Zipper Top Tote – Free Bag Pattern

Zipper Top Tote – Free Bag Pattern


zipper top tote

This pattern isn’t for beginners.  I’m calling this an Intermediate pattern and as such, it comes with regular pattern-style instructions rather than the full step-by-step tutorial you might find with beginner patterns.  So some previous experience in sewing bags before and an understanding of construction would be useful for this project.

But it’s well worth it – this is a great bag.  Previously my husband told me my Expanding Nautical Tote Bag was the best bag I’d ever made, but now he says he thinks this one is even better – looks like it was from a ‘nice shop’ he said.  Praise indeed!

zipper top tote

Sadly I had a bit of an interfacing issue and my interfacing came away in parts when I turned my bag, giving it a bit of a crumpled and bubbly look, but I can live with it.  When I get more supplies, I’ll make this one again, maybe in a stripe!

The Zipper Top Tote

Features:

  • Full-length top zipper as a feature
  • Two front slip pockets with twist locks
  • One full-width outside zipper pocket on the back
  • Ready-made handles
  • Zipper pocket and slip pocket inside
  • Finished bag measures about 12 inches wide by 15 tall, plus handles.
Love how good this bag looks, can't believe its home-made. Free pattern.

Materials needed (to make one the same size as mine):

  • Outer fabric – 1/2 yard  ( I used an organic cotton twill from Fabric Mart)
  • Lining / contrast fabric – a bit less than 1 yard
  • Two small twist locks
  • Ready-made handles
  • Top zipper – 16 inches
  • Back zipper – 12 inches
  • Internal zipper – 6 inches (suggested)
  • Dangles – cute pink flower dangles – optional
  • The pattern download

I used materials that are all available from Amazon.

Fabric Suggestions from Amazon.com

Pattern Download

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Pattern Download HERE

Instructions on how to make the Zipper Top Tote Bag

Full step-by-step and photo instructions are included with the download PDF file.  Abbreviated instructions and small photos are included here so you can see if the pattern is for you.

Love how good this bag looks, can't believe its home-made. Free pattern.

Cut and interface all of your pieces.  Assemble the outer front pocket by stitching the pocket lining to the top edge of the pocket.  Turn and press.

Line up the pocket on the outer of the bag and pin in place.  Draw a line with a disappearing pen down the center of the pocket top to bottom, and stitch through all layers, reinforcing the stitching at the top.  Install the twist-lock hardware.

Love how good this bag looks, can't believe its home-made. Free pattern.

Assemble the back of the bag.  Take your lower back piece and the zipper.  Center the zipper at the top edge with the right side of the zipper facing the right side of the fabric.  Add the pocket lining on the top, face down.  Match up all raw edges and stitch with your zipper foot.  Press and topstitch.

Take the upper back piece and match it right sides together at the other side of the zipper.  Bring the bottom of the pocket lining up to match to the raw edges and stitch through all layers.  Press the lining towards the bottom and topstitch along the top of the zipper.

http://wp.me/p2WfGc-2W1

Assemble the lining.  Match the facing at the top of each lining piece, pin, and stitch. Press the seam between the two and topstitch.  Check the length of the lining pieces to the outer pieces and trim if necessary.

Inside pockets.  Add a pocket or pockets of your choice to the lining of the bag now.  You can read here how you can add the perfect slip pocket, or how to add in an internal zipper pocket.  I’m adding a zip pocket to my bag on one side and a small slip pocket on the other side for my phone, keys, and pen.

Love how good this bag looks, can't believe its home-made. Free pattern.

Add in any handles and decorative studs or hardware at this point.  I used ready-made handles.  To place them, turn over ½ inch at the top of your fabric to check for placement.  Make sure the handles are level and equal on both pieces, front, and back.

Love how good this bag looks, can't believe its home-made. Free pattern.

Prepare and add your zipper tabs.  Repeat for both ends.

