Saturday, July 16, 2016

Pool Pouch -- Sewing Tutorial

We finally joined a pool this summer, so I have been spending many many hours watching my goofball children swim.  Inevitably, one or the both of them walks up to me to tattle or beg for a snack, and this results in them somehow getting me and the stuff I'm holding soaking wet.  I don't know how those little bodies can drip off a gallon of water during a simple snack request, but somehow they do it.  My phone needs protection!

I have sewn a few other pouches from tutorials for similar projects to protect your phone by the pool.  I wasn't completely satisfied with any of the finished products, so I decided I needed to design my own.  This pouch is great because you can work the touch screen on your phone through the clear vinyl and avoid dripping on your phone if you're wet yourself.  My brother and I tested it, and you can even answer a call and talk on the phone with the phone still safely zipped inside!  The finished product easily fits an iPhone 6 with a case on it.  You may want to adjust the sizing accordingly if your phone is much larger or smaller.

Pool Pouch -- Sewing Tutorial

Materials Needed:

  • Clear vinyl (any gauge will do -- I used a fairly thin gauge but a thick one works too)
  • Main fabric (quilting weight or heavier)
  • Back fabric (home decor weight or quilting weight paired with interfacing)
  • Bias tape (extra wide, double fold, about 30" long)
  • Fusible web (like Wonder Under or Heat 'n' Bond, any "strength")
  • Zipper (at least 8" long)
  • Grommet (large, about 1" diameter at the outside)
  • Carabiner (one that will fit through the grommet and be able to attach to your pool bag strap)
  • Zipper foot
  • Masking tape (if you don't have a Teflon foot for sewing over the vinyl) 
  • Thread to match your zipper, your main fabric, and your bias tape
  • Wonder Clips, binder clips, or paper clips
  • [Optional: cardboard (or a manilla folder) to draw a pattern out of to help with cutting the vinyl.]

FINISHED DIMENSIONS: 8" wide by 6" tall
Seam allowances indicated throughout.

STEP ONE: Cutting the fabric and vinyl

From your main fabric and your back fabric, cut an 8" x 6" rectangle.  If you're using directional fabric, the 8" is the width.  Then cut a 1" x 8" strip of each.  For this project, the flowered fabric was my main fabric, and the denim was the back fabric.

Cutting the clear vinyl is a PAIN IN THE BUTT -- your ruler will stick to it, and you will be cursing me by the time you are done.  I think it's easier to make a little pattern out of cardboard or from a manilla folder to help.  That way I can use my rotary blade to trace around it (or I could use a permanent marker to trace and scissors to cut).  From the clear vinyl, you will need one piece that is 8" x 6", one piece that is 8" x 5", and one piece that is 8" x 1".

(I didn't take a photo of all of the pieces cut out, because photographing clear vinyl is an exercise in futility.)  I actually just cut two pieces that were 8" x 6" and then sliced an 8" x 1" strip off one of the pieces to end up with my three vinyl pieces.

Also, grab your Wonder Under or Heat 'n' Bond (or whatever fusible web you have handy) and cut an 8" x 6" rectangle.

In summary:

  • 8"w x 6"h
  • 8"w x 1"h
  • 8"w x 6"h
  • 8"w x 1"h
  • 8"w x 6"h
  • 8"w x 5"h
  • 8"w x 1"h
  • 8"w x 6"h

STEP TWO: Prep work

Take your 8" x 6" main fabric and back fabric pieces and fuse them together with the fusible web with the WRONG SIDES TOGETHER.  If you want to add a label to your pouch, do it either before (if stitching it on) or after (if fusing the label on) fusing these fabrics together.  I didn't add one to this project and I'm still kicking myself for forgetting.

Do you have one of those cool Teflon feet for your machine that allows you to sew smoothly over vinyl or oilcloth?  If so, great.  If not, just grab some masking tape and put it on the bottom of your regular foot (cutting out the spot where the needle goes through).  Works like a charm.

Now thread your machine with thread that matches your MAIN FABRIC.

STEP THREE: Installing the zipper

Grab your 8" x 1" strip of back fabric and lay it face up on your work surface.  Then, lay your zipper FACE UP on top of that (so the right side of the back fabric is facing the wrong side of the zipper.

Find your 8" x 1" clear vinyl strip (which is easier said than done since that sucker is nearly invisible) and lay that on top of the zipper, even with the edges of the back fabric.

Finally, lay the 8" x 1" strip of main fabric on top of the clear vinyl, with the right side down.  Make sure the edges of the fabric and vinyl are all lined up at the ends and along the middle.

Since you can't use pins with clear vinyl, secure everything with Wonder Clips, binder clips, or even paper clips.  Just don't puncture the vinyl.

