Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Aeroplane Bag: Padded Straps & Zipper Tab Tutorial!

These short tutorials are for the Aeroplane Bag pattern by Sew Sweetness, though the methods can definitely be used on other bag patterns with similar construction!  

Aeroplane Bags: long version on the left with small sewing machine and regular version on the right with 3/4 sewing machine.

Padded Straps

The pattern does not include any instructions for adding padding to the straps--but the bag is quite large and will be heavy and uncomfortable to carry without any padding.  Especially if you plan to use the bag for a sewing machine!   I also think the padding adds a more structured, finished, and -professional feel to the bag.

1. Cut 2 pieces of fusible fleece 3" wide and the length of your straps piece, minus one inch (so if your strap is 44" long, cut the fusible fleece to 43" long).  You may have to use more than one piece to get the right length, just overlap them by 1/8 when pressing to your strap fabric.

Aeroplane bag strap with fusible fleece added for padding.

2. Press as per the instructions that came with your fusible fleece--centering it on the strap. 

3. Cut 2 pieces of fusible fleece 3" wide and 14" long (one for each strap).  Place and press it at the center of each strap.

Aeroplane Bag: adding a second layer of fusible fleece to the center of the strap for extra padding/comfort.

 4. The fusible fleece makes for an easy guide for the rest of the handle construction.  Press the fabric in towards the fusible fleece 1/2" on each side.

Aeroplane Bag: pressing seam allowance toward fusible fleece.

5. Follow instructions in the Aeroplane Bag pattern to finish the straps.

Note: For my first version I only added one layer and knew it wasn't thick enough to carry a larger machine, so for the long version of the bag I added the second layer at the center of the strap and was much happier with the thickness and comfort when carrying a sewing machine. 

Zipper Taps

Adding 1" pieces of fabric to both ends of the zipper with reduce bulk in the seam allowance, and will make sewing the bag together smoother as you won't be sewing over many layers of fabric plus a zipper!  The hidden zipper ends and/or teeth can be really difficult to sew over or around.  Also the zipper tabs center the ends of the zipper instead of them being kind of skewed into the seam allowance.

1. Cut 4 pieces of fabric 1.25" long by the width of your zipper.  My zipper is 1" wide, so my fabirc pieces are 1.25"x1".  You will also want to trim your zipper to 2" shorter than called for in your pattern as the tabs add about 2" in length.  

2.  Layer a piece of fabric on each side of the zipper ends (right sides facing the zipper, making a zipper sandwich), and sew a 1/4" seam.  

Aeroplane Bag: zipper sandwich!

3. Press fabric pieces away from zipper and topstitch 1/8" from edge (catching both the top and bottom pieces):

Aeroplane Bag: zipper tabs top

Aeroplane Bag: zipper tabs bottom.

4. When inserting the zipper (as per the Aeroplane Bag pattern instructions), mark the center of the tabs, and angle it to the edge of the bag pieces:

Aeroplane Bag: when installing zipper the tabs will angle towards the edge of the bag piece while the zipper stays flush with the edge of the bag.

5. Basically follow the Aeroplane Bag instructions for sewing in the zipper, being sure to start sewing at the edge of the bag and angling to a 1/4" seam allowance:

Aeroplane Bag: sewing in the zipper tabs

Aeroplane Bag: sewing in the zipper tabs

6. Here is what the zipper tab looks like once you have sewn the zipper to the lining:

Aeroplane Bag: zipper tab from lining side.

If it's a little smaller, that's okay, but you don't want it much bigger because you want that entire unfinished edge of the zipper tab to be encased in the bag seam allowance.

7.  Continue with the pattern instruction on finishing the bag.  I took a bunch of photos and think they are worth sharing to help you out in the tricky spots.

When pinning the exterior pieces together, try to match them up around the entire edge, but especially where it meets the lining.

Aeroplane Bag: preparing to sew the exterior of the bag together. 

When sewing you want to make sure to start right at the seam where the zipper tab is sewn to the bag--in the photo below I started about 1/2" away from it and then carefully reversed to the right spot.

Aeroplane Bag: sewing together the exterior pieces takes a lot of wrestling!

Be careful to keep the lining out of the way so it doesn't get pinched, like mine did:

Aeroplane Bag: top seam (just above the zipper tab) is pinched/accidently sewn in, and the stitches are already stressed.

If you do catch the lining, just rip out the offending stitches and try again.  I know, that totally sucks and you just want to be done with the bag already!  But those stitches will be carrying the weight of whatever you put in your bag, and will likely tear through at some point--better to do an easy fix now than deal with damage later!

Aeroplane Bag: ripped out a few stitches on the left where the lining was caught in the seam.

Okay, hopefully the bag construction went smoothly after that and your zipper tabs looks like this (or better!):

Aeroplane Bag: exterior zipper tab at the top stop.

Aeroplane Bag: interior zipper tab at the top stop.

Aeroplane Bag: exterior zipper tab at the bottom stop.

Aeroplane Bag: interior zipper tab at the bottom stop.  This one has a weird pinching on the left side, but with the lining fully in the bag it didn't pull on the stitches, so I left it.  It is a minor wonky detail in the bag that would probably go unnoticed...except for this closeup photo I'm sharing on the internet, haha.

You can also see the zipper tabs I put in the first Aeroplane bag I made here!

I hope these make sense and are helpful when you make an Aeroplane bag, or similar.  Please let me know if something doesn't make sense and I will try to clarify!


  1. The large bag has been getting all kinds of use and I really appreciate the padded straps - thank you!!

  2. Thanks, lady! I'm always looking for ways to improve my handmade bags. : )

  3. Thanks very much for the tutorial. I'll definitely use this when I make my sewing machine bag.

  4. Great article. I like your blog. Thanks for sharing.

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