Compact Foldable Shopping Bag Tutorial

Compact Foldable Shopping Bag Tutorial
 Tutorial for a reusable shopping bag that folds into a wallet size pocket.

Part One: Assemble the Wallet:

You will need:

One zipper, 4″ or any zipper longer than the welt (I used an all-purpose zipper of the sort found on garments)
One zipper, at least 16″ long (I used one of the larger-coil zippers of the sort found on bags and purses)
Wallet Pattern: 1x outer fabric, 1x lining/facing, 1x fusible interfacing (without seam allowance, and with the zipper welt cut out).

Download the wallet pattern here.

Note: Please see Part Two & Part Three for a full list of supplies.

Step 1: Iron the interfacing piece to the wrong side of the outer fabric piece, so that it is centered with an equal-width border of fabric all around.

Step 2: Place the right sides (R.S.) of this interfaced outer fabric and lining/facing pieces together and sew along the long edges of the welt, as shown.

Black thread is used here for visibility. Make sure to backstitch where you begin and end, and make these two lines the same length.

Step 3: Carefully cut both layers along the purple line shown.

Step 4: Pull the lining/facing layer right side out through the cut and press the welt opening neatly open. The zipper is shown for width comparison in preparation for Step 5.

Step 5: Position the zipper behind the opening (behind both layers of fabric) and top-stitch around the welt opening to secure the zipper in place. Use the zipper foot on your sewing machine for this.

Step 6: Locate the midline of the wallet and sew a line of stitches on it, through both layers of fabric. The presser foot has been removed for visibility.

Step 7: Flip the wallet over to the wrong side. The lining/facing layer is divided into two halves. Fold the half without the zipper over the half with the zipper. This forms the lining of the pocket. Stitch close to the edge (shown in black thread for visibility) to secure. The pocket is done!

Step 8: We are now going to attach the main zipper. Reattach your zipper foot. Flip the wallet over to its right side. Flip the zipper so that its wrong side faces up as shown. Beginning at the midline of the wallet (see red pin), sew the zipper in place.

Note that the beginning (head) of the zipper is curved and the zipper tape is folded to allow it to curve as shown. The purple line shows the position of the stitching line– Note that it is not extremely close to the coils. It is best to leave some room for the zipper pull to slide easily along the coils.

This is a close-up of the beginning of the zipper attachment process.

Step 9: Continue sewing all around the edge of the wallet to attach the zipper, making shallow snips in the zipper tape to help it navigate the curved edges (zipper foot removed for visibility).

When you get to the other end of the midline (top red pin), curve the zipper like you did when you began in Step 8,

…So that the coils continue almost on top of the midline itself, and the rest of the unattached zipper leaves the wallet vertically, as shown.

Step 10: We will now attach the other side of the zipper around the remaining edge of the wallet. Curve the other side of the zipper symmetrically around the other side of the midline (red pin). Begin sewing the zipper the same way you did in Step 8.

…And continue all the way around the remaining edge of the wallet till you reach the place where the zipper began in Step 8. Curve the head of the zipper symmetrically towards the midline and end off. It might be useful to make corresponding marks along both sides of the zipper tape AND the edges of both halves of the wallet to make sure the zipper is attached symmetrically on both sides of the wallet. Your wallet should now look like this:

The wallet is finished! Remove the pins and set it aside.

Part Two: Assemble the Outer Bag

You will need:

A piece of outer fabric 12″ wide/high and 26.5″ long for the bag.
Two pieces of fabric for straps, each 2.75″ wide and 13″ long.
All seam allowances are included in these measurements.

Step 11: Make the straps. Fold in 1/4″ along both long edges to the wrong side of the fabric and press.

…Then fold lengthwise so the folded edges line up, and press again.

Top-stitch along both long edges. The straps are completed.

Step 12: Position the straps on the top edge of the bag as shown…

…So that 1″ of the ends of the straps stick out above the top edge of the fabric:

Sew the straps in position, close to the edge of the top edge of the bag (see horizontal white stitching line).

