Gym Dandy Bag

Thanks for checking out my project.  This is my fourth Bake Shop post and I couldn’t be more excited.  What an honor to be part of this talented group of designers.

In addition to designing patterns for bags, quilts, runners, and wool felt projects, I also own Prairie Point Junction quilt shop in Cozad, Nebraska.  Be sure to stop by and visit us if you happen to be traveling across Nebraska. You can find us online at or on my Prairie Ramblings blog at

This handy little bag is perfect for transporting clothes to and from the gym  – or especially for kids to take gym clothes back and forth between home and school.  It is lined with PUL, a water resistant fabric, to keep the rest of the things you’re carrying along all nice and tidy.  The bag also works great for wet swimsuits!

I’ve tried to make the tutorial pretty detailed so that even a novice sewer can accomplish this project with great success.  Don’t let the zipper scare you away  –  I’ll show you just how easy it is.

Happy sewing,


  • 1 Fandango Charm Pack (will need at least 21 charms)
  • 1/2 yard Fandango (27050-11) for bag top and handles
  • 1/2 yard PUL  –  water resistant fabric
  • 14″ zipper
  • 505 Temporary Basting Spray
  • thread to match fabric for bag top and handles
Choose 21 charm squares for patchwork.
Cut each into two 2 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ pieces.
From the 1/2 yard for bag top and handles cut:
(2) 3″ x 36″ pieces for handles
(2) 4 1/2″ x 14 1/2″ pieces for tote bag top
(2) 5″ x 14 1/2″ pieces for bag facing
(1) 1 1/2″ x 4″ piece for zipper tabs
From the PUL fabric cut:
(2) 14 1/2″ x 16 1/2″ pieces for tote bag lining
Now that the cutting is out of the way, you’re ready to get down to the business of sewing your bag.
First, we’ll sew the patchwork for the bag bottom:
Arrange the 2 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ rectangles cut from the charm pack in rows of 7 rectangles each.  You’ll need a total of 6 rows  –  3 for the bag front and 3 for the bag back.  In my pictures below, I just show three rows.  There’s no magic formula for arranging the rectangles, just do whatever you like.  Mostly the only thing I shoot for is making sure that the same colors/prints are not side by side.
Start sewing the rectangles together into rows.  I like to save time when I can, so I chain piece my rectangles together.  To get started, pair the rectangles (in column two) right sides together with the rectangles in column 1.   Sew each together, but keep sewing when you get to the end of each set, “chaining” the sets together like little sausage links.
Now, take your chain over to your ironing board.  Keep them all chained together  –  resist the urge to cut them apart!
Press the seams for each row in opposite directions.  This will help your seams nest together when you join the rows and will help you line those seams up perfectly.
Don’t cut that chain apart yet . . . .  Head back over to your sewing machine.
Pick up the pieces from column three.  Sew each piece to the appropriate row in your chain.  Keep on chaining those pieces together.  Take them over to the ironing board.  Press seams in opposite direction.
Repeat with each column until you’ve sewn the rectangles into 6 rows of 7 rectangles each.  I’ve just shown three rows below.

Join three rows together to form the bag front. Then join three rows together for the back of the bag.  Remember how you carefully pressed the seams in each row in opposite directions?  That’s going to come in handy now.  Your seams should just nest right beside each other to help you perfectly line up where seams intersect.  I find that I don’t usually even have to pin the seam at this point since everything matches so nicely.  But that’s just me  –  feel free to pin if you like.

Press the seams for the bag front up –  and the seams on the bag back down.  That will help the seams nest when you join the sides together later.

Whew,  now it’s starting to look a little more like something, right?

Prepare the handles for the bag.  Fold the 3″ x 36″ rectangle in half lengthwise with the wrong sides together.  Press.

Open the strip and bring the raw edges together to meet at the center fold.  Press.

Fold strip in half lengthwise again and press.

Topstitch close to both sides of the handle.

Place raw ends of handle along the top edge of the bag front.  Position the edge of handle along the seam between the 2nd and 3rd rectangle in the top row.  See the picture below for placement suggestion.  Be sure that your handle lays flat and doesn’t have any twists in it from one side to the other.  Baste the handle in place.  Repeat on the bag back.

Sew the 4 1/2″ x 14 1/2″ bag top section to the pieced bag bottom, catching the raw edge of the handle in the seam.  Be sure to keep the loop of the handle out of the way of your stitching.

