Snap Bag Tutorial

Snap Bag

Snap Bag

What you can’t see here is that this bag stays closed by recycling a used tape measure from a home improvement center. Fortunately, my husband had one he was happy to donate. The measurements are 8″ Width x 6″ Height x 2″ Depth. As with any sewing project, there is room to personalize and modify to your specific needs. The dimensions can change if you wish, but I recommend making one first and then you will know what measurements need to change for the second bag. Add embroidery, eliminate the 2″ box pleat, use up to three fabrics, or omit the prairie point handles and sew a loop, hair tie as the handle, etc. The choice is yours.

Supplies Needed

Supplies Needed

1.) Quilted Fabric (or fabric and batting to quilt your own) 9″ x 14.5″ This is the outer bag fabric.
2.) Lining Fabric 9″ x 18.5″ This fabric covers the measuring tape across top of bag.
3.) Side Loop Handle 2.5″ x 4.5″ Can be lining or outer fabric-your choice.
4.) Wrist handle (Optional) 11″ x 2.5″.
5.) Handles (Prairie Points) Cut Two 4.5″ x 4.5″ (Same fabric as lining)
6.) Coordinating thread for both fabrics
7.) Fusible Interfacing 9′ x 2″ (Use up small scraps of left over interfacing and piece together)
8.) 1′ Tape measure from hardware store. (Check to see what screwdriver or tapered cross tip screwdriver to have handy to undo outer case of tape measure)
9.) Roll of tape (either electrical or blue painter’s tape to cover tape measure ends)
10.) Sharp, heavy duty utility scissors (to cut tape measure)
11.) Ruler (to draw quilt lines if quilting your own fabric)
12.) Chalk or water soluble marker (to draw quilt lines)

Prepare your pattern pieces

Prepare your pattern pieces

Step 1 Prepare Pattern Pieces using tissue, medical paper, newsprint, etc.
All measurements are based on a 1″ tape measure. Adjust if you use a 3/4″ measuring tape. My Sharpie drawings are not as clear as the measurements stated above, so this is just to show you what the pattern pieces should look like.

Cut out pieces

Cut out pieces

Step 2. Cut Out Main Pattern Pieces To Tissue Measurements EXCEPT Batting And Outer Fabric If You Are Going To Quilt It. Leave some extra fabric and batting on all sides until quilt stitching is completed. Trim to pattern piece dimensions after quilting.
IMG_2013Step 3. Using The Ruler, Draw Line From One Corner To the Other In 1″ Lines Using a quilt guide or lines drawn on the fabric, stitch the quilting lines to sew batting to outer fabric. Click here to see another example of quilting your own outer fabric.

Faint chalk line from corner to corner

Faint chalk line from corner to corner

You can barely see the chalk line-this is what you want. Pin batting along the line to secure. Move pins as you sew each line until all stitching is complete.
Step 4. Stitch quilt lines. I like to set my stitch length to 3.0 and use a quilting bar that I can set to the 1″ mark, helping me to speed up the sewing process a little.

1' quilted lines

1″ quilted lines

Trim off excess

Trim off excess

Step 5. Trim off excess to match the pattern tissue measurement (9″ x 14.5″). I used a rotary cutter and ruler but scissors work just fine.

Press the 2

Press the 2″ strip of interfacing

Step 6. Press the 2″ fusible interfacing to the top edges of wrong side of lining. This is where I use up the leftover small scraps of interfacing from other projects. This will also help the tape measure from cutting through the edges of bag.

Turn top edge down 5/8

Turn top edge down 5/8″

Step 7. Layer lining and quilted fabric, wrong sides together and press lining down 5/8″ towards quilted piece. Set aside for a moment.
Step 8. Prepare prairie points by folding the 4.5″ square in half.
Step 9. Fold up lower left corner up to center. Press.IMG_2086
Step 10. Fold up right corner and bring to center, creating prairie point. The folded edges should be parallel to each other and touching and raw edges should be even. Press.

Pressed 1.25

Pressed 1.25″ over quilted fabric edge

Step 11. Fold down the top edge 1.25″ to cover raw edge of quilted front. Center prairie points and insert raw edge here under the folded edge. Secure with fusible tape or pins to keep anything from moving before the stitching. Refer to finished bag photo if needed to see placement.

