sewing 101: zippered case


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!

Materials

  • 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

Instructions

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!

carolina

Great post! Inspired me to get back into some sewing projects. (Also there is an error notice when im trying to scroll through the images individually)

Annie

Thanks for the post – my daughter has been complaining about needing a new pencil pouch for several days – Hopefully Ill have enough time this weekend to make her one!

Paulina J!

I’ve always wanted to try this and will definitely be saved in the “To Do” list. Love the fabric choice!

Reader

Good tutorial. Thank you.

Is there a method you recommend for waterproofing the exterior fabric if it isn’t already coded?

Rosacea

Very cute… perfect project for my daughter. I’ll have to bookmark for later or if I show her now she’ll beg me to help her do it immediately. :)

sunny

I own some expensive zippered pouches that hold my camera, makeup, etc. This tutorial is GREAT, easy to follow and it makes me want to learn to sew! Watch out, world!

Brett

hi guys

The fabric is from Ikea, sadly from a few years ago. But they’re still stocking similar large, graphic prints so you might find something else there you like.

Re: waterproofing, some fabric stores offer this service but I’ve actually never tried to do it myself and have no idea how! Maybe check the outdoors store to look into waterproofing products for hiking gear, etc?!? good luck!

Re: Trapper Keepers, they’re the best!! No idea if they still make them, but now I want one too!

Brett

Lisa O.

There is an easier way to make these and they are “padded”. The pattern is Cash and Carry by Atkinson Design. I have made DOZENS of them from the pattern. Just google it, you’ll find it.

yolie

thanks for the tutorial. I especially appreciated learning how to do the lining. So inspired I made one today!
take a look here:

handandspiritstudio.blogspot.com

Marie

I have always been curious how sewing a lining in a zipper bag would work. Thank you so much for sharing! I hope to try this soon!!

Grace

this a really great tutorial. it looks simple, yet very clean and elegant.

also, the “click here” is the incorrect link, just to let you know.

mbb.

awesome. awesome. my current pouches just aren’t doing it for me – this is a far superior pouch!

Thanks!

fxfairy

I love these clear instructions. I have been making shoulder bags for friends’ birthdays and now I can add a zippered inner bag to go inside. Thanks

BTW: Note to Lisa O. :
I checked out those Cash and Carry by Atkinson Design bags you say are so easy.
That may be true but the pattern costs $8 plus shipping. Hardly practical seems to me when Brett’s pattern in full color detail is FREE here on Design Sponge.

Jen O

Waterproofing fabric: There is an iron-on vinyl available in rolls. It is clear plastic that can be fused to any fabric. Not cheap, but does the job! (Google “iron on vinyl” and you will find it available online)

brandi

Love LOVE LOOOooOOooVE this tutorial. Can’t wait to pull the sewing machine out of storage.

Question for Grace: Ever thought about making your tutorials into some sort of downloadable PDF format? (So we don’t have to print out EIGHT pages of info?) Just thinking green. :P

grace

brandi

i’ll keep that in mind- i usually just keep my laptop around when i do things like this, so i didn’t actually think people were printing them out. but i’ll see if we can come up with a solution :)

g

Abby

I love this…I’m wishing there was a downloadable pdf of your post…or a way I could bookmark things on your site to my own little folder for later. houzz.com has these “ideabooks” you can compile, check it out…

meg

Yea! I’m so excited this series is back. I’ve been planning to make a bag like this to use as a change purse. So happy to have a pattern now.

Laika

questions – can a plastic zipper be shortened? – i tried to do the zig zag over a plastic zipper but my needle broke; any suggestions?

Melissa

Thank you so much! I wanted to make make up pouches for my bridesmaids but have never sewn a zipper. Thanks for you easy to understand instructions and photos. I can’t wait to get started!

Peri

I may just be confused, but doesn’t step 5 say wrong side down, but the picture (which seems correct) shows right side down? regardless, the combo of the directions plus the pictures make these instructions clear and easy to follow. Excellent job!

Laura Lyn

Thanks for this! Used the tutorial this week for my very first zipper adventure. Just remember to unzip the zipper before sewing around the perimeter or you won’t be able to turn the pouch right side out.

