Sunday, September 16, 2012

Military Uniform Upcycle, Part 2: Cargo Pants to Messenger Bag

Oh, what to do with old Coast Guard ODU pants with such an attractive backside as this:

 And huge cargo pants right on the hip area, so big that my son can fit his head inside:

Thanks to the inspiration from Noodle-head, I decided to try turning a pair into a messenger bag, with the cargo pocket on the flap.  With the high position of the pocket, I needed to add in fabric from the back of an ODU blouse in order to get enough pocket-free fabric to construct the bag.

Here's what I came up with:

I tried using binding around the flap like the original idea, but the cotton quilting-weight fabric I was using for my lining just didn't play well with the heavier-weight nylon blend of the uniform.  Now I understand why my blogger friend and seamstress-extraordinaire Maureen strongly urged me not to pair the uniform fabric alongside beautiful high-quality designer cottons for a quilt.  That would have been disastrous.  I also used a more basic messenger bag construction, with just the flap pieces plus a front and back (leaving out the separate gusset pieces).  I then boxed the corners, with what ended up as a 2" gusset seam after several sizing tweaks.  If you're not familiar with messenger bag construction, it's really pretty simple.  Here's a great starting point, from mmmcrafts.

My final bag dimensions were 12" long by 10" across, not much larger than the pocket itself.  I originally made it 3" wider and then took it apart and cut it down to better match the flap size.

 The cargo pocket itself has some rather large pleats.  I added a magnetic snap to the flap to help keep it in place when closed, in case I put too much stuff in the outer pocket.

 I prefer to make my messenger bag straps adjustable.  Usually I wear them cross-body style, but sometimes I like to shorten up the strap and use it like a shoulder bag.

My lining fabric is from Hello Pilgrim by Lizzie House.

 I attached a slip pocket to the inside for my phone and pens.

 After removing the binding from the flap, the outside looked a little plain.  I tried out different ways of dressing it up...

And I even removed the name tapes and rank symbols from the uniform blouse.

I think the rank patches would be a fun addition if I were to use several of them in a row, so they don't scream, "This patch came from a Lieutenant." I'm not one who really likes to advertise rank, especially when it's not my own.  I do kinda like the US Coast Guard tape across the flap pocket.  But in the end, I decided to leave my bag plain.  The color on the back of the strap is enough for me this time around.

And look at that.  After saying in my last post how much I didn't need another bag, here I go claiming this one as my own.  Sheesh.  Well, I suppose it will come in handy since my Zakka Style Stem Messenger Bag was a bit overused this summer and is showing some wear at the seams.


  1. Love the choice to pair this with the Lizzy House print!

  2. Lovely, i really like the way you transformed the cargo pants in a messenger bag, gonna try this with my old baggy cargo pants.

  3. That's really cute. I too love recycling old uniforms n cargo pants or jeans. I am doing one with lace I will see how it turns out :)

    U can check our my stuff here:


Thanks for leaving me a note! I love to hear what you think about my projects.