Designing beautiful fabric doesn’t have to be difficult. It can be as simple as sketching a few of your favorite drawing tools–like crayons! In today’s tutorial, Candy Joyce shares how to create a quick crayon design and use it to stitch up a functional messenger bag–perfect for back to school!

Custom Messenger bag

Raise your hand if you’ve ever said, “I’m not an artist; I can’t design fabric.” Despite being fearless with a sewing machine, designing fabric seemed a little intimidating and I worried that I didn’t have the artistic skills. Then I read Candy Joyce’s tutorial for creating my own crayon inspired fabric to sew into a cute messenger bag. Her easy to follow instructions gave me the confidence to treat myself to a brand new box of crayons and rediscover that childhood artist hiding inside.

Candy: For this project, I wanted to capture the happiness I felt cracking open a fresh box of crayons and spending the afternoon drawing and coloring when I was little. I usually design on my computer, so I had to get into a different frame of mind for this hand-drawn design; I had to be more thoughtful with my design decisions as there is no undo button on crayons. I would normally dive straight into the design and then spend time rearranging and recoloring things later; instead, I took my time at the beginning of the project to plan where my colors were going to go and how I wanted it to look.

Part One: Designing the Fabric

Materials & Tools

  • crayons
  • paper
  • scanner

How to: 

1. Create the art.

Crayon drawing

Mark out a repeat design space with faint pencil lines on a sheet of paper and draw in some light guidelines to help line up elements within the design. Think about the size of your scanner when choosing a repeat size; your paper needs to fit on the scanner glass. Experiment with combinations of drawing tool and surface to get the effect you like. This design was created with sharp crayons on heavy watercolor paper.

2. Scan design, touch up, and upload.

Crayon scan

Scan your design at a 1:1 ratio to print it the exact size as the original. That means you should set your scanner to scan at 150 dpi, because you will be printing it out at 150 dpi (the resolution of Spoonflower’s printers). You can experiment with scanning your original at a higher resolution if you want to enlarge your design on your finished fabric.

Hint: Crayon can be messy on a scanner. Think about cleaning the scanner glass with glassncleaner after scanning to avoid leaving crayon marks and crumbs on your next scanned project.

Healing tool

Use the tools in your graphics program to clean up your design after scanning. Some programs have a Healing Brush tool that cleans up smudges automatically or you can use a Paintbrush or Eraser tool with the color set to the same as the background of your drawing.

Crayon upload

Save the file and upload to Spoonflower. Choose 1 yard of heavyweight fabric. We recommend Linen/Cotton Canvas or Eco Canvas. Note: For fabric less than 50 inches wide, you will need additional yardage.

Crayon fabric

Part Two: Making the Messenger Bag

Materials & Tools

  • 1 yard of printed 50-inch-wide heavyweight fabric for bag, or 2 yards of 44-inch (narrower) fabric
  • 1 yard midweight fabric for lining
  • 2 by 40-inch piece of heavy sew-in interfacing
  • A small round lid or saucer to trace a curve
  • Basic sewing tools


1. Cut out pieces.

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Using a rotary cutter and ruler, cut out the following seven rectangles from the printed bag fabric. (See the diagram for the placement of each piece.)

  • Cut 2 pieces at 15 by 13 inches (front, back)
  • Cut 1 piece at 15 by 14 inches (flap)
  • Cut 2 pieces at 15 by 9 inches (pockets)
  • Cut 1 piece at 39 by 5-1/2 inches (gusset)
  • Cut 1 piece at 41 by 5 inches (strap)

Cut the same pieces from the lining fabric, except for the strap (six pieces total for lining).

2. Prepare the pockets.

Top stitching

Place the pocket and pocket lining pieces right sides together. Stitch one long edge, using a ½-inch seam allowance. Turn right sides out and press the seam. Topstitch 1/8 inch from the folded edge. This is the top of the pocket. Repeat for the second pocket.

Pocket placement

Place one pocket on each bag front and back with the lining fabric facing to the inside. Match the sides and bottom edges. Pin and baste 1/4 inch from the raw edge, stitching around the pocket sides and bottom.

3. Add gusset.

Measure 12½ inches from each short end of the gusset piece and make a small clip (¼ inch) on each side of the gusset. This will help place the corner and will allow the fabric to ease around the corner.

Gusset corner

Pin the gusset piece to the bag front. Match the long side of the gusset to the bag at the side and pivot at the bottom corner at the clip. Continue pinning across the bottom of the bag, pivot again, and match up the other side. You will have pinned the gusset in a U shape around the bag front. Stitch around the sides and bottom with a ½-inch seam allowance. Pin the bag back to the other long side of the gusset and stitch the same way. Repeat with the bag lining front, back, and gusset. Set the bag and lining aside.

4. Assemble bag flap.

Flap corner

Trace around the cup or lid at the bottom corner of the bag flap and lining flap to round the corners.

Clip corner

Trim the curves.

Place the bag flap and lining flap right sides together, pin, and stitch with a ½-inch seam allowance along the bottom and side, leaving the top edge open. Clip the curves. Turn right side out and press all the edges. Topstitch 1/8 inch from the stitched edges. Set this piece aside.

5. Fold and stitch strap.

With the wrong side of the fabric facing up, turn and press 1/2 inch along each long edge of the strap, pressing toward the center. Then fold the strap in half lengthwise with wrong sides together, folds matching, and press. Open out and tuck the interfacing strip inside.  Refold. Topstitch along all sides of the strap 1/8 inch from the edges.

6. Put it all together.

Find the center of the gusset on each side and pin the center end of the strap to each side of the gusset, matching the raw edges and centers and making sure that you do not twist the strap. Baste in place by stitching over the strap end 1/4 inch from the edge.

Match the raw edge of the flap to the top edge of the bag back. The flap lining should be facing toward the outside and the bag fabric and flap fabric touching. Baste in place.

Messenger Bag Opening

Turn the bag lining inside out. With the bag (including basted flap and strap) turned right side out, tuck the bag inside the bag lining, matching the raw edges all along the top edge. Pin and stitch all along the top edge, leaving 4 inches at the center back open. Turn the bag right side out (it will look like a mess when you first begin to turn it) and stuff the lining inside the bag. Press the top bag edge and topstitch 1/4 inch from the edge. Close the opening you left for turning as you topstitch.

Custom Messenger Bag

Looking for more projects similar to this? Pick up a copy of The Spoonflower Handbook–available for pre-sale now, and in stores in September!