How To Make a Bag with a Zipper – Sewing Tutorial

You guys have begged and begged, and it only took me five years to put together an updated version of my original bag tutorial that shows how to add a zipper. Since you waited so patiently, I’ll show you how to add a zipper at the top of the bag, but also… ZIPPER POCKETS! Everything is better with zipper pockets.

bagzip_00Check out the video here:

bagzipvid

OR continue on for the text/photo version of the tutorial…

And don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel. There are more tutorials on the way!

bagziptopLook at that extreme zipper action! Woo!

Alright, let’s do this!

Step 1
Assemble your materials, as shown in the graphic below. If you want to make a bag with different dimensions, knock yourself out! I’d recommend making a paper “mock-up” first, so you can determine what size to make the gussets, etc. (I’ll be using a 1/2″ seam allowance for this bag unless otherwise noted.)

measurements

Step 1

(Note: If you watch the video and the D-ring Loop Strap dimensions are listed as 18″ x 2″, that is incorrect. The correct dimensions are 18″ x 4″. I tried to fix it via the Youtube “annotations,” but I don’t know if the correction always shows up.)

You can add interfacing to your bag if you want more structure.

This tutorial includes instructions for a zipper pocket. You can add up to four- you’ll need a piece of fabric and a zipper for each pocket.

I’ll also show how to add some extra snazziness to the straps with a little D-ring detail. If you want some snazz, make sure you have fabric for the D-ring strap and four 1″ D-rings.

Step 2
I’m starting with one of the zipper pockets. If you’re not adding a zipper pocket, skip to Step 15.

Determine where you want your zipper pocket (lining or exterior). Mark the center of the main bag piece, and then draw a line 2″ from the top. These marks should be on the RIGHT side of the fabric.

zipbag_01

Step 2

Step 3
Mark the pocket piece like so. First, mark a line on the WRONG side of the pocket 1.5″ from the top. (blue line below)

zipbag_02a

Step 3

Mark two more lines – one 1/4″ above the blue line and the other 1/4″ below the blue line. (purple lines below)

Step 3b

Step 3b

Measure 1″ in from each side and mark. (red marks below)

Step 3c

Step 3c

Make a little triangle from the newest line, with the point meeting the original blue line. 

Step 3d

Step 3d

Lastly, mark the top center of the pocket.

Step 3e

Step 3e

Step 4
Lay the pocket on the main bag piece, RIGHT sides together. Line up the middle line on the pocket with the line on the main bag, and make sure the center marks on each piece line up.

Step 4

Step 4

Step 5
Pin the two pieces together.

Step 5a

Step 5

Following the marked lines, sew a rectangle as shown below.

zipbag_05b

Step 5b

Step 6
Cut along the middle line, stopping when you reach the point of the triangle.

zipbag_06a

Step 6

Cut the sides of the triangle, getting as close to the stitching as possible without cutting the stitches.

Step  6b

Step 6b

Step 7
Fold the bottom of the pocket up and slip it through the slit you just cut.

Step 7a

Step 7

It’s like you’re feeding the pocket to itself. (CANNIBAL!)

Step 7b

Step 7b

Pull the whole pocket through to the other side and smooth it out as much as possible around the stitching.

Step 7c

Step 7c

Step 8
Press the pocket opening with an iron on both sides.

Step 8a

Step 8

If you still have some creases on the pocket side, that’s okay, but try to get the main bag side as crisp and crease-free as you can.

zipbag_08b

Step 8b

Step 9
Here’s a sneaky zipper trick: instead of pinning the zipper, you can use a gluestick to glue the zipper to the bag. That’s right! A regular old elementary-school-style gluestick!

Your standard gluestick is a water-based adhesive, which means it will wash right out with a little soap and water. I wouldn’t bother washing the bag to get the glue out, unless you really glob it on there. But if you use this technique when you’re making clothing, that washing step comes in handy. 🙂

zipbag_09a

Step 9

Glue up the zipper tape and then press it to the bag. The zipper should be closed, with the pull visible in the pocket opening.

Step 9b

Step 9b

Give the glue 10-15 minutes to dry. If you have other pockets to prepare, you might as well do that while you wait!

Step 10
Topstitch around the zipper. If the zipper teeth extend past the opening, stop and lift the needle over the zipper teeth. If you try to sew through them, you might break a needle. And broken needles are poopy.

Step 10

Step 10

Step 11
If your zipper teeth extend past the edges of the pocket fabric, trim enough to leave at least 1/2″ between the end of the zipper and the edge of the pocket.

