Sew a Tote Bag With a Recessed Zipper

  • 01 of 10

    Matterials & Cutting Directions

    Weekend bag
    Debbie Colgrove


    • 1 1/4 yards of 60" wide fabric (2 yards for a one-way design or with nap fabric)
    • 1-yard lining fabric
    • 1- 22" purse zipper
    • 60" of 1"-2" wide webbing for straps
    • Optional - Interfacing to stiffen fabric

    Cutting Instructions

    • Cut two 24" X 21" rectangles - front and back of bag
    • Cut two 3" X 24" - zipper sections
    • Cut two 6" X 32 1/2" - sides and bottom of bag

    For Lining

    • Cut two - 3" X 24" - zipper section lining
    • Cut two - 18" X 24" - front and back lining
    • Cut two - 6" X 30 1/2" - sides and bottom of bag lining
    Continue to 2 of 10 below.
  • 02 of 10

    Zipper Sections

    Sewn zipper section
    Debbie Colgrove
    • Place the zipper right side down on a 24" edge of one of the 3" X 24" pieces, aligning the edge of the zipper with the edge of the fabric.
    • Using a 1/4" seam allowance, sew the zipper tape to the fabric.
    • Repeat using the other 3" X 24" piece on the opposite zipper tape.
    • Place the right side of a lining piece on the zipper, sandwiching the zipper between the fabrics and sew the lining to the fabric with a 1/4" seam allowance.
    • Repeat for the lining on the second side of the zipper.
    • Sew a seam finish to the sewn edges.
    • Press the zipper tape flat, pressing both layers of fabric away from the zipper.
    • Top stitch the edge of the pressed edge to hold the fabric in place away from the zipper.
    • Baste the edges of the fabric and lining together.
    Continue to 3 of 10 below.
  • 03 of 10

    Sides and Bottom Section

    Seam the Side and Bottom Section
    Debbie Colgrove
    • Place wrong sides together matching one set of the 6" ends of the 6" X 32 1/2" pieces.
    • Sew using a 1/2" seam allowance.
    • Apply a seam finish.
    • Press the seam to one side.
    • Top stitch the seam to the body of the fabric.
    Continue to 4 of 10 below.
  • 04 of 10

    Attach the Sides and Bottom to the Sides

    Attaching the bottom and sides to the front and back
    Debbie Colgrove
    • Placing the right sides together, match the seam of the sides/bottom piece to the center of the bottom of the bag front or back.
    • Pin the bottom in place.
    • At the corners, clip the bottom/sides piece and align the edges to the top edge. Pin in place.
    • Sew the bottom/side piece to the front/back piece using 1/2" seam allowance.
    • Apply a seam finish.
    • Repeat for the other front/back piece.
    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Cut the Bag Top

    Cut the Top
    Debbie Colgrove
    • Pin the top of the bag together.
    • Measure and mark 3" from the top of the bag.
    • Cut the top of the bag at the 3" mark.
    Continue to 6 of 10 below.
  • 06 of 10

    Prepare Bag Top

    Prepare Bag Top
    Debbie Colgrove
    • Match the seams of the top piece that was cut off the bag, with the corners of the zipper section.
    • Sew them together using a 1/2" seam allowance. Clip at the corners where necessary to turn the corners.
    • Apply a seam finish to the seam.
    Continue to 7 of 10 below.
  • 07 of 10

    Bag Lining

    Line the body of the tote bag with a recessed zipper top
    Debbie Colgrove
    • Assemble the body of the bag lining the same way the body of the bag was constructed in step 4.
    • 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.
    Continue to 8 of 10 below.
  • 08 of 10

    Attach the Straps

    Attach the Straps
    Debbie Colgrove
    • On the front and back of the bag, measure in 5" from the side seams.
    • Pin the straps in place.
    • Sew the straps multiple times to the body of the bag, inside the 1/2" seam allowance.
    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Reattach the Top Section

    Reattach the Top
    Debbie Colgrove
    • 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, which now has the zipper attached.
    Continue to 10 of 10 below.
  • 10 of 10

    Final Top Stitching

    Top Details
    Debbie Colgrove
    • Fold the top right sides 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.
    • Top stitch the top of the bag, 1/2" from the folded seam line.