Monday, August 25, 2014

Zipper-Mouth Shark Tutorial

This zippered shark is very strongly inspired by this pattern and tutorial by Patchwork Posse.

First, I liked that shark a lot, but technically speaking it's not a shark because shark tails are vertical, wheres whale tails are horizontal.  My regular readers probably know I'm a stickler for the details (example one, two, three and four), so I had to come up with a design change for the tail so it could properly be called a shark.  That being said, since making and uploading the new pattern I've realized the dorsal fin isn't exactly accurate in shape for a shark...but I'm gonna let that one slide ;-)  The tail on these sharks is rather large--modeled somewhat after a whale shark tail, for those wondering.  If you'd like the tail smaller, like a great white, simply trim down the tail pieces

My first attempt at putting in the zipper following the Patchwork Posse tutorial.  Shortly after taking the photo I took it all apart and figured out a different method (described below).

Second, the tutorial is seriously lacking when it comes to the zipper section--I really tried following the instructions, but stabbed myself many times with the pins, and it became clear that the way I was doing it was not going to end  So I took apart my "shark" and put in the zipper like I've done for almost every zip-pouch, ever.  And it went so fast and smoothly!  Some friends on instagram wanted to see my methods and pattern changes, so here's a very detailed photo tutorial on making these zipper-mouth sharks!

Small to large fabric scraps
5" metal zipper
Interfacing (I used medium weight with good results)
Shark pattern--print from or download here, cut out and transfer marks on body and lining pieces.

Cut out pattern pieces--I like to cut two pieces at once (one facing up and one facing down so they're mirror image).

Cut out interfacing--remembering to cut mirror image pieces for the fins and tail pieces (although if you forget, it's not a big deal).

Attach interfacing--I think the body pieces are the only ones worth actually fusing it to.  The fins and tails you can just pin together.

Pair up the fin and tail pieces, wrong sides together.  If you didn't fuse the interfacing to them, sandwich two pieces of interfacing between them

Sew around the edges--about 3/8" from the edge.  Don't worry if it's a little messy!

Pink around the edges.

Mark the mid-line of the shark body by folding it in half and ironing a slight crease.  Then mark a spot 1" in from the tip of the body (just in front of my finger) and line up the long narrow tail piece and dorsal fin--pin them in place and fold the body in half again.

Do the same with the other body piece and the bottom tail fin.  Then fold in half along the crease and sew a 1/4 seam along the mid-line crease to anchor the fins (for both the top and bottom).

Now place the side fins and baste them on so they don't shift later.

Get your zipper and mark a line across both sides (it doesn't have to be at the very end).

With one side of the shark body face up, lay the zipper face-down, lining up the mark on the zipper with the mark on the body.

Pin the zipper in place all the way to the other side mark on the shark body--clip in a tiny bit every 1/4 to 1/2 inch so it will curve nicely.

The little snips should be about 1/8", just enough to ease the zipper around the curves!

Lay the lining piece on top, face down (right sides facing), line up and pin side marks first, the re-pin so the three layers are pinned together.

I pin every 1/2 inch or so, especially around the curves.

Using a zipper foot, sew between the side marks (first and last pin), using a 1/4 inch seam allowance.  I find it easier to sew from the back side.

The finished seam.

Clip the curves, being careful not to snip your stitches!

This is what it should look like at this point--though it doesn't matter if the zipper goes to the left or right.

Repeat for the other side: shark body facing up, zipper facing down, snip a tiny bit around the curves, pin in place between side marks.

Then lay the lining face-down and repin so it will all stay together when sewing.

Sewing on the second side.

Next pin the tail (top and bottom!) and dorsal fin out of the way so they don't get caught in the seam allowance along the sides!  I recommend having the sharp ends towards the end of the shark (like the red pin-they will be easier to remove later!)

Close the zipper half way.

Lay your shark out so that the lining pieces are facing each other and the body pieces are facing each other--with the zipper teeth on the lining side!

Pin and then sew all the way around, leaving a 3" opening in the lining to turn it all right-side out (see where I marked a spot with double pins).

I found it easier to sew it all together still using the zipper foot, especially this thick corduroy one!  The tail is the thickest, trickiest part!  When your needle gets to that mid-line seam, rotate your shark and sew down the other side of the body.

Be very careful going over the zipper!  I usually hand-crank it over the zipper teeth (I've broken needles going over the zipper teeth) and go over the zipper teeth a few times to reinforce it.  Then trim the zipper as close as you can to the seam, don't use your fabric scissors on this!

Going over the zipper can get kind of messy, just take your time, go slow, and be sure to reinforce this part with several lines of stitching.

Trim around the tip of the tail.

Turn the whole thing right-side out through the hole in the lining!  Be very aware and careful of where those pins are on the body pieces!

When you see a fin, gently pull on it.  When you see a pin head, remove the pin.

Ta-da!  Using a chopstick, or long pointy device, gently push out the tip of the tail.

Close the hole in the lining and then push it into the shark body.

Almost there!  Now find some buttons and sew them on (through the body and lining).

Ta da!  One zipper-mouth shark done!  Now go make some more!
These are all scrap-busting sharks-- a whole frenzy of them!  The purple one (far right) was my first, using the Patchwork Posse pattern--so we call it a whale ;-) 

Favorite foods: pencils, pens, paint brushes, candies, legos, and coins.

I would love to see your finished shark--link up here or use #zippermouthshark on IG!  Please let me know if you have any questions about the pattern or tutorial!


  1. I love that you fixed the pattern to make it anatomically closer to a SHARK. Great Tut!

  2. Yes that tail is definitely better! I had been contemplating putting it together like a standard purse - now I don't need to even think about it. Perfect!! 😍

  3. I saw you putting this together on IG and loved it - so glad you wrote it up into a tutorial! I'm also glad my husband, a big shark fan, doesn't need a pencil case for work. But I'm thinking maybe he'll need a shark toy for his birthday in a couple of months ;) Thanks

  4. Awesome tutorial. You are earning some cool momma points with this one. :)

  5. These are adorable! How cute would they be as birthday gifts, filled up little treasures. Your version of the tail looks much better too.

  6. These are great! You ought to put one it the fair too.

  7. I particularly like the corduroy shark, but that light blue fabric is very pretty.

  8. I love their favorite foods! I also like how the dark blue shark has different fabrics for this fins.

  9. Fantastic - thanks so much for the tutorial!!!

  10. That is totally a-dork-able! Would love this in pdf form :)

  11. OMG!! So cute - in a scary sharky way! LOL Adding these to my 'Can't wait to try" stack!

  12. Who knew grey corduroy was so perfect for shark skin? I think we have all broken needles on zipper teeth.
    Small boys would love these.

  13. You made great adjustment with that tail! They all looking fab!

  14. Now that's a tutorial! Fantastic job, can't wait to give it a try!

  15. This is so cute! I know my boys would love them. I'm definitely bookmarking this tutorial. Adorable.

  16. Thank you for posting this - I had pinned the original tutorial from patchwork posse, and even though I've made dozens of zipper bags, the lack of information about how the zipper was installed, stopped me from trying out the pattern. I've actually made several zipper bags with appliqued sharks based on her applique pillow tutorial, but I REALLY wanted to do fun shark SHAPED zipper bags - your tutorial looks VERY helpful :D

  17. I can not wait to try this, thanks so much!!!!!!!!

  18. These are awesome! I think I'm more fond of sharks than zippers, but I'm going to have to try this anyway! Those zipper teeth are so cool.

  19. wait: you sewed over a metal zipper and then cut if off with a scissors??! I thought you could only do that with plastic zippers! How do you do that with a metal zipper?

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