101DIYdiy projectssewing 101

sewing 101: zippered case

by Brett

It’s back-to-school time, and it’s hard not to have school supplies on the brain even if school days are nowhere in sight for some of us! Inspired by the good old-fashioned pencil case, I thought it would be fun to sew a lined, zippered pouch that you can use for pencils, makeup, electronics or anything else you need to organize and tuck away. The great thing about this bag is that once you understand the basic construction, you can easily make it any size you like. Try a short, long version with a wide base for knitting needles, or a flat bag for electronic cords. You can use oilcloth for the lining to create a waterproof makeup bag, or try stitching a label to the outside to indicate what’s hiding inside. Let’s get started! — Brett Bara

CLICK HERE for the full how-to after the jump!


  • approximately 1/2 yard of medium or heavy-weight fabric for the bag exterior
  • approximately 1/2 yard of medium-weight fabric for the lining
  • standard zipper, at least as wide as your bag will be
  • scissors
  • needles
  • sewing machine
  • iron


1. Cut the fabric.

Decide how large you want your bag to be and cut two pieces of your exterior fabric and two pieces of lining fabric to this size, plus 1″ in length and width for seam allowance. If possible, purchase a zipper that is the same width as your fabric piece or purchase a longer zipper and cut it to size. (Note: if your zipper is only 1 to 2″ longer than your fabric piece, you don’t have to cut it. A small amount of excess zipper length is okay.)

To cut your zipper to size, zip the zipper closed and place the zipper next to your fabric piece, aligning the top end of the zipper with one corner of the fabric. Place a pin in the zipper at the other corner of the fabric piece.

Set your machine to a narrow, short zigzag stitch and sew back and forth across the zipper teeth several times at the point you marked. (Yes, you can sew right across the zipper teeth — your machine can handle it!)

Then cut the zipper about 1/2″ past the spot you sewed. The stitches will act as a stopper on the end of the zipper. And that’s it!

2. Attach the zipper to the fabric.

Place your zipper face down on the right side of one of the exterior pieces and pin it in place.

Load your machine with a zipper foot (check your machine’s manual for help with this if necessary) and sew the zipper to the fabric.

3. Attach the lining.

Place the lining right-side down over the zipper and pin it in place. Sew it just as you did the previous piece. (You will be sewing directly over the line of stitching you made when attaching the zipper to the exterior piece. The zipper will now be sandwiched in between the right sides of one lining piece and one exterior piece.)

4. Press the seam.

Press the seams you just sewed, folding each piece of fabric back so that the wrong sides are facing each other. (Be careful when ironing near the zipper — after coming in contact with the iron, the metal zipper can get hot enough to burn you.)

5. Attach the next exterior piece.

Place the second exterior piece wrong-side down over the right side of the zipper. Pin it in place, then sew it as you did the other pieces.

6. Attach the second lining piece.

Flip the piece over and pin the lining piece right-side down over the wrong side of the zipper. Sew it in place. The zipper will now be sandwiched between the right sides of the second exterior piece and second lining piece.

7. Iron it flat.

Iron the seams you just made, folding the fabric pieces back so that the wrong sides are facing each other. The resulting piece will  have the zipper in the middle, with one exterior piece and one lining piece on each side, and right sides facing out on all the fabric pieces.

8. Fold and sew around the perimeter.

Next, lift each exterior piece and bring them up to meet each other with their right sides together. Also, bring up each lining piece to meet with their right sides together. The zipper will be in the middle. Fold the seam allowance of the zipper toward the lining and pin everything together on all four sides.

9. Sew the perimeter.

Sew around all four sides of the piece, using a 1/2″ seam allowance and a regular presser foot. Leave an opening of about 4″ on the bottom of the lining side, which will be used to turn the bag right side out.

10. Make the corners.

If you prefer a flat bag, you can skip this step. But if you’d like to make corners to add depth to the bag, here’s how: fold the fabric at the corners so that the side and bottom seams meet. Measure from the point of the corner; here I used a depth of 1″, but if you prefer a deeper bag, just measure further from the corner. Mark the line with a pin.

