Saturday, March 26, 2016

Zip A Bag Chapter 19: Zippered Wallet - to -Tote

Hello, friends!

Beginning with this post, we'll be changing the direction of Zip A Bag and exploring some of the more creative uses of zippers. In this earlier post, we introduced the principle of installing a zipper between layers to compress something between them. This compression (and - conversely - expansion) allows that zipper to change the volume and shape of a bag.

As a warm-up example, here is a project from the archives:

I made these shopping totes in 2011 for a tutorial on Sew Mama Sew.
Fabric by Jessica Jones (L to R):
Leaflet (Modern Flora)
Sprig and Herb (Modern Flora)
Dusk Tulip (outside Oslo)
Dawn Tulip (Outside Oslo)

They're regular lined handled totes,

but with zippers around their bases

which, when you've folded up the bag, allow you to zip them up

into little wallets.

The full tutorial - and template - can be found here at Sew Mama Sew, but I'll be re-interpreting some of the photos for you here, so we can focus on how to install the zipper so that it can do its magic morphing thing.

STAGE 1: Install One Side of the Zipper
The base of this bag will be folded in half to become the wallet, so we're going to situate the zipper symmetrically about that midline. First, mark the midpoint of one of the sides. Separate the two sides of the zipper tape (the longer, the easier to work with) and lay the RS of one side of the zipper tape on the RS of the base. 

Curve the head end of that zipper tape into the SA region of the base. In the finished bag, this head end will then be safely secured within the SA region. Sew the zipper tape to the edge of the base,

snipping its SA where it fits around the curved edges of the base, so as to hug those curves without bunching.

When you reach the other midpoint (i.e. the other end of the midline of the base), prepare to curve the zipper tape once more into the SA region of the base.

STAGE 2: Install the other side of the zipper
Curve the other side of the zipper tape out of the SA region of the base, as shown,

stitching it in place so that the two sides of the zipper tape are symmetrical about that midline/midpoint.

Continue attaching the rest of the zipper tape around the base. When you reach the head end of this second side of the zipper tape, curve it into the SA region. Done correctly, the zipper tape should curve into the SA region at both midpoints of the base (see red arrows).

STAGE 3: Attach the Bag Body
Simply attach the body of the bag to the base, (with RS together) as you would any other bucket tote. See this post for an explanation of bucket -style totes and this post for pictorial instructions on how to attach a bag body to a base in a bucket tote. 

Here is a photo showing how to orientate the body with respect to the base (underneath the body) to attach them. Again, snipping the SA of that bottom edge of the body will help it fit more comfortably around the curved edges of the base.

The only thing out of the ordinary in this step of the construction is this gap. Because the tail end of the zipper is protruding into the SA region of the base, you cannot sew across it when attaching the body, or else it will remain forever trapped (along with the zipper pull!) in the SA region. So leave a gap in the stitching around the base as shown, so you can invert that zipper tail through it later. It doesn't have to be as wide as the zipper tape - my gap was only about 1/2' or 3/4" wide.

When finished, the outer layer of the bag will look like this. 

Now turn the bag RS out, and push the tail end of the zipper tape back through that gap, to the WS of the bag. You should now be able to zip the bag up now.

The bag is, for the moment, unlined, and all the SA are exposed on its WS. However, as far as installing the zipper so that it can turn this unlined bag into a wallet goes, it is complete. 

All that remains is to cut and sew a separate bag in lining fabric (body and base), insert it into the WS of the outer bag and sew both layers together around their top opening. For the complete step-by-steps, go to the full tutorial here on Sew Mama Sew.


  1. Oooh, I want to do this! Looks like a great gift idea too. Thank you.

  2. I made one of these bags ages ago from your Sew Mama Sew tutorial. I used the single sided zip method and slid a zip slider onto the ends. It lives in my handbag and is really handy for small purchases. It can be a bit small, so I do need to make a larger one. I'm curious what kind of presser foot you're using on your sewing machine in those two photos where you're sewing the zip in. It looks like the foot is sitting completely behind the needle.

    1. Katie: silly me. I forgot to mention in the text that the foot had been removed in those photos for visibility. What you're seeing is really just the shank (thing the actual foot clips onto, or - in other machines - gets screwed onto). I'd use a regular zipper foot to install a zipper like that otherwise. I cleverly mentioned it in the original SMS tutorial and then absent-mindedly omitted that in this one. Sorry about that!

    2. I thought it looked a little bit like the shank, but I wondered if maybe you had some extra fancy new foot I've never seen before!

  3. That is so cute! I see a number of these in my future!

  4. I just wanted to thank you so much for your generosity in sharing this!

  5. thank you for your sharing...^^

  6. Since the website Sew Mama Sew is no longer working, could you please include the pattern here?

    1. Mary, this post can help:

  7. That link didn't work for me :-/ Are you planning to post the pattern on here again? Or sell it anywhere?

    1. Wildfire, this post can help:


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