secure one end with some stitches (center). Gather from the free end until the elastic part is the same width as the interior front panel (right). Then secure the other side of the elastic with stitches.
The bottom of the elastic pocket is still much bigger than the interior front panel. So what do you do? There are two options. One is to make little folds, like pleats, and just sew it down (left). The other I’ll show a few steps below. After basting the raw edges of the pocket to the interior front panel, make a few divider pockets so that it’s not just one huge, long pocket (right).
Now we’ll make the nonelastic pocket for the other side of the interior. Place these pocket pieces right side together and sew along one long edge. Turn and press. Then top-stitch a little ways from the finished edge (left). Pin to the bottom edge of the interior back (again, it’s the same as the “front” but I’m just trying to differentiate the pieces) and baste around the raw edges. Stitch some dividing lines in. I like to make one that’s about the size of a pen, which I’m demonstrating with my finger, as a real pen would have required me to reach about 18 inches.
OK, back to the side with the elastic pockets: On this side (what I’ve referred to as the “front”), the interior sides of the bag will have elastic pockets, too. On the other side, I did not add pockets to the sides of the bag. Do these little pockets the same way you did the big one. Here, I’ve demonstrated an alternative way to deal with the bottom of the pocket. Instead of pleating it roughly, I’ve sewn gathering stitches and gathered it (left). Baste it in place (right).
Sew your front and back pieces to the bottom pieces. The pictures may be confusing, but it’s really just the bag laid flat. At left, I’m showing you the “interior back,” with the dividing pocket (dots) flipped the other way. At right, I’m showing you the “interior front” with the divider (dots) flipped up. So in the right photo, the divider is covering the nonelastic pockets. Confused?
What? You’re still here? Congratulations for sticking with me! Thanks for making all of this work on my part worthwhile! Now, let’s sew the sides of the interior in. Sew the pocketless side pieces to the sides of the “interior back.” Remember what I said above about lining up the edges of the tops of the pieces and that you’ll have a bit of hangover at the bottom (left). PLEASE NOTE: on one of these edges, leave a large section unstitched for turning later (back stitch at each edge of this hole for reinforcement later). In the left-hand picture, I’ve left the left side seam mostly open. That was a lot of “lefts” in one sentence.Do the same for the elastic pocket side, but don’t leave a seam open (right).
Now sew the bottom pieces to the side pieces. You still haven’t connected the side pieces to the interior divider. This is a different order than how we did the exterior, but just go with me here. Stop at the seam line, so you have about 1/2″ unsewn (center). This is what it will look like (right). That edge on the right will connect with the interior divider in a minute.
On either side, sandwich the interior divider between the raw edges of the side pieces, right sides together.
It worked! I was getting kind of nervous at this point that something wasn’t going to work out for me here. But it did. I am exuding so much confidence with this tutorial that I’m sure you never even noticed I was winging this, right? I mean, other than the fact that I keep pointing that out.
Attach the magnetic snaps using the Magnetic Snap Tutorial. Mark a dot halfway across the interior front and back pieces and 1-1/4″ down from the raw top edge.
Make four strap tab pieces in the same manner you made the straps themselves, only you don’t need to worry about raw edges. The three pieces at the top are finished. The one at the bottom shows you how the raw edges are brought to the center, then you fold that in half and press.
Decide how far in from each edge you want your straps and mark. Fold each tab in half and slide a square ring into the fold. Sew the tabs onto the exterior of the bag with raw edges together and rings hanging down. Sew within the 1/2″ seam allowance so you don’t see this stitching later.
With the exterior of the bag right-side out and the interior inside out, slide the exterior inside the interior on the side with the open edge.
Line up side seams and pin all the way around. Sew 1/2″ from top edge. I prefer to sew from the side with all of the fleece and interfacing because it tends to feed more evenly. In other words, fleece side up, noninterfaced side down.
Turn the whole bag through this hole. It seems impossible, but if you go slow, you’ll have no trouble. Press the top edge and top-stitch around it to secure lining inside of bag.Sew the hole closed. I just pin it shut, turning in the seam allowances, and top stitch. You can also slip stitch by hand for a less-noticeable finish.
We’re almost done! On the straps, mark 1-1/4″ from each finished edge.
Loop through the rings so that the mark you just made is on the fold. Sew close to edge to secure. YOU’RE FINISHED! If you think that took you a long time, try documenting and creating this tutorial! Phew! I hope you give it a try. It takes some work, but it’s way cuter than most store-bought diaper bags, and you can choose any prints you like!

