Tote Bag Pattern with Zipper, in just 7 steps

Large Recessed Zippered Tote Tutorial, Free Bag Pattern #largezippertote #largetotebag

Learn how to make a large zippered tote bag with this free pattern. Step by step tote bag pattern with zipper.

Having pondered about a new bag design I settled on making a large recessed zippered tote bag. I often wander around department stores seeking inspiration for bag designs, this time I found myself admiring the large roomy bags for sale, specifically with a folded design of corner. today I am sharing with you my tote bag pattern with zipper, the finished bag measures 14 1/2″ height by 16″ wide and 5″ depth. As a large roomy bag you will be able to carry lots of stuff around! 

Recently I was offered some of Tilda’s new Autumn range of fabric to play with, I knew immediately I would make a bag but spent ages contemplating different designs.  

Looking to sew up a super roomy tote bag? This free sewing tutorial features a recessed zipper plus a fabulous external pocket perfect for keys and mobile. What's not to love with this free pattern? #sew #bagpattern #totebag #sewingproject

Personally I am rather passionate about bag making – if you are new to bag making I have the perfect Beginners Bag Making Course for you which covers so many essential skills for bag making, and includes many free bag tutorials. 



Tote bag pattern with zipper


            Outer Bag

  • Two pieces 7 1/2 by 18″
  • One piece 18 by 21″
  • Contrasting fabric one 8 1/2 by 18″ (pale turquoise in the instructions)
  • Second contrasting fabric 8 1/2 by 21″ (pink flowers in the instructions)
  • Third contrasting fabric  two pieces 5 by 8 1/2″ (deep pink)
  • Piping two pieces 18″
  • Fabric to cover piping two pieces 18 by 1 1/2″
  •    Lining fabric
  • Two pieces 18 by 21″ (main lining)
  • One piece 13 by 8 1/2″ (slip pockets)
  • Two pieces 9 by 12″ (zip pocket pieces)
  •   Contrasting fabric for recessed zipper –
  • Four zipper panels 15 1/2” x 2”
  • One zipper tab, 4” x 2-1/2


  • Fusible fleece
  • Heavy weight iron on interfacing
  • Magnetic snap
  • Zip 16″ (recessed zipper closure to bag)
  • Zip 10″ (internal pocket)
  • Bag handle webbing 1 meter

The finished bag measures 14 1/2″ height by 16″ wide and 5″ depth.

Front central panel

Let’s start with the front central panel of the bag. Iron on fusible fleece to the reverse of the first contrasting fabric

Iron on heavyweight interfacing to the wrong side of the second contrasting fabric. Fold this in half.  Insert magnetic snap 1″ down from this folded seam, centrally. Insert the snap only through the top layer of fabric.

Top stitch across the top of your folded fabric.

Create the pocket closing flap. Iron interfacing. Place pieces right side together. Using a mug, a roll of sellotape (anything circular you have to hand) mark rounded edges on two corners. Trim the curves to your mark line.

Stitch around the curved line. Clip into the curves and then turn right side out.

Press. Pin your pretty pocket fabric onto the central panel, bottoms aligned. Baste in place. Place your flap onto the central panel so that the flap aligns over the pocket, work out the placement of the other side of your magnetic snap, insert through one layer of fabric on the back of this flap.

Fold the straight edges in of the flap and topstitch close.


Place the flap back on the central panel, with the magnetic snap closed. Pin and then top stitch along the straight edge.


Assemble the outer bag

Piping – place your piping into the contrasting fabric, pin then stitch in place with a zip foot (so you can stitch close to the piping).


Iron on fusible fleece to the wrong side of each denim piece.

Now let’s join the front pieces of the bag together. Place the raw edge of the piping along the raw edge of your decorative front panel. Place the denim on top raw edges matching so your piping is as cheese in bread! Stitch the seam close to the piping. Repeat for the other long side of the decorative panel.

Place the front and back of the bag right sides together. Stitch a seam along the bottom of the bag. Fold this seam inwards 2 1/2 inches, pin in place.


Stitch the side seams of the bag. 

Turn the bag right sides out  – you will see you have made the corners of the bag.


Lining pockets

Iron heavy weight interfacing to the wrong side of each lining piece.

