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We love travel size toiletries. I think this may date back to those long-ago days playing with Barbie® dolls and trolls. Everything was so little and cute. In fact, most things are more adorable in a mini size: babies, puppies, muffins… and little bottles of shampoo, deodorant, and lotion. At approximately 7½” x 4” x 3½”, our cosmetics and toiletries bag is smaller than a standard dopp kit, but is still the perfect size to fit all those tiny bottles, jars and more, while tucking neatly inside your luggage. It’s a “mighty mini”! 

We used two pretty quilting cottons for the exterior with wipe-clean ripstop nylon for the interior. Staying with cotton on the outside gives you a huge selection of possibilities for mixing and matching. It’s a great way to personalize the look for yourself – or as a gift. You need just small cuts of all the fabrics, so you may already have the perfect combo in your scrap stash. If you buy new, the yardage amounts shown below would actually provide enough to make two matching bags.

As with many commercial bags and accessories, for the longest life, spot cleaning the outside and damp wiping the inside is the best way to care for this case. Spraying the outside with a stain repellant, such as ScotchGard or similar is a good protective step. That said, travel items do encounter a bit more wear and tear, so all the elements in this case are machine washable. Set your washer on a gentle cycle with cold water and your dryer on air fluff if you need a periodic full laundering.

One end of the bag has a small tab to hold onto to help zip closed the generous opening across the top. The opposite end has a looped handle for carrying or use it to hang the bag on a hook in the bathroom.

This project falls into the intermediate category. Three-dimensional items are always a bit more challenging because it takes some futzing, twisting, and turning to insert a zipper into a tube, then shape and stitch the exterior and lining fabrics independently into eight boxed corners. We don’t say this to scare you off at all, but if you are new to sewing, you might consider making a quick prototype out of scrap fabrics to practice. We make prototypes ALL the time to figure out our best solutions. It’s a great way to work through a new project; and if you make a mistake, you haven’t ruined your more expensive final fabric. You can then graduate to the 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… and they’re all going to want one anyway!

As mentioned above, our mini case finishes at approximately 7½” wide x 4” high x 3½”  deep.

If you like this case, you might also want to review the version we did all in laminates. The construction is virtually identical, but there are some additional three-dimensional “action shots” as well as some extra tips for sewing on the laminated surfaces.

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

  • ⅓ yard of 44″+ wide quilting weight cotton for the main exterior of the bag
    NOTE: ⅓ yard is exactly 12″ and you need this full amount to make your cuts; if you are worried about errors in cutting or not having enough for a special fussy cut, get ½ yard. In addition, as noted below in the Getting Started section, our fabric had a random motif, so although the stated width and height are correct for panel construction, we actually cut them vertically from our ⅓ yard of fabric. If you have a strong horizontal motif, you may need a full ½ yard cut.
  • ¼ yard of 44″+ wide quilting weight cotton for the exterior accent panels of the bag as well as the handle and tab
  • ⅓ yard of 44″+ wide ripstop or similar for the lining
  • ⅓ yard of 44”+ fusible batting
  • One 14″ standard plastic zipper in a coordinating color
  • Approximately 6-8″ of skinny lacing or ribbon for optional zipper pull: we used a thin leather cord
  • All purpose thread to match fabric; we used matching thread for both construction and topstitching, but you could also opt to use a contrasting thread for your topstitching
  • See-through ruler
  • Seam gauge
  • Seam ripper
  • Fabric pen or pencil
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • Straight pins

Getting Started

  1. From the fabric for main exterior, cut ONE 13” high x 12” wide rectangle for the main body of the bag.
    NOTE: Our fabric had a random motif so although the stated width and height are correct for panel construction, we actually cut them vertically from our ⅓ yard of fabric. As noted above, if you have a strong directional motif, you may need a full ½ yard cut.
  2. From the fabric for the exterior accent panels, handle and tab, cut the following:
    TWO 2½” high x 12” wide rectangles
    NOTE: These go to either side of the zipper. If you use a directional fabric, pay attention to your cuts so they mirror one another.
    ONE 3″ x 8″ strip for the handle and tab.
  3. From the fabric for the lining, cut ONE 16″ x 12″ rectangle.
  4. From the fusible batting, cut ONE 16″ x 12″ rectangle.

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

Assemble the exterior main panel and accents

  1. 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.
  2. Stitch together, using a ½” seam allowance.
  3. Press both seam allowances towards the main exterior panel.
  4. If you’d like it as an added accent, now is the time to switch to a contrasting thread in the top and bobbin for the topstitching. We used matching thread throughout.
  5. Slightly lengthen the stitch for the best look.
  6. Topstitch approximately ¼” in from the seam within the main panel. You are stitching through all the layers (fabric and seam allowance), securing the seam allowances in place.
    NOTE: We used a standard Satin Stitch foot. You could also switch to a Quarter Inch Seam foot.

