TUTORIAL: the Hobo Sack

by Dana on July 6, 2008

Whether you’re on the road or hanging at home, every hobo needs a bag for his (or her) treasures.
So load it up,
hit the road,
and sit back on the tracks to enjoy a break.
The hobo sack is one of the easiest things to make. It’s a great project for the beginner sewer and even the advanced! Make one, make two, make ten! Whenever we’re running out the door, I ask each of my kids to load up a sack with their favorite toys and snacks. And the car-ride is often a more pleasant one.
So here’s what we’re making:
Easy? You betcha.
Let’s get started…..

NOTE: Info for adding a Liner and/or a Ruffle to your bag is at the end of the tutorial.

Skill Level
: Beginner
Needed:
* 1/2 yard or less of Cotton (light-weight, twill, corduroy, seer sucker, etc. I used a lighter weight corduroy here)
* Small amount of contrasting fabric for Drawstring Straps (can be cotton or knit)
* Sewing Machine
* Serger (optional)
Seam Allowance: 1/2 inch

Here is the pattern. I drew mine with a ruler on to a File Folder so that it’s sturdy for repeat uses. You can make it larger or smaller, just make sure the corner cut-outs at the bottom are the same on both sides:
Just lay it on your fabric and cut two:
Decide what you’d like to use for straps. To make it super easy, I chose knit because then I don’t have to sew anything! Knit doesn’t fray and if you pull it real tight……
It sort of curls up in a tube, like this:
If you’re going to use knit straps like me, cut (2) straps that are 1 yard (36 inches) long and about 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide. If you’d like to use Cotton, use the same dimensions (36×2 inches), sew each one into a long tube, use a safety pin to pull it inside out, iron down and then finish off the ends of each tube/strap.

Okay, on to the sack sewing….

Those little corners down there that are cut out is what gives you “room” in the bottom of your bag. In fact, this is how many purses and bags are made. So now you can whip up all sorts of bags and totes!

Take those two corners that are cut out and fold them up to each other:
like this:
and sew it down. Do this on both sides:
When you’re done, it should look like this:
If you have a serger, serge off the seams of each one.
If you don’t have a serger, do a zigzag stitch on your seams. It really is nice to have finished off seams, especially since the inside of the bag will take a beating over time with toys and food. And fraying edges will be a tangled mess:
Okay, this next step is optional but I think it really polishes off the bag nicely. Serge down each side of your two bag pieces approximately 5 inches (if you don’t have a serger, do a zigzag stitch):
When you’re done, each bag piece should look like this (this will make more sense when we get to the casing section):
Now we’re going to sew the two bag pieces together…..
So with right sides together, lay one piece inside of the other; match up the corner seams first:
Because one piece is inside the other, it may seem hard to get the two pieces completely lined up. But your bag will look much more symmetrical if you do this. So try to get those top corners to match up:
Like this. See how nice those top pieces came together?
If you have a side-tag for your bag, insert it now:
and pin it down:
Then, this is an important step for your casing and straps. You MUST leave a gap in the seam for the straps to come in and out of (you’re creating a hole in each side seam). So, when you sew down the sides…..first, sew down 1 1/4 inches, then SKIP 1 1/4 inches, and then sew the rest of the way down. What I do (so that I don’t forget to leave the gap) is mark my Start and Stop points with double pins. The area between the two pins is where I do NOT want to sew:
Pin all the way around your pieces and it should look like this:
Then start sewing:
Stop at the double pins (make sure you forward and back stitch to finish off your stitch):
Then, you don’t even need to cut your threads yet, just pull the fabric down and start stitching again at the next double pins (remember to forward and back stitch to seal off your stitch):
Continue sewing all the way the around the bag. When you get to the bottom, just curve the fabric around, keeping the same seam allowance the whole time you sew:
When you’re done, the top part of your bag, should look like this, with the two gaps in your seam:
Now, Iron out the top portion that you serged and you will now discover your little hole!….
There it is! That’s where your drawstring straps will come in and out. And since you serged (or zigzagged) the edges, it is less likely to fray with time and stay in great shape!
Okay, since we don’t want the rest of your bag to fray as well, serge around the rest of the seam (make sure you don’t serge over the top portion where you just made the hole! Simply start where the previous serge left off. If you don’t have a serger, do a zigzag):
When you’re done, it should look like this (that middle part is where one serge starts and the other ends):
Now, to reinforce the holes, do a zigzag at the ends of each opening. I chose to use contrasting thread:
Then (this is also optional) to add a little color and strength to your bag, you may choose to top-stitch all the way around your seam on the OUTside of your fabric. Using the presser foot to guide you in a straight line (line up the left edge of your foot with the seam, or something like that), sew a line about 1/4 inch to the right of the seam:
Then do the opposite, to the left of the seam, so you have two lines like this (my, that’s not very straight but it’ll work!):
Finally, make sure that the top of your bag is straight on both sides. If one side happens to be taller, cut it down so everything is even. Then serge all the way around the top (or zigzag):
Fold the top portion down right where the top of the holes start. This will create your casing. You want to make sure that the Holes are completely backed by the casing, so that the drawstring straps won’t fall out of the casing and Iron down the casing:
Then, stitch the casing closed. I usually do a double-stitch on this, sewing two lines 1/4 inch apart from each other:
You’re almost done!
Take a safety pin and connect it to one end of your first strap:
Insert it into the first Hole and push it all the way around (and PAST the second hole) till it comes back out where it started:
Tie a knot into each end of your straps to finish them off and to keep them from going through the casing on their own:
Then, using the same method, insert your other strap into the other hole:
When you get to the next hole, just push past the strap that’s already there:
It should look like this on each end:
And pull the other strap through all the way. Woohoo! You did it!
If you’d like, add a decorative label to the outside:
Then give your self a pat on the back…..and take a peek inside your totally cool and completed Hobo Sack!
Think of all the treasures that will go in there….
and Enjoy!
———————————————————————
You can easily add a ruffle or a liner to your Hobo. We’ll show you how below….

