Zipper Pocket

I have been making a lot of bags lately and one feature that I use almost all of the time is a zippered pocket.

These are super cute and convenient on both the inside and outside of the bag!

To create a zipper pocket you need one zipper, fabric for the pocket, and the fabric panel (either lining or exterior fabric) where you want the zipper to be placed. You begin by placing them fabric pieces right sides together. You then sketch a rectangle for the zipper window on the wrong side of the pocket fabric. I like to make the zipper window at least 1 inch below the top edge of the pocket fabric and at least 1 inch from each side. I also like to make the window 3/8 inch tall. (You may need a taller rectangle if you are using a zipper with larger zipper teeth.

You then stitch EXACTLY on the rectangle. This is super important! For years when I tried making a zipper pocket it always looked sloppy because I wasn’t careful about stitching the rectangle. To help myself be more precise I now use stitch length 2.0. I also slow down as I approach the corners and make sure I pivot with a 90 degree angle. Another trick that helps is to count the number of stitches you use to show the first short side and use the same number of stitches on the other short side. This will help make a nice even rectangle.

TIP: If you accidentally stitch too far, or mess up, I recommend taking the time to go back and fix it. It makes a big difference. Avoid simply backstitching to correct the error if you go too far. This actually makes the pocket harder to turn and it won’t lie flat in the end.

Next, you will clip the center of the window. Cut a line horizontally down the center of the box. About 1 cm from each end angle off to the corners. Clip very close to the stitches but be sure not to actually cut the thread!

Before I turn my fabric I really like to press. I find this helps the fabric to lay flatter and creates a better rectangle.

I fold the pocket fabric down along the top of the row of stitches of the rectangle and press. Then I do the same, lifting the pocket fabric up and pressing on along the bottom edge of the rectangle. And repeat for the left and right. It helps SO much!!!!

Then after pressing, I turn the pocket fabric through the opening, shaping the rectangle and press. I like to press from both the pocket side and the main fabric side.

TIP: Using a tailors clapper to help press is also really nice! It helps trap in the heat and set the folds.

Finally, you are ready to add the zipper! Simply lay the zipper right side up and place the window you created right side up on top of it. You can use pins, fabric glue, or double sided wash away tape to hold the zipper in place. Then stitch around the rectangle with a 1/16 – 1/8 inch seam allowance.

TIP: Before you start sewing make sure you know where the metal stoppers for your zipper are placed. You don’t want to accidentally stitch on one. It could cause damage to your tools and./or injury.

Once the zipper is attached it’s time to make the pocket! Simply fold the bottom of the pocket fabric up so that it touches the top of the pocket fabric, with right sides together. Pin around the edges (of just the pocket fabric) and sew with a 1/4 inch seam allowance. You will have to move the main fabric out of the way as you do this.

And the pocket is finished!

Below are video instructions for how to create the zipper pocket! There is both a Quick Overview and Detailed Instructions.

QUICK OVERVIEW:

DETAILED INSTRUCTIONS:

Happy Sewing!

Pleats

Pleats create fullness to your fabric and are a good alternative to gathering. Instead of scrunching up the fabric along the stitch line, you simply create folds.

Pleats can be a lot easier than gathering. They are quick and lie really flat. However, you do have to make sure they are consistently sized and placed, and that can be the tricky part. Often times patterns will have pleat placement guides which indicate the size and position of the pleats! This is really nice and takes out the guess work of pleating. So, as we practice how to make pleats we will use placement guides.

Free Pleating Guide Samples:

If you don’t want to make the pleats by hand you can use a Ruffler foot on your machine. They can be a bit tricky to use at first, but are a great option if you are planning to pleat anything that is really long such as the edging of a pillow, etc.

To create pleats you need two guide-marks, where the pleat starts and where it stops. In the first sample I marked this guidelines with sharpie to make them super obvious (NOT what I would do on an actual project!), but you could do something similar with fabric markers or chalk, something that will wash away.

You can also use pins of different colors as guide-marks. In the second sample, I used green pins to represent the start of the pleat and red pins to indicate the stopping point.

