How to Sew a Zipper Tote Bag | Luciana Caballero | Skillshare
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15 Lessons (54m)
    • 1. Intro

    • 2. Today's Project

    • 3. Measuring and Cutting

    • 4. Sewing pocket binding / border

    • 5. Sewing Straps

    • 6. Inner Pocket

    • 7. Ironing Interfacing

    • 8. Sewing Interior Pocket

    • 9. Sewing Front Pockets

    • 10. Sewing Straps to Panels

    • 11. Sewing the Zipper

    • 12. Closing the Bag

    • 13. Squaring up the Corners

    • 14. Finishing your Bag

    • 15. Congratulations! See you next Class...

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About This Class

In this class you will learn how to make your own zipper tote bag.


Don’t you love that feeling when you can actually use something you made yourself?! 

I feel so proud of everything I sew. It gives me joy every time I use it and I want to share that feeling with you. 

That’s why I designed this beginners class to show you step by step how to sew each part, and even a zipper! You will be sewing along with me, and we will have different segments explaining all the details and sewing tips to help you make your own bag.

Once you’ve learned how to sew this practical and cute tote bag you will be sewing more and even adding some of your own details and ideas!

Let’s get started and have some fun learning something new! 



Meet Your Teacher

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Luciana Caballero

designer+architect +creator +teacher


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1. Intro: Don't you love that feeling when you sit down and you know that you have time to create something amazing? In this class, I will show you how to sew your own beautiful zipper tote bag. I'll be explaining all the basics and all the details for each step. Hi, I'm Luciana, I'm a professional designer, an architect, and a creator. Creativity is part of who I am. I wake up every day and I already have so many ideas of what to make that day. Thank you so much for joining me today in a sewing for beginners class. Today we're going to be making this beautiful and practical zipper tote bag. But first, let me tell you a little bit about myself. I've been designing my own line of stamps and animation stamps for the past eight years. I've been featured in different platforms and magazines. I've had shows on HSN here in the US as well as in Create and Craft in England and that was a great experience and a lot of fun. I got to travel and also to be in live shows. My products have been in different major crafters throughout the US. As a hobby, I started designing my own line of fabrics and then I started sewing to see them come to life in different projects. Like the shirt I'm wearing today, I designed this fabric with my watercolors and then I printed the fabric in a satin finish. It's so vibrant and I love how the texture of the watercolor shows. That's why I love sewing so much. Because at the end of your project, you have something that you can use, you can wear or even give as a gift. My grandma was a great scene. She would sew all my birthday dresses when I was growing up and she would even sew a matching bow. I remember she would spend hours in her sewing room and she would teach me how to sew clothes for my dolls. Those are memories that I will cherish forever. This is why I created this class because I want to share all of these great feelings with you. I created a list with ECM fun projects that are separated in different classes, and today we're going to start with this beautiful and practical zipper tote bag. Let's get started. 2. Today's Project: For today's class project, we will be sewing a zipper tote bag that's approximately 12 by 12 inches or 30.5 by 30.5 centimeters with two long shoulder straps and outside and inside pockets. We will start by selecting the fabric and deciding which print we'll use for the front and back, the outside pockets, the lining, that's the interior of the bag and the inside pocket. Once we have all the panels, we will be ready to sew the zipper, so exciting. We'll add the straps and I'll teach you how to square up the corners so we create a roomy flat bottom for your tote. At the end of the class, you will have made your own cute organizer, zipper tote bag. So practical and great to put all your sewing and craft tools easy to carry and a great idea for a gift too. In the next lesson, we will measure and cut out fabric so we can have all the different panels ready for sewing. 3. Measuring and Cutting: In this section, we'll talk a little bit about the materials you will need and some of the measurements for our fabric. Feel free to pause the slides so you can double-check they have all the materials needed. Here I made an outline that we can use as reference with all the different panels that we're going to need to put our tote together. I like pressing and cutting all the panels before we start sewing so we know we have everything we need to complete the project. Once you have everything ready, we're going to start by sewing the borders on the front pockets. 