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Sep 1

Zip-top tote bag

bag 036Here’s a basic zipper-top tote bag. You can use either a regular zipper or a purse zipper (which is a bit more heavy duty and often has two zipper pulls).

It’s fully lined and has an exterior cargo pocket (see tutorial here).










Suzani Vine Sherbet Twill

Suzani Vine Sherbet Twill

Towers Sherbet Orange Twill

Towers Sherbet Orange Twill










Craft Fuse interfacing

Craft Fuse interfacing










1 yard of all supplies. Zipper should be 22″ long and can be either a regular zipper or a purse zipper.



Download these pattern pieces, then fold on the borders or cut off and tape together where indicated, matching the letters. NOTE: This is one-half of the pattern. Where it says “fold” on one edge, line that up on a fold of your fabric so that it opens up into one big piece or you can recut the pattern on the fold of a bigger piece of paper.
Zip Top Tote Pattern Piece 1
Zip Top Tote Pattern Piece 2
Zip Top Tote Pattern Piece 3
Zip Top Tote Pattern Piece 4

Cut two pattern pieces from the outer fabric, lining fabric, interfacing and batting.

Cut two pieces of fabric (from your outer or lining fabrics) for the straps measuring 4″x30″.

Cut two pieces of fabric (from your outer or lining fabrics) for the interior pocket measuring 14″w x 6″h.

For the exterior cargo pocket, please see this tutorial.

NOTE: I used one yard of Craft Fuse interfacing and it was just enough. The very outer corners of my pattern piece didn’t fit on the interfacing, but that really didn’t matter. You are welcome to buy extra to make it fit 100% if you desire.

1/2″ seam allowances throughout, except with top-stitching.



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First, make two straps using our Non-Turn Strap Tutorial.

Next, if you want to do a cargo pocket on the outside of the bag, please do that now by following the instructions on this page.

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Decide where you want to place your straps and measure from either end to ensure accuracy. Pin in place and baste.

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Do the same with the strap on the other exterior piece, but set the top edges of the bag pieces as shown above and ensure that the straps are lined up perfectly. On an open-top bag, this might not be a huge necessity, but on a zipper bag it will be very obvious if the straps are off kilter from each other.

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Stitch the zipper tape closed on the top of the zipper.

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Line up the zipper face-down on the top edge of one of the pieces and pin in place. Stitch using your zipper foot. You might need to start a few inches below the zipper pull and then when you get to the end, slide the zipper pull out of the way and stitch the beginning of the seam.

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Do the same with the other side of the zipper tape and the other front bag piece, BUT …

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Before you sew, make sure the straps on each piece are lined up exactly.

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Once your zipper is in place, it looks like the above two photos.

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With right-sides together, sew your pocket interior pieces together, leaving a hole for turning. Trim the fabric around the corners so they come out sharper.

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Turn and press, then top stitch along the top edge. That hole you left to turn it right-side out will have the seam allowances pressed in. The hole will be stitched closed in the next step.

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Place pocket on one of your lining pieces wherever you’d like it and pin along the sides and bottom. Stitch along the sides and bottom, close to the edge.

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You can add dividers wherever you like. I did a couple of them an inch apart to create two pen slots in the center of the pocket and left the rest as-is, so it created two big pockets on either side. NOTE: stitch from the bottom of the pocket toward the top to avoid getting a little tuck at the end.

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Now it’s time to attach the lining to the zipper. See how I’m holding it open? I will place the top edge of my lining piece (face down) where my fingertips are and sew it to that upper side of the zipper tape.

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When you flip it open, you have this. One more side to go.

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Attach the other lining piece in the same manner to the other side of the zipper tape.

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Now open up the bag so that the zipper is in the middle and one side of the lining is paired with one side of the outer bag, as shown.

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Smooth your fabrics and pull them away from the zipper (might want to press). Then top stitch along a short way from the zipper. This makes it look nice, but it also keeps the lining from acting loosey-goosey and getting caught in the zipper.

I realize my zipper looks really wonky here, but it actually was fine. Not sure why it looks so twisted in this photo.

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You’re ready to close up your bag, but before you move on, make sure to open your zipper most of the way. Not 100% open — you don’t want your zipper pull too close to the edge right now, but if you don’t open the zipper now, you won’t be able to turn the bag right-side out later.

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Now, pair up “like” fabrics. By this, I mean face the linings together and face the outer bag pieces together and pin all the way around. Stitch each side, ignoring the square cutouts at the bottom corners for now. On the bottom of the lining fabric, leave a good portion of the seam open for turning. You can sew the side seams all the way from one end to the other — from the lining to the outer bag — in one fell swoop.
NOTE: Sew slowly and cautiously around where the fabrics meet where the zipper is. The zipper length is very close to the width of the bag and the metal ends of the zipper may be very close to your seam allowance. You may even want to turn the crank by hand here so you don’t bust a needle.

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Above are the steps for boxing the corners. At each corner, bring the side seam and bottom seam together in alignment and stitch across.

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Turn the bag right-side out through the hole in the bottom seam of the lining. Push out the corners and make sure everything looks okey-dokey. Then fold in the seam allowance of the hole and stitch it closed. I just top-stitch with the machine. I was too lazy to even change the gray thread out. But if you want to be a perfectionist, you can press the seam allowance and then slip-stitch by hand for an invisible seam.

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Other views

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  • Selene

    I love the print and that tote bag is amazing!

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