Puns N Needles

Dispatches from my adventures: sewing, knitting, and otherwise.


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After she looked at pictures of some purses I made, like this one,


my friend Alex, who’s a talented sewist in her own right, asked how I did the zipper.  So, while sewing a few more similar purses, I decided to document the process. I followed the instructions given by Anna Graham, in her envelope clutch pattern.

I have never created a sewing tutorial before, and I’m usually so involved in making the things that I make I don’t take the time to get pictures of the process. But this time, I wanted to show Alex how I did the zippers in the purses, so I present to you a mini-tutorial.

First, I placed one pocket piece on top of a lining piece, and I used either chalk or my erasable ink pen to draw the pocket opening. It should be about 3/8 inch tall by 5 1/2 inches wide (though the length depends on your zipper length*). Feel free to use really fancy fabric for your pocket lining.


Then, I sewed around the outside of this rectangle. This attaches the pocket to the purse lining at the zipper opening.


Now the zipper opening must be cut.  Use sharp scissors or a rotary cutter to cut a line in the middle and then use small snips to get close to the corners, without cutting any stitches. This will give you a very clean edge.


Once the opening was cut, I turned the pocket to the back side of the purse lining and pressed.

To attach the zipper, I first used a glue stick to place the zipper; then I used a zipper foot and long stitch length to top-stitch. That’s it. It’s actually quite straightforward.


*I started with 7 or 8 inch zippers, which is a common size for both clothing and accessories. And you can always shorten a zipper, which is what I did with several of these purses — I prepared the opening and then cut the zipper to fit.  However, I have since purchased 5″ zippers, and plan to make the zipper opening slightly shorter now.

I am a bit opinionated about zippers.  Confined to what I can get with a quick run to the store, my choices are in the small Coats & Clark zipper rack in Walmart.  Where I live, it requires at least a 45 minute drive for more fabric and notions selection. Lucky for me, the Machinist both loves shopping at antique malls and yard sales, and believes in having the proper tools and materials available.  So, when we see vintage zippers, trim and buttons, he strongly encourages me to snap them up. Thus, I’ve amassed a selection of vintage zippers – some used, but mostly new; some nylon, but mostly metal teeth; and some in the package, but mostly loose or grouped together.

Here’s one of those in action in a knitting case I made for my mother-in-law.  It fits her needles and current project, which is normally a dishcloth:


For my wedding last May, my mother helped a TON with all manner of projects, sewing and otherwise. One of the greatest things she did for me was to make two bridesmaid dresses. Neither bridesmaid lives close to me or Mom — so other than a fitting at a shower that the bridesmaids helped host at Mom’s house, it was a distance sewing experience. And Mom did a fantastic job. Look at those dresses (I made the vest – no zippers there).


I did a final fitting with bridesmaid Kyla (left), whose dress was created with a typical invisible zipper, as per the dress instructions. We found that the dress was really hard to zip. Partly this was due to a slightly tight fit — but partly, the zipper didn’t work great. And I had, in my stash, metal zipper of the proper length, white cotton tape, and hand-picked it into place. Vintage notions to the rescue!

But when planning to make a passel of purses with zippered pockets, one can’t rely on a stash of vintage zippers (most of which are long enough for a dress), nor is it practical to spend retail prices. I have found a few internet stores, including this etsy shop that have good quality zippers if you are looking to bolster your stash.

And  while Brad’s vest doesn’t have any zippers, it does have buttons – and you can expect a post on those soon.



Author: Accacia

I'm a librarian at a college in Lexington, Virginia. I sew, I knit, and I cook.

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