It feels good to finish a long-term project, right?! That’s how I feel about these Cargo Duffles. I’ve been wanting to make my daughter’s their own overnight bags since I made the first one for myself. That was three years ago now, photographed the day after our ice storm in 2013. Now all that’s left is to sew up a matching 1-hour Dopp kit, of course!

I always feel projects like this are hard to photograph enough to show you all the details, so I’ve included a huge photo-bomb for you today. I’m so pleased with how these turned out, hope you like them too!

Earlier this year, Kelly Panacci sent me a fat quarter bundle of the Tree Party fabric she designed for Riley Black Fabrics. It’s just right for my girls’ bags and split out fairly evenly into a “blue” and a “pink” project since those are the current favorites around here. I have to confess, my oldest’s pink and red duffle is my favorite – though I LOVE the brown faux leather on the blue one too. Kelly was kind to include a few of her Happy Flappers prints as well – they match perfectly! I love all of the tiny details she puts into each design.

My dilemma of what-to-do-with-a-fat-quarter-bundle-when-I’m-“not-a-quilter” was quickly remedied when I realized 90% of the pieces in cargo duffle fit into the 21″ width of the pieces! Next dilemma, how do I arrange the fabrics so they don’t look too crazy together? They all match in colour of course, but print-upon-print can be a bit jumbled if you’re not careful! This was a bit of an epic process involving charts, layouts and lots of photographs.

Now that they are finished?  I love the scrappy, coziness that resulted from mixing all the prints together. Plus, the “bunting” fabric I used for the binding on the blue bag is my absolute favorite! (I’d love to use it for a quilt sometime.) To add to the artisan-handmade effect, I used some stitches on my loaned Janome S9. These X’s on the pocket sides and the blanket stitch along the accent piece add so much. Taking time to carefully add a few extras always makes a big difference!

Anyhow, I’m getting off track… Back to the bag construction!

Since I’ve made 5 Cargo Duffle bags before (these were the 6th and 7th!), I didn’t plan to find anything new to do for them. I love following tried-and-true patterns. Once I’ve made them before, it’s easy to make more, so satisfying and less stressful – because I don’t have anything new to learn! All that to say – Yay, I’ve found a new zipper hack!

You can find links to all of my Cargo Duffle bag (and backpack!) posts and tutorials at the bottom of this post. If you look, you’ll find out how to change a double-zipper into a two-way zipper that closes in the middle, perfect for bag making. I’ve always been a bit disappointed in the colour selection for the double-zips at my local fabric store – so I was thrilled to find out I could use a regular one-pull zipper for this. (And honestly, not sure why I didn’t think of it before?)

D-I-Y Double-Zipper Hack!

  • Buy a regular (one-direction) zipper in the size you need.
  • Buy a matching second one-direction zipper in the shortest size possible – to save $$! (Or a different colour to mix-it-up!)
  • Remove the zipper pull from the small second zipper and toss out the zipper tape sides.
  • Feed the zipper pull onto the first zipper following the “Change a Double-Zip to meet in the Center” tutorial
  • Done, so easy!
These bags were made with the free pattern Anna from Noodlehead wrote for Robert Kaufman. It’s my go-to pattern for overnight bags so far, as with most things Anna designs! I did get a bit creative with my own Cargo Duffle, and then the ones I made my family for Christmas, so I added a lot of the same things to these as well.
  • Corrugated plastic base: It feeds into the bottom of the bag and helps it to hold its shape. I cut up an old Ikea plastic bin I’ve been saving for 3 years – just for these! It fits into a piece of fabric I added to the base gusset before sewing the sides together.
  • Zippered inside pocket: The construction of these bags makes it really easy to add pockets to the inside. Sized to the bag sides, they are basted in and then the edges are covered with bias tape after the bag construction. I pleated the pocket at the bottom so it holds more – perfect for keeping socks and underwear tidy.
  • Coloured (non-inset) lining: I made these bags a bit more colourful inside by adding a layer of Kona Cotton (from my Sew Sister’s club subscription) before I quilted the different pieces.
  • Business Card Slot: Of course my kids don’t have business cards! But they can for sure write their last name and a phone number to slip into the clear slot. It’s attached to the zipper pocket on the inside and if these bags ever get lost I hope they come back to us because of it!
  • Non-Cargo Zippered Outside Pocket: Of course, this defeats the purpose of calling these “Cargo” Duffles – but I find the zippered pocket more practical – and less fiddly – to sew on. The original cargo pockets are amazing, but snaps and I haven’t gotten along well in the past! Plus, things don’t fall out of zippered pockets as easily. (Here’s the tutorial for these zippered pockets.)
  • Zipper Tabs: I forgot to add fabric ends to the zipper before I installed it, so I added some tabs to cover the extra zipper tape.


I love working with Canadian Fabric Designers and want to let you know about Kelly’s latest designs for Riley Blake Fabrics – Road Trip! It’s gorgeous and inspired by their vintage trailer and trips to Ontario provincial parks over the past few years. Would you believe Kelly and her husband Mario sold their 28-year house in 2015, packed up and moved into a vacation condo! You can read more about her inspiration on the Kelly Panacci Inc. blog.

A little birdie told me she thinks you’ll find some Road Trip around here soon! What would you make with Kelly’s new fabric?

Other Cargo Duffle posts you might like: