On a berry-picking camping trip to Ollalie Lakes a few years back, I designed and sewed a specialized harvest bag. The original use was for Huckleberries, but it will work for any small fruit or nut, such as Pinenuts. For especially juicy fruits (think Blackberries), a gallon-sized ziplock plastic bag fits into the pouch very well.
Over time, I made improvements, including the ability to empty the bag into a larger container without taking it off or awkwardly trying to turn it inside-out while wearing it. This is done by “hinging” the pouch onto a separate backing, to which the straps are attached. An alternative approach to this pattern is to leave out that feature and sew the straps directly to the pouch.
For the outside, I like to use canvas. Upholstery fabric can also work. Either type can usually be found at a thrift store. Table cloths are often made from a good weight for this project.
Personally, I like to line the bag with “ripstop” material. It cleans easily, holds back some juice dripping, and won’t tear. One could also use the same fabric as the outside, if that’s good enough.
Some of this project can be done with a sewing machine, but some steps require hand-sewing.
Directions follow below:
Here I am making shorter waist straps than neck straps, but one can do all four with the longer length.
Pin together the two pouch pieces. Here, I am using a ruler and sharpie to give myself a guide for where to sew. This will be turned inside-out so the marks won’t show. A sewing machine works fine for this step.
Don’t sew all the way around, as you need to leave an opening for turning it inside out. I like to place it in the middle of the long side, as this locates it near the bottom of the finished pouch, where it won’t show.
Here is is turned inside out. You might need to use a chopstick or something similar to fully extend the corners.
Sewing up the gap. Ironing this crease first can help make it easier. You can also use an invisible stitch here.
To give the pouch some volume, I pin it like so. This is inside out.
I have been using regular old thread up to this point, cotton or polyester. But for the seams of the pouch itself, I like to use heavy-duty thread. “Upholstery thread” works. This is “Outdoor” thread, which means it is UV resistant. I want a strong bag. (Snuggles looks on here. He was very much into the thread and thought that me hand-sewing was me playing with him!)
Next, fold the backing piece in half and pin it together. I like to iron it.
Marking where to sew: all around the open edges, leaving a small gap for turning it inside-out.
Note the gap in stitching.
Turn the backing inside out. Hand-sew the gap shut as you did with the pouch.
Pin the backing to the pouch. Do this by lining the folded side along the top of edge of the pouch. Center the backing left-to-right as well. Pin in place.
Create a “hinge” by sewing the bottom of the backing onto the pouch. I like to pull the lining up and away for this step, and just sew the backing onto the exterior.
I definitely prefer to use a sewing machine for this step. After folding the strap pieces in half lengthwise (and ironing if desired), sew the long side and one of the short sides. The machine does this about one minute. Hand-sewing takes 15-20. There’s four of them altogether, so the time-saving is great.
Turn the straps inside-out. Here I am using a chopstick, but anything strong and not too pointy will work.
Here I am using an invisible stitch to close the end of the strap.
Sew the two neck straps to the backing like so.
Attach the waist straps to the neck straps, like so.
Oops, two steps at once. I forgot to take a photo. Next, sew buttons on to the straps as shown. Then add something for them to button onto on the pouch. I’ve been using leather strips that I cut slots into because it’s durable and easy to find sources at second-hand stores. You could also make attachments that do the same thing out of your fabric and sew in a button hole. Or add a loop of some kind made of something else.
Here you can see three button strips hand-sewn onto the pouch. The one in the middle is for closing the top of the bag.
Here is the size of the leather strips I used.
Here’s the finished bag!
Here’s another, made from upholstery fabric. On this one, the waist straps are as long as the neck straps.