I wanted to show you how easy making a sleeping bag can be.
Before we begin, remember that I sew by the seat of my pants, so if you want something that looks like someone over the age of nine made it, find a different tutorial. This is a light-weight, sleep-in-the-living-room kind of sleeping bag. It’s not waterproof, or even super-warm. But it’s fun, and my children love them, and they are very cozy when Mommy won’t turn the heat higher than 68 in the winter.
First: I bought two pieces of fleece, measuring 1.5 yds by 60″ wide. (This will yield a sleeping bag 30″ wide and 1.5 yds long if you fold it the right way.)
Second: I use Dritz (I’m sure there are other brands) zipper-by-the-yard. That’s product #310, and the zipper pulls are #311 (see in the upper-right hand corner?) I bought 2 3/8 yards of zipper. Note: the directions for the zipper-by-the-foot come with the ZIPPER, not with the pulls, so make sure the lady at the fabric store cuts you a piece of the paper in the box that has the directions on it.
Third: I bought 1 yard of elastic. This is not necessary, but it makes nice bands which will secure the sleeping bag in a nice roll.
Wash the fleece, elastic and the zipper and dry them however you plan to, so that nothing will shrink later.
Lay out the fleece with the right sides together. Put the fabric you want to use as the OUTSIDE of the sleeping bag on the top but with the right side of the fabric DOWN.
Decide which side of your sleeping bag is the top (meaning the side from which you slide in). We won’t be sewing this side till the end. Find the middle of your fabric, so that you see an imaginary line between the top and bottom of the sleeping bag. This will be the fold. Mark it with a pin. In this photo, the GREEN pin marks my halfway point.
Figure out which side of the zipper is the poochy-side. (The side that bows slightly toward you.) Now lay the zipper along one side of the fleece at the edge so that the zipper is at the edge, but HIDDEN between the layers. (We will turn it all right-side out so you can see how it works later.) Your zipper should run out very near the pin you used to mark the halfway point at the bottom of the sleeping bag. This is good.
Cut the elastic in half and fold each half in half, so that you have two loops. Lay these on TOP of the zipper, but toward the right side of your half-way point. Also, the loops need to be hidden in the fleece sandwich. (Note that in my photo, I put the zipper on top. Later this messed me up. Trust me. Put the zipper under the elastic.)
Pin the zipper between the two layers of fleece. Please put your pins how I did the the photo BELOW, not the photos ABOVE, or they’ll get trapped between your layers and you have to stop every six inches to pull them out.
Let’s review: this is a sandwich. In order from top to bottom, the layers are: outside-of-the-sleeping-bag fleece, elastic, zipper (poochy-side up), inside-of-the-sleeping-bag fleece.
A word about the corner. Don’t try to do any sort of fancy mitered corner or anything, because you really just want your zipper to work. It’s okay if your corner is a little rounded, because this is just a sleeping bag.
Now sew your sandwich together. Make sure you are using your heavyweight needle, or you’ll be sad. For the Singer needles I use, the purple band indicates heavyweight.
Remove your pins and turn it right side out for a minute so you can see how it works. Cool, eh? Mark the TOP of your zipper with a pin so you know which side is the poochy side, and which end is the top-of-the-sleeping-bag end of your zipper. Now separate the zipper.
Note: in your process, you won’t have the zipper pull on yet, but I forgot to mark the top of my zipper before I pulled it apart,, and then I had to re-connect the zipper to figure out which way was up.
We’re going to make a sandwich again on the other side of the sleeping bag. Turn your fleece back to the wrong side out and pin your zipper in, making sure that the poochy side is up. I began at the center of the foot of the bag and went around toward the top of the bag, ending with your marked zipper-top.
All right. Good job. Now remove the pins (all of them, or you’ll be an unhappy camper– literally!) and turn your bag right-side out. Fold it in half just like it’s a real sleeping bag, with two little elastic bands on one side of the foot so you can tie it up when it’s rolled.
Take one of your trusty #310 zipper pulls and put the two foot-ends of the zipper into the grabber. (This takes a little waggling.) Zip it up a little ways, and admire the fact that you made a sleeping bag with a zipper. Now tuck the end of the zipper toward the inside of the sleeping bag and sew it in there so that your excited 6 year-old doesn’t unzip it all the way. Ever.
This is where my sleeping bag went awry. (Yours won’t, I’m sure, because you’re not trying to finish it and have the car packed to go camping in an hour and a half.)
I had put my elastics UNDER the zipper, so that they faced the inside of the sleeping bag. But you put your next to the fleece that was the outside, so you didn’t have that problem.
Okay. Now we have to finish the top. You can choose any stitch you’d like to finish it. To make it look more finished, I’d recommend folding the cut edges in and pinning it so that you can do a nice finished seam. In fact, this looks really nice if you do it all the way around the edges of the bag, including by the zipper. (It also cuts back on the amount of fabric that gets stuck in the zipper while zipping.) But I didn’t do this.
I took advantage of the fact that fleece doesn’t fray (and the fact that my daughter is only 3 and doesn’t know any better) and used a zig-zag stitch. Voila! Feel free to adapt this in any way that suits you. If you try it and find an error, please let me know. And if you make on, please add a link to your photo in the comments! Happy sewing.