Gym Bag DIY

Our family has recently re-joined the gym (yay for us!) and have been thoroughly enjoying the endorphins we take home. I’ve also been awkwardly hauling my phone, keys and water bottle while trying to hold hands with a toddler (thanks, gym child care!) who likes to charge ahead. It was time for a cute gym bag! I came up with something that was lightweight, could be slung over my shoulder without sliding off, and had enough room for swim towels, goggles, and other swimming lesson miscellany for those gym trips that involved changing clothes.

It’s also the perfect size for a weekend’s worth of clothes and toiletries for when you REALLY need to get out of town and chill somewhere else. We styled this project at The Co-Op Venue in front of their new Airbnb and doesn’t it just look like it was meant to be? I mean … all of these hours at the gym kind of mean I deserve a weekend at an Airbnb, right?

-one yard of colored canvas, denim, or outdoor fabric (36″ x 60″). Love this one in blush pink. You’ll do best looking at a store with a large selection of upholstery fabrics.
3 yards of 2″ (38mm) nylon or cotton webbing for handles
22″ sport zipper in coordinating color
12″ brass hoop or wooden embroidery hoop to mark circumference
-fabric scissors
-straight pins
-sewing machine
-coordinating colors of thread
-chalk or pen
-iron and ironing board

To make your own, cut a piece of fabric that measures 27″ wide by 40″ tall. This will be the body of your bag. Then cut it in half so that you have two pieces that measure 27″ x 20″. Set aside.

From the leftover fabric, you’ll need four circles. Fold your fabric in half and then in half again so that you have four layers. Using a 12″ hoop or substitute item, trace your circle shape and then carefully cut through all four layers. Set aside.

From scrap fabric, cut out two lengths that measure about 1.25″ x 4″. Pin one to one end of your zipper and the other to the other end as shown. You’ll want the right side of the fabric facing the right side of the zipper.

Stitch across the short end where you pinned about 1/4″ in from the edge. Repeat on the opposite side of your zipper. Then fold the fabric open and press at the hem. Stitch again across the short end so that it’s about 1/4″ from the fold of the fabric as shown. Then zig-zag stitch around the other three edges of the fabric to keep them from fraying later. Repeat on the other end.

Cut your webbing so that you have two pieces that measure 1.5 yards each. Place one on top of one piece of your 27″ x 20″ fabric as shown. Each side of the strap should be 5.5″ in from the edge. Pin in place.

Measure 5″ down from the top of your fabric and pin. Then pin 2″ below that pin. This is where you’ll want to sew a square with an ‘X’ through it to provide extra support. From the top of the square, stitch down the long edge of the webbing towards the bottom edge, then across the bottom, and back up to the top of your square. Remove your pins and repeat on the other side of your strap. Then repeat on the other cut of 27″ x 20″ fabric with the other strap.

Place your two pieces of fabric with the right sides together so that the edge with the bottom of the straps meet up. Pin together and stitch along the pinned edge. To prevent fraying, zig-zag stitch close to the edge.

Open up your bag with the right side of the bag facing you (strap side out). Place your zipper along the top of the bag edge so that the right sides are facing each other. Center it and pin in place.

Stitch along the top edge so that you stitch the top edge and extra fabric tab to the top edge of the bag. It gets tricky when you get to the zipper head, so go a little wider to get around it. Remove your pins.

Fold the zipper up so that the right side is showing. Iron along the hem so you get a clean fold. Then stitch along that fold to secure the zipper in place in this position. Go slowly for a consistent stitch that is a little closer than 1/4″ from the fold.

Repeat the process with the other side of your zipper and the other side of your bag edge. Once you pin the right side of the zipper to the right side of the bag, you’ll have a tube shape. It’s easy to stitch the zipper to the bag this way, but then you need to flip it right side out to iron your fold flat and stitch up the other side. Be sure to open your zipper before you stitch this part down to make it a little easier to work with. Set aside.

Cut the top 1/3 off of two of your circles.

Fold the cut edge in 1/4″ and iron flat. Then fold it in again 1/2″ and iron flat. Pin down and stitch two lines across your fold for a finished look. This will be the hem of your side pocket. Repeat with the other cut circle.

Place one hemmed circle on top of one full circle so that they match up. Pin together. Repeat with the other two circles. Then with your bag turned right side out, pin one circle to one open end of your bag. Make sure the pocket is facing up and start at the top where the zipper tab is. Pin the right side of your bag to the right side of the circle. Continue matching up the edges and pinning every 1/2″ or so to make sure it retains a circular shape. Then carefully stitch them together by sewing about 1/4″ from the edge. You may want to backstitch when you get to the hem of the pocket for extra security. Remove your pins and zig-zag stitch near the edge so it won’t fray. Repeat with the other circle.

Turn your bag right side out. Find the center of each hand and mark it with a straight pin. Then mark about 3″ on each side of that with another straight pin. This is the length you’ll want to stitch together to create an easy handle. Back stitch at the start and finish and trim your ends. Remove pins and repeat with the other strap.

Now that you’ve completed your gym bag, you need to put it to good use! Grab a friend and try out the barre class you’ve been hearing so much about or set your alarm a little earlier and swim a few laps at the pool. If you’re not into showering and changing at a gym, consider this your new weekender bag—perfect for at least three outfit changes and a road trip souvenir. –Rachel

Credits//Author: Rachel Denbow. Photography: Rachel Denbow and Janae Hardy. Photos edited with the New A Beautiful Mess Actions.
  • Oh my goodness! I absolutely love this bag, what a fab idea. Absolutely going to attempt this one, thanks!

  • It never occurred to me that one could make their own gym bag… but I DO need a new phone because mine is ripping 🙁 Maybe I could convince my room mate to make this for me!

  • This project is so, so cool! And amazing how easy this is to sew, definitely worth a try!

  • Wow, I can’t believe how quick and easy it is to make a gym bag that looks like this 🙂 I definitely need to make one!! I think I’d have the bag in nude and the straps black!! I’d also try and figure a way to attach a longer strap I think!

    Have a great weekend 🙂

    Chloe @

    • Yes, and black should be easy to find at this width! Do it, do it, do it….

  • I love this SO much! It makes me think of Barbie’s gym bag!! I’d make it in bright pinks.

    • Ha! I must have been channeling my inner 8-yr-old! Loving pink on anything!!!

  • Gym bag/weekend bag. So many options. Definitely rethinking my minimalist bag collection. But technically since it’s multi purpose that counts as minimalist right?!? ?

  • Love that bag! My grandma recently gave me a ton of canvas fabric and I never knew what to do with it. This seems like a great project for it. Thanks!

  • I love this! I l plan on getting a sewing machine soon and this is very inspiring. It’s cool how unique it is when you create your own thing. Thanks for this and I love your blog!

    • Yes, it was our beach/pool bag and I’m sure it’ll be joining me on a few workshop trips coming up. Something cute enough to go EVERYwhere. -Rachel

  • Okay this is something I’d love to do! I mean you can use different fabric patterns too. This would even make for a great overnight bag. I love it!

  • I need to fix my boyfriend something like that (and cover it with panda print 😉 )!

  • I haven’t used a gym bag when going to the gym since forever! The design of your DIY really looks like the one I used to use for PE class back in middle school – so nostalgic, I might just make it!

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.