Step 13: Fold the bag fabric in half so the short edges meet, and the right sides are together, and sew up the side seam.

Step 14: Fold down 1/2″ on the top edge of the bag, to the wrong side (W.S.) of the bag, and press.

Step 15: We are now going to sew the wallet (from Step 10) onto the bag to form its base. Make quarter marks along the bottom edge of the bag and along the circumference of the wallet. With the right sides of the bag and wallet together, match up corresponding quarter marks (be sure the bag straps are along the long edge of the wallet), pin in place if necessary, and sew around the edge to attach. Note:
(i) Use your zipper foot– You may not be able to see the zipper between the layers, but your zipper foot will help you “feel” the coils.
(ii) Position your project under the zipper foot so the bag layer is on top and the wallet layer is below, not the other way around.
(iii) Make shallow snips in the seam allowance along the bottom of the bag, to help it hug the curves.

Sew all around the edge except for ONE point, where the tail of the zipper meets the midline (red mark).

At this point, leave a gap (remember to backstitch!) so the zipper pull can get through it later. I left a gap of about 1/2″.

When you are done, the base of the bag should look like this:

And the bag itself looks almost completed!

Step 16: Turn the bag right side out and gently push the zipper pull out through the gap you left.

Step 17: Turn the bag inside out again and trim the seam allowance and excess zipper tape to reduce bulk. Do NOT do this before Step 16, or you will cut the zipper pull off as well.

Now at this point, your bag is completed. Or, you can top-stitch around the edge of the wallet for a more finished look, and to secure the edges of the gap you left for the zipper pull.

(Zipper foot removed again for visibility). To do this (and it is optional), fold the seam allowance and zipper tape under the wallet and top-stitch through everything except the bag fabric (which you push to the side).

When you come to the gap, sew very carefully as close to the edge as you can, around the zipper pull.

The bag is completed! Set this aside.

Part Three: Make the Lining

You will need:

A piece of lining fabric (I used rip-stop nylon for its waterproof qualities) 12″ wide/high and 26.5″ long for the bag (this includes 1/2″ seam allowances)
A piece of lining fabric cut using the Wallet Pattern (with seam allowance).

Step 18: Repeat steps 13-15 to sew up the side seam and attach the base to the bag. This is a much simpler process than in Stage 2, because there is no zipper involved, and no gap to leave. You just sew all around the entire base to attach it.
The only thing to remember is that you’ll be matching up the oval shape of the lining base to the oval shape of the bag base later (i.e. it’s not a circle whose orientation doesn’t matter), so be sure to position your side seam where you can match it up easily to something equivalent on the outer bag later.

 Part 4: Assemble the Bag

Step 19: Turn the bag right side out. Leave the lining wrong side out and slip it into the bag, remembering to match up their oval bases. Line up the folded top edges of both layers, and top stitch close to the edge to attach the layers together.

Then sew a second line 1″ lower than the first, all around.

This second line further secures the ends of the straps.

The wallet-tote is finished!

Fold it up…

Zip it up…

And toss it in your purse or car for an extra grocery bag, or emergency summer tote!

You can make them in many different shapes! All you’ll need to remember is to match the circumference of the bag to the perimeter of the wallet, and use a main zipper that is at least 3″ longer than half of this perimeter. You will cut off excess zipper tape at the end, but it is much easier to work with a longer zipper than a shorter one.

Compact Foldable Shopping Bag Tutorial


  1. This is great tutorial. Thank you very much.

  2. Am sure going to try this out...great tutorial

  3. Thank you for the great tutorial. I believe a 26 inch zipper is needed instead of the note at 16 inch zipper

  4. My error after many attempts of attaching the zipper and re-reading the instructions I now figured out that I was trying to attach the zipper incorrectly. Your directions are great my brain just wasn’t following.

  5. Again thank you for the great tutorial! My error after several attempts of trying to attach the zipper now rereading the instructions and attaching the zipper the correct way 16 inch zipper is correct. Your directions are great my brain was not following.