Other views

(Click for bigger views)

  • Isabelle

    what size piping cord did you use? I have never worked with piping cord before and I’m not sure what size of piping foot I need either. I can’t wait to start this project!

  • Isabelle,

    It’s been so long since I made this, but I’d guess it was this:

    I just have a standard piping foot — it fits the premade piping from the store. Some people just use a zipper foot, but I definitely prefer the piping foot!

  • SmoothCriminal

    I tried to know more about honest diaper, In this case I need your help!!

  • Tavo Boyd

    A few questions…Please bare with me as I am still somewhat confused as to what is happening here….
    1. The sewing of the divider onto the interior bottom? I read the instructions about the cutting, but I am suppose to have 2 interior bottom pieces, so that when I sew those two pieces with the divider, it will be a total of 3 pieces (divider, one bottom interior and another one bottom interior)? Right?
    2. How big of an opening do I need to have to turn the bag right side out?
    Sorry for the questions.

  • Don’t be sorry! We welcome questions. So when you sew the bottom of the interior with the divider, you’ll have three pieces. You’ll sandwich the bottom edge of the divider between the two bottom bag pieces and sew.

    It’s been a long time since I made this bag, but I’d say you should leave a pretty big opening because there is a lot of material to turn. Therefore I’d sew the last few inches of each side of the seam with the hole in it and leave most of the seam open.

    Hope this helps.

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  • Tavo Boyd

    Gotcha…Thanks. I am so anxious to start this for my niece and nephew, who will be expecting their first baby this October. I will definitely post pics of the finished product. Thank you again for your help. 🙂

  • Tavo Boyd

    Sorry to bother you again, but I have another question.

    I have everything cut, but I have A LOT of Fusible Fleece left over. Am I suppose to use the Fusible Fleece on the Main Lining interior fabric? I see that you call 2 for the FF. (BTW, I’m talking about the first cuts. “Bag front/back, exterior and interior: 20″x13″, cut 2 main fabric (in my case, black), cut 2 lining fabric #1, cut 2 fusible fleece, cut 2 interfacing (I used Craft Fuse)” section.
    I have the FF for everything, and the interfacing for everything that calls for it, and I have not fused anything together for fear that I may have goofed up, but I’m completely stumped as to why I have so much FF left over. Did I do something wrong? I feel like I only used about 3/4 of a yard out of the 2 yards that I purchased. Not that I mind though because I’m constantly using it for other projects, but before I put the FF aside I want to be sure that I didn’t mess up.
    Thank again.

  • No problem at all. Hmmm. Well, you only need fleece for each of the outer pieces and the bottom, so I’m not sure why you have so much left over. Could be that my fleece was a single thickness and yours was doubled up or something like that. I also could have made a mistake in the instructions, but nobody else has pointed that out so I’m not sure. As long as you have one piece of fleece for each of the outer bag pieces (front, back, two sides, bottom), you should be good.

  • Tavo Boyd

    Huh…Oh well.
    I use a lot of it for my projects, now I just have more…lol
    I will post pics this weekend, when I pick up the project again.

    Till then…

  • Tavo Boyd

    Ok, another question.
    So the exterior pockets, how is it that you sewed the black, piping and the printed fabric, but in your cutting directions, for the exterior pocket, you only stated to cut 2 main fabric (in your case the black fabric) but in your pictures it shows that you have printed fabric, piping and black? Am I suppose to cut more fabric?
    Here is a description of my fabric; main fabric is yellow a baby butter yellow, and my lining/patter is a puppy, duckling pattern. My piping fabric is rubber duckies in puddles of water.
    You’ll be getting a lot of these from me…lol

  • Tavo Boyd

    Nevermind! I got it. It helps to read the full instructions more than twice.

