This one tutorial gives you all the basics you need to create the first of what will likely be many, many zipper pouches. Even if the mere mention of a zipper gives you the heebie-jeebies, there’s no better way to calm those fears than to master the Classic Zipper Pouch. We added a custom metal fob, using a simple metal stamping kit, which is a fun extra that really personalizes the final look.
Our adorable sample is made out of scraps from our popular Soft Slouch Shoulder Bag in Plaid Flannel & Denim.
When you’re making a bag, there are almost always enough scraps leftover to create a cute little pouch. It’s a lovely companion piece as a gift or simply to help you organize small items within a larger tote.
Of course, it’s such a fun project, it is just as deserving of its own brand new fabric. You could even make more than one pouch from the needed yardage.
We used fusible foam (Pellon Flex Foam in particular) to give our pouch its shape and stability. If you’d prefer a softer feel, consider using fusible fleece instead. Or, for a thin, crisp finish, a standard mid-weight fusible interfacing is another alternative.
Below, we show you all the steps for a tabbed-end zipper that is cut to an exact width for the top opening. The tabs are completely finished so the zipper can sit slightly above the side seams with a tiny gap at each end. You may have seen this same technique on zipper pouches you’ve purchased at the store. It’s a great option to reduce bulk and make the pouch easier to turn right side out.
A metal zipper coordinated beautifully with our custom metal fob, but the technique shown below would work just as well with a standard plastic zipper. When cutting a metal zipper, never use your good sewing scissors; always pull out the utility scissors from the junk drawer!
As mentioned above, our fashionable fob was made with a metal stamping kit. These are easy to find online as well as at your local craft store. If you’re looking for a starter set, this is the option we used from Amazon. You’d also need to select an appropriate metal charm; we usually shop Fusion Beads for our charms. Remember to pay attention to the letter size and the length of the word you want to use to make sure it will fit. We like to practice the stamping first on a piece of card stock.
We used three different fabrics for our sample so it was a perfect match to the original Shoulder Bag, but you could also use one of the exterior fabrics as your lining to reduce the fabrics needed to two.
Our pouch finishes at approximately 8” wide x 6½” high with 1½” box corners.
Sewing Tools You Need
Fabric and Other Supplies
- Scrap or ¼ yard of 44”+ wide fabric for the top panels and zipper tabs
- Scrap or ⅛ yard of 44”+ wide fabric for the bottom panels
- Scrap or ¼ yard of 44”+ wide fabric for the lining
- ¼ yard of 20”+ wide fusible foam interfacing; we recommend Flex Foam by Pellon
- ONE 9”+ zipper; we used a brass zipper with a decorative pull
NOTE: The zipper will be cut to size so the length will be trimmed to fit the opening.
- Optional decorative fob for the zipper pull; we used our metal stamping set to create a custom fob
- All purpose or cotton thread to match fabric
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Iron and ironing board
- Scissors and/or rotary cutter and mat
- Utility scissors for cutting the zipper
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Straight pins
- From the fabric for the top panels and zipper tabs, cut the following:
TWO 5” high x 8½” wide rectangles for the top panels
ONE 2” high x 2½” wide rectangle for zipper tabs
NOTE: Our tab size was based on the width of our zipper, which was 1¼”. Measure your zipper’s width and adjust as necessary. The height of 2” can remain the same; the width should be double the actual width of your zipper.
- From the fabric for the bottom panels, cut TWO 3¾” high x 8½” wide rectangles.
- From the fabric for the lining, cut TWO 7¾” high x 8½” wide rectangles.
- From the foam interfacing, cut TWO 7” high x 7¾” wide rectangles.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
- With the right sides of the fabric together, pin each top exterior panel to a bottom exterior panel.
- If you have a directional fabric, make sure everything is facing the right direction. You are pinning along the bottom edge of the top and the top edge of the bottom. Pin first, then gently open up the piece to check that everything is correct.
- Stitch together, using a ½” seam allowance.
- Press the seam allowance down towards the bottom panel.
