Monday, February 29, 2016

Zip A Bag Chapter 17: Pencil Case with In-Seam Zipper

Another zipper installation technique today!

When I was in my late teens, I made a lot of these cylindrical pencil cases. They were lined, because I was anal even back then (which proves that personality flaw are indeed inborn, and never outgrown), and liked sewing things with as few seams as possible. Much as I'd like to say it was a higher-level-design-evolution thing, I suspect it was really laziness. Or efficient cutting for the sake of mass-production, because I churned out these babies like there was no tomorrow, and sold them to other teenagers for a song. 

I didn't do the piping thing then, just a recessed end, because piping and mass-production are not friends. 

I thought we'd revisit this old project because the zipper-installation method is somewhat less well-used. 

Many pouches have their zippers installed in-the-flat, meaning that the zippers are faced with the lining fabric while all the body pieces are not yet assembled. Once the zipper is in, the side and bottom seams are then sewn up to make the pouch. The flat configuration of the fabric pieces makes it easy for beginners to manipulate under the presser foot, which is one of many reasons for it being a popular method to put in and face a zipper.

However, it necessitates a bottom seam, or a base, and most pouches made that way are rectangular, boxy or pursey-looking.

In today's technique, the outer and lining layers are constructed separately, and the zipper put in only at the very last stage. This allows us to use as few seams as possible, and do away with the bottom seam entirely. Which is wonderful, if nothing else, for avoiding the print-matching issues that plague those of us who get hives from seeing asymmetrical and misaligned prints at seams.

The original, full tutorial (with dimensions) can be found on Sew Mama Sew here, and this is a re-interpretation of the portions that involve the zipper. 

Let's start with the lining layer. This is all you need - a single rectangle that forms the cylinder, and two end pieces that fit the open ends of the cylinder. We'll fold the rectangle in half, with RS together,

and sew the end bits of the zipper seam, leaving an opening wide enough for the zipper. A good rule of thumb is to have the opening (gold arrow) a little smaller than the usuable length of zipper coils (red arrow).

Press open the seam (most of which will be un-sewn).

Attach the ends. Note that I used circular ends, because round things are superior, period. But you can also use squares, rectangles or - if you have a death wish - an irregular shape, like a squid.

Remember our standard rules for attaching a cylinder to a flat base

Here is the finished end, WS out. Trim the SA to something narrower and less bulky, if necessary.

Important photo: this is the "finished" lining layer. It is, literally, a finished case, just missing its zipper. You're going to make an identical one in the outer fabric next.

So just repeat the steps with a rectangle in the outer fabric, measuring the opening against the same zipper.

Attach the ends as before. Get fancy if you want, since this is the outer layer.

Now shove the lining layer (WS out) inside the outer layer (RS out). Their WS should be together, so that the inside of the finished pencil case has no exposed SA. Line up the folded SA of the two openings.

Open the zipper and slide the zipper tape between the folded opening layers, maneuvering it so the metal stops are hidden and the coils are just barely exposed.

Hand-baste the zipper tape in place. This, I suspect, might be another reason for this not being the most popular method of installing a zipper; the rumor is that people these days generally dislike hand-basting. 

Here is the basted opening, ready for the presser foot.

Turn the whole case inside out so that you can stitch on the outer layer, as shown. Sew all around the zippered opening, securing the zipper between the layers.


Because it is situated within the natural seam, the coils are almost concealed between the "lips" of the opening, and there is no need to prep the zipper with fabric stops. It really is a very fast method of making a pouch - even with the hand-basting, the assembly takes hardly any time.

But my favorite reason for loving this technique is this: the entire body is a single, seamless piece of fabric!

And those round ends, of course. Superior.

Updated 2022: Unfortunately, the link at Sew Mama Sew (SMS) is no longer active. However, you can still access the tutorial - see this more recent post for new links and details. Happy sewing!

Friday, February 26, 2016

Personalized? I'll Give You Personalized.

Since we're on the topic of zippered containers, I thought I'd share what I just made.

Plans are underway for our annual pilgrimage to the Equator to visit family. The children are excited, and have made wish lists and grand plans to visit the art supply stores in Singapore to stock up on art supplies. Ironically (and somewhat ridiculously), they also mean to pack all their USA-bought art supplies on the airplane, so as not to get bored on the 20+ hour flight. I will veto most of it, but I love that they are now old enough to plan and pack their own airplane entertainment! 

Not surprisingly, there have been requests from the kids for more containers for their various odds and ends. Kate, for instance, has ordered another marker pouch. Then, everyone got new fold-up headphones so we don't have to endure the torture that is standard-issue airline earbuds, and I've had to sew drawstring bags for those. Also, each of our screens - laptop, iPad, tablet, iPod, etc. needs a traveling case for cushioning within backpacks. 

And everyone has hinted that they need larger stationery holders. 
More zippered pouches, in other words.

So I dug around in my stash for suitable fabric.

