Uftdah.  This post has been a longtime coming — and I’ve been promising it for a while now.  Sorry!  I’ve shared a quick overview of how I modified my Cargo Duffle (a free pattern by Anna of Noodlehead for Robert Kaufman fabrics).

One of the ways I changed my bag was completely removing the “cargo” pockets on the exterior of the bag.  I chose to put a zippered pocket on both the outside of the bag and the lining of the bag as well.

I remember the first time I added a zipper to a pouch: I followed a tutorial that seemed in line with all the others I could find, but when it was completed, I was so disappointed that the zipper tape showed inside the pocket.   I know… it’s on the inside, who cares.   But I care, and I wanted pockets that I added to projects to look a bit cleaner — no zipper tape showing and full lining with pretty seams.

I played around with interfacing and fabric and made a lot of mistakes before finding a way that I like to consistently do my zippered pockets.  My mom has since found a few other ways to add them (without the zipper tape showing), and I want to try those soon to see if I like them even better!

1|| Begin with the fabric to which you’ll be adding the zippered pocket.  In this case, it’s the side panel of my cargo duffle.

2|| This step is optional, but I love the way it finishes the look of the zipper.  Take 2 small pieces of fabric (or in this case, leather), and sew a square to the each end of the zipper.  I typically use about a 1″ x 3″ piece of fabric that I fold over, so it has a clean edge that will show.

3|| At this point, you’ll need to measure your zipper and decide on the length for your opening.   // If you added fabric/leather to the ends of your zipper, measure a length that includes about 1/2″-3/4″ of fabric on the ends.  // If you left the zipper as is, I typically make the opening a bit small than my zipper teeth length.  You’ll sew carefully over the zipper teeth, but this way your pocket will shut completely.

After you’ve determined your zipper pocket length, make a rectangle with fabric pen on your interfacing fabric.  *When I first made a successful zippered pocket, I just used interfacing.  My mom pointed out that I could just use fabric, and it would not only be a bit stronger, but also match the exterior fabric.  She is smart.  You could iron a fusible interfacing onto this fabric if you’d like to add even more durability to this seam, but I don’t think it’s necessary.*

4|| We are almost to the scary part — the part that involves cutting the exterior fabric which always has me quadruple-checking to make sure I’ve layered, measured and sewed everything correctly.  Take your interfacing fabric and line it up on the right side of your exterior fabric — place it where you want your pocket to be.   If you are someone like me who likes to know the why of everything, this fabric is going to help create the slit that will house the zipper.  We are sewing right-sides together, so that we can flip the interfacing fabric to the wrong side to create a nice opening with no raw edges.  You’ll see. ;)

5|| After you’ve sewn the interfacing fabric in place, take a small scissor or blade and cut the rectangle as shown in the photo above.  I typically cut a line down the very center with markings where I will start the angles to my four corners.  I take a small and sharp scissor to get the final corners nice and clean.  Be careful not to cut through any of your rectangle seams!


6|| Now we will push the interfacing fabric to the inside of the zipper pocket.  It’ll make sense as you do this step —

Be sure to press the interfacing fabric flat against the interior of the pocket.  If you are using a thick exterior fabric like I am, you’ll maybe see a little puckering on those far edges as you can see above.  Don’t worry — not a big deal at all.  I promise. :)

And this is what it should look like from the front.


7|| Line up your zipper on the wrong side of the exterior fabric — it can be a bit tricky, as you’ll want to make sure it’s sitting straight and centered from the front.  Pin in place.