- On both the front and back assembled panels, topstitch along the horizontal seam. Run the stitching ¼” from the seam within the bottom panel. Re-thread the machine if necessary with thread to best match the bottom panel fabric in the top and bobbin. We used our Janome Quarter Inch Seam foot to keep a perfectly straight seam.
- Find the two foam panels. Center a panel on the wrong side of each assembled exterior panel. There should be about ⅜” of fabric showing beyond the foam on all four sides.
- Following manufacturer’s instruction, fuse each foam panel in place.
Prepare and attach the zipper tabs
- Find the zipper and the zipper tab.
- Fold the zipper tab in half, wrong sides together, so it is now 1″ x 2½”. Finger press to set a center crease line.
- Unfold wrong side up so the crease line is visible. Fold in the raw edges so they meet at the crease line.
- Finger press, then fold in half again along the original crease line and press with an iron. Your finished piece should now be ½” x 2½”.
- Cut in half so you have TWO ½” x 1¼” tab pieces.
- Open up the zipper halfway.
- Open up one of the tabs along the center crease line.
- Slip the top end ends of the zipper into the tab. The ends of the zipper should be flush with one folded-in side of the tab. The top metal stops of the zipper ends should sit just outside the fold of the tab. If they don’t, trim the zipper ends slightly to adjust the fit. We trimmed and tapered the side edges of our zipper ends to make a smooth fit. Keep the ends together – ie. side by side. Pin in place.
- Stitch the zipper ends in place. It’s okay if this stitching is messy, it will be covered within the folds of the tab. We attached our Zipper foot and moved our needle position all the way over to the left.
- Re-fold the tab along the original crease line, sandwiching the zipper ends between the layers. Pin in place; the inner folds should be flush on either side of the zipper.
- Edgestitch in place, close to the inner folds. This edgestitching should be as neat as possible as it will be visible.
- Find the front exterior panel. Place it right side up on your work surface.
- Measure ½” in from each side edge and mark with a pin.
- Find the zipper with its top tab in place. Unzip it.
- Place the zipper right side down on the front panel with the tabbed top end of the zipper at the ½” pin mark at the right edge of the panel. The side edge of the zipper tape should be flush with the top raw edge of the front panel. Pin in place. You can tell the wrong side of the zipper is facing up because that is our messier first seam line showing in the photo below.
- Smooth the zipper into position across the top and mark the zipper tape at the ½” mark at the left edge of the panel. This is where the zipper will be trimmed to fit.
- Close the zipper and place a second pin directly opposite the first. You could also draw a line across the zipper at this point with fabric pen or pencil in a contrasting color.
- Find the remaining end tab. Place the tab right side down on the wrong side of the zipper so the center of the tab aligns with the marking pins. In other words, one inner raw edge in aligned with this mark.
- Place the zipper back down into place on the exterior panel to double check that the center of the tab is indeed aligned with your original ½” mark on the panel.
- Remove the zipper from the exterior panel. The zipper should still be wrong side up. Flatten out the tab. Stitch the tab in place along the inner fold.
- Flip the zipper right side up and use the raw edges of the folded-in sides of the tab as your cutting guide to trim away the excess zipper end. Remember to use utility scissors for this step – not your good sewing scissors. Trim one side of the tape…
- … then rotate and trim the opposite of the tape.
- Finally, fold the tab completely out of the way and carefully cut around the zipper teeth.
- Discard the excess zipper and clean up the cut edge as necessary. Bring the tab back around into position.
- Wrap the tab around the cut end. As above, the folded ends should be flush on either side of the zipper. Pin in place.
- Edgestitch the tab in place.
- You now have a perfectly-sized zipper for your pouch with two neatly finished ends.
Insert the zipper between the exterior and the lining
- Place the front panel right side up again on your work surface.
- Re-pin the zipper in place across the top, double checking that the zipper and the panel are right sides together, that each tabbed end sits ½” in from the sides of the panel, and that the zipper pull is situated so, when closed, it’s to the right of the front piece (if your fabric panels do not have a distinct front and back, this zipper pull position is not critical, but in general, pouches open right to left). After checking the position open the zipper half way.
