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Travel Accessories: Cosmetics & Toiletries Case

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I love travel size toiletries. I think this may date back to my days of playing with Barbie® dolls and trolls. Everything was so little and cute. In fact, most things are more adorable in a mini size: people, puppies, muffins... and little bottles of shampoo, deodorant and lotion. Our Travel Tidy Cosmetics and Toiletries bag is the perfect size to fit all those tiny bottles and jars and more. We used one of the four lovely laminates from Anna Maria's Loulouthi collection as our inside fabric choice so if anything leaks, it can be quickly wiped clean and won't bleed through to the pretty exterior fabric.

This project falls into the 'intermediate' category, because it takes some futzing, twisting and turning to insert a zipper into a tube shape and to stitch the exterior and lining fabrics independently into boxed corners. I don't say this to scare you off at all, but if you are new to sewing, you might want to make a prototype first out of scrap fabrics to practice. Then you can graduate to your real fabrics with more confidence in the steps. Next thing you know, you'll be making these bags for all your friends because it now seems so easy!

This has been such a popular project, we re-did it in laminates. Three-dimensional projects are always challegning, and so our laminated version includes some additional photos. If you're new to working in three-dimentions, you may find it helpful to review these photos prior to starting. Link here to the Laminated Toiletries Case

We've used a similar zipper technique in several other Sew4Home projects, and these earlier tutorials have additional step-by-step photos, which may be useful if you are just starting out. Check out our: Coupon Holder.

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

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  • 1/3 yard of 44-45" wide print fabric for the main exterior of the bag: we used Loulouthi Coreopsis in AH43-Sugar
  • 1/3 yard of 44-45" wide print fabric for the exterior accent panels of the bag as well as the handle and tab: we used Loulouthi Hugs and Kisses in AH45-Pink Lime
  • 1/3 yard of 54-55" wide laminate for the lining of the case: we used Loulouthi Framed in OCAH07-Citron
  • 1/3 yard of lightweight batting (regular batting not fusible)
    NOTE: Cuts are 12", which is exactly 1/3 yard. If you are worried about accuracy or want to have enough for a special fussy cut, use ½ yard cuts. This amount of fabric would actually provide enough yardage to make TWO bags.
  • One 12-14" plastic zipper in coordinating color: we used light pink
  • Approximately 8" of 1/8" satin ribbon for zipper pull: we used light pink
  • All purpose thread to match fabric
  • See-through ruler
  • Seam gauge
  • Fabric marker, pen, or tailor's chalk for marking fabric
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • Straight pins
  • Small piece of wax paper

Getting Started

  1. From the fabric for main exterior (Loulouthi Sugar in our sample), cut ONE 13" high x 12" wide rectangle.
  2. From the fabric for the exterior accent panels, handle and tab (Loulouthi Pink Lime in our sample), cut the following:
    TWO 2½" high x 12" wide rectangles
    ONE 3" x 10" strip
  3. From the fabric for the lining (Loulouthi Citron laminate in our sample), cut ONE 16" high x 12" wide rectangle.
  4. From the lightweight batting, cut ONE 16" high x 12" wide rectangle.

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

  1. Press all your fabric cuts as it will be hard to press the bag when finished.
    NOTE: I'll go on the record here to say that pins do leave holes in laminate, but I'm not worried about that fact for this project because all my pinning is being done within seam allowances so no holes will show on the finished bag.
  2. Pin one 2½" x 12" accent panel on either end of the 13" x 12" main exterior piece. To do this, align the 12" sides of each, right sides together. Pin in place.
  3. Stitch together, using a ½" seam allowance.
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  4. Open up the finished piece on your ironing board wrong side up and press both seam allowances towards the main exterior piece (the Loulouthi Sugar in our sample) .
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  5. Return to your sewing machine and topstitch approximately ¼" from the seam on the main fabric side. You are stitching through all the layers (fabric and seam allowance) and securing the seam allowances in place.
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    NOTE: You can use a matching thread or a contrasting thread in your machine for this topstitching. We used a light pink.
  6. We added our Sew4Home label at this point.