Lay the outer fabric face up.  Line up the zipper on top and center it with the same overhang at either end.  The zipper teeth should be facing the right side of the fabric.  Place the lining on top, face down.  Mark in 2 inches from the edge of the fabric on each side and stitch through all layers between these 2 marks only, securing the zipper in place.

Repeat for the other side of the bag and zipper.

Love how good this bag looks, can't believe its home-made. Free pattern.

Flatten out your bag with the right sides of the outer fabric together and the right sides of the lining together, and the zipper in the center.  Match up seams and edges carefully and stitch around the perimeter.  Leave a large gap in the side seam of the lining to turn the bag right side out later.

Box the corners of the bag, both the outer and the lining with a 2-inch line across each corner.

Love how good this bag looks, can't believe its home-made. Free pattern.

Turn the bag right sides out and give it a good press.    Press the fabric carefully away from the zipper, front, and back.  Close the gap in the lining by hand or machine.  Push the lining down inside the bag.  In the gaps under the zipper at each end, turn in the raw edges, match up seams, and pin.

Topstitch all the way around the top of the bag, making sure to push the lining down and away from the back of the zipper as you go.  Close the gaps under the zipper.  Add on your cute zipper dangles for a bit of fun.  Give everything a final press and you are done.

zipper top tote

I hope you enjoy your bag as much as I love mine.  Do you have any ‘must-have’ features on bags that you always look out for or add when making your own?


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How to Add a Zipper Pocket to Any Purse Pattern

How to Add a Zipper Pocket to Any Purse Pattern


Tips and video on how to add a zipper pocket to the inside or outside of a bag pattern.

So you have a basic purse pattern or have a pattern that includes a basic slip pocket and you would like a zipper pocket.  Not a problem – this sort of thing can usually be added to any bag.  You can add them on the outside like in the Nautical Expanding Tote Bag, or on the inside of the bag in the lining like this example from the Carry All Bag.  Or both if you want lots of pockets and storage.  The exposed zipper can really add a nice pop of color and an interesting design feature to any bag.

Zipper examples

Here are a few of my tips and tricks to help you insert your first zipper pocket, as part of the My First Bag series of patterns and tutorials.

Watch the video

Here is an extract from the Nautical Tote Bag video which shows step-by-step how to do this.  You could start here first.

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Step by step photos – how to add a zipper pocket

Prefer to see it in words and pictures?  No problem, I’ve got that too.  These are a combination of photos from the Nautical Tote Bag and the Carry All Bag to show you some of the variations you might use to get the job done or get a different look.

Start by imagining how the finished pocket is going to look.  Where on the bag will the zipper come? How deep will the pocket be inside?  What colors or fabrics do you want to use?

Tips and video on how to add a zipper pocket to the inside or outside of a bag pattern.

TIP – The fabric used to directly back the pocket will inevitably just peak through to the front side around the opening.  You have two choices – go with it and use a nice bright contrast to outline your zip, or use a matching fabric to blend in and disappear. The back of the pocket can be a separate piece for a pop of color, or the same – again, it’s up to you.

Consider which fabrics to use where.  You have two choices.  You can either use a single piece for your pocket lining and fold it in half, or you can use two different pieces if you prefer to use contrasting fabrics.

TIP – your pocket lining should ideally be at least 2 inches wider than your zipper.  3 inches wider is even better.  Give yourself plenty of room to work.

The rectangle

Place the piece of fabric for your pocket lining face down, right sides together over your outer piece.  Decide where the pocket opening will go.  From the top of your pocket lining draw a line across which is 1.5 inches down from the top.  Draw another line underneath which is 2 inches down from the top, making 1/2 inch between them.

Find the center and draw two small vertical lines to mark the length of your zipper from the end of the teeth to the outside of the zipper stop at the other end.  You have a long rectangular box in which the teeth of your zipper will fit inside.

Tips and video on how to add a zipper pocket to the inside or outside of a bag pattern.

Position the lining fabric correctly on the outer fabric and pin it in place to stop it from shifting.  Shorten the stitch length a little on your machine (I take mine from a 2.5 down to a 2) and then stitch exactly around the rectangle you just drew.

