The story of a dozen zippers

Serena of Sew Giving decided she wanted to make a Sew Together Bag, and she did not have to put much pressure on me to get me to join in. I had been toying with the idea for a while, and we thought they would not be too difficult if we worked together. So, we decided we would have a sew-along, starting in February. I even gave our sew-along a snappy working title: The Sew Demented Sew Together Bag Sew-Along with Sew Giving.

Anyway, independently, we started planning the outsides of our bags. I got carried away and started planning three. When you cannot decide which fabric combination to use, make all three. I chose to use selvedges on one, some Liberty print on another and a Japanese hedgehog print I bought in Spain on the third.

Sew together bags decorated in three different ways

Which is your favourite?

Serena and I consulted a bit about fabric choices before our sew-along evening. She was a great help when it came to my hedgehog bag as I wanted to use the hedgehog fabric and somehow include an appliquéd hedgehog. I was struggling to decide where to use each until she straightened me out. We also quizzed any of our friends who had already made one about tips and techniques.

Sew together bag decorated with an appliquéd hedgehog

I appliquéd a hedgehog on this bag. The design was copied and enlarged from the fabric I used on the ends of the bag.

Then, we met up at my house one evening to tackle the zippers together. Honestly, the zippers were not at all problematic (unless you get bits of fabric caught in the wrong spot when top-stitching). We both took Crazy Mom Quilts’s advice and added end bits to our zippers. I really like the finished look and how it avoids some bulk in the side seams.

The only truly difficult part when sewing these bags is sewing the sides. You might have to adjust your tension, needle type and foot pressure when sewing the side panels to the pockets. I tried my walking foot but my machine skipped stitches. In the end, I found my normal quarter-inch foot with a reduced foot pressure and a heavyweight needle was the winning combination. Also, when you attach the sides and pockets to the outside, it looks totally wrong, but keep going. It looks like the pockets will get pinched in the corners. They will, a little, but not so much it will be a problem. Persevere.

Sew together bag decorated with an Liberty Dresden plate and lace

I am not entirely sure that the lace was a good call, but I wanted to add more embellishments than I usually do.

Here are my Sew Together Bag tips:

  • Once you have bought and downloaded Sew Demented’s pattern for the measurements, go straight to Quilt Barn’s tutorial. The pictures help enormously. Only go back to the pattern to fill in the gaps.
  • Add zipper ends like Crazy Mom Quilts. It looks nice, it avoids bulk and you can use fun little scraps of colours on each end of the zippers.
  • Watch which way your zipper pulls are pointing as you sew. You want them all to be at the same end of the bag.
  • Consider cutting the binding on the bias. I did that out of necessity on the selvedge bag because I did not have a big enough piece to cut on the straight grain, and the bias binding sits so much more neatly than the straight-grain binding does, in the same way that bias binding sits more neatly on quilts.
  • Consider hand sewing the long zipper ends instead of top stitching it. I tried top-stitching, did not like the way it looked and hand sewed instead. Now I have made three, I have an idea about how I could cut this piece differently and machine sew it next time. Serena and I both left part of the side binding open so we could tuck the bottom ends in neatly.
  • Hand sew the binding. It looks neater. Much neater.

If you want to make a bag with selvedges on the outside, as I did, fuse a lightweight piece of interfacing to a plain piece of white fabric. Then, with the interfacing side facing up, place a narrow strip of fabric, not a selvedge, across the middle of the outside (which will be the very bottom of the bag) before laying and top-stitching your selvedges in place. I made my panel a little large and then trimmed it down, and I worked from the middle (base) up to the top of each side, checking often to make sure they were still parallel.

Sew together bag made with fabric selvedges on the outside

I sorted through my selvedge box and chose only the warm-coloured ones – red, pink, orange and yellow.

Partway through, I thought I was daft to make three. However, now they are all finished, this bag no longer frightens me, and I would happily make more. All sorts of decoration ideas are still bubbling away in my head.

