I like to make garment bags for my clients, and to keep my own dresses in. It makes garments easy to store and carry, and you can build pockets into the garment bags to hold belts and sashes and other accessories, so that you never spend time trying to remember where you put the rest of the outfit.
Here is how to make a simple 22″ wide, 55″ long dress bag with one outside pocket.
You will need:
- 65″ (1.7 yards, 1.5 metres) of 45″ wide fabric. I like to use pre-washed unbleached cotton muslin because it is low-acid. For a shorter bag you will need the length you want the bag to be + 10″ for the pocket.
- A 50″ zip
- Bias binding
- A 3″ length of cord, or make your own piece of rouleau cording using Steph’s excellent tutorial.
Step 1: The pocket
- Cut 10″ off of the bottom your length of fabric.
- Cut two 12″ pieces from the 10″ strip. These 10″ x 12″ squares will be your pocket.
- Place the two 10″ x 12″ squares wrong sides together. With a 5/8″ seam allowance start sewing on one long edge 3″ from a corner. When you get to the corner turn and sew down the short edge with a 3/8″ seam allowance. Turn and sew down the 2nd long edge, also with a 3/8″ seam allowance. Sew the final short edge with a 3/8″ seam allowance, but when you get to the last corner turn and sew another 3″ on to the first (original) long edge with a 5/8″ seam allowance. When you are done it should look like this:
- Snip the corners
- Turn and press the square, using the gap in the top edge to turn through.
- Mark the centre of the square at the top edge which has the gap. Fold your cord or rouleau cord into a loop, and pin between the two layers of fabric at the gap. Stitch right along the edge of the fabric at the top edge of the pocket, backstitching over the loop a couple of times to ensure that it is secure.
- Mark the centre of your length of 45″ fabric, and the centre of your pocket (remember this will pass through the centre of the loop)
- Measure down 10″ from the top of your length of fabric, and pin the pocket square in place, matching the centre markings.
- Narrow sew along the sides and bottom of the pocket, being sure to backstitch at the beginning and end so that the pocket is firmly attached.
- Pick a cute button that fits the size of your loop, and sew it on and your pocket is done!
- Fold your length of fabric in half with right sides together. Pin along the two selvedge edges. Sew along the edge using a 5/8″ seam allowance and the largest stitch length. Press this seam open. This seam will be your centre zip opening.
- Insert your zipper: lay your zipper face down on the pressed open seam, carefully centering the zip on the seam. Pin or baste in place.
- Using a zipper foot and the normal stitch length, carefully sew down one edge of the zip, following the ribbed line that is in most zips to guide you.
- When you get to the bottom of the zipper insert your needle fully into the fabric, lift your foot and turn the fabric 90 degrees, so that you can sew across the bottom of the zipper. On garment bags I like to backstitch back and forth across the bottom of the zip a number of times so that it is very firmly secured.
- With the bottom of the zip secured insert your needle into the fabric, lift your foot, and turn the bag another 90 degrees, so that you can sew back up the other side of the zip seam 1/2 from the seam.
- If you have trouble getting past the zipper pull you can insert your needle firmly into the fabric, lift your food, and unpick a bit of the seam to open a hole enough for you to slide the zipper pull down past your foot.
- At the top of the zip turn the fabric once more and sew back and forth across the top of the zip, just as you did at the bottom, so that it is firmly secured.
- Woohoo! Your zipper is all sewn, and almost done. Now you unpick the basted seam covering the front of your zip, and trim off any extra length at the bottom of your zip if you bought one longer than your bag.
Step 4: The bottom of the garment bag
- With your zip done it’s time to finish the bottom of the bag. I do this with a french seam, so that there are no nasty raw edges.
- First, lay the bag out, right side out, centreing the zip in the middle of the bag. Pin the bottom edges together.
- Sew along the bottom edge, 3/8 from the edge.
Turn your bag inside out, press the bottom edge, and sew along the bottom edge 5/8″ from the edge, thus enclosing the raw edges in your seam.
Step 5: the top of the garment bag
The top of your garment bag is going to look like a shallow upside down V, with the tip cut off for the hanger hook to go through. Just as with the bottom of the bag, I french seam it, so that there are no nasty frayed pits.
So, do do the top of your bag:
- Lay the bag out flat, and carefully smooth it out and centre the zip. Lay a hanger on top of it to use as a guide, with the hook right at the centre point along the zip line.
- Mark the line of the hanger on ONE side of the bag using a chalk or a pencil. Use a straight edge to continue this line to the edge of the garment bag.
- Cut 5/8″ above the line you have marked on one side of the garment bag, and then fold the bag in half and use the cut line as a guide to cut the other side of the garment bag.
- Trim off a bit of the top of the garment bag so that you have at least 2″ of a straight edge at the top of your inverted V.
- Then fold, press and stitch the straight edges on the front and back of the garment bag.
- Now that the centre hole that the clothes hanger hook will pass through is finished, it’s time to do the french seam on the top edge. With the wrong sides of the bag together, the zip facing out and centred on the garment bag, sew a narrow 1/4″ seam along the edge on both sides of the finished edges for the hook hole.
- UNZIP the zip and turn the garment bag inside out. Press the seam you have just sewn, and sew 1/2″ from the edge, forming a lovely finished french seam.
- Turn your garment bag right side out, press, and….
You’re done! Put your prettiest garment in it and enjoy!