Princess Ruffle:
Lined Citrus Sack:
It’s easy to add a liner to your Hobo Sack. And once you’re there, throw in a ruffle with no problem! Here are the added steps….

For the Citrus Sack, I chose to make the outer layer multi-colored. If you’re a quilter, you can come up with all sorts of ideas for this. But I kept it simple. 3 colors, 3 horizontal blocks. I marked on my pattern piece where I wanted each color section to start and then added an extra 1/2 inch on each side for seam allowance.
So I cut the bottom piece to look something like this (and then the other two top colors in rectangular blocks):
NOTE: I also cut out my liner pieces with solid yellow fabric. Cut your liner from whatever fun fabric you’d like.

Sew all the color blocks together and serge the seams (only serge if you are NOT adding a liner). If you’re adding a liner, you don’t really need to serge because the seams will be hidden inside.
You get sick of me saying it, but IRON out the seams here. Just as you would with a quilting project, you want the sewn pieces to look like one big seamless piece of fabric:
Okay, this is where you insert a bunch of the steps in the normal Hobo Sack Tutorial here.
Follow the steps in the tutorial above to create your hobo sack as you normally would and STOP when you get to the part about creating the casing.
Do the same thing for your liner piece. SO, it’s like you’ve created TWO hobo sacks that are going to be sewn together.

Then, with the outer hobo sack turned INSIDE-out and the liner turner RIGHT-side out, stuff them inside of each other. Basically, you want the RIGHT sides of the two sacks facing each other:
Stuff the liner down inside so that it fits in there like a glove:
IF you want to add a ruffle, here’s where you would do it. Create a ruffle to go all the way around your sack and sandwich it in-between the two sacks:
like this:
and pin it down:
I chose not to add a ruffle, so we’ll continue without it.

I realized as I was going along that I would NOT be doing a fold-over casing as in the original sack (since we’re adding a lining). This meant that my bag was going to be a bit tall. SO, I cut the sack down an inch or so, about a 1/2 inch above the slit where the pull strings come out. In the future, you can adjust your pattern when cutting so you don’t have to trim later.
Okay, pin the two sacks together, all the way around.
YOU NEED TO LEAVE AN OPENING at the top of the sack so that you can turn it Right-side out when you’re done. So mark an opening with double-pins so you don’t forget.
Start sewing at one set of double-pins and continue all the way around to the other set of double pins:
When you’re done, stick your hand into the opening:
And pull the whole bag Right-side out:
Fit the two sacks into each other again, and let’s finish up the pull-string casing. First do a nice top-stitch at the edge of the sack to hold the two sacks together and for decor. I do mine about 1/8 inch from the edge:
Then, using the silver plate on your machine as a guide, sew another line about 3/4 inch down to create a casing:
Do a double-line next to it for added decor:
Create pull-strings for you sack, pull them through the casings, and you’re done!

The Citrus Sack makes a wonderful gift idea for Mother’s Day, Birthdays, for any occasion.