Sew a 1/4" seam along the long side.  I have read recommendations to use a slightly longer stitch when sewing vinyl, but I have never really noticed that it made much of a difference.  I just stick with my regular stitch length and it works just fine.

You can use a zipper foot if you like.  I tend to get a better result just using my regular foot with the needle all the way in the left-hand position, but who am I to judge?

You already put the masking tape on the bottom of the foot, right?  If not, do it now.

Open up the zipper sandwich and fold the fabrics and vinyl away from the zipper.  (Now the main fabric strip and back fabric strip will have their wrong sides facing each other, and the clear vinyl is on top of the main fabric.)  Normally, I would iron a nice crease there, but the clear vinyl melts like butter at the thought of being touched by an iron.  So, finger pressing has to do.  Top stitch close to the edge (about 1/8" away) to hold everything in place.  You can't really see the clear vinyl in this photo, but rest assured it's there!

Now, grab your 8" x 5" rectangle of clear vinyl and line one of the 8" edges up to the opposite edge of the zipper.  The zipper should be face up (with the main fabric also facing up).  Make sure the 5" edges match up with the ends of the fabric.  Clip into place.

Switch the thread in your machine to one that blends into your zipper.  Trust me on this one -- it will look much better this way.  Otherwise, the stitching sticks out like a sore thumb.

Sew the vinyl to the zipper with a 1/4" seam allowance.  It's hard to see (because I used thread to blend into the zipper tape!) but it's there.

Fold the clear vinyl away from the zipper and finger press it into place.  Then top stitch close to the edge (about 1/8" away) to hold the vinyl down into place.  See how the top stitching also disappears?

Finally, pull your zipper pull in between the edges of the fabric and vinyl and baste the zipper together just inside the outer edges on both sides.  (This isn't necessary if you're using an 8" zipper, but I was using a 12" one because it was what I had on hand.)  Trim off the excess zipper beyond the edges on both sides.

STEP FOUR: Assembling the pouch

Locate the fused-together pieces of main and back fabrics.  Lay it down with the main fabric facing up.  Grab your piece with the zipper and lay it right on top, with the zipper facing up.  Trim away any excess vinyl at the bottom or sides and make sure everything is squared up.

Clip the layers all together.  If this project DIDN'T include vinyl, we would probably baste around the edges before stitching on the bias tape.  Because we don't want to put any more holes in the vinyl than absolutely necessary, we're going to skip this step.

Instead, we're going to clip the bias tape on (sandwiching it around the layers).  Start on one of the sides and work your way around.  Take off and replace the clips as you go.  It may seem silly to clip and then reclip with the bias tape, but it's much easier to keep it all together this way.

When you get to a corner, make the turn . . .

. . . then go back and tuck in the excess at both sides to create a mitered corner (with the fold on the diagonal from the corner in toward the vinyl).  It's hard to see since I used black bias tape, but it's there.  Stick a clip on the corner to hold the miter in place.

Continue all the way around until you get to the beginning.

Cut off any excess bias tape, leaving about an inch or so overlapping.

Fold about 1/4" of the loose end into itself and pin it so it overlaps the beginning.  I know there are official ways to join bias tape without the lumpy fold, but since this is a pool pouch instead of an heirloom quilt, we're just going to call it good with the fold.

Now switch your thread in the machine to blend in with your bias tape.

Stitch all the way around the bias tape close to the inner edge.  Again, I know this is not the proper way to apply bias tape.  In the interest of minimizing the amount of stitching we do to the vinyl, we're doing it the cheater way to preserve the strength of the vinyl.

STEP FIVE: Finishing up

Grab your grommet and pick one of the lower corners.  Follow the package directions to insert the grommet.  I drew the inside hole right up to the inner edges of the bias tape, but didn't cut through it.  The grommet overlapped the bias tape when I pounded it on, which I like.

Tip: Use an Exacto knife to cut through the top layer of vinyl, then use sharp scissors to snip out the rest. Works like a charm!

Take your carabiner and stick it through the grommet.

Slip your phone into the pouch, and hit the beach!  Or the over-chlorinated pool!  Whatever floats your boat.

Clips on nicely to the handles of my big tote.

(Yes, I did a crap job of sewing the bias tape on, but I will do a much better job next time.  My mom, aunt, and neighbor have all requested pouches of their own so I will make them super cute ones with nice, straight binding.)


  1. Such a cool and useful little pouch - and as always a great tutorial!!

  2. Just made this today . . . and had the 8" x 6" piece of vinyl left over! Was it supposed to go on the back in step #4? Thanks for a great project!