4. Sewing pocket binding / border: In this lesson, we're going to sew the borders or binding for our pockets. To have an even border, I recommend you fold your fabric in half and then press so you have a line in the center that you can use as a reference. Now that you have that line as that reference, you can meet the bottom and the top part too hide the rough edges. I decided to go a little bit under that line just to make the final border a little bit wider, but it's definitely easier if you just meet them at the center line that we already pressed. This is the binding for our pocket that was two inches by six inches, or five centimeters by 15.25 centimeters. Here's my front pocket. I like choosing my favorite fabric because it's the fabric that's going to show the most in the front of the project. We're going to repeat the process for the second border. Our front pocket measures six inches by 12 inches, or 15.25 centimeters by 30.5 centimeters. We're going to flip it around and press to hide the rough edge so it's ready to sew. Once we sew the border, this is how it's going to look. To make it easier to understand, always remember that when we're sewing, we put and we face the right side together or the fabric together. Start by unfolding the binding and aligning the top of the border with the edge of the pocket. Then go ahead and sew following the first folded line as a reference. Once you sew it and you flip it over, this is how it's going to look. Now we're going to repeat the same steps for our second pocket. We're going to make sure to press the bottom edge to hide the rough edges, and we're going to align our binding to the top of our pocket. I always like to start and finish with a back stitch to secure everything in place. You can go as low or as fast as you want. This is about enjoying your time and enjoying the project you're making. Now we're going to fold the binding to topstitch and finish our border, and this is why pressing before it was so important because it makes this step much easier. Now we're going to repeat the same steps for our second pocket. In the next lesson, we're going to be sewing our shoulder straps. 5. Sewing Straps: In this lesson, we're going to be sewing the two shoulder straps. We're going to be using these straps that we have already cut, and they measure 3 inches by 18 inches, or 7.6 centimeters by 45.7 centimeters. We're going to follow the same process that we used when we were doing the binding for the pocket, where we press the center line and use it as a reference. The only difference with this one is that instead of folding to the center line that we just pressed, is I'm going to measure a fourth of an inch or like about a centimeter with both the top and the bottom and then fold in half. This way we get a wider strap, and we make sure to hide the rough edges, and then everything is neat and ready to go. You can pin or use your clips. It's up to you. It's whatever is easier and more comfortable. I actually had both. It depends on the fabric, sometimes the pins can leave a mark. But for thicker layers, I like using my clips. Then we're going to go ahead and sew both top and bottom to finish our straps. Repeat the same steps with the other straps, so we're ready to go to the sewing machine. Remember to backstitch to secure everything in place at the beginning and at the end. Remember that we're sewing the top and the bottom of each of the straps. Once we have both of these straps ready, we are ready to start sewing our interior pocket. See you in the next lesson. 6. Inner Pocket: In this lesson we will sew the interior pocket. I will teach you how to sew it, leaving a gap for turning the right side of the fabric out and leaving it ready to sew it and attach it to the interior panel. We're going to be using the piece of fabric that were already cut that was six inches by 12 inches or 15.25 centimeters by 30.5 centimeters. After pressing, make sure that you face the right size of the fabric together. Then we're going to sew all around it, leaving a gap where the two clips are so it's easier for us to turn the pocket, right side out. Remember to backstitch when you start sewing. Once you reach the corner, make sure to leave the needle down and lift up your presser foot, pivot your fabric in the direction that we got to go down now, lower your presser foot and keep sewing. We're going to make the same thing here. I'm leaving the needle down, I'm turning my fabric and then I'm lowering my presser foot. Then I keep sewing until the first clip. Then I'm going to backstitch. Make sure to leave a big enough gap, so it's easier for us to turn the right side of the pocket out. Then started sewing where the second clip was. Start sewing, backstitch, sew to the end, and backstitch again. Make sure to clip all the corners. This is going to give us a sharper edge when you turn it around. Then one you're clipping the corners, make sure not to cut any of the stitches that were already made. Now you're ready to turn your pocket right side out. Tuck in the rough edges of the gap and then press your pocket. In the next lesson, we're going to be pressing the interfacing to the front panels and getting the front and the interior panels ready. 