A Basic Weapons Bag by The Mirror
This column was written by Janet Rosen
[Discuss this article (10 replies)]
[Download this article in PDF format]
Anybody with basic sewing knowledge can make up a beautiful and
practical weapons bag in just a couple of hours. This pattern and
instructions are based on my three years making weapons bags for
sale. The construction is somewhat different from my bags (hey, I
can't give away ALL my secrets!), and the instructions assume you know
basic conventions like straight grain of fabric or not machine
stitching over pins.
What kind of fabric should I buy?
For fiber, 100% cotton, 100% hemp, or a cotton/hemp blend are
recommended. Other fabrics have inherent weaknesses that will shorten
the bag's useful life. The only exception would be a tapestry-like
upholstery fabric in a partly synthetic blend that is both heavy in
weight and densely woven.
For weave, a stable and densely woven fabric is the best. Twills,
including denim, work very well, as will canvas. I've had some pinwale
corduroys and brushed cottons hold up nicely. I don't recommend the
thinner Japanese prints or the looser woven ikats if you are
transporting your weapons a lot. They ARE tempting though! If you want
to use one, flat-line your bag with a sturdy, mid-weight all cotton
fabric and treat the two layers as one in the instructions that
How much fabric should I buy?
If you have 65" wide fabric (rare but sometimes seen in upholstery
fabric), you can save a lot of fabric by cutting the weapon bag on the
crosswise grain (length selvage to selvage). You will only need a half
yard of fabric that way.
Otherwise, if you want to cut the bag out of one nice lengthwise
piece, you will need to buy two yards of fabric. The leftover will
make a second bag to delight somebody with, or, if the fabric is 44"
wide or more, there will be enough to make a matching tote bag.
What other notions and tools do I need?
- Sewing machine
- Cutting shears
quality cotton thread to match the fabric
- Sewing machine needles:
number 80/12 for lighter fabrics; number 90 /14 for most midweight
denims, twills, cords, or canvas; number 100 /16 for very heavy
- Shoelace in a color to coordinate with the bag
fabric, for ties
- One yard of 1" wide cotton belting in a color to
coordinate with the bag fabric, for carry strap (optional: you can
also make the carry strap from a piece of the bag fabric).
T-square or large ruler
- Fabric marking chalk or pen
However you plan to wash and dry your bag during its lifetime, you
need to prepare the fabric that way before measuring and cutting. If
your fabric is not washable (certain upholstery blends), or you know
for sure you'll be dry cleaning the bag, just press it with an iron
before measuring and cutting.
Lay the prepared fabric on a large flat surface. If your fabric is
less than 65" wide, and you bought two yards, you will measure the
length along one selvage, then measure the width at a right angle to
the selvage, to create a rectangle. To prevent going off-grain with
such a long bag, it is best to measure the width at four or five
points along the length, not just at each end.
To find length of bag:Length of longest weapon + 15" for overlaps,
hems and seams. So for a 50 inch jo, you would measure and mark 50 +
15 = 65" long.
To find width of bag: For carrying two or three weapons, one of which
might have a tsuba, a finished circumference of about 12" is
good. Allowing for enclosed seam allowances, measure and mark 15"
Cut out your rectangle.
Top and bottom edges
At the top, measure 3/4" down, turn to the wrong side, and press
flat. Turn a second time to the inside to "bury" the raw edge, press
flat, and pin in place. At your machine, sew a row of topstitching ½"
from the top folded edge and then a second parallel row very close to
the inner turned edge.
At the bottom, measure up 7" and turn it to the wrong side. Press it
flat. Pin in place close to the raw cut edge. Secure with a row of
stitching across the width of the bag, parallel to the bottom, close
to the cut edge.
If you are using a yard of store-bought belting, zigzag the raw edges
at either end to prevent raveling.
If you are making one from your own fabric, cut a piece 36" long and 4
to 4 ½" wide. Fold it in half, wrong sides together, press. Open it
out and fold each long raw edge to the center foldline, press them in
place. Turn and re-press along the original center foldline. You now
have a long piece folded in quarters with the raw edges all tucked
in. Edgestitch along the long open edge to secure all the layers.
