When you’re sewing a bunch of one type of item (such as bags, face masks, quilt blocks, or anything really) it can be super helpful to streamline your process so that you’re not jumping back and forth from your sewing machine, to the ironing board, to your cutting mat, and back again. In this post, I’m going to share my own process for when I’m sewing multiples, which in this case was pouches for Alderwood Studio’s hand quilting kits.
Step 1: Prep ALL the things!
Before I begin sewing, I cut all of my outer fabrics, lining fabrics, fusible fleece, labels, and zipper by the yard. This way all of my cutting has been done and I won’t have to circle back around to do more later. It also helps me make sure that I’ve got everything I need in the correct amounts and that all my tools are handy.
Step 2: Wind extra bobbins.
Sometimes I forget to do this but if you’re like me, stopping to wind a bobbin when you’ve got your sewing rhythm going is pretty annoying. For this project, I wound 4 bobbins (1 to start with and 3 extra), but wind as many as you think you’ll need to complete your project. Also, I feel like I should admit to you — I only use one thread color for 99.99% of my sewing. Currently I use Longarm Professional Quilting Thread in the color Vanilla Milkshake. It comes in a giant cone with 3000 yards and I can buy it locally. It lasts me about 3 months’ worth of sewing. Of course you should use what you prefer, but in case you were wondering, now you know!
Step 3: Iron fabric and adhere interfacing.
If my fabric has been folded for years or I just finished pre-washing it (who does that?), then I will give it a good press. If I’m using fusible interfacing (I usually use Heavyweight Fusible Fleece from Pellon), then I go ahead and iron it onto the appropriate fabrics. If I’m not using the fusible variety, I just baste my interfacing to my fabrics instead.
You’ll notice that my interfacing goes all the way to the edge of the fabric. I like to use the fusible glue to hold the interfacing in place, but I don’t trust that it will stay adhered forever so I also sew it into the seams. This can make the seams a bit bulky but I actually like the structure it creates. This is a personal preference so do what you like!
Step 4: Sew on labels.
I don’t always use labels, and other times I use folding labels that get sewn into the seams of my bags. For this project though, I used flat labels that needed to be sewn onto the lining fabric. I just sort of eyeballed where I wanted them to be and called it a day. (These labels are from Mayday Labels on Etsy. They don’t fray or fade and their customer service is great!)
Step 5: Make zipper sandwiches.
Next I sandwich the zipper between the outer fabric and lining and clip them together so they won’t shift around while I’m sewing. If you don’t have or like clips, you can always pin your sandwiches together. I stack the fabrics and zipper in this order: outer fabric, right side up; zipper, right side down; lining fabric, right side down. Make sure all three pieces are aligned neatly along the top edge as you clip.
Since I use zipper by the yard, I leave the zipper pull off during this step. This way, I don’t have to worry about it getting in the way, having to move it during sewing, or accidentally sewing over it and breaking my needle (again!)
Step 6: Sew zippers.
If you’re quilter, you’re likely very familiar with chain piecing. For this step, I like to chain piece my zipper seams. This means I don’t trim the thread in between and instead just create a long chain. It helps save thread and time!
After I sew one side of the zipper, I fold back the fabrics so the zipper is showing and repeat Step 5 to sew the other side. (If needed, I will iron the first side out of the way.)
*I also want to say here, I know this step is easier said than done. I hear from a lot of people that they’re afraid of sewing zippers or have had an unfortunate zipper sewing experiences. Never fear! I want to help you gain confidence with your zipper sewing and bag making skills, so check back soon for bag making kits in my shop and some blog posts and tutorials for learning to sew with zippers! You can stay up to date by joining me on Instagram!
Step 7: Iron the bag wings.
Once my fabrics have been sewn to either side of the zipper, it’s time to iron! I flatten the seams by ironing away from the zipper on both sides (the outer fabrics and the lining). I find that it’s safe to iron over the zipper as long as I don’t hold it too long in one place. I think it looks like the zipper has wings now!
Step 8: Thread the zipper pulls onto the zipper tape.
If I’m using metal zippers or regular nylon zippers, I skip this step. If I am using zipper by the yard (and most of the time these days, I am!) then this is when I add the pulls. This part seemed tricky at first but it’s really simple now that I have the hang of it. I plan to include more about this in my bag making blog series too.
Step 9: Open the zipper and sew the bags!
Almost done! It’s time to sew all the bag seams. I first open the zippers halfway so I can turn my bags right side out later. Next I place the outer fabric right sides together and the lining fabric right sides together. I recommend clipping or pinning around your fabrics at this point. However, I don’t always follow my own advice. Next, I sew around the perimeter of the bag leaving a 2” opening at the bottom of the lining fabric.
Step 10: Clip threads, corners, and excess zipper tape.
Even though I can’t see the inside of the bag, I like knowing it’s as tidy as possible. Plus if I clip those long threads, they won’t get in my way later. Clipping the corners and the excess zipper tape on each end can help reduce bulk in places where I don’t want it. Some folks like to trim their interfacing. I don’t do that, but you can. My seams are pretty narrow to start with so there’s not much to trim, and I also like rounded corners, but if you want sharp corners this will help with that.
Step 11: Turn all of the bags right side out.
This part is total magic! It’s time to turn the bags right side out and watch them transform. I push all of the corners and zipper ends out but it’s not time to tuck the lining in yet. Sometimes at this step I will iron the lining to make it easier to close the opening. Just as often, I skip that step.
Step 12: Sew the lining closed and finish the bag.
Remember that 2” gap I left at the bottom of the lining? Now it’s time to sew it closed (it’s possible to chain piece here again if that works for you but I don’t usually do that). Once you sew all of the bags closed, trim any remaining threads, tuck the linings in and close the zippers. I like to give the bags a quick press inside and out, paying special attention to flattening the seams around the zipper.
Step 13: Take some pictures of the beautiful batch!
A pretty stack of like items is so satisfying! I like to take some pictures whether it’s for my shop listing, to share on Instagram, or just for fun.
That’s it! I hope you enjoyed getting a peek at my batch sewing method! Please leave a comment and let me know how my process overlaps with or differs from yours— or if you’re going to try batch sewing for the first time!
Also, is there anything you’d like to know more about in a future blog post? Tell me!