Bags can be such a fun sewing project to jump into, but if a full-size tote sounds like more than what you’re ready to handle, we have the perfect solution: a makeup bag! It’s the ideal way to start installing zippers, working with different fabrics and adding custom touches that truly make a bag your own. Plus, they make great holiday gifts — win, win!
Level: Advanced beginner
Finished size: 10″ x 5″
Pro Tip: Not the size you want? No problem! Alter your dimensions and seam allowances to make the bag any size you like. The dimensions given in this project will make a bag like the blue one pictured above.
What You Need
Pro Tip: Fat quarters work great for this project — pick out one for your outer fabric and one for your lining fabric, then you’re good to go! You can use quilting cotton for both the outer fabric and lining, or try something heavier on the outside of your bag, like linen canvas or even waxed canvas.
1. Create Your Pattern
To make your pattern piece, cut your paper into a 10½” x 5½” rectangle. (Use your craft scissors for this — never cut paper with your fancy fabric shears!)
Cut out 2″ squares in the bottom corners (one of the long edges). These will form the boxed bottom, and the section in between will become the bottom of your bag.
2. Cut Out Your Fabric
Fold your outer fabric in half, wrong sides together, and pin the pattern piece in place. Cut around the pattern, then repeat on the lining and interfacing. You should now have two pieces of outer fabric, two pieces of lining and two pieces of interfacing.
3. Fuse the Interfacing
Fuse the interfacing to the wrong side of the outer fabric, following the manufacturer’s instructions.
4. Sandwich the Zipper
Place your zipper wrong side down on top of the lining. (If your lining fabric has a right and wrong side, the right side should be facing up.) Line up the length of the zipper tape with the cut upper edge of the fabric. (Because the zipper is longer than your bag, the pull will stay out of the way when you’re sewing.)
Place one piece of outer fabric, right side down, on top of the lining and zipper. Pin in place along the zipper. The outer fabric and the lining should be perfectly in line with each other and both should be flush with the zipper tape.
5. Stitch It All Together
Sew the lining and outer fabric to the zipper using a ¼” seam allowance.
Pro Tip: You can sew as close (or far!) as you prefer to the zipper teeth, depending on how much of the tape you want to see in the end. If you have a zipper foot for your machine, use it here.
6. Press the Seams
Press both layers away from the zipper, being careful to press the area around the seam very flat as you will be topstitching there next.
Topstitch along the zipper seam through the outer fabric, lining and zipper tape. This step will keep your fabric in place, and prevent it from getting caught in the zipper.
7. Start Your Second Side
Place your second piece of lining right side up on your work station. Lay the zipper sandwich on top, right side facing up. (The two pieces of lining should be touching.) Make sure the top of edge of your lining fabric is aligned with the top edge of the zipper tape.
Lay the remaining outer piece on top of the first outer piece, right sides together. Again, the top edge of this piece should align with the top edge of your zipper tape. Pin your pieces in place.
8. Stitch and Press (Again)
Just as you did on the first side, sew along the zipper using a ¼” seam allowance (or use the same seam allowance you did on the first side, so you see the same amount of zipper tape on the right side of the bag when finished.)
Just as on the other side, press the lining and outer layers away from the zipper, being careful to press the topstitching area very flat in preparation for sewing.
Topstitch the second side, maintaining the same seam allowance as the first side.
10. Pin and Prep
Lay the entire piece open with the outer fabrics facing up. Open the zipper halfway, so you can turn the bag right side out later.
Pro Tip: DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP. Yes, it really is that important. If your zipper isn’t open, you won’t be able to turn your bag right-side out.
Flip the layers over, folding so the right sides of the lining pieces and the right sides of the outer fabric are together. Pin in place on the sides and bottom. Make sure your zipper tape is folded in half as well, with both edges pointing towards your lining fabric.
11. Sew the Sides
Sew along the two sides of the bag, using a ¼” seam allowance.
When you get to the zipper, just sew straight over it, as shown in the clip above. (Coil zippers have nylon teeth, and your needle will go right through it, no problem). Trim your zipper once you’ve sewn over it. (Again, your scissors will cut right through it.)
Sew the bottom of the bag on the outer fabric side. On the lining bottom, only stitch a bit on each side so that at least 3-4″ is left open for you to pull the bag right side out later.
Your piece should look like this at this point. The sides and outer bottom are sewn, but the middle of the lining bottom and the corners are left unsewn.
12. Sew the Corners
Fold the corners so the raw edges line up, flattening the bottom seam against the side seam to form a straight line. Fold one seam allowance to one side and the other side’s allowance to the opposite side to reduce bulk. Pin in place.
Sew the four corners with a ¼” seam allowance.
13. Flip the Bag Right Side Out
Reach your hand into the bottom of the lining and through the open zipper. Turn the bag right side out.
14. Close the Lining
Fold the seam allowance in at the bottom of the lining and pin in place.
Sew the opening closed. Fold the lining back into the bag.You’re done!