How to add extra pockets to any tote bag

add extra pocketsThis 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.

add extra pockets

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.

Materials:

  • Two (2) fabric rectangles 12″ x 7″
  • Two (2) fabric rectangles 2″ x 4″
  • Two (2) zippers 7″ 

Tools:

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.  add extra pocketsFold the edges 1/2″ towards the center.add extra pocketsThen fold the other edge in as well.
add extra pocketsNow fold the strip in half, hiding the raw edges inside.  Sew as close to the edge as possible. add extra pockets

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 is 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″. add extra pockets 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 on 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.add extra pockets

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.

add extra pocketsAnother thing to remember before you sew the tab down is to open the zipper and leave the pull in between the tabs.  add extra pockets

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.add extra pocketsPin the pocket to the zipper and sew using your zipper foot and a small stitch.  Trim the zipper length to end under the tab.add extra pocketsAttach 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. add extra pocketsadd extra pockets

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.

add extra pocketsStep Four:  Finishing the pockets

Turn the pockets inside out.add extra pockets

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.add extra pocketsadd extra pockets

Turn the pocket through the zipper opening and iron.

add extras pockets

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.

Method One:

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.  add extra pocketsUse your seam allowance on the wrong side of the lining sew the pocket down. add extra pockets

add extra pocketsMethod 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 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. add extra pocketsThen 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.add extra pockets

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 import 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.  add extra pocketsThen mark the same distance between the rivets on of the sides of the pockets.  Follow the packaging instructions.add extra pocketsadd extra pockets
add extra pocketsadd extra pocketsI hope this tutorial was useful to 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!

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4 Responses to How to add extra pockets to any tote bag

  1. Corey says:

    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!

  2. Bev Gunn says:

    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.

  3. Paula Leonard says:

    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.

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