Introduction: Zippered Top Grocery Bag

My family and I love bags. We are sort of obsessed with them. We also camp and camping for us means being organized. About 3 months ago I decided to start making us bags instead of buying them. It has been a learning process but also quite fun.

I've decided to share how to make this bag that I'm calling a grocery bag, but could just as easily be a bag for camping or traveling, or just staying organized. I've decided to add a zipper to my grocery bag because this way, even if my bags tips over in my vehicle, the contents will stay put. This bag could easily be made without a zipper.

Let's get started!


What we will need:

Sewing machine

Upholstery thread

Yardstick (or a straight edge for drawing straight lines)

Fabric pins or clips

Tape measure

Canvas fabric

Pencil or marking tool

Nylon webbing, about 5'

Zipper with zipper slides

Scissors or cutting wheel

Cutting mat (optional)

Journal (optional) For taking notes while sewing

Lighter (optional)

Step 1: Cutting Pieces of Canvas for the Bag:

First, we will measure our fabric and make the cuts. I've made this bag 16"H x 14"W x 8"D. I've cut the back piece 2" longer than the front piece so we can hide the zipper at the end of the project. I like to mark each piece as I cut them with a letter or two so I know where they go when it comes time to sew, or in case I need to step away from my project for any length of time. I use "BA" for the back since there is also a bottom piece.

Piece dimensions for this bag are:
1- 16"H x 12"W --For the Back

1- 14"H x 12"W --For the Front

2- 14"Hx 8"D For the Sides

2- 12"Wx 8"D For Top/Bottom

Once the 6 pieces are cut, measure your top piece for the zipper. Measure around 3 sides, then add 4 more inches to that. Two inches will fold around the back side of the bag later, on each side, when we sew on the zipper.

Step 2: Cutting Webbing for the Top Handle:

Cut a piece of nylon webbing to sew onto the top of the bag for the handle. I cut my piece so there was 1 1/2" from the sides of the bag. This extra gap will allow for the zipper to be sewn on later. I folded the lid in half, smoothing the edge to create a crease, then folded it again into quarters, again smoothing the edge to make a crease. This gave me my center for the top and allowed me to better place and mark where the nylon handle would sit.

Once marks for sewing lines are made, sew to top of the bag, double stitching in a box, then criss-cross pattern. Since this will be a high-stress area, we want that handle to be really secure. There will be side handles which we will get to later on in the project.

*Note: A lighter can be used to melt the frayed ends of the nylon webbing. This will give the handle a more polished look.

Step 3: Sewing on the Zipper to the Top:

I used zipper by the yard for this project. If you haven't already, measure the two short sides and the front of the lid and add 4" to that number.

Place the zipper on the top of the bag, with the outer edge of the zipper lined up with the outer edge of the fabric. Remember to leave 2" at the end of the zipper, on each side of the back of the lid, so we can wrap that around the back later on.

Pin the zipper into place. Double stitch the zipper onto the top. Once stitched, go back and trim the square corners, round.

Set the top piece aside for now.

Step 4: Sewing the Sides:

It is now time to sew the body together. Taking the back piece (16"H x 12'W), and a side piece (14"H x 8"D), line up their corners and edges, making sure the outer sides of the fabric are facing each other. Pin or clip those two pieces together, then double stitch. Once that is done, pin or clip the next piece, the front piece (14"h x 12"w) to the side piece and sew. Continue to sew the pieces together, remembering to double stitch, until all four pieces are sewn together at their edges and you have a very floppy box shape. There should be a 2" gap at the top on the back piece of the bag.

Step 5: Sewing the Bottom to the Sides:

Now that we have the body of the bag sewn together, it is time to add the bottom piece. Line up a bottom edge with that of the corresponding size of the body side. Make sure the corners line up and the fabric is facing inside out. Single stitch that together. Do this for all sides of the bottom piece, then go back and stitch again. I like to add extra stitching to the corners for extra stability.

Once the bottom has been sewn on, flip the bag right side out.

