Zip out diaper bag lining

I love purses. I love wallets. I have the top of my closet is dedicated to purses so fancy (fancy for me) they come with their own storage bag. Rarely would I carry the same purse for more than a month at a time. Each getting a thorough cleaning and being re-stuffed to keep their shape while being stored.

Well… kids have a way of changing things, don’t they. I’ve been lugging around the same purse for almost four years now. It’s not really a purse, its the diaper bag. I say that with a catch in my throat. Because it really isn’t a diaper bag in my mind. it is a bit of a step up from one. We have been gifted a Petunia Pickle Bottom Boxy Backpack when we had a baby shower for my first born (thanks mom). Since we brought my son home (almost 4 years ago) we never go anywhere without the boxy backpack.

Now that we have brought home our second child, and soon a third, this bag has seen it’s fair share of spills, drips, and leaks. Sure the outside is well equipped to handle the wear and tear. It wipes clean and barely shows signs of aging. But the inside lining is another story. Of course I’ve emptied crumbs and spot cleaned when needed. It just isn’t as clean as it could be. And is a major pain to maneuver to spot clean over the kitchen sink.

I was talking to a good friend of mine and she was looking at some fancy diaper bags that had zip out lining. Wait, What!?! Maybe this was the new standard so I went to look at what was available (online). Looks like there is a definite price ($$$) point where the lining coming out is an option. I am truly surprised that removable lining is not a standard feature across the board. We have lunch bags that are easier to clean than the inside of a diaper bag, come on people.

So what’s a mama to do? Our diaper bag still works fine for us and looks new. There is no way I can justify spending a few hundred bucks on a new diaper bag (that really isn’t our style, and I doubt I could get the Mr. to carry for me). After having a food pouch explode inside the bag I needed to give it a good scrub down, and I took a better look at the construction. The bag seems to be pretty straight forward, no surprises there. As far as where/how the lining is attached, I think that it can be modified to add a zipper.

NOTE: Making modifications to your bag will change it and VOID any warranty you have. If the warranty is something important to you, this probably isn’t something that you should do.

So armed with the seam ripper, I started small, opening the side seam on the lining. You can tell this is where they closed up the bag because it is the only spot that is top stitched like this. I also picked this spot If I decided not to go forward with the alteration I can easily sew it back up without it being noticed. You could also try to remove the lining from around the top of the bag, you may run into an issue tearing the lining while doing it. I find it easier to un-do things in reverse order of how they were put together.

IMG_5297Open lining side seam

Now I have a better view of how the lining is attached to the bag.


Pretty standard, the layers are basted (top line) together and then stitched (bottom line) together.


What I wasn’t expecting, all of the layers are in that single line of basting. To take the lining apart from the rest of the bag I have to remove the basting stitches too, separating all the items sewed in that seam (top flap, backpack straps, zippered closure, messenger bag straps).

If you get to this point and are thinking of modifying your bag here are some things to think about before you get in over your head.

  • Can you easily identify how the bag was made? It is helpful if you have made bags before.
  • Do you have the skills to re-assemble the bag? insert a separating zipper, baste, sew on previous sewn lines, sew through THICK stack of fabric
  • Do you have the tools to re-assemble the bag? Machine that can sew through multiple heavy weight layers, Heavy weight needles, heavy weight thread…
  • Way to neatly finish raw edge seams? The lining seams will NOT be nicely finished from the factory. To be able to go into the wash without fraying it will need some sort of over edge stitching/serging or bias binding to finish them.

This is the turning point. If I weren’t so fed up with not being able to clean this bag by washing it in the washing machine, I would stop here and sew the side seam back up. Buuuuuuut I’ve had enough. So…


With the stitches removed, I tried to keep as many pieces together as possible. The main bag, flap, backpack straps are all together as one piece. The zipper top closure and the messenger bag straps are together as one piece. And the lining is one piece. If needed this would be a good time to re-baste any pieces that are iffy about staying together while you man handle the bag around the sewing machine. I prefer to baste rather than pining so I don’t get stuck a billion times with pins while working. Just be sure to baste within the seam allowance. If you do pin, pin within the seam allowance so you don’t leave visible holes on the finished side of the bag.


I started with closing the side seam from the inside, you can still see where it was sewed together but it will fade as it gets used and washed. Those stitch lines are just the top stitching that was used to close that hole. Where I stitched the seam is where the actual fold/seam should have been.


Then I serged around the raw edges of the lining. A zig zag stitch over the edge will do just fine also. I guess I was too excited to clean up the raw edges because I don’t have a pic of the before pic. I am amazed at how frayed they were from just being inside the bag. probably a mix of years of use and the material used (nylon?). So here is a pic of the lining and the main bag with the zipper top re-attached and the lining all cleaned up. If you need to make other repairs or alterations to the lining, now is the time to do it.


Next up…adding a zipper! The rest of the bag has nylon coil zippers so that is what I was looking to buy. I couldn’t find any coil separating zippers in the length that I needed. So I went with what I could find, dual zip parka zipper. It’s not what I had in mind, but it works. I measured around the inside with a flexible measuring tape (came out to 36″).


I measured on the zipper where I wanted my finished seam allowance stitching line to the outside edge (opposite of the teeth). Then I transferred that measurement (pink line) to the bag using the existing stitching line as reference. I did this so I don’t need to use pins to hold the zipper in place. All I needed to do was line up the straight edge of the zipper tape with the pink line. For this bag with a back and front, I choose to start the zipper on the back wall near the corner but not directly at the corner.

Once the zipper was attached to the bag I put the lining inside the bag and pinned the lining to the free edge of the zipper. This way the lining is properly aligned and not twisted inside the bag. Sorry forgot to snap a pic of that.

Usually I would have lined up the raw edges of the lining and the zipper tape, but this time I had a really nice pressed edge to line up against the teeth. So I eyeballed the distance to match what I had just sewn and top stitched the lining to the zipper (pick a stitch length to match the other top stitching on the inside of the bag). I also opened the seam and sewed the zipper tape to the seam allowance of the lining. That last step is totally optional.



I am so very pleased with how the zipper looks. Now that the bag is back together, I think that the parka zipper is the way to go. It lays nice and flat like the bag was made this way to begin with. I think that the zipper adds up to 1/2″ of length to the lining but it is not enough that I notice.

Here are a couple more pictures of the inside zipper. One at the side of the bag, the other is where the zipper starts and stops.

IMG_5315 IMG_5314


This will totally depend on the material of your lining. This lining is a woven synthetic of some sort. I washed the lining with a regular load of laundry and let it air dry. If the lining were a cotton I would be more concerned about shrinking and wash with cold water and air dry.



After two years of use and another baby I am happy to report that the bag and lining has held up beautifully.


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