Sew a Tote Bag With a Recessed Zipper

Materials and Cutting Directions

Weekend bag
The Spruce Crafts / 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 the bag
  • Cut two 3" X 24" - zipper sections
  • Cut two 6" X 32 1/2" - sides and bottom of the 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 the bag lining

Zipper Sections

Sewn zipper section
The Spruce Crafts / 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.

Sides and Bottom Section

Seam the Side and Bottom Section
The Spruce Crafts / 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.

Attach the Sides and Bottom to the Sides

Attaching the bottom and sides to the front and back
The Spruce Crafts / 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.

Cut the Bag Top

Cut the Top
The Spruce Crafts / 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.

Prepare Bag Top

Prepare Bag Top
The Spruce Crafts / 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.

Bag Lining

Line the body of the tote bag with a recessed zipper top
The Spruce Crafts / 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.

Attach the Straps

Attach the Straps
The Spruce Crafts / 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.

Reattach the Top Section

Reattach the Top
The Spruce Crafts / 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.

Final Top Stitching

Top Details
The Spruce Crafts / 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.