Internet at the speed of light
Do an internet search for zipper pouch tutorials or zip pouch and you’ll get fast 2.8 million results in 0.6 seconds or less. Most of the search results have some form of the word “Easy” prior to the word zip (“zip,” the more efficient, British use of the word zipper) in the title. “Easy,” “simple,” “painless”: no words in the dictionary have squelched the fears created by the thought of installing zippers in projects in the mind of the home Semptress! Yep, that’s a real word!
Let that word roll around in your mouth for a few minutes. It’s just darn fun to say! Semptress. Now say it with a sultry voice! Now with a silly voice! One more time, just for good measure! It’s also a really entertaining word to use when meeting someone new when they ask, “What do you do for a living?” You look them in the eye and say, “I’m a Semptress.” Or you could say, “I’m a sewer,” but really? Who wants to be associated with sewage? EWWWWW. But I digress.
Standing out from the crowd
What makes this zipper pouch tutorial different that the other 2.8 million zipper tutorials out there?
Because I did it my way! (If you’re old enough, you should have a song running through your mind right about now.)
First let’s examine what makes a zipper pouch difficult.
The anatomy of zipper installation for a pouch
You open the zipper and sew one side to a piece of fabric.
Then, you sew the other side to another piece of fabric.
If the zipper is long enough, you can sew it with the pull out of the way. If it’s the exact length of the fabric, then you have to move the pull whilst sewing (which is kind of like packing your suitcase to head home after vacation. Not fun and not easy, but it can be done!).
A) The two pieces of fabric don’t line up. Oops.
B) The zipper is wonky, like this:
Next step in the zipper installation, you open the zipper most of the way and sew from the inside all the way around catching the zipper in the stitches.
C) The zipper twists and kinda looks like this:
Not ugly, but not as good as the ones you buy in the store. It’s ironic that the home Semptress often picks apart her work but never even looks closely at the factory manufactured items.
Solution to the frustrations
One solution is to put tabs or little pieces of fabric on the end of the zipper before installing like this:
This technique actually works very nicely, and it makes a clean zipper pouch. The only problem I’ve found with this technique is measuring, cutting, and sewing the zipper. The end results can have a zipper that is off-center and the tabs may not be not equal in size, adding to the frustration.
The image below is my way. See the zipper? It’s not on the top; it’s on the side!
The Zipper Pouch Tutorial Begins
Choose compatible fabric
Since fabric should be chosen based on usage, I chose this fabric as it is waterproof on both sides and easily wipes clean—great for a makeup pouch, but not a lot of fun to sew!
Vinyl usually has a cloth type backing such as this:
The blue fabric may actually be a PUL, which is Poly Urethane Laminate. It was on a roll that I picked up cheap at a yard sale, so your guess is as good as mine!
Choosing a Shape
This is my current makeup pouch. I wanted a different one just slightly larger, so I used the current one as a spring board.
After choosing your fabric and deciding your size (make sure to add seam allowance!) given these points, choose a zipper that is longer than the fabric is wide so that you can get that zipper pull out of the way.
Cutting and Construction
Add double-sided tape to each edge where the zipper will be. Seemingly, the 1/8” seems to work best. Some brands are specifically designed for sewing, and I’ve been told they don’t make the needle sticky and gummed up, but if the one you choose does, simply use alcohol prep pads available in any pharmacy. In brief, the alcohol will clean the gummy off nicely. This solution works on finger bandage adhesive in addition to tape residue on your machine bed.
All things considered, there are two equally basic ways to clean the needle: 1.) Open the package and use the enclosed swab, wiping down the needle. 2.) Remove the thread from the needle and sew right through the package. Warning: sewing through the package may dull the needle, but so will sewing vinyl, PUL, thick layers, thick fabrics… Come to think of it, sewing dulls the needle.
Again I digress. Equally important is to add your double-sided adhesive to both ends where the zipper will reside. Déjà vu, I think I said that before!
Then, remove the adhesive backing from one side only and place the zipper face-down on the right side of fabric. Make sure the zipper pull goes beyond the edge of the fabric. Using a zipper foot, stitch with a longer stitch.
On my machine a 4.0 works well.
Step By Step
Similarly, remove the adhesive backing from the other side and, again, place the zipper face-down on the right side of the fabric. Make absolutely sure that the edges of the fabric line up evenly. Stitch as before.
Generally speaking, you should have something that looks like this, as shown below. For the most part, wrinkles are optional.
In a word, let’s get to top stitching this puppy!
This fabric is really sticky, so I chose to use paper under. The tissue paper for gift wrapping works really well, to say nothing of the fact the day after Christmas, the store practically pays you to take it home; it’s so cheap!
Unless you happen to have a Teflon zipper foot, something is necessary to make that zipper foot slide over the vinyl or PUL. Good, old-fashioned office supply tape works great! A little dab’ll do ya!
In a like manner, I’ve heard waxing the bottom of the foot works, but I’ve never tried it.
Remember the stitch length
As can be seen, increase your stitch length for the top stitching. In addition you can use a decorative or heavy thread. After all, it’s your project! Even with the paper under coupled with the tape on top, I still stitched very slowly while keeping a bit of pressure on the fabric to keep it feeding evenly.
By and large, the paper should tear away fairly cleanly.
At this point, the faint of heart may just choose to make that a top zip, and that’s okay with me! It’s your project!
Zip that zip and you should have a tube.
The size of the project is the best way to decide how tall to make the “top” according to aesthetics and the “’cause-I-wanna” factor. There is no right or wrong; just make sure that the sides are comparatively even. Of course, close is good enough!
On the purple diaper wet bag, I folded it until it looked good. On this blue makeup pouch, similarly, I decided on 1”. As can be seen, it is a convenient measurement on my cutting mat.
Tape is my friend
Again, with the tape you say, “YES!” As a matter of fact, tape is wonderful with fabrics that can’t be pinned! What also works well is wonder clips, binder clips, hair clips, or bulldog clips. In the long run, anything that pinches will work in a pinch!
The pouch was taped to the mat (wrong-side-out) on one side whilst I made sure the other side was even steven in the same way.
After the two top sides were taped to the mat, the tape was folded over the top to hold it in place whilst sewing. Then, the zipper was opened most of the way and wonder clips were used to hold the sides shut, as shown above.
Remember the stitch length
More tissue paper, and then I moved the stitch length back to 4.0 and carefully stitched down one side.
All is not lost
If you forgot to unzip, it’s not too late! Sew up the other side, then trim the excess zipper (you might want to use paper scissors for this instead of your good fabric scissors), and clip the corners. Next, turn the project right-side-out and you are finished. If you would like to box the corners, be my guest, but let’s reserve those instructions for another tutorial.
Not only is it slightly taller and slightly wider, but this is a nice, clean, and pretty zipper! Easy peasy (for the most part!).
That’s Italian, for now I need a nap. LOL
God Bless and keep that machine oiled!
What other tips do you have for beginner zipper sewists? Let us know below in the comments!
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