Anti Pickpocket Bag: FREE pattern, tutorial, and video sew-along

anti pickpocket bagThis is my take on an anti-pickpocket bag made of fabric with twisted handles.  I'm calling it Helsinki and here's the backstory to this design:

As many of our regular readers know, I was recently away on vacation with my family.  During the break, we managed to visit the Bernina factory in Switzerland, call in on what I'll argue is the finest fabric shop in the world in Italy, and as a final stop, we went in search of the famous design house, Marimekko, in Finland –all of which I'll be writing about in the near future.

My Bernina Sewing Machine Factory Tour In Switzerland

anti pickpocket bag

In search of Inspiration, a visit to Marimekko in Helsinki

In any case, while we were in Finland, in supposedly one of the safest cities in the world, my teenage daughter was pickpocketed and lost her very, very expensive new iPhone.  Needless-to-say, her father was none too happy about this.  The small handbag she was carrying was relatively open and the thieves just brushed up against her and it was gone.  Poof!  We were in a department store and the security cameras got it all on video, but it happened so fast and the perpetrators were gone by the time the tapes were reviewed.

anti pickpocket bag

It got me thinking that this can't be a rare occurrence and that I should design an anti-pickpocket bag with internal pockets, secure zippers, and strong straps to keep this thing from happening again.  I started designing and as soon as I got home, put this new bag together.  I think you'll find it an easy project to follow and the bag will not only be an attractive addition to your wardrobe but also super functional if you're traveling or spending time in crowded places.  The twisted fabric handles are relatively unique and very strong.  So Helsinki, this one is for you..

Skill Level: Advanced

If you have made a nag with lining and pockets, this project is easy for you to accomplish.  If you, however, have never done a bag before, you will find this difficult.

Key Features:

  • Secure main zipper with no gaps around the gusset making it is hard for a thief to access.
  • Zippered inner pockets for money and valuables.
  • Strong twisted fabric handles that will let you hold the bag securely.
  • Complete video tutorial and sew-along (links at the end of the article)
  • Dimensions 17″ by 11″

anti pickpocket bag

Materials for the Anti Pickpocket Bag

Recommended Fabric Options

Here are some suggestions for potential fabric options.

See the entire sewing tutorial series here:

  • 11:34
    Sewing the Anti Pickpocket Bag: Part 3, Assembling the Bag
  • 8:45
    Sewing the Anti Pickpocket Bag: Part 2, Sewing the Lining
  • 13:7
    Sewing the Anti Pickpocket Bag: Part 1, Making the Handles
Subscribe to the YouTube channel:

See next page for free pattern download.

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258 Responses to Anti Pickpocket Bag: FREE pattern, tutorial, and video sew-along

  1. Deb says:

    Hi! Great bag pattern Thank you!
    I think there is inevitably some confusion re terms used: in UK (where I live) we carry handbags or bags, with a “purse” for money. Wallets are generally used by men.In US (where my son and daughter in law live, and where this website originates) I know that “purse” is the name used for our handbag! Therefore I think the lady above carries an old (money) purse in the bottom of her handbag! Phew! Happy days everyone!

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      LOL! I am literally lost in translation! Love your British Humor!

    • Thanks Deb, forgot translation 🙂
      By the way Illuminum/tin foil works for stopping scanners. I have 2 pieces wrapped around credit card sized piece of card. 1 either side of my real cards to protect them. I now sandwich 2 layers back to back of tin foil between outside fabric/lining of all bags I make.

  2. Margaret L says:

    All of my life, being from a very small town in New Mexico, when I have traveled, the thought of “losing” all my money to a pickpocket has haunted me. I even have pinned half my money inside my suitcase, until they started such horrendous searches of even one’s packed bags! But I’ve never gone to Europe. Such helpful information. Thank you.

  3. wandamg says:

    I am definitely making this project! So sorry for what happened to you daughter.

