2021 Toiletry Bags

In my book review post on How To Sew Sustainably I mentioned a project that I was motivated to make after reading the book, the project I made was 3 toiletry bags.

I have made toiletry bags in the past using the same pattern so that part isn’t new but I hadn’t planned on making these ones until I read the book. The book talks a lot about using up supplies you already own. I try and “shop my stash” when I can however I don’t always look at my stash and think what can I make from it? I started thinking of the fabrics I had in my stash and ways I could use it up in particular offcuts from previous projects. If it is a uniform shape like a square of rectangle that is easy to use up as it just fabric but what about the odd shape offcuts you get from cutting out a garment. I’ve mentioned this year I have made a lot pants so I have offcuts from cutting those out. Since the fabric had already been prewashed and was ready to go it made sense to try and use it up. Looking in my fabric stash I found an offcut of ripstop nylon so I decided to make toiletry bags having the outer bags in cotton sateen (offcuts from pants) and nylon on the inside. I restocked my zipper stash late last year and I found 3 zippers to match.

The XL StitchNSew communal toiletry bag

The pattern I used was the large boxed corner version of the Essential Wristlet by Dog Under My Desk patterns. It is my favourite zipper pouch pattern. Over the years I have pattern hacked it and played around with sizing. On my previous toiletry bags I had enlarged the pattern to 150% which is a great size as it holds a lot but can be a little large. This time I enlarged the pattern to 125%, I refer to the 150% as XL so I’m calling this the L+ size . The pattern is a digital pattern so instead of printing it out at 100% I changed the print settings. If you are photocopying it from a book or paper pattern you can adjust the size on the photocopier. With changing the pattern size you will need to change the length of your zipper but that is easily done by referring to the zipper placement in the instructions and adjusting the length to fit. Another reason for making the new smaller size was that the pattern pieces fitted the fabric I had without having to piece together fabrics.

Although this size is smaller than my previous bags it still holds a lot. It easily holds full size bottles of shampoo, conditioner and body wash plus room for things like hairbrushes or other bottles of liquids. As the inside is nylon it can also be used as a wet bag to hold for example a damp facecloth or wet swimming costume.

These bags will be added to our Charity Bags this year. I really like them for so many reasons. These bags got me thinking of ways to use up my fabric offcuts, they challenged me to look at my stash and think how can I use it instead of it just sitting on a shelf. They are a practical item which make a nice little addition to the charity bags. I enjoyed trying out a new pattern size. Even just the choice of fabrics, combing fabrics from things I have made for myself in an item for a complete stranger who will never know the story behind it but I do. I have more nylon in my stash so I plan on making another set next year. I’m happy for fabric to sit on a shelf if I know how I’m going to use it.



Sea Shell Bag

Last year I discovered the Full Moon Bag by All Well Patterns. It is a free pattern if you sign up to their newsletter. The bag is a circle shape with a half circle pocket on both the outside and inside. The fabric recommendation is canvas. I’m a geometric person so was instantly drawn to this bag.

For my first attempt I decided to make the small size. I opted to use quilting cotton from my stash so I did have to cut double the pattern pieces than instructions tell you to so that I could have the print showing on both the outside and inside. As I was using cotton not canvas I put a layer of heavy weight interfacing behind each pattern piece to give it more strength. I cut additional binding strips to cover the raw edges on each side of the zipper gusset but I didn’t use interfacing on those. I also opted to make the strap in the same fabric instead of using a leather strap.

Unlike a traditional bag where all your seams are enclosed on the inside this bag has exposed seams which you cover in binding. I make continuous bias binding using the method from Missouri Star Quilt Company. In this method you start with a piece of fabric cut across the width of the fabric and draw up your cutting lines from that. I cut a piece 7″ wide and drew up my strips 1.5″ apart. Once stitched up and cut I got over 160″ of binding which was more than ample to make both sizes of this bag. I have used this method a lot but had never started with just narrow cut of just 7″ so was really surprised at how much binding I got in that small amount.

This bag looks tricky to make but it is really simple and very quick even if you opt for cotton not canvas. To make life easier for myself I hand tacked the sides to the gusset first before stitching them on the sewing machine and removing my tacking stitches. I didn’t have to wrestle with pins this way and nothing shifted about. I did the same when attaching the binding. Once the binding was attached I folded it into place and put clips to hold it before I hand stitched it down. Even doing these additional steps it was very quick and very easy. The circle is a nice gentle curve which isn’t fiddly at all.

