More Variations On A Theme


I was curious to see if I could apply the half-zipper technique to my standard zippered bag construction – that meant figuring out a way to have the seams concealed between outer layer and lining. Turns out to be quite easy.

Instead of cutting two sides 6″ x 8″ I cut one piece 6″ x 16″ – I sewed the zipper to one long edge, added lining. Here’s the crucial difference – I didn’t top stitch the zipper, instead I steam pressed the zipper making sure both lining and outside were well pressed away from zipper edge. That allowed me to add the slide, fold the bag in half, separate the lining from the outside, sew the remaining side seam (from lining to outside with little tab inserted near the zipper) making sure zipper protruded on the lining side as I sewed. Next I made sure to open the zipper. Finally, I stitched the outside bottom, turned bag right side out pulling lining beyond the zipper, folded lining bottom seam allowance under and top stitched the lining bottom, pushed lining back inside bag, pressed.

I had a zippered bag with a “loop” zipper, and concealed seams.

I made six from four fat quarters which I had just bought so now I know exactly what my materials cost:

The fabric to make six 6″ x 8″ bags cost me $12; batting – I used large pieces leftover from a quilt (batting costs $26/m so say I used 1/16 m ) – $1.65, thread (can’t calculate), zipper (I buy zipper tape and slides from The Zipper Lady @ $36 for six yards (that includes exchange as well as shipping and handling), $10 for 40 slides (25¢/slide) – I get two bags from 1/2 yard so zipper costs me  $10.50/six bags (a bit less than if I’d bought zippers individually at the fabric store). Total for the materials: $25.65 for six bags = $4.27/bag. Labour: It took me 2 hr to make six bags – time per bag, ~20 min (that’s pressing the fabric, cutting fabric and zippers, sewing it all together, pressing again). At $20/h labour works out to $6.65/bag. Total costs: $4.27 + $6.65 = $10.92. Profit – 20% of costs = $2.19. Total cost of one 6″ x 8″ bag: $13.12!

People tell me I should sell them at the craft market – I’d be selling the bags at a loss if I charged $10/bag!

So even a small zippered bag is a gift of love.

That’s it for bag-making for now!

Variations On A Theme



It’s not a big stretch from a “sweetpea pod” to a “pyramid pod” – the pyramid is based on a similar idea – instead of sewing the two side seams in the same direction as I would for a flat bag, you sew one side seam (closed zipper end) with the zipper in the middle and the second (the open end) with the zipper at one end. I made this pyramid pod (on the left) with a double zipper tape but I still have to experiment to figure out how to construct it with a single zipper tape (the way I did the sweetpea pods).

The two bags on the right were sewn with a single zipper tape. To use this technique (with the zipper top stitched) I had to finished the seams within the bag, rather than concealed by the lining. However, if I don’t top stitch the zipper, it should be possible to make the bag with concealed seams – have to try that next.


Very early this morning (couldn’t get back to sleep), I was looking online for ideas for a Christmas gift for a fourteen year old girl. Last year I knit her a scarf, year before I made a small shoulder bag. I needed something for Christmas day to take to dinner at her grandmother’s house. I came across this picture of Lazy Girl Designs “Sweetpea Pods.” I tracked it down to a Craftsy pattern:


What caught my attention was the way the zipper was attached – a longish zipper is separated and one half is applied to the zipper edge and the slide is then attached to either end to create a zipper that closes from half of a zipper tape. Clever idea!

Given I didn’t have time to puzzle out how the pods were constructed, I did something I rarely do – I actually bought the pattern at 7:00 am this morning, downloaded it, then proceeded to try making one.

My first attempt was a disaster – in large part because I didn’t fuse the outer fabric to the batting – each time I tried sewing the side seams I kept missing the outer fabric on one side. My pod ended up lop sided and quite a bit smaller than intended.

I persevered. My second pod at least looked somewhat like the pods in the pattern picture, but I still needed to refine my sewing.

Pods 3 & 4, however, turned out just fine!


Tomorrow I have to buy some velvet ribbon and hair elastics to put in the pods so I can wrap them as a gift.

This zipper idea is one I need to try on one of my usual zippered bags – it could be a neat way of zipping them up!

For the Mah Jongg Player

I heard from my friend Karen this morning:

I have an idea… if the larger bag could hold a Mah Jongg card, and a smaller matching little zippered change purse inside that could hold $3-$5 in change, you’d have a terrific gift for Mahj players no matter what the fabric, but especially if it were in an Asian pattern…

So here we are:


Small bags for the Man Jongg player

Didn’t take long to make. A trip to my scrap boxes for some small Asian fabric leftovers. Some batting and lining and zippers. Putting it all together went quickly as well.

Now to get it in the mail – just not today!


A Nova Scotia Blizzard

We’re being advised to stay at home, it’s obvious why. I’m not budging from the apartment!

Zippered Gift Bags

Zippered Bags

Zippered Bags

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.

Fabric Samples

Fabric Samples

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.

You’re done.

And I’ve got 15 new gift bags in my stash ready to give away!


Completed zippered bags

(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.)

More Bags

It started out wanting to make a new bag for my iPad. I did a couple (the two on the right – one pieced, the second crazy quilt appliqué) before the one I have decided to keep.

I made the two smaller bags from leftovers from the other two bags.


More Bags

I seem to be drawn to blues at the moment although the next quilt idea is based on black/white and an array of red/orange/golden.

I still have to finish the “hitoe” I started about a month ago – it’s sitting on my cutting table so I can get back to it tomorrow.

And then I really should make another dozen mid-size bags to have in my bag stash – for gifts….

Gift Bags


From time to time I make a bunch of small zippered bags to have on hand as gifts. Two days ago, I was tidying up the baskets in my sewing room and came across some denim from a pair of jeans which I’d cut up – making a shopping bag from the top leaving the leg portions. I thought with some embroidery they’d make nice zippered bags. There was also a piece of tapestry left over from a large carry bag I’d made for my bed foam which I take with me when I travel. So I made a small bag from that leftover. As you can see I embroidered each denim bag differently (the tapestry had an interesting enough pattern that I left it alone).

There was also a scrap of pink fabric which I used to make a larger bag:


The design in this case was made from built in machine stitches – it was saved as an embroidery and done in one of the larger hoops.

This morning I began using some “lacy” fabric which surfaced in the clean up – I’ve done two bags, I have enough fabric to do two more.


These will all go into the bag stash and be given away as gifts when the occasion calls for something. I use them as gift wrap often, putting something else inside.

If you’re interested, here are instructions for making a simple zippered bag.