Saturday, February 16, 2013

Easy Zipper Bag Tutorial

I'm heading out to Florida, to sail on the Gulf of Mexico for a week, so I thought I'd leave you with this tutorial. Zipper bags are a great gift for travelers, and they're a nice way to make even the smallest trip seem really special.

First step, pick your fabrics! You will need an exterior fabric (in my case, the chicken print!) and an interior fabric (the grey floral print, below). You will also need a zipper. Don't worry about the zipper - I promise, this is EASY!

Cut your fabrics all to the same size, roughly whatever you want the size of the finished bag to be. I picked 8 x 9 inches, but knock yourself out! Whatever size you pick, make sure the zipper you use is long enough for the opening. It's okay if it's too long, as you can cut it down to size, but too short will be problematic.

Two outer squares, two liner squares, and a zipper!
You may notice that I added a little pocket to one of my liner squares. This is easy - just cut out a square from either fabric ( I used the outer fabric, for contrast) and iron the edges under about 1/4" on three sides. These will be your sides and bottom. For the top of the pocket, iron down 1/4" and then another 1/2" and sew a nice line to hold that fold in place. Then, pin the pocket where you want it (see photo) and stitch from one side, across the bottom, and back up the other side, backtacking at start and finish to prevent unraveling.

Pin around the sides and edges, and sew it on!

What I like to do, to keep it all looking professional, is to flip the liner over to the wrong side and pull the threads through. Just pull on the one thread that's already there till you see the little teeny loop of the other thread poking its head up, stick a pin in the loop, and yank that sucker on up!

Pull those threads over to the backside. It's ok, no one will see 'em there!

OK, now the real fun begins. You are going to make a zipper sandwich! Lay your lining fabric down on the table, pretty side up. Then lay your zipper, functional side up. Last, put your outer fabric, pretty side down. IF YOUR FABRIC HAS A DIRECTION, now is the time to make sure the 'top' side is pointing toward the zipper. Line up your edges (see photo) and pin.

See how the tops of the chickens point toward the zipper?

If you have doubts, pretend you've sewn your seam and open it up. Does it look right? Then you're good to go!

Put your zipper foot on and sew. See that ridge to the left of the foot? That's the zipper. Sew close to it, but not over it. The foot helps keep the zipper a consistent distance away from the needle.

Open it up and iron. Admire your work and get a fresh cup of coffee. Damn, you're good!
Now you're going to lay out a zipper sandwich for the other half of the zipper. Think of it as being the parent of twins - everything has to be balanced and equal! Keep your project folded as in the photo above for the next step.
Lay the unattached liner fabric down, then the existing zipper sandwich with the functional side of the zipper on top (see photo below). Then finally add the unattached outer fabric.

Loose liner fabric on bottom, lovely bit that you've just sewn in the middle, loose outer fabric on top. Notice how my chickens are all facing the same direction on both pieces of fabric!
Before you sew, double check that all directional prints are pointed in the right directions, with the tops toward the zipper! LIne up the new, loose pieces to the unsewn edge of the zipper, pin and sew.

Notice how I shortened my zipper - you can do this before or after the zipper installation. Just zip it up closed, snip to about 1" past the edge of the bag and zig zag a few times over the cut end to make a stopper. My zig zags are in red. See? Easy peasy.

When you're done, you'll have two floppy bits on either side of the zipper. Iron it nice and flat away from the zipper on both sides and pat yourself on the back. Almost there!

This next bit is where you sew the flappy bits into their own bags, one on each side of the zipper. The last step is where you turn the whole thing inside out and it turns into a fantastic zippered bag!

For this step, open the flaps and lay the liner fabrics together and the exterior fabrics together, right sides touching and zipper in the middle. It should look something like this:

PIn around the outer perimeter of the bag.

See the two red pins at the top there? That's how I remind myself not to sew around the whole thing!
At this part, your zipper will be a wobbly bit in the middle. Be sure it is UNZIPPED about three-fourths of the way. If you unzip it all the way, the head will get in the way of your stitching, and it if you don't unzip it, you'll have a big pain in the tushie trying to turn your bag inside out at the end.
Fold your zipper tape together nice and flat, and pin away from the main fabric, toward the lining side.

Zipper tape folds AWAY from the main fabric.
You will want to start sewing at least an inch or two before the zipper, on the liner side, sew all the way around the rectangle going around all the corners, and end up about two inches away from where you started. Stop there, so you have a little hole to turn it inside out at the end.

Voila! Look at that lovely red stitch line around the perimeter, except for the little bit on the upper right side of the lining.

If you want to be super fancy, ou can box the corners of both the exterior and liner fabric, to give extra 3D capacity once it's full of your gear. Pinch the corners so that the stitch lines meet in the middle and a little triangle is formed.

Measure in from the pivot point of your stitching (aka the corner) anywhere from 1/2" to 1", depending on how big you want the bottom to be. Draw a line. Make this same measurement on all four corners, pin, and sew 'em up!

