This week I want to show you how to add extra pockets to any tote bag. I'll demonstrate this with the extra pockets I added at the bottom of the small canvas tote bag that was recently published on our site. Please also check out the full video tutorial showing all the steps in making this wonderful accessory.
I love totes, especially small ones. They are easy to make and to carry because they limit the number of things you can put inside. That makes it easier on your back and perfect for walking around.
With a small tote, all the essentials are right at your fingertips for you and everyone else as well, unfortunately! But, where do you put your money? This is one of those sewing hacks when you are not entirely satisfied with the number of pockets that your tote, handbag or backpack has and want to add more. I'll show you how to add these secure inside pockets that are closed by a zipper to help keep what you want inside while stopping pickpockets and the like outside.
Personally, I try to limit the size of my bags, both because I am small and more importantly because I forget the lipstick I was caring somewhere at the bottom of my bigger bags, and the only way I remember it is when it is smeared all over everything else I was carrying in my “black hole”.
To add extra pockets to a tote, all you have to do is make them and then sew them at the bottom of the tote. You can also attach them with rivets which I'll show you as well.
This technique is also useful when you have a ready-made tote. The size I will be showing you below is big enough to fit inside the small canvas tote bag. However, you can increase or decrease the measurements to fit your needs with any size tote or bag.
- Two (2) fabric rectangles 12″ x 7″
- Two (2) fabric rectangles 2″ x 4″
- Two (2) zippers 7″
- tailor's chalk or fabric marker
- sewing ruler
- jeans needle
- zipper foot
How to add extra pockets to any tote.
We're going to start with making the tabs and sewing them to the zippers. There are a few ways to add tabs to zippers, but this is one way to learn and remember for the future because it is also used when working with leather. As we progress in bag making, we will be exploring different techniques to incorporate leather or vinyl with fabric.
Step One: Sew the tabs on the zipper
Cut two rectangles that are 2″ x 4″. Each rectangle will make two tabs and you need four tabs in total. Fold the edges 1/2″ towards the center. Then fold the other edge in as well.
Now fold the strip in half, hiding the raw edges inside. Sew as close to the edge as possible.
Remember to make four tabs. Two for each zipper.
Pin the tabs to the zipper leaving 6″ in between. Do not sew yet and make sure the pull of the zipper in between the tabs.
Step Two: Marking the seam allowance
Use both fabric rectangles 12″ x 7″ which make up each side of the pockets.
On both ends of both pieces, mark the stitching line at 3/8″, then mark the placement of the tabs at 1/2″. Place the zipper next to the pocket pouch to make sure the length is correct. You will want to double-check this measurement before you sew the tabs and the pocket to avoid any disappointment and to save time.
As you can see in the picture below, the tabs end at the 1/2″ mark or 1/8″ from the stitching line. Remember to leave this tiny gap because this is what will make the pouch corner fold neatly.
Step Three: Sewing the zipper
Make sure the stitching line of the tab is facing the end and the top of the zipper. This is because you will sew the tab to the zipper and do not want to sew on top of another stitching line. It will not look good.
Another thing to remember before you sew the tab down is to open the zipper and leave the pull in between the tabs.
Place the zipper right side up on the table. Fold the top edge of the pocket 3/8″ marked on the picture below by the black line. Pin the pocket to the zipper and sew using your zipper foot and a small stitch. Trim the zipper length to end under the tab. Attach the other pocket side to the other side of the zipper. Make sure both zipper pulls are on the same side. If not, you will have one pocket opening to the right and the other to the left. The industry standard is all zippers should open from left to right.
Sew the second zipper to the pocket. To be able to attach the second pocket to the zipper, you might have to remove the tray table from your machine.
Step Four: Finishing the pockets
Turn the pockets inside out.
It is time to sew the sides of the pockets at 3/8″. But, before you do, open one of the zippers because you will be turning the pockets.
Turn the pocket through the zipper opening and iron.
Step Five: How to add extra pockets to any bag
There are a few different methods of attaching these extra pockets to your tote or bag.
Sew the pockets to the bottom of the bag. If you are still working on the lining, pin the pocket to the right sides of the lining. Use your seam allowance on the wrong side of the lining sew the pocket down.
Method Two: Sewing the pocket to existing internal pockets
This method is useful when your tote bag does not have any zippered pockets and is useful in large totes, bags, and backpacks where small things tend to collect at the bottom. (It happens to me all the time, very annoying if you ask me.)
Sew the two internal sides of the pockets with your sewing machine, as close to the top without touching the zipper teeth. Then sew one of the sides to an already existing pocket or straight to your bag if the material permits. If you are right-handed the pull should open to the right. Reverse if you are left-handed.
Method Three: Using rivets
This is a terrific method for already made bags in thick materials. Rivets are easier to install than you think. The most important bit to remember if attaching these pockets to an already made bag is that you need to mark the rivet position very well on the outside of the bag. Then mark the same distance between the rivets on of the sides of the pockets. Follow the packaging instructions.
I hope this tutorial was useful for you. With it, you should be able to add extra pockets to any tote bag where you think you would like more storage compartments or simply do away with carrying a wallet.
Until next time!
I love making bags of all kinds and if I am making one from “scratch” I add pockets usually right across the width inside at the bottom and sew dividing lines down it, then closer to the top add a zipped pocket for keys and another for purse. If it is large enough I have one as well for my iPad.
How about attaching with Velcro so it can be used in other bags as well?
I like you idea using Velcro. Been sitting here for 2 days trying to find clear instructions on double zipper pouch and how to connect them. I thought of just hand sewing the 2 pouches near the zippers. But like the Velcro best. Thank you.
Is the zipper sewn to the 12″ or the 7″ side of the fabric? It looks like you have 2 zippers per pocket. Is that right? Wouldn’t the pocket flop around if you only sew one side to an internal pocket? Would you use the seam allowances inside the pocket to strengthen that attachment seam?
Hi Shirley yes there are two zipper in this tutorial.
Thank you, what a great idea. I’m going to give that a try.
Awesome ideas! I’m a big bag girl! Purses I love, have to have lots of pockets!!!!!
I wish you included a print option on your site.
You can bookmark the post for future reference, we are trying to move away from waste
Great minds think alike, Mayra, as I too love having plenty of pockets inside my holiday tote bag, so before Christmas I designed a large 2-pocket zipped insert from 2 fat quarters of fabric in my stash (1 pink pocket for my stuff & 1 blue pocket for hubby’s stuff – reading glasses, wallet, etc) & it made it so much easier to find things quickly & easily on holiday & kept everthing alot safer too. I also attached a keyring onto a long piece of ribbon inside the bag, behind the pockets, to keep any keys safe & easy to find.
Dear Veronica, you have redesign Fort Knox!
Thank you so much for all your great tips and tutorials. I am a self taught sewer and I have learned so much from your site. Keep up the great work ladies!
I think I would probably put snaps on the pockets and on the tote bags and then the pockets could go into all kinds of totes. Just unsnap and move.
Yes that is another very practical way. Thank you for your contribution.
I love it! I’m new to sewing and wanted to make a small bag but none of them had enough pockets for my taste. This solves all my problems. Thank you so much.