How to Sew an Exposed Zipper into a Handbag

In your sewing adventures, have you ever wondered how to sew a zipper into a purse? It looks a bit tricky, but in reality, sewing an exposed zipper in a purse is quite easy.

Exposed Zipper in a Puse

Whether applied to an inside pocket or as an outside pocket application, when properly done they serve a useful and practical purpose for any handbag. As is the case with most zipper applications, careful preparation before the first stitch is sewn facilitates the insertion and helps to produce a professional looking zipper. Accurate measurements and careful marking are the keys to inserting this simple zipper.

Here’s a simple tutorial on how to sew an exposed zipper into a purse:

Zipper Lined up with Interfacing

Step 1:

The process begins with preparing the zipper opening.

In this example, a typical 7-inch polyester zipper is used. With that in mind, stabilize the zipper opening with fusible interfacing. Cut a strip that is equal to or slightly greater than the length of the entire zipper. In other words, the 7-inch zipper plus the portions above the zipper tab and below the zipper stop. In this case, that is approximately 8 ½ inches. The width of the strip should be approximately 2 inches — enough to sufficiently support the zipper through the wear and tear of use in a handbag.

Fuse the interfacing strip to the wrong side of the pocket fabric.

Marking the Opening for the Zipper

Step 2:

Now that the zipper opening is well stabilized, it’s time to mark the opening.

Draw a line, lengthwise, through the center of the fused interfacing. Draw a line perpendicular to it indicating where the zipper begins and stops.

Next, draw two lines, one ¼ inch above and another ¼ inch below the center line. At each end mark a triangle. These are the cutting lines that create the ½ inch opening for the zipper.

Slicing a Triangle into the Opening

Step 3:

Cut the center line to the points of the triangles at each end, and also cut the triangles as shown. This can be done with either a pair of small (and very sharp) scissors or an X-Acto knife.

Folding Back Fabric for the Rectangular Opening

Step 4:

Now press the flaps to the wrong side of the fabric, using the ¼-inch marked lines as your guide to create the opening. Take care to make sure the ends are square and the opening is no more than ½ inch wide.

Pinning the Zipper Inside the Opening

Step 5:

With the right side of the pocket facing up, slide the zipper (right side up as well) under the opening. Position is so it is centered lengthwise and the zipper tab and stop are within the opening. Pin the zipper in place to prepare it for the final stitching.

Machine Sewing the Zipper into the Opening

Step 6:

Using a zipper foot, stitch close to the folded edge, pivoting at each corner to create a stitched rectangle around the zipper. Pull thread tails to the wrong side of the zipper opening. Tie them in place and trim. Give the pocket a final press and complete the pocket construction as required.

Now that you know how to sew a zipper into the purse, why not go the extra mile and design your very own bag from start to finish?

In Design Your Own Handbag, instructor Brett Bara teaches you how to customize your own boutique-quality handbags, including slouchy hobo bags, functional toes and curved top bags complete with hardware and straps.

You might also enjoy our post The Full Monty: Sewing Exposed Zippers.

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