Head Into Football Season With An Adorable Clear Stadium Bag Made With My Free Sewing Pattern And Step-By-Step Tutorial!
With most sports stadiums, concert venues, and even some schools requiring clear bags these days - why not sew your own!?
Today I'm sharing my new clear stadium bag sewing pattern, along with a step-by-step tutorial that makes the sewing process simple!
This clear vinyl tote bag is perfect for attending events that have implemented a clear bag policy to maintain public safety. But don't think that's the only thing you can use it for.
This bag is not only useful - it's also cute! Throw in your towel and sunnies and head to the beach... or pack up your crafting supplies for a road trip... or even use it as your day-to-day purse. This adorable clear vinyl tote is fun and functional!
Plus, the best part of carrying a clear bag is that you can see exactly where the item you need is before reaching for it. No more awkward moments digging at the bottom of your purse to find your phone or your chapstick!
Table of Contents
What's a Stadium Bag?
Over the last several years, many sports stadiums, concert venues, and other event spaces have implemented a clear bag only policy. The goal of a clear bag policy is to keep the public safe at large events as well as to speed up the bag-check process, making entry into an event easier and faster.
The NFL rules for clear bags, which are the set of rules that most venues follow, allow for a clear plastic, vinyl, or PVC bag up to 12" x 6" x 12". The bag cannot have any hardware or decorations that hide any part of the bag.
My clear stadium bag sewing pattern was made to fit within these guidelines, so no matter where you want to take your handmade clear tote, you'll be good to go!
About the Clear Stadium Bag Sewing Pattern
My clear stadium bag sewing pattern produces a bag that measures 11" x 5" x 11". This bag has a squared bottom that holds its shape, as well as one large interior pocket made from clear vinyl matching the rest of the bag.
The straps are 1" cotton webbing and are cut long to make it easy to throw the bag over your shoulder. You've got to love a good shoulder bag that frees up your hands to carry other things, right?
The bag also includes a recessed zipper at the top, which helps to add some structure to the top of the bag - along with the security of not allowing your items to fall out!
Both ends of the zipper are enclosed in little fabric tabs to make them look really cute and professional. I highly recommend choosing a zipper in a fun color and a fabric in a complementary color for the zipper tabs.
What Vinyl to Use for a Clear Stadium Bag
Making a stadium bag that looks nice and holds up to years of use starts with choosing the right vinyl.
I recommend selecting a high-quality 10 to 20 gauge clear or transparent holographic vinyl. I find that anywhere between 10 and 20 gauge provides a good balance of structure and flexibility.
A thinner vinyl below 10 gauge will be less rigid and might not hold its shape well, while a thicker vinyl above 20 gauge will be very thick and difficult to sew. A vinyl above 20 gauge will also make it much more difficult to turn the bag right sides out after sewing because it is extremely stiff.
Tips for Sewing Vinyl
If you've never sewn vinyl before, you might be a little nervous to tackle this stadium bag project. But, I promise, sewing vinyl is actually pretty simple as long as you keep these few tips in mind.
Use the Right Tools
When sewing vinyl, any regular all-purpose polyester thread will work well. There's no need for any extra-special thread to sew vinyl.
For your sewing machine needle, I recommend a size 90 needle. Either a universal, denim, or leather needle in size 90 would be a great choice.
In addition, do not use pins with vinyl. They will leave permanent, unsightly holes in your bag! I like to use fabric clips instead. Paper clips, binder clips, or clothespins are also good options.
When cutting out a pattern from vinyl, I find it easiest to place the pattern pieces on the vinyl, weigh them down with pattern weights, and then cut around them with a rotary cutter.
Since you can't pin through vinyl, it makes cutting with scissors difficult. If you really want to use scissors, you can trace out your pattern pieces onto the vinyl with chalk, then cut around the chalk shapes with your scissors.
Also, unless you're working with very thin vinyl, it is usually easiest to cut your pattern pieces in a single layer. This means that if the pattern calls for 2 copies of a piece, you will need to cut one, then move the pattern piece to cut the second piece.
Don't Touch Vinyl With Your Iron
Vinyl does not like heat - at all! Especially direct heat, like from an iron.
Make sure not to press your vinyl with your iron, because it is very likely to melt. Most vinyl will not hold wrinkles anyway, so it may not be necessary to press your vinyl.
However, if you find that you need to press wrinkles out of your vinyl, try heating it lightly with a hairdryer set to low, then pressing the wrinkles out with your hands.
Another option is to heat your ironing board with your iron, then place the vinyl on the warm board to make the vinyl more pliable. Then, smooth the wrinkles out with your hands.