Insert the zipper and create a 'fabric tube'

  1. Place your batting flat on your work surface. Place your completed exterior piece right side up on top of the batting, matching all edges.
  2. Lay your zipper upside down on top of the exterior (the teeth facing down onto the right side of the fabric) along one 12" edge. The edge of the zipper tape should be even with the raw edges of the fabric and batting.
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  2. Place the lining, right side down, on the top, sandwiching the zipper in between the layers. As above, align the top raw edge with the edge of the zipper tape. Pin through all the layers, being careful to pin through just the top of the zipper tape. You need to be able to open and close the zipper, which you can't do if you've pinned too low or through the teeth. Remove the pins as you go.  
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  3. Fold back the lining to reveal the zipper, and zip it open about half way.
  4. Fold the lining back down into position, and take the assembled layers to your machine.
  5. Attach your zipper foot. Align your needle so it is in the left-most position.
  6. Starting ½" from the edge, stitch through all the layers. Your seam will be approximately ¼"; you want to run your zipper foot as close to the zipper teeth as possible while still keeping all your layers nice and flat. Go slowly and gently hold the laminate taut.
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  7. When you get to the middle, where you can start to feel you're approaching the zipper pull, stop with your needle in the down position. Twist your fabric around slightly and open up the layers so you can access the zipper. Be gentle! Carefully close the zipper. Re-position your fabric and finish sewing to ½" from the opposite edge.
  8. When finished and open flat, you should now how a piece with the exterior fabric and batting on one side of the zipper and the lining on the other.
  9. Fold the layers together so that the wrong side of the lining is now against the batting and the un-sewn side of the zipper tape is standing straight up. Press from the fabric side; do not iron right on the laminate.
  10. Topstitch along the zipper, through all the layers, close to the edge of the fabric.
  11. Flip your fabrics to sew the other side of the zipper in place. Use the same order of layers as above in steps 1-3, and follow the same steps to attach.
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  12. You have formed a tube, so it will be a bit more awkward to sew this side, but you can do it!
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    NOTE: As mentioned, we have a number of tutorials that use this zipper insertion technique. Check the links listed in the introduction above.

Make handle and tab

  1. Find the 3" x 10" strip.
  2. Fold the strip in half lengthwise (so it is now 1½" x 10") wrong sides together and press a center crease.
  3. Fold each long raw edge into the center to meet at the center crease. It looks like a piece of double-fold bias binding. Press well.
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  4. Fold in half again along the crease so the two long folded edges are flush. Press well and pin in place.
  5. Stitch together, staying close to the folded edges and starting and stopping as close to each end as possible.
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  6. Cut 2" off one end. This smaller piece will be the tab; the larger piece is the handle.
  7. Fold the tab in half and position it at the end of the zipper on the right side of the fabric/zipper. The raw edges should be aligned and the folded part of the tab should be facing in towards the middle.
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  8. Machine baste the tab in place close to the raw edge.

Sides, corners and handle to complete

  1. Turn the bag inside out.
  2. With your hands, push the bag flat so the zipper runs down the exact center (similar to the photo above at the end of the zipper steps, but inside out).
  3. Pin your layers right sides together: both SIDE EDGES of the exterior layers right sides together, both SIDE EDGES of the lining layers right sides together.
  4. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch together in the same order: both side edges of the exterior layers right sides together, both side edges of the lining layers right sides together.
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  5. Draw 1½" squares on each corner and cut out. Remember, you have eight corners - four for the exterior and four for the lining. Yes, you are cutting through the seam you just sewed. That's okay, the corner seams will re-secure the cut seams.
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    NOTE: If you have a good see-through ruler with markings, you can use this to draw your squares. If not, make a little 1½" square paper pattern and trace around it at each corner.
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    NOTE: We took the time to reinforce the edges of the fabric after cutting the squares so there would be no worries about unraveling edges. This is totally optional.
  6. Find the remaining piece of the sewn strip, which is your handle. Bend it into a loop and place it on the opposite end from the tab on the right side of the exterior piece, aligning raw edges and with the loop facing in - as you did above with the tab. It should be placed so it will sit at the bottom edge of the end. If the loop seems a little long, simply adjust it to your desired length and trim off the excess.
  7. Pin the handle in place and pin seven of the eight corner layers together, leaving one of the lining corners open for turning.
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    NOTE: Pinning the handle in place should be fine. But if you worry about shifting layers, you could hand baste the ends in place.
  8. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch seven of the eight corners, again - remembering to leave that one lining corner open for turning.
  9. To seam each corner, pull the outside edges of your square down to flatten/straighten the seam.
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    NOTE: An alternate method to the above is to form a triangle first in each corner, then stitch and trim. You can review the following tutorials to see this option: Boho Shoulder Bag among others.
  10. Gently turn your bag right side out.
  11. To finish the edge of the last unsewn corner, turn both raw edges under ½". Match up these now folded edges and stitch closed from the right side.
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    NOTE: Because we used a laminate lining, we inserted a piece of wax paper between the pressure foot the laminate so the foot didn't stick to the laminate. Stitch right through the wax paper then simply tear it away when you're finished.
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  12. Push the lining down inside the bag and adjust it into the corners. It will be a loose fit, which is fine. It makes it easy load up all your cosmetics.
  13. Tie the stain ribbon into a loop through the zipper pull and knot off.
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Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation: Debbie Guild



