Tutorial: Naughty Secretary Bag

I am completely addicted to sewing bags! I have tried my hand at many handbag patterns and thought it was about time to write my own! I’d like to introduce you to the Naughty Secretary Bag! I’m not really sure how I arrived at this name…it just popped into my head, lol. At a generous 15″ x 14″ size, this bag totes around books, a laptop, whatever!

Bag made using Joel Dewberry ‘Ginseng’ fabric

This sewing pattern is intended for a confident beginner or intermediate sewer. There are a lot of steps, but everything is do-able! I would be happy to answer any questions along the way, via a comment or in my Flickr group! I hope you like it, please let me know what you think, and I’ll keep my fingers crossed that you’ll want to sew it for yourself! :-)



– 1 yard of fabric for the exterior
– 1 yard of fabric for the accents, straps, and false bottom
– 1 yard of fabric for the lining
– 2 yards of Pellon Shape-Flex (fusible woven interfacing) if you are using a decor-weight as your main                fabric,  -OR- 4 yards of Pellon Shape-Flex if you are using quilt-weight cotton as your main fabric
-1/4 yard of fusible fleece
– half inch magnetic snap
– piece of cardboard approximately 15″ x 15″ (cardboard boxes work great!)

Helpful hints: If you have never used fusible interfacing before, you can find it at your local fabric store. My Joann Fabrics stocks the interfacing near the cutting counter, and you want to look for the bolts with the lilac-colored labels…those are the fusible ones.

If you are more experienced at sewing bags, you might want to substitute in 1/2 yard of Pellon Peltex fusible interfacing for the Exterior fabric portions of the bag. This will make a bag that can stand up on its own. Use the Peltex on the Exterior Main Panels and Exterior Side Panels only. I am not a fan of using fusible fleece for the outside of bags, because it tends to make them look crinkly.


1a. Using the attached .pdf file, print out the pattern pieces for:
-Top Side Panel
-Top Band
-Side Accent
-Side Panel

1b. Tape the Side Panel pieces together at the dotted line to form one piece. This will be your Side Panel pattern piece.


From the Exterior Fabric
2a. Cut 2 pieces each 14-1/2″ tall x 16″ wide. These will be your Exterior Main Panels.

2b. Using the Side Panel pattern piece, cut 2 pieces on the fold. These will be your Exterior Side Panels.

2c. Cut 2 pieces 4″ tall x 15″ wide. These will be your False Bottom Panels.
From the Lining Fabric
2d. Cut 2 pieces each 14-1/2″ tall x 16″ wide. These will be your Lining Main Panels.

2e. Using the Side Panel pattern piece, cut 2 pieces on the fold. These will be your Lining Side Panels.

2f. Cut 1 piece 5″ tall x 16″ wide. This will be your Lining Bottom Panel.

From the Accent Fabric
2g. Fold your fabric selvage to selvage (the finished edges of your fabric). Cut off the printed selvage. Cut a straight line 6″ away from the selvage. Repeat twice. This will leave you with 3 strips that are 6″ wide by approximately 44″ long. The strips will become the Handles.

2h. Cut out the Top Band pattern piece on the fold. Repeat until you have 4 pieces.

2i. Using the Side Accent pattern piece, cut 4 pieces on the fold.

2j. Using the Top Side Panel piece, cut 4 pieces on the fold.

2k. Cut 1 piece measuring 5″ tall x 16″ wide. This will be your Exterior Bottom Panel.

For the Pockets
2l. With your leftover fabric, cut 2 pieces each measuring 10″ tall by 16″ long. These will be made into pockets on one side. 

From the Fusible Woven Interfacing
2m. Repeat steps 2a. and 2b. and 2k.

If you are using decor-weight/cotton canvas fabric as your exterior, cut 2 pieces each for 2a. and 2b and 2k. Using the manufacturer’s instructions, fuse 1 piece onto the wrong side of each exterior fabric piece.
If you are using quilt-weight cotton as your exterior, cut 4 pieces each for 2a. and 2b and 2k. Using the manufacturer’s instructions, fuse 2 pieces onto the wrong side of each exterior fabric piece.

2n. Repeat steps 2d. and 2e, and 2f. Fuse 1 pieces onto the wrong side of each fabric piece.

2o. Repeat step 2i, for a total of 2 Top Band pieces. Fuse 1 piece onto the wrong side of each Top Band fabric.

2p. Repeat step 2j. Cut 8 pieces total and fuse 2 pieces per Side Accent.