Tips and video on how to add a zipper pocket to the inside or outside of a bag pattern.

If you haven’t already done so, draw another line through the center of the rectangle right across.  This is your cutting line.  At each end, draw a triangle from the corners to that center line.  Carefully cut along the center line until your reach the triangle, and then snip into the corners, close to, but not through, your line of stitching.

Turn the lining fabric through the hole you just cut and out to the back.  Press the opening neatly.  Concentrate on getting the front neat.  The inside may be a little puckered at the corners, but don’t worry, no one will ever see that part.

TIP – pinning the zip can create ripples and puckers.  Use double-sided adhesive tape to keep the zipper flat while sewing.

Tape and zippers

Time now to place our zipper.  You can use pins at this point, but I find it hard to get everything to lie flat that way, so I like to temporarily ‘glue’  the zipper in place before I sew.  I use a product called Wonder Tape, which is a double-sided temporary adhesive specially designed for sewing.  Add some strips of the Wonder Tape to the reverse of the pocket opening and then pop your zipper over the top and press it in place.  Check placement from the front and you can easily reposition it if you need to.

Sew the zip

Sewing with the front uppermost, stitch around the opening to secure the zipper in place.

If using a single-piece pocket lining, fold up the pocket lining and pin along the 3 open sides.  This is where having plenty of space to work will be important.   Stitch the 3 sides of the pocket lining, making sure to only sew the lining, not through the outer fabric as well.

pop

If using a two-piece lining to showcase a different fabric inside the pocket, pin and stitch this on all 4 sides.

And you are done.  Congratulations, you did it! That’s another bag-making skill you’ve got under your belt.  Check out some of the options again.

Tips and video on how to add a zipper pocket to the inside or outside of a bag pattern.

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How to Sew a Recessed Zipper on a Bag

How to Sew a Recessed Zipper on a Bag


sewing recessed zipper bag

I’ve been working on some new bag ideas and one of the areas of bag-making that has been a bit of a puzzle to me until recently is how to close the top of the bag. Of course, not all bags need to be closed. Some simple tote bags are left open, and that’s just fine.

With these examples of the Expanding Nautical Tote Bag and the Turning Japanese Purse, in each case simply holding the handles keeps the bag closed.

How to add a recessed zipper to a bag pattern

The Zipper Top Tote bag as a zipper right across the top and isn’t very deep.  Other bags I’ve made have either had magnetic closures and snaps or zippers at the top, like the Easy Cosmetics Bag.  So I was up for a challenge and looking forward to learning something new so I’ve got a video for you today on how to add a recessed zipper to a bag.

You can pretty much add this to the top of any bag which has a lining, so even if the pattern doesn’t call for it, you can split the lining and add in the recessed zipper.  Just remember to place any inside pockets accordingly.

Here’s how to sew a recessed zipper on a bag

In the video, I show how to sew the recessed zipper and then add it to a simple tote bag. At the same time, I’m trying out supporting the bag with headliner fabric too.  It’s all of a bit of an experiment, and not everything goes to plan!

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And here’s what it looks like – pretty easy and it gives a very nice result.  This would work on any bag that has a lining and space to slightly drop the zipper down inside.

sewing recessed zipper bag

Step by step

(See all these steps demonstrated in the video.)

