Sunday, February 14, 2010

Zippered Pouch Tutorial

Here is a tutorial I put together on how to make a zippered pouch.  You can alter this, of course, so that it measures whatever size you need for whatever you want to use it for.  You can also add little embellishments like pleats, or curved corners.  Here are a few examples:

The top two are pencil case sized pouches; the tan and red has has cute little pleats, the blue and green has softly curved edges (I used a saucer to trace the curve).

Before any sewing project, I recommend giving the directions a quick read-thru--sometimes it really does make life easier. 

To get started, we'll need to gather our ingredients:

~ 2 pieces of outer fabric (mine is music notes) measuring 4 inches by 6 inches (this includes my quarter inch seam allowance)
~ 2 pieces of lining fabric the same size as your outer fabric
~ 4 pieces of lightweight fusible interfacing the same size as your lining and outer fabric
~ a zipper long enough to go across the top.  I like long zippers so mine is about ten inches, even though the pouch is not that wide.  We can trim off any excess later on.

Obligatory picture of what you'll be needing.

Begin by pressing your pieces.  Then iron your interfacing onto the wrong side of each piece of fabric.  I like to interface each piece; you may choose to do only the lining or only the outer pieces, or none at all.  If you do none at all there will be a lot of stress on the fabric near the zipper area, so you may want to iron a strip on there if nowhere else. 

Now that we've got that ready, we're going to make a zipper sandwich.  Take one of your outer pieces (right side up), place your zipper face down along the top edge, and pin (Figure 1).  Then, take a lining piece and place it right side down on top of the zipper, matching up the edges as best you can.  Pin in place (Figure 2).
You could of course match them all up at once, but I find this extra step of pinning twice helps me keep everything all lined up much better.  It's your choice, of course.

Figure 1
Figure 2

If you have a zipper foot it comes in extremely handy right now.  If not, that's ok, it'll just be a little fiddly.  Line the foot edge up with the center of the zipper and note where this is on the seam guide so you can keep a straight line.  Then stitch it all together, backstitching at the beginning and end.  One note about the photo below:  when I use my zipper foot if I put the zipper to the left I attach my foot on the left side; I'm not sure if this is the right way to do it but the other way feels funny. 

Sewing your zipper sandwich.

Repeat for the other side.  Make sure your fabrics are lined up the same way (outer is right side up, zipper is face down, lining is right side down).  Now is the time I like to press everything near the zipper, and then topstitch to keep the fabric from getting stuck in the zipper. It should look like the below:

If you flip this over you'll see the green lining with the wrong side of the zipper running down the middle.  Check for that now to minimize cursing later.

OK, we're getting there.  We're going to sew up the sides now.  At this point, because my zipper is waaaay too long, I pull the zipper pull down into the middle so I don't accidentally sew it off to the side where it gets stuck in the middle of nowhere.  For some reason (I've never done this before and I've made loads of these) I decided to cut my excess zipper now instead of later; so I have to be really careful not to pull my zipper pull off at either end.  That being said....take your outer piece and match it with your other outer piece, right sides together.  Do the same with your lining.  You should now have one long rectangle with the lining on one side, the outside on the other, and the zipper hidden in between (see below).

Right sides to right sides, hidden zipper, all pinned up.

You need to make sure your zipper is lined up ok so it isn't all mismatched when you're done.  Instead of folding the zipper towards the lining, I like to fold it towards the outer pieces.  I'm not exactly sure why, but it seems to work out better for me when I do it this way.  The below shows what I mean.  However, you can also fold the zipper towards the lining.  Try a few of these and see which method you like. [UPDATE: I've made a bunch of these since this tutorial...fold the teeth towards the lining--the opposite of what I have below and say above.  Apologies for the momentary brain-dump].

Pin this section well--you want to make sure it stays put when we stitch the sides.

Now, sew up the sides using a quarter inch seam allowance.  When you get to where the zipper is, go slow so that you don't break your needle.  I like using a longer zipper because it ensures that those metal bits aren't in my way and I'm just sewing through the teeth.  I also like to reverse over the zipper a few times to make sure it's tacked in there nice and secure.  When the sides are all sewn up I trim a little bit of the bulk away near the zipper.  Below is what you should be looking at right now.

Bulk reduced at zipper which has been triple-stitched for security.

Reach inside the outer pieces and make sure your zipper is open, or else you'll have some choice words to say later...  Sew all the way across the bottom of the outer pieces, backstitching at each end.  Do the same for the lining BUT make sure that you leave about a 3 inch opening in the middle so we can turn it right side out later.  Here's where we should be:

Notice the turning gap at the top.  Make sure you clip your corners, but don't cut into the stitching "corner."  This cuts down the bulk for nice neat corners.

Still there? Hang tight, we're almost done.  Reach up into that gap you left and pull the outer part all the way through (that's why we left the zipper open).  It may be a little tight so just be careful not to burst your stitching.  It will wiggle through, though. 

They call this "birthing the bag" with good reason...first because it makes you wonder how you're getting so much fabric out of an opening so small...and second because when it's a bigger bag and you stick your hand way in to do this, see where I'm going.

There are a few ways to do the next step.  You need to make sure your corners are nice and corner-y; you can reach inside the gap and use a point poker thingee or a bodkin, or use a plain old pin to tease the corners out.  You can see all three in the photo below.

Nice square corners give it a much better look than stuck inside corners.

Right now I like to press so that everything is nice and neat.  Then, fold in the edges of the opening we left so that the raw edges are inside.  If you like to handstitch, stitch it closed now.  I like to pop it into my machine and sew close to the edge.

Handstitching is neater, but I'm not good at handstitching, so I use my machine.

Gently shove the lining back down into the coin purse.  Poke the corners into place.  Wiggle your fingers up near the corners where the zipper is and poke those out as well.  They may need a bit more convincing because they're bulkier; just show them who is in charge.

Say night-night.  Tuck in the lining and neaten it up.

Zip 'er shut, give it a pressy-press, and say ta-da!  Because that's it. Stick a fork in you - you're done!

This simple little project is one of my favorite things to make. You can make them plain or simple, cutesy or pretty, whatever.  And you can make one to match the size of whatever you're going to use it for - makeup brushes, crochet hooks, pencil cases, cards and cash, lipstick and a mirror, whatever you fancy.  And with a gift card tucked inside they can make a unique and fun little gift.

I hope that was simple to follow and helpful to you.  Sometimes it helps to see something written in a different way than the information that's already available.

Now go make yourself a cup of whatever and enjoy your new zippered purse.


  1. Zippers and curses. They always go together. Hahaha. Love your fabrics!

  2. I was reading your older posts and came across this one. I'm going to give it a go! I'll post a picture if it comes out nice, or else there will be a post with lots of cursing... :)

  3. Let me know if there's anything that makes you curse and I'll fix it : )

  4. Only thing that made me curse was when I couldn't find my zipper foot and had to try to sew it on with my regular foot moving my needle over as much as the machine would allow. The size 4x6 was a bit big for my zip so I had to wing it a bit and made it smaller. But the technique of how to put it together was brilliant. Will make lots of these in future me thinks. I can see it now, everybody will get one for Christmas, birthdays, you name it.... :)

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  6. Extremely clear instructions and very helpful indeed pictures! Funny too! Love it! Thanks !



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