11. Sew the corners.

Sew along the line you marked with the pin, backstitching to reinforce at the beginning and end of the seam. Trim away the excess fabric, cutting about 1/4″ from the seam.

Here’s how the piece will look after you’ve sewn and trimmed all four corners.

12. Turn it right-side out.

Turn the bag right side out, carefully working the bag through the opening you left in the lining. Press all the seams, then sew the lining closed by hand.

Turn the lining to the inside of the bag, and you’re done!

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  • An amazing tutorial. Zippers have scared me for a while and I just finished this little pouch for a girlfriend’s birthday in an evening. Thank you!

  • Super cute, and super easy. I just finished my first little zipper case and it only took me 10 minutes! Thank you so much for sharing this idea. Gesa from Hamburg

  • thank you very much: this is such a great tutorial! I’m a little scared of zipper, but I’m going to try this soon. Thanks again! Letizia, Italy

  • great explanation, great picture, excellent tutorial all the way…I would like to see a tutorial on putting a top zip closure on a shoulder bag or a hobo bag. People do not like having personal items spill out every time a pen is needed.

  • I made this today, the second bag I have ever made on my machine and I’m very proud of it, thanks to this great step by step guide. Thank you so much!

  • Thankyou will have a go-zip`s send shivers up my spine but I do like them to lok neat & tidy otherwise it spoils the look.

  • Great and colorful tutorial. It works! I just finished my first zippered pouch. One reminder: The zipper needs to be open partway when you sew the perimeter. Mine was almost closed. Had to really work to get it open from the inside to be able to turn the pouch right side out! Thank you.

  • So glad I found this tutorial! I now have a nifty little zippered pouch for a small pair of scissors, and the set will be a gift for my mother -in-law. I did make the project a little harder by adding an interlining (scraps of very old polyester fabric). The machine is a 1940s Singerlight.

  • Thank you so so much!! Read through this last night and have already cut the first one.
    Would have been handy if the tutorial could be saved / printed.

  • This same process could be used to make zippered pillow protectors, for which there is little information online.

  • This is great and I just used to make 10 pencil cases as party favors for my daughter’s sewing party favors! But am I the only one who didn’t realize you needed to open up the zipper before you sew around the perimeter? Luckily, I did one as a run-through and figured that out early. But thanks again for great pattern! I also used IKEA patterns- so fun and reasonably priced (got one on clearance for 1.99 a yard!)

  • i made one quite large and i am 14 and i realized that you needed to unzip it after i did it so it took me a little longer
    it is awesome i use mine for makeup

  • this tutorial was amazing! i just made a pouch and it was soooooo easy. i’ve really been struggling with learning how to put lining in and this was PERFECT. now all the pouches i sell thru my shop will have lining! yay!

    *side note: there should be a step where you unzip the zipper ;)

  • I think you did a fairly good job of this pouch. I made them MANY years ago so thought I would give it a try
    Well I did and did again and again until I realized the your heading for each instruction is not a do Eg #8 sew around perimeter, there for it was the wrong way even though it did look right at first. That will teach me to read the whole instructions before starting the action.
    That said your instructions were better than most. next time get a newby to try it before posting to check the errors.

    thank you

  • I’m just getting back into sewing. Your instructions are clear and complete!! They give me courage to try!

  • You really make it seem so easy along with your presentation but I in finding this topic to be really one thing that I think I’d never understand. It seems too complex and very huge for me. I am looking ahead to your next put up, I’ll attempt to get the grasp of it!

  • Love it! Just finished one made with strips of fabric that I had left over from a project. I have lots of strips I am going to sew together to make some more. Thank you.

  • Thank you! Thank you! I thought I could figure this out myself after viewing pictures of various pouches. But after several pouches and hilarious results, I knew I needed help. You’re the BEST

  • I would really really like to thank you for covering out to do the zipper ends. I have been struggling with holes in the seams and lining and just sewing the zipper tape together before starting was an easy fix. I also pinned the open end together when the zip is open before I sewed the sides and the problem is completely solved 😀

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