Pattern – Full Moon Bag
Size – Small
Fabric – Quilting cotton from stash
Notions – Metal zipper

This is my go to pattern this year. I plan on making many as gifts as it really easy.


M7487 Train Case

I think this pattern is officially called a Travel Case but the style is commonly called a Train Case. After having this pattern for years I finally got around to making it. A travel case is comprised of 3 sections – top, middle and bottom. The top has a handle on the outside. You can use a regular zipper or a 2 pull one. There is optional piping and the choice of inside pockets. I decided to make the most basic version without piping or pockets

M7487 is unique in the way that it is constructed. The seams that join the top/bottom sections to the middle section are all enclosed. When you make it you leave a turning gap that you sew closed at the end. If you look on Youtube all the clips showing how to make train cases are sewn with exposed seams that are later covered in binding.

Before I even traced out my pattern pieces I read the instructions then re-read them and re-read them. My brain just couldn’t grasp the concept of how the seams were enclosed. The instructions had the steps with simple line drawings but it just didn’t make sense in my head. After many days of trying to figure it out I decided to just start making it with the option of sewing it the traditional way if needed. The middle section was easy to do although I used the burritto method of joining the zipper to form the loop after seeing it in this Youtube clip. It is a way of fold back the zipper and sewing that so that all seams are in enclosed and you don’t have to worry about sewing one part with the fabric already folded at the back to cover the raw edge. Once I had my pattern pieces in my hand joining them to the middle zipper section suddenly made sense. I was able to place the pieces as per the line drawings. I’m a visual learner and need to see things in action. I can understand instructions better if I can see them step by step. Making this was actually a lot easier and quicker than the traditional way. From tracing out my pattern pieces on to trace and toile to actually finishing it took me only 3 days (I only spent a little time each day on it) so that is a pretty quick make for me. You don’t have all the binding to sew after you have attached all your sections so it is much faster.

The reason I decided to finally make this case was to hold my hand sewing tools in. A train case was the perfect solution for me. I can fit all my tools in. I can pick it up and move it about when I need to. If it gets bumped on my craft trolley my tools don’t fall everywhere.

To recap
Pattern – M7487
Size – Medium
Fabric – Quilting cotton from my stash
Notions – Double pull zipper
Would I Make This Again? Absolutely!

This pattern does look intimidating at first. I think the reason I first struggled with this is that I don’t have a lot of experience in sewing with patterns from the big 4 sewing companies where you have just have instructions and basic small line drawings. I am used to indi patterns where you have step by step photos or larger line drawings showing what things should look like at each stage. The method used to enclose the raw edges is great so I would recommend this pattern if you want to make a train case.


Craft Project Bag

As I was making the storage bag for our stick blender I thought the size would make a great craft project bag. I still haven’t made myself one yet but I did make one for a friend for Christmas.

The pattern I used was my TNT Essential Wristlet pattern by Dog Under My Desk. I mentioned in my storage bag post that I enlarged the pattern even bigger than previously so this is my XXL size. I love the basic box corner shape of this bag and it is super easy to make. On this bag I added top handles for the first time. This was the project I was working on when the ghost decided to sew (so I thought) I normally sew a cross through my straps when I stitch them on to reinforce them and the machine didn’t stop in the corner like I wanted it to. To be honest I wasn’t actually happy with my first set of handles as they were too short plus I didn’t stitch them about 1″ square on to the bag so I took them off and redid them.

My friend likes to knit, crochet and do needlework. In my stash I found some fabric which represents all those crafts. This was perfect fabric for a craft bag! When making bags I like to use a lighter coloured fabric for the lining so that you can find things easier when you are searching through it. In my stash I found some pink and white striped fabric which was perfect as my friend likes pink.

My friend is going to use it as her knitting bag whenever she goes on trips away (cause we all pack ample knitting for trips away) so I’m glad she will use it. I enjoyed making this bag. This larger size in my head I thought would work well and seeing as a finished project I know it will. I have to get in and make my one now.