Gather your favorite citrus fruit into the colorful sack and include a copy of your favorite Citrus recipe.
We recommend the summer fresh Lemon Cream Pie, recently added to our Tutorials Section. You’ll find the complete recipe HERE:

Share a bit of Summer to someone you care about.

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kim January 27, 2012 at 5:27 am

Hi Dana,
I came across your site just after this past Christmas. I love it! I’m a beginner sewer, and I’m anxious to make these Hobo Sacks. I can come up with so many uses for them.

I wanted to share with you what I thought might be a different way of sewing the notched corners of the bag. I found it on The Green Bag Lady blog (http://greenbaglady.blogspot.com/). On the upper right corner of her home page she has a link to both a written and video tutorial of how to make her bags. She notches the corners as well, but her way of sewing them is different. Maybe sometime you could take a look.

Thank you for sharing your talent, home and family with all of us!

Take care.

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2 @lex February 18, 2012 at 8:47 am

I love your hobo-sacks, nice fabric choices !! I will try it out right away…
your pics cracked me up, next time we’ll see your son on a freeway ? haha…
will check out more of your tutorials now….
thanx from Germany !
@lex

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3 Michelle March 8, 2012 at 9:48 pm

Since the comments seem to have been lost in the website conversion, just letting you all know that this project and accompanying tutorial are fantastic! A really great project for a beginning sewer and the hobo sacks makes for an adorable gift. I’ve made three in a week: two for my friends’ kids as gifts and one for my own daughter. Here’s a link to see my hobo sacks if you’re curious: http://cookiecutterblog.wordpress.com/?s=hobo+sack&submit=Search

They’re super cute and as Dana says, a contrasting thread color adds even more sass. Thanks for so many great ideas and accompanying tutorials Dana!

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4 Julie August 8, 2012 at 3:57 pm

This is adorable!! I LOVE the eyelet idea! I will also run to the GW to see about thrifting clothing material…can’t believe it only cost you @ $2?! Crazy…

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5 Mariah March 17, 2012 at 8:09 pm

I’m sorry, but I am really confused. Can you please give me some help on this?

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6 Jaimie F May 2, 2012 at 6:44 pm

Dana, I have been a long time reader, but for some reason, reading your hobo sack tutorial today (referenced in your post today) made me want to tell you how much I appreciate your hard work and your tutorials! I feel like you are a long lost friend, I learn so much from you. Thanks for keeping it up even with a new baby. Must be tough!
Jaimie

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7 Esther June 12, 2012 at 10:36 am

This is a fab tutorial, thanx!

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8 nancy larson July 19, 2012 at 3:41 pm

hi! just came across your site thru pinterest looking at your baby kimono project- what a great activity idea! and i am loving this sack! i have two boys and am always looking for fun ways to sew for them. this is also the best quality sack tutorial i have found! can’t wait to try this and will link it back to you! also, i have found you on instagram! love the pics! x

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9 FanFic Marie September 8, 2012 at 10:22 pm

this is a great tutorial i was looking for a quick and reusable bag and this is PERFECT :) and so informative cant wait to try it. Thanks Marie

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10 Jolanda October 3, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Thanks for the tutorial!
I made a hobo sack for my son for school, it’s on my blog.

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11 Natalie Polyak October 13, 2012 at 7:49 pm

Hello, I found one of your projects on http://www.365-crafts.com/0102-Sewing-Projects.html web site. Are there specific rules on how to use your web site content on other web sites? Thank you

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12 sarah January 25, 2013 at 7:09 pm

Hi Dana,
I just made this for my daughters building block collection. I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. The directions were really easy to follow and all the pictures were great. Thanks for sharing your creative ideas- I really appreciate it!

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13 Marie-Claire February 22, 2013 at 10:00 pm

Hi Dana.
I love your blog and have just recently made two different hobo sacks…one lined and one not. They were fun to make and my kids love them so thanks for sharing! Just wondered one thing though…I used knit for the pull handles because I like the look and how easy it is but on both occasions my knit fabric only had a pattern on one side and I could not convince that fabric to curl the right way so that the pattern was on the outside! Do you know any tricks on how to get knit fabric to curl the right way???

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14 wendy allaman April 5, 2013 at 7:44 pm

Hi! Can i have the instructions for the first aid pouch pictured? Thank you!

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15 Morita Kotoko September 29, 2013 at 6:29 pm

If you could message me with any hints about how you made your site look this awesome, Id be thankfu

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16 Nusa October 2, 2013 at 8:29 am

Hi,
I just made the bag and Im very proud of myself.

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17 Daisy June 30, 2014 at 12:27 pm

If i were to make this into a rucksack how would I sew the straps in? Please help…

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