  • Amelia

    What type of material do you suggest using? We have to shop locally to get the fabric we need for our design.

  • Amelia,
    We used a 7 oz. cotton duck fabric, if that helps. You don’t want upholstery weight fabric — that would be too heavy. But quilting cotton may be on the light side. You could make it work, but it may not have as much body.

  • Christine Waller

    Thanks so much for the directions for the diaper bag…I made this bag for my daughter-in-law and my upcoming granddaughter and I am so excited how it came out!! 🙂

  • You’re welcome. Thanks for stopping by! Congrats on Grandmotherhood.

  • Alaynah Seibert

    2 questions. I’m using regular cotton material. Is that going to work out ok? And do I just use the material for the exterior pockets or should I put either the fusible fleece or interfacing in it?

  • Hi Alaynah,
    Cotton quilting weight fabric won’t be quite as stiff, but I think it will be OK with the Peltex and all of the interfacing. If you’re using quilting weight fabric, you may want to use some interfacing on the outer pockets just to give it a little more overall stiffness. Best of luck!

  • Alaynah Seibert

    thank you!!

  • Alaynah Seibert

    Sorry I have another question, and I can’t promise it will be the last lol ( I’m not a pro ) … so for the piping … can I use premade “maxi piping bias tape”, and if so, how wide should it be??

  • No problem at all. You can certainly use premade piping. I thought it was all one size, though. You can just use the standard piping at the store.

  • Alaynah Seibert

    ok! thanks again 🙂

  • Rebekah LaCombe

    is there a way to make this diaper bag without the center devider?? i use cloth so I need the whole bottom space since i will have cloth for two!! THanks!! =) I love the bag by the way!! =)

  • Hi Rebekah,
    You could easily make it without the divider. For the lining, you’d simply use the same measurements as for the outer part of the bag.

  • Rebekah LaCombe

    Okay thank u soo much!!:) I came across this bag cuz I need a HUGE sturdy bag now that I have 2 in cloth!!:) lol thank u for the tutorial!!:)

  • Clare Monti

    A bit of a beginner question: when you say 1/2 inch seam allowance throughout; do I add that 1/2 inch when I’m cutting out pieces or are they included in the measurements you give for cutting? Great looking bag btw! Thanks 🙂

  • Clare — the 1/2″ seam allowance is already added into the pattern for you.
    Best of luck!

  • Emma Dz

    couple questions… your instructions are confusing at times.. i also have a TON of fuse-able fleece left over and i’m very confused as to what to do with the stiff interfacing… there is no mention of it (aside from the middle divider) anywhere!? so far I put in about 7 hours on this bag and have a long time to go… jumping all over the place from outside of the bag to the inside to the pockets… it’s not very beginner/user friendly just FYI for you next tutorial… but I do love this bag and I hope that it turns out as lovely as the other pictures and that my friend and god-daughter love it as well
    thank you

  • Emma,

    Sorry if I confused you with the instructions. It’s definitely a complicated project. I decided to add a recommendation on the top that maybe it’s not best for beginners due to your feedback. We do have a number of simpler bag tutorials, as well, and I’ll add that suggestion to the top, too, just in case people don’t feel ready for this one.

    The stiff interfacing is mentioned in the first step: “Fuse interfacing to the two exterior side and front pieces, plus the
    exterior bottom (left). Not all pieces are shown here. Then fuse fleece
    on top of the interfacing (right). In my example, all of my exterior
    pieces are solid black. So, each piece of the exterior bag is fabric
    plus interfacing plus fleece.”

    I tried to approach the project like this:

    1. Prepare the outer bag pieces by applying all of the interfacing/fleece.
    2. Prepare straps and piping.
    3. Make outer pockets.
    4. Apply pockets to outer fabric pieces.
    5. Assemble outer bag.
    6. Create divider/interior pockets.

