This tutorial is part of the “Build a Zip Pouch Series“, giving you the skills you need to sew custom zip pouches in a variety of styles and sizes. Links will be added to the series homepage (here!) as new tutorials go live.
The beauty of sewing your own zip pouch is that, with a little bit of tweaking, you can use a wide variety of fabrics. I know the choices can be overwhelming, though. I’m here for you!
You’ll need exterior fabric and lining fabric. Lining fabric is the simpler choice of the two (see quilting cotton/medium weight fabric below).
But it’s fun to get a little more creative with the exterior fabric! Let’s check out some of your options.
Quilting cotton (or other medium weight fabrics).
Quilting cotton is widely available and comes in a variety of colors and designs, making it a great choice for myriad projects, zip pouches included! A medium weight fabric such as quilting cotton can be used as-is for lining material. However, I recommend adding thickness if you’d like to use it for your exterior material. Adding thickness can be done in two ways: using a fusible interfacing such as Pelon SF101 or quilting the exterior onto a piece of low loft batting.
A medium weight fabric is great because you can piece it into a quilt or improv block to add yet another custom dimension to your creation!
Reclaimed material options for medium weight fabrics: Destashed fabric at thrift stores, button down shirts and skirts, old quilt blocks, and lightweight curtains.
Denim (or other heavy weight fabrics).
Denim is great for zip pouches. My favorite is denim reclaimed from jeans that do not have spandex/stretch in them. You can use stretchy denim, just be aware that it may be a bit distorted after inserting the zipper and require trimming before zip pouch assembly. Tip: when using stretchy fabric, place the material with the least stretch on top when sewing.
Upholstery fabric, canvas, and other heavy weight fabrics work too, but can be hard on your machine if you don’t use a sharp needle! Also, it’s difficult to get a nice looking top stitch on canvas. Because of that, I prefer to topstitch the lining only when using canvas as my exterior material.
For lining material, I sometimes use lightweight denim (from an old shirt, for example).
Reclaimed material options for heavy weight fabrics: Upholstery, curtains, jeans, khakis, and duffel bags.
I don’t recommend using fabrics of a lighter weight than quilting cotton for the exterior of a zipper pouch because of the wear and tear that comes with use. If you do use a lightweight fabric, such as a light linen, use interfacing and/or quilt the fabric onto a piece of batting first. Also, interface lightweight fabric with a fusible interfacing before using it as lining.
An alternative to using a lightweight piece of fabric for the exterior of a zip pouch is to use it as embellishment over a heavier weight fabric instead. You can create a bow, ribbon, or other applique piece!
Knits and stretchy fabrics can be used when sewing zip pouches, BUT I highly recommend using a fusible interfacing. Fusing a piece of Pelon SF 101 (or comparable interfacing) onto the back of a knit fabric before sewing with it will provide the stability you need for a zip pouch. Logos from old t-shirts can be a great option for zip pouch exteriors. Interfaced knits can also be used as lining material. See my full tips here for sewing zip pouches with stretchy fabric!
Reclaimed material options for knit fabric: Old t-shirts, pillow covers, and destashed fabric at thrift stores.
Just For Fun.
You really can use just about anything to create a custom zip pouch. After making memory quilts and pillows with a number of button down shirts, I used the left over shirt cuffs to make a pouch. I’ve also use feed sacks, and even coffee sleeves to embellish another pouch. You can even design your own fabric! Get creative and have fun!