From the Fusible Fleece
2q. Cut 2 strips measuring 1-3/8″ x 52″. Set aside.

2r. Cut 4 squares measuring approximately 1.5″ x 1.5″. These will be used later to enforce the snap (if you used Pellon Peltex for your bag, complete this step with the Peltex instead).

2s. Repeat step 2i. for a total of 2 pieces. Fuse these per manufacturer instructions, to the wrong side of 2 of the Top Band pieces.




3a. Take your 2 False Bottom pieces. With ride sides together, pin all the way around, leaving 1 short end open.
3b. Sew along the long edge, pivot, then the short edge, pivot, then along the remaining long edge. Be sure to backstitch at each end. Clip the corners, being careful not to cut the stitching.
3c. Turn your fabric right sides out, using a turning tool (you can also use a knitting needle, dull scissors, or pen top) to push out the corners. Press.
3d. Take your cardboard and cut 3 pieces measuring 3-1/2″ x 14-1/2″. Insert all 3 into the pocket you have created. You may need to trim them; they should fit snuggly.

Helpful Hint: Several readers suggested using plastic quilting template in place of the cardboard (in case it gets wet). I use cardboard as a thrifty option, but the plastic template will work just as well!

3e. Turn the fabric of your open end under, about 1/4″. Sew the opening closed by hand.

4a. Take 1 Exterior Side Panel piece and 1 Top Side Panel piece. Place the Top Side Panel at the top of the Exterior Side Panel (the short edge), right sides together. Sew across that edge. Press the seam toward the Top Side Panel. On the right side of the Top Side Panel, topstitch 1/4″ away from the bottom of the Top Side Panel.


4b. Take 2 Side Accent Pieces. Make a mark 2″ up from the bottom straight edge, on both sides. Pin. Sew them right sides together along the top curved edge, stopping and starting at the marks you made. Sew slowly. Backstitch at each end. Clip along the curved edge about every 1/2″. This will help your curve lay nice and flat. Turn right sides out and press.
4c. Lay the Side Accent piece that you just assembled on top of the Exterior Side Panel. The straight unfinished edge of the Side Accent piece should be level with the bottom of the Exterior Side Panel. Pin. Baste, using a 1/4″ seam, along both sides of the Side Accent and along the bottom to attach it to the Exterior Side Panel.
4d. Using your coordinating thread, topstitch on the curved edge of the Side Accent, about 1/8″ of an inch from the edge. Backstitch at each end.
4e. Repeat steps 4a.-4d. to assemble the other Exterior Side Panel.

5a. Take 1 Exterior Main Panel and 1 Top Band piece (with the woven interfacing fused to it). The 16″ edges of the Exterior Main Panel will be at the top and bottom. With the Exterior Main Panel facing you, place the Top Band piece face down on top of it. The “prong” on each side of the Top Band should be even with the top of the Exterior Main Panel. Pin.


5b. Starting at the left corner of the Top Band, sew along the edge of the Top Band until you arrive at the right side of the Top Band. Backstitch at each end. You should see a thin strip of your exterior fabric peeking through. Cut that strip out so that the raw edges of the Top Band and the Exterior Main Panel are even.


5c. Trim the corners. Clip the curved edges about every 1/2″. Flip the Top Band up so that the right side is now facing you. Push out the corners of the Top Band and push the tab down on each end so that it is covering part of the Exterior Main Panel. Press. Also press the middle portion of the Top Band up toward the Top Band. Topstitch on top of the Top Band, 1/8″ away from the seam.


5d. Repeat steps 5a.-5c. with the remaining Exterior Main Panel and 1 Top Band piece.

5e. Take your 3 Handle pieces. Cut 1 of them in half. This will give you 2 long strips and 2 short strips. With right sides together, sew 1 long strip to 1 short strip. Press seam open. Repeat for the remaining pieces. This will leave you with 2 new Handle pieces.

5f. Take 1 Handle piece and fold it down the center, length-wise. Press. Open the fold. Take the bottom half and fold it up to the crease. Press. Then take the top half and fold it up to the crease. Press. This will give your Handle 3 creases equal distance from each other.

5g. Using 1 of the fleece strips that you cut earlier, slide it into one half of the strap. Fold the handle in half down the original center crease. This will leave you with a 1.5″ handle. Press. Repeat for the other Handle piece. Topstitch 1/4″ away from each long edge. Next trim each Handle – they should be 52″ long.