When you pleat, you fold the fabric at the starting point and bring it over to meet the stopping point mark, hiding the fabric between the two marks and following the direction of the arrow.

There are many many ways pleats can be arranged. Common placements include pleats all going the same direction, half going one way and half the other, or two pleats that meet at the same point going in opposite directions. Just be sure to look at your pattern or guide for the correct direction and placement.

Here’s what that process looks like with pins instead of marks.

When sewing pleats in place it is important that they remain flat. As a result, I like to use a sewing tool to hold them in place while I sew. My favorite tool to use is That Purple Thang, but a sewing stiletto or the back edge of your seam ripper also works. Just remember to stay safe and keep your fingers clear of the needle, a sewing tool helps ensure that and protects your fingers.

When you are done sewing, pressing is really helpful! You can press just in the seam allowance, all the way to the bottom of the fabric, or somewhere in the middle depending on your preference or the directions in your pattern. If your fabric is really thick, or composed of multiple layers, it may also be helpful to press before sewing. Just be careful not to press your pins 🙂

In the end, pleats are a quick fun way to add detail and decoration to a project!

Free Pleating Guide Samples:

SKILL BUILDING VIDEO:

Happy Sewing!

Gathering

Gathering can be found in many sewing projects and is used in everything from basic crafts to garment construction.

There are several different ways to gather, but my favorite way is using two rows of stitches.

TIP: USE TWO ROWS OF STITCHES

Creating your gathers with two rows of stitches provides a safety net, just in case the worst happens and a gathering thread breaks. It may save you from having to start all over again. The two rows also helps the fabric to lay flatter. This is a plus when you need to sew the gathered fabric to something else.

When sewing gathering stitches always use a long stitch length. The longest stitch length on your machine is usually best and can range anywhere from 4.0 – 7.0. I find 5.0 – 6.0 is usually my go to stitch length for gathering. The thicker your fabric, the longer the stitch length needed.

The two rows are stitched with a gap between them. I find it most successful when I use a 1/4 and 1/2 inch seam allowance for the gathering stitches. This leaves a wide 1/4 inch gap and provides a little bit of leeway for small errors in the seam allowances size. (If the rows of stitching get too close together it may stop the fabric from sliding along the threads.)

When you gather you do not backstitch (this would create a knot) and you leave the thread tails long.

TIP: SLIDE DON’T PULL

To create gathers we hold the two bobbin threads and slide the fabric. Our instinct when gathering is to pull the threads to create the gathers, and if that doesn’t work, we pull harder. Uh oh…then you hear it…snap! The thread breaks. This is a particularly dreadful noise when you are gathering, especially if it is something large. Having the two rows of stitching instead of one could save you, but not always.

So, instead don’t pull…slide. Simply hold the thread tails in place and slide the fabric along. See the video below for what to do when it won’t slide anymore! Pulling the threads isn’t the answer, as there is too much of a chance of that thread breaking. But if you remember….slide, slide, slide! It helps 🙂

TIP: USE TWO DIFFERENT COLORS OF THREAD

When you are just learning how to gather, identifying the correct threads to hold can be tricky. If you thread your bobbin and top thread with two different colors it makes it super easy to find the threads you are looking for! The bobbin threads become obvious and you won’t make the mistake of holding the wrong pair of threads. I used yellow thread for my main spool, and blue thread in the bobbin.

TIP: GATHER FROM BOTH SIDES

Sometimes when we are on a roll and gathering quickly we accidentally slide our fabric off of the threads entirely! At that point, there is nothing to do but begin again. To avoid this, gather half of the fabric from the left, and half from the right, so there is no danger of sliding the fabric too far.

See the video below for a detailed tutorial on basic gathers!

SKILL BUILDING VIDEO:

Happy Sewing!

Sewing Skill Builder: French Seam

A French seam provides a great finish to many projects. In a French seam no raw edges are visible, as they all become trapped inside a small casing.