  1. Look at your bag pattern and see where and how volume is added to the bag.  Are the bottom corners cut out or boxed?  What is the finished width and depth of the bag? In this example, I’m just working on a small tote bag and assume that it’s 3 inches deep and 12 inches wide when finished.
  2. Use a zipper a couple of inches longer than the finished width of the bag.  You can always use a longer zipper and shorten it if needed.
  3. Neaten the end of the zipper with a fabric tab.
  4. Cut 4 pieces of fabric.  My length will be 12 inches.  For the width, take the finished depth of the bag, divide it in half and then add on 1/2 of an inch.  My bag is 3 inches deep, so divide that in half to get 1.5 inches, add on 1/2 of an inch to get 2  inches.  So I cut 4 pieces each 12 inches long by 2  inches wide.  Apply interfacing to all 4 strips.
  5. Fold under the ends of the zip tape and pin them or hold in place.  Turn under 1/2 inch on each end of the long pieces and press.  Layer the zipper between two of the long pieces with right sides facing in.  Turn the end of the upper piece back over to the underside, and then stitch using a zipper foot from one end of the fabric to the other, keeping everything even.  Repeat the same on the other edge of the zipper tape.Great video on how to sew a recessed zipper for a bag. This is the easiest & clearest way I've seen to do it.
  6. Fold the fabric right sides out and push out the corners.  Press the fabric top and bottom away from the zipper and topstitch on all 3 sewn edges.
  7. Your recessed zipper is now completed.  Now we just have to add it to the lining of the bag.
  8. If your lining is already split into an upper and lower section, then you are good to go.  If not, split your lining a couple of inches down from the top and remember to add in a half-inch seam allowance to each pattern section.
  9. Mark the middle of the lining pieces and the middle of the zipper section and match them up.  Make sure the zipper is facing the right way up, towards the top of the bag.  Stitch the zipper section in between the lining pieces and press.
  10. Then add the lining pieces to the bag in the usual way, and sit back and enjoy your recessed zipper.
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Great video on how to sew a recessed zipper for a bag. This is the easiest & clearest way I've seen to do it.

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Turning Japanese Bag – some variations

Turning Japanese Bag – some variations


Japanese Bag

Have you tried the Turning Japanese Bag pattern yet? You should give it a try – it’s really easy! Part of the ‘My First Bag series’ it’s a single pattern piece, no fancy zippers or closures, the handles are ready-made and it’s perfect to showcase a really nice fabric or a large-scale print.

However, just because it’s simple, there’s no need to stop there. A simple pattern is often an ideal base to start from if you want to add a few additions of your own.

Japanese Bag

In this example:

  • I add a hard bottom and some shiny bag feet
  • It has a couple of small d-rings on the side where you can add a removable shoulder chain
  • I split the pattern to use two different fabrics instead of just one. You can split it in any direction, sew a curved seam, diagonal, or even patchwork.
  • I add a simple slip pocket
  • I also (very badly) add on the bias trim handles instead of the ready-made grommet handles.

Here is the original bag.

Japanese Bag

You can watch me make a few simple changes to the pattern and hardware to create something a little different.

Links you’ll need:

Please review this tutorial

Here’s some more information on Making the Perfect Slip Pocket for Your Bag

Japanese Bag

Making changes and additions to the Turning Japanese Bag pattern

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So, to summarize, make a better job than me with the bias tape handles or treat yourself and create a much better bag with the metal ones!  (I’ll be getting myself another set of those handles and replacing my terrible sewn ones!  Ashamed…)  Otherwise, the additions of the bag feet and the strap are really nice, and I’ll use this version of the bag a lot. I like having a light shoulder strap so I can keep my hands free while shopping and then just slip the chain back inside when I’m not using it.  More versatile than a heavier-weight long strap I think.

Japanese Bag

Having the option to change up the look with the different fabrics is an easy way to change the pattern and I think I might make another with a diagonal fabric change, perhaps in a really bold combination, or even with faux leather!  If you know me, don’t look – you’ll probably be getting one of these bags for Christmas!


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Vintage Sewing Pattern Printable Fabric Purse Project

Vintage Sewing Pattern Printable Fabric Purse Project


I HAVE to make me one of these. Print your own fabric with a sewing pattern envelope and make your own sewing pattern zipper pouch. NEED IT!

I may be here on the site today with a new project, and sending you the weekly newsletter, but actually, I’m not here.  I’m on my way back today from Sewing Holiday in Sioux City, where I’ve been rubbing shoulders this week with some great sewing instructors.  Hopefully, I’ll pick up some great tips I can share with you, meet some great people and be able to share some photos of the event.

