How to: make a zippered bag

Can back-to-school season be here already? I haven’t been in school in a very long time, and I have no kids to make me eagerly look forward to the first day of school, but I do love me some school supplies. Boxes of brand-new pencils, stacks of brightly-colored post-it notes, spiral notebooks with nary a jot in them – these all excite me.

But, if you ask me, the most exciting school supply is the pencil case.

A pencil case keeps your pens and pencils from getting lost in your book bag. It keeps ink from getting all over your books. And, if you’re a grown up, it can hold a small amount of makeup, a handful of safety pins, and a couple of, eh, feminine products, without taking over your entire purse.

These pencil cases are really easy to sew and, because they’re small, you can use scraps from your fabric stash or less than half of a fat quarter. Make a few for yourself and your favorite student and your favorite teacher.

What you’ll need to make a 9×3″ bag:

  • 2 pieces of fabric, cut to 10×5″ for the outside of the bag (I used scraps of my Palmer Method Linen)
  • 2 pieces of fabric, cut to 10×5″ for the bag’s lining (I used muslin)
  • 9″ zipper
  • Ruler
  • Scissors or a rotary cutter
  • Pins (I prefer to use quilting pins, which are longer than standard pins)
  • A sewing machine with a zipper foot
  • Thread

1. Cut 1.5″ squares from the bottom corners of the outside fabric and the lining.

2. On your outer pieces, fold the top down 1/2″ and iron.

3. Place the folded edges close to the zipper and pin.

4. Using your zipper foot, stitch the fabric close to the folded edge.

5. Next, pin the top of your lining to the wrong side of the zipper. I used muslin for my lining, but if you’re using a printed fabric, make sure that the right side of the lining is the side that’s being pinned to the zipper. If you’ve pinned correctly, when you flip the lining over, it should align pretty closely with the outer fabric of the bag, wrong sides facing each other.

6. Still using your zipper foot, stitch the lining to the zipper

7. Now, lay the bag out flat, right sides of the outer fabric facing each other. If you followed Step 5 correctly, the right sides of the lining should face each other, too. Open the zipper 3-4″. Pin everything together, the zipper tape facing the lining.

8. Put your universal foot back on your machine. Sew all sides (but not the 1.5″ squares you cut out of the corners) using a 3/8″ seam allowance. Leave a 3-4″ opening at the bottom of the lining so you can pull everything through at the end.

9. Here’s the tricky part – we’re going to box the corners so that the bag lies flat. Match the side seam to the bottom seam and pin.

10. Sew the boxed corners using a 3/8″ seam allowance.

11. Pull the fabric through the 3-4″ hole in the lining.

12. Turn right side out, pin the opening in the lining closed, and sew.

13. Press the bag. Fill it with school supplies!

(And 14. Make so many you have to give them away.)

21 thoughts on “How to: make a zippered bag”

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