Melbourne Tote

Like the rest of the world when I had my annual leave in September I couldn’t go travelling. I decided to do what a lot of people in the sewing community are doing in 2020 and travel through my fabric making a bag using fabric from my Melbourne trip last year. I needed a new tote bag as the bag I had been using for work was falling apart but I’m not calling this my work bag as I don’t want to think of it as that.


The 2 fabrics I used I purchased from Clear It. I brought them for dressmaking as they are both cotton and pretty much because they were cheap. Who doesn’t want to buy fabric that is only $2-$5 per metre? It’s a bargain right, you need to buy it. Upon getting home and thinking about the fabrics I knew I wouldn’t actually wear them in clothing as they were very stiff. I’m really fussy when it comes to clothing, if it isn’t soft or comfortable I won’t wear it. In terms of bag making these fabrics were perfect. They are both lighter weight fabrics but they don’t have much drape so have more structure to them.

I wanted a basic shaped tote bag. Looking at McCalls 6338 which is the pattern I use for my charity bags. I read that view E would be slightly bigger than what I had in mind but it would be ok. For my charity bags I make view D which is a good size for a handbag but too small for me to put my lunch bag and whatever else I carry in it. One of the other reasons for using this pattern is that I know it off by heart and don’t need to read instructions. View E is just a larger version of view D. To use my favourite quote from the cheesy 90’s tv show Diagnostic Murder “I just modified a McCalls” I decided my bag needed pockets on the outside. I carry a couple of sets of keys, my phone, face mask. I want them easily accessible without having to hunt to the bottom of my bag. The pattern actually does have you make both sides of the front with pockets but I don’t like how they have it. I just like a singular area with a pocket not around all of the bag. For handbags they are too uncomfortable if you are holding them close to your body with items in the pockets and they aren’t secure.

Originally I was only going to do one pocket on the front and that was a patch zipper pocket. I could see it in my head but coming sewing wise big failure. I tried sewing different layers together but I couldn’t get my raw edge seams to turn so they would be enclosed on the inside. The reality is I probably should have read the instructions on the Zip and Go bag which I’ve made several times which is like a giant patch pocket. I will go over the raw edges of this pouch with a zig zag stitch and give it to Mr StitchNSew to use as he likes little projects like this that I have made to store bits of his things in. It was sad as I had actually done a really good zipper on this pocket.

Plan B was a patch pocket towards the bottom of the bag like I did in my charity bags this year and for the first time ever an inserted zipper pocket near the top section. In the end I think this was the better option. The patch pocket has the contrast fabric I used for the handles and in the inside of the bag. I didn’t have enough scraps left to use for the inserted pocket so I used the outside fabric. These pockets are great. I can carry my 2 sets of keys in the zipper pocket and I know they are secure. The patch pocket fits my phone and a face mask.

I followed a Youtube clip to make the inserted zip pocket. It was a bit nerve racking trying a new technique but I am really pleased with my first attempt. Once I inserted the zip and turned the fabric to the inside of the bag I discovered my fabric wasn’t going to be long enough for the pocket bag so I did have to add on an extension piece. I’m not bothered as you can’t tell when looking at it or using it. Next time I know to use a longer piece of fabric so when you fold it over the pocket is deep enough.

I mentioned the fabric used for the handles and inside of the bag. I’m glad I never used this fabric for a top like I thought I was going to. The dots do play with my eyes a little as I have trouble focusing on small and busy prints such as dots. In this project they work great It is hard to tell but they are navy dots. I’m not looking at them a great deal so its ok.

Construction wise I used the pattern pieces of the outer bag for both the inside and outside of this bag. Once I had stitched each bag I put them inside each other right sides facing and turned them out through a gap on the top seam. I didn’t want a drawstring top. When it was finished I thought oh wow it is really big! Using it I found out it isn’t that big. The top of the bag does fold down a bit to wear the handles are joined to the front. The handles do slip off my should a bit so I need to hold on to the tops of the handles as I walk. I have problems with all bags falling off my shoulders. I think it is the way I stand and walk with the crutch that my shoulders slant. I can’t wear backpacks that don’t have a clip at the front to hold the shoulders together. I don’t mind that I have to hold this bag as I walk. I have a habit of needing to hold something in my right hand when I have the crutch in the left hand as my right hand naturally curls like it should be gripping an item at the same time.

I love this bag. I had adventures buying the fabric on my fabric crawl in Melbourne. I had adventures making this bag. It is a bag with a story. I like projects that have a story behind them.


