Whale Shark Bags

Check how I turned this retired old pair of jeans into a brand new whale shark backpack!

Although the large size bag is more suitable for those with some experience of sewing, partly because of the thick denim fabric I used (I have a industrial sewing machine. I think a domestic sewing machine will also do the job, but might require turning the hand wheel manually occasionally for some really thick areas.) , and partly because of the zip opening. But I then made a small crossbody version with no zip and slightly lighter fabrics – this one is definitely easier to make!

You can purchase the pattern from our Etsy shop here.


Main fabric: medium to heavy weight fabric, such as denim, canvas or PU; or light weight fabric with additional interfacing/lining fabric.

Lining fabric: any standard light weight fabric.

Interfacing fabric of your choice and a small amount of hollowfibre polyester filling.

2 (for small size crossbody bag) or 4 (for large size crossbody or backpack) lobster clasps with inside diameter around 15mm

2 buttons for eyes (optional)

1 zipper of 15cm (optional)

Sewing Tutorial:

  • Print the pattern with the scale as you desire: 100% for the large size and 55% for the small size, and anything in between for medium sizes.
  • For large size (i.e.100% scale), all seam allowances are 1cm (⅜”). For other sizes, the seam allowance = 1cm x the scale. For example, if you printed the pattern with 70% scale, the seam allowances should be 0.7cm.

1. Creating fins

a. Pair the pattern pieces for fins (two pairs of dorsal fins (A), one pair of pectoral fin(B), and one pair of tail(C)) with the right sides touching and raw edges lined up. For dorsal fins (A) and Pectoral fin (B), you can add a layer of interfacing to make the fins sturdier. I used some thin battering. You can also use other fabrics as interfacing. Sew slowly around the curved edges as indicated in the picture. Trim off half of the seam allowance using pinking shears.

b. Turn the fins and tail to the right side with the help of a pointy stick and iron flat. Stuff the tail (C) with a small amount of polyester filling. Put a little at a time and spread them evenly. Don’t put too much fillings as it would make it difficult to sew the curve in the middle. We only need enough to hold the shape of the tail. Sew the curve in the middle of the tail. Sew along the opening with half seam allowance (e.g. 0.5cm for the large size).

2. Creating loops and eyes

a. Loops: For large size bag, cut 4 pieces of square measuring 5cm*5cm on the main fabric. For small or medium crossbody bag you will only need to cut 2 squares measuring 4cm*4cm. Fold the squares in half with wrong sides touching and iron flat. Open the squares and fold in both raw edges to meet in the central line. Fold again along the central line and iron. Sew close along the edge using 0.1cm seam allowance.

(For my mummy shark, I directly cut off the belt loops from the jeans so I can skip this step. See the picture for 3b below.)

b. eyes: Cut two circles (see Back (D) pattern piece) from the fabric you choose for the eyes. For large size mummy shark, I use the wrong side of the denim fabric for eyes. For small bag baby shark I simply used buttons. I also add buttons for mummy shark’s eyes but it is optional. Pin the circles to the right side of the back pieces (D) according to the pattern, and sew slowly around using 0.1cm seam allowance. Sew the buttons on by hand.

3. Creating the body

a. Sew the darts on the back pieces (D) and iron them towards the tail. Place the two back pieces (D) together with the right sides touching and the pectoral fin (B) sandwiched in between – the pectoral fin should start from the marked point for “fin” on the pattern.

Line up the raw edges, sew along the back curve and stop at the point marked with “tail” on pattern (D).

b. Fold the loops created in step 2a in half, and attach them to the right side of the belly piece (E) according to the marked positions on pattern half seam allowance. For mummy shark, attach 4 loops in total as shown in the picture, and 2 for baby shark using the read marks on pattern. Align the front of the dorsal fin (A) to the mark on pattern (E) and sew along the raw edge using half seam allowance.

Place the belly (E) and Back (D) together with the right sides touching and raw edges lining up. Sew the side seams.

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