Making of: zill pouches

Pouch made with teal assuit

These were afternoon projects (one for each I made) that ended taking a life of its own, and as usual generated a few variations along the way. I wanted a small pouch to hung on my belt and maybe keep a card or a small amount of cash with me. I noticed straight away that while the D-rings I’d sown on my belts were useful, they might make the zill bag bounce around a bit too much while dancing, so I decided on a version that would be more securely attached, with an elastic or a strap going all the way around the belt.

I realised early enough that it would need a firm backing, so I digged out some bookbinding card I had in my craft supplies. I also wanted the bags to be able to withstand the weight of the zills, so decided on a double layer of strength fabric.

So, having decided on overall construction details, I got to work. I made these in a few in different shapes and sizes, for zills, for my then big phone, and for carrying cards/cash. They were nice and relaxing to make, great for using leftover pieces of decorative fabrics, and at least two were made entirely by hand. I’d like to invite you to use mostly what you have around, leftover pieces of other projects that are too small for clothing, but maybe not small enough to throw away/recycle.

What you’ll need:

  • paper for the pattern, or download my pattern (A4 version)
  • some strength fabric (calico, non stretch denim, canvas)
  • some fashion fabric, I prefer brocade or even velvet; for the assuit one at the top I used velvet underneath the assuit
  • strong rigid cardboard for the back support; you could also use some small pieces of thin wood, or other rigid and thin material you have access to and can cut safely.
  • snap fasteners; you can use ribbons or ties but I prefer the snaps
  • elastic to slide through the belt; you can use a bought clip or even ribbon/ties to tie to the belt.
  • bias tape to finish it neatly (optional).
  • good strong sharp needle, upholstery thread, pins or ideally fabric clips
Zill Pouch: getting the pattern

Pattern: First, step was to obtain a pattern. This was simple: I used the zills, traced around one of them to get the general idea of how big it needed to be, then left a good amount of ease around it (about 1.5cm each side) . I cut a LONG piece of paper with this width, long enough to wrap around to create the lid, and then some more to allow adjustments. I placed the four zills onto the strip of paper, and marked where I wanted the lid to end. Rounded the corners, and that was my base. For the actual pouch, I did somewhat similar: marked the shape on paper, added enough ease and extra height, cut a bigger piece, and folded it over the pile of zills. Marked where the sides met the base, and where the pouch should end to keep the zills well contained. Cut a straight line across the top, and rounded the bottom after I folded the corners. Clips are brilliant for this step.

Zill Pouch Pieces

Pieces: These are the resulting pieces: two pieces for the back, two pieces for the pouch, cut in calico; I could have used thicker canvas and have just one piece, but I was using scraps of fabric I had lying around. The cardboard is smaller than the back, to leave space for sewing, but should be around the same height as the belt you want to use it with. This is to prevent the elastic from scrunching the belt at that point.

Calico pouch assembled

Assembling the pieces for a test, using clips, they looked a bit like you see on the right. I used the zills again to make sure they still fitted. You can also see the two small darts I used on each bottom corner to help build the height. After verifying that the intended pieces would fit, I cut the same pieces on fashion fabric, but this time leaving at least 1cm extra for folding in as needed. I then overlocked every single edge since I was working with brocade that frays a *lot*.

Assembling the back piece: since the elastic was going to go through all of these, I needed to create effectively a giant buttonhole to push it through. It was a great way to learn to use the buttonhole function on my sewing machine, although at least one of the pouches I made, I did the work by hand. If you look in the leftmost photo, the cardboard has holes to put the elastic through.

Alternatively: you can cut and finish the edges of the buttonholes. Once you have the cardboard and fabric sandwich fully assembled, use a bit of bias tape around the inside edge of the buttonholes for a neater finishing, just don’t try to sew through the cardboard!

After making the buttonholes on every pieces of fabric, I sandwiched the cardboard between the two pieces of calico, lining up the openings, and glued the cardboard in place to both pieces of fabric. When the glue dried, I added the fashion fabric, wrong side touching the calico, folded the seam allowance over and sewed it all together. Then I cut the elastic measuring it with the belt, and sewed the elastic ends. I did not sew the elastic to the calico as I want to be able to remove the elastic and change it easily if/when it stretches. I then cut a layer of lining and sewed over the calico, I used a small piece of black cotton jersey I had leftover from making some stretch pantaloons (more on that soon!) Set aside, we won’t be adding the snap fastener yet.

Assembling the back piece 1
Assembling the back piece part 2, measuring the elastic
Assembling the back piece for the zill pouch, part 3, glue and sew

Assembling the front of the pouch: I gathered the two layers of calico, and the fashion fabric. With the fashion fabric’s wrong side touching the calico, I folded over the seam allowance, used the clips, and sewed them all in place together. Then I cut a layer of lining and set aside. I marked the centre line of the pouch piece, and somewhere near the top, added the bottom part of the snap fastener (see below). After the snap fastener was attached securely, I sewed the lining in place.

Assembling the front pouch
Assembling the front pouch 2: snap fastener in place, and lining attached
Assembling the front pouch 3: lining
Assembling the front pouch alternative: indvidually sewn corners

Alternatively: sew and trim the darts for the corners in place for each layer of fabric. Assemble the whole (minus the lining) before adding the snap fastener. Once you have the snap fastener in place, sew the lining. Which method you use for this will depend a lot on how thick your fabric layers are individually and together. The thicker the layers, the more I would recommend going for this second option, as it will make the final assembly easier. Check out the image on the right to view a corner that was individually sewn and trimmed.

Zill pouch, completed

Final assembly: I assembled the two pieces as I did with the original, using clips. I then filled the pouch with the zills; you can use whatever content you want to use the pouch for. Folded over the lid, and marked where the snap fastener went, then I installed the fastener according to instructions.

Now that both pieces were lined and the snap fasteners in place, it was time to sew the front and back pieces together like I assembled them on the first steps. I used upholstery thread. For the ones I sewed by hand, I used backstich and then a second time around using overcast stitch. Remember these stitches will carry the strain of holding both pieces together as you dance and move around, plus the weight of whatever you put in the pouch, so they need to be strong.

Once the pieces were attached, I added bias tape along the edges, and sewed using invisible stitch. This added a nice finish to the piece. If you do this step, remember the bias tape should not be the main carrier of the weight. Depending on the thickness of your chosen materials and the weight of what you’ll carry, you could totally skip the previous assembly step and just sew everything together. You could also skip this altogether and go with the existing seams. But I prefer the finish I got doing this. I feel it looks cleaner and tidier, and also allows for exchange if it starts wearing out, without affecting the main fabric underneath.

Download the pdf pattern files here (A4 version).
Do you want to try making this? Let me know in the comments!

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