5g. Make a vertical line, with a fabric marker, on your Exterior Main Panel, 4″ away from the left edge. Make another vertical line 4″ away from the right edge. Pin 1 Handle to the inside of the left line, beginning at the raw edge of the Exterior Main Panel. Bring the other end of the Handle and start pinning to the inside of the right line. Make sure the Handle is not twisted. The middle of the Handle should continue over the top of the Exterior Main Panel.

5h. Topstitch along the left and right side of the handle, this time 1/8″ from the edge of the Handle. Start from the bottom of the Exterior Main Panel and STOP when you reach the middle of the Top Band (This is really important!! If you sew all the way to the end, you won’t be able to get your Handle inside when you sew the exterior and lining of the bag together). Repeat with the other side of the Handle.

5i. Repeat steps 5e.-5h. for the other Exterior Main Panel.


6a. Take 1 Exterior Main Panel and 1 Exterior Side Panel. The Exterior Main Panel should be facing you. Place the Exterior Side Panel face down on the right side of the Exterior Main Panel. The side edges should be even. Also take care to match the seams from the accent pieces so they will line up after you have sewn them. Pin along the side edge. Sew and backstitch at each end. Press seam open.


6b. Repeat Step 6a. to attach the remaining Exterior Side Panel, this time to the left side of the Main Panel.
6c. Take your remaining Exterior Main Panel and sew it to one of the Exterior Side Panels (it doesn’t matter which side you attach first) along the long edge. Press the seam open.
6d. Now you should have one long row of panels. Bring the unfinished side edge of the Exterior Main Panel to meet the unfinished edge of the Exterior Side Panel. Pin, sew, and backstitch at each end. Press seam open.


6e. Take your Exterior Bottom Panel. Place it facing you, with the long edges on the top and bottom. Pin the bottom right side of one Exterior Main Panel to the top long edge of the Exterior Bottom Panel. Sew along the long edge, starting at stopping at 1/2″ from each corner. Backstitch at each end. Repeat for the other long edge, and for both side edges. Clip corners.
6g. Turn right sides out and press.

7a. Pick up both of your pocket pieces. With right sides together, pin along one long edge. Sew. Press seam open. Flip so that both right sides are facing out. Press again. Topstitch the finished edge, 1/4″ away.

7b. Place the pocket so that the unfinished long edge is flush with the raw edge of the bottom of one of the Interior Main Panels. The right side of the Interior Main Panel should be facing you. Pin the bottom and the sides. Sew a basting stitch 1/4″ away from the edge, starting at the short end on the right side. Pivot at the corner, sew along the long unfinished edge, then sew up the remaining short edge. Fold the assembled Interior Main Panel in half lengthwise, making a crease in the center. Topstitch down this crease, which will divide your pocket into 2 compartments (it is helpful to sew starting at the bottom of the pocket, to avoid puckers).

7c. Repeat steps 5a.-5d. using your lining fabrics (you will be using the Top Panel pieces with the fleece fused to them).

8a. Repeat step 4a. using your lining fabrics until both Interior Side Panels are assembled.STEP 9 ~ ASSEMBLE THE INTERIOR OF THE BAG
9a. Repeat steps 6a.-6f. When you get to step 6d., make sure you leave a 4″ opening on one of the long edges. This opening is so that you will be able to turn your bag in a later step (important!!!). Leave interior wrong side out.STEP 10 ~ PUT IN THE MAGNETIC SNAP

10a. Take the small squares of fusible fleece that you cut earlier. With the prongs of 1 end of the snap in the middle of the fleece, mark the prong placement with a fabric marker or chalk. Cut small slits at the marks. Repeat for all of the squares.

10b. Place 2 squares of fleece and one half of the magnetic snap, with the washer, in front of you. Slide the prongs of the snap through both pieces of fleece, to make sure that the slits are big enough. Repeat for the remaining 2 squares of fleece and the other half of the magnetic snap.

10c. Now take your bag interior. Fold it in half and mark the halfway spot on both the front and back of the bag. Measure down from the center 2″, and make another mark. At this second mark, take the other half of the snap and mark the prong placement. Cut small slits at the marks. Repeat so there are slits in both the front and in the back of the bag.

Helpful Hint: I like to put a little dab of Fray Check on the fabric where I’ve cut the slits (optional).