Comments (69)

JanetD said:
JanetD's picture

this is the cutest, darned bag.  used both your tutorials to figure out the double loop.  in the end I couldn't believe it all turned out!   love the laminate interior.  thank you for your wonderful ideas!

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ JanetD - Yay! Working in 3-D ... with a lining ... can make your brain spin. But, yes!, it does all come out in the end. So glad you hung in there and had success. Thanks for being a visitor. 

ConnieAnn said:
ConnieAnn's picture

Don't know if you are still monitoring this as most posts are 3 years old. But just thought I'd tell you that, after making this pattern with your measurements 5 times 2 years ago for Christmas gifts, today I made one for myself. I cut it a little larger (finished at 10" x 6" x 3.5") and quilted the outside fabric. I also added handles to the stop (instead of the one on the end) which are sewn into the two top seams. I added a second zip tab. Wish I could send you a picture -- it sure is pretty!

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ ConnieAnn - very cute! thanks for sharing your photo

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ ConnieAnn - We do still see comments. Thanks for letting us know about your alterations that helped make it your own. We have a brand new toiletries bag coming up next week, featuring ribbon accents from Renaissance Ribbons. 

Jane Konowitz said:
Jane Konowitz's picture

Could I use lambskin leather on the exterior, and vinyl on the interior?

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Jane Konowitz - we have not tried this combination ourselves and so cannot guarantee the specific results. That said, the weights would like be similar, so I think you would be okay. If using real leather in combination with the vinyl, make sure you test your needle, presser foot and stitch length on the actual fabrics.

TFayle said:
TFayle's picture

Liz, how complicated do you think it would be to add a divider down the middle of this bag?  I've have been trying this for a few months now unsuccessfully.  :(

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ TFayle -- That really is a different construction concept - especially the way the lining works on this project. I'm afraid I don't have a good solution without designing a whole new inside to the bag. But... I will add this concept to our You Asked 4 It list of visitor ideas: "a travel bag with more compartments."

TFayle said:
TFayle's picture

Thank you!!  We have been trying to find this for a couple of years, at least we are persistent!  I don't think my skills are at the level to sort it out on my own.  

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

Thanks for the link to this... and I see several other S4H tutorials in your list. Thanks for listing our name along with the links. That's our fave :-)

Maddy said:
Maddy's picture

I'm half way through the roll up makeup brush case tutorial you guys offer, and am looking forward to making this bag my next project.  After reading all the back and forth about the complexity of the design, I'm faced with a bit of trepidation.  That being said, I really want to both thank and congradulate you on the level of follow up help you offer.  Not only are you generous enough to share these fantastic tutorials, but it's amazing that you're actually willing to try to help with problems that might arise after the fact.  Thanks so much again! I can't wait to make one of these for my hubby...I just hope I can make it through the project on my own! 

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Maddy - we redid this project using laminates, and in doing so, added some photos to try to help folks better understand. 3-D projects are a challenge to explain. I'm sure you can do it!

Ambernw said:
Ambernw's picture

This is the WORST tutorial I have ever done.  I'm throwing this bag away.  I am far from a beginner and there is nothing I can do to salvage this piece of crap.  I can't believe I wasted two hours of my life on this garbage!

Colleen RN said:
Colleen RN's picture

DEFINATELY needed the second set of instructions---this version is very unclear about recreating two separate tubes to sew the ends closed on

Teresa Harris said:
Teresa Harris's picture

I agree. I SOO wish I had read through the comments before I started this bag. I had to throw mine away. It looks as if this new set of directions is much more clear about how to sew the corners. The pictures and written steps on this set of directions do not make it clear at all what you are sewing together. 

Demitra antz said:
Demitra antz's picture

Hi, Can someone post the final dimensions? I would like to make this into a coin purse but I need to alter this based on the final size. Thanks. 

