Sunday, 15 March 2009

Oops, my heart went oops

Let me just say at the outset that, despite having worked as a trainer, I always forget just how much work is involved in showing people how to do something. I just made a box pouch, the last one of the eight I was making for my WMIL, and took 44, yep, 44 photographs... That makes it sound complicated, but trust me, it's not, I just wanted it to be really clear... so, my first instruction is, read this all the way through before starting, just like an exam. There are some good hints there which will make life easier for you.

After re-reading this, I've decided to simplify it by assuming you all know how to make a zip sandwich and a box pouch already.  If you don't, check out this excellent tutorial on zipper sandwiches and this one on Box Pouches


  • This pouch was made using 6.5" X 4.5" or 16.5 X 11.45cm rectangles.  Don't make your first pouch much smaller than this, it becomes way too fiddly.
  • If you are putting a label inside the pouch, either stitch it to your lining fabric before you stitch anything to anything else, or after you've attached your lining and focus fabric to your zip, otherwise you'll have to do it by hand through the hole in the lining!
  • I always use iron-on interfacing on my focus fabric, it helps to maintain the shape and makes it easier to work with.
  • Make it easy on yourself by using a much bigger zipper than you need, 9"/22cm zippers are great for 6.5" pouches, that way you can gnore the zipper pull altogether. Leave it at the top of the zip and start stitching below it.
  • When you put your zipper in, make sure the cut-out bit of your zip foot is resting on top of the zip. That's what it's for, to help you get as close as possible to your zip.
  • If you are putting pull tabs or ribbon at the ends of your pouch to make it easy to open and close, stitch them to the right side edges of the focus fabric after sewing up the bottom seam. They go at the point where the side seam and bottom seam meet, right on top of the zipper.  It's much easier than trying to hold it all together when you come to stitch the side seams. Make sure the tabs have enough length in case you have to trim the side seams to straighten the pouch out.
  • If you want to top-stitch or decorate the bottom of your pouch, first stitch the seam, then do the decoration before you stitch the lining seam. It's much easier to do this way because you don't have to try and avoid the zipper, and the space is much larger.  Try it the other way and you'll see what I mean!
  • I recommend at least a 90/14 needle to help you sew over the zipper comfortably.  Anything smaller will probably break.
  • If you're making a bigger bag, use bigger corner angles.  Remember that whatever size corner angles you use will effectively be doubled once you form your corners.  If you have a 1/2" cutout, you will get 1" corners.  If you use a 1" cutout, you will get 2" corners.  It's the old "sum of the square of the hypotenuse" thing from school (half plus half equals one, one plus one equals two etc) 
  • Be careful!  If you make a 6.5" bag and use 1" corner angles, your pouch will be square, not a rectangle.  It will still be cute though.
  • If your side seams start to open where you have cut the corner angles out, it's okay to stitch over them again.
Okay, so let's get started.

We have assumed here that you have already stitched your focus, zip and lining together to make a zipper sandwich, and that you've top-stitched the zip to make it look nice and to stop the fabric from getting caught in the zipper.

This is the Most Important Thing! When you stitch the bottom seam of your lining fabric, leave a big gap (big is a relative term - big enough to turn the pouch inside out through) in the middle of the seam. Reinforce the stitches on either side of the gap, because this is where you will pull the entire bag right-sides out:

Assemble the pouch so you have two tubes, with your bottom seams centred over the zip.   Stitch in your ribbon pulls or tabs now, right where the side seam meets the zip.  Make sure you put them on the inside, having raw edges even.

Next, stitch across the side seams, but make sure the zipper pull is inside the pouch.  I like to pin the end without the pull together to make sure the opening isn't too big.  Do some double stitching over the zipper itself, because this is where all the pulling happens.

Again, making sure you haven't stitched the zipper pull on the outside, trim off the ends of the zipper.  You should have a small box looking like this:  

You can still get into the box from the lining side, which looks exactly like this, only with the lining fabric showing.