7. Ironing Interfacing: In this lesson, we're going to be ironing the interfacing to the front panels. Also, we're going to cut the corners of the bottom of the lining and the front panels as well. The front panel is the one that's going to be the outside of the tote and is the piece of fabric that measures 12 by 12 inches or 30.5 centimeters by 30.5 centimeters. For the interfacing, we're going to be using a fusible mid-weight. This means that when you're pressing with your iron it glues into your fabric. The one I'm using here is Pellon 931TD. The side that has texture like little dots, that's the one that we want to face down and that has the glue. The other side is smoother and that's the top part. Adding the interfacing it gives more body to the tote and more structure. It helps to keep the overall shape better. Also, make sure to choose the mid-weight, because if you choose the heavier one is going to be harder to turn the tote right side out later on. Here you can see what a difference it makes when you use interfacing in the front panels. Now we're going to repeat the same steps for the second panel. Now that we have both panels ready, we're going to cut some little squares at the bottom of the exterior and the lining of the bag. This is so we can square up the bottom of the tote, giving us more room to put everything we want inside the bag. To make it easier. I made a small template how to cut stock that is 1.5 by 1.5 inches, and 3.8 centimeters by 3.8 centimeters. Once we sew everything together, the bottom is going to be three inches or about 7.6 centimeters. I'm using tailor's chalk to mark the first square. I really like them. They really pop in different kind of fabrics and they come in different colors. But if you don't have any available, don't worry, you can just use a regular pencil because these marks are not going to show later on. Repeat the same steps with the second panel for the front of the bag. Now we're going to do the same thing for the panels that we're using for the interior or lining of the bag. In the next lesson, we're going to sew the interior pocket to the lining. 8. Sewing Interior Pocket: In this lesson, we will sew the interior pocket to the lining. Measure two-and-a-half inches or 6.3 centimeters down, and find the center of your interior panel. Fold your pocket in half so it's easier to find the center and align it with a mart that we already made. Use some pins to secure the pocket in its place making sure that nothing shifts. Now we're ready to go to the sewing machine and sew all around the pocket. Remember to start and finish with a backstitch. Here, we're just going to go ahead and leave the needle down, lift up your presser foot, keep with the fabric in the direction you want to go next, and then keep sewing. Here we're going to do the same thing. Just remember to give the needle down so it's easier for you to rotate your fabric. Remember to finish with a backstitch, and now our pocket is ready. In the next lesson, we're going to go ahead and sew the front pockets. 9. Sewing Front Pockets: In this lesson, we're going to sow the front and the back pockets to the exterior of the bag. Measure about 1/4 of an inch or one centimeter approximately to position the bottom of our pocket. Then we're going to go ahead and sow the pocket all around and I also sow in the center of it to create two different pockets. We're going to repeat the same steps for the back pockets. If you want to make the front and the back different, you can leave this one as a big pocket. But I decided to make two pockets as well. We're going to start with a backstitch and then I'm going to use my left hand to guide the fabric and to make sure that everything is straight. When you reach the corner, remember to stop but leave the needle down, lift your foot presser up, rotate your fabric, and then remember to put your foot presser down again to keep sowing. To finish closing up your pocket, remember to leave your needle down, rotate the fabric and keep sowing. We're going to finish with a backstitch. Find the center at six inches or 15.25 centimeters. This is where we're going to start slowing down to separate the two front pockets. Remember to backstitch to finish our front pockets. Now we're going to repeat the same steps for the back pockets. Here's a different view, a little bit of a close-up so we can see everything in more detail. Also, this is in real time, so you can see how slowly and carefully I sow all around. Also, I really enjoy this time when I'm creating or sowing something. Take it easy, take your time and enjoy every step. For the back pockets, I also decided to make two of them. So I'm sowing a center line all the way down. I love how the binding adds that little extra detail on the pockets and in the front of the bag so you can mix and match the fabric that you have, but you can get the exact same print. I'm going to make sure to leave a link to it for the Spoonflower shop. This is a fabric that I design myself and I created a mini collection specially for this project. In the next lesson, we're going to sow the straps to the front panels. 