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Goodness, I’ve had this post in various stages of completion for the past few weeks — but I’m finally getting around to finishing it for you all.  I shared a few sneak peeks of the Cargo Duffle bags that my mom and I made while they were visited at the beginning of May.   The bag is a design and pattern from Anna of noodlehead — and it’s a available here.  

Ironically, Anna lives really close to where I grew up, so she actually taught a class at the local quilt store on the Cargo Duffle bag.  My mom didn’t attend the class, but a friend did, and she graciously lent my mom her finished bag for us to look at while we constructed ours.  I’m so happy we had it, because it affirmed the changes I’d already been thinking of making.

Cargo Duffle-7

If you read reviews of the Cargo Duffle online, you’ll hear a unanimous “love the bag, be warned if you are a beginner.”  You definitely need to have some sewing experience and pattern reading under your belt.  The actual construction of the bag is pretty simple — it’s all rectangles for the most part, so you don’t need to worry about curves or anything like that.

I would say the thing that was the most confusing/unclear for me was the measurements of the pieces after you quilt the panels.  You can cut the fabric, batting and canvas a bit larger than her original dimensions, but then after you quilt them, make sure you trim them back down to the size of the original fabric dimensions.  I was confused about the batting being cut smaller than the fabric and canvas.  I believe Anna was intentional about this measurement, so you have less fabric/thickness to your seams and to accommodate for shrinkage during quilting, but it won’t be the case if you cut your fabric a little big before quilting and trim back down.  Perhaps I read that note and instructions all wrong, which could very well be the case with the pregnancy brain I have going on!

I’m rambling, but bottom line — make sure all of your panels are the correct dimensions after you’ve quilted the pieces.

A quick note about quilting!  Be sure to read through the instructions before you just quilt every panel…or you’ll be ripping up or recutting new pieces.  The bottom “accent panels” are really just that — as you can see, I didn’t change the color of mine, and I could have skipped them all together, but I liked the seam that shows.

Okay! So on to a few of the changes I made to my bag!

Expanding the Width of the Cargo Duffle

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I was so happy to have a bag to look at as I was preparing to cut my fabric pieces, because I knew I wanted more of a square cylinder shape than what I was seeing from photos.  Instead of cutting my pieces to the dimensions in the pattern, I changed them to the following:

  • BOTTOM GUSSET: 9″ x 30.5″
  • ZIPPER GUSSET: 4.5″ x 27.5″

I’m so happy I made this change!  I love that it increased the size of my duffle, so I’m able to use it as a true weekender bag or a carry-on.   ….or maybe I’m just an over-packer. :)

Peltex 72 in the Bottom Gusset

Cargo Duffle

In looking at the completed bag, I was going a bit crazy by how the bag didn’t hold it’s own shape.

I know.  My mom kept reminding me that I won’t be walking around with an empty bag….. 

But still, I wanted a bit more structure to my bag.  So the change I made was as follows:

  • Cut the Pellon 72F Peltex to the final length of the bottom gusset seams — Anna factors in a 1/2″ seam allowance, so cut a length of 29.5″.
  • Sandwich in this order to quilt: Canvas, Peltex, Batting, Fabric.  By layering in this order you will 1) get a nicer looking quilted look on the outside of your bag 2) the batting will cover the Peltex when you sew the zipper gusset to the bottom gusset.

I will warn you: you will be sewing through quite a bit of fabric when you finally put the bag together!  I would have a few new needles on hand for your machine!

And see the final result?  An empty bag that has structure.  Voila!

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Exterior Zipper Pocket instead of Cargo Pockets

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I know by removing the cargo pockets, I maybe can’t call my bag the Cargo Duffle anymore, but I just wasn’t totally in love with the cargo pockets.  From photos being posted of completed bags, the pockets always seemed to look the most “homemade” to me, and they just didn’t fit the look I was going for.

I actually will be posting a tutorial next week on how I did my zipper.  I’m not a fan of the zipper tape showing, like most tutorials teach, so I came up with a new way.  Since I completed my bag, my mom found another way to do the zipper as well, so I will play around with that technique and share with you all as well!