This can be a really great feature as you won’t have any frayed edges. I have found this seam to be very helpful on projects that are going to be washed a lot, which usually creates a lot of strings. I also like to use a French seam on projects in which the inside will be visible.

To sew a French seam you actually sew twice.

You sew first with the fabric WRONG sides together. This can seem strange since we usually sew with right sides together.

Then we trim, press, fold with the fabric RIGHT sides together and sew again along the same edge with a larger seam allowance.

Now, on both the right and wrong sides of the seam, no raw edges will be visible.

Once you get the hang of it, a French seam is fairly simple, and it’s a great skill to have in your Sewing Bag of Tricks 🙂

INSTRUCTIONAL VIDEO:

Skill Builder: Unpicking a Seam

No matter how long you’ve been sewing, or how much experience you have unpicking seams is inevitable.

Sooner or later, you will have to unpick a seam. It’s actually good to do so. In most cases, when something goes wrong, it is best to redo it right away. Ignoring it can often make the issue worse, as you may find that what went wrong impacts what you will need to do four or five steps down the road. So, if we can become comfortable and skilled at unpicking seams, we will be able to improve the overall results of our sewing projects!

In this video I will show you four different ways to unpick seams. Since many fabrics are different, often the way we unpick the seams differs as well. All of the methods have their uses and are helpful in a variety of situations.

Method 1: Unpicking from the Wrong Side

This is usually done with the fabric laying flat and right sides together. It is the most common method of unpicking, and is my go to method in most cases.

This method is actually quite simple, but it’s easy to do more work than you need to. Just remember…you don’t have to unpick EVERY stitch! That’s usually not necessary unless you are using a very small stitch length or are working in an area that was backstitched.

Simply slide the seam ripper under every 4th or 5th stitch, tearing the thread, and then pull thread from the back and ta da! It’s all undone!

Method 2: Unpicking from the Right Side

I use this method a lot on fleece or plush fabrics. I find on these fabrics my stitches sink right into the fabric, and sliding the seam ripper under the stiches can be difficult. I also like using this method in situations where the stitches are difficult to see, especially if you are using coordinating thread.

Lay your fabric flat with the seam allowance open. Unpick the first few stitches one by one, and then gently pull the fabric on each side away from each other. You will then be able to see the thread between them. This makes sliding the seam ripper under the threads much easier! And since you are gently pulling as you go, it often is quite quick.

Method 3: Unpicking Zig Zag Stitches

Zigzag stitches are probably the easiest stitches to unpick. You simply slide and go. Guide the point of the seam ripper under the stitches and slide right through. The seam ripper is usually able to glide under several stitches at once, ripping the stitches of the seam in seconds.

Method 4: Using the Little Red Ball

This is a really popular method for unpicking and is super convenient. Simply unpick a few stitches in the seam to get it started, then slide the little red ball between the layers of fabric, and gently push it through the seam. The little ball helps separate the fabric so only the threads are cut.

As the seam ripper slides down the seam it will cut the stitches. This method is SO fast. If you are careful it works great. This can be done with the fabric wrong sides together such as on the edge of a closed project, or with the fabric laying flat and the seam allowance open (which protects the fabric a bit more). It is actually pretty fun to watch the seam ripper slide smoothly along the edge and take out those unwanted stitches 🙂

I want to love this method, I really do. It is so easy and it’s nice to just slide that seam ripper along and let it do its’ work. Unfortunately, this method does have its drawbacks. Every once in a while a bit of fabric gets caught in the groove and the blade can tear a hole in your fabric. This could happen for a lot of reasons. It could be the weight or position of your fabric, a dull seam ripper, unexpectedly tight stitches, or any number of other reasons. I have on multiple occasions cut a hole in my fabric using this technique. As a result, I don’t use it very frequently. I also avoid attempting it on expensive fabrics or project that don’t have any leeway in sizing. I’ve found it’s just a bit too risky for me. That said, a lot of people love it and this is the method they use all of the time. So, give it a try! Find the method that works best for you and don’t hesitate to unpick a seam when needed!

Video Instructions: