I know that this probably an unsavoury post title, but bear with me. I was inspired to make a yoga mat bag out of sweatshirt fleece after a friend of mine posted a photo of herself on Instagram while trying on a very cool sweatshirt & sweatpants combo at a COS in Copenhagen. I actually love plain, unbranded sweatshirt fleece—I love how old school the fabric is, and it is certainly way more my speed than nylon and polyurethane.
Once I had the idea, I immediately realized that since a yoga mat can fit inside the leg of a pair of sweatpants, this would make a great recycling project. Earth Day is coming up, after all. And it is a pretty easy and quick project. If some of these steps don’t make sense, please let me know—my sewing style is pretty loose and easy and I just make things in a way that makes sense to me.
-an old pair of sweatpants. I found mine (men’s size large) at the thrift store for a whopping $4. The larger/longer the better, but just make sure that the circumference of the leg can accommodate your mat. Of course, look for a pair that is clean and not overly worn.
-a sewing machine, although you could always try this by hand!
-a stretch fabric sewing needle or a ballpoint needle for your machine.
-cord or rope, about two yards or meters. This strap is meant to be adjustable so getting extra length is not a bad idea. I used cotton rope that is fairly sturdy. Try to find something that would be appropriate to the weight of your mat (i.e. if you have a pro-style mat, a thin cord might not be enough). Keep in mind that it has to be comfortable on your shoulder as well.
-notions: pins, thread, ruler or measuring tape, scissors, fabric pen, plus the usual seam ripper and thread snipper, iron, etc.
-a metal D-ring.
If your sewing machine (or, if you are really lucky, serger!) has an overlock stitch, the seam allowance will be 1/4”, but if you are using a zig zag stitch, the seam allowance can be greater than that. Just make sure you finish your edges.
1. Once your sweatpants have been washed and dried, start by making sure that your mat fits in one of the legs of your sweatpants, with some room to spare.
2. Cut a long piece from one leg, about the length of your mat plus about an inch and a half. This part doesn’t have to be too precise, as long as there is some room at the top.
My sweatpants had a side pocket and a back pocket; I cut the fabric below the side pocket and removed the back pocket with a seam ripper. No sweat. At the bottom I had to cut through some gathered fabric from above the elasticated cuff, but it evened out and I was able to cut it into a nice clean edge.
3. The outer seam of your pant leg will be straight, and you can leave this seam as is (one less seam to sew). The inside seam will probably be tapered. I cut out the inner seam and folded the fabric with right sides together, using the straight, sewn seam as a guide to even it out. I hope that makes sense. Basically I ended up with a folded length of fabric with a width that was roughly the diameter of my yoga mat plus about three inches, same width from top to bottom.
4. Before you sew your tube together, you’ll want to make a loop for your D-ring. Cut a piece that measures about 3 inches by 4 inches.
Then, with right sides together, sew this piece into a tube using an overlock stitch. Turn it inside out, and with the seam in the middle, topstitch along either side (you can use a straight stitch here). Insert the D-ring and pin to secure it.
5. Now take your unfinished main tube, pin the loop about 4 inches from the bottom in between your fabric and pin everything with right sides together. Like a little sandwich. Sew this seam with an overlock stitch. If you have a heavy mat, you could reinforce the seam by going over it twice.
6. Now you’ll need to cut a circle for the bottom of the mat. I had made my tube three inches wider than my mat, so I took the width of my rolled-up mat and added three inches to it (don’t forget to add seam allowance). I happened to have a bowl that was that exact measurement, so I was able to trace a perfect circle onto the remaining pant leg. My inability to do basic math is brought into stark relief at this point so if you know a better way to calculate the size of your circular piece here, please feel free to use it! I am hopeless at it. Or, if you want to skip this step, you can just sew the tube together at the bottom.
Pin the circle to the tube, right sides together, and sew using overlock stitch or zig zag stitch. Again I would recommend reinforcing the seam by going over it twice, especially if you have a heavy mat (the one pictured here is a Manduka eKo Lite and it weighs four pounds). Trim any excess fabric from your seams without cutting into the stitches. If you’ve used a zig zag stich, clip your seam allowance all the way around or finish your edges so that there isn’t much bulk (i.e. pinking).
7. Now cut another piece that you will use to pull your drawstring through, about 4 inches in height. The width will be the size of your tube when it’s folded flat, plus 1 inch. Fold over the small edges half an inch on either side and topstitch in place. Then fold this fabric in half lengthwise, wrong sides together, and pin it to the upper outside edge of your tube. Overlock or zigzag them together.
8. Using a safety pin on one end of your rope, feed the rope through this top loop.
9. Knot the rope to the D-ring. You can adjust this knot if you want to make your strap longer or shorter.
10. Done! Enjoy your new bag.