(My zipper and pocket fabric magically changed colors because this is a different pocket. 😛 )

Step 11

Step 11

Step 12
Fold the pocket in half, bringing the bottom edge up to the top.

zipbag_12

Step 12a

Pin the pocket RIGHT sides together.

Step 12b

Step 12b

You only want to pin through the pocket layers. Don’t pin the main bag layer.

Step 12c

Step 12c

Pin all the way around the sides and top of the pocket.

zipbag_12d

Step 12d

Step 13
Sew around the sides and top of the pocket using a 3/8″ seam allowance, which should keep you from sewing through any zipper teeth. Again, make sure you’re only sewing through the pocket layers. Don’t sew through the “main bag” piece.

Step 13

Step 13

Step 14
Pause to admire your very fancy, very elegant, professional AF zipper pocket. You’re like some kind of pocket wizard.

Step 14

Step 14

Step 15
D-ring strap time! Again, this step is optional. You can do basic straps if you want. But who wants to be basic?

zipbag_15

Step 15

I made a tutorial faux pas and picked a fabric that is the same on the Right and Wrong side. So I marked the Wrong side with chalk so I don’t confuse you. Or me.

Step 15b

Step 15b

Fold the D-ring strap fabric in half, hot-dog-style.

Step 15c

Step 15c

And then press with one of these fabric toasting contraptions. (Mine is literally called a ToastMaster. I kinda want to make grilled cheese sandwiches with it like that scene in Benny & Joon. Especially if Johnny Depp was going to come help me out. Wait… what were we talking about again?)

Step 15d

Step 15d

Step 16
Now we have a nice line pressed right down the middle of our D-ring strap fabric.

zipbag_16

Step 16

Fold one raw edge up to meet the center line.

Step 16b

Step 16b

Then fold down the other side.

Step 16c

Step 16c

And then commence with the toasty-toasty.

Step 16d

Step 16d

Step 17
With both raw edges still folded in, fold in half again, along the original center line.

zipbag_17

Step 17

The raw edges should now be completely encased in the middle of the strap.

Step 17b

Step 17b

Time to press!

Step 17c

Step 17c

And then we pin along the open edge.

Step 17d

Step 17d

Step 18
Sew the strap closed, stitching about 1/8″ from the edge. Repeat the stitching on the unpinned (folded) edge, for symmetry.

zipbag_18

Step 18

Step 19
Cut the strap into four equal pieces.

Step 19

Step 19

Insert one strap into each D-ring.

Step 19b

Step 19b

Then fold the strap around the flat edge of the ring.

zipbag_19c

Step 19c

Step 20
Repeat for all 4 D-rings, and pin the straps in place.

Step 20

Step 20

Step 21
Stitch the straps to the D-ring, and baste the raw ends as well.

Step 21

Step 21

Step 22
Decide where you want your straps, remembering to leave room for the seam allowances and gussets. 

zipbag_22

Step 22

I decided on 3″ from the edge.

Step 22b

Step 22b

Pin the D-ring straps to the exterior Main Bag pieces (not the lining).

Step 22c

Step 22c

Step 23
Baste the four D-ring straps to the two exterior Main Bag pieces.

Step 23

Step 23

Step 24
Time to attach the top trim to the exterior Main Bag.

zipbag_24

Step 24

Pin the top trim to the main bag, Right sides together.

Step 24b

Step 24b

Like a boss.

Step 24c

Step 24c

Step 25
Stitch using a 1/2″ seam allowance.

Step 25

Step 25

Step 26
Press the seam toward the Main Bag, so the D-ring strap is in the “up” position. Repeat the last two steps for the other exterior Main Bag and top trim pieces.

Step 26

Step 26

Step 27
Now we’ll address the lining. Let the zipper magic begin! Take one Main Bag lining and Top Trim lining and get them situated like so.

zipbag_27

Step 27

Gluestick (or pin) the zipper to the top trim piece, Right sides together.

Step 27b

Step 27b

Step 28
Stitch the zipper to the top trim using a zipper foot.

Step 28

Step 28

Trim any excess from the end of the zip.

Step 28b

Step 28b

Step 29
Gluestick or pin the top trim to the main bag, Right sides together. The zipper should be sandwiched in between.

Step 29

Step 29

Step 30
Stitch through all three layers (top trim lining, zipper, main bag lining) using a zipper foot.

Step 30

Step 30

Step 31
Open the new seam.

zipbag_31

Step 31

Press the seam toward the top trim and topstitch.

Step 31b

Step 31b

Step 32
Flip the top trim out of the way, so the free edge of the zipper is exposed.

Step 32

Step 32

Pin the top trim to the Wrong side. Note: This is a temporary step just to keep the top trim out of the way while we sew the rest of the zipper. So don’t forget to remove those pins when we’re done!