Adjust Your Stitch Length
I find that a slightly longer stitch length looks nice when sewing clear vinyl. In addition, it will increase the distance between holes in the materials, helping to keep the seams strong. I like to set my stitch length to 3.0 mm.
Help the Vinyl Move Through Your Machine
A problem many sewists have with vinyl is that it acts "sticky" and doesn't feed through their machine smoothly. This is especially common with thicker vinyl and can be very frustrating!
To avoid this, I like to use a walking foot. This foot really helps to evenly pull the material through the sewing machine.
If you don't have a walking foot or a machine with dual feed capability, there are a couple of other options to help your vinyl move through your machine smoothly.
First, you might try a teflon presser foot. Teflon is smoother than metal and won't stick to the vinyl. If you don't have a Teflon foot, try sticking a piece of Scotch tape to the bottom of your regular presser foot to make it smoother.
Another option is to place a piece of tissue paper on both the top and bottom of the vinyl before feeding it through your machine. This will keep the vinyl from sticking to the machine or presser foot and help it move smoothly through your machine. Once you've finished sewing, simply rip the tissue paper from the seam.
Supplies to Sew a Clear Tote Bag
Here are the supplies you'll need to sew your clear stadium bag.
- Clear Stadium Bag Sewing Pattern (Link Below)
- 1/2 Yard Clear (or Holographic!) Vinyl at Least 42" Wide
- 5" Square Quilting Cotton Fabric
- Two 40" Pieces of 1" Wide Cotton Webbing for Straps
- Zipper at Least 14" Long
- Rotary Cutter
- Rotary Cutting Mat
- Sewing Clips
- Tailor's Chalk
- Iron & Ironing Board
- Sewing Machine
- Ruler or Measuring Tape
- Printing Paper
Step One: Print and Assemble the Pattern
Start by downloading the free stadium bag sewing pattern. Open the pattern in your PDF reader. I highly recommend Adobe Acrobat.
It's important not to print the pattern directly from your browser. This may result in wonky border lines and incorrect scaling.
Next, click on "print" to open the print settings dialog box. In the scaling section, select "Actual Size" or update the "Custom Scale" to "100%".
Then, print the first page of the pattern. This page contains a 1" test square.
Measure the test square. If it measures 1" x 1", you're good to go! Print the remaining pages of the pattern. If it does not measure 1" x 1", you will need to double-check your print scaling settings and reprint the pattern.
Once you've printed the pattern, assemble and tape together the pages by aligning the pink stars and the lines of the pattern. The large numbers in the center of each page will help you arrange the pages in the right order.
If you like, trim away the excess paper on the edges of the pages before taping them together. Or simply overlap the margins of the papers. If you choose to overlap, it may help to hold the pages up to a light so you can see through them and make sure everything is properly lined up.
With the pages of the pattern assembled, go ahead and cut out each pattern piece with a pair of scissors.
You should have 4 pattern pieces: the Pocket, the Main Bag, the Zipper Flap, and the Zipper Tab.
Step Two: Cut The Materials for Your Clear Bag
Once the pattern has been assembled and cut out, it's time to cut the materials for your clear bag.
Cut out the following number of pieces from your vinyl, fabric, and cotton webbing:
- Main Bag: Cut 2
- Pocket: Cut 1
- Zipper Flap: Cut 2
- Zipper Tab: Cut 2
1" Wide Cotton Webbing
- Cut 2 pieces, each 40" long
Once you have your materials cut, use tailor's chalk to transfer the strap placement markings from the pattern piece to both Main Bag vinyl pieces.
In addition, use tailor's chalk to transfer the pocket placement marking from the pattern piece to one of the vinyl Main Bag pieces.
Step Three: Attach the Pocket
With all the materials cut, we're ready to begin sewing! Let's start with the pocket.
Place the pocket piece on the wrong side of one of the vinyl Main Bag pieces, lining it up with the chalk pocket placement lines.
Stitch the pocket to the Main Bag piece along the sides and bottom, sewing 3/8 inch from the edge of the pocket. Make sure not to sew across the top of the pocket!
*PRO TIP: Because the pocket is in the middle of the Main Bag piece, you won't be able to use clips to hold it in place while you sew. You can either free-hand it, holding the pocket in place with your hands while you sew, or tape the pocket down, removing the tape just before sewing over it. Just make sure to use a low-tack tape, such as basting tape. Clear Scotch tape is hard to remove and tends to leave a tacky residue behind.
Step Four: Sew the Main Body of the Bag
Now we're ready to put together the main body of the bag! Start by aligning the two Main Bag pieces with right sides together. Make sure that the pocket is on the side of the vinyl that is facing outwards.
