Zipper Series – Part 1: Zip Pockets

Ages ago, I asked people what they wanted to see more of at Very Berry. Somebody suggested a series on sewing techniques, and somebody else mentioned the perennial stress of zips… so here we are – my first tutorial in a planned series on working with zips. This first instalment deals with creating a zipped pocket for a pouch, bag, tote or purse – there’s more to come on using lacy zips, making a covered zip on a cushion, putting a zip in a small coin purse…. I have loads of ideas! Do give me a shout if there’s any particular zip information you’d  like (bearing in mind I don’t do dressmaking, so haven’t a clue about that!).

Before we get started, here are some zip tips:

  • You think you know all about zips (how hard can it be?!), but I realised, when starting this series – I have no idea what the different parts of a zip are called – so here’s a a labelled diagram.
  • When buying zips, the measurement given refers to the length of the toothy (also called the coils!) section, and there is generally an inch or so of fabric at either end of the zip. So, a 10in zip actually measures around 12in if you measure it from end to end.
  • If you don’t have a zip that’s the right length in your stash, it’s easy to use a longer one and cut off the excess at the closed end. I tend not to bother buying zips that are shorter than eight inches because it’s so easy just to trim a zip down if I need anything shorter.
  • When trimming your zip – don’t use your best scissors (you wouldn’t, would you?) and make sure not to unzip the zip all the way after you’ve trimmed it and before the zip is in place – you will never get it back together again! Put a pin through the end of the zip or dab on a bit of fabric glue or clear nail varnish if you are worried that you might forget.
  • The best supplier of zips I know of is Zipit on Etsy. They are in the USA, but worth using even if you are based elsewhere because of the brilliant choice (of colour, length, style) and the delivery is speedy enough even though your zips are travelling a long way. (just 5 days the last time I ordered from them).

So, now you’re fully informed, we can get going:


Zip pocket tutorial at Very Berry

These instructions will work for any size pocket, so keep the link to hand for next time you’re trying to remember how to do it. And if you are struggling to see any detail in the photos – just click on the picture to get a bigger version of the image.

You will need:

  • An item that needs a zip!
  • A zip
  • Fabric to make the pocket
  • Iron-on interfacing for the pocket (optional, but I think it makes a more satisfactory, sturdy finish).
  • A glue pen/stick and pins (a glue pen isn’t essential but it makes the whole process trouble-free, in my opinion).

You wont need a zipper foot for this project – hurrah!

Step 1: Sort your zip out

Decide on your pocket dimensions – how deep do you want the pocket to be, and how wide do you want the opening to be? Make a note of your chosen dimensions.

If you want to use exactly the right sized zipper, the size you need is the same size as the opening you want – e.g. a 7in opening will need a 7in zip (remember, the 7in zip will actually measure about 9in when you include the fabric ends).

If you are trimming a zip to fit the opening, add 2in to the length of the opening and then mark that distance from the open end of the zip (the end of the fabric, not the coils!) and trim at the mark. So, for a 7in opening you would measure 9in from the open end of the zip, and trim at that point, as I’ve done below. 

pocket zip tute 1

Step 2: Organize the pocket pieces

Cut 2 pieces of fabric and 2 pieces of interfacing (optional) to make the insides of the pocket. They need to measure as follows:

  • width = length of opening plus 2in
  • length = depth of pocket required plus 1.25in

E.g. for a pocket with a 7in opening that you would like to be 6in deep, cut 2 pieces of fabric measuring 9in by 7.25in

Iron the interfacing to the fabric pieces, following the manufacturer’s instructions.

Take one of the pocket pieces and, working on the wrong side of the fabric, measure 1in down from the top edge, and 1in from the sides and mark a rectangle as shown in Step 2. The rectangle needs to be the width of the opening you want to create by a generous 0.25in:

pocket zip tute 2

Steps 3 to 5: Stitch the first pocket section

The final decision is the positioning of the pocket opening on the item you are making. It’s hard to be specific here because this is so dependent on what you are making. So I will use my project to take you through the process, and you can apply it to your own sewing.

I wanted my zip pocket opening to be centrally positioned, on the inside of a tote bag, 2.5in from the top edge (2.25in from the top edge after I sew the top seam of the bag). So, I measured down 1.5in from the top edge of the bag and placed the top edge of the pocket, centrally, at that point, to ensure that the opening would be 2.5in down.

So once you have your positioning worked out, place the marked pocket piece where you want the opening to be, right sides together:pocket zip tute 3

Here’s a close up so you can see that better:

pocket zip tute 3 close

Pin the pocket into place:

pocket zip tute 4

Adjust the stitch length on your sewing machine to a short stitch (1.6 or 1.8) and stitch round the rectangle you have drawn. Overlap the stitching as you get back to the beginning, and reverse stitch a little too, to keep your stitching secure. This is what it should look like when you are finished (ignore those red lines for now, I got ahead of myself):pocket zip tute 5

Here’s a close up of what it should look like after Step 5:

pocket zip tute 5 close

Steps 6-10: Stitching the zip in place

Mark your stitched rectangle as shown, with 2 little triangles at either end, and a line down the middle of the rectangle. Cut along these lines, being very careful to get quite close to the stitching at the rectangle corners WITHOUT CUTTING THROUGH IT.

pocket zip tute 6

Now, the really mad bit. Push the pocket pieces through the hole that you have just cut, so that the pocket piece is wrong sides together with fabric you are stitching it to. This is what you are aiming at – here is the front:

pocket zip tute 7

And this is the back:

pocket zip tute 7 reverse

Now press these seams as much as you can, with steam, so that you get a nice sharp finish, with a very neat rectangle. Mind your fingers – it is fiddly work. You should end up with something like this:

pocket zip tute 8

pocket zip tute 8 reverse

Working on the inside of the pocket, position the zip so that the zip pull, when closed, is aligned with the right hand side of the opening. Using a washable glue pen/stick, dab glue along the outer edges of the fabric section of the zip, and then put the zip in place, pressing firmly all round so that it will stay in place whilst you stitch around it. You can pin rather than glue the zip at this stage, but I can’t emphasise enough how much easier this is using glue.

pocket zip tute 9

Here’s how it should look before you stitch round the zip:

pocket zip tute 9 reverse

Adjust the stitching length on your machine again to your standard preferred length, and, starting on one of the long sides of the zip, working on the right side, stitch carefully all round the zip. You will need to unzip the zip pull out of your way as your approach it, and then zip it back again once you are past it. Take it very slowly and stitch as close to the zip as you can manage. Here’s how it should look, back and front:

pocket zip tute 10

pocket zip tute 10 reverse

Steps 11-12: Stitching the back of the pocket 

Take the other pocket piece (remember that?) and pin it to the other piece, right sides together.

pocket zip tute 11

Finally, stitch all round the edge of the pocket with a generous 0.25in seam.

pocket zip tute 12

You will need to fold the main body of the fabric that the pocket is attached to, out of the way as you sew. If you are finding this a bit tricky, it is easier to sew  each seam separately, rather than go round the edge all in one go.

And that’s it – easy-peasy! Seriously, I have made that sound far more complicated than it actually is – have a go and find out. Everyone needs pockets…

14 thoughts on “Zipper Series – Part 1: Zip Pockets

  1. What a great idea for a tutorial series! Zips are not my best area of sewing, so I shall be following this closely. I want to have a go at a couple of bags, but the zipa have been putting me off. Thanks in advance! 😊

  2. Thank you! very well explained. My Dad, who taught me to sew, showed me that method many years ago but I had forgotten it.

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