The Sew Easy Big Tote Bag - with a Zipper! (2023)

Let me show you how to sew a big beautiful bag from my free Sew Easy Big Tote Bag Tutorial – and add an easy zipper at the top!

I’ve had so many requests from readers asking me to post this zipper tutorial. A couple of you are making these totes to sell at craft fairs and your customers want a bag with a zipper. I am thrilled to hear that.

Well, here you go!

So here is the original Big Easy Tote Bag. Not including the straps, it is approximately 14’’ tall, 19’’ wide, and 4’’ deep.

As you can see, my zipper version is the exact same size. I followed the exact same steps that are in the original tutorial, except after the step ‘Topstitching and Optional Quilting,’ I sewed on the zipper tape. Then after the rest of the bag was done, I put on the zipper slide and sewed a tab to the end.

Sew easy! Just a few extra minutes add so much.

For the bag and straps, you will need:

  • 1 yard of fabric for the bag

  • 1/2 yard of fabric for the straps

  • 1/2 yard of foam stabilizer (at least 40’’ wide – ByAnnie Soft and Stable is 60’’ wide)

  • 1/2 to 1 yard of fusible interfacing for the straps

Refer to the original tutorial for important information about interfacing and directional fabric.

In addition to the supplies listed above, you will need:

  • a 48’’ – 50’’ YKK size 4.5 handbag zipper (Zippers By the Yard are highly recommended – see below)

  • a rectangle of fabric 2 1/2’’ x 4’’

Prepare the Zipper:

Cut off the zipper stoppers at either end and remove the zipper pull. Separate the zipper tapes. You only need one side (one 48’’ – 52’’ zipper tape) and the zipper pull.

When you are done with this you will have a 48’’-50’’ piece of zipper left over. If you can find a long enough zipper with two pulls, you can use the second pull with the leftover tape for another project or cut the extra long piece of zipper in half and put the two pieces together with a zipper pull to make a 24’’ – 25’’ long handbag zipper.

Of course, if you make a lot of bags and pouches then I totally recommend simply buying Zippers By the Yard because they come with a whole package of pulls and you can cut the amount of zipper you need – which is what I do because it is the most economical choice of all.

Visit the Sew Easy Big Tote Bag Tutorial and follow all the steps in the sections Cutting, Attach the Stabilizer, and Topstitching and Optional Quilting. Make sure your topstitching is precisely 1/2’’ away from the top edge of the bag body piece.

Attach the Zipper

This step is actually very easy. I will provide lots of photos so you know just where to sew it!

1. Choose which side of your bag body piece will be the interior (lining) and which side is the exterior. If you used directional fabric, the side where the print is upside down will be your interior or lining.

Place your bag body piece on your workspace with the interior side facing up, and the topstitched edge along the top.

Center the long zipper tape along the top edge with the right side of the zipper against the bag interior. Place a few pins if desired.

2. Carefully turn the bag body piece over and place plenty of pins on the right (exterior side) directly on top of the topstitching. (remove pins on the wrong side, if you used any)

The zipper teeth should be even with the top edge of the bag.

Since we used a wide handbag zipper, pins placed horizontally on top of the topstitching will catch the zipper tape about 1/8’’ above the lower edge. Work slowly and turn the bag over to the other side often to check.

In addition, place vertical pins 2’’ from each top corner – these mark where you will start and stop sewing.

2. Start sewing 2’’ from the top corner (where you placed one of the vertical pins). Backstitch and sew right on top of the topstitching across the top of the bag, catching the zipper underneath.

Stop sewing 2’’ from the opposite top corner (where you placed the other vertical pin). Backstitch.

When you are done, turn the bag piece over and double check that the whole length of the zipper tape
(except 2’’ at either end) was caught in your stitching.

Complete the section ‘Make the Straps.’

When you complete ‘Sew the Seams,’ pin the ends of the zipper away so they won’t get caught in the seams.

Finish the Zipper

1. Hold the two zipper ends together and trim the ends so they are even.

Tip: to make it easier to put on the zipper pull, cut off the zipper teeth for 1/4’’ on either side of the zipper. This gives you ‘tabs’ to hold on to while you slide on the pull. {This tip is demonstrated in the video for Lesson 2.3 of my Pop Up Pouches Video Course.}

2. Attach the zipper pull.

3. Prepare the tab:

  • Fold the ends of the 2 1/2’’ x 4’’ piece of fabric to the wrong side by 1/2’’. Press.

  • Now fold the long edges to the center. Press.

  • Fold the tab in half and press again. It should measure about 1 1/4’’ x 1 1/2’’.

4. Slide the end of the zipper in between the folds on tab. Clip in place.

5. Sew around the tab, 1/8’’ from the edge to secure it.

Enjoy your beautiful bag! As always, I’d love it if you posted a picture to Instagram and tagged me @SewCanShe so I can see.

The next feature that I want to add is pockets! Make sure you are subscribed to my free newsletter so you don’t miss the tutorial when it comes out.



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