Press towards bag bottom, flip handle upwards.
Topstitch next to the seam on the patchwork section.
Next we’re going to apply the PUL to the back of the bag sections.  {PUL} stands for polyurethane laminated fabric.  It is designed to be water resistant.  Here are few tips for sewing with PUL that will make sewing much easier:
  • The slick side of the PUL is the right side, the knit side of the PUL is the wrong side.
  • Be sure to keep any pins within the seam allowance of the PUL fabric to avoid piercing the fabric and compromising the water resistant nature of the fabric.
  • Do NOT directly iron the PUL fabric.  It can melt and cause a huge mess.
  • Sew with PUL fabric on the bottom layer, when possible.
  • When sewing with two layers of PUL, it may be helpful to place a layer of tissue paper on top of the PUL fabric.
  • Lengthen stitches slightly and use a walking foot, if available.
Now that we have that out of the way, we can carry on  . . .
Put some newspaper or other scrap paper on your floor or cutting table to protect the surface from overspray.
Lay the 14 1/2″ x 16 1/2″ piece of PUL on the paper with the knit side UP and the slick side DOWN.
Spray lightly with 505 brand temporary basting spray.
Lay the bag front wrong sides UP on another piece of paper,  Be sure to keep handles tucked under the bag.  Lightly spray with basting spray.  By spraying both the bag and the PUL, you’ll create a better bond to hold the pieces in place for sewing.
Very carefully lay the knit side of PUL on the wrong side of the outer bag, matching up raw edges.  Smooth out wrinkles as best as you can.
Baste a very scant 1/4″ around entire bag to hold layers together.  Be sure to keep your basting within the 1/4″ seam allowance so that you don’t pierce the PUL beyond the seam allowance.
Repeat with bag back.
Prepare the facing next.
Finish one edge of the 5″ x 14 1/2″ facing piece.  Fold under a scant 1/4″, along one raw 14 1/2″ edge, press.  Fold under 1/4″ again, press.  Topstitch close to folded edge.   Repeat on second facing piece.

The next steps will prepare the zipper.  A zipper  –  EEEK  –  you say?  No worries, this zipper method is easy peasy.  You’ll wonder why you’ve never done a zipper before.

Prepare a tab for the zipper ends.  This will be just like making a “binding” for the end of the zipper.  It does away with all that funky little bulky business of the zipper stop that can create tons of problems for the zipper-phobic crowd.

We’re going to follow the same basic steps that we used for the handle above.  First fold the 1 1/2″ x 4″ fabric for the zipper tab in half lenthwise with the wrong sides together.  Press

Now, unfold the strip, and fold the raw edges in to meet at the center crease.  Press.

Now, fold one more time and press.

Grab your zipper.  Open it just a few inches.  Sew the ends of the zipper together so they’ll stay where you want them later.  (Sorry I changed zipper colors on you for a few pictures.  I got a little carried away sewing and forgot to take pictures, so had to back-track.)

Trim off the zipper stop at the end of the zipper.

Tuck the basted end of the zipper into the binding strip you created.  Topstitch along the edge of the binding strip, catching the zipper in the binding.
Trim the binding strip even with the edges of the zipper.

Cut the zipper down to 13 1/2″.  Tuck the raw end of the zipper into the remainder of the binding strip.  Topstitch along edge of binding strip.  Trim binding strip even with edges of zipper.

Position the zipper right sides down on the bag front, centering along the width.  The zipper should be 1/2″ shorter on each side than the width of the bag.  That’s O.K.!  This will accomodate for the width of the seam allowance and a little bit of extra bulk to boot.

Carefully pin the zipper to the bag, making sure to keep any pins within the 1/4″ seam allowance so that you don’t puncture the PUL.

Baste a scant 1/4″ from edge of zipper.  You can either use a zipper foot for this step, or can actually use your regular sewing foot  –  BUT  –  it will be helpful to move your needle position clear over to the far left.  (Be absolutely sure you are using a sewing foot with a wide opening  –  NOT a 1/4″ foot, or you’ll break your needle).

Layer the raw edge of the facing piece right sides together with the bag front, catching the zipper between the layers.  Sew facing to bag using a 1/4″ seam allowance.  I find it easiest to sew from the wrong side of the outer bag.  That way I can see where my basting stitches were and can make sure that I am sewing a deep enough seam to encase them.

Fold the facing to the inside of the bag.  Now, if you are super careful, you can do just a tiny bit of pressing here.  Use a cool iron and very carefully, press the seam ONLY along the zipper.  Do NOT touch the PUL with your iron.
Lay the bag back right sides up on your table.  Align the raw edge of the zipper, right sides together with the bag back.  (The right sides of the bag front and back will be touching).  Stitch a scant 1/4″ seam allowance to attach the zipper to the bag back.
Layer the raw edge of the remaining facing piece right sides together with basted edge of the zipper.  Sew using a 1/4″ seam allowance.  Fold the facing to the inside of the bag.  You can gently press here just a little bit again.
Topstitch close to the zipper tape along the seam.  You can either use a zipper foot for this step, or you can move your needle position all the way to the right.
Here’s what your bag should look like now:
Now it gets just a tad bit tricky.  The next step looks a little strange, but stay with me here, it really does work.
First of all, be sure to OPEN your zipper  BEFORE proceeding.  If you don’t, you’ll sew your bag all the way shut and won’t be able to turn it inside out without ripping open your seam allowance that you just worked so hard to sew.
Now, repeat after me,  “OPEN your zipper BEFORE proceeding.”  You can thank me later . . .
Fold the bag in half right sides together.  Here’s the strange part . . .  Fold the facing section up.
Very carefully pin around the sides and bottom of bag, being sure to keep all your pins within the 1/4″ seam allowance so that you don’t pierce the PUL.
Sew the side and bottom seams of the bag, including the facing section, using a 1/4″ seam allowance.
To finish the seams, use a wide zig zag to encase the raw edges.
Turn bag right sides out.  Fold the facing down inside the bag.
Now, put on your running shoes and take a lap around the block.  You’ve finished your Gym Dandy Bag.
1 Handy Gym Dandy Bag
Thanks for sticking with me through this tutorial.  Need supplies?  Be sure to visit my website at
Julie Geiger

Julie Geiger
Julie Geiger

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