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.
OR continue on for the text/photo version of the tutorial…
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Alright, let’s do this!
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.)
(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.
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.
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)
Mark two more lines – one 1/4″ above the blue line and the other 1/4″ below the blue line. (purple lines below)
Measure 1″ in from each side and mark. (red marks below)
Make a little triangle from the newest line, with the point meeting the original blue line.
Lastly, mark the top center of the pocket.
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.
Pin the two pieces together.
Following the marked lines, sew a rectangle as shown below.
Cut along the middle line, stopping when you reach the point of the triangle.
Cut the sides of the triangle, getting as close to the stitching as possible without cutting the stitches.
Fold the bottom of the pocket up and slip it through the slit you just cut.
It’s like you’re feeding the pocket to itself. (CANNIBAL!)
Pull the whole pocket through to the other side and smooth it out as much as possible around the stitching.
Press the pocket opening with an iron on both sides.
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.
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. 🙂
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.
Give the glue 10-15 minutes to dry. If you have other pockets to prepare, you might as well do that while you wait!
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.
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. 😛 )
Fold the pocket in half, bringing the bottom edge up to the top.
Pin the pocket RIGHT sides together.
You only want to pin through the pocket layers. Don’t pin the main bag layer.
Pin all the way around the sides and top of the pocket.
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.
Pause to admire your very fancy, very elegant, professional AF zipper pocket. You’re like some kind of pocket wizard.
D-ring strap time! Again, this step is optional. You can do basic straps if you want. But who wants to be basic?
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.
Fold the D-ring strap fabric in half, hot-dog-style.
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?)
Now we have a nice line pressed right down the middle of our D-ring strap fabric.
Fold one raw edge up to meet the center line.
Then fold down the other side.
And then commence with the toasty-toasty.
With both raw edges still folded in, fold in half again, along the original center line.
The raw edges should now be completely encased in the middle of the strap.
Time to press!
And then we pin along the open edge.
Sew the strap closed, stitching about 1/8″ from the edge. Repeat the stitching on the unpinned (folded) edge, for symmetry.
Cut the strap into four equal pieces.
Insert one strap into each D-ring.
Then fold the strap around the flat edge of the ring.
Repeat for all 4 D-rings, and pin the straps in place.
Stitch the straps to the D-ring, and baste the raw ends as well.
Decide where you want your straps, remembering to leave room for the seam allowances and gussets.
I decided on 3″ from the edge.
Pin the D-ring straps to the exterior Main Bag pieces (not the lining).
Baste the four D-ring straps to the two exterior Main Bag pieces.
Time to attach the top trim to the exterior Main Bag.
Pin the top trim to the main bag, Right sides together.
Like a boss.
Stitch using a 1/2″ seam allowance.
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.
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.
Gluestick (or pin) the zipper to the top trim piece, Right sides together.
Stitch the zipper to the top trim using a zipper foot.
Trim any excess from the end of the zip.
Gluestick or pin the top trim to the main bag, Right sides together. The zipper should be sandwiched in between.
Stitch through all three layers (top trim lining, zipper, main bag lining) using a zipper foot.
Open the new seam.
Press the seam toward the top trim and topstitch.
Flip the top trim out of the way, so the free edge of the zipper is exposed.
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!
Gather the remaining Main Bag lining piece and Top Trim lining piece. We’re going to repeat the same steps as before.
Glue or pin the free edge of the zipper to the Top Trim lining piece – Right sides together. Baste it.
Glue the zipper/top trim to the Main Bag lining. Stitch it.
Press and topstitch the seam. Remove the temporary pins I mentioned before.
At this point, I like to baste the top of the zipper closed to keep it from flopping open during the next few steps.
Also, make sure you unzip the zipper part of the way before the next step.
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.
Right sides together, natch.
Stitch using a 1/2″ seam allowance.
Open the seam.
Rearrange all the layers so you have the raw edge of the remaining Top Trim lining exposed.
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!
Rearrange all those flappy layers so that you have the two exterior pieces facing one another, and the two lining pieces facing one another.
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.)
Then we’ll pin the sides. There are a few things you want to take note of here.
The first is that you want to make sure the seams line up on the exterior of the bag.
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.
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.
To the sewing machine! 1/2″ seam allowance for the bottoms and sides.
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.
Ain’t no party like a gusset party, ’cause a gusset party don’t stop!
Open up the gusset. Like a gaping mouth hole.
Line up the seams.
And then smush the mouth hole closed, and pin it shut. (I know, things just got weird. Just go with it.)
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.
Reach inside of the gusset we left open and grab the opposite side of the bag.
Pull it through until everything is Right-side-out.
Time to shut that last gusset’s mouth for good.
Line up the seams, just like we did for the other three gussets.
This time, we’re going to fold in the raw edges about 1/2″.
And then pin it closed.
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.
Quick! Hide the evidence! Stuff the lining into the exterior.
We’re so close now. Let’s finish this top edge.
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.
Pin all the way around the top.
Topstitch about 1/8″ from the edge.
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:
Line up one front and one back, Right sides together.
Stitch around 3 sides of the strap, leaving one end open.
Repeat for both straps, and then trim the excess seam allowance. Pinking shears optional.
Use the closed end of the strap to help turn it Right-side-out.
Once the straps are turned out, you can cut off the closed end and press flat.
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.
Wrap the strap around the D-ring and pin in place.
Repeat for both ends of each strap.
Stitch the strap in place. I like to use a double row of stitching to make it extra secure.
Hey… you’re not going to believe this but… we’re done!
Luna Moth Bag
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!)