For Beginners, Sewing, Tutorials, Zipper Tote Bag

Simple Zippered Tote Tutorial

This post is dedicated to sewing a simple tote bag with a zippered closure. I love making these to use up scraps of batting. I keep one in my carry-on bag filled with chargers, headphones, and such when I travel. They make a quick little gift, too (perfect size for a diaper, wipes and clean onesie!)

finished size of bag: 12″ x 10″ x 5″ wide at the bottom.

Supplies and cutting:

one 12″ zipper
Main outer fabric (blue print): cut two rectangles 12 1/2″ x 9 1/2″
Accent outer fabric and handles (green print): cut two rectangles 12 1/2″ x 5 1/2″
cut two strips, 3″ x 22″
cut two rectangles 2″ x 3″ for zipper tabs
Scraps of batting: cut two rectangles 13″ x 15″
Lining fabric (white): cut two rectangles 13″ x 15″

Prepare the zipper:

Fold each of the zipper tab pieces in half (making them 2″ x 1 1/2″) and press to crease. Open, and press each side half way to the center and press to crease as shown below:

Re-fold at center crease and place over the starting end of the zipper. Carefully stitch across the tab, backstitching directly over the zipper to secure.
From the edge of the first tab, measure 10″ of zipper and cut it. Repeat the step above to add the second fabric tab to the cut end of the zipper.

Prepare the Handles
Fold the two strips of handle fabric (3″ x 22″) in half lengthwise and press to crease. Open again, and fold the edges in half-way as with the zipper tabs above and press. Keeping these edges turned in, fold the whole strip again on the center line.
Sew a running stitch along both edges, then down the center. This gives the handles some sturdiness.
Making the Bag Body

1. match one 12 1/2″ x 9 1/2″ rectangle of outer fabric with one 12 1/2″ x 5 1/2″ rectangle of accent fabric. Sew them together, right sides facing, along the 12 1/2″ edge. Press. This results in a panel that is 12 1/2″ x 14 1/2″.
2. Place the fabric panel made in step one on a scrap of batting. Quilt with straight lines running perpendicular to the seam between the fabrics. Topstitch along the seam on the accent fabric.

3. Trim the excess batting to square up the panel. Repeat these steps with the other outer pouch pieces and batting.

4. Place one quilted tote panel face up on design surface. Using a ruler, place one handle in place so that the ends are centered between the 3″ and 4″ lines and between 8 1/2″ and 9 1/2″ lines as shown below:

5. Open the zipper a couple of inches. Place the zipper, face down, over the tote panel and handles. The top edge of the zipper is aligned with the top edge of the fabric panel. Pin through all the layers at the handles as shown:
6. Place one 13″ x 15″ lining fabric rectangle, face down, on top, sandwiching the handles and zipper between lining and outer panel.
7. Sew all the layers together with a generous 1/4″ seam (or use zipper foot to sew against the teeth of the zipper). As you approach the bulk where the zipper pull is underneath, set your needle down, raise the presser foot, and slide the zipper pull away from you, past the needle (remove the first pin). Return the presser foot down, and finish sewing to the edge. Trim excess handle ends or zipper tabs even with the to edge. (see above)
Turned right side out, it looks like this:
Press the lining and outer panel away from the zipper and top-stitch along the seam on top of the outside fabric.
first tote unit
8. Add the other side of the tote:
Layer in order, lining fabric face up, then first unit (with zipper, sewn above) face up, handles (lined up with the first ones, then second outer panel face down. All layers should line up at the top as in steps 5-6. Pin in place.
*Check placement: the first panel that contains the zipper should be face up, sandwiched between the second lining rectangle and second quilted panel.
9. Sew along the top edge using generous 1/4″ seam. When you approach the zipper pull, repeat step 7.
10. turn right side out, press and topstitch the second seam as you did the first in step 7. Trim excess batting or lining fabric so that the whole unit is rectangle with straight sides. see below:
11. Fold the sides of the tote so they are right-sides facing with the handles in the middle. Fold the two halves of the lining away from the zipper, right sides facing. Flatten the entire unit by folding the zipper in half lengthwise, with the bulk on the lining side. See below:

12. Sew around the entire perimeter, leaving a 6″ opening on the end of the lining side (will be the bottom of the finished bag).  Do not turn yet.

13. To make the boxy bottom of the bag, pinch the corner so that the seam up the side of the back mates the seam at the bottom, right sides facing. Measure 2 1/2″ from the corner and mark. Pin to hold the corner in position.

14. Sew across the corner along the marked line. Cut off the corner 1/4″ outside the seam as shown below:

15. repeat steps 13-14 on all four corners (outer tote and lining). Then turn right sides out through the opening left in the bottom of the lining.

16. close the opening in the lining by top-stitching between the two corner seams, keeping the edges turned to the inside. See below:

Look what you did! A cute little tote to hold necessities while traveling, for baby, or to fill with goodies for a quick gift.

Guess what my kids’ teachers are getting this year?

Happy Sewing,

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22 thoughts on “Simple Zippered Tote Tutorial

  1. Debbie says:

    I can see myself making lots of these! Fill it up, and you have a ready-made gift for someone. Make it in baby fabric, fill with wipes and travel size toiletries, and you have a shower gift. Fabulous!!!

  2. Debbie says:

    I can see myself making lots of these! Fill it up, and you have a ready-made gift for someone. Make it in baby fabric, fill with wipes and travel size toiletries, and you have a shower gift. Fabulous!!!

  3. Great tutorial Sharon – I can think of a few friends who may find one of these in their Christmas stockings!

  4. Jacque says:

    Wonderful tutorial!

  5. Anita says:

    What a great quick gift idea! Thanks for the tutorial 🙂

  6. Rachaeldaisy says:

    That is such a great tutorial. Thanks for taking the time to share it with us.

  7. Dew says:

    GREAT tutorial; now I just have to find time to follow it!

  8. Mariel says:

    This is a great bag. My only suggestion is that I think you need to cut your zipper 11 1/2″ from the pull tab and not 10″ My zipper came up too short at 10.” Thanks for the tutorial!

    1. Virginia Lambert says:

      I wish I would have read this before I cut my zipper. Thank you for the suggestion and whom else makes this bag, please not the correct size of cutting the zipper is 11 1/2

  9. Keesha says:

    That int’ihsgs perfect for what I need. Thanks!

  10. Marianne says:

    Thank you for this. I have made lots of bags but without zipper tops. I have a customer who wants one, so you have helped me a great deal!

  11. Adaku Parker says:

    Very helpful tutorial. I’ll definitely give this a try.

  12. Sandra says:

    Very good nice and easy to follow thank you

  13. Cat says:

    Thank you so much for a great little tutorial! I’ve made 4 in the past few days for family members. I plan to make more and stockpile them for birthday gifts and such…

  14. Thelma says:

    Awesome Tutorial. Already made one, but I reinforced the handle placement with zig zag stitches before attaching the zipper. Christmas is right around the corner for gift giving. Thanks for sharing.

  15. Julia Miller says:

    Every time I need to put a zipper in a lined bag I turn to this tutorial. I love the finished look and I find this the best method. Thank you for sharing it.

  16. Carol says:

    Made this for the first time today and it’s a wonderful pattern!! Thanks so much for sharing! I did go with the longer zipper as suggested by another comment, 11.5” and it worked out perfectly. Going to try this in a larger size

  17. LeOna Gould says:

    Thanks for the tutorial. It was easy to follow, and pictures always help.

  18. It’s good simple zippered ideas.Thanks for sharing.

I love comments! thanks for stopping by.