Gal

very nice tutorial :)
I like it..at first it seems confusing, especially when sewing the exterior and the lining to the zipper. But when I looked the picture carefully and imagined it how, then I know it. It’s so clear and easy to follow. I can’t wait to make this on my next project. I should have to make a list which one I should make first. :D
I’ll post it on my blog after I make it. :)
See ya

Steph

Great tutorial! I actually just finished making one of these cute little cases, and my one suggestion is to add a step to the tutorial reminding everyone to unzip the zipper 3/4 of the way once the all of the parts have been attached to it. If you don’t, there won’t be a way to turn the whole thing right-side-out and you’ll have to pick out your seam on the exterior fabric side to be able to unzip it. Not fun. But I did it and the finished product is adorable!

Thanks for posting this!

TammyJ

absolutely adorable. great directions, easy to follow, pictures are very clear.

i just made 2 for Christmas presents! the budget is way tight this year and this is the perfect, reasonable diy for my girls.

thanks so much for sharing!!

Latte Day

Great tutorial! I’d found a zippered pouch in a project book, but couldn’t figure out which side to pin to which. Your tutorial was easy to follow. I’ve made three pouches so far. They’re wonderful!

Scarlett Belles

Turned this into a totally cute purse by making a strap out of bias binding, thenfastening it to the sides with some bows made from the same stuff and a cute button! thanks a bunch!!

jennie

this is a great tutorial, and much easier than another one i had tried a few months ago. the zipper is so easy here!
i just made two of these (using fabric scraps from other projects) for my nephews – will tuck their xmas presents in them.

Jennifer

I can’t wait to make it! It looks so simple and a perfect gift for my friends birthday. Thanks!

PKae

GREAT tutorial (glad some noted to unzip tho). I am writing this waayy later than 1st published so hope this gets read, but wanted to add that you can water proof fabric with Scotch Guard, a spray you can get from the $1 store to grocery stores, as well as other spray products like Blox, which I got on QVC or HSN (can’t recall now). I use these on my furniture as I am spilling something all the time :-D, and liquid runs right off them but the fabric remains soft and supple.

I make a crochet case similar to this but didn’t know how to add a lining with the zipper, so now you’ve helped me make TWO nice cases! THANKS!

julia

Loved this! Just made one with scrap fabric I had. So easy and great way to use up left over fabric! These bags are so cute too! I decorated my solid colored fabric with a few coloured buttons to give it some more color!

Angela

Thank you for this wonderful tutorial – the step by step photos are great. My 12 year old just finished a gift for a friend thanks to you!

nanci

I just finished three of these babies in no time. what a great way to use up scraps. the little beauties fit into my bags I’m making….thank you , thank you.

Lora

This is the best tutorial I’ve found for making a zipped case, thank you so much for sharing! The photos are so helpful. I’ve made at least a dozen of these and have now memorized the pattern.

Trevor S. Robertson

I love the finished product and was super excited to pursue it. However, I was happy to catch the error with which side of the fabric should be face down in step 5, otherwise it could have been almost as maddening as not knowing to unzip the zipper before stitching up the sides. I got crafty and pulled it off though. A warning to others, DON’T sew the fabric to close to the zipper teeth, it wont zip and unzip (my bad). And to the person suggesting we go to another site for “easier” patterns…HOW RUDE. This is a beautifully presented project and it’s FREE.

Michele O.

Thank you so much for sharing this tutorial. I’m a terrible sewer, so I appreciate that all my sloppy seams are neatly hidden!

alyna

Very sweet! Wondering if you could expand upon the step 11 (sewing the corners)? Thanks so much for sharing!

The Queen Bee

Great pouch – love the fabric, too! I put one together last night, but made it BIG so that the person I’m gifting this to can use it as a small overnight bag for hair accessories (flatiron, brush, spray, etc.) Thanks for posting!

Lille

Brilliant tutorial thanks so much! I print my own fabric and am making up pouches as I speak. Thanks!

Jennifer

I have made this for so many of my friends as Birthday gifts and they love it! Thank you for this great tutorial!

Marilize

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!

Gesa

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

letizia

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

Debbie Gordon

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.

Natalie

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!

jean horrocks

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.
jean

Sherry Engberg

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.

Janet

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.

Marianne

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.

Janet

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

Lisa

This looks sooo cool I will definitely be having a go!

Melissa

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!)

E.G.L.W

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

Sarah

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 ;)

Shirley Corris

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

Jessica

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

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