You really should read Serena’s post and check out her version of the bag, which is very different from mine. She has used hexies, and everyone loves a good hexie, right?



49 thoughts on “The story of a dozen zippers

  1. I love that you two are close enough together to be able to get together and tackle projects like these together. (ie – I am a super jealous!) 🙂 It sounds like you have some great tips and your 3 bags look lovely!

  2. WOW! Three at once! You are a glutton for punishment! I love the Liberty Dresden the best! Isn’t it fun picking out fabrics for the pockets and inners? I just wish I had a definitive use for mine….. What are you doing with yours?

  3. Oh Carla – they’re all beautiful, but still look like a lot of work to me. I have avoided this bug so far, and intend to keep avoiding it for as long as possible. There are some trends in life that you can just totally skip and life does carry on OK – can’t name any at present though (maybe Harry Potter, 50 Shades of Grey, The Hunger Games, Twilight etc).

    The dainty blue bag with the Liberty and added lace is so you. Lovely and calm.

  4. I wish that I had started with just as many outters (not sure that’s a word?!) as you, then I would have three bags too! I’m using my bag everyday – thank you for nutting it out with me 🙂

  5. All of your bags are beautiful… my favourite is the lacy one. I bought the pattern last year and read it a couple of times since… 🙂 , I bought the zippers and some fabric for it too but at the end I was not encouraged enough to start one. Thank you for all ypur tipps and tricks. Perhaps this year I’ll give it a try.

    • Annett, the pattern will make a LOT more sense when you read the Quilt Barn’s tutorial. I think I would have left it all in the cupboard for a year if a friend had not shared that tip with me.

  6. Only you would make three bags just to make sure you’d got it really, really right! And now look! Not one but three beauties. Personally I wouldn’t have added the lace to the blue one, which is my favourite, but I can see where you were going with it! Very feminine and pretty. Thanks for all the links and tips; in the unlikely event I get off my bottom to make a lovely bag like this, I’ll know where to go!

    • Only I would be daft enough to take on three at once! It was simply indecision at work.
      The lace was touch and go at several stages. I am, surprisingly, not much of a lace girl. It is growing on me now.

  7. These are great! My first favorite was the selvedge bag…but then saw you used my very fave pearl bracelet on the hedgehog bag, and a bunch of other faves on the inside, too…so I think Hedgey is my fave! They are super great! I have gone as far as going to look at the pattern….maybe one of these days! Thanks in advance for all the tips!!!

    • I think I like the insides more than the outsides, especially the bright insides of the selvedge bag and the ice-cream colours of the hedgehog bag. It is fun to be able to cram so many colours into such a small thing.

  8. Your sew together bags are lovely. Thank you for the great tips and links. I have the pattern and you have inspired me to get started.

  9. Great tips, especially the one about cutting the binding on the bias, I’ve made a couple of these bags and I think that bias binding would have made it slightly easier. I made my long zipper end about 1 1/2″ longer so I had a bit more leeway when attaching it, I never thought about leaving a small gap in the side binding to tuck it away. I think I will have to make another bag just to try these ideas out. My favourite bag is your selvedge one, it is gorgeous.

  10. These bags look great! I particularly like the one with the selvedges- pink and orange is one of my favorite color schemes. The bias binding with hand finishing looks amazing!

  11. These are fabulous! This is one of those projects I’ve wanted to make for ages, but have yet to build up the nerve to begin. I love that you created a wild and crazy sew along and made them together. Thank you for the tips, too. I will *try* to remember them (or at least where I read them) for when I finally get up the nerve to make my own Sew Together Bag(s). ps. I think I like the hedgehog one the best!

  12. These are amazing, although I would doubt I would tackle this project self! The selvage bag is awesome, great use of every scrap.

  13. Pingback: Zippery-doo-dah | Granny Maud's Girl

  14. Thanks for this great tutorial. I’ve been looking at quite a few posts about this bag & finally decided to order the pattern.

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