  4. mccandlessquilts says:

    Thank you for the pattern. It is awful going through any theft, but when it comes to anyone getting personal ID information, and then stealing identity, it is devastating! I know it happened 14 years ago and we are still feeling the effects from it. Despite informing the authorities including the FRIDAY, Banks, credit reporting agencies, they were of very little assistance, and 25 plus years of carefully protecting our credit ratings went out the door!
    Ours was due to a break in to our home, but have heard it can also happen from pick pocketing also.

  5. mahayre says:

    I think I’ll get some RFID blocking fabric and incorporate it into the purse.

  6. Anna says:

    Thanks for the post! I am curious about the “best fabric store in the world” you mentioned. What is the name, in which Italian city it is placed? You have some pics/info? Thanks in advance!

  7. Rosario Chavarria says:

    Sorry for what happened to your daughter. Bags should always have zippers inside and outside, be secure with a handle across your body that way nobody can pull it from you.

  8. patashoo says:

    This bag is excellent. I am though rather dismayed at the majority of comments made. Yes, some have good suggestions but there are ways of giving an opinion without sounding so superior. You and many others probably don’t see this but I read straight through the comments and couldn’t believe how ungrateful people sounded. I will be giving this bag a go exactly as you say. Out of interest, how does one go about making a false bottom on a bag? I have a small bag that I’d like to do this to but have no idea how to go about it.
    Once again, many thanks for the pattern.

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Hi Patashoo and thanks so much for your support. I haven’t yet designed a false bottom yet but may put one in a future design. Best of luck with the project and kind regards.

  9. So sorry for your daughter’s experience glad she only lost her phone though.
    I’m wheelchair bound and I wear my bag but I still had my purse stolen! Small child
    approached me holding out a flower. I stopped my powered wheelchair so as not to hit the child. “Mum” in reaching for child, trips and lands on me. Lots of apologies and 5 minutes later I realise my bag has been cut open underneath 🙁
    I now have an old purse I carry in my bag and my real purse I sit on. Small amounts of money are in tiny pockets on the side of my chair which can’t be seen because of my body. A horrible way to live but that’s modern life.
    On a more positive note I’m going to make this bag with a false bottom for the old purse. By the way my current bag (designed for my chair by me) has plaited straps not dissimilar to your twisted ones. Mine are made from 9 lengths of fabric, in 3 lots of 3 strong and pretty

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Thanks for your comment but sorry to hear about your story. We all need to do all we can to prevent that sort of thing.

    • Gail says:

      Awful that you have to go to those lengths! I’m a little confused,though. What is the purpose of the old purse that you carry in your bag? Is it just more or less a decoy? And I don’t understand making this bag with a false bottom for the old purse? I’m sorry if I’m being dense, just trying to figure it out. 🙂

      • Hi Gail, it is a decoy because a friend of mine got pickpocketed in London, she only carried a bottle of water and and a book in her handbag. She got punched in the face with no warning by a stranger. CCTV later showed that the person who punched her had tried to steal her purse and found nothing. Police said the reaction was rare but carry a decoy because they don’t check the contents immediately. Even though the reaction was rare I feel far more vulnerable in my wheelchair than I ever did when I could walk. Hope this explains my comment about a false base and purse.

  10. K says:

    Thieves also will cut the bottom or back side of the purse so that the wallet drops out. They snatch it as you realize your purse just got lighter. There is cut and slash proof fabric. Or line the bottom with a material that isn’t flexible such as stiff plastic that won’t open when cut or provide resistance to a blade. As for the concern for protecting credit cards from scanners, there’s a big threat when using them. I’ve had two credit cards compromised in the USA (Target and a gas pump).

  11. daylilydawn says:

    I have already been a victim of robbery. someone had a scanner and copied my bank card number and cleaned out my account.

  12. Jean McGuire says:

    Mayra –

    Thank you for this pattern! I expect to travel more in the next few years and this is the bag I will carry. Family and friends who have lived and traveled extensively in eastern Europe and the Middle East tell stories about seeing purses stolen by having the handle cut or the bottom slit open. When I make this bag I will be incorporating a steel cable or chain into the handle in order to keep it from being cut. I’ll also be looking for some kind of material to line the purse so it can’t be sliced open on the side or along the bottom.