~ Karen ~ said:
~ Karen ~'s picture

I made this project today and am very pleased with it!!  It is a little smaller than I was expecting it to be; I am planning to make another, longer one soon.  Thanks for all the work you put into your tutorials!!  :)

Anonymous said:
Anonymous's picture

Have used many other tutorials, however this one is HORRIBLE.  Very confusing and hard to follow.  I'm NOT a beginner.  Better pics and clarification. 

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture
@ craftee girl -- Sorry for your frustration. Try reading through the previous comments to see if any of the discussions may help. As I've mentioned, trouble-shooting long distance with 3-D projects is really tough, and I've expended what little additional brain power I have below smilies/grin.gif. We've discussed redoing this particular project in order to take a new set of photos with more images of the lining steps. Folks really seem to love the project and lots have made multiple copies of it - so we know it's a winner.
craftee girl said:
craftee girl's picture
I also had a problem with making the corners. Are you supposed to topstitch the lining at the same time you are topstitching the main exterior to the zipper? I just was really frustrated and it took me a long time to finally figure it out. I love the bag though, and if I can figure out how to make the lining easier to put in I would love to make several more for family as gifts.
Maureen C said:
Maureen C's picture
I just finished this bag and love it!! I've been sewing for many years but had not tried corners like that before - there was some trial and error and maybe should have 'measured twice, cut once' but in the end I'm ready to make a 2nd one! Thank you!!
Sara DMS said:
Sara DMS's picture
I went ahead and turned the bag right-side out before sewing the lining side edges, and everything worked out just fine! I did cut the corners 1 1/2 inches from the seam, so my pieces were 1 1/2" x 2". I couldn't figure out how to get those corners to lay straight otherwise. Maybe you could address that in any revisions. Otherwise, I am very happy with the result and feel that I improved my sewing skills with this project. Thanks for all of your tutorials. I can't wait to make some more!
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture
@ Sara DMS -- I went back and forth quite a bit on this topic with "Kellie A" just last week. Read through those posts and I think you'll see the idea. I do plan on adding some additional wording into the steps, but it's been crazy busy around here with the newest projects and I haven't made my way back to this yet smilies/shocked.gif.
Sara DMS said:
Sara DMS's picture
When you sew the SIDE EDGES together, first the exterior sides and then the lining sides, do you have to turn the bag right side out again before doing the lining sides? Otherwise, I can't figure out how to pin right sides together of the exterior sides at the same time as I pin the right sides together of the lining!
Kelli A said:
Kelli A's picture
Oh! That makes sense! When I turned it inside out, I didn't turn it to have the 2 tubes. I just turned it into 1 tube the opposite sides facing out.

I am a visual learner but I know how hard it is to take pictures of something while you're making it. Other times it's hard to take a photo to actually show certain details.

Thank you for the extra assistance. I really appreciate it. The extra little descriptions you provided really helped clarify things for me.
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture
@ Kelli A - again, troubleshooting without seeing is really tough. The only thing I can think is the "turn the bag wrong side out" -- the first step. Did you do that? You need to reverse it so you are working with our friends again... the TWO tubes. Flatten them out with the zipper running down the center - then sew each pair of sides together independently. There is also a step earlier that tells you to start the zipper seam 1/2" from the edge. The reason you did that was so you now have a 1/2" free for these seam allowances. Do the four seams and then sew up all but one of the eight corners -- you leave one corner open, which is how you gently turn it right side out again. That's about the best I can do without seeing what you have, but I hope that helps. Many folks have made this particular project without an issue, but it sounds like a little extra wording might be quite helpful. We will try to add that soon.
Kelli A said:
Kelli A's picture
Awesome! That worked out perfect.

However, now I'm stuck at step 3 of the "Sides, corners and handle to complete." I know in the comments there's been some clarification, but I still don't understand this part.

I understand that I need to pin both side edges of the exterior layers right sides together, but am wondering how I go about doing that? Because what I have is a tube with exterior layer, batting, lining on the outside. If I have to sew the exterior layers right side together, how do I get in there and not sew the lining to it?
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture
@ Kelli A -- ohhhhh - I think I see where the problem is. Yes, at this point you do have TWO tubes. Your ends are open so you turn them right side out through one another to create the ONE final tube with wrong sides together. Then to do the final top stitch, it's really best if you have a free arm so you can kind of slip the tube over that and then turn it 90˚ to slide under the needle. There's still a little bunching and careful guiding involved, but you can do a top stitch. Opening the zipper as we show in the photo helps. Thanks for the question... I'm going to add some of this into the instructions. Sometimes it is what SEEMS obvious that can actually be the most confusing. Glad your hung in there!!
Kelli A said:
Kelli A's picture
Thank you for the quick response! I'm still lost however.

