Sunday, August 9, 2009

Recessed Zipper Shoulder Bag Tutorial

Recessed Zipper Shoulder Bag

This tutorial is provided free of charge. If you wish to acknowledge me in any way, just link to this post directly.

To use this tutorial successfully, you need to have basic knowledge of how a bag is sewn. This tutorial focuses on adding a recessed zipper to a bag. I have used more photos for the recessed zipper bit only. When it's not too difficult to figure out, I just have a "What you should get" photo. If there's anything I've missed out or if you spot any errors, please put in the comments and I will address them. Thanks. :D

My cut pieces

Note: backstitch all ends.
1. Cut the fabric
a) From pattern provided cut : 2 outer fabric & 2 lining
Get your pattern from my link below. You can download a copy to your computer or you can print without downloading; make sure "scaling is set to None" or "actual size" to print at 100%. HERE

Impt: Take the pieces you have cut and measure the top length. (the length which will match the band) Mine measures 10 1/2". If yours doesn't it's okay, just make the length of the band you're going to cut next match your length.

b) Band - 4 outer fabric (10 1/2" long (or whatever your length is) X 3" wide) Note: If you don't want the band to be so deep, just change the width to something smaller.

c) Please read step 6 before you cut the straps. Straps - 2 outer fabric (26" long X 2 3/4" wide)

2. Interface your pieces if you want to. As for me, my fabric is pretty thick and I don't like interfacing so I'm skipping it.

3. Sew tabs and the zipper to the band.
a) I'm using a 8" dress zipper. I usually use continuous zippers but I'm using a dress zipper here as I think most people would have access to one. If you've never tried continuous zippers, you should try it. It's much easier to sew. Only drawback is the colour available is rather limited.

b) Sew tabs to the end of the zipper. Take 2 small pieces of fabric. (avoid using thick fabric) Put the zipper end in between the 2 fabric right side together.

Sew on the wrong side of fabric close to the metal bits. I use a line to guide me so I don't sew on the metal bits of the zipper. Trim seam allowances.

Flip the fabric right side out. Topstitch. Repeat for other end of zipper.

Cut tabs to size. The length of the tabbed zipper should be about the length of the bands. Mine is just a little short but that's okay because of the seam allowances.


Centre zipper on band and pin with zipper facing down and band right side up.

Sew zipper to band with 1/4" allowance using a zipper foot.

4a) Now's a good time for you to add labels/pockets to the lining if you want to.


Centre band (with zip) on the lining with band right side down and lining right side up.

c)Sew lining to the band. You can use the seam line on the band as a guide.

This is what you should get

d) Repeat for the other side of the zipper to the band and lining

Pin another band to the unsewn side of the zipper with band right side down. See picture above.

Sew band to the zipper.

This is what you should get.

Sew other lining to the band and zipper you have just completed. Make sure the right side of the lining faces the wrong side of the zipper.

This is what you should get.

Sew the side seams of the lining together using 3/8" allowance.

6) Before you sew the straps, make sure you know how to turn a tube inside out. If not, please use some other methods to sew the strap. You will then not follow my measurements for the strap.

Otherwise, carry on...

Fold the strap piece into 2 lengthwise. Iron.

Sew the raw edges lengthwise together using a 1/4" allowance.

Turn inside out. I use a large safety pin.
Iron and topstitch. Repeat for the other strap.

7)Sew the finished strap to the right side of the band 2" away from the side using 1/8" allowance from the edge of the band. 1/2" of my straps are "buried" in the seams but you can do what you like.

Sew the main outer fabric to the above matching the part of the band with the strap attached using 1/4" allowance.

Topstitch the seams. (on the wrong side, the seam allowances should all be facing down)

Topstitch the parts of the strap that crosses the band stopping about 3/4" away from top of the band.

I'm not too detailed for this step but by looking at the photo above you should be able to see clearly what I mean.

Do the same for the corresponding strap. Note: Make sure the length of this strap matches the length of the strap already sewn.


Sew the side seams of the outer fabric together using 3/8" allowance.

9) Now's a good time to do something about the bottoms of the bag if you want to. For me, I'm doing darts. You can leave the bag flat if you like.

p.s. if you want to learn how to draw bag darts, please go to this post:
This is how I draw and sew a bag dart

Sew the bottom of the outer bag together using 3/8" allowance.

Seal up the darts if you are using any.

Do the same for the lining. But leave a gap for turning the bag out.


Match the outer bag with the lining right sides together. Pin along the band. Sew the top of the bands together using a 3/8" allowance. If 3/8" will cut into the strap, use a smaller seam allowance.

11. Turn bag right side out through the opening in the lining. Press. Topstitch the band. It's a little hard to topstitch around the corners. Alternative is to topstitch by hand or just leave it as it is.