  13. TinaD says:

    Great bag. Love the handles. Anyone who makes it might want to consider stitching in a second or false bottom, so the contents of the bag are suspended above the bottom of the bag itself. I was pickpocketed in Budapest by someon with a boxcutter who slit open the bottom of my (cloth) bag and ran with whatever fell out.

  14. itsjusttoni says:

    I too was pickpocketed my first day in Rome. I now have an anti-pickpocket bag that I bought but it is not cute or attractive. AND my husband has an identical one. I am going to make one from your pattern! The one thing I do like about my current bag is that there is wire in the strap to deter thieves from cutting it and grabbing the bag on the run. I am going to try putting a wire in my handle when I make mine. Wish me luck! Thanks for the great pattern!

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Thanks for that suggestion. You could definitely do this with the twisted fabric handles. While they are very strong even without a wire, that addition would make it even more theft resistant.

  15. Anj says:

    Me too Lieve. My friends and I were boarding the bus to take us up to the Gaudi gardens. We were distracted and someone got on before me, slipped my brand new camera out of my bag, handed through the window to another on a moped. We spent the next 3 hrs in police station, when we found it. Had to because of insurance. Definitely looking st all the ideas here, and the pattern

  16. Patti Godot says:

    Love the bag. I am going to Italy next summer and this bag will be going with me for sure! Thanks Mayra.

  17. Dee Brown says:

    Thanks Mayra – it looks a lovely bag and I will look forward to making one. I often add rings on the inside of my bags to chain my purse and keys to. Not only for security but so I can find them!!

  18. Nancy says:

    Hi Mayra, This is so timely. I just got a new phone and it of course won’t fit in my favorite small-ish fabric bags. This looks like an almost perfect and very adaptable pattern as mentioned in some of the previous comments. I can think of a couple of elements I might add to meet my needs. My one question, and you may be addressing this in your video, or I may just be missing it here, how does one add these handsome sturdy handles to this awesome bag? If it is a matter of opening and then realigning the metal rings to complete the connection and project, that would seem to be the weak spot in an otherwise very secure concept. This looks like a great project, I will be shopping for some hardware come Monday. Thank you so much.

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Hi Nancy, thank you for your comment, yes I will show you on the video, I will update the article to show you what type of rings I am using, I have sadly very limited options so I will show you what I have on hand. No bag is 100% percent pickpocket proved, but I think is a matter of not looking like the easiest target. Having said that you just gave me an idea for a another bag, so thank you!

      • Nancy says:

        I completely agree, rarely can anything be 100% secure. And, I understand limited resources. We now have no true fabric store within 40 miles, only a few craft stores with limited selections in their sewing department. I am not above shopping the home improvement and hardware stores for some findings when appropriate.

        That’s not fair, now I want to know what inspiration I provided (you can tell me!).

        • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

          Hi Nancy, I’m designing away at the moment. If you see a bag called “Nancy” in the near future, that’s your answer..

  19. Marti Morgan says:

    We just returned from a Mediterranean Cruise and it was stressed in many places to be very weary of pickpockets, the Vatican, Florence, many, many places. I kept my cross body purse secured in my hand as well as around my body, but now I see that there is a material offered (Nancy’s Notions) of a cloth that you can incorporate into your bag to stop scanners also. This would make your purse absolutely a today need be!!! Thanks for the great design.

  20. Barb Baumann says:

    What is the finished size of this bag? I love it!

  21. Julie Pearse says:

    The twisted handles are a brilliant design feature, really practical as well as attractive and secure

  22. Val Clements says:

    Mayra, love this bag. Looking forward for the video tutorial. You are very generous thanks for sharing.

  23. Jan Brown says:

    Hi Mayra, thank you for this pattern – great ideas. I have attached a small chain from my strap ‘D’ ring to a clip that I can attach to my belt loop. I have a photo but can’t post it in this comment box. This will stop a thief trying to snatch my bag especially if I put it down beside me as in a restaurant. Even if they cut the straps [has been done] they would find it still attached to me and quickly give up. Another safety tip when in a restaurant is to always put your chair leg through the strap.

