I prefer to have some type of closure on my bags so I thought a recessed zipper would be neat. I didn’t actually try one out until my coworker said that she wanted a basic reversible tote, but with a zipper. You probably remember that I attempted it a few times before coming up with something that I was satisfied with. See the attempts here, here, and here.
Continue reading for the tutorial. I’m going to tell you how I did it, but you should easily be able to adjust for any bag that you want to add the recessed zipper to. I have yet to try it on a curved bag, but when I do, I will be sure to let you know how it went.
Recessed Zipper Tutorial
I’m going to start with the tutorial for my bag, then at the bottom, I will explain the calculations that I used. So then you can determine the size of the pieces for any bag that you want to add a recessed zipper to.
My bag pieces were 13 1/2” across the bottom and 14” up the side. I boxed my corners at 3”, which is actually 1 1/2” down from the corner when you are boxing them. I also used a 1/4” seam allowance throughout, except for top stitching which is more like 1/8”. My zipper was extra long, but it needs to be at least the width of your bag.
Outside Pieces (2): 13 1/2” x 14”
Straps (2): 4” x 22”
Zip Ends (2): 4” x 3”
Zip Casing (4): 11 1/2” x 1 1/2”
Top Lining Pieces (2): 13 1/2” x 2 1/4”
Bottom Lining Pieces (2): 13 1/2” x 12 1/4”
Take the zip casing pieces and fold the short ends under 1/4”.
With the zipper teeth face up and the casing piece right side down, sew 1/4” from the edge to attach the zipper to the casing. Be sure to lock your stitch!
Here you can see where to sew. Also, you may notice that my zipper is extra long. I just buy long zippers and then cut them down to size for whatever project I’m working on. That way, I always (at least almost always) have a long enough zipper.
Repeat with the other casing piece, but with the teeth down. Be sure to line up the casing edges (not shown in the above picture), because it will be noticeable in the finished bag if they are not lined up.
Iron the casing pieces open.
Repeat the last three steps with the other side of the zipper. Again, be sure to line up all of the edges of the casing pieces.
Top stitch the inside of the zipper casing (the part near the zipper).
Sew across the ends of the casing. I originally sewed all the way across in order to stop the zipper, but decided that the zip ends would make a better stop for the zipper so I suggest to just sew each casing end together for a finished look.
Press long sizes in by 1/4″ and fold in half with short sides touching.
Fold in short sides with raw edges toward the middle
Fold in half so that the raw edges are encased in the middle. This is pretty much like you would make a strap.
Then fold the whole thing in half with the short sides touching.
Cut the end of the zipper so that it’s about 1 1/8” longer than the zip cover.
Place over the zip end and sew onto each end of the zipper.
The zipper is now complete! You can see in this picture where I sewed all the way across the zipper to stop it from opening any farther, but I ended up taking out those stitches so that the zipper end could serve the same purpose. Then, you get a slightly wider opening for the zipper.
Attach the Zipper Casings
The hardest parts are done!
Take one bottom lining piece (the large piece) and place right side up, and center the zipper with teeth face up across the top. Place the top lining piece (small piece) right side down and pin everything together. Sew using a 1/4” seam allowance across the top.
Press with the zipper down and top lining piece up, and then press again with the zipper up toward the top lining piece.
Now you can start to tell how the recessed zipper is away from the lining. Repeat for the other edge of the zipper and the two lining pieces. Be sure that the first pieces sewn together are not in your seam allowance. Press as before.
Here you can see the lining pieces laying flat.
Sew the lining pieces together like you normally would….right sides together, along the sides and bottom. Be sure that the zip ends are not in the seam allowance. Box your corners like normal as well.
Here is what it will look like when it’s turned right side out, but remember, lining pieces are actually with the wrong side facing out. The top of the top lining piece is what you will sew to your outer bag. Everything is pretty much the same as it would be if you didn’t have the zipper included.
Sew your bag lining to the outer piece (don’t forget your straps), turn right side out, iron, top stitch, and see your recessed zipper. Here, you have two options, either leave the zip ends loose, or you can sew them to the edge of the bag like I did.
All I did was make the zip end even with the top of the bag and centered with the side seam. Then I sewed the zip end to the bag.
This picture is before I attached the zip end.
First I’m going to start with some general information that you will need.
- You will want a zipper that is at least 2.5 inches longer than your bag width.
- The recessed zipper will become part of your lining, so the outer pieces of your pattern should stay exactly the same as written.
- The lining fabric will include the zip casing, the bottom and top of the lining and the zip ends.
- Since my bag had boxed corners, I decided that the zipper area should be the same width (3 inches).
- My outer bag pieces are 13.5 x 14 with a 3 inch completed boxed corner (this means that I sewed my line 1.5” down from the corner)
Zip Casing (2): 2 inches shorter than your bag width (11.5”) and half of your finished boxed corner width (1.5”).
To figure out the bottom and top of the lining pieces you have to consider your seam allowance. I tend to use 1/4” seam allowance, but this should work with a larger one.
Top Lining Pieces (2): Take your total lining piece (13 1/2 x 14) and determine how far down you want the zipper to be. I chose 2 inches and it’s just about perfect in my opinion. I actually wouldn’t go much farther down than that because then you will lose too much of your bag space.
Make the top lining pieces the original width (13 1/2”) and then add your seam allowance (1/4”) to the distance that you chose to lower your zipper (2”). So my top lining pieces were cut to 13 1/2” x 2 1/4”.
Bottom Lining Pieces (2): You will also keep the bottom lining piece the original width (13 1/2”). For the height, take your total original height (14”) and add your seam allowance (1/4”) then subtract your distance that you chose to lower your zipper (2”). So my bottom lining pieces were cut to 13 1/2” x 12 1/4”.
To double check your top and bottom lining pieces, add the heights (2 1/4”, 12 1/4”) and they should equal your original height plus two seam allowances (1/4” + 1/4” = 1/2”). As you can see, my original height is 14” + 1/2” = 14 1/2”, and 12 1/4” + 2 1/4” = 14 1/2” so my calculations are accurate.
I hope this all makes sense and that you are now able to add a recessed zipper to any bag. As always, if you have any questions just let me know.