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Tote Bag With A Zipper Closure

Dateline: 06/20/00

We love to go camping on the river during the summer. Keeping things dry and in their place is always a challenge. A zipped up bag solves some of the problem.
The size of the bag will be totally up to you. I always use a zipper that is longer then the desired, finished width of the bag. This allows me to move the zipper pull out of the way and serge the zipper to the fabric. Even if you are not using a serger, top stitching and seam finishes are easier with the zipper pull out of the way.
I suggest that you go no longer then 50" for the total length of the bag(finished length would be approximately 24" long.) Tip:I always have the urge to use the full width of 60" wide fabric but a bag made this long, tends to drag when it is being carried. Resist the urge!
For this example I am going to make a short bag to hold First Aid items. I will be attaching two webbing loops to the back of the bag so that it can be worn on a belt while hiking. Once again I have found an appropriate embroidery design at AnnTheGran Design Exchange, in the free occupations designs.
Bag front back of bag with belt loops

For this bag, I used a 9" by 18" piece of fabric and a 12" zipper.

Inserting The Zipper:
On the 9" edge lay the right side of the zipper on the right side of the fabric. Serge or straight stitch the zipper tape to the fabric.

sewing zipper

Turn the zipper right side up and fold the seam allowances towards the fabric. Top stitch the seam allowance to the fabric. This prevents the zipper tape and seam allowance from getting caught in the zipper when you use the bag.
top stitch zipper

Bring the other end of the fabric up to the zipper, matching right sides again. Repeat the same stitching procedure. The body of your bag will now be a continuous loop.
both sides of the zipper sewn

Open the zipper at least half way. If you forget to, it will be very tricky to get inside the bag.
Line up the sides of the bag and the edge of the zipper tape. On the extended zipper end, allow the zipper to fold along the coil.
sewing the side seam sew the side seam

Sew the side seams closed, using 1/2" seam allowances. Carefully, stitch through the zipper coil on the extended zipper. Back stitch a few times to secure the zipper. For added security bar tack the zipper coil at the end of what you will be using. Cut off the excess zipper.
Zig zag or serge the seam allowances. A finished seam allowance adds strength to the bag and prevents loose fibers from getting caught in the zipper later.
Turn the bag so that the right sides are out.
basic bag

On this bag, I wanted it to be able to be worn on a belt while hiking.
  • To create belt loops use 2 pieces of 1 1/2' long by 1" wide webbing. Measure in 1" from each side edge and 1/2" down from the top of the bag. Top stitch the webbing on to the bag, leaving the sides unsewn.For added strength Top stitch twice. (Tip: Carefully use a lighter or candle to gently melt and fuse the raw edges of nylon webbing to prevent it from unraveling. If you are using cotton webbing, zig zag or turn under the edges of the webbing when you are attaching it to the bag.)
    belt loops
  • To add carrying handles, use the desired length of webbing (make them longer if you will want to carry the bag on your shoulder). Measure the top edge of your bag. Find the half way point and divide that in half. This will be where you want to attach your straps in most cases. On smaller bags, you will want to experiment with the placement, so that you have enough handle space once the straps are attached. (Tip:Always sew the strap on with a square of stitching. For added strength, stitch an "X" through the middle of the square, stitching from corner to corner.)
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