Stitch through all layers

Stitch through all layers

Step 12. Stitch close to folded edge, leaving room for tape measure to slide through. Test before stitching. (Prairie points don’t show here, but they are sewn on both top edges in the center to be used as handles/decoration.)

Side Loop

Side Loop

Step 13. Prepare Side Loop. Fold loop, right sides together and stitch down long die leaving ends open. Grade seam allowances.

Safety pin to help turn

Safety pin to help turn

Step 14. Attach a safety pin to one edge of the tube. Use the safety pin to turn the tube right side out by sliding through to other side.

Side Loop ready for pressing

Side Loop ready for pressing

Step 15. After loop is right side out, press flat. Remove pin. Fold in half bringing raw edges together.

Baste loop

Baste loop

Step 16. Baste Loop to front of bag. With raw edges together, place loop 1/2″ right below top band. Baste with an 1/8″ seam allowance. This will be sewn permanently when side seams are sewn up.

Sew up side seams

Sew up side seams

Step 17. Sew up ONE SIDE SEAM only. I ran my finger down inside the bag from top to bottom to smooth out any tucks. Pin. Stitch in a 1/4″ seam allowance making sure to back-stitch enthusiastically at the top edge.
Step 18. Cut tape measure into two (2) pieces measuring 8″. Test length by inserting into the casings to see if there is at least a 1/4″ seam allowance. If not, trim to fit. Remove tape pieces.
Step 19. Using utility scissors, slightly round edges to remove sharp edges/corners.
Step 20. Tape edges with electrical tape or painter’s tape. This is a very important step. I did not do this on my first bag and the corners are working their way through the material.

Sew up side seams

Sew up side seams

Step 21. Insert tape measure pieces back into casings (like Step 15) pushing them in as far as possible to give ample room to sew on remaining seam allowance. NOTE: MAKE SURE THE TAPE MEASURE PIECES ARE INSERTED WITH THE BLANK SIDES OF TAPE (“C” SHAPE) FACE THE LINING SIDE. THE NUMBERED SIDES (“U” SHAPE) ARE FACING THE QUILTED SIDE OF BAG. The “C” shape sides of the tape kissing each other create the ‘snap’ .
Step 22. Prepare to sew up other side seam. Fold bag in half RST, pin, making sure the side loop is on the inside of the bag and all raw edges are even. Make sure there are no tucks. The top edge gets the most wear-and-tear so once again, back-stitch enthusiastically.
Step 23. Serge or zig zag raw side seams to cleanly finish.
Step 24. Prepare mitered corners.
Keeping the rights sides together, pull apart bag at lower edge fold (base of bag) with one hand on front of bag and one hand on back of bag until the side seam looks like the picture. My thumb is on the side seam and my index finger is on the base of the bag. This creates a triangle-looking area on the inside of the bag, but a nice miter on the outside, allowing the bag to sit up by itself. Measure across 2″ or 1″ on both sides of seam, pressing seam allowance to one side. Mark the line.

Step 25. Sew across triangle/miter. Trimming corner is optional. I left my triangle in place to give the base of the bag more substance. Repeat for other side.IMG_2066
Step 26. Turn right side out. This will take a little muscle because the tape measure doesn’t want to bend this way. Work it until the bag inverts. Add seam sealant to upper seam allowances.

Posted in Craft Ideas, DIY Sewing, Inspiration, Tutorials and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .


  1. I love my bag and use it all the time! This will be my Christmas gift for the girls in my family. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Such a cute bag. Using the tape measure is a stroke of genius! I’m using this pattern to make travel/cosmetics bags for myself and my daughters.

    • Hi Susie-
      This is the most popular post on my blog and I’m glad you like it. Let me know how the bags turn out. Thanks for commenting.

  3. Thank you. I made several of these today and loved the pattern. When I inserted the tape measure in the way you stated, I found it very, very hard to snap it open. So, I had the number side face the lining as was directed by another tutorial, and it was much easier to open.

    A tip I read somewhere was not to use a measuring tape from the Dollar Store. It isn’t strong enough in case anyone was going to buy one there.

    • I’m so glad you made a few of these. You are right; the blank tape sides facing, forming a “C” shape does make the bag pretty hard to open. The tabs HAVE to be there to pull open. I’m glad you experimented and found another way to make it work. Apparently, the tape measures can vary in strength. Thanks for the tip about Dollar Store. I used an old construction-grade one discarded by my husband, so I suppose it was tougher than usual…it is a great gift for guys!:) Thanks for responding back!

