DIY Rolled Tool Bag

My husband recently got a dirt bike and with that comes all the “super sweet” accessories (I swear we get a new package on our doorstep each day).  The more he rides, the more he realizes he needs a tool kit to carry on his bike when his bike stops working or breaks for various reasons.  For Christmas he got a “super rad” bike bag that hangs on the front of his handlebars (because it is uncool and uncomfortable just putting his stuff in one of his numerous Camelbaks).  Even though he loves his bag, he realized that there weren’t really any pockets for tools inside, and he didn’t want his heavy tools rattling around inside the bag next to his cell phone.  Enter our “super badass” new invention.  Nathan claims it is his idea, but don’t tell him I have seen similar things out there before.

Materials I used:

  • 1/2 yard tough fabric for outside
  • 1/2 yard soft fabric for inside (flannel)
  • Sewing thread
  • Heavy duty ribbon (3 yards should work)
  • Velcro
  • Sewing machine, scissors

Step 1:  Get your fabric and accessories

Nathan secretly loves going fabric shopping at Jo-Ann Fabric, but he doesn’t get the opportunity much unless I am sewing a project for him.  For the tool bag, he wanted “rugged” fabric for the outside and then soft fabric for the inside.  We walked down every fabric isle making sure we got the perfect thing.  The camo print we found was thick and strong and would hold up getting rubbed and jostled in his bag.  The black fabric was a soft flannel.  We bought 1/2 a yard of both.  Nathan had a vision of outlining the bag with some type of thin material or ribbon (he has seen it on similar bags before, I am assuming for strength), so next we headed to the ribbon isle.  He wanted to find something in ugly camo green, but we couldn’t find anything thick or strong enough.  Ironically, there was a section of “cheerleader” ribbon that was the strongest ribbon in the store, so we bought a packet of that (came in 3 yards and we had just enough).  Then we headed to the thread isle where Nathan picked out neon orange thread as the accent color.  He was so proud of his selections.

Step 2:  Lay the fabric out on your work station

I laid the camo print fabric design side down, and then laid the flannel on top of it.  I aligned one of the shorter sides (1/2 yard) together and cut any excess material so that they created a flush line together.

Step 3:  Sew one short end together

You could technically make this bag without the help of a sewing machine if you don’t have one, but lord if you have one use it!!  In order to make the two fabrics easier to work with, I wanted to sew as many sides together as I could.  Technically, you could probably sew all the sides together right now, but I didn’t know yet how big the bag was going to be so I started with one side.  I made a very narrow straight stitch all the way down the shorter side I aligned in step 2 (pinning first to make it easier).   I had black thread already in the sewing machine and since this stitch wasn’t going to be seen anyway, you don’t have to worry about it looking nice.  If you are NOT going to add the ribbon edges (which actually turned out really cool) then this edge WILL be seen.  What I would have done without the ribbons was fold both pieces of fabric in toward each other (hiding the edges) and then sewed them together.

Straight black stitch holding the two pieces of fabric together
Straight black stitch holding the two pieces of fabric together

Step 4: Lay out your tools and mark/cut your sides

I asked Nathan what order he wanted his tools in and then played around with spacing to get a feel for how large this bag was going to become.  I also asked him how deep he wanted his pockets to be.  To create an easy pocket, place the sewn side on the right.  Lay your tools out starting from the right side about halfway up from the bottom, leaving a small gap between tools for sewing.  Then fold the bottom up until it is covering at least half way up your tallest tool, or your desired pocket depth.  Put a small mark on the fabric to mark your pocket, or do this step again a little later.  Once I knew the general length and height of my bag, I cut the side excess fabric (which turned out to be exactly half of the length, so if someone wants a matching bag I can make another!).  You could also cut the excess top fabric at this time, but I decided to wait on that until later.  Remember, if you are cutting anything now leave plenty of excess fabric because who knows what can happen and the sewing gods will try to ef with you whenever possible.

Laying out his tools (For those of you who are motorcycle buffs, know the yellow triangle tool was a stand-in for a tool he ordered that has not arrived in the mail yet)

Step 5:  Sew the ribbon onto the bottom edge (which will turn into the top of the pocket)

If you are not using the ribbon outlining, you will just sew the bottom edge together in the way I mentioned in step 3, or in whatever way you feel like.  If you are adding the ribbon, the easiest way to do so is to first make a straight stitch to sew the two sides together.  Again, it doesn’t matter what the stitch looks like as long as it is close enough to the edge that it will eventually be covered by the ribbon.

Single stitch across the bottom to hold the two pieces in place
Single stitch across the bottom to hold the two pieces in place

Next, fold the ribbon over the bottom edge so there is equal amounts of ribbon on both the front and the back.  I highly recommend pinning the ribbon in place.  Then, sew the ribbon in place.  Nathan wanted fancy orange accent stitching, and I am no expert seamstress so my lines and tension didn’t turn out perfectly, which is glaring with accent colored thread.  If you want to make your life easier and you don’t care, use the same color as the fabric you are using!!

