Flat Zipper Bag and Wallet




Introduction: Flat Zipper Bag and Wallet

I'm always looking for my next new bag. In my recent searches I discovered this fascinating set of bags by Josh Jakus. I like my geometry a bit more random than he does, so I decided to adapt the idea to a more non-regular surface. The design and construction are pretty simple and, assuming you can get your hands on a sewing machine, you should be able to pull this off for less than $20.

Please leave comments, I'd really appreciate it!

Step 1: Design Your Bag!

This step isn't absolutely necessary. If you want, you can just use the two pdfs attached to this step and make the example purse and wallet. If you want to make your own, you'll need a computer with some kind of modeling or drawing software (I used Rhino, which is currently in beta and therefore *free* for Mac users), a printer, and some tape. Just follow the steps below:

1. Draw a curve, really any curve.
2. Copy it and rotate 180°, move the second curve so that its endpoints join with the endpoints of the first curve.
3. Repeat with several more curves, then print out small versions of each.
4. Cut out the shapes you've just printed and tape the edges together. Pick the one(s) you like the most and, if it going to be a bag, decide where your handle is going to go.
5. Back on the computer, draw an ellipse for your handle at the positions you decided on in step 4. Make sure that you place both holes the same distance from one of the two vertexes and has the same orientation with the curve (check out the attached example).
6. To actually make the purse, you'll need to have a zipper. Measure the zipper from the beginning of the teeth to the end. This probably won't be the length on the package so you really do need to measure! Scale your drawing so that the length of one of the curves is that length.
7. You'll then need to offset both curves 1/8" toward the interior to allow space for the zipper. Connect them with two short straight segments. This, and the ellipses you made, are the lines you'll be cutting on.
8. Print out your pattern and cut off most of the excess paper.

Step 2: Gather Materials

For this project you'll need:

The pattern you just printed
Two pieces of felt
A zipper
Matching thread
Contrasting button thread (if you're making a bag)
A sewing machine
Fabric scissors
A sharp exacto knife or rotary cutter (not strictly necessary, but a good idea)

*Note* If you're using the patterns attached to step 1 you'll need a 36" zipper for the large bag (which means it's actually 35" long) and a 14" zipper for the wallet. Each piece of felt should be about 36"x24" to comfortably fit both the bag and the wallet.

Step 3: Cut Out Your Pattern

Place your first layer of felt right-side-down on a flat surface. Then the other piece of felt right-side-up on top of it and the pattern on top. If the pattern is small (less than a square foot) you can just press down on it or use a couple pins to keep it in place while cutting. If the pattern is larger, you'll need to baste all three layers together with the contrasting button thread (you'll remove this later). However, make sure you leave enough room to insert the zipper (probably about 3/4") all the way around the edge. Cut out your pattern on the inner line and use your knife/rotary cutter to cut out the handles.

Step 4: Remove the Pattern

If your pattern is small, this is pretty simple. However, if you just sewed it onto your fabric you'll need to tare it off without taring out the stitches. This can take some time, but it's much faster than re-basting.

Step 5: Sew on the Zipper

Place the zipper between the two layers of felt. You don't need to pin because the perimeter of the felt should be exactly the same length as the zipper. Also, it won't really help. Make sure that the zipper is facing the outside of your bag, or, if you can find it, use a reversible zipper and be able to use both sides of your bag. If you've got sharp curves you may want to clip the zipper so it can make the turn more easily. Thread your machine and go to town.

Step 6: Finish Up

If you've basted, now's the time to rip it out. You'll also want to hide your threads by hand sewing them back into the felt. If you don't there's a good chance they'll catch on your zipper. That's it. You've got a new bag or wallet or randomly shaped container.


Step 7: Gallery

I've made a few more bags to use as presents. They're all made from more or less random curves that I adjusted till I got the shapes I wanted. I'm thinking about trying polygons next.

Step 8: Gallery, Part II

I've made some new bags since the holidays. Here they are. I'm also included patterns for all the bags since people seem to be interested in trying to make them. I'll probably be adding more as I sew! And, if any of you would like, I'll add photos of bags you make as well.



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    36 Discussions

    Hi, I actually sell them on www.wadashop.com and I didnt know about this Josh. I got the idea from Peru. Mine has different colors and designs. You will love them and they are super cheap.

    I made some of these! They turned out great. For some, I used boiled woolen blankets, and for some I made my own felt. Now I have been asked to show how it's done to a fibre craft group. I tell them about Instructables, but some are computer shy.

    Fabulous! Thanks! Now I need to find the time to make this tote! I'll post pics if it's anything better than a disaster. Wish me luck!

    wow this is actually pretty useful. I could probably make a pretty cool messenger bag like this with scrap leather. thanks for the idea =D

    I really LOVED the "UM" idea when I saw it on Josh's site, and I actually stared at it for a while trying to figure out how I could make it myself. I would love to have a LARGE over-the-shoulder tote version of this, but I don't have any drafting software or the understanding of geometry to pull it off. If anyone figures it out, please share the pattern with me! I'm very impressed with the original UM bags and your adaptations. Your instructable was well laid out and easy to follow also, well done!

    3 replies

    I'm actually working on an over the shoulder tote right now, so great timing! I'll probably be sewing it tonight and (assuming I get a nice result) I'll post a pdf of the pattern.

    Posted! (I'm not super happy with the bag though, so try this one at your own risk ;)

    this is so cool! i can't wait to try it out! really great instructions..thanks!

    Ps., I'm not too stressed about this despite a rampant ripoff problem within the industry, but could everyone who makes a copy please just reference my work as jftesser has? thanks!

    Yes, congratulations on the prize! Do I get a cut of the prize money as the original designer of the UM bags? :)

    It does look like a mouse. What about ears? :-) I'm a great mouse-lover--had a number of the white ones as a child.

    I can't really make out-- are these are two-way zippers? I'm sure it'll come clear when I can see the thing actually in front of me.

    Hmm. I have a very long orange velvet thingamajig (for putting a cushion inside). It fits about 4 king-size pillows with space left over--and, here's the best part: the beautiful brass zipper! I brought it at Goodwill mainly for that zipper -knowing it would prove itself as precious- although
    I'd always thought to build a long narrowish bench to put it on.

    hmmm. One thing I thought was interesting, following the trail of crumbs from Joshjakus to treehugger was someone's post about working in a recycled felt factory and becoming very sick--it was attributed to the fibres. She made the point that real wool felt is a renewable resource and stated she wouldn't
    have the recycled stuff near her, touching it everyday...

    anyway, I'm thinking these would be great in my thick velvet, maybe with interfacing.

    These are fantastic, and your instructions are clear enough that I think I could even follow along! Not sure when I'll get around to it, but will definitely post pictures when I do!

    You could easily pull this project off for free. When we discard old, beat up coats that are too nasty to donate, I remove the zippers. I have a nice collection of zippers in a variety of lengths and colors. I also collect odds and ends of fabric from surplus stores and fabric stores, as well as old jackets and such. Because the geometry is open to interpretation, this is a great project for funny little odds and ends of material.

    1 reply

    What a fantastic idea! Cannibalizing those high-quality zippers seems like such an obvious thing to do, in retrospect. Thanks for the suggestion.