Clip the two Main Bag pieces together along the two sides and the straight edge of the bottom.
Sew the two pieces together along the sides and bottom of the bag.
Next, grab the vinyl at one of the open, lower corners of the bag. Line up the seams at the center of the corner.
Clip the corner together, double-checking that the seams are lined up at the center.
Repeat this process to clip together the other corner at the bottom of the tote bag.
Next, stitch across each corner with a 3/8" seam allowance.
Finally, turn the bag right sides out. Use your fingers to push the seams out. Remember, don't press your seams with an iron or you might melt the vinyl!
*PRO TIP: If your vinyl is stiff and making it very difficult to turn the bag right sides out, you might need to lightly heat the vinyl first to make it more pliable and easier to turn. Try heating the bag with a hairdryer set to low, then turn it right sides out.
Step Five: Attach the Straps
We have the base of our clear stadium bag done, but now we need to add the finishing touches. Let's start with the straps.
Clip one strap to each side of the bag, aligning the ends of the straps with the markings along the top edge.
*PRO TIP: Before sewing the straps on, make sure there are no twists in them - you don't want to have to seam rip and redo them!
Stitch the straps to the top edge of the bag with a 1/4" seam allowance.
Step Six: Prepare the Zipper
The final step to finishing out this adorable stadium bag is adding the recessed zipper to the top.
Place your zipper down on your table with the top of the zipper facing up.
Place one of the Zipper Flap pieces approximately at the center of the zipper, lining up one long edge of the flap with the edge of the zipper tape. Clip the Zipper Flap vinyl piece in place.
Stitch the Zipper Flap to one side of the zipper, sewing right along the zipper teeth with a zipper foot.
Next, finger press the vinyl out away from the zipper, aligning the folded edge of the vinyl along the zipper teeth.
Topstitch the folded vinyl Zipper Flap to the zipper tape, topstitching next to the zipper teeth with a zipper foot.
Place the other Zipper Flap piece on the other side of the zipper, again aligning the edge of the Zipper Flap with the edge of the zipper tape.
Make sure that the Zipper Flap is aligned with the other flap on the opposite side of the zipper. It's important that the two Zipper Flaps are exactly opposite each other on either side of the zipper!
Repeat the same process to stitch, fold, and topstitch the other Zipper Flap in place.
Step Seven: Attach the Zipper
Next, line up the free edge of one of the Zipper Flaps along the upper edge of one side of the bag with right sides together. Match up the short edges of the flap with the outer edges of the straps. Clip this Zipper Flap in place.
Stitch the Zipper Flap to the upper edge of the bag with a 3/8" seam allowance.
Open the zipper and flip the other Zipper Flap over so that its free edge is lined up right sides together with the top edge of the other side of the bag. Clip the Zipper Flap in place, again lining it up so that the short edges are aligned with the straps.
Stitch the second Zipper Flap in place.
Then, finger-press both Zipper Flaps to the inside of the bag. Clip them down.
Next, finger-press the remaining top edge of the bag between the Zipper Flaps to the inside by 3/8". Clip this folded upper edge of the bag in place.
Topstitch around the entire folded-down upper edge of the bag with a 1/4" seam allowance. This will secure the upper edge of the bag and will keep the zipper to the inside of the bag.
Step Eight: Add the Zipper Tabs
Finally, we need to finish off the ends of this zipper with some adorable fabric zipper tabs.
Take both Zipper Tab fabric pieces to your ironing board and press the short ends to the wrong side by 3/8".
Next, fold each Zipper Tab piece in half with right sides together, lining up the folded short ends on one side. Pin the sides of each Zipper Tab in place.
Stitch the two pinned sides of each Zipper Tab with a 3/8" seam allowance.
Trim the seam allowances down by half to reduce bulk in the finished Zipper Tabs.
Turn the Zipper Tabs right sides out, then press them flat with your iron.
Next, unzip the zipper by approximately half.
Trim both ends of the zipper so that each end extends approximately 3" past the Zipper Flaps on either side.
Insert each of the trimmed ends of the zipper into one of the Zipper Tabs, then pin them in place.
Finally, topstich each Zipper Tab to hold the ends of the zipper in place.
I like to topstitch around all 4 sides of the Zipper Tabs, sewing approximately 1/16" from the edges of the tab. Then, I sew an "X" shape through the center of each Zipper Tab. I like the neat look of this topstitching pattern, but if you like less topstitching, feel free to simply sew across the open side of each Zipper Tab with one line of stitching.
Your awesome clear stadium bag is finished! Now you're ready to load it up with all your essentials and head off to your next sporting event!