  4. Great Idea! Tried to print off instructions but web site address is showing up all over the instructions. I guess the only way to save instructions is to book mark site.

    • Dolores- I’m sorry you had difficulty. My son has been doing some major technical updates on my site which may have made your printing difficult. Maybe try again with copy/paste?? Bookmarking is a successful way I keep track of my favorite blog posts, also. I will follow up if I have any other tips.

  5. I love your sweet bags. The colors grabbed me first then the prairie point. I have seen these before and i already have the tape. I believe tomorrow this will be my first project. Thank you for sharing.

    • Good luck with the bags! I’m so glad they caught your eye and you’re going to give it a try. (rhyme unintended). Thanks for sending me a comment.

    • Hi Jenny,
      Thank you for commenting. I’m glad you like the bag. I hope you can make many for gifts and maybe one for yourself.

  6. Hi Dana,
    I’m on one of the quilting boards and a member just posted several of these bags that she made, along with a link to your tutorial. I would like to share this link to my blog readers – and of course, give you credit. I hope you don’t mind?! I think the bags are very cute. ~smile~

  7. Hi, I really love your demo – but I didn’t see if the inside seam on this snap bag is visible. When you open the bag, can you see the seam inside? Thank you

    • Hi Mari-
      Yes, the seam is visable when you open the bag. I serged mine, but covering it with bias tape or fabric would be a nice touch. Good luck and thanks for asking. -Dana

  8. Wow, was just gifted the share of this tutorial.
    I believe I even have an old tape measure around here. You know us creative types believe everything has a second life as something else. Ha!
    Dana, thank you for sharing your creativity.

    • Hi AnnB,
      Thank you for your comments. It is a great use for an old tape measure. I use my bag to hold my pattern weights. My tip to share is to file or smooth out the edges of the tape. They have a way or working their way through the fabric. Good luck.

  9. Thank you so much for this pattern. The idea of repurposing an old tape measure is wonderful plus not all bags need a zipper. I can see me using this as a small bag in my purse. Will try this for sure

    • Elsie Bulva-
      You are welcome. I hope you enjoy the process…and the outcome! The ‘snap’ it makes is loud, so maybe not great for meetings or church, but it will definitely keep items secure. Thank you for stopping by the blog.

  10. My friend hosted two middle school Chinese exchange students recently and wanted to make a gift for them that was NOT “Made in China” for them. I suggested she make “Snap Bags/Metal Tape Measure Bags” for them in colors they liked. She asked them their favorite color and proceeded to use your blog site tutorial.

    I would like to print it for my own use. I was unable to.

    • Hi Sharreen,
      Thank you for visiting and commenting! I’m happy to hear your friend could use the tutorial. In my opinion, handmade items are the most gratifying to give and receive.
      Unfortunately, this post is not in a printable form unless you copy and paste the text into a Word program. Having a tablet nearby would probably be the easiest way…
      I wrote this some time ago and need to look into a way to make that easier. Thanks for the suggestion.

  11. I’ve made hundreds of these “snap bags” using directions I made for myself almost 10 years ago. They are wonderful gifts and everyone seems to love them. Specialty theme fabrics make them easy to personalize. Your instructions are great! There are so many ways they can be personalized.

    • Dear B.J.
      I agree – they are great bags and work wonderfully in many applications. They are a little different than the standard zipper bag and provide a use for old measuring tapes! Thank you for checking out my blog and I’m happy the instructions worked out for you.

  12. Hi Dana, I love this little bag…however completely finished turned right side out and I cannot open the bag using the prairie points? It doesn’t close all the way gapped maybe about the thickness of a quarter. It seems to gap at the end on the top where I have surged all the way up. Is maybe my tape measure a little to long? It is just as cute as can be, but won’t pull apart?

    • Hi Mary-
      Are the tape measures facing with the rounded edges touching and the curved ‘C’ shape is on the outside? Maybe the tapes are too long as my bag literally snaps closed and the best way to open it is with the prairie points. Be careful to protect the edges if you trim the metal measuring tape back a bit. They can tear through the fabric, so advise taping the edges to protect them with masking, duct or electrical tape. I hope that helps.