Step 6: Sewing the Top to the Bag:

It is time to sew the top to the body of the bag but first, we need to figure out where we are going to sew. We will use the zipper as our measuring tool for this. We want the lower half of the teeth of the zipper to be level with the top of the bag. The upper part of the zipper's edge is where we will make our mark. Once that mark is in place, we are going to pin the lid to the other side of that flap, lining the lids unsewn edge with that of the marks. Making sure the outer fabric is touching, pin those pieces into place. I hope that isn't too confusing. Double stitch the lid to the bag. The end result should be that there is a flap of fabric that isn't sewn down. Our goal is to use this flap to cover our zipper ends at the end of the project.

Step 7: Sewing the Bottom Teeth of the Zipper to the Bag:

We now need to connect that bottom set of zipper teeth to the main body of the bag. That means separating the teeth from each other, but before we do that, let's mark on the zipper where that 2" of extra zipper meets the bag.

On the lid of the bag, where we have sewn the zipper, there should be about 2" of zipper not sewn to anything. What we want to do is mark with something visible where this free end of the zipper meets where it is sewn to the lid. We want to mark both sets of zipper teeth so we can line them up for sewing. We only need to do this for one side, the left side of the bag when you are looking at its front, but it can be done for both if needed. Once we know where the end of the bag and the zipper meet, we can separate the zipper teeth from one another.

Take the bottom zipper teeth portion and line the mark that was made on the zipper with the left side, where the lid is sewn to the bag.

We want the sewing edge of the zipper to be aligned with the top of the edge of the bag, where the opening is. The teeth should be facing down towards the bottom of the bag. Pin or clip the zipper into place and then double stitch the zipper.

Step 8: Adding Additional Handles to the Body of the Bag:

We are now going to add additional handles for easier carrying of the bag when loaded up. We will be using the same webbing we used for the top handle. I've decided on handles that will be 27" long but they could be smaller or larger, depending on what you would like to do. You could even add a shoulder strap for easier transport.

I will be adding straps to the front and back of the bag. First, we will measure where we are sewing the webbing to the bag. I want the straps to be sewn 4" below the top of the bag. I've measured 2" in from the sides of the bag on each side, then 4" down from the top of the bag. I did this for both sides of the bag. Once the marks are in place, double stitch each end of the webbing to the bags, and then criss-cross in the center. While not necessary, a lighter can be used to melt the ends of the webbing so no fraying occurs.

Step 9: Attaching the Zipper Pulls:

Starting from one side, pull the free ends of the zipper so they are facing each other and are inside the bag. We don't want the zipper ends to be on the outside because it will be difficult to pull the zipper slide through the small gap that is available. Once the zipper ends are inside the bag, and the teeth are facing one another, slide the zipper pull onto the ends, with the bottom of the pull facing you. The ends of the zipper teeth should be level with one another. Start pulling the zipper and the teeth should work their way together to close.

The next step is to move that zipper pull through the small gap where the lid and body of the bag meet. It may take some finagling but pull the slide through until it is on the outside of the bag. We are going to do the other side now with our second zipper pull. It is the same process as the first one, just repeat the steps. You should now have two zipper pulls on the bag. Zipper close the bag to check that the zipper has no gap when the pulls meet. If there is a gap, remove one of the pulls and play around with positioning of the teeth in the slide until that gap disappears.

Step 10: Hiding the Zipper Ends:

With the zipper pulls installed, it is now time to hide those zipper ends. This will serve two purposes: 1. to keep the zipper pulls from sliding off the end of the zipper. 2. to create a cleaner, finished look for the bag when it is opened. That 2" flap we have on the back piece of the bag should accomplish this.

We are going to fold each end of the zipper along the back of the bag, on the inside. Then we will fold that flap over the zipper ends, pinning it into place so we can sew. I've marked in grease pencil where my handle straps are so I don't sew through them. Stitch along the bottom of the flap until that area is sewn up and the zipper ends are concealed.

Step 11: And That Is It!

You now have a bag that can be used for groceries but really can serve other uses as well. I hope this instructable has been useful. Thank you for reading.

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