And discovered these gems which my old friend Jen made for me -

panels of natural twill, printed with the girls' names on. Which I'd been saving for the perfect project for when the kids were older. Like zippered pouches!

But first, a lamination treatment, to turn them into wipe-clean fabric. Which had the added advantage of stiffening the panels so I didn't need any interfacing - just the outer and the lining layers.

Here they are, all finished.

They are made exactly the same way as the boxy darted pouches here, except I added a carrying strap across one end.

The lining was oilcloth.

I remember now why oilcloth isn't very fun to work with as a lining - among other things, you can't hand-stitch an opening in an oilcloth seam - it's just icky. I had to open a seam in the main outer fabric instead, for turning everything right side out. Not the end of the world, except ladder-stitching laminated twill isn't that much more thrilling than oilcloth, either.

But! I told myself, the trade-off is No Bulk because there was no need for headliner or flex-foam or batting or whatever!

I love the outcome - personalized, but not embroidered-name-on-the-side personalized,  a la Land's End catalog sample;

totally, utterly personalized.

Excessively, extravagantly, indulgently personalized. 

Thanks for the scrumptious fabric, Jen! I finally used it, albeit 5 years late. See you soon!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Zip A Bag Chapter 16: Single Zipper-Tape Pouch/Case

Today's pouch (or case) is a really simple one, and I'm including it for two reasons. One, its edges are bound externally so, like this earlier utility case, all its layers are sewn together as one composite panel. 

Two, it has an interesting zipper installation, which my dad taught me some years back when I was visiting Singapore. Here are some cases he's made:

So lovely, his workmanship.

Anyway, I thought I'd do a tutorial of that method of zipper installation and make a pouch/case of it.
Fabric: Jessica Jones' Timewarp barkcloth in Olive Sunburst by Cloud9Fabrics 

You can choose to have the zipper tab on the top or bottom of the pouch/case. I put mine on the top so it could function as something to hold on to, as well.

Here is the other "end" of the zipper - no stops, because there's nowhere else for the pull to go!

Before we begin the actual instructions, let's talk about the zipper: you'll need a long one. Really long. Long enough to go around the three zippered sides of your case twice.

Then you'll need to take it apart. To do this, remove the bottom metal stop and slide the zipper pull completely off the coils. The two sides of the zipper tape will also separate completely.

Also remove the top stops, so you can slide the zipper pull back on later. Now take ONE side of those zipper tapes (set the other one aside; you won't need it), and bring both ends together:

Then slide the zipper pull back on those two ends of the zipper tape. Practise this a bit, so you're comfortable doing it. Now, because one side of this single zipper tape is upside down with respect to the other side, their coils line up a little oddly, so your resulting zipper might twist.

This is okay. Once the zipper is installed in the case/pouch, it straightens out and sits flat.

When you get to the 'end of the road', the zipper pull ends up in a cul-de-sac of sorts. 

Here is the schematic photo of what we need to make this pouch/case:
  • Our loopy zipper
  • One double-size outer piece
  • One double-size lining piece
The outer and lining panels will be folded in half in the finished case.

In addition to these three main players, you might want stabilizers, additional pockets and, of course, something to bind the SA with.

STAGE 1: Make the composite body
If you want internal pockets (which are useful because they increase the functionality of this pouch/case), sew them onto the RS of the lining piece first.
Then, with WS together, baste the outer to the lining piece to make one composite multi-layered body piece.

STAGE 2: Install the zipper
With the zipper pull on the coils, mark the midpoint of the zipper tape, which will be the very tip of the end-loop:

Then slide the zipper pull off the coils and match that midpoint to the bottom of the fold line of the body panel. This is to ensure the zipper is installed symmetrically. This mid-point is where you'd normally expect the end stops of a zipper to be, but we don't need them with this method of installation.

With the lining side facing up, lay the WS of the zipper on the lining fabric. Sew/baste all around the edge of the body panel to attach the zipper tape.
Notice the snips in the SA region of the zipper tape where it goes around the corners. 

This allows it to hug the corners without pulling or bunching, and lies flat for binding in the finished case/pouch.

Here's the only (slightly) fiddly bit in the whole construction process. At the top of the fold line, cross the ends of the zipper tape as shown, and baste or sew across them to hold them in place. This moves the zipper tape out of the seam in that mid-point region, and allows the ends of the zipper tape to stick out of the finished pouch/case. 

You've done this fancy maneuver before in this fully-open pouch from a few posts ago. Like that pouch, this allows our case to open flat when fully unzipped. 

STAGE 3: Bind the SA
This part is trivial - simply bind the SA all around the edge of the pouch/case.

STAGE 4: Make the fabric tab
Slide the zipper pull back onto the coils. Remember practising this earlier?

Once the zipper pull is on the coils, sew a zipper tab over the sticking-out ends of the zipper,

like so:

If you are so inclined, you can install a grommet in that tab, so the case can be hung from a hook.

The pouch/case is finished! 

And here is that dead-end zipper loop: