Monk’s Bag 2.0

Just over a year ago, I made a Monk’s Bag from Purl Bee’s tutorial (sadly Purl Bee no longer exists as of 2023).

I used the heck out of that bag, so much so that the strap and bottom of the bag frayed through in places.

What I discovered over the course of the year I carried this bag was that I loved the shape and the length of the strap but that I needed a bit more.  I need a bigger bag with more pockets.  I also need a sturdier bag that holds its shape a bit better without the fabric wearing through.

When my daughter asked for a school bag to carry her supplies in that could do double duty as a purse, I once again turned to the Monk’s Bag pattern.  This time, I made changes to the bag so it would hold up to her day-to-day life as a high school student.  She also needed a bigger, sturdier bag, so I plotted changes that would work for both of us.

The construction of the Monk’s Bag is ideal for pockets that are built right into the lining, which is what I do here.   I think you’ll find these pockets both easy to add and very sturdy!  I’ve also added interfacing to the outside bag pieces, which gives the bag more body and will (hopefully!) help avoid the wear that developed in my original Monk’s Bag.

The basic idea of this tutorial is the same as the Purl Bee bag, but there are quite a few additional steps as well as a number of construction changes.

The words below are all my own, but in an effort to make this easy to understand without disrespecting the original tutorial, I’ll mark any instruction or supplies that I have not changed with an asterisk*.

You will need:

  • rotary cutter & ruler
  • coordinating thread
  • iron & ironing board
  • stencil & paint (optional)
  • pins
  • fabric marking pencil, pen or chalk

Fabric 1: 1 yard, cut in the following pieces(in the sample, this is the golden brown fabric)

  • 2 – 11″ x 14″ (outside center panel). OPTIONAL – Stencil a coordinating design on one of the outside center panels.  More on that in the instructions.
  • 2 – 6.5″ x 34″ (inside handles)*
  • 2 – 11″ x 21″ (inside center panel pockets)
  • 1 – 2.5″ x 6.5″ (inside side loop)

Fabric 2: 1 yard , cut in the following pieces (in the sample, this is the black patterned batik)

  • 2 – 11″ x 14″ (inside center panel)
  • 2 – 6.5″ x 34″ (outside handles)*
  • 1 – 6.5″ x 21″ (inside handle pocket 1)
  • 1 – 6.5″ x 15″ (inside handle pocket 2)

Lightweight Fusible Interfacing:

  • 2 – 11″ x 14″ (outside center panel)
  • 2  – 6.5″ x 34″ (outside handles)
  • 1 –  6″ x 6″ (inside side loop reinforcement)

All seam allowances are 1/2″ except where noted.*

Fold and press the 2.5″ x 6.5″ (inside side loop) in half.  Fold in the two sides in to the center and press again.  It should look like what you see above.

Use a decorative or heavy stitch and stitch down the length of the fabric at least three times.  This is a loop to hang keys and pens from, so it’s important that it be sturdy.  I use a triple straight stitch in the example.

If you’d like to stencil a design on the front of your bag, it’s easier to do it before assembly.  I took a photo of the pattern on the black batik, then increased the size slightly and printed that onto the matte side of a piece of freezer paper.  For more on freezer paper stenciling see this text tutorial or this video.

Collect your bag pieces and sort them into outside and lining pieces.

Iron the 6.5″ x 34″ (outside handles) pieces of interfacing to the 2 – 6.5″ x 34″ (outside handles) pieces of fabric.  Interfacing tends to be less wide than fabric, so piece it if necessary to get the correct length.

Repeat the process for the outside center panel pieces.  You should have seam allowance outside the interfacing on the side edges of of the center pieces, but not on the top and bottom.

Pin one handle to each side of the center panel.  Mark 1/2″ at the top of each side.  Stitch down each side, taking care not to stitch past the 1/2″ mark on the top of each center panel.

Press the seam allowance toward the bag handles.   Press a 1/2″ seam allowance on the inside of the handles and along the center panel.  I find this much easier to do at this step than after the bag is assembled.

Attach handles to opposite center panel, also marking 1/2″ from the top.  Repeat pressing seam allowance along handles and top of center panel.

Fold the bag in half with center panels matching.  Stitch across the bottom of the bag.*

Unfold seam allowance on end of handles.  Pin together and stitch.*

Press the center open, then re-press 1/2″ seam allowance.

The outside of the bag is complete!  Now, on to the lining, which is a bit more involved.

Collect your inside pocket pieces.

Fold each pocket piece in half across the width of the pocket.  Press and stitch across the top.  I used a combination of stitches just for fun!

Place the center panel pocked on the right side of the inside center panel.  Pin and baste with a 1/4″  seam allowance along the raw edges.  If desired, you can add additional stitching lines to break up the pocket.  I left one full size and put a center stitching line down the other.  The full sized pocket is great for magazines or papers and the split pocket is great for my checkbook, calendar, cell phone, camera, etc.

Repeat the process with inside handle pocket 1 and 2.    Position the inside side loop even with the top of handle pocket 1.  Pin each side.  I use the longer pocket to carry my glasses case and the smaller pocket for gum and miscellaneous small items.

Baste pockets and loop in place.

Iron 6″x6″ fusible interfacing to the back of the loop.   On the front side, secure on each side approximately 2″ from the outside edges.

Inside pieces, all basted and ready to go.

The inside is assembled identically to the outside.  You can see here that after the handles are attached to the inside center panel, the sides of the pockets have been secured in place.

Repeat all steps for bag assembly using a 1/2″ seam allowance on all pieces except for joining the two straps.  Use a 5/8″ seam allowance there.  Remember to press the straps and top of the center panel in 1/2″, just like on the outside of the bag.

Here’s the lining all assembled.  You can see that the bag could easily be reversible!

Place the lining inside the bag, with wrong sides matching.  I wanted the loop inside the bag to be towards the front side when I carry it so I could easily hook my keys on it, so I put the bag on my preferred shoulder for bag carrying to make sure the loop was just where I wanted it.

Match all seams and pin, pin, pin!  Top stitch close to the edge.  I tried to stay about 1/8″ in.    Remove the pins and you’re done!

My finished Monk’s Bag 2.0.  This is the third Monk’s bag I’ve made and I carry it every day.  I’m constantly getting compliments and questions about the bag, which makes it even more awesome to carry!

Action shot!  Can I just tell you, I love the heck out of that loop for my keys!  It’s easy to reach and I never lose them anymore.  I liberated the hook from one of my kids old backpacks.  You can also find them in all sizes in the rope section of any hardware store.

My bag (L) and my daughter’s bag (R).  What a difference fabric makes!

Thank you Purl Bee for the awesome original bag tutorial!  I hope you take this tut in homage, as it’s intended.  🙂


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13 thoughts on “Monk’s Bag 2.0

  1. laura

    JUst found your pattern and made one. I added an outside pocket, as well. I don’t think the monk’s need a pocket for their Kindle, but I do! Thanks so much!

  2. Connie

    Is the interfacing woven or non-woven? Does it matter which one I use? At the moment I only have non-woven. Love the bag and thank you for the tutorial. Ps. How do I add a flap at the top or is that a whole other lesson? 🙂 Connie

    1. Jennifer Ofenstein Post author

      Hi Connie,

      I’ve used both in various bags without a problem. I’m a big fan of “use what you’ve got!”

      I haven’t added a flap to this particular bag, but if you were to want to, I’d suggest adding a finished flap when you sandwich the bag and lining together. You could align it with the back outside panel.

      Happy stitching!


      1. Connie

        Hi Jennifer. Thank you for your advice. I am looking forward to making the bag. I just bought some beautiful batik fabric which will be perfect for this project. Also, thought I’d let you know that your haunted house paper piecing pattern is so cute. I live in Australia where Halloween is not a big thing here but since I started sewing I’ve warmed up more to the idea and think it is alot of fun. So many cute things to make.
        Have a great day!
        🙂 Connie

        1. Jennifer Ofenstein Post author


          A friend of my from SA visited during Halloween several years ago and we had such fun trick-or-treating with my kiddos! It’s my favorite time of year here as we are just starting to get cooler, more bearable weather after a long, hot summer.

          Good luck with your stitching!


          1. Connie

            Thanks Jennifer. We hope to visit one day soon. We have 3 boys and my husband has family in California. I am sure the boys will love it since they love anything fun and scary! 🙂
            All the best.

  3. Susie in the country

    At the present time, sadly the link to the Monk’s Bag on PurlSohois not on their website. Even the link to your Flickr page is not there either.


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