  13. My mom made one of these for me a while back, and I wish I would have used it for my passport and boarding passes on my last trip. I told a friend who makes purses she needs to make these for passports. It is so stressful to be in a line, digging for a passport, or wrangling it out of the neck bag things, or worrying it will fall out of something. These snap bags seem to be a perfect solution, and if made from a tactile material, easy to find in your purse.

    • Hi Roxy,
      It would definitely be a safe way to store it but the measuring tape would probably set off the alarms. Something as small as my watch did last time I traveled.
      The snap bag is one of my most popular posts. People seem to love making them to hold all kinds of treasures.
      Thank you for stopping by my blog and commenting!

  14. I love this bag and would love to print it out but I can’t find a way to do it. Assuming it’s blocked?

    • Kathy,
      It’s not blocked, just not set up easily for printing. I’m not advanced yet to produce a pdf print out of the instructions. Hopefully, that is something I can incorporate in the future. Glad you like the bags.

  15. I went back up to see if there were any comments about printing and what I found was your son doing something and it pretty much knocked out being able to print it. I found a way to do it. I first copied and pasted all of the text, then I went back and one at a time, copied and pasted the pics in the spots where they belong. Took a little while, but so well worth it. Especially since my computer has yet to be moved to my sewing room. Thank you so much.

    • Kathy,
      Yes, my son keeps up on the back end of the website. The tutorial was never posted in such a way to be printed. I’m glad you found a way that worked, although a lot of work for you. Ideally, a laptop or tablet would have been easier to take with you to your sewing room. We already have enough technology, don’t we? I hope your bags sell like hot cakes at your craft fair.

  16. Dana, I love these cute little bags! I have made several and making some to sell at craft fairs right now.
    I wonder if anybody has suggestions for using leftover pieces of flannel fabric. I back quilts with flannel, and always have a piece 15-20 inches wide and 5+ ft long left over. I’ve made several rag quilts but am looking for other suggestions. Any help would be appreciated.

    • Hi Peggy,
      Thanks for commenting and I’m glad you love the bags! Your leftover pieces brought an idea to mind. I have used flannel for drawstring shoe bags. They provide a great soft bags for shoes in suitcases and also make great gifts. You can determine the right size to fit mens/womens/kids size shoe bags, but you might be able to fold the fabric in half and use the fold for the bottom. Good luck!

    • Hospitals always need hats and other items for the preemie babies. It needs to be soft for their delicate skin so flannel would work great and you only need a small amount of fabric.

  17. I love these bags. I made some last week, but gave them away before I took a picture. I will be making some more this week and I will post a picture. Great instructions!

  18. I have made one for all the little girls in my family and friends for Christmas. They all carry them with great pride. I lost my right hand and am so greatfull that I am able to make these.
    Thank you so much

  19. Hello. I just found your tutorial from Pinterest. It is a GREAT tutorial and I am going to steal (he he he) a tape measure from my husband’s workshop so I can make one RIGHT NOW! Just for your information though, there are three step 12’s. It really doesn’t change the instructions but I have a bad OCD complex and wanted to let you know. GREAT TUTE!!!!! Thanks for sharing it.

  20. I made the handles in a different way that allowed me to embroider my initial on them. It makes them look more like decoration than handles.

  21. I love the bag and the directions are easy to follow. I am hoping to teach it to elementary students. Do you have any suggestions that would make it easy enough for a grade 4/5 students (10 years old)
    Thanks so much.

    • Hi Wanda,
      My first warning is just the sharp edges of the measuring tape…other than that, it is straight stich sewing. If you are confident the students are able to follow the directions and love the sewing part, they will no doubt love the “snap” part of the finished bag. Good luck.

  22. Hello! I love these! What size fabric would I need if I wanted to make these the size of, say, a standard school folder (just a bit bigger than 8.5 x 11inches, for example) I’m very new to sewing and am having trouble figuring out the size difference.


    • Hi Colleen,
      I would go at least with a measurement of 9.5″ x 12.5″ to start to allow for the seam allowances. If you want room for papers, pens, or other items, go a little bigger. A handle could be added also. I hope that helps.

  23. Like the pattern. I’m going to modify it to one I saw in a magazine today for eye glasses to hang on side of a purse or on a belt loop. Those measurements were 4 1/2 x 7 1/2. And at another site it stated that your site is not secure.Didn’t notice anyone else telling you that.

    • Hi Jennie,
      Thanks for stopping by. The snap bag is a versatile pattern, for sure. I’m glad you are putting your own spin on it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *