See how to sew a handy tote with a big zipper pocket across the front! The Big Zip Pocket Tote Bag is easy to sew and perfect for errand running, trips to the library, or days at the pool! Read on for the tutorial.
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We have a drawer in our house where we keep tote bags. Not nice tote bags, but the freebie ones that you get from vendors or from organizations. They multiply like rabbits in there. The other day I reached for a tote bag from that drawer and was surprised by the bag that I pulled out. Overall the quality was not great, which is typical of a freebie tote bag, but it had a really nice zip pocket all the way across the front.
And it turns out that little feature is super handy. That big pocket is just about as big as the bag, so it works like a divider – but with a zipper across the top! If the bag was prettier, that freebie bag would have become by go-to errand running tote. Instead, I sewed myself a new errand running tote, incorporating the front zipper pocket I loved so much.
And… I’ve got a tutorial showing how I made my Big Zip Pocket Tote Bag!
I used a bright, fun vintage fabric for the front panel. I don’t have that much of it and I’d been saving it back for just the right project. It turns out that this bag design is perfect to stretch a favorite fabric that maybe you don’t have that much of.
Most of the bag is actually either a natural canvas or a green ripstop nylon. The entire back of the bag is the canvas, as are the straps and the color blocking on the front. I used the green ripstop nylon for the bag lining and the pocket lining.
I color blocked some of the canvas on to the top of the bag lining because I don’t like it when my lining peeks out to the front – especially when it’s a high contrast with the outside fabric.
This is a roomy tote, with finished dimensions approximately 16.5” wide x 16” tall. That’s plenty of room to hold library books or a beach towel – perhaps this tie-dye beach blanket ! The ripstop nylon I used is water resistant, which is super handy if you’re using this as a pool or beach tote.
How To Sew A Big Zip Pocket Tote Bag
1 piece – 12.5” tall x 17.5” wide (bag front)
3 pieces – 2.25” tall x 17.5” wide (bag front top, lining top)
1 piece – 5” tall x 17.5” wide (bag front bottom)
1 piece – 18.5” tall x 17.5” wide (bag back)
2 pieces – 4” tall x 28” wide (straps)
1 piece – 30” tall x 17.5” wide (main pocket lining)
1 piece – 2.25” tall x 17.5” wide (top pocket lining)
2 pieces – 18.5” tall x 17.5” wide (bag lining)
1 nylon zipper at least 18” long
Unless otherwise stated, all seam allowances are ½”.
Make the zip pocket and bag front
Start by making a sandwich with your zipper, one of the 2.25” x 17.5” canvas pieces, and the 2.25” x 17.5” lining piece. Place the lining piece right side up, then the zipper right side up, and finally the canvas right side down – with raw edges touching.
Stitch the layers together, using a zipper foot to stitch close to the zipper.
It’s okay if your zipper is longer than the fabric pieces. Just sew it in and let the extra zipper hang off the edge; we’ll trim it later.
Turn right side out and press. Top stitch close to the zipper.
Now let’s make another sandwich, this time with lower pocket pieces.
Place the pocket lining (that’s the long piece, 30” tall x 17.5” wide) right side up, then the zipper right side up, and finally the feature fabric right side down, raw edges touching. Stitch the layers together.
Turn right side out and press. Top stitch close to the zipper.
Take the bottom of that long lining piece and fold it to the back, with raw edges touching at the top (above the zipper).
Baste together across the top with a ¼” seam allowance.
Fold the pocket lining out of the way. Sew the 5” tall x 17.5” wide canvas piece across the bottom of the feature fabric panel, right sides together. Be careful not to sew through the pocket lining!
Press the seam allowance to the feature fabric. Top stitch close to the seam.
Make the outer bag
If you need to trim your zipper, now’s the time to do it. BEFORE YOU CUT THE ZIPPER, partially unzip the zipper so you don’t end up trimming off the zipper pull. Baste the unzipped ends together to keep the zipper pull from coming off.
Sew the bag back (canvas piece 18.5” wide x 17.5” tall) to the bag front around the sides and the bottom, with right sides together.
Box the corners to give it a 3” bottom. If you haven’t boxed corners before, here’s a good tutorial showing how.
Make the lining
Sew each of the remaining 17.5” x 2.25” canvas pieces to the top of each 17.5” x 17.25” lining piece, right sides together. Press seams open.
Now, place those two pieces right sides together and sew around the sides and bottom, leaving 4” open on the bottom.
Box the corners to give it a 3” bottom.
Make the straps
Press the 2 28” strap pieces in half lengthwise wrong sides together, then open up and fold long edges to the center and press again.
Top stitch close to the edge down both sides of each strap.
Assemble the bag
Pin the straps to the top of the bag 2.5” from each side, right sides together and with raw edges even with the top of the bag. Baste in place ¼” from edge.
Place bag inside the lining, right sides together. Stitch around the top.
Turn right side out (using the hole you left in the bottom of the lining). Top stitch around the top close to the edge.
Hand stitch the hole in the lining closed.
FINISHED! Enjoy your Big Zip Pocket Tote Bag!
Really pretty and practical bag! Your illustrations make the instructions so easy to understand.
Beautiful! Great instructions. What is the floral fabric you used? It’s gorgeous. ❤️
Thanks!!! The floral is a vintage fabric I’d been hoarding for a while. I wish I could get more of it! 🙂 –Anne
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Like the DIY project! It looks very cool.
Whats the finished size of the bag?
Finished dimensions are approximately 16.5” wide x 16” tall. –Anne
Thank you for the great instructions…..love this pattern…..I made the first one full size and then did a 80% size and next a 50% size. Added a pocket to the lining………….very nice, thank you again!!
This bag is STUNNING! And I just love the idea of a whole large zipper incorporated to the front! I definitely need this! 🙂 Lisa