10d. Put one set of fleece/snap through the right side of the front of the bag. Put the 2 squares of fleece on the wrong side of the bag. Slide the washer on the prongs, and put pressure on the prongs to make them lie flat, away from each other. Repeat for the other fleece/snap and the right side of the back of the bag.


11a. Place the exterior of the bag (still right side out) inside of the bag lining (which is still wrong side out). They should be right sides together. Make sure the handles are pushed down in between the exterior and the lining, so that you don’t sew through them.

11b. Pin along the top edge. Sew along the entire top edge of the bag (making sure not to sew through the handles), backstitching at each end.

11c. Pull the exterior of the bag out through the lining. Topstitch or slip-stitch the opening in your lining closed. Press.

Helpful Hint: You may want to topstitch the top of the bag after it is assembled, about 1/4″ from the top edge. This gives it a crisp, professional look.


Bag by Kim! Blogged here: http://gogokim.blogspot.com/2011/06/sewing-to-get-excited-about.html

I hope you will want to sew this bag up for yourself! Please let me know if there are any details that I’ve missed, or any mistakes I can fix on this pattern to make it easier to use.

The fine print: This pattern is intended for personal use. Please do not take any of my wording or instructions. I don’t mind if you make the bags to sell on Etsy or at craft fairs. I’d love it if you linked back to my tutorial! Thanks! :-)

P.S. I’m linking up to Sew Modern Monday and Fabric Tuesday!

67 thoughts on “Tutorial: Naughty Secretary Bag

  1. Really cute bag. Definitely can see these as making great gifts, so putting this pattern on my list. Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. oh wow, I love everything about this bag! The name, the size, the fabric! it’s fantastic. It’s in my bookmarks, thanks for sharing.

  3. OMG!!!! SARA!!!!!! I LOVE the bag and the photos are FABULOUS!!!!!! I have to try this…once I get my sewjo (sewing mojo) back…

  4. Wow Sara! This is an amazingly generous tutorial and pattern (you could sell this!). I love the structure of the bag and your fabric choices too. I will add this to my list of must-makes.

  5. The name of this bag is cracking me up. Looking forward to the noisy librarian instructions, as a bit smaller would probably be more useable for me. I have this same fabric – what did you use for the accent/straps? Looks awesome and your dress is soooooo cute!

  6. Way to go, Sara!! Your pattern looks fabulous and I really like the finished bag! I totally thought this was going to be For Sale and then saw you posted it all right here–super generous! I hope you’ll keep making patterns (even if they aren’t free ;)!

  7. Fab tutorial, and it looks great!

    For my sins I decided I would be more ambitious for my first design and went for a baby changing bag, it’s only the 3rd bag I’ve ever made, I must have been nuts! It’s in the post right now on its way to my friend for her baby shower, so I guess I’ll find out if I have a career in bag design soon lol Don’t think I’ll be giving up the day job just yet ;o)

  8. I love making bags! I’m just as addicted as you are. This one is just up my alley and perfect! Thank you for the tutorial and all the instructions are clear and the pictures really help. :o)

  9. Well..blogger isn’t cooperating today and I’ve lost my comment twice.

    I can’t print the templates. Or, should I say, I can’t print them so I can use them. The first time I tried to print them, I got about 2″ of the first pattern piece and nothing else. I went and fiddled with some of the settings and tried to print again, and the next time, I got all three of the templates on the same page, but the size of each template (total page) was about 2″x2″. So I’m a doofus! Help! dmj53(at)hotmail(dot)com

  10. The bag looks great, thank you so much for the sharing the tutorial. For now it looks just a tiny bit too complicated for my just-made-my-second-bag experience, but I’d love to try it when I become more confident.

  11. I love it! It’s going on my list & I can’t wait to try it out. I like all the little details you added, especially how the top band isn’t just straight across.

  12. That’s a great bag! Thank you for the tute!
    I like to use that plastic canvas as a base for bags and that way my bag is washable! (b/c I’ve been known to spill coffee or something on myself as well as the things I’m carrying)
    I’d really like to know about that black and white dress in the photo. did you make it? if you did where can I get the pattern?