10. Sewing Straps to Panels: In this lesson, we're going to sew the straps to the front and the back panels. To start measure three inches or 7.6 centimeter, and find the center of the strap, and clip it. Make sure that the strap is laying flat and is not twisted in the center and find the other end and also place it at the three-inch mark or 7.6 centimeter. Then we're going to go ahead and sew them right under the clips and then making sure that we're backstage at the beginning, at the end to reinforce these straps. Then we're just going to repeat the same steps for the back panel. When you start sewing remember to backstage and I like going over the strap him back just to create a extra reinforcement. To finish, we're also going to backstage and stage again. Well, this is so exciting. We already have our first strap attached to the front of the bag and the bag is starting to take shape. Now, we have to do the same thing, attaching the straps to the back panel of our tote. I really love these projects, they're so practical and you're going to be so surprised once you're finished, all the things you can put inside. Another thing that's great is when you mix and match different fabrics, you get so many different looks, and is so fun and practical. I've made so many of them because all of my friends asked me for one. So they make a really cute and fun present. We just finished sewing our strap to the back panel and we're ready for the fun part, sewing the zipper. 11. Sewing the Zipper: In this lesson, we're going to sew the zipper, and at the end, we're going to have all our panels connected by the zipper, and we're going to see how the bag starts taking shape. We're going to start with our interior panel with the pocket facing up, and then we're going to align and center the zipper, making sure that the right side of the zipper is also up. I like closing the zipper so everything is straight and it's easier to align with my panel, and then I carefully clip it in place. Now we're going to take our front panel, and we're going to put our strap down. We're carefully going to turn it over, and align it again with the edge of the zipper. I'm carefully re-clipping everything, making sure that everything stays in place and nothing shifts. This is how everything's going to look after we sew it. I like adding some clips right where the straps are. Now we're ready to sew right over this line. But first we've got to make sure that we change our foot presser to the zipper one. Press the black little notch on the back of the presser foot to release it, and then grab your zipper foot and align it to the left, and when you press your lever down, is going to clip in place. I like to start sewing a little bit below where my zipper pull is, because this way I make sure that my zipper is all the way close, and everything is straight. Once we finish sewing this part, I'm going to go back to it, unzip my zipper, and then close that little space that we left open. I like using my zipper foot as a guide, making sure that I'm over all the layers. Remember to start and finish with the back stitch. Make sure that you're sewing over all the layers. The closer to the zipper teeth you get, the less of the zipper that's going to show. But for this bag, I love how the zipper adds as an extra detail, so I'm actually sewing in the center of it, so half of it shows. When sewing over the strap, make sure to go under the previous ditch. We're going to finish with a back stitch. Now we're going to close the gap that we left open at the beginning, so we're going to unzip the zipper, align everything together, and sew it back stitch in the beginning and at the end. Great. Now we're ready to sew the other side. To finish this side, we're going to go ahead and top stitch along the edge. This helps keeping everything nice and flat. But first, make sure to press everything so it's easier for us to sew. We're going to start sewing right on the edge, making sure we back stitch right at the beginning. You want to sew nice and steady, making sure that you keep everything straight because this is a top stitch, that's going to end up showing in the front of the bag. Finish with the back stitch, and our first panel with the zipper is finished. To start with the other side, we're going to start with the other interior panel facing up. Align the zipper with the interior panel just below to keep everything in place. Now we're going to grab our back panel and turn it over. This is an important step, so make sure that when you're aligning the edges, both of the straps align as well. This is so when we're using our tote, both of the straps match perfectly. Now we're ready to start sewing. Like always, remember to start by back stitching. Then we're going to just sew straight down, making sure that when we go over the straps, we sew under the previous stitches. Before we reach the end, we're going to stop and leave our needle down, and we're going to pull the zipper pull out of the way, so we can keep sewing down in a straight line. Align everything back in place, pull your lever down, and keep sewing, and remember to back stitch at the end. When I was finishing sewing my bobbin ran out, so I'm going to