- Find one lining piece. Place the lining panel right side down on top of the front panel, sandwiching the zipper between the layers.
- The top raw edge of the lining panel should be aligned with the other layers. Pin well.
- Stitch across the top through all three layers, using a ¼” seam. We used our Janome Quarter Inch Seam foot; you could also use a Zipper foot.
NOTE: All with all zipper insertions, when you feel you are approaching the zipper pull, stop with your needle in the down position. Raise the presser foot and twist the layers slightly so you can access the pull to move it out of the way of the presser foot. Once clear, drop the presser foot, re-position the layers, and finish the seam.
- Fold the lining back so the front panel and the lining are now wrong sides together and the remaining free side of the zipper tape is sticking up. Press.
- Find the back exterior panel and the remaining lining panel. Make a second sandwich similar to the first one. Place the back exterior panel right sides together with the front exterior panel, aligning its top raw edge with the free edge of the zipper tape. Lightly pin in place.
- Lift up these layers to double check the the exterior panels are right sides together.
- Place the remaining lining panel right sides together with the in-place lining panel. The top raw edge of the lining panel should also be flush with the free edge of the zipper tape. As with the first sandwich, you have sandwiched the remaining free edge of the zipper between the back exterior panel and the remaining lining panel. The two exterior panels are right sides together and the two lining panels are right sides together. Pin in place through all three layers.
- Stitch through all three layers along this second side of the zipper, again using a ¼” seam.
- As you did above, fold the exterior back and lining wrong sides together and press.
- Open up the entire unit so it lays flat. The exterior front and lining are wrong sides together to one side and the exterior back and lining are wrong sides together to the other side with the zipper in the middle. Press well and pin in place.
- Again to double check, this is what the flat unit looks like on the back side at this point.
- Lengthen the stitch. Edgestitch along the zipper teeth on either side on the zipper to hold the fabric layers together.
- Stop to move the zipper pull out of the way so you can maintain a straight seam along either side.
Complete the pouch
- Make sure the zipper is open half way.
- Fold the exterior pieces right sides together. Align the raw edges along both sides and across the bottom. Be especially careful to line up the horizontal seam lines on the exterior panels. Pin in place.
- Fold the lining pieces right sides together. Align the raw edges along both sides and across the bottom. Pin in place, leaving an approximate 3” opening along the bottom for turning.
- You again have one flat piece. This time the lining panels are to one side of the zipper and the exterior panels are to the other side of the zipper.
- Using a ¼” seam allowance, stitch around the entire perimeter. You will be stitching alongside, but not on, the end tabs. The tabs remain free, so it may be easiest to stitch around the perimeter of the exterior layers first and then re-set to stitch around the lining layers.
- Remember to pivot at all the corners and to lock your seam at either side of the 3” opening at the bottom of the lining.
- With the pouch wrong side out still, the next step is to box the bottom corners.
- Our pouch is designed to have 1½” corners. To create this width, we figured the seam at half this width or ¾”.
- Pinch one corner so the side and bottom seams align, forming a little peak.
- Measure ¾” in from the top of the peak and draw a line across the corner.
- Stitch along this drawn line. We recommend a double or triple seam for extra security.
- Trim away the peak, leaving an approximate ¼” seam allowance.
- Push the corner out into place
- Repeat to create the matching box seams at the remaining three corners. Double stitching…
- … and then trimming. The foam will be a bit bulkier to form into a corner, but it is still soft enough to work well.
- Turn the bag right side out through the opening in the bottom of the lining.
- Hand stitch or edgestitch the opening in the lining.
- Push the lining down inside the pouch. Align the boxed corners at the bottom and push out the top corners to either side of the zipper tabs. Remember, as you push all the corners out into place, the finished tab ends of the zipper are free from side seams; they sit just above the seam, making a teeny gap at each end. You’ve probably seen this on many of the pouches in your life.
- If using a fob, attach it to the end of the zipper pull.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Debbie Guild