15 January 2011

Zipper Bag photo tutorial

(click to enlarge)

I've made lots & lots of "In the hoop" zipper bags by Pegboard Crafts. My friends over at Sew Forum keep asking me to make a photo tutorial so here it is! I posted a basic one on the forum that is just the bag itself, no personalization. But here, in my space, I'll give you all the juicy details! :)

For the 5X7 size bag, I use Tear-Away Stabilizer, double sided quilted fabric, and a zipper that's 9" or larger. You could also use a fibrous water soluble stabilizer too, if you want to wash the bags after construction. I just stick with Tear Away.

The instructions give you specific sizes for cutting your fabric.  I just wing it.  I made a fancy cutting guide from the clear grid for my embroidery hoop and I just the fabric a little larger than the template.

If you're using pre-quilted like I am, pay attention to the direction of the diamonds if you're making a set.  The piece on the left is for the Lady Bag/Sunglass case and right is the Small Cosmetic Bag I'm making here.  The bags stitch out in different ways in order to fit in your hoop.

See the difference in the direction? 

Big note, before we move on.  The are 2 files for each bag: front & back.  The actual front of the bag is what I consider the backside (no zipper showing).  If you want to embroider that, you should do that first.  Otherwise, if you want the name on the zipper side just load the side B file and add your personalization after the first stop.

 Ok, let's get down to business.  Hoop your stabilizer.  Lay your fabric on top.  You can spray a little sticky on the stabilizer if you want to, but it's not really necessary.

 Snap your hoop in place.

Step 1:  Tack down your fabric.  Note that I used a contrasting color for visibility.  You should use what matches your fabric, I'll show you why at the end.

Step 2:  Stitch out the monogram & zipper placement.  
I find it easier to stitch out the personalization BEFORE the zipper placement lines stitch.  When I do it the other way (like above), the foot doesn't return directly over the zipper lines and when it moves to start Step 3, it tends to bump the zipper out of place. 

Here's what it looks like after the 2nd set of stitches.

Now you need to place the zipper over the placement lines.  My dealer taught me to put tape over the zipper to hold it down.  You can also spray the back of the zipper with Sticky and press in place with your fingers.  This is my preferred method now, I got tired of pulling away the tape with tweezers but wanted to show you an alternate method.

Tape it down, put the tape at an angle & it will be easier to remove.  Snap back into your machine and start stitching Step 3.

See the straight line that's tacked down the zipper?  Stop your machine right here, you need to remove that tape before it finishes the decorative stitches.  The stitches perforated the tape and with it on an angle it's easier to tear away.  Grab any little bits with a pair of tweezers and start your machine back up to finish the decorative stitching.

Remove your hoop when it's finished.

Almost done!.

Open the zipper about halfway

This is optional, but I think it makes life easier.  Take your seam ripper or a pair of scissors and cut a small hole in the bag fabric, about an inch'ish will be just fine.

What it'll look like from the backside.

Turn the hoop back over and lay your other piece of fabric on top. 
Make sure you've left that zipper open about halfway or you'll have a zipper bag that's permanently zipped up!

Step 4: Stitch out the last set of stitches.  Here's what it will look like.

Trim excess threads & remove the stabilizer.

Trim around the edges of your bag making sure you don't cut the edge stitches.  Trim the thin strip out behind the zipper, where you cut the hole with your seam ripper earlier.  Don't cut your zipper!  Go slow here, I like a medium size pair of scissors for this.

Reach in the zipper area and open it the rest of the way and turn your bag right side out.  A chopstick works great to help push the corners out. 

See the silver thread?  That's why you should use a coordinating color.  It's tight, but when you push out the edges, sometimes you can see the stitches a little bit.  Of course, I pushed out a little more than usual so you could see.

And here's the final product!
You could add a zipper pull to make it a little bit more fancy.  I usually tie a small piece of ribbon on the zipper.

Hope this photo tutorial helps you out. 

Update:  My Blogger feed shows people from all over the country checking out this tutorial.  If you have time, please leave a comment and let me know how you liked the tutorial and where you're from! 


  1. You did a GREAT job. I really GET IT now/ Is there any way I can put in a linning?

  2. I used a double sided fabric above, but you could definitely use 2 fabrics to line it with.

    A friend has made them using a heavy weight upholstery thickness fabric. Just use 2 layers, you could even put a piece of fleece in between to give it a little more cushion.

    I've also pre-quilted the fabric myself.

  3. Angie

    Thanks so much for the Wonderful Tut. I have made 3 of the Med size cosmetics bags, but am having a great deal of uneven sewing when it comes to doing the zipper. Have you had any problems with it? No matter how carefully I align the zipper within the guide the sewing is off kilter and I have to rip out and try it over again, adjusting my stariing point each time. When I finally get to a place I can work with the second side of zizzag starts lifting and I find it necessary to sew over the area again, the same problem occurs with the candlewicking, there seems to be a problem with the stitches setting again. Do you have any suggestions, could it be a design problem? The rest of the bag is perfect, I just don't understand what the problem could be. I would appreciate any help you can give me.

