Using Fabric Scraps and Sustainably Sourced Materials to Make Zipper Pouches

Hi Sewcialists- Megan from The Green Violet here to tell you about a recent project I undertook in preparation for the holidays. I’ve been making these zipper pouches as gifts for friends and family for years, but this year I challenged myself to make them more sustainable. This post will not be a tutorial on making zipper pouches (though I have linked to two great ones below) but rather information on how to source more sustainable materials and give you some ideas for how to use up fabric scraps.

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A few years ago, Kelli at True Bias posted a tutorial for Linen and Leather Zipper Pouches and a lightbulb went off in my head. What a great way to reuse scraps from dress making! As a curvy sewist (and one who is always short on fabric requirements due to poor planning), I can almost never get another garment out of my leftover fabric, however bags are perfect for the small scraps that I have been hoarding because I feel too guilty to throw them away. I haven’t ever really been one for bag making, but since these are all one of a kind and they remind me of different garments I’ve sewn in the past and I find these really fun to make. I took inspiration from Kelli’s post, but I used the bag making process outlined in this post from Purl Soho.

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Like I mentioned above, I’ve been making these for a few years and while I felt good about using my garment sewing scraps, I felt bad about buying the rest of the materials new, it seemed like it kinda defeated the purpose of trying to use up scraps! So this year, when I embarked on my annual bag making project in preparation for holiday gift giving, I put a little work into sourcing more sustainable materials. To make these bags, you will need a fashion fabric, a zipper, leather accent, lining fabric, and a fusible interfacing. I have found a satisfactorily sustainable options for all items except for the interfacing. Read on!

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The first thing I searched out was zippers. If you have the time and local resources, its pretty easy to find really cheap zippers at the thrift store/charity shop. In my mind, this is a sustainability win, you are keeping unwanted zippers out of the landfill AND no resources were used making new zippers for your project. I had a few in the stash, but second hand resources are scarce here in New Mexico, so I took to the internet for the remainder. I searched both Ebay and Etsy and ended up purchasing a lot of 15 vintage metal zippers for $12 USD (including shipping) from Light and Laughter on Etsy. My best tips are to search for “vintage metals zippers lot” and try to narrow down your search by length or color if you would like to get more specific. With the purchase of a “lot,” you will save money, but you may end up with some zippers that won’t work for this project. Of course, thats what the stash is for, right? And the added bonus is that each bag ends up completely one of a kind!

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The next step was sourcing leather, which basically followed the same process. I searched “lot scrap leather” on Ebay and came up with quite a few options. Most of these were sold by weight and the picture in the listing isn’t always exactly what you will be getting, so it is a bit of a gamble. Make sure to read the fine print on these listings. I think most of the sellers were leatherworkers who were selling off scraps too small for their own projects, so purchasing these saves the leather from the landfill. While leather is hardly a susatainble product, at least buying it in scrap from gives something that may have been discarded a second chance! I purchased 13 oz of leather for $20 including shipping from Dundeedog Leather on Ebay. They have a section of their store dedicated to scraps. Below is a sample of what I got, though I had already used a large portion of the tan leather and almost all of the green leather when I took this photo. I think I will be able to get about 15 bags out of this lot of scrap leather.

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Next up was sourcing the lining. I conveniently had a few pieces of lining fabric that I had picked up in the thrift store and never used, because I’ve actually never sewn a lined garment! But I’m sure many of you more adventurous garments sewists have some scrap lining fabrics lying around. I used the poly linings from my stash and saved the nicer rayon ones in case the desire to make a lined garment suddenly strikes me.

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That leaves me with only the interfacing left to source. On Instagram, someone suggested that I use denim or other heavy fabric scraps as my interfacing. I think this would work well if your “fashion” fabric was a sturdy cotton, however most of mine are rayon challis or similar, so I decided to go with something fusible. Unfortunately, I did have to buy this new, though it is another opportunity for stash busting if you do have a lot of interfacing hanging around you sewing room. Once you’ve gathered all your supplies, you are ready for a bag sewing marathon, just in time for the holiday season.

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So where did all these fun fabrics come from, you might be wondering? Here are some dresses that share some striking similarities with the bags above 😉

I hope I’ve given you some ideas for how to use up your fabric scraps and how to make your bag making projects a big more sustainable. Thanks for reading and please let me know if you have any questions in the comments below!