Slip pockets- turn over and press twice raw edges of the slip fabric. Place on the lining 4″ up from the bottom of the bag centrally. Stitch around the three sides of the pocket.


Mark a central line, dividing the slip pocket in half with tailors chalk. Stitch, creating two slip pockets.



Zip pocket

Place your zip pocket fabric  5 1/2″ in from the side and 4 1/2″ down from the top, right sides together.


Mark a rectangle 9 by  1/2″ as your stitch guideline.

Stitch round the rectangle. Cut along the middle of the fabric as marked.


Turn the lining fabric through to the wrong side. Press the edges of the opening.


Place your zip behind the opening and tack in place.


Machine stitch in place. Turn your fabric over. Place the second piece of the fabric pocket, right sides together.


Stitch around the pocket, being careful not to capture the main lining.

Recessed zipper

Place one of the zipper panels right sides facing you. Place your zipper right side down along the top long edge, 1/2″ from short end. Place second zipper panel wrong side facing you on top, therefore sandwiching the zip.


Using a zipper foot stitch along your pinned line. Fold the fabric over, and press away from the zip. Fold the raw edges in 1/4″ all round and press. Top stitch.


Fold in half over the zip end, pin and stitch.


Assemble the lining.

Place lining right side up. Place the zipper panel 1 1/2″ down centrally. Pin and sew align the edge of the zipper panel.


Repeat with the other side of the lining.


Pin the two sides of the lining right sides together.


Stitch down the sides of the bag and partially along the bottom. Do not stitch several inches along the bottom of the bag, this will enable you to turn it right side out later.

Fold the side seam to the bottom seam, creating a triangular shape. Mark across at right angles creating a 5″ long seam. Stitch and trim the seam.


Assemble the Zippered Tote Bag

Add the bag handle to the main bag, stitch securely in place. If you would like to switch it up check out my how to make bag straps post which clearly shows how to make adjustable bag straps.


Place the right sides of the main bag and lining together.


Stitch around. Turn right side out, topstitch around the top of the bag.


Slip stitch to close the gap in your bag lining. You’ve done it, you have completed the tote bag pattern with zipper!!



Step by step it’s not complicated, if like me you are put off by recess zippers they really are OK!


Large Recessed Zippered Tote Tutorial, Free Bag Pattern #largezippertote #largetotebag

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Here are links to all the other stops on the blog hop

Monday 4th September – SewandSo
Tuesday 5th September – Helen Philipps
Wednesday 6th September – Sew Sweet Violet
Thursday 7th September – Tea and a Sewing Machine
Friday 8th September – Vicky Myers Creations
Saturday 9th September – Little Black Duck

32 thoughts on “Tote Bag Pattern with Zipper, in just 7 steps”

  1. I like this bag and your color choices. I pinned your tute Large Zippered Tote Bag to my Pinterest board called “Bags”. My username on Pinterest is Hollyannd. Hope I win!

    • Hi Faith
      If you sign up to the newsletter you will be sent the information required to log into the resource library where you can download it:) Vicky

    • Hi Jan, They are on page 6 of the PDF – I am not sure what has gone wrong as when I open it via the resource library it is there. I will email you a copy to be on the safe side. If you have any further issues please let me know, Vicky

  2. Vicky; I have subscribed to your blog and newsletter but STILL cannot get the PDF for the large zippered tote. Very frustrating. I assume the PDF will contain the amounts of each required fabric as your tutorial does not. Please help.
    Sincerely, Laurel Schiller

  3. Hey 🙂
    I love the bag. There is one thing I miss for better idea of the finished bag – photo of the finished inside of the bag. For example photo from above so we could see how the finished zipper looks like and the lining. Would you happen to have such photos? Thanks very much! Greetings from Czech 🙂

    • Hi Shona, If you sign up to the newsletter then you have access to the resource library where you will be able to download the tutorial as a PDF – you can unsubscribe anytime, Hope this helps, Vicky

    • Good question!! The finished bag measures 14 1/2″ height by 16″ wide and 5″ depth. I have now added this to the post, enjoy your sewing, Vicky

  4. I’ve been thinking about a bag with a recessed zipper and here you are with all of the how-to instructions for me. Thank you so much.


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