Middle School Sewing Lesson Plan: Make a Blue Jean Book Bag


To teach the students:

finished bag modeled

How to sew this denim book bag.

Emphasizing easy techniques to save time.

Instilling a love for sewing with this sewing project.

Supplies Needed

  • Approximately 3/4 yard of blue jean material
  • A spool of gold blue jean heavy-duty thread
  • Heavy duty needle
  • Approximately 60 inches of the ribbon of your choice
  • Sewing machine
  • Serger…(optional)

Slide Show

A downloadable slide show is available demonstrating step-by-step instructions for the construction of this bag. These step-by-step instructions guide you visually through the process, making this an easy teaching tool. This denim book bag is a great sewing project.

Pre-Assembly Instructions

There are a few things your students will need to do prior to assembling their book bag.

  • First they will need to cut a 27 inch x 16 inch piece of material out of their 3/4 yard of denim. This is allowed for on day two.
  • Next they will need to cut two straps out measuring 18 inches x 3 inches. These will be ironed in half with 1/2 inch ironed down on each long edge on day two.
  • If you are going to put belt style loops to hold the ribbon, you will need your students to cut another 2 inch x 8 inch strip for day five.

Time Allotment, Overview and Instructions

Estimation for a class of 20 students or more over a period of one hour minus roll call, etc. Total time = 45 minutes each day.

Day One: Explain the project and have the students set up their machines. This involves threading the machine and putting in a new needle. Also, check all settings to be sure each machine is ready to sew a solid straight stitch. Set the tension on the four setting. You can have the students do test runs on scrap pieces of the denim fabric. Adjust the tension accordingly.

Day Two: Cut the bag out as described in the pre-assembly instructions and iron down the top one inch edge of the bag. Next, you will be ironing the straps in half with another 1/2 inch on each side ironed down. What you end up with is a clean folded edge on your straps. (This can be completed only if you have stations already set up for ironing and sewing. Also the machines must be set up and ready to go).

Sewing the sides of the bottom

Day Three: Sew or serge the side seam (there is only one side seam on this bag). You find the side seam by folding the bag in half along the 27 inch sections making it half that. You will want to fold it right sides together. Now you can sew this side seam and across the bottom of the bag.

Fold the bottom corners of the bag to form a triangle, and sew across the corner to make a flat bottom. You accomplish this by making the side seam meet up with the bottom seam. You will then notice the bottom comes to a point. You will sew straight across the point about 2-1/2 inches from the point. This does not have to be exact science to work, but each side needs to be sewn the same distance from the point. You can cut off the corner or leave it. If you cut it, you should have your students serge or zigzag over it.

Day Four: Finish the top edge that folds down with either a zigzag or serge on the edge, so it doesn’t fray.

Sewing on the straps and securing the edge

Stitch the handles together by topstitching along the edge that is open (they are already ironed as of day two). This will consist of four layers of material, the strap itself and the two folded under edges. Because of this thickness you may need to go with a longer stitch length and sew a bit slower, so instruct the students of this issue.

After you have your handles ready to put on the bag, you place them over the folded down top edge, placing them on the inside of the bag 3-1/2 inches from the side seam on center. Pin them in place. The bottom edge of the strap should align with the folded down edge of the bag. This translates to putting the strap 1/2 inch down from the top of the bag, over the folded down edge.

Tips and the Finished Bag

First Half: Day Five: When you have finished step four, your bag is almost complete. On the outside you can tack on a ribbon, or sew loops to thread the ribbon through. This would be up to you as the teacher, and depending on the amount of allotted time you have left to complete the project. To tack down the ribbon, just have your students stitch then backstitch, a few times evenly spaced around the ribbon in predetermined spots that look good.

If you decide on belt loops for the ribbon to be threaded through, refer to the second half of Day 5.

Second Half: Day Five: Refer to the measurements in the pre-assembly instructions. If you make loops, make one long strap and iron under the edges to make it the width you want.

Finished bag

Then, cut in shorter lengths to cover the width of the ribbon your students have. Fold under the top and bottom edge slightly and sew the top and bottom of each loop to the front of the bag with several backstitches to secure. This involves sewing forward and backwards a few times. This is good practice for the students.

That’s all there is to making these fun book bags.

Quick tip #1: You will sew the finishing topstitch and catch the bag handles in that. This allows you to sew only once around top edge. You will make two top stitching rows. One at the very top, and the other at the bottom inside edge of the ironed down section. This will be just shy of 1/2 inch down from the top of the bag.

*Quick tip #2: Be sure to tell your students to lift the pressure foot just a little bit to help the foot go over the thick handles. They also will want to sew a bit slower at this point, and backstitch to secure it. This will ensure you do not break a needle.


To assess your students…

You can give a short oral exam of about five to ten questions. Make these questions relevant to the points you emphasized during your lessons. This could include:

1. Specific information about threading a machine

  • Size of needle used.
  • Type of thread used.

2. Terms used when sewing…

  • What is topstitching?
  • What is straight stitching?
  • What is serging?
  • What is a zigzag stitch?

3. Which stitch would you use when…

  • Topstitch or straight stitch?
  • Serging or zigzag?

*These are general ideas that you can use or make your own. These tips and points are not intended to be used as the actual test.

The rest of the assessment is to look at the finished project to see what kind of quality they produced. Depending if this is the student’s first sewing project or if they have completed several projects in your class already will determine how you scrutinize the quality.

This sewing lesson plan is a great way to instill confidence in your students. Remember, you just helped your students make a lasting memory that will help them throughout their lives! This denim book bag will be a sewing project they will never forget.


Source: Ideas and pattern created by the Author

Pictures & Slideshow: © 2011, Atlanta Page