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You can see my pocket lining before I lined my Cargo Duffle (another change I made).  So if you’re thinking about adding a zipper to your bag, you might want to think about lining your bag as well.

Canvas Webbing instead of Fabric Handles

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I was really torn about the handles for my Cargo Duffle — I considered leather, the coral used for the exterior, canvas webbing along with fabric… ugh. So many options!

I wanted a really simple final duffle bag, so I’m extremely happy with my choice.  My mom used fabric for hers and they turned out beautifully — but it definitely took time and precision to get the straps even as they involve a lot of folding and layers.  You’ll love the final outcome, so just keep trucking along! Promise. :)

Speaking of leather, I did also add a small tab of leather at the ends of each zipper.  It was clear that there would be a small gap in the large zipper, and I just love the look of the edges having something more.  You could use the same exterior fabric of an accent fabric to do the same.  Just cut a small square, iron a clean edge and sew onto your zipper ends.  

Lining and an Interior Zipper

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I kind of thought I would end up lining my bag, but when I added the external zipper it solidified that decision.  I found this fabric on a whim at JoAnn Fabrics, and while I can sometimes be a fabric snob, I fell in love with it and the color match was pretty spot on!  (My bag exterior is Robert Kaufman Kona Solid in Coral — it’s almost red, but not.  I love it.)

The lining was super easy and a breath of fresh air to only sew through 2 layers of cotton versus the bulk of the Cargo Duffle!  It was like the icing on the bag-creation-cake.  (wow, I am such a dork.)

I cut out the lining pieces the same dimensions listed on the pattern for the Quilting Cotton for the following pieces:

  • Front/Back
  • Bottom Gusset — don’t forget to use modified dimensions if you choose to widen your bag
  • Zipper Gusset

Sew together just like you would the bag, except you won’t have a zipper, so just hem the zipper gusset pieces back.  You’ll stuff this lining bag into your Cargo Duffle — making changes to the seams or zipper hem as needed.

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Given the bulk of the bag, you’ll probably want to hand sew the lining to the zipper seam, as you can see in the photo above.  I pinned it in place, and then used the ladder stitch to sew into place.  (I think it’s called the ladder stitch…)  I love how I was able to cover up the zipper seam, and give the lining a really clean edge.

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Here is where the width of your bag will make a difference.  I found that because I’d created such a squared off top for my Cargo Duffle, my lining sagged quite a bit.  It was especially obvious on the side with the inside zipper…and I didn’t even have anything in it yet.

I started by hand sewing the corners of the lining in place, but I ended up ripping that out.  I found it was easier to pin the lining in place and machine sew along one of the quilt lines on the exterior of your bag.  I chose a quilting seam about 1″ from the top-side seam of my bag and just went the length of the top of my Cargo Duffle bag.  Now the lining doesn’t droop or sag like it was before.

(My mom didn’t widen her bag at all, and found she didn’t need to tack the corners of her bag in at all — so it’ll probably depend on the width of your bag and just personal preference!)

Cargo Duffle-11     Cargo Duffle-16        Cargo Duffle-30

So there you have it!  My modified Cargo Duffle. 

I absolutely love how it turned out, and I’m dreaming up all sort of bags I want to design and create.  I guess I’m on a bag kick of sorts!  If you couldn’t tell from my abundance of Even Better Box Bags

We took a quick trip last weekend to Andy’s family cabin, and I was so excited to finally get to pack in my Cargo Duffle!  I of course paired it with more of my favorites —


David Kind Eyewear || Lily Jade Designer Diaper Bag

Live FashionABLE Scarf || Everlane Weekender

And of course I had a few Even Better Box Bags inside my duffle — including the one I made the the day before while Harlow was napping!  I honestly loathe packing, so having pretty and coordinated bags helps me smile while I do it!

It’s the little things, right? 

What are you working on creating right now? What is inspiring you?  What questions/tutorial requests do you have for me?


Anna has no idea who I am, nor does Robert Kaufman.  I was not paid to make this bag or write about it, I just think it’s a great bag, and I love the changes I made to it.  xo!



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