Zipper Bags

Do you ever start a project and think I am really not meant to make this? Originally I had brought the 2 blue fabrics used on these bags to make reading pillows but silly me didn’t read how much fabric was required and I didn’t have enough when I started to cut them out plus I didn’t have the correct size pillow inserts. I also needed to make a 3rd gift from fabric in my stash. No dramas plan b I will make 3 Zip and Go’s, easy pattern which I have made before.

Zip And Go Pattern

I brought the zippers to match each bag, cut out the fabrics and realised I never had enough fabric to make the straps out of the same fabric. Again no dramas all the fabric had white on it I’ll just make the straps out of white calico from my stash which I did. The Zip and Go pattern has clever instructions where you measure the front panel and slice it at different times in the instructions to insert the zips. I sliced my first panel as per instructions and realised I cut it ¾” too short. Now what to do. I was running out of ideas and time to make the gifts. I had all this usable fabric, I didn’t want to waste it.

2 Zip Bags Pocket

Now I think by this point I was up to plan c. Having made the Essential Wristlet pattern more times then I can remember I decided to use the zipper instructions from that to insert top opening zippers on the bags instead with a front pocket. It was a way to save all the fabric I cut and it was a pattern I was very familiar with.

2 Zip Bags 3

I was originally going to make the zip and go pattern as Christmas gifts this year for the same kids so I had all hardware in my stash. Sewing away it occurred to me that the straps I had made weren’t going to fit the hardware I had in my stash. I make my bag straps on tote bags and regular bags finished size 1″. The zip and go’s have a narrow strap and the hardware I had fitted the narrower strap.  I then had to do a quick online order to get 1″ hardware and have it sent Express Post to have it in time to finish them. I also had to remake the D ring tabs for the bags as I had made them for the smaller size. In the end I think having the tabs in white brings the bags together more as they are the same as the straps and it doesn’t make it look like I have just clipped on any old straps I had.

2 Zip Bags 4.JPG

The straps have sliders on them and I always get confused on how to sew them. I have to look at my handbag each time I attach them as even with pictorial instructions my brain get confused. Just as I was sewing the hardware on my last strap I still stitched it wrong so the slider wouldn’t move so I got my un picker out. When I started sewing them correctly I then broke a needle. I had my glasses on but luckily it wasn’t one of those fly off and hit in your face needle breaks which is why I wear my glasses sewing now.

2 Zip Bags 2

I’m pretty proud of myself. Even though I had drama after drama making these bags and they ended up taking about a week to make instead of a weekend like I’d planned. I never got stressed or angry making them. I ended up with 3 usable bags to give as gifts. I actually did mid week sewing on these which I don’t normally do. Normally my mind thinks if I am going to sew I need a big chunk of time but I did 20 – 30 mins each day and I got them completed. Using white thread meant I was able to batch sew them so I did one task a day during the week. Install one half of the zipper on all the bags one day, the other half of the zippers the next day. Top stitch all the zippers one day. Little chunks of sewing got the small tasks done so when I had a day off work I was able to finish them. By breaking sewing up into small tasks like I did on these bags I might be able to get through sewing all the things I want to make. I’m fortunate enough to not have to pack up my sewing area after each time I use it so mid week sewing is achievable for me.

2 Zip Bags 1

Even though I have now been sewing for 8 years I’m still learning from every project. This project I learnt how important it is to fully check your materials and instructions before you start. Go back and double check the small details as you are making the project, don’t assume or go on autopilot too much. You don’t need a lot of time to sew, break the tasks into small steps and you can get things done.


Zip And Go – First Attempt

Zip and Go is a pattern from Dog Under My Desk for a long time but I’ve never gotten around to making it. Recently I was looking for present to make so I decided now was the time to try it.

On the DUMD facebook group I have seen many people make this before and I was always amazed at how they pattern matched the front of this bag. Most times I don’t even attempt at pattern matching as I am hopeless at it. In the process of making this bag I found out how everyone was achieving this crazy pattern matching wizardry, at different parts of the pattern you slice the front portion therefore creating the pattern matching! Like all of Erin’s patterns the tutorial that accompanies the pattern is really clear and easy to follow. This bag is actually relatively simple to make following the tutorial. I made this over a weekend and actually enjoyed sewing it. Often of late if I am sewing to a deadline I haven’t enjoyed the process of sewing, more rushing to get the item done. This bag was actually really pleasant to make.

