DIY Nature Journal Bags for Families and Classrooms

Gena’s students nature journaling together.

Gena Richman is one of those teachers you wish you had when you were a kid. She taught generations of students at Mary Collins School at Cherry Valley. Nature Journaling was a part of every student’s ongoing education. Her classes went on regular field trips to nearby Magnolia Park (walking distance) where she progressively built nature journaling skills. She crated standing field trip permission forms so that she could spontaneously take advantage of good weather and bring her students outside. You may want to create your own standing field trip permission form based on her model.

She also created a nature journal kit for each student. These shoulder bags hung in a row of hooks by the classroom door. Every bag had the essentials for journaling and became a treasured item that students respected and regularly used. At the end of the school year, they brought their journal kit home with them to continue the practice.

Gena has shared her system for making cloth nature journaling shoulder bags. Thank you Gena for this and your inspiration for so many kids. Ripples from the love, respect, and inspiration you shared with your students continues to spread.

How To Make a Field Bag Notes before you begin:

  1. These instruction will be woefully skimpy for novice sewers and no doubt condescending to professional sewers and for that I apologize to both! Please adjust size to need/materials/etc. These instructions are just a guide to get you started!
  2. Enlist the help of parents, grandparents, friends, etc to donate time* and supplies**. *Clearly, time can be divided in many ways, for example, someone who wants to help, but can’t be in the classroom could pre-cut the fabric, someone who can and would love to sit side by side with a student while they sew on a sewing machine can guide the sewing process, etc. **Quilters often have an abundance of cloth they are longing to donate to the “right home”! (Back to school night is a great way to open this invitation up!)
  3. The win/win of these bags is not only that students have pride and ownership of their own field bags, but will learn how to sew straight lines on a sewing machine.

Step One: Body of the Bag Cut material into a 9” x 22” rectangle. This will allow for seams and finish size of 8” X 10” to hold a composition journal, pencils, ruler, etc. Adjust the size to your needs. Each rectangle makes one bag.

Step Two: Handle of the Bag Cut one strip of material (this does not have to match the body of the bag!) 2” x 45”. This will give you a long strap approximately 3/4” wide. Adjust as needed and materials allow. You can always shorten the strap if it hangs down to your students’ knees! But you can’t make it longer!

Folded top of the bag

Step Three: Ironing Prep Ironing the strap with right sides together lengthwise will make sewing easier. Folding the top edges of the bag 1/4” down and then 1/4” again, then ironing will make that part easier to sew. See the image to the right. Folded top of the bag

The strap!

Step Four: Sewing the Strap With right sides together, sew lengthwise. Leave the ends open and after sewing turn the strap right side out (I attach a safety pin to the inside of the “tube” and push right up through the inside of the strap, pushing and pulling til it’s turned right side out!

Mark and sew the sides.
Sew the folded over tops.

Step Five: Sewing the Bag Sew the top edge of the bag. Turn the bag right sides together, pin sides, use a sharpie and mark “sew” line. Sew sides of bag together. Turn right side out.

“X” marks the strap!

Step Six: Sewing the Strap to the Bag Fold the open ends of the strap in on itself. Pin to the inside of the bag top side (down about an inch or so). Sew a square catching all side of the strap, then for extra strength, sew a diagonal, followed by another diagonal creating an “x”.

Great Job!! You’re done!