Saturday, May 30, 2015

Inset Zipper Pouch Tutorial

'Allo! I was hoping my fabric would be delivered by miracle express so I could get busy on our diaper/tote sew along this weekend, but alas they have not. Several of you said "Yes, please!" so that sew along will certainly be a go, once I have the goods to get going. In the meantime, when I posted these bags of some of you said you'd be interested in knowing how I did the zipper, so I whipped one up and took the photos to show you. This is by no means groundbreaking, but I know how it feels to not feel like doing the 'thinking' part when it comes to sewing and to just want to get going, so here you go.

I recommend giving a quick read-through before you get going so you don't trip yourself up or do something you shouldn't, but it really is quite a simple thing.

This version measures seven inches by ten inches (finished). You will need the following:

  • one piece of exterior fabric measuring 11"w by 17"h
  • one piece of fusible interfacing (I used woven Shape Flex 101, but the craft stuff will work fine, too) measuring 11"w by 17"h
  • two pieces of lining fabric each measuring 11"w by 7"h
  • two pieces of sew-in fleece (fusible will also work--I used what I had on hand) measuring 11"w by 7.5"h. I usually use Thermolam, but I used a lighter weight fleece for this to cut down on bulk and make it not so stiff.
  • one 10-inch zipper (10 inches from metal to metal)
Iron your fusible interfacing to the wrong side of your exterior fabric according to the manufacturer's directions. Give it a few minutes to cool so the adhesive sets nicely. From this piece cut the following (it's already the right width--we're cutting height in this step. We're doing it this way to cut down on cutting and fusing multiple interfacing pieces, a.k.a. efficient laziness):
  • two pieces 11"w by 7.5"h
  • two pieces 11"w by 1"h
Now you should have this (plus some fleece that's not pictured because it's boring):

We are going to treat the exterior and the fleece as though it is one layer (unless you used fusible, and then it IS one layer). If you'd like you can lay your exterior right side up over your fleece and sew together using a narrow seam allowance. I didn't because this is a small rectangle and won't get too squidgy. 

You'll want to have your fleece, your exterior (right side up), and one of your narrow strips (right side down) all lined up along the top edge of the larger exterior piece (mind what you're doing if your fabric is directional!). Your strip won't have fleece so don't add any unless you love bulk.

Pin and sew those layers together using a 1/4" seam allowance. Press open, and repeat for your other exterior pieces. Now we're going to make a zipper sandwich. 

Take one of your exterior pieces and put it down face up. Center your zipper on this and pin in place. If you're following me exactly you'll have about 1/4" overlap on each edge. That's fine--we're trimming later. Then place one of your linings face down on this, and pin together all along the top edge.

BTW, those Clover clips are amazing and one of my favorite things ever--I highly recommend them. Now sew all those layers together using a 1/4" seam allowance. I never use my zipper foot unless I'm inserting a zipper in clothing (which is rare enough to be almost never). I use a 1/4" foot that came with my machine--I get a nice straight line with hardly any thought (and who feels like thinking on a Saturday, really?). If you need to stop and raise your presser foot to move your zipper pull out of the way, make sure that your needle is in the down position first.

Repeat for your other pieces on the other side of the zipper. You should have this for the outside:

--and this for the inside:

At this point you may be feeling the urge to trim that excess. Don't. You need that. What you need to do now is carefully press your seams up near the zipper so those folds are nice and flat. Don't iron your zipper or you'll melt it. Once you have everything pressed neatly near the zipper, we're going to toss in a little bit of top-stitching so things don't get the urge to get stuck in there at some point. I used a regular foot with the edge lined up with the zipper teeth.

If you've ever made a zipper pouch before the rest is going to be familiar. Open your zipper about half way. Don't be a rebel here. Pin all around the exterior pieces so that the right sides are facing each other. Do the same for the lining side.

This part is very important if you don't want to hear a terrible noise and break your needle. You need to note where the little metal bits of the zipper are and mark them so you'll know where they are and won't sew right into them (or try to, anyway).

My purple mark is juuuuuust to the outside of the metal bits (about 1/2" from the edge)--if I sew through or to the right of the purple all will be well. If I go to the left the consequences will be dire. 

Leaving a turning gap in the bottom of the lining, start sewing. I did this in one line of stitching, starting with the lining and sewing around the perimeter until I got back to the lining (but leaving that gap).For the lining I used a 1/2" seam allowance, veering ever so slightly to a 3/8" seam allowance once I crossed the zipper and got to the exterior. I kept going with a 3/8" for the exterior, and veered out to a 1/2" again once I got to the lining. This ever so slight discrepancy makes a big difference when tucking the lining down into the bag--it lays so much smoother with no excess bunching at the seams.

Half-inch on the lining

Three-eighths on the outside.

I greatly dislike seam bulk and try to get rid of it where feasible. So in each corner you're going to cut off a nice little triangle without getting too close to your stitches.

Then trim the rest of the exterior to about a quarter-inch, especially the sides of the zipper. Be careful there, as it's bulky and your scissors might try to balk and cut something unintended.

Now reach into that gap you left, through the zipper, and grab the exterior of the bag. Pull it back through the gap so now you see the right sides of your fabrics. Using your fingers or a small poky device (I have a bamboo point turner I use) gently poke out all four corners of the exterior part of the bag. You'll be reaching through the gap in the lining and working a little blind here, but it's simple enough.

Sew the gap in the lining shut. You can do this by machine or hand. I like to do it by hand as it's so much less obvious there is a seam there.

Shove the lining inside. But remember: our zipper is not going to be across the top. That seam where we sewed the skinny strip to the main exterior is the top of the bag. So tuck things down (it takes a little bit of fiddling--I pinch the seam and carefully tug on the lining so it moves down) and press-press-press!

I love using my clapper here as it really shows that seam who's boss. I also find it helpful to press, and then not touch it until it cools. Add a bit of flare if you like.

And that's pretty much it! Keep reading after the next pic, though.

Some of you may be wondering why I didn't cut one loooong exterior piece instead of a couple smaller pieces. Oddly, I like having the seam across the bottom. That wee bit of bulk keeps it from sagging. At the top, I did it this way as when I was working on a sample it was much easier for me to achieve a straight top of the bag when that seam was there (the skinny strip sewn to the exterior) as a guide. When it was simply just the fabric folded over I had a bit of trouble getting it to be straight, and then to stay straight when the bag was opened and closed.

I chose to keep things plain for a tutorial, but this makes up a really nice sized clutch. So if you had some pretty satin or a bit of silk (ooo-la-la!) this is a simple design that could really show off some beautiful fabric. Have fun! And let me know if you have any questions!


  1. I like! Thanx for the tutorial :-)

  2. Oooo! I've learned something new and I like it! Thanks for taking the time to write this up!

  3. I really like that inset zipper. And french fry fabric... especially with that red gingham!

  4. Thank you so much for this excellent tutorial!!!! I'm making one or two tomorrow morning - just need to go to the fabric shop first!!!!

  5. Thanks for posting such a detailed tutorial. I wanted to pin it on pinterest but am using a new computer & haven't add my pin button yet. You should really think of adding the bottom to your blog so anyonecan easily pin it. (Just a friendly suggestion) :) I did go over to Pinterest and started to follow you. Thanks again.

  6. Just finished making this bag, and this tutorial was great! Easy to follow, pictures are so helpful. Thanks for the tutorial. I'll use this one again!



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