You can even snip off the triangles, once you've sewn them, but I leave them to give the bottom some structure.
This is what the liner will look like, once you've boxed the corners. Cool, right?

Now comes the really fun part! Remember that part that you didn't sew shut on the perimeter? Find that escape hatch you left yourself earlier and turn that bag inside out!

Remember me? That mysterious little unsewn bit?

Keep going, almost there!

Whee! It's a bag! Iron all your seams and do a little dance.

Before you go getting too crazy, there's one teeny little last bit. Pin that escape hatch closed and sew it up tight. Just run it through your machine, being sure to backtack at start and finish. I like to use a really short stitch length for the backtacking, so I can just snip the ends and know it won't unravel.

Congratulations! You just made a lined zipper bag! Pat yourself on the back and go show off to your friends.

Monday, February 11, 2013

As Promised

Well my lovelies, I finally have more photos to share of the amazing Asilomar weekend!

First, I have to say that Heather Ross is so kind and mellow, and I would definitely take another workshop of hers. It can't be easy planning for a group of folks at a multitude of skill levels and with varied interests, and she absolutely pulled off a coup. She signed books -and drew in them!- and was unfailingly positive and patient.

Heather explains it all.

As mentioned earlier, the fellow workshop attendees were just fantastic. Here's a shot of Lauren, who absolutely needs to start her own blog, and a room photo so y'all can see how huge the space was.

so adorable in her self-made circle skirt!

My new buds Ruth and Sheetal joined Susannah and me and another crafty sewist for a lovely lunch on Saturday in Pacific Grove at the Red House Cafe. I somehow missed getting a photo of Leisa, but I got to sit right next to her the whole time and watch her amazing progress on Heather's wrap skirt pattern.

do we look cold? it was cold.

The biggest thrill for me came from meeting one of my principal sources of sewing inspiration: Gretchen Hirsch, better known as Gertie, of the amazingly popular sewing blog and best-selling book. Oh my gosh. She's even cooler in person, her hair is even more vibrantly pink, and she's just got such a great perspective on things. Good lord, the woman even plays the ukelele, how much more unapologetically badass can you get?! If you were to surmise that I may have inadvertently peed my pants when she asked for a ride to the San Francisco airport, you would be correct, metaphorically speaking of course. Susannah and I were jumping around like ten year olds at at One Direction concert, we were so thrilled at the thought of, you know, just Hanging Out all casual-like. I can only hope we didn't scare her off for good. I didn't take photos of us shopping at Harts Fabric together, because even a fangirl like me draws the line somewhere, but it was pretty freaking cool.

yeah, that's the shirtwaist dress from her book.

Gertie bedecked in coolness and me in my Gertie blouse and Ginger skirt

All in all, it was a fabulous time, even better than I had hoped. I got great guidance on lots of projects that had frustrated me previously and make a lovely dress from one of my friend Stephanie's vintage pattern to boot!

i made her a pair of my cashmere mitts, with pink to match her hair!

Sunday, February 3, 2013


Well, that was a heck of a weekend! I think my head is still spinning from meeting so many awesome new friends, if not from the hairpin turns on the drive home. I'll have more photos to upload soon, but let's just start with one of the biggest highlights of the trip, below.

Yes, that is the gorgeous and funny Gretchen Hirsch with Susannah and me...we picked up a hitchhiker for the return trip! She is just as awesome in real life as you expect she would be from her blog, and twice as beautiful. We were thrilled to go shopping at Hart's Fabrics with the master sewist and to get a glimpse at what she might be making next. Also, she was sweet enough to take us to lunch/dinner in Santa Cruz to say thanks for the ride (as if we wouldn't have paid HER for the sheer awesomeness of it all!).

I returned home with an extra Janome machine and a renewed focus on teaching small, individualized sewing classes. I'll be posting a schedule soon, so if anyone is interested, let me know!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Asilomar Weekend!

Oh happy day, Susannah and I are finally here for the Heather Ross/Gretchen Hirsch sewing retreat! We only left Kensington an hour late which -if you know us- is hardly late at all! Made it to Saturn Cafe in Santa Cruz for lunch, see the face of eager anticipation below!

Then we made it to Hart's fabric store...the most awesome store EH.VAH. Seriously, every bolt was the best thing you'd ever seen. I'll post photos after I make the gifts that my fabric purchases are meant to be. Susannah found a fab grey with fuchsia print that is just so her!

The sewing camp gals all seem super nice and supportive. We have a huge room to work in and lots of muslin, carbon paper, and yards upon yards of pretty fabric to look at. Lauren came in from Texas, Katrina from Alabama, and someone else from Boston! Lots of local peeps also, from the Bay Area and further north like Nevada City and Newcastle. A lot of folks are knitters too...they seem to be pretty sympathetic disciplines.

And now to get some shut eye for the big sewing marathon tomorrow!