Step 32b

Step 32b

Step 33
Gather the remaining Main Bag lining piece and Top Trim lining piece. We’re going to repeat the same steps as before.

Step 33

Step 33

Glue or pin the free edge of the zipper to the Top Trim lining piece – Right sides together. Baste it.

Step 33b

Step 33b

Glue the zipper/top trim to the Main Bag lining. Stitch it.

Step 33c

Step 33c

Press and topstitch the seam. Remove the temporary pins I mentioned before.

Step 33d

Step 33d

Step 34
At this point, I like to baste the top of the zipper closed to keep it from flopping open during the next few steps.

Step 34

Step 34

Also, make sure you unzip the zipper part of the way before the next step.

Step 34b

Step 34b

Step 35
Now that we have all these layers, it gets kind of tricky to make things clear just using photos, so you might want to consult the video if this part gets confusing. Grab one of the exterior pieces and pin the Top Trim exterior to the Top Trim lining.

Step 35

Step 35

Right sides together, natch.

Step 35b

Step 35b

Stitch using a 1/2″ seam allowance.

Step 35c

Step 35c

Step 36
Open the seam.

Step 36

Step 36

Rearrange all the layers so you have the raw edge of the remaining Top Trim lining exposed.

Step 36b

Step 36b

Find the remaining exterior bag piece and pin the Top Trim of the exterior to the Top Trim of the lining. Basically we’re just repeating Step 35. Hurray!

Step 36c

Step 36c

Stitch it!

Step 36d

Step 36d

Step 37
Rearrange all those flappy layers so that you have the two exterior pieces facing one another, and the two lining pieces facing one another. 

zipbag_37

Step 37

Pin the bottom of the exterior and the bottom of the lining Right sides together. (My bag is laying sideways, so the “bottoms” are to each side.)

Step 37b

Step 37b

Step 38
Then we’ll pin the sides. There are a few things you want to take note of here.

zipbag_38a

Step 38

The first is that you want to make sure the seams line up on the exterior of the bag.

zipbag_38

Step 38b

And also where the top trim of the exterior and lining meet. I like to start pinning there first to make sure it’s nice and neat.

zipbag_38b

Step 38c

I spy with my little eye: a zipper. Make a note of where the zipper is, because we don’t want to sew over it.

zipbag_38c

Step 38d

Step 39
To the sewing machine! 1/2″ seam allowance for the bottoms and sides.

Step 39

Step 39

Here’s the important part. We’re not going to sew over or through the zipper. At all. We don’t want any part of the stitches to even touch the zipper tape, actually. So sew as close to the zipper as you can without sewing through it. Then stop and backstitch. Hop over the zipper and start stitching again on the other side.

Step 39b

Step 39b

Step 40
Ain’t no party like a gusset party, ’cause a gusset party don’t stop!

Step 40

Step 40

Open up the gusset. Like a gaping mouth hole.

Step 40b

Step 40b

Line up the seams.

Step 40c

Step 40c

And then smush the mouth hole closed, and pin it shut. (I know, things just got weird. Just go with it.)

Step 40d

Step 40d

Step 41
Pin both of the mouth holes — I mean gussets — closed on the main bag. For the lining, pin only one gusset. Sew the three pinned gussets with a 1/2″ seam allowance.

Step 41

Step 41

Step 42
Inside-out time!

Step 42

Step 42

Reach inside of the gusset we left open and grab the opposite side of the bag.

Step 42b

Step 42b

Pull it through until everything is Right-side-out.

Step 42c

Step 42c

Step 43
Time to shut that last gusset’s mouth for good.

Step 43

Step 43

Line up the seams, just like we did for the other three gussets.

Step 43b

Step 43b

This time, we’re going to fold in the raw edges about 1/2″.

Step 43c

Step 43c

And then pin it closed.

Step 43d

Step 43d

Step 44
Stitch approximately 1/8″ from the edge. Now you might be thinking, “But Lex, why don’t we go about this the professional way, and handstitch the last gusset closed so the seam will be invisible?” And I press my finger to your lips and say, “Shhhhhh! It’s the lining. No one’s going to even know. It’s not even there. Shhhh.” I won’t tell if you won’t.

Step 44

Step 44

Step 45
Quick! Hide the evidence! Stuff the lining into the exterior.

Step 45

Step 45

Step 46
We’re so close now. Let’s finish this top edge.

Step 46

Step 46

You could press this seam with an iron. I just kind of smash it into place and pin it. Sometimes I’m a little uncouth like that.

Step 46b

Step 46b

Pin all the way around the top.

Step 46c

Step 46c

Step 47
Topstitch about 1/8″ from the edge.