Back side with the ribbon sewed on the bottom (don't judge my crooked stitching)
Back side with the ribbon sewed on the bottom (don’t judge my crooked stitching)

Step 6:  Sew one side of your pocket

Now is when you would use that mark you used earlier designating how deep you want your pocket, or you can just re-measure now.  When you have your pocket folded over to the desired depth, pin it in place and sew on the ride side (the same side you originally sewed together).  Again, if you are using the ribbon outlining this will be eventually covered, just make sure your line is close enough to the outside edge.

One side of pocket sewn shut
One side of pocket sewn shut

Step 7:  Measure and sew your first pocket divider

Stick your first tool into the pocket and scoot it as close to the right side as possible.  If your tool has a larger and smaller end (like a lot of his did), I recommend placing the larger end in first to help keep the tool more stable.  On the left side of the tool, pin where you want your pocket divider stitching to go.  You want the pocket to be tight enough to hold the tool in place, but loose enough to easily slide the tool in and out.

Tool placed in pocket and then divider pinned in place
Tool placed in pocket and then divider pinned in place

Once your pocket divider is marked out, take the tool out and create the stitch.  You could stop your stitch at the end of the pocket, but just know it will be seen on the back and since ours is bright orange we figured it would look better on the back if the line just kept going.  Either way works.

First pocket divider sewn
First pocket divider sewn

Step 8:  Continue step 7 until you have all your tools with their own divider. 

I found that it was easiest to put at least the closest tool on the right into the pocket while I was making the newest divider.  It helped me make sure they all fit together and had enough (but not too much) room.

Continuing the pocket dividers
Continuing the pocket dividers

Nathan didn’t think he would need any other tools in his bag, but thought it would be good to add a few more pockets at the end just in case.  I just made them average sized so hopefully they will fit whatever he needs.

The finished pockets with two extra on the furthest left
The finished pockets with two extra on the furthest left

Step 9:  Cut the left side and top of the bag (if you didn’t already do it)

If you cut the top of your bag earlier, congrats!  You can move on.  If you didn’t like me, now is the time.  Nathan wanted it about an inch taller than his tallest tool, so I put that tool in the bag, measured, and cut.  If you have extra fabric on the left side of your last pocket, cut off the extra fabric close to the final stitch.

Top cut off to the appropriate height
Top and left cut off at the appropriate measurements

Step 10:  Finish the edges

Now is time to sew the rest of your edges together and add the ribbon.  If you are not adding ribbon, finish the edges like you did before.  If you are adding ribbon, sew both unfinished sides together like you did on the other two.  Then add ribbon along all 4 sides like you did to the top of the pocket.

Finished!  Inside (yes, I know my pocket is crooked)
Finished! Inside (yes, I know my pocket is crooked)
Finished!  The back
Finished! The back
Finished!  With all the tools laid out in their pockets
Finished! With all the tools laid out in their pockets

Step 11:  Add a Velcro strap (if wanted)

You could be done now, or if you want you can add a Velcro strap like we did.  I had leftover ribbon and it was the perfect length, so I used that.  First, I sewed one end of the ribbon in the middle of the side that was going to be rolled up LAST.  I made about 4 passes to make sure that the ribbon was really on their strong.

Ribbon sewed on to create a strap
Ribbon sewn on to create a strap

Then I put all the tools in it and rolled the bag up as tight as I could get it.  I then wrapped the ribbon one full circle around the bag and put a mark on the ribbon where it reached the side sewn to the bag.  To add the Velcro, I cut a piece of Velcro (both sides) about four inches long so if Nathan added more tools he could still close the bag.  I then sewed the rough side of Velcro on the outside of the ribbon closest to the edge sewn to the bag.  Then I sewed the softer side to the inside of the ribbon starting where I made my mark.  I cut excess ribbon after the soft Velcro.

The Velcro ribbon
The Velcro ribbon

Step 12:  Enjoy your “bitchin” bag!

Even though we made this bag all manly and for tools, you could use this concept and make it for about a zillion other things.  You could use it for paint brushes, a travel bag for kid’s colored pencils or markers or crayons, a silverware travel bag for camping/backpacking, toiletry travel bag, travel bag for drum sticks (because you know, drummers care about keeping their sticks nice), I can’t think of anything else long and slender…but you get the idea.

The bag all wrapped up with tools inside ready to go for a ride!
The bag all wrapped up with tools inside ready to go for a ride!
Tool bag inside his storage bag.  Fits like a glove with plenty of extra room
Tool bag inside his storage bag. Fits like a glove with plenty of extra room



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