Adding Pockets to an ITH Zipper Bag -- HACK THE BAG!

Adding Pockets to an ITH Zipper Bag -- HACK THE BAG!

Continuing our series of hacks, today I'm going to show you how to add pockets to POP zipper bags. You can add pockets to the inside or outside of the bags with nothing more complicated than a folded piece of fabric. You will need to do a little bit of math. But it's easy! I promise. Pinky swear!

First, let's look at the stitch map for your design of choice. You remember how to read a stitch map, right?) I'm going to be running one of my favorites from the Top Zip Set of 9 Zipper Bags, the 5x8 size.

ITH in the hoop machine embroidery top zip zipper bag purse pouch

From the stitch map, we can see that the actual dimensions of the bag are 8.37" wide by 5.95" high. I know that I will cut my fabric pieces for the outside and liners to be about 1" wider and 1" longer than those dimensions because having an extra half inch outside the stitch lines on each side works for me. You may prefer adding more. There is no way I'm going to measure out exactly 9.37" and 6.95" though! I will cut the fabric 9.5" wide by 7" tall.

I'm also going to look through the stitch steps. I don't want this bag to have the front hand strap, so I will skip Steps 6-8. I note that the Back stitches down at Step 9, and the Back Liner (last step) is Step 10. 

Now I need to decide what size to cut my pockets. Let's stitch the placement on the stabilizer.

The arrow is pointing to what will be the center of the zipper. My pocket cannot be taller than that. I need an extra half inch for seam allowance. It's approximately 5.5" from the center zip line to the bottom of the bag. (Warning: here comes the math. Deep breaths. You can do it!) 5.5" + .5" seam allowance = 6 inches. I need to double that to fold my pocket in half, so 6" x 2 = 12 inches. My pocket piece needs to be 9.5" wide by 12" tall. I told you it was easy!

Cut your pieces and add interfacing. This linen-y, denim-y fabric is very lightweight. I decided to add interfacing to the entire length of the pocket, but if your fabric is sturdier, you may only want to interface half of the pocket. Fold the pocket in half to be 9.5" wide by 6" tall. Press the fold of your pocket pieces very well. This will be the top edge of your pocket. 

I decided to add a line of topstitching to the top edge of the pockets for extra detail. You could add a strip of bias tape, ric rac, lace, or simply press the edge! If you decide to topstitch, check if your sewing machine came with a blind hem foot. For my Brother machine, it is the R foot. (Other feet that work similarly for topstitching include edgestitch foot or stitch in the ditch foot.) I increase my stitch length to 3.5 and use the R foot for an even line.

You can see the guide/blade that keeps the fabric edge lined up for an even stitch line.

Prep complete! We have outer pieces (interfaced), lining pieces, and pockets (interfaced, pressed, and topstitched). We are ready to assemble the bag!

When you get to the step in the tutorial that tells you to open your zipper and add optional hardware, this is the time to add your pockets. 


For a pocket on the *inside* of your bag, place the folded pocket on the BACK or UNDERSIDE of your hoop with the lining pieces.

Here is the BACK/UNDERSIDE of my hoop as it looks when I take it off the machine after running Step 5 to secure the Front Liner along the sides and bottom. Specific step numbers vary based on the design and options being stitched, which is why it is important to check the stitch map before you begin sewing.

I'm going to align my inside pocket with the top edge of the Front Liner piece. You can place it as high as the center zipper (approximately the yellow line) for a taller pocket OR lower than the Front Liner edge for a more shallow pocket. If your fabric has a directional pattern, place it with the "right" side facing the Front Liner because that side will be seen the most when you unzip the bag.

Tape your pocket down securely. I used my last piece of Micropore medical tape on another project, and I tried to get away with using lots of blue painter's tape.

If you only wanted a pocket on the inside, you would add the Back piece to the front of the hoop and run the next to last step of the design. 

I am also adding a pocket to the outside Back of the bag, so I need to place that before I place the Back piece on my hoop. Check the directionality of the fabric. I don't want my fancy ladies standing on their heads on the back of the bag, so I need this flipped the other way. (If I wanted to add a pocket to the *front* of my bag, this directional placement would be correct.)

I have the "right" side of my pocket facing the hoop. You can place the pocket as high as the center of the zipper, but that would be difficult to keep flat and straight during stitching. I opted to line it up just below the front outside edge. Make sure your pocket is straight, and secure it to the stabilizer.

Place your interfaced Back piece on top of your pocket, face down toward the hoop as directed in the tutorial that came with your zipper bag design. Place your hoop on the machine, making sure your pocket piece is smooth on the underside of the hoop. Run the Back tackdown step. For the design loaded in my machine, the Back tackdown is Step 9.

 Behold the beauty of the double outline. 

Flip to the BACK/UNDERSIDE of your hoop. Remember how I advised you to make sure the inside pocket was nice and smooth when you clipped your hoop back on the machine? Well, mine was not. No matter how experienced you are, you're going to make mistakes. And it's fine! Just take out the stitching on that little corner and run the step again.

I carefully snipped the stitching where the pocket wadded up, smoothed out the pocket, dug through the trash for some medical tape, and ran Step 9 again. Much better! This is what your inside pocket should look like after running the Back tackdown step.

Add your Back Liner piece according to the instructions, run the Back Liner tackdown, and your stitching is complete!

I prefer using cutaway on my lined bags, so once I get the back turned through the hole, I need to cut out the stabilizer.

I use my trusty 4" Gingher embroidery scissors to start and go around the curves and corners, then switch to a seam ripper. Put the red ball of the seam ripper against the zipper tape so you don't slice through your zipper!

Close the turning hole with your method of choice (mine is Thermoweb Peel N Stick Fabric Fuse Tape that seals with pressure), open the zipper, and turn your bag right side out. Have a momentary freak out when you think you put your pocket on upside down. Realize that you simply need to turn the pocket to be on the back of the bag. Poke out all the corners carefully.

Back pocket view with the ladies standing upright after all!

And of course the bag needs a coordinating charm! I swapped the snaptab on the Cat Eye Snaptab for an eyelet from the Add-on Pack (FREE with code from the POP Facebook Group). I attached the charm with a 1" Spring Hook/Lanyard Pull

Supply list:

We can't wait to see your pockets! Get to stitching, and come share your creations, ask questions, chat, and look for inspiration in the POP Facebook Group

Shop the story


  • I am thrilled to just discover this tutorial on adding pockets. You are amazing and very thorough in your directions. Even your mistake you showed us which gives us confidence that it’s fixable. Thank you for this. Judy

    Judy Wasenius on

  • Would like a video, I am new to this.

    Dee JOhnson on

  • Would love a live action video on this.

    Juliet Jarvais on

  • Well written tutorial. Will upgrade my next bag.

    Charene Arthur on

  • Great tutorial. I love adding extra features to an already great design. Thank you!

    Helene on

  • Outstanding tutorial and very clever. I’m off to get a bag cut out and take a stab at adding pockets!

    Cathy on

Leave a comment

* Required fields

Please note: comments must be approved before they are published.