12. Close the opening in the lining. And this is how a recessed zipper is done.

Have fun.:D

* * *
Below are my bag patterns which are available for sale at Etsy (instant download). Clicking on the images will take you to my Etsy shop.

hand sanitizer holder pattern

For more Applique Resources
For more Tutorials


Chowz Creations said...

Love your tutorials! Thanks for sharing how to do a recessed zipper - this will come in very handy I look forward to creating one of these bags. You always have such wonderful fabrics.

Sew Create It - Jane said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sew Create It - Jane said...

This is a superb tutorial...thanks so much for getting in touch and telling me it was here :o)

(Sorry about the deleted comment...I made a spelling mistake :o)

jane p said...

Hi Chowz Creations and Jane,
Thanks. You guys are so sweet.
Muah, muah. :D

cottonreel said...

This fabric is lovely, I have not seen it around, The bags are great--cottonreel

jane p said...

Hi solomi558
the fabric is 100% cotton from ikea! it's strong but not stiff. i don't even use interface.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for this tute. I really like the bag shape and it will be the next bag I make. I also am very thankful because I have a bag I have not finished because of the zipper. It too is recessed and I did not know how to do it. Perfect instructions here. I took a class and a lady came in and took the instructors time because she had nothing done. So I had to go it alone and just could not get how to do the zipper. Whew, now I do!
Donna Rae

Mariont said...

This is a good bag pattern. I used an offcut of very expensive curtain fabric, and I wadded and quilted it. I also put piping along the join between the body & band and that looks quite professional. The only trouble I had was making the inner band stay down inside the bag when the zip is being pulled. I used some strong thread at the side seams to hold the layers together.

jane p said...

hi Mariont
when i zip my bag, i tend to use my left hand to hold on to the side of the band and my inner band never comes up. One other solution i can think of for your problem is to topstitch the side seams.

Annie said...

This is a great tutorial, but how do you sew continuous zippers? Can they be used in bag making?


jane p said...

Hi Annie
You sew continuous zippers the same way as regular zippers. Cut off more than what you need. You can always trim excess off later. The 2 things to take note of are: 1) the width of the zippers is larger 2) if the zipper pull comes separately, you must learn to put the zipper pull into the zipper.
The disadvantage is such zippers come in limited colors. Try it. You won't regret it.
Jane P

SawoKecik said...

thank you for the tutorial .. my friend asked me to make her a zippered shoulder bag .. and I am looking for a pattern and a tutorial ... and I found yours ... thank you very very much... ^.^

Anonymous said...

thanks a lot for your tutorial I´ve been looking for one of this for months!! I now know how to make one with lining, zipper and the straps all together. I´ll make one and I´ll write to you if i have questions.


Mayya @ Sew Chic and Unique said...

Great bag, great tutorial it is defintely on my to sew list :)

Sarah Vanderburgh said...

Thank you, Jane. I have successfully navigated putting in a zipper to another zipperless bag pattern thanks to this tutorial! I will use this method again.

Anonymous said...

This was such an excellent tutorial Jane - I have modieifed it a little and have made two handbags which incorporate old zips in the exterior design. Thanks again!

Unknown said...

Absolutely LOVE this bag. My daughter will love this - think I'll make it for her birthday (16!). Thanks for your tute. Lovely!

Ali said...

Jane - this tutorial is fantastic and finally helped me successfully add a zip! I have added pictures to your flickr pool :)

Mokcarthy said...

Just found this tute, and read your profile. Love the comment about dedicating your life to hiding the raw edges. Hope to see more of this (but have to go, as I am at work, and the boss needs this computer now!)

regina said...

hellow jane, i just found your blog, and like it so much! i hope soon i'll have a sewing machine so I can make this bag:)

Jodi Reed said...

I just made this bag and it turned out great! I made it a little deeper and the straps about twice as long. Thanks for the great tutorial.

Anonymous said...

Thaqnk You Great tutorial I am making this bag now but I change making the straps. To avoid having to turn straps right side out I make the straps the same for all my bags I cut a 5" wide by the length desired and press a fold to center on each side then fold over and press and sew around all edges, usually I sew down center of strap also gives a little more firmness.

Anonymous said...

d) Repeat for the other side of the zipper to the band and lining

Pin another band to the unsewn side of the zipper with band right side down. See picture above.

I don't understand "pin another band to the unsewn", what unsewn side?

Projects By Jane said...

@Anonymous comment above...
Up to the point where you did not understand, I have shown how to do only one side of the band and zipper. Simply repeat for the other side of the zipper.

Forget about the unsewn side if you don't understand.

Hope this helps.

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