Now, this is where the good bit comes in!  Take your quilting ruler, or anything you can use to mark off a half-inch/1.27 cm square.  You must do this from the focus fabric side, because that is the side which is seen when the bag is finished.  Place your ruler on the side seam, and align it with the edge of the pouch:

Mark the corner angle with a pencil or wash-out marking pen: 

Snip out the half-inch square.  Note that one side will be longer than the other because you have to cut off all the edge after the seam stitching.  If you don't believe me, trim off the fabric after the seam; it will then definitely be a half-inch square :-) 

You will end up with your pouch looking like this:

Flip the pouch over and reach inside the pouch, via the gap in your lining fabric; open the zipper all the way down.  This makes it easier to move the bag around when you are making the corner angles.

Okay, now the fiddly bit. You need to take the angles and bring them round, or open them out, so that the 90° angles you had are now gone, and you have a nicely horizontal edge.  Some of you older people may remember the "sides to middle" repair we used to do on sheets that had torn - it's the same principle.  You are pushing the sideseam towards the middle of the bag, wrapping the corners round.  These are your perpendicular corners. 

The edges should match up, but it doesn't matter too much if they're not 100%, 95% is fine.   It is fiddly, and I find that a bit of spit on my fingers helps to make the fabric move more easily.  See here:

Pull the angles outwards so that they become flat:

You will need to do this for all four corners.  A bit of shuffling makes the corners more accessible, don't be afraid to manipulate the bag to give you easier access to the corners.  The first few times you do this you will find it very fiddly.  Keep manipulating the fabric until you've got all four edges (two outside, and two lining) all lined up.

Once you have one end aligned, pin and stitch them.  Don't wait until you've got all four pinned before stitching, because it's harder to  stitch if they're all pinned up - moving the bag is constrained by the pins. 

This is what it looks like in progress:

Once you've stitched all four, your bag will look like this:

I recommend turning the bag right sides out now through the hole in your lining fabric, to check that you've caught all your edges in the stitching.  There's nothing more frustrating than thinking you've got it all in and then blam!  A gap!  Pull it through the hole gently, a bit at a time.  Remember that you have to pull two pouches through, the lining one and the focus fabric one, so be gentle. 

Check your lining seams:

You should be able to see your magic half-inch slice has turned into a magic inch seam. 

Once you've got it all okay, turn it back inside out again and zigzag over the seams. This way you won't be unpicking the zigzag if it isn't right.

Okay, so now it should be perfect. Turn it right-sides out again but don't press yet, because you still need to stitch up the hole in your lining.  You can either handstitch it invisibly, leaving no clue as to how you made this excellent pouch, or you can be lazy like I am and machine stitch it closed:

The finished pouch should look something like this:

Now go and press it and go and have a glass of excellent Hunter Valley Semillon and a good lie down!  Phew! 

Thanks are due to the following excellent tutorials for leading me to the water jump, and stimulating my brain on how to get over it without flinching:   

Firstly, twelve22 - her no-fuss approach to zips in pouches helped me with the zipper sandwich - love it.

Secondly, three bears showed me how to get the box shape, and how fiddly it was to get those corners perpendicular without using a ruler, or something else, which led me to...

Twenty Acres and no sheep - she provided me with the excellent idea of using a quilting ruler to get the corners right.

The rest of it I came up with on my own.  Please feel free to use this, and spread it around.  If you have any questions, please post and I will try to answer them.  Or, if you think it isn't clear enough, especially round what to do with the corners, please let me know.  I may have to go to YouTube.  Scary.



  1. All too hard - I will continue to pay you to make them for me!
    xox :)

  2. I managed! the only thing is that I end up w too much lining which is not very nice when u open the pouch. I had measured the same size for the focus and lining fabrics.
    any tips?

    1. Did I reply? You can cut your ling to be a bit smaller than the outside, it shouldn't impact the finished article at all.

    2. Did I reply? You can cut your ling to be a bit smaller than the outside, it shouldn't impact the finished article at all.

  3. Hi there! I'm really thrilled that you followed the tute and got through it! I do sometimes have the same problem; you could try making the bottom seam of the lining a bit bigger than 1/2", but probably no more than 3/4", that might take up the slack. Let me know if you make another one using a slightly larger bottom seam, I'd love to know how it goes.
    Susan @ IG

  4. Well now I've found this excellent tutorial I'm so glad and will most definitely give it a go. Will let you know the result (but please don't hold your breath waiting!)

  5. Hehe. I think a video channel on YouTube with each step shown in the not-so-small-but-still-perfectly-formed craft room 😘❤️


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