Audrey Tote Bag Recessed Zipper Hack

Recently, I released a modern tote bag pattern named Audrey.  This pattern is fantastic for showing off your favorite prints, quilted fabric, or even embroidery.  Audrey has been designed to feature our Metal Purse Handles and Faux Metal Zippers by the Yard.  

The pattern explains how to attach a zipper to the top seam of the tote; however, that may not be everyone's favorite way of installing a zipper. 

One of my pattern testers, Deena Bailarina, decided to get creative, and install a recessed zipper instead! Her creativity has inspired this blog post!  There have been many questions on how to add a recessed zipper to the Audrey Tote.  So, I've asked Deena to write a tutorial for you!  Without further ado, I'd like to welcome guest blogger, and pattern tester, Deena Bailarina!

Audrey Recessed/Inset Zipper Hack by Deena Bailarina

Materials you’ll need:


From your vinyl, cork or fabric, cut:

  • 2 strips at 12” x 2.5”
  • If you’re not using a metal zipper end: Cut a zipper tab 1” wider than your zipper tape x 2.5”.
  • If you’re using FABRIC: Cut woven fusible interfacing (ie: Pellon SF101 or WovenFuse) 1” smaller than both of your strips and your zipper tab.

Step 1

If you’re using cork or vinyl…

  • Apply DST around all edges as in the first photo and fold edges in ½” on all sides, holding them down with the DST.
  • Clip the corners as shown so they don’t stick out.

If you’re using fabric….

  • Fuse your woven interfacing to the wrong side of each piece, centered. There should be ½” of non-interfaced fabric on each side of the woven interfacing.
  • Fold edges in ½” on all sides, press and clip the corners (as I’ve done with the vinyl) so they don’t stick out.

Step 2

  • Take your zipper and identify the top edge (where the pull sits when the zipper is CLOSED). Turn each side under at a 45 degree angle as shown in the photo, pinning or stitching to hold in place.
  • Apply DST to both sides of the zipper (only remove the paper when you’re ready to attach the strip of vinyl/cork/fabric
  • Remove the DST from one side, take your first strip and fold it over the zipper tape.
  • The DST will hold it on top. You can clip at the ends to secure more.
  • (Hint: After you sew it up, you can easily peel off the excess DST from the tail end of the zipper, so don’t worry about measuring it out!)

Step 3

  • Sew with a scant 1/8” seam allowance, starting from the short end, and going all the way down, turning and going around the other short end.
  • Hint: Be sure you’re catching the bottom of the strip! For a more professional look, use topstitching thread and a longer stitch length.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Step 4

  • If you’re using a metal zipper end, trim your zipper to the desired length and apply it per the hardware instructions.
  • If you’re making a tab, do the same thing you did with the strips (folding the raw edges in by ½” and either pressing fabric or holding with DST for cork/vinyl/leather).
  • Fold in half and apply to the end of your zipper. Sew a box (you can leave the folded edge unsewn).
  • Optional: Apply a rivet for a nice finishing touch.

Step 5

  • Take one of your lining pieces and, using fabric marker/pencil, mark a straight line at 1.5” down from the top raw edge on the RIGHT SIDE of the fabric. Do the same on the other lining piece.
  • Find the center of both your lining piece and your recessed zipper piece (NOT counting the tail end that sticks out past the flaps. ONLY consider the part with the flaps, where you’ve sewn on the strips of cork/vinyl/fabric.)
  • Line up your center points and sew down your zipper piece with the BOTTOM side of the zipper facing the RIGHT SIDE of the lining, matching your folded zipper flap edge with the line you’ve drawn on your lining piece. Use the tiniest seam allowance you can (I do about 1/16”). Remember to backstitch at the beginning and end.
  • *I have added a strip of vinyl to my lining piece just for aesthetic purposes! I like the look of having the top of the lining and the recessed zipper in the same material, but this is not necessary. *
  • Do the same on the other side of the recessed zipper. You will have your lining pieces right sides facing (as they will be in your finished bag).
  • Just remember to put the BOTTOM of the zipper piece towards the right side of the lining.

And there you have it! You’ll just assemble your bag as written in the instructions. Just be careful not to catch that tail end of the zipper when you’re sewing up your bag and OPEN THE ZIPPER before putting it all together for easier turning