8|| I like to have as few seams showing on the outside as possible, so I like to sew in my zipper at the same time as my lining.  If you’d like, you can sew a top stitch around the perimeter of the zipper opening prior to adding the lining.  Or you can follow along with the next steps here.
The lining will be made from 1 or 2 pieces of fabric — I will try to explain this as simply as possible!
\\ 1 Piece of lining: cut a piece of fabric that is about 1.5-2″ wider than your zipper opening.  It needs to be long enough to be sewn with about a 1/2″ seam allowance to the bottom of your zipper, and then account for the depth of your pocket x2.
\\ 2 Pieces of lining (as the photos will show): cut 2 pieces of fabric about 1.5-2″ wider than your zipper opening.  One piece needs to be long enough to sew to the top of the zipper with a 1/2″ seam allowance and go up into either the top seam or however high you’d like the pocket to go.  The second piece of fabric will need to be long enough to sew to the bottom of the zipper with a 1/2″ seam allowance and then account for the depth of the pocket x2 — plus enough to match the top seam.
Does that make sense?  If you use two pieces of fabric, your pocket will open down into the physical pocket space as well as opening above the zipper as high as you desire.  If you use one piece of fabric, the top pocket seam will be right at the zipper opening, so it won’t open “upwards” at all.  It’s totally preference!  If you choose to use 2 pieces of fabric, you can always sew down the top at the zipper if you’d like after the fact.
Okay — let’s do this.

9|| Place your fabric — the longer of the two, or your only piece of fabric, we will call this Fabric A — right side down against the zipper going over the actual zipper and up to the top of the bag.  I didn’t get a good photo of this step… I’ll try to take a few next week and add them back in! I like to line up the edge of Fabric A with the bottom zipper tape.  Pin in place and carefully sew from the front of your zipper pocket.  Just sew along the long bottom edge of the rectangle.   Flip to the back side of the pocket and press the pocket lining fabric seam.  You’re beginning to create the actual pocket here.

10|| This step is for when two fabrics are used.  Take your smaller fabric and line up the edge agains the top side edge of the zipper tape.  The right side will be down — right sides of the lining together — pin and place and sew that seam from the exterior of the pocket along the top long side of the rectangle opening.   Flip it over and press that piece of fabric in place as well.  You should begin to see how the pocket is taking shape.

11|| At this point, we will sew up the side seams of the pocket.  \\ One Piece of fabric: fold your lining fabric up towards the zipper.  Be sure that the folded fabric is providing the depth of pocket you wish to have and pin in place — it needs to at least cross over the zipper and align with the top side of the zipper tape.   Sew up the sides of your pocket lining.   Flip over and top stitch along the remaining ends and top side of the rectangular zipper opening.   \\ Two Pieces of fabric: fold your bottom/larger lining fabric up towards the top piece of lining fabric.  Match the raw edges — I like to make them longer than my external piece of fabric so that they are attached at the top of my bag when the external pieces are sewn together.   Sew up the sides — and top, if necessary.  Flip over and top stitch along the remaining ends of the rectangular zipper opening.  Be careful when sewing over the zipper teeth, especially if using a metal zipper!

12|| Trim your threads and excess fabric — voila!  Continue creating your project!

You can also add a zipper to the lining of a bag/tote/etc.  You will follow the exact steps above, you just won’t be dealing with such a thick external fabric as I was for my Cargo Duffle.  (My external pieces were quilting cotton, cotton batting and cotton canvas.)

1|| Determine zipper placement in the lining.

2|| Add fabric or leather tabs to the end of your zipper, if desired.

3|| Mark your zipper opening on the interfacing fabric and pin to right side of lining fabric.

And here is a fun way to utilize your ScanNCut.  Using your marker set, measure out the dimensions for your zipper opening, and creating a rectangle using the built in shapes on your ScanNCut machine.  

You can even use the scanner to fussy-cut where you’d like the zipper opening to sit on the exterior fabric as well!  Line up those rectangles and continue with the instructions!

4|| Sew around the zipper opening perimeter.

5|| Cut opening and pull interfacing fabric through.  Press.

6|| Pin zipper in place and continue with pocket lining steps.


You did it!  Let me know if you have any questions — it definitely is a bit more involved than other zipper pockets that show the zipper tape, but I love the end result!



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