- I've flipped it back so I have the same layering I had before I sewed it all together: Batting, Exterior (right side up), Zipper, then lining (right side down).
- Then when I try to layer the batting, exterior (right side up) and lining (right side down) to the other side of the zipper, when I try to line up the lining (right side down), I still am getting 2 tubes. 1 of the lining and 1 of the exterior.

I've tackled much more complicated sewing projects than this and can't figure out why I'm so lost in this step. The steps getting to this step seemed so easy to follow.
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture
@ Kelli A - it's always a challenge to troubleshoot from long distance and 3-D projects can be a challenge. We try to include as many photos as possible, but sometimes we just don't have them... such is the struggle when trying to remember to keep stopping as you sew through a project smilies/cheesy.gif. It sounds like you haven't flipped the fabric back over maybe? After the one side is sewn, you need to fold it back to the wrong sides and layer the remaining raw edges in the same manner as you did the first side. That is what the photo below step 12 is showing. We've wrapped the exterior around from the bottom and the lining around from the top (that is what forms the tube) and the zipper is in between. Hope that helps.
Kelli A said:
Kelli A's picture
I am having trouble figuring out how to make the fabic tube. I have Steps 1-11 done in this section. Step 12 is really confusing for some reason. I really wish there was 1-2 more photos or a little more detail about this. I looked at the other zipper tutorials from the links at the top, but those all use 2 sections (one for each side of the zipper) instead of 1 section. I can figure those out, but I can't figure out how to make the tube properly. I get 2 tubes. 1 of the lining and 1 of the exterior/batting. What am I doing wrong?
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture
@ Shano -- we LOVE to hear stories like yours. You should be very proud of yourself. This is a more complex project and you made it through!
Shano said:
Shano's picture
I just made this and because I am a beginner I feel like this took me a lot longer than I would've liked. However it turned out amazing!!! Thank you so much for the tutorial!!! I also didn't use laminate and it still looks great!
CassieS said:
CassieS's picture
Tried but failed. My bag couldn't look worse. I followed the directions very closely and it just looks like a mess. Definitely won't try this one again.
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture
@ Patty Jo - if you scroll through the comments below, you'll see a couple answers I gave earlier to help folks new to boxed corners. Look at Steps 8 and 9 above and the picture in the Sides & Corners section - this is showing the stitching across each corner. In essence, you hold on to both ends of the square... both end of the "L" if you will... and you pull apart - this will flatten the the "L" to a straight line and then you stitch along this edge. There is also a NOTE below step 9 that includes links to several other tutorials that feature boxed corners.
Patty Jo said:
Patty Jo's picture
Please show what to after the you cut the eight corners. How do you sew it?
Claire Neva said:
Claire Neva's picture
Thanks! I just made one, and it worked. It's slightly wonky, and the handle is a bit long, but it's cute. I'll probably make it again.
ConnieAnn said:
ConnieAnn's picture
Just finished this bag -- woweeee! that was exciting! I followed your instructions to the letter and my bag looks great. A couple of changes I will make on the next one: I'll figure out how to make the handle look like the one in your pictures as I just did a loop as instructed (I should have looked at your finished bag more carefully); I may put a zip tab on both ends. Thanks for a great tutorial.
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture
@ Belinda G - We made all our prototypes and samples just as shown - with the 1-1/2" square corner cut outs.
Belinda G said:
Belinda G's picture
Correct me if I'm wrong, but, when you cut out those corner pieces, shouldn't you be measuring in 1 1/2" from the side seam (2" from the raw edge) & 1 1/2" from the bottom fold? If you do that, then the cut edges are the same size, which they have to be for the corners to work correctly.
Shopping Segment and Shopping said:
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I visited this page and found very informative knowledge. This post is showing a good approach on this Topic. I really impressed !
Jo Marçal said:
Jo Marçal's picture
Não vi dificuldade em concluir o trabalho. Alias, bem simples de fazer, basta ter um pouco de atenção. Obrigada por tantas dicas legais. Sempre passo por aqui, quando quero tirar uma duvida!!! Bjss smilies/cheesy.gif