Untitled-1

I’m actually really nervous.  I had been reading comments prior from some of the attendees and they all had SO much sewing knowledge and experience – I was worried I was going to embarrass myself in their company.  I’m a slapdash sewer for sure, never do things the ‘right’ way and just get the job done.

What should I take with me?  What supplies, tools, and equipment would I need?  According to the class schedules, almost everything was supplied so I shouldn’t need to take much with me.  But what should I wear?  Oh no – should I wear clothes I had made myself?  Would the ladies be nice (like you all are), or would they be critical of what I had made?  Arghhh.

Never mind all that.  I just needed a small zipper pouch to carry a few basics and of course, it had to be sewing-related.  I went back to the earlier idea of creating my own fabric, and the vintage envelope zipper purse from the printed fabric.  Could I create something like this, but sewing related?  What is that sort of size and shape – a sewing pattern of course.  Light bulb moment!

I HAVE to make me one of these. Print your own fabric with a sewing pattern envelope and make your own sewing pattern zipper pouch. NEED IT!

The Print-Your-Own Fabric Sewing Pattern Envelopes

I wanted to make two pouches, one with the traditional portrait envelope and one, if I could find the right images, that was landscape.  It’s only when you look, that you realise just how few images there are longways.  Most pattern envelopes have the image upright.  I picked out some images and I was going to try to do a tutorial for you on how to adapt them to the right size, add a border and prepare them for printing, etc – but well, it’s not that easy and not everyone has the right software – so I just thought I would share the ones I made.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I did this in Photoshop and made all 4 the same size then added a border in a light matching color so the edges weren’t just plain white.

Just as a guideline if you fancy trying this yourself, I made the image 8 by 6 inches and this worked well without distorting the images.  You can find some great vintage sewing pattern envelope images on Google HERE.  Pick the ones that suit your style.

To make your sewing pattern pouch

Materials:

Download the Sewing Pattern Envelope printable files for fabric

This is a ‘pay what you can afford’ download.  Choose your price – anywhere from $0.00 upwards.  Free downloads are fine – I won’t come hunt you down or think badly of you!

Print, sew and enjoy using these vintage sewing pattern envelope files for your print-at-home fabric projects.

Preparation

Read through the earlier articles about printing on fabric here:

  1. How to print on fabric at home – 4 different ways
  2. Printing on fabric – washing and fading
  3. Print your own ‘handmade’ labels
  4. Vintage envelope zipper pouch – print your own fabric
Wow, I love this idea. How to print your own fabric in any design you like and great a roject with it. These vintage envelope bags look great!

To make your pouch

Cut your fabric piece with a 1/2 inch seam allowance around the outside of the pattern image.  Double-check they are the same size.  If you are using my templates, then they should match OK.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Apply lightweight fusible interfacing to the back of the printed fabric.

Create an inside pocket if you like, add your own ‘designer’ label and add it to one piece of your lining fabric.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Then sew your zipper pouch in the usual way.  If you’ve not already made a ton of these sort of things before, then there is a step by step on how to sew under the earlier tutorial about how to use your own printed fabric to create the vintage envelope bag.  Check out the sewing tutorial here.

I HAVE to make me one of these. Print your own fabric with a sewing pattern envelope and make your own sewing pattern zipper pouch. NEED IT!

And that’s it, your sewing pattern pouch is ready to fill with your sewing supplies, or whatever else you want to use it for.  I was jumping about with excitement about these, showing my husband and just squealing with the cuteness of it all.  He seemed under-impressed until I told him that I had printed the fabric too, then he was a little more impressed but not much – honestly, only you ladies can appreciate how darned fabulous these bags are.

I HAVE to make me one of these. Print your own fabric with a sewing pattern envelope and make your own sewing pattern zipper pouch. NEED IT!

Now I know I can go on Sewing Holiday and have something awesome to take with me.  I’m still nervous, but not so bad now.  I’m wondering if any of you will be there?  Hope we had a chance to say hello and get our photos taken together if so.

