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How to add closure to a tote bag, 8 ways!

Today I wish to share with you a variety of ways how to add closure to a tote bag, from the frequently used magnetic snap closure to a wide range of alternative purse closures. It is no secret I love making tote bags, with lots of free tote bag patterns on the blog, which include a wide variety of types of closures for bags!

The choice of closure can make a real difference to the look and feel of a standard tote bag pattern, I am almost tempted to make a huge selection of totes to show you just how different the same tote bag can feel with these bag fastening ideas.

Naturally, you can consider any of these bag closures for all types of purses, they are not restricted to totes! I hope you love these eight purse closure ideas.

8 Types of closures for tote bags

1. Magnetic Snaps –

Magnetic closures are super easy to install in any lined bag. A magnetic closure is frequently used for tote bags, they are super easy and quick to open providing ready access to your purse.

Initially, I have to admit to being a little intimidated about getting the two parts to line up, but I needn’t have worried. It is really easy to line up your two pieces of bag lining, find the central point and install them.

How to install a magnetic snap:-

  • Find the central point on your lining pieces of fabric.
  • Place the washed of the magnetic snap an 1 1/2″ down from the top edge of the bag, mark the two slits onto the fabric using a fabric pen.
  • Cut these markings with a seam ripper.
  • Insert the prongs through to the back of the bag, add the washer and fold the prongs.
  • Repeat for the second part of the magnetic snap on your second piece of lining fabric.

Check out my detailed tutorial how to attach magnetic snaps to find out how I use fusible fleece to ensure your magnetic snap does not come loose with time.

2. Button Closure 

When considering how to add a button closure to a tote bag think about a) whether it is realistic to create a button hole through the layers of fabric and interfacing or b) whether you prefer the look of a loop around the button.

How to add a button closure to a tote bag. A button loop closure can easily be installed along the top edge of the bag, before you add the lining to your bag:-

  • First create your loop, the tote bag feature above has bias binding folded in half longways and top stitched. The length you require fits comfortably over the button plus seam allowance. An alternative is to use elastic.
  • Place the loop so the loop is at the top of the bag, facing towards the external body of the bag with the ends are in the seam allowance, baste in place.
  • Complete your bag, adding the bag lining.
  • Lastly stitch the button in the right position.

The right button can finish a bag with great style.

3. Zipper Closure

Another standard way to adding a closure to a tote bag is to use zippers. There are two common ways, one a zipper along the top, very similar to a flat bottom pouch, the only difference being the scale of the bag and handles.

How to add a zipper closure to a tote bag:-

  • Prepare your lining and external bag pattern pieces by adding any interfacing
  • Add external straps, ensuring you do not stitch to the very top edge but leave at least an inch or two.
  • Lay your lining right side facing you, then the zipper right side facing, then the outer bag wrong side facing you along the top edge of the pouch, ensuring the strap are folded well away form the zipper..
  • Using a zipper foot stitch along the top, along the edge of the zipper. Fold the fabrics away from the zip and press, then topstitch.
  • Repeat for the second side.
  • Undo the zip part way. Open out your fabric so the right sides of the outer fabric pieces face each other and the right sides of the lining fabric pieces face each other. Pin in place.
  • Machine stitch all around, except a 6″ turning gap along the bottom of the lining.
  • Fold the raw edges in of your turning gap and top stitch top close. Turn your bag right side out.

The second is a recessed zipper closure. This is not as hard as it looks with two zipper panels being added to the lining of the tote bag before you

How to sew a recessed zipper in a tote bag (to be added before you add the lining and external bag together):-

  • Make a zipper tab for the end of the zip. Cut a piece of fabric, press in the edges.
  • Fold over encasing the zipper in the fabric tab. Machine or hand stitch the fabric tab.
  • Cut four pieces of fabric, half the depth of the bag plus 3/4″, the length of the bag minus 1/4″ The seam allowance is 1/4″
  • Cut four pieces of heavyweight iron-on interfacing without seam allowances and apply to the reverses of the four fabric strips, following the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Cut small pieces of wonder tape and place it on the corners of the interfacing. Peel the paper off and fold in the corners, press lightly.
  • Fold in the sides of the four panels, along the edges of the iron-on interfacing. Press with a hot iron.
  • Add a strip of wonder tape along one edge.
  • Place the zip along your wonder tape edge.
  • Place the second strip of fabric on top, encasing the zip. Tack the two layers of fabric together then machine stitch to finish.
  • Repeat for the second side of the zip.
  • Place onto one side of your lining fabric and stitch into place (centrally)..
  • Repeat for the second side of the lining.
  • Now stitch up your lining as per the pattern.

4. Hook and Loop Tape (velcro)

I am going to share two examples of how you can use hook and loop tape as a bag closure.

Firstly, simply add to the bag lining, either side towards the top edge of the bag, this makes an invisible closure when looking at the bag externally. This is a great way of adding a closure to a leather tote bag, ensure you use a suitable glue to adhere the velcro to the wrong wide of the leather.

Alternatively, you can use velcro on a closure tab. This is a simple rectangle of fabric, stitched to the back of the bag, it folds over the top to the front right side of the bag and is secured shut with velcro.