    PS your bags are gorgeous!!

    Thank You
    Jo from Pennsylvania

  4. Jo-
    Every now & then I do have problems when I don't get the zipper placed just right. Usually it goes off kilter as it stitches the tackdown of the zipper and it's crooked.

    Are you doing just a plain bag or with some type of monogram?

    Is the candlewicking looping up? Where you see little loops that didn't pull through tight?

    I'll help, we'll figure it out!

  5. Angi

    Thanks for the quick response. Yes, I have done both plain and names and monograms. Both the zizzag stitches and the candlewick stitches on the second side of the zipper doesn't seem to pull through tightly. The first side does Ok but all my bags have had the same problem on the opposite zipper side. I am using double sided quilting and am eager to try some lined bags as well. Could this possibly be a design issue?
    Please let me know your thoughts.


  6. Hmm, I've never had a consistent problem with the design. Occasionally it will loop on top, usually the candlewicking stitches.

    Changing my needle, rethreading emb & bobbin thread fixes the problem for me. Are you using a ball point needle?

    Can you share a photo with me so I can see what's happening? You can email me at shesewchic (at) att (dot) com or post it over on Sew Forum, if you came here from there. I'm BeachMama13

    I always use double sided, quilted fabric too for it.


  7. Angie

    Thanks again for the help. Yes, I was using a ballpoint needle. Could that be the culprit? I also rethreaded and changed bobinns but I totally forgot a ballpoint needle was in. I recently changed that needle before starting the bag projects. I'm going to give it another whirl this weekend and if that doesn't help I will try to send a photo.

    Have a great weekend Thanks again
    Jo from Pa
    Jo from Pa

  8. Jo,
    Ballpoint shouldn't be the problem as it's all I use.

    Do you have problems with any of your other embroidery projects? I'm wondering if your machine doesn't like that particular thread.

    Does it always mess up in the exact same spot?

    Have a great weekend too & stay warm!

  9. Angi

    Thank you for all your responses to my problem. I finally made a call to Peggy at Pegboard after four attempts and constant trouble. She told me that another sewer who has my machine (husq diamond) was experiencing a similar problem. Apparently there is a glich with her design and the diamond. I sent her a photo of the troubled area and she is getting back to me to see if it can be worked out.

    You have certainly gone above and beyond to assist me and I am truly greatful for the time and talent you shared with me.

    I'll let you know what Peg finds out.

    Thanks Again
    Keep Warm

    Jo from Pa

  10. Glad you talked to Peggy and she's helping out! Hopefully she'll figure out the problem and be able to fix it for you. I love these little bags!


  11. Thank you and what a great tutorial! I think I now what to make as a teacher's gift this year.

    Thank you for your hard work.

    from the Netherlands

  12. Thanks for this great tutorial! I really think I wouldn't have been able to make the bag using the original instructions - yours are so much easier!
    Sylvia in Michigan

  13. You made that look totally do-able. I am always concerned I am going to hit the zipper with the needle.

    Great Job.

    Melbourne Australia

  14. I kept seeing your bags on SF and had to make one. I used your tut. and it was so easy. Thanks. Robbie in Florida

  15. Hi, where do you get the design? Also do you finish the edges in any way?

  16. The design came from www.pegboardcrafts.com.

    The edges are not finished but there is a zig zag stitch that runs around the edge to secure them. It's sewn inside out, once you turn it you won't see the raw edges.

  17. My candlewicking stitches were looping with polyester thread. Everything was great when I used rayon.

  18. I use only polyester thread since rayon occasionally runs when washed. Occasionally I have problems with it looping too. Changing to a new needle (ball point) and sometimes re-seating the bobbin thread always takes care of the problem.

  19. 1. If the material is cotton, why are some of you using a ballpoint?
    2.Should Embroidery bobbin thread be used through the whole design (even for the basic outlines)?
    Just curious...
    Holly Ann

  20. Very nice Tute and easy to understand... I was looking for Zipper help and I wish I had an embroidery mach, but I may be able to modify so my zipper is on the outside of a pencil bag and use decorative stitches for the application... Thank you.

  21. Great tutorial! I am having problems with the zipper...do zippers come in different widths? The zippers i bought in bulk are on 3/4" wide by 9" long. They do not match the zipper placement stitches....what should I do? Open zipper and the tack down?

    1. Thank you! I buy zippers from my local fabric stores, Hancock Fabrics, Hobby Lobby, etc. I believe they are about 1" wide. Just regular polyester zippers.

      I'm not sure how well it would work if you opened the zipper for the tack down as the teeth might not line up very well.

      Good luck with it!

  22. Great job on the tutorial. Couldn't have done a better job if I had written it myself! Glad you enjoy making the bags!

    1. Thank you Peggy! Your zipper bags were my first ITH projects with my machine and still my favorites!