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I HAVE to make me one of these. Print your own fabric with a sewing pattern envelope and make your own sewing pattern zipper pouch. NEED IT!

Copyright – please note, the issue of copyright on sewing patterns is extremely complicated.  I don’t believe there is anything to stop you using a sewing pattern envelope image to create your own bag or other items.  However, that’s OK for personal use, but you should not sell the bags unless you are certain that copyright does not apply to that pattern envelope or image you have used.  Therefore feel free to download these images I have created for you, but please use them solely for your own personal use.  Or create your own fabric from images of your choice.

Download the Sewing Pattern Envelope printable files for fabric

This is a ‘pay what you can afford’ download.  Choose your price – anywhere from $0.00 upwards.  Free downloads are fine – I won’t come hunt you down or think badly of you!

Print, sew and enjoy using these vintage sewing pattern envelope files for your print-at-home fabric projects.


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Free Bag Pattern with Video Tutorial- Turning Japanese Bag

Free Bag Pattern with Video Tutorial- Turning Japanese Bag


Free bag pattern. The handles make this bag really easy to make, but it looks fab! I want one!

Never sewn a bag before or just looking for a quick and easy project? The use of metal handles in this bag means there is no need for fiddly zippers or closures, but the bag still looks super cute and just like something you could have bought in a nice store.

Feedback to the site, comments on Facebook, and emails I’ve received show that you all love to sew bags!  You asked for more quick and simple projects, more bags, more for new and beginner sewists and more projects that can be made with small pieces of fabric, or short periods of time.  I think this bag fulfills all of those.

My First Bag Series – In fact, I’ve decided that over the next 12 months I’ll try to bring out several new bags that could all be sewn by beginners and would be perfect if you’ve never sewn a bag before.  They’ll all be simple to sew, have simple patterns and each will come with instructions even a beginner can follow – it’s the ‘My First Bag Series’.

Free bag pattern. The handles make this bag really easy to make, but it looks fab! I want one!

Sew the Turning Japanese Free Bag Pattern

  • Finished bag approx 11 inches tall by 10.5 inches wide

Firstly, download and print the pattern and read through the written instructions.  You will need the following materials

  • Outer fabric – 14 x 30 inches
  • Lining fabric – same
  • Metal handles
  • Matching thread
  • Interfacing/fusible fleece

Download the Turning Japanese Bag Pattern

You can download the pattern and instructions for the Turning Japanese Bag from my design account at Payhip.  It’s a PDF file containing both instructions and pattern all in the same file.  Enjoy!  Trouble downloading the pattern? Check out this article – How to Download and Print PDF Sewing Patterns.

Fabric Suggestions from Amazon.com

I’m struggling to find the exact fabric I used for this bag.  It just doesn’t seem to be being made anymore.  However, here are a couple of other really good alternatives that will still give you a similar style.

Free Video Tutorial

You can also watch this tutorial video.  See how easy it is!

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You can do it !  You can sew a bag to be proud of and that others won’t believe you made yourself.  Give it a try.  I’m always here to answer your questions if you read through the instructions and watch the video and are still stuck.

Free bag pattern. The handles make this bag really easy to make, but it looks fab! I want one!

And watch out in the future for simple variations you can add to this bag too.  Once you have the pattern and know how to sew it, making your own changes to the pattern isn’t too difficult.  I’ll show in a future tutorial how to add some piping and make it in two different fabrics. Even how to add a shoulder chain and some bag feet too so you can really Wow your friends!

Download the Turning Japanese Bag Pattern

You can download the pattern and instructions for the Turning Japanese Bag from my design account at Payhip.  It’s a PDF file containing both instructions and pattern all in the same file.  Enjoy!  Trouble downloading the pattern? Check out this article – How to Download and Print PDF Sewing Patterns.

  * * * * * *

Why the Turning Japanese Bag?  When I saw this lovely fabric (and the lining fabric) it reminded me of a popular song from the 80’s – Turning Japanese…


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