How to add a velcro closure to your tote bag (to be added before you add the lining and external bag together) :-

  • Stitch a piece of velcro to the lining piece of fabric for your flap closure, approx an 1″ from the bottom edge of the piece of fabric.
  • Place the two pieces of flap fabric right sides together (the fabric size for the flap shown above is 6 by 4 1/2″).
  • Stitch three sides. Trim seam allowance, especially the corners, taking care not to cut the stitches by accident.
  • Turn right side out and topstitch around the edges.
  • Place centrally along the top edge of the back of your external bag fabric and baste into place.
  • Fold over as if you have finished the bag (so folding as if the seam allowance has been taken into consideration) and mark the position for the other side of the velcro on the front of the bag.
  • Stitch the second piece of velcro in place.
  • Insert the external bag inside the lining and complete the bag.

5. Tuck or Push Closure –

From high-end wallets to embellished purses, tuck or push closure works the best. Just push the metal part in the loop-like design, and yes!

How to sew a crossbody bag

How to add a tuck or push closure to a bag (note this is best done before adding the lining and sewing the bag up).

  • Thread webbing, leather, or a fabric strip through the bottom half of the push closure mechanism.
  • Place onto the front of the exterior bag, ensuring the webbing/leather or fabric strip is folded in half laying on top of each other.
  • Stitch securely, I recommend a rectangle with a crisscross across the middle for additional strength.
  • Repeat for the second half of the push closure mechanism.
  • Place onto the back of your external bag fabric, placing to work put positioning before basting into place.
  • Stitch securely, I recommend a rectangle with a crisscross across the middle for additional strength.

6. Turn or Twist Closure 

Often seen on a classic purse a turn or twist lock looks highly stylish, and is very functional. To use a twist closure on a tote you will need a closing flap on the bag.

How to install a twist lock:-

  • Place faceplate of twist lock (with prongs) upside down where you would like it installed and trace around the opening for your hole.
  • Cut out the traced hole, being careful not to make hole too large! Likewise not too small, you need to be able to place the two parts of the lock over the hole without any fabric showing in the hole. I use sharp small scissors, alternatively, you could use a craft knife.
  • Apply Fraystop to the edges and set aside to dry.
  • Place both sides over hole, then press together making sure they are perfectly straight.  Push the prongs down.
  • For the twist part of the lock use the prongs as a guide, draw two lines where your prong holes will be cut.
  • Cut the prong holes for the twist lock, I like to use a seam ripper for this.
  • Place the prongs of the lock through from the right side of the fabric to the wrong side, then place the washer with slots over prongs, lastly flatten out the prongs.

7. Drawstring Closure

A drawstring closure is suitable for large roomy tote bags. I have two suggestions for you, one using eyelets along the top edge of the bag and adding a drawstring. This is shown in the bag below (pattern available from Sew Modern Bags)

PDF Pattern From SewModernBags

An alternative is to install the drawstring closure internally adding the closure and additional fabric in between the lining fabric and external fabric.

How to add a drawstring closure to a bag you need two pieces of fabric the same width as your bag fabric and three times the depth of your bag (to be added before you add the lining and external bag together):-

  • Place the two pieces of drawstring fabric, right sides facing.
  • Sew the two side seams leaving a 1″ gap along the seam for the drawstring piping. Tis 1″ gap needs to be positioned centrally, exactly half way down the seam.. Stitch the side seam with the seam allowance as the rest of your bag.
  • Press the seam allowance open. Fold in the raw edge of the seam allowance and press under. Stitch to finish the seam along this folded edge, repeat for the second side of the seam allowance.
  • Fold the fabric in half, wrong sides facing each other, so the long edges align. Press.
  • To finish the casing for the drawstring stitch a parallel line to the press folded seam, at 3/4″, this creates the cord channel.
  • Pin the raw edge of your drawstring fabric to the right side of the external bag with the side seams matching the side seams of the facing.
  • Place the external bag inside the lining so the right side of the external bag faces the right side of the lining, with all the raw edges aligned. You will have four layers of fabric. Ensure the four seams of the external bag and the four seams of the lining are lined up. Stitch with a 1/4″ seam allowance.

8. Buckles Closure

Buckle closures are frequently seen used on casual backpacks, such as my mini backpack pattern.

packpack pattern

I appreciate a buckle is not your first thought for a tote type bag but I can visualize a tote bag, similar to a bucket bag, the bag handles added to the side seam, a fold over top and stylish buckle.

How to add a buckle closure to your tote bag:-

  • Work out the position of your closing strap. This will vary on the size of strap closure you have. To work this out fold over the closing fabric.
  • Place your strap closure onto your fabric, centrally.
  • Hand stitch the lower part of the strap to the front bag panel.
  • Add the second piece of your bag closure, place centrally and stitch to secure.

I hope you have enjoyed thinking beyond magnetic snaps, with this array of types of purse closures.  I would love to hear what kind of alternative closures you use for tote bags.

Of course, there are other forms of closure suitable for other types purses, such as a clasp closure or a snap closure like on this sunglasses case pattern.

Do check out my free bag making course, and all the free bag patterns on the blog. I hope you enjoy your bag making journey as much as I do!

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