Admittedly I did buy the fabric for this bag. I was too busy to look through my stash for suitable fabric so I went to my local material shop and brought it.  To be honest of late I have gotten out of the habit of fully planning my sewing projects ahead of time and checking for suitable fabrics and notions in my stash before heading to the shops. I did make my gift list for this year but I haven’t stuck to it at all. I am behind on other gifts for this year as I just haven’t felt like sewing or the pattern I picked I wasn’t instantly gelling with therefore I never made it and gift deadline after gift deadline snow balled and suddenly I’m racing to get things done. This gift was done on time but I have 3 gifts that I haven’t done yet and birthdays have passed. I will get on track again, time to kick myself up the butt and play in my stash to find gifts I actually feel like making.

In terms of this pattern I am going to make it again. I have plans to make as Christmas gifts but it might also get made for a few birthday gifts this year too.


Kids Messenger Bag

I have always wanted to make a simple messenger bag. I had seen this tutorial by Zaaberry for a kid’s size bag floating around Pinterest for some time and decided to finally give it ago.

It is a great to tutorial to follow with the instructions easy to read. This is a very basic bag with no closure or pockets or anything inside but you could easily make this more complex and add details to this if you wanted to. I kept it basic and followed the pattern. For the outside fabric I used some spotted quilting cotton I picked up last year because it was on sale and I liked it, I knew I would find the perfect project for it.

The fabric for the flap and the lining is a cotton I picked up a few years ago just because it was pink and had chocolates and pastries on it. The print on it is very bright and visible on both sides of the fabric which is how I made a minor mistake. I have placed one lining fabric the wrong side up. Some fabrics you can clearly see which is the right and wrong side of the fabric, on this fabric it is a little bit trickier. This fabric was only faintly lighter one side and if you weren’t paying attention fully like I must not have been when I grabbed it to pin it and sew it you put it the wrong way. I only discovered it after I finished the bag and I left it. It is not extremely obvious and aside from that the rest of the bag is fine, it is on the inside and still looks pink and brown.

You learn some from every project. On this bag I learnt how to make attach a simple bag flap and also that you need to pay attention to each individual fabric to see how it needs to be treated – it is a directional print, is the right side and wrong side visible. These things may sound basic but sometimes you forget them like I clearly did.



Blue Rose Bag


Using some of the leftover blue roses fabric I decided to make a bag to match my skirt. There are so many bag patterns out there and I have a few in my stash but I’m a creature of habit and decided to make a pattern I knew but put a spin on it.  I used the box corner version of the Essential Wristlet pattern by DUMD. I made a bunch of these as Christmas gifts last year and they are pretty quick to make up.


The pattern is a PDF so it very simple to enlarge. I played around with the printer settings a couple of times and was most happiest when I printed it at 150% which was my original plan when I thought of doing this. Your basically making it 50% bigger than the standard pattern piece. I used a 12″ zipper. Added two D ring tabs instead of one, I cut them 4″ x 4″ I made a cross body strap which was approximately 4″ x 60″ I used the technique I learnt in making the Activity Go Case to finish the raw ends of the strap neatly.

The lining in black cotton. This will hold all the basics I need for a night out – Wallet, keys, phone. It is a simple bag I can throw across my shoulder and I know I have everything I need.


Denim Tote Bag

Whilst I had a jeans needle in my sewing machine from making the denim skirt I decided to make a tote bag from stretch denim I had cut out a few months ago. I needed a bag to replace my favourite tote bag which was beyond repair after nearly 10 years of use.

Denim Tote

The finished measurements are 16″W x 15″H Construction wise this bag is very simple as it is just rectangle piece of fabric folded in half. On the ends I did a double fold to hem the raw edges. Once folded in half I did the side seams on the overlocker (serger) The handles are a tube of fabric that I top stitched down the length both sides. They are attached to the outside of the bag. I did a lot of stitching to ensure they were anchored securely to the bag sewing in first a square shape than diagonally across both sides. I didn’t want anything fancy with this bag I just wanted a simple bag I could carry over my shoulder, was light enough to roll up to stick in my handbag or pocket but durable enough that I could stuff it with what ever I need. Hopefully this one will last me the next 10 years.