    7. Assemble interior.
    8. Add straps.
    9. Put outer and inner bags together.

    I’m not sure what other order I could put it in — other than to do the interior before the exterior, but I don’t think that would make it any better/worse. I do appreciate your feedback. Please let me know if you have any other questions or any ideas for making this tutorial easier to understand.

  • Alaynah Seibert

    OK, I’m completely stumped .. I am almost finished with this thing (lol), but I’m at the point where i have completed the entire exterior and the entire interior. Now putting the exterior, inside of the interior, and sewing it together is where I’m getting confused. Where do i sew??? I really don’t want to give up now! I’ve come too far, and it’s sooooo cute!

  • Alaynah,
    OK, so you want your “exterior” bag right side out. You want your “interior/lining” bag inside out. It seems backwards, but that’s OK. You do place the outer bag INSIDE the lining bag. The right sides will face each other. The lining should have a hole in it for turning the whole thing right-side out later. Make sure you didn’t forget that step! Now, with the outer bag INSIDE the inner bag, right-sides facing, Pin the top, raw edges together (the top edge of the bag), aligning the side seams, and sew all the way around the top edge. It seems like a big, ugly mess right now, but the next step is to go to the hole you left in the lining and turn the whole thing right-side out through that hole. Straighten everything up, push out corners, etc. and then stitch the hole in the lining closed, press the top edge of the bag so the lining is in place and then top stitch around the top edge to secure it all in place. I hope that maybe I described this part a bit better for you, but if it doesn’t make sense still, please let me know and I’ll take another shot! Also, we have other bag tutorials on the site, some of which include this step, so you might search around and see if one of the other ones is more clear to you in explanation.

  • Alaynah Seibert

    so you’re saying I’m only supposed to sew the two pieces together around the top rim…. not every seam like the sides and the bottom

  • Yep! Just around the top only. Do line up the side seams so that it’s nice and neat and not off center. But just sew the top edge.

  • Guest

    Thank you so much for putting this tutorial out there! I just got a sewing machine and decided to make this for my first project. I haven’t sewn since I was a kid, but I’m a jump right in kind of girl so I thought I’d give it a shot. The only thing I didn’t do was make my own piping and I absolutely LOVE how it turned out!! My son is 2 and I still haven’t found a diaper bag that I’m in love with. The lining in the one I’m currently using is shredding badly plus they never have enough pockets. Now I have one with tons of pockets and that is well built…if I do say so myself. 🙂 Here are a few pics and thanks again!

  • Jessica Peterson

    This is actually the pic of the outside I meant to post. 🙂

  • Thanks for sharing your bag! I love the colors and the different patterns you used.

  • Robin Willis

    This is my version. I made it with nylon straps simply because I’m lazy and thought it would add more stability. Working on developing a messenger bag style…

  • Robin Willis

    Here are the pictures

  • Danielle Ehle

    Thanks so much for the tutorial! I altered it slightly to create an insert instead of a full bag and posted my tutorial here:

  • Clever way to adapt the concept. Thanks for sharing your tutorial!

  • Alex Meyer

    Do you think I could do it without the strap hardware and it would be as sturdy? And look normal?

  • The strap hardware is just for looks. Feel free to omit it!

  • Alex Meyer

    Awesome I went ahead and did it w/o hardware 😀 thanks for the tutorial !

  • Alex Meyer

    Here are some pictures of my finished product! 😀

  • It’s so cheerful! Love it. Thanks for sharing photos!


    Finished mine last night! Several of my friends want one now! Thank you for an amazing tutorial!

  • Theresa

    Loved making this bag for my daughter. Thanks for the great tutorial.

  • Theresa

    Here is a picture!

  • So cute! I love the owls. Thank you for sharing!

  • Tavo Boyd

    I can’t believe I forgot to add my pics. Thanks for the help WFI and the amazing tutorial. I’m thinking about making this into a beach bag somehow…hmmm….

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