  24. Annie says:

    I there any way to download the instructions to make this bag? Maybe I missed something and I apologize, but I can’t seem to locate where I’d find the instructions on one nice little document. Already have the downloadable pattern, but no instructions were included in the document. Thanks!

  25. Bev Qualheim says:

    When visiting my daughter in France, I always wear a shoulder strap bag across my shoulder and chest so no one can yank it and take off. I hold my bent arm across the zippered top as I walk and I am VERY aware of my surroundings. People there will have their little children come up to you to talk to you, so cute, to distract you, as mama robs you blind! You just walk on, ignoring them, which is hard to do in our American culture, but you have to. Your bag is beautiful by the way. The only thing I would do differently is make it a should strap so you can ‘wear’ it. 🙂

  26. Nice looking bag. What is the finished size? Thank you for the free pattern!

  27. KarenM says:

    Beautiful bag! I have never sewn a bag, but I just might have to give this one a try. I wonder if RFID blocking fabric could be used as the lining for an extra layer of security?

  28. Peg says:

    You might also consider adding a layer of RFID-blocking fabric, just coming out for home sewists.

    • Linda L. says:

      I’d never heard of RFID blocking fabric so I googled it. Thank you for raising it – it’s pretty scary to realise that somebody can get info from my credit cards, passport and other ID just by walking by me with a small reader!
      I’ll be using a blocker in future projects and looking at retrofitting older bags. In the meantime, I’m getting some Altoids tins to protect my cards!

  29. Christa says:

    This looks like the perfect project for me to do. I can certainly do this and will be challenged since I’ve never made twisted handles before.. And I have a trip to Finland planned! 1+1 makes 2, right?!

  30. WheelyBad says:

    Brilliant idea Mayra! Thank you for sharing x

  31. Theresa Litz says:

    Would you consider this bag easy enough for some one who sews and quilts all the time but has never made a hand bag? Admittedly, the grommets look intimidating.

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Hi Theresa, I would have suggested it may not be the best project for your first bag, but I’m going to be publishing a full video tutorial on Tuesday that will guide you through the project. With this video tutorial, you shouldn’t have any problems. Best of luck with it.

  32. Jill says:

    Beautiful, thanks for sharing! One think I will likely add, will be a small clip (like the kind people use for lanyards) to clip the zipper in the closed position. This makes it just a bit harder for a thief to get that zipper open to stick their hand inside. I may also sew a few small d-rings into the lining; and make matching small zipper bags inside that I can clip in to prevent easy removal by a thief. I really like the look of the handles, and think they would probably be more comfortable on the shoulder than a chain when I clamp the bag under my arm! You’ve created a winner here, I think!

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Thanks Jill! Glad to hear you like it. Let me know how you go with those additions.

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      You read my mind!!! As I was finishing the bag I thought of the sames things, please go for it and share with us. Hope others read your comments and take notice.

  33. Ruth H says:

    Your bag is not just functional but also BEAUTIFUL!!


    I love this bag-can’t wait to make it. Thank you!

  35. Kerry Nicholls says:

    I am about to fly out to visit my daughter I shall be starting to make this bag and finishing it at her place Thanks for the pattern

  36. I am looking forward to making this bag. It is quite clever and very stylish.

  37. Lieve says:

    I was pick pocketed while we were in Barcelona. I know how it feels! My ID, drivers license, Mastercard and some money were stolen. I hadn’t even noticed till I saw the zipper of my bag was open. That is how good they are! So I think I will try Helsinki! Thank you for your design!

  38. GrammyP says:

    Thank you for such a great bag! I’m sorry to hear about your daughter’s loss–but in the end, something good has come from such a bad experience! Thank you again!

  39. Charleen DiSante says:

    As i am readibg your Helsinki bag post I am reminded of a time when my purse was taken right out of my hands. I am looking forward to trying this beautiful bag. Thanks!!

  40. Mary Richardson says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I think it’s a great idea.

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