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


  • 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

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.

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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