Ok, you asked for it, you got it. This is how I make my quiled zipper bags! There are different ways to make them. This one is not lined and is a simple, flat rectangular bag. If you’re in a hurry, this is an easy and fast way to do it. This is also a great way to use your practice pieces and turn them into something cool. Or, start from scratch as I did here! 

SUPPLIES:

  • Fabric for front and inside (backing material),
  • batting (I use Dream Wool, sometimes Dream Wool on top of Cotton),
  • (OR instead of the above, grab some already-quilted practice pieces!)
  • a zipper a little longer than the width of your bag,
  • thread(s),
  • denim/jeans needle.

I like to cut a very wide rectangle which will be the outside front and outside back of my bag. I also like to use a strip of fabric in a lovely print for the top edge (optional).  

If you have added fabric along the top and sewn it on and ironed your fabric you can create your “quilt sandwich”. I used the same fabric for the backing as for the outside. Here, I’ve used one layer of Dream Wool. You can see on the lower right how I pieced two pieces of wool batting together! I wasn’t being lazy (this time!); I like using scraps, and I know with my FMQ design it will be secured in the quilting. As with all FMQ projects, you must allow for the batting and backing to be larger on all sides than the top section. My top section is pretty close to the actual size for my bag, though! On a sit-down longarm (and domestic) you don’t need too many extra inches like you do if your machine is on a longarm frame.

Now you’re ready to prepare the sandwich for quilting! Yay! The fun part soon begins. I like to do a basting stitch down the center to help me know where the left half ends and the right half begins. Later we will cut this sandwich in half.  Here, I am using the awesome Line Tamer Ruler (see in my Shop)! The channel down the middle helps ensure I stitch a straight line.

I then do a basting stitch around all four edges to secure the sandwich. I do use an extremely light mist of spray baste when assembling the sandwich, just enough to barely hold the fabric and batting together.

Now the FUN part, the quilting! I want to do feather motifs on each “side”/ half here. I draw my spines for my feathers using my fingernail and then sew the spines.

Then I start my feather on one side of the spine. After I finish one side I return to the beginning and do the other side, but here I decided to add more spines extending from the first spine. Sometimes I do both sides of the spine as I quilt.


I decided to use two colors for the feathers. I used Glide in a light purple for the main feather and Glide in a yellow-green for the center of the feathers. I did swirls in yellow-green on the printed fabric. My purple fabric is heavyweight cotton which provides a bit more structure.

And here’s a lovely tip: I use 10 stitches per inch (SPI) on most of my quilting, but to make the stitches stand out on a piece like this or on a wall hanging, I use 8 SPI. The purple thread is 10 SPI and the yellow-green thread is 8 SPI The 8 SPI shows more of the thread on the surface which gives the appearance of being a heavier or thicker thread and provides a nice accent. I discovered this by accident, ha. See, not all accidents are bad!

And, if you’re following along, this is how yours should look! Well, not the quilting maybe, but it should be all quilted now! 

Next, you will cut your sandwich in half vertically. Since I used a printed panel across the top and I want to be sure those line up when sewing the halves together, I line up the bottom edge of the print first as my straight edge and I use that when making all my cuts.

NOTE: This is the perfect time to remove your basting stitches and do a Zig-Zag stitch around all four sides of each half!!   


Zipper time! The size of the zipper doesn’t matter because we’ll be customizing the size of the zipper for our bag! You just want to make sure your zipper is big enough though. You can see here my zipper is a little too large for the bag. No worries!

Now, be brave, you are going to cut your zipper 1″ shorter than the width of your bag. Keep the zipper closed when doing this and do not open it! I like trimming a tiny bit off the top end, too. My bag is 13″ wide, so my zipper is cut to measure 12″ long.

Next, we are going to make tabs for the ends of the zippers! This will give the bag a nice look. Cut a piece of fabric 3″ x 2″, then cut it in half as shown so you have two pieces, each 2″ x 1.5″.  It can be the print you used or the same fabric as the bag, or a different color or fabric entirely. Notice how I used the selvage edge? I wasn’t paying close attention, but it doesn’t really matter anyway! Whew.

You will want to fold each into thirds, then in half. You can iron them or do what us lazy girls do, exhale some warm air onto them and squeeze them between your fingers; this is kind of like ironing them. Kind of. ha. Works! You will then insert the end of the zipper into one of the finger-pressed pieces as shown.

Now, you will sew the zipper tabs onto the end of the zipper at each end. See how the zipper tucks perfectly into the zipper tab fabric? Stitch over the zipper two or three times to secure it. I use NYLON zippers so my needle will sew over the zipper perfectly. (If using metal zippers you must be very careful (but who uses metal zippers anymore??)  For the top end of the zipper opening, I unzip it a little and sew the top half in first, then shove the bottom half in and continue sewing; makes it easier.

