This quick boxy pouch tutorial has been in high demand by our students ever since we started teaching this little project at the end of our Sewing 101 class. If there’s enough time after finishing their main projects (and after celebrating with wine or cookies, of course), students have the choice of whipping up a satisfying boxy zippered bag using the basic skills they learned throughout the course. Students are usually quite chuffed that they can create something so cute (or handsome) from start to finish in just over an hour or so.
I probably don’t have to sell you on the usefulness of a bag like this, whether you use it for cosmetics, toiletries, craft supplies, baby toys, or small knitting projects on the go. There’s a dizzying amount of boxy pouch tutorials already on the web, but we teach ours a bit differently in order to make it super quick and super beginner-friendly. The tutorial below is the base project that we teach. You can always make yours fancier by adding topstitching, handles, pull tabs, and/or a fully clean-finished lining on the inside, and there are plenty of videos and tutorials for that out in the wild.
So here’s our quick ‘n dirty (….but still fun to make, impressive, and totally gift-worthy) boxy pouch tutorial!
– Main fabric, cut to 12″ wide x 17″ long. You just need one piece, not two! Use a fabric that is medium to heavyweight, such as canvas, denim, upholstery fabric, twill, linen or thicker wool blends.
– Lining fabric, cut to 12″ wide x 17″ long. Also just use one piece here. Use a fabric that is lighter weight than the outside fabric.
– Medium-weight fusible interfacing cut to the same dimensions. I used two layers applied on top of each other to make the bag more structured.
– 11″ or longer chunky zipper
– Zipper foot for your sewing machine
– General sewing supplies (machine, iron, shears, removable marking tool, clear ruler…)
STEP 1. Apply fusible interfacing to the wrong side of your main fabric. As mentioned, I used two layers of interfacing to give the bag more shape and help it stand up on its own. We want a boxy pouch, not a floppy flat pouch, yea?
STEP 2. Attach one side of the zipper tape to one short end of the main fabric. Make sure the zipper pull is FACE DOWN on the right side side of your fabric. The side edge of the tape should align with the raw edge of the fabric. Pin in place lengthwise down the tape. If your zipper is longer than the width of the bag, unzip it fully to get the pull out of the way. Otherwise, unzip the pull halfway or so, which makes it easier to maneuver around when you approach it at your machine.
Using a zipper foot, stitch down the middle of the zipper tape. Maneuver around the pull by sinking your needle, lifting the presser foot completely with your right hand, and wiggling the pull back around the needle with your left hand. Lower the foot and continue.
STEP 3. Attach the other side of the zipper tape to the other short end of the main fabric. To get this positioned properly, roll up the side with the zipper to meet the other end of the fabric. Make sure the zipper pull is face down on the right side of your fabric. Pin and stitch.
STEP 4. Sew the lining to the zipper. You will sew the exact same seams you did in Steps 2 & 3, except there’s a third layer of lining included. Think of this way: you’re sewing the lining to the main fabric, right sides together, and the zipper will be sandwiched in between. To position, unzip the zipper halfway or so, then place the lining right side down on top of the zipper. Pin and stitch.
Repeat for the other side of the lining. This can be a bit confusing. It helps to flip out the lining as pictured below, then roll it up to meet the other side of the zipper. Make sure the fabric is right sides together, with the zipper sandwiched between.
STEP 5. After the lining is sewn, flip the whole bag right side out and press nice and flat next to the zipper. You can do optional lines of topstitching along the zipper here to keep everything even flatter.
STEP 6. Unzip the zipper halfway (important!!!), then flip inside out and position the side seams together. Try to center the zipper, then pin the sides together. The top of the zipper will be separated so do your best to position the teeth next to each other and pin securely. Slightly overlapping them also helps.
Triple check that you left the zipper partway open so you can still flip the bag after you sew it. Using a regular presser foot, stitch sides together at 1/2″ seam allowance. Try to glide your needle directly next to the zipper stops if possible. Otherwise hand-crank your machine over the metal to avoid breaking your needle. You may want to reinforce the area next to the zipper stops by sewing over it again.
STEP 7. Optional: finish these seams. I used a serger in this example to neaten the seams and prevent fraying. If you don’t have a serger, you can use a zigzag stitch (4.5mm wide, 1.5mm long) or trim with pinking shears. Or leave them raw — I won’t tell.
STEP 8. Boxy magic time! Reach into one of the corners of the bag and flatten the corner into a triangle. You have to rotate the bag to get this positioned, so the seam you sewed in Step 6 should sit vertically in the middle of the triangle.
Measure and mark a 3-inch line that runs perpendicular to that seam, then pin in place. Repeat for the other three corners of the bag. This should puff up your bag into a 3D shape.
When sewing over the existing seams (the serged ones in these photos), make sure the seam is pushed down to the bottom of the bag, in the same direction as the zipper tape:
Sew along the marked lines, backstitching securely at the beginning and end.
STEP 9. Trim the excess fabric of the triangles. Leave at least 1/4″ of the seam intact. You can leave these raw or finish with a zigzag, serger or pinking shears.
Flip right side out, push out all the corners, and admire your work. You are DONE, my friend! Enjoy!