show you really quickly how to wind the bobbin with the same thread I'm using right now. I'm going to start by taking the thread out of the machine, and then I'm going to follow along the little diagram that's in the top of the machine. We have these steps number. Number 1 is putting the thread under the little metal notch. Then we make sure that it goes around the wide little notch number 2, and then we wrap it around the little metal wheel, this number 3. I like to fit my thread through this little hole right here so when we start winding the bobbin it stays in place. Then don't forget to click it to the right. In order for me to start winding the bobbin, I need to disconnect my foot pedal. Now, before I start, I like grabbing my thread and pulling it in up, so I make sure that when we begin winding the bobbin, it stays in place. Then I use the little wheel on the right as a reference, so I know when to stop winding. Click your bobbin to the left, and then you're ready to use it. One little tip that I always remember when placing my bobbin inside is to think of the letter P. Pull a little bit of the thread out, and then follow the diagram, and at the end it cuts it. Then we replace the little clear top part, and then we're ready to go. But also don't forget to re-thread your machine. Because my bobbin ran out when I was sewing before, I decided to sew over again just to double-check and make sure that everything is stitch and stayed in place. Now, the next step is to top stitch like we did before. But first we want to make sure that everything is flat, and we're going to press an iron a little bit just to make it easier. Here you can see a little bit of all the layers that we're going to top stitch over, and then that's why it makes everything lay a little bit more flat. This top stitch is also decorative, so it's going to be shown at the back of the bag. Make sure to keep it straight, and don't forget to back stitch at the beginning and at the end. We finish installing our zipper. This was great, and I think if you follow along all the steps, you're going to be able to do it super easy. Also, what I love about it is that once you understand how to install a zipper, then you can do so many other projects, and is a lot of fun. Now we're ready to go to our next lesson, and we're going to be sewing all around the bag. 12. Closing the Bag: In this lesson, we're going to close and sew all around the bag, making sure that everything aligns and the pockets match when we finish the bag. This is how everything looks so far. This is very exciting. We're almost ready with our bag, and I love how everything looks. I really like how the fabrics coordinate with each other and the little binding that we added to the buckets adds the extra detail that makes everything go together. Also, I really love how the inside of the bag looks. The colors are so vibrant and fun and the pocket really pops with that fun print. To close the bag, we're going to grab both of the outside panels and place them to the right, and then we grab our interior panels and place them together. But before we start clipping, don't forget to unzip your zipper. This is important so we can access the front of the bag once we're finished sewing and we have to turn the whole bag right side out. When we start clipping, we want to make sure that everything is aligned. Here my zipper is flat and aligned top and bottom. Then make sure that these bottom corners are also aligned. One important thing to double-check is that both binding from the pockets are also aligning and matching. This is so that when the bag is ready, the binding of the bag goes all the way around seamlessly. I like to take my time making sure my zipper is also aligned and you can go and readjust as you go along. I'm going to place two pins on the lining, leaving a big enough gap for us to place our hand inside so we can reach and it's easier for us to turn the bag right side out. Now we're ready to start sewing right along the edges, skipping the corners and making sure that we stop by the pins. Before we start sewing, we're going to change our zipper foot for our regular presser foot. I'm going to start sewing on the lining pattern opposite side of where I have the pins. For my seam allowance, I really like using the width of my presser foot as a guide. This gives me enough room to make sure that I'm sewing over all the layers and if I'm now sewing straight, I still have room to keep correcting myself as I sew along. When I reach the zipper, I decided to back stitch. I went a little bit around it because the zipper that I chose has very thick and white teeth, and I can't sew over with my sewing machine. I also back stitch once I pass the zipper, just to make sure that I'm close in every gap. Here I'm double checking again that the binding on the pockets are still aligned, just in case anything shift when I took the clips out. As you're sewing, feel free to adjust and readjust, making sure that everything matches. Remember to back stitch every time you start and you finish sewing each of the edges. Now rotate everything and we're going to start with the bottom part. We're going to rotate