  13. Love the bag………and the dress! Thanks for all the work you have put in to this tutorial, waiting for the Noisy Librarian Bag, though I’m more of a “Rebelious Teacher”

  14. I I love your pattern, I wanted to make a new bag for class and saw this on the web, I started yesterday evening and just finished. I used some pretty heavy weight materials (Canvas) So I skipped the interfacing because it was already pretty thick and I was just making this out of my scrap stash. I usually only make historical clothing, this was my first bag. I love it! I also make it so that there are pockets on both sides inside, and instead of a lining, exterior and accent I only used two fabrics, and basically what is on the outside is reversed. I would love to send you a picture if you want just tell me where to send it. My email is trixiepixie.trouble@gmail.com


  15. I LOVE this pattern.. But I am not able to open the PDF file to get the cutouts.. Could you send them to me @ princessmel31480@aol.com. I have 1 other project that I need to do and then I am going to make this for my gym bag!! I am super excited.. BTW. did you make the smaller version? I am sure I would love that one also!

  16. I just finished this bag and love it! The girls at work all want one now. I am a VERY beginner and it took me awhile to keep rereading the instructions but it was still pretty easy and looks AWESOME!! It will work great for what I wanted it for (and already does)! Thanks for posting this!

  17. I just finished my bag from your tutorial and it looks great! This was my first completely solo sewing project. The tutorial was great! Thanks so much for sharing the pattern and all the work you put into the tutorial

  18. I’m new to this site and certainly am glad I found it. Your designs are wonderful and the directions seem to be very well planned. Thank you for the opportunity to share your talent and make these fantastic projects.

  19. Just found your site. LOVE the bag.

    I had a bigger laptop though so made the bag wider (18″ instead of 15″) and a bit taller (and moved the handles ‘in to the center’ 1/2″ each) so it would fit. It wasn’t so fussy that I couldn’t knock it out in a dedicated afternoon and evening; and it is great. Thank you for sharing!

  20. I love the tutorial. But I got confused at 5e. Where do you lay the shorter piece in relation to the longer piece? And which edge(s) do you sew together? Thank you.

  21. Just made this bag for my great-niece’s sewing bits and pieces – her new-found hobby. It was easy and looks professional! Thanks for sharing your pattern with the world.

  22. Super cute bag! I’ve been wanting to try my hand at making a bag for all my sewing supplies while travelling, and I think I might start with this one. *Crosses fingers it goes well* :)

  23. Wow, what a tutorial. Being a beginning sewer, I truly appreciate your well thought out, clear and concise tutorial. Photos at each juncture is so helpful. I’ve looked at hundreds of tutorials, and yours has been the best I’ve seen. Too many make assumptions and don’t provide clear directions. I am so very encouraged to try making this bag after following your tutorial. I can’t wait to read the rest of your tutorials. Thank you very much!

  24. Hi Sara! Thanks so much for sharing this tutorial! I’m in the middle of cutting out all of the pieces right now and am a little confused about the straps. Do I need to have THREE 6″x44″ strips or SIX 6″x44″ strips? I thought it was three, but since the tutorial says to repeat steps 5e-5h I got tripped up at that part and thought maybe it should be six. Would you mind helping me troubleshoot the straps? I would really appreciate it! shan.r.stew(at)gmail(dot)com

  25. Hi Sara, I am sewing the Naughty Secretary/Lindsay bag and am having trouble with the bottom panel. I sewed the right sides of the exterior bottom panel to each right side of the exterior main panels, stopping 1/2″ on each end. Step 6e of the instructions indicate, “and for both side edges”. Am I missing pieces? For the life of me I can’t tell what to do next. Would you be ale to clarify or include some additional info? Thank you! Love the way it’s turning out so far!

  26. Hello Sara. I was just wondering about the false bottom panels with the cardboard in them. What do I do with these? Is it just to sit in the inside of the bag or does it go inside the bag between the interior and exterior? Sorry, I just got a little lost.

  27. Hi Sara, this is a wonderful tutorial. I have a question-Aren’t 2c and 2f mixed up? Shouldn’t the false bottom be made from the lining fabric, and the regular bottom be the exterior fabric? I haven’t started to sew yet, just beginning to read. Kathy

  28. Hi Sara, I had problems when it came to the triangles on the bottom can you help? I made a mess out of the bottom of the bag. can I send you some pictures? HELP Kathy

  29. I’m with Diane Rodin, I can’t figure out the triangle bit as my pieces are not wanting to make a triangle from the end of the stitches on a long edge to the start of the stitches on a short edge. I’ve been looking for tutorials on this type of bag bottom but no one does it, they go with the curves and create one long strip to be the side panels and the bottom. I want this type of bottom on my bag but cannot find a video showing this method, anyone have any hints or ideas? I’ve tested this type of bottom twice now and not much luck.
    Thanks for any input!

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