Step 47

Step 47

Step 48
The straps. FINALLY! (You’ll note that I used two different strap-making methods on this bag. The D-ring strap was the “double fold” method, which is ideal if you want the strap to be all the same fabric. You can just as easily use the same method for these straps, assuming you don’t want the two-tone look. Just remember to cut the fabric for the strap four times wider than the finished strap. Our D-ring straps, for example, are 1″ wide. So we started with a 4″ wide strip.)

But if you do want the two-tone look:

Step 47

Step 48

Line up one front and one back, Right sides together.

Step 47b

Step 48b

Pin.

Step 47c

Step 48c

Step 49
Stitch around 3 sides of the strap, leaving one end open.

Step 48

Step 49

Repeat for both straps, and then trim the excess seam allowance. Pinking shears optional.

Step 48b

Step 49b

Step 50
Use the closed end of the strap to help turn it Right-side-out.

Step 49

Step 50

Step 51
Once the straps are turned out, you can cut off the closed end and press flat.

Step 51

Step 51

Step 52
Determine which side of the strap is the inside and which is the outside. Press and pin the raw edges 3/8″ toward the inside.

Step 52

Step 52

Baste.

Step 52b

Step 52b

Step 53
Wrap the strap around the D-ring and pin in place.

Step 53

Step 53

Repeat for both ends of each strap.

Step 53b

Step 53b

Step 54
Stitch the strap in place. I like to use a double row of stitching to make it extra secure.

Step 54

Step 54

Hey… you’re not going to believe this but… we’re done!

Bam!

Bam!

The end.

Luna Moth Bag
2015-2016

P.S. This tutorial is dedicated to the luna moth bag featured in the tutorial itself. The luna moth bag met a tragic end when some thieving dickbag broke into my car and stole my purse. (The most annoying thing is that I’m 99% sure he dumped the bag on the side of the road, as he did my shitty $5 phone when he realized it wasn’t something valuable like an iPhone. So my bag is probably out there somewhere, moldering in the weeds. I even did a drive-by where a biker found my phone, but there was no sign of the bag. RIP luna moth bag!)

bagzip

About

My name is Alexis. I have a craft addiction. This is my story. also check out: www.smarmyclothes.com (my clothes) www.whatthecraft.com (my tutorials)

Posted in 3 Pin (Moderate) Tutorials, My Tutorials, Tutorials + Project Ideas, Video Tutorials Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,
15 comments on “How To Make a Bag with a Zipper – Sewing Tutorial
  1. I can’t thank you enough for posting this tutorial! The original purse was my first ever sewing project, but now that I’m a bit better, I can’t wait to get into zippers and make a super fab bag to show around town!

  2. Muriel says:

    Great tutorial! Do you have this written out and for purchase?

    LuLaRoe by Arctic Sun
    Check us out on Facebook!

  3. Emma says:

    Love this so much! Just wondered if there is a way of having a cross body strap rather than two handles?

    • Lex says:

      Absolutely! I always encourage putting your own spin on a bag design. Although… the way the bag is assembled, it would be difficult to attach the strap where one would normally attach a single, cross-body strap, UNLESS you attach the strap after the bag is fully assembled. (And there’s not really a reason you can’t do that. Just fold the raw edges of the strap under so they’re hidden once you stitch the strap to the bag.

      Otherwise, you can attach the strap during the bag assembly like so:

      My little drawing assumes the bag turns out very cube-like, but that was only to make the illustration more clear. 😀
      The important part is to give the side seams a wide berth when placing the strap in the seam. I’d attach it at least 1.25″ from the side seam to avoid any troubles.

  4. Ruth says:

    I just found you….what a GREAT tutorial. I’m going to add this one to my already overflowing stash of patterns that I have good intentions to make but probably will never do…..haha.

    I LOVE your style and quirkiness….you are jawsome!!

    MEOW!!

  5. Tami says:

    Love this purse! Can’t wait to give it a try. It will be my first time working with zippers.

    Do you have this pattern written out where I may print it off?

  6. Unknownpqr says:

    Great tutorial!!!can we add interfacing in the pockets and lining?

  7. Nicky says:

    Thank you, Lex! I can’t wait to try this. Your detailed instructions, and the video, are very well done. Bravo.

  8. Nicky says:

    Hi again, Lex! I have now made two of the bags. I love the bag and your tutorial! I am going through my fabric looking for more candidates…

    Do you have a trick for securing the zipper to each end of the bag? Also, is there a tutorial for your fabulous hoodie?

    Thanks
    Nicky

  9. Angela Santangelo says:

    What kind of material did you use?? Love it, gonna start this after the weekend 🙂

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