The strap should be affixed so that when the bag is hoisted onto your
shoulder, it doesn't drag on the ground or bang your ankle. You'll
need to experiment to find the right position for you.
Lay the bag flat, right side up. Measure down 15" to 17" from the top
edge, and 4" in from one long edge. If you are shorter than average,
measure 17", if you are taller, 15". Mark this spot with a pin.
If this next part makes no sense, refer to the diagrams 1 and 2 right
away! The idea is that the strap is sewn "wrong ways" to reduce strain
on the stitches when the bag is in use. Lay the strap upside-down,
with one zigzagged cut edge at the pin, but the rest of the strap
ABOVE the bag. Pin the strap in place (see diagram 1).
Flip the strap down towards the bottom of the bag. Measure down 27"
from the top pin and 4" in from the long edge. Mark this spot with a
pin. Turn the strap so that you will again have the wrong side of the
strap facing up, and pin it in place (see diagram 2).
In order to check strap position, take a few pins and secure the two
long edges of the bag together. This is one time that lining things
up perfectly is not important. Hold the bag upright, letting the
bottom of it drag on the floor a couple of inches. Lift the carry
strap over your shoulder and recheck where the bag bottom is. Adjust
the top pin up or down until the bag is at a carrying height that is
comfortable for you. If necessary, move the bottom pin as well to keep
the pins 26" to 28" apart.
Once you have the strap positioned where you want, remove the pins
from along the long edges of the bag and lay it flat. With the right
side of the bag up, sew the strap to the bag, stitching in a square
with an X inside (see diagram 3).
Lay the bag flat, face up. Fold the shoelace in half and lay it along
one long edge of the bag, 3" from the finished top edge. The shoelace
fold should be at the raw edge of the bag. Pin in place. Stitch in
place 1/4" from raw edge (see diagram 3 and 4).
Side and bottom seams
Start by folding the bag in half lengthwise, WRONG SIDES
TOGETHER. Make sure that all edges (the long raw edges as well as the
finished top edge and the folded bottom edge) line up evenly. Pin in
place. Starting at the finished top edge, sew a single seam ½" in from
the raw edge, all the way down to ½" from the folded bag bottom. Pivot
and continue the seam to the folded long edge of the bag (see diagrams
3 and 5).
Press the bag along the seam to help "meld" the stitches. Carefully
trim one long edge seam allowance to between 1/4"--3/8", leaving the
other seam allowance at 1/2". Position the bag so the seam allowance
can be pressed open. Press the seam allowance open, using as much
steam and pressure as appropriate for the fiber content of the bag.
Turn the bag inside out. Make sure to get as much fabric free at the
two bottom corners, with a combination of carefully poking from inside
with your bokken and prying from the outside with a large pin or
darning needle. With your hands, work the seamed edge to lay as flat
as possible inside the bag. Pressing it again may be necessary with
With the bag still INSIDE OUT, pin in place along the long seamed edge
and bottom edge. Make sure that the carry strap and the long ends of
your ties are well out of the way, so they are not caught in the
sewing you are about to do.
The second seam needs to be far enough in from the edge to completely
enclose the first seam. Usually a standard presser foot and a 3/4"
seam allowance will work. If it seems difficult, try using a zipper
foot and just "riding along" inside the edge of the first seam.
Press the bag along the seam to help "meld" the stitches. Turn the bag
right side out. Check the length of the bag to make sure the seam was
fully enclosed. If stray bits of fabric are poking through, your
second seam was too close to your first seam; turn the bag inside out
and restitch the second seam, 1/4" further away from the edge. Turn
the bag right side out.
Again get as much fabric free at the two bottom corners, with a
combination of carefully poking from inside with your bokken and
prying from the outside with a large pin or darning needle. Press the
bag, add weapons, and get back to training!
© 2004 Janet Rosen.
[Discuss this article (10 replies)]
[Download this article in PDF format]