It’s that time of the year when I need to replenish my stash of zippered gift bags. I always try to have a supply on hand to use as gifts. Sometimes the gift is the bag itself, other times it may hold a surprise. Today I sat down to make 15 bags as gifts for the gals in the Friday afternoon knitting/sewing group here in the apartment building. There are 11 women who attend regularly to knit/sew for a couple of hours each week. I made some extras – just in case…
I started with two fabric collections like the one below – samples from fabric suppliers – I had three sets on hand from the day-long quilting workshop I attended a couple of weeks ago. There isn’t enough fabric to make much of anything – maybe a pieced place mat, sometimes a small table runner. But there is enough to make a bunch of bags.
I laid each fabric collection on my cutting table, used my ruler and rotary cutter to divide each collection into 4-6 triangular / quadrilateral shapes – enough to mix and match using a stitch and flip technique. Next I cut out thirty (15 x 2 for front and back of a bag) pieces of batting (from leftover pieces) 6″ x 8″. I also cut out thirty pieces of lining fabric from my leftover stash (same dimensions) in preparation for the bags. The last bit of set-up was to create 15 zippers from some zipper tape I had on hand, adding slides and cutting the zippers two inches longer than the bag width – in this case 10″ (I also stitched both ends across the tape to prevent the slides coming off while making the bags!).
Tip #1: It’s very helpful to use a zipper 2″-3″ longer than your bag – that way you can position the slide to one end, let it hang beyond the bag edges while attaching the zipper – no worry about hitting the zipper slide with your needle or having to veer around it while you’re sewing!
Tip #2: Take a piece of batting and cover the surface by laying down a piece of cut fabric, place a second piece at one edge right sides together, stitch and flip, and press open. Keep adding pieces of fabric until the batting surface is covered. Press and trim to the size of the precut batting.
Because my batting pieces were relatively small, to took me about an hour and a half to do all thirty pieces (two sides for each of 15 bags, right?). Working in production mode, I matched up two sides, two lining pieces, and a zipper and stacked all 15 bags beside my machine and began assembling the bags. I’m not going to give detailed instructions about making the bags, there are lots of helpful bag-making tutorials around but let me say one thing – lots of people bind the ends of their zipper, I don’t bother with the extra work. I find my zipper is fine incorporated in the bag side seams, but I will mention a couple of techniques that will make the bag-making go smoothly.
Tip #3: You’ve got one side of your zipper attached to one piece of the outside (fabric/batting) – align your lining piece face down on the zipper tape (not the batting side), making sure the sides are matching up with the sides of the fabric. Now add the second side of the zipper to the second side of the bag – and again place lining face down on zipper tape, sew.
You can see I do two seams to attach each side of the zipper – first sewing it to the main fabric, then stitching a second time to add the lining. A little more work, but it makes it much easier to attach the zipper within the seam. I find something always moves out of position when I try sewing main fabric, zipper, and lining in a single pass.
I now have the zipper attached to both sides of the bag (with the lining also attached). I open the bag flat and press the zipper seams on both the outer side and the lining side. Next I separate the lining from the fabric/batting, lining up rights sides of lining and rights sides of fabric. The next step is critical:
Tip #4: Start by sewing the side with the closed/back end of the zipper, starting at the lining (the slide is at the opposite side), stitch toward the zipper, folding the zipper down toward the fabric/batting pieces, stitch carefully over the zipper, finish seaming the fabric/batting. When everything is finished and you turn the bag right-side out, the zipper will be beyond the fabric/batting, not tucked inside.
Tip #5: Reach between the fabric/batting pieces and open the zipper all the way to the seam you’ve just completed! (If you make this routine, you won’t find yourself in the situation where you go to turn the bag right-side out and the zipper is closed!)
Now I sew the second side seam, again starting with the two pieces of lining right sides together, past the folded zipper which is pushed down toward the fabric/batting (zipper seams are up toward the lining), and on to the fabric/batting pieces. Now you have both sides stitched.
Next seam is along the bottom of the fabric/batting outside of the bag (remember, you’ve already opened the zipper before you sewed the second side so you can get into the bag later). Finally I sew a little distance in from each side along the bottom of the lining to form corners when I turn the whole bag right-side out – this lets me fold in the seam allowance easily so I can top stitch a needle width from the bottom edge of the lining before pushing it into the bag.
Tip #6: I use a 1/4″ seam allowance on the outside (fabric/batting) portions of the bag, but I use a 5/8″ allowance at the bottom of the lining – the bag itself is bulky and this makes the lining just that much smaller to fit inside the bag without a lot of bulk.
Carefully reach inside the opening in the bottom seam of the lining, pull the fabric/batting through (remember, your zipper was opened after you sewed the first side seam!). Push out the bottom corners of the bag, as well as the end of the zipper where the slide is currently sitting, close the zipper, press the bag.
And I’ve got 15 new gift bags in my stash ready to give away!
(Actually I used the third fabric collection and some quilted fabric from a coat I’d made last year to make 14 more bags so I finished 30 in all.)