This is real word stitching and photos, obviously not cleaned up real pretty for your viewing pleasure (who has time for that?!!). Yours is going to look like this until you clean it up, too!  

Next, trim the zipper tabs flush with the edges of the zipper. How pretty!

Now, to attach the zipper. Remember the zipper is 1″ shorter than the width of the bag! You will want to center your zipper FACE DOWN on the outside of one of your bag halves.  Now, get over to your sewing machine if you aren’t already there!

I open the zipper to get started, and I use a zipper foot to sew the zipper onto the quilted piece.

When I get to a point where I can’t sew because of the zipper pull, I keep my needle in the down position, lift up the pressure foot and gently close the zipper, then continue sewing.

Once the zipper is sewn on, I fold the zipper over so it is face up and the seams are folded towards the quilted piece and I topstich close to the edge.

Next, I lay the zipper face down on the other quilted half of my bag and repeat this process.

Since you will have a wide piece to try to topstitch on this half, this is how I manage it. I roll up the right half, clip or pin it and this enables me to get it through the throat of the machine easier. 

This is what yours should look like at this point! Well, except for the FMQ, unless you copied me!

VERY IMPORTANT– OPEN YOUR ZIPPER NOW. OPEN YOUR ZIPPER NOW!!!!!!!!!! You’ll thank me later.

Now, fold your bag in half, right sides together with the zipper open! Align the TOP edges, don’t worry about the bottom edge; it’s the top edge that we want aligned!

Now for the trickiest part of the whole project, well, in my opinion anyway. Sewing all 3 sides together. Why tricky? Because of the thickness of the quilted pieces! You’ll want to get out a big needle for this. I use a denim or jeans needle on my little Elna domestic machine. But, hey, maybe your machine is powerful enough it can sew through leather (my Q20 can). If I can’t sew it on my domestic (such as when I use 2 layers of batting the full width of the project) I do use my Q20 and a big needle. Because we will be sewing all 3 sides together and we want to turn this inside out when done, this is why we leave the zipper OPEN! See? If you forget to leave your zipper open just try not to get wet tears all over your bag, ok?

You should start at the top, (making sure your zipper is open), and still using your zipper foot so the foot is not resting on the most bulk, in this case, the area to the left where the zipper tabs are. Since we’re not lining our bag, this is where the zig-zagged edges help keep the edges secured. Sew a little over 1/4″ seams here. Notice how the zipper tab is more than 1/4″ from the edges? Good! You do not want to catch the zipper tab in the seam! If yours is less than 1/4″ from the edge (like mine sometimes are, thanks to variations in quilting) just make your seams whatever they need to be without catching the tabs in the seam.

TIP: Sometimes, I just can’t sew through the thicknesses at the top. When this happens I just make sure the top is lined up,  and start sewing below the top edge all the way to the bottom. I then turn it around and sew towards the top. This usually works! It’s as if my machine just wants to work it’s way up to the bulk, rather than starting with the bulk! Here, you can see I am sewing back towards the top and my machine is much happier. As I said previously, if that doesn’t work then I use my Q20 and it sews through any bulk using a big topstitch needle! It’s just harder to sew straight seams, but you can do it if you need to!

Here is what yours should look like now, still wrong side out, but thankfully the zipper is open! It is, isn’t it? Hope so!

If you screwed up and your zipper is closed, open your bag from the bottom edge at the middle! Reach in, unzip your zipper and then re-sew the bottom seam, and just don’t do that again! Learning from our mistakes is a good thing!

Also at this point, if you want a more polished look on the inside, since this isn’t lined, you can fold 3/4″ wide ribbon in half and cover your seams on all 3 sides with ribbon; just fold it under at the top edges by the zipper tabs and sew!

Now the most fun part of all!!!! Turn the bag inside out (right sides out) so you can see your masterpiece! Push the corner in first to help, careful with the zipper. See how the zipper tabs bump up against the seam, covering it? Cool!

Now, this is where you want to add a pull to the zipper! This can be ribbon (as I chose to use), or you can add a clip and clip on a charm or two, or add a ribbon and a charm.  I used a much thicker ribbon for this than I normally use. I cut one end diagonally and then fold it so it’s skinny enough to fit through the hole in the zipper. I keep it long enough to tie the knot. The knot I tie is similar to the one you tie when hand sewing, using double strands where both strands wrap around themselves to make one knot. There are other ways to do this though.

And here’s the finished bag, front and back!

These are flat bags. If you want your bag to stand up you would need to plan your design to allow for a couple inches at the bottom of each half to be the flat bottom of your bag. There are some great tutorials online showing how to make a wide bottom bag and how to make a lined bag, etc.  Here’s a couple links although these are not quilted bags. Process is the same.

Here’s a makeup bag with a wide bottom.

Here’s a lined bag with a wide bottom.

Have fun!!!! Please leave comments and let me know if this was helpful or any suggested edits. Thanks!

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© 2018 Beverly Guhl