How to Sew a Tote Bag With a Recessed Zipper
Tote bags are always handy to have around. You can use them to haul groceries, carry items on a day trip or weekend excursion, and more. And when you add a zipper to a standard tote, it makes the bag even more functional to keep your items safe and clean. Rather than purchasing a pre-made bag, you can learn how to sew a tote bag with lining and a zipper yourself. Making it yourself allows you to pick fabric that fits your style. These totes even make great personalized gifts. The project requires intermediate sewing skills and a couple hours of your time.
What You'll Need
Equipment / Tools
- Measuring tape
- Sewing machine
- Iron and ironing board
- 1 1/4 yard 60-inch-wide fabric
- 1 yard lining fabric
- 22 inch purse zipper
- 60 inch 1- to 2-inch webbing (for the straps)
- Interfacing (optional to stiffen fabric)
- Matching thread
Cut the Material and Place the Zipper
From the main fabric, cut the following:
- Two 21 inch-by-24 inch rectangles for the front and back of the bag
- Two 3 inch-by-24 inch pieces for the zipper section
- Two 6 inch-by-32 1/2 inch pieces for the sides and bottom of the bag
From the lining fabric, cut the following:
- Two 18 inch-by-24 inch pieces for the front and back lining
- Two 3 inch-by-24 inch pieces for the zipper section lining
- Two 6 inch-by-30 1/2 pieces for the sides and bottom lining
Place the zipper right side down on a 24-inch edge of one of the 3 inch-by-24 inch pieces, aligning the edge of the zipper with the edge of the fabric. Using a 1/4-inch seam allowance, sew the zipper tape to the fabric. Repeat using the other 3 inch-by-24 inch piece on the opposite zipper tape.
Place the right side of a 3 inch-by-24 inch lining piece on the zipper, sandwiching the zipper between the fabrics. Sew the lining to the fabric with a 1/4-inch seam allowance. Repeat for the other 3 inch-by-24 inch lining piece on the second side of the zipper.
Sew a seam finish to the sewn edges. Then, press the zipper tape flat, pressing both layers of fabric away from the zipper.
Topstitch the pressed edge to hold the fabric in place away from the zipper. And baste the edges of the fabric and lining together.
Join the Side and Bottom Pieces
Take the two 6 inch-by-32 1/2 inch pieces, and place the wrong sides together, matching one set of the 6-inch ends. Sew this 6-inch end using a 1/2-inch seam allowance, and apply a seam finish.
Press the seam to one side. Then, topstitch the seam to the body of the fabric.
Attach the Sides/Bottom to the Front and Back
Placing the right sides together, match the seam you just made on the sides/bottom piece to the center of the bottom of one 21 inch-by-24 inch piece. Pin the bottom in place.
Clip the sides/bottom piece at the corners, and align the edges to the top edge of the 21 inch-by-24 inch piece. Pin in place.
Sew the sides/bottom piece to the 21 inch-by-24 inch piece using a 1/2-inch seam allowance. Apply a seam finish.
Repeat for the other 21 inch-by-24 inch piece to attach both the front and back of the bag.
Cut the Tote Bag Top
Pin the top of the bag together. Measure and mark 3 inches from the top of the bag. Cut the top of the bag at the 3-inch mark.
Prepare the Bag Top
Match the seams of the top piece that you cut off with the corners of the zipper section. Sew them together using a 1/2-inch seam allowance. Clip at the corners where necessary to turn the corners. Apply a seam finish.
Assemble the Bag Lining
Assemble the bag lining the same way you assembled the main fabric.
Then, place the lining in the body of the bag with the wrong sides of the fabrics together. Match the seams, and baste the top edges together.
Attach the Straps
On the front and back of the bag, measure in 5 inches from the side seams. Pin the straps at the 5-inch mark. Then, sew the straps to the body of the bag inside of the 1/2-inch seam allowance.
Reattach the Top Section
Open the zipper on the zipper section. Place the bag through the zipper, keeping the right sides of the fabric together.
Align the seams, and reattach the fabric that was cut off the top that now has the zipper attached.
Topstitch the Top
Turn the top right side out, folding the top of the bag into the bag on the seam line. Press so the seam line is the top edge of the bag. Then, topstitch the top of the bag 1/2 inch from the folded seam line.