everything again. Start with a back stitch and make sure that when you go over the binding of the pockets, they're aligned as well. Right before we get to zipper, I'm going to back stitch again. I'm going to start sewing very slowly again and because this zipper has a very wide teeth, I'm going to use my hand wheel to help me go over those big teeth. Then I'm going to back stitch making sure that I don't leave any gaps, and I'm going to stop right were the pin is because that's the beginning of our gap. Move your fabric down and start sewing the other end of the gap, back stitching at the beginning and at the end. To finish going all the way around, we're going to sew the bottom of the lining. This is how everything looks. For the next lesson, we're going to square up the bottom of the bag. 13. Squaring up the Corners: In this lesson, we're going to square up the corners of our bag so we can create more room at the bottom of the tote and that's going to create a wide base for it. To start, we're going to put together the edges of this gap in the corner, making sure they lay flat together. Push one seam to one side and the other seam to the other one and then clip in place. Then we're going to sew a straight line from side to side and then we're going go ahead and repeat the process with the rest of the corners. The base is going to be about three inches or 7.6 centimeters wide and this is why we cut the squares at the beginning of the class that there were half the dimensions, they were like 1.5 inches or 3.8 centimeters. So putting them together now, they give us these roomy and nice days for the tote. Once you do this one time and you learn how to do it, you can apply it in multiple projects, like pencil pouches or make up bags, they're so much fun to make as well. To sew them is very easy. Every time we start and we finish, we're going to back stitch and we're going to repeat the same seam allowance that we've been using, that is the width of our presser foot. I just like using that as a reference because we don't have to measure anything and all the layers are flat and aligned. We're almost done with our bag. All we have to do is repeat the same process with the rest of the corners and then the best part is turning the bag right side out. It's such a great feeling, it's like your bag comes to life and then you get to see all the little details and everything that makes these bags so much fun. The last thing that we're going to do that we're going to learn in the next lesson, it's sewing that little gap that we left open and then pressing everything nice and flat. Here's the bag with all four corners ready. Now, find the gap and then remember that we unzipped the zipper before. This is why because we can reach inside and then pull the whole bag out. How do you like your bag? This is so exciting, right? The last thing that we have to do is sew this little gap. We're going to make sure to push these rough edges in and press everything nice and flat so we're ready to sew it. 14. Finishing your Bag: Congratulations, this is our last lesson where we finish up our bag. I hope you're really happy with your bag. I always say that I love sewing so much because I love that idea and of the project. You have something that you can use, you can wear, and you can make so many gifts that your friends are going to love. After pressing everything nice and flat, we're ready to sew our bag. Remember to start and finish with a backstitch and just sew straight down the gap. Now we officially finished the bag. Now that you've finished your first bag and you learnt all of the steps, you can get creative and add your own little details. Also is a lot of fun to try with different fabrics and mix and match and coordinate different prints. If you want to make the bag with exact same prints I'm using here, I'm going to make sure to leave the link below so you can buy them in my Spoonflower shop. I had a lot of fun designing these fabrics and I designed them specially for this class, so all the pieces of the bag match perfectly and you don't have to spend time thinking about which kind of fabrics will coordinate the best. I like how nice and portable the bag is, and here you can see all the things that fit inside and you can carry in it. I hope you had a lot of fun today following along. Thank you so much for watching the class. I also hope that you learned a set of new skills that you can apply in many projects to come. 15. Congratulations! See you next Class...: Congratulations on finishing your zipper tote bag. How exciting. Today we learned so many different new skills and even installed a zipper. Now you can create so many projects and variations of these bags and you can make it your own, it's going to be a lot of fun. I've decided to create a series of different sewing classes, so please, make sure to follow me so you get a notification every time I upload a new class. Also, you can leave in the comments all the ideas for new projects so I can add them to my list, and please, don't forget to share your finished projects so we can all get to inspire each other. Thank you so much for sharing this class with me. See you next class.