Insert the zipper and create the exterior fabric tube

  1. Place your fusible batting against the wrong side of the completed exterior panel. The raw edges of the two layers should be flush all around.
  2. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place.
  3. We stitched on a Sew4Home label at this point, centering it within one of the accent panels towards one end.
  4. Center 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.
  5. Along the top strip, measure ½” in from each raw side edge and make a mark with a pin or fabric pen. This is the actual zippered opening. Re-center your zipper if necessary, which means the ends of the zipper will extend beyond the edges of your fabric.
    NOTE: You will cut away the excess zipper, creating your own custom “stops” within the seams. It’s easier to work with a zipper that is larger than the opening because you can then fully open the zipper as you work with it.
  6. Make identical ½” marks along the top of the 16″ x 12″ lining piece.
  7. Place the lining, right side down, on top of the exterior, sandwiching the zipper between the layers. As above, align the top raw edge of the lining 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.
  8. Fold back the lining to reveal the zipper, and zip it open about half way.
  9. Fold the lining back down into position, and take the assembled layers to your machine.
  10. Attach your Zipper foot.
  11. If possible, align your needle so it is in the left-most position.
  12. Re-set the stitch length to normal and re-thread to matching thread in the top and bobbin if need be.
  13. Starting ½” in from the edge at your mark, stitch through all the layers. Your seam allowance will be approximately ¼” or narrower; you want to run your Zipper foot as close to the zipper teeth as possible while still keeping all your layers nice and flat.
  14. Go slowly and gently hold the layers taut. 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, moving the zipper pull out of the way of the presser foot. Re-position your fabric, drop the presser foot, and finish sewing. Stop at the ½” mark at the opposite side.
  15. When complete, bring the two layers (exterior and lining) wrong sides together. The remaining free edge of the zipper should be sticking up. Press lightly. Remember, don’t apply the heat from an iron directly to the ripstop.
  16. Lengthen the stitch and edgestitch through all the layers along the zipper teeth. Our distance was about ⅛”.
    NOTE: Remember, you can use matching or contrasting thread for this edgestitching.
  17. Wrap the exterior around from the bottom and pin it in place along the free side of the zipper tape. The right side of the fabric should be against the right side of the zipper.
  18. Remember to keep track of your ½” marks at either end of the zipper.
  19. Wrap the bottom of the lining up to the top, aligning it with the back of the zipper. At this point you have TWO tubes laying one on top of the other.
  20. Return to your machine, and with your Zipper foot still in place, re-set the stitch length to normal, and stitch this side of zipper in the same manner as above.
  21. The ends of both tubes are open. Turn the tubes right side out through one another to create ONE final tube with the exterior and lining panels wrong sides together. Press lightly.
  22. To do the final top stitch along the opposite side of the zipper, it’s really best if you have a free arm so you can slip the tube over that and then turn it 90˚ to slide it under the needle. There’s still a little bunching and careful guiding involved, but you can do a edgestitch. If that’s not possible, open up the zipper all the way and fold the tube as flat as possible,
  23. Use matching thread or switch to a contrasting thread in the top and bobbin if you prefer. Lengthen the stitch to match your other edgestitching.
  24. Edgestitch along the opposite side of the zipper through all the layers, Remember to stop and start at your ½” marks.
  25. Move your zipper pull towards the center of the panel.
  26. Remember, your exterior and lining panels are wrong sides together.

Make the handle and tab

  1. Find the 3″ x 8″ strip.
  2. Fold the strip in half lengthwise (so it is now 1½” x 8″) wrong sides together and press a center crease. Unfold wrong side up so the crease line is visible.
  3. Fold each long raw edge into the center so they meet at the center crease. Press well.
  4. Fold in half again along the original center crease so the two long folded edges are flush. Press well and pin in place.
  5. Re-set the stitch length to normal and re-thread with matching thread in the top and bobbin if necessary.
  6. Stitch together, staying close to the folded edges and starting and stopping as close to each end as possible.
  7. Cut 2″ off one end. This smaller piece of the strip will be the tab; the larger piece is the handle.
  8. Fold the tab in half and position it at the bottom 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 of the zipper.
  9. Machine baste the tab in place close to the raw edge. Make sure you’re just stitching through the top layers and the zipper; you don’t want to stitch the side opening closed.

Side seams, handle, and cutting out the corners

  1. Turn the bag wrong side out. You are reversing the process from above so you once again have TWO tubes.
  2. Flatten out the tubes, one on top of the other, with the zipper running down the center.
  3. You now have four side seams to stitch, using a ½” seam allowance. Remember earlier when you were being very careful about starting and stopping ½” in from each edge? This is why. Now you have ½” free for a seam allowance.
  4. The only tricky parts are sewing across the top and bottom of the zipper. You will need to gently pull back one layer to reveal the full seam allowance and slowly stitch across.
  5. Remember, you sew each of the four sides together independently (lining side one, lining side two, exterior side one, exterior side two).
  6. At the top, where the tab is basted into place, You can clip away the raw edges of the tab so there won’t be too many bulky layers to easily move through the machine.
  7. When the four side seams are complete, draw 1½” squares on each corner and cut out.

    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. Remember, you have eight corners – four for the exterior and four for the lining. Draw your 1½” squares on both sides of all eight corners. And, yes, you will be cutting through the seam you just sewed. That’s okay, the corner box seams will re-secure the cut seams.
  8. Trim away your eight corners along the drawn lines.
  9. Another reminder and another view that shows you are working with independent layers.
  10. Find the remaining longer piece of the sewn strip, which is your handle.
  11. Slip the handle in between the layers of the exterior tube at the bottom end of the zipper.
  12. It will extend beyond the tube, but right now, we are just showing you the placement. In the next steps, the raw ends will slide flush with the tube, which in turn, will create the arc of the handle.
  13. Trim away the excess zipper after all your side seams are complete.

Seaming the eight corners

  1. You will now flatten each corner, starting with those two corners that contain the handle ends.
  2. Pull the outside edges of your square down to flatten/straighten the seam. You are making a box corner.
  3. As we mentioned above, make sure the raw end of the handle is centered and flush with the edges of each flattened corner. Pin in place.
  4. Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch these first two corner seams.
  5. Continue pinning…
  6. … and stitching in this manner.
  7. You will close up SEVEN of the eight corners: all four exterior corners and three of the lining corners.
  8. Leave the final lining corner open for turning.
  9. Carefully turn the entire bag right side out through this opening.
  10. To finish the edge of this last unsewn corner, turn both raw edges under ½”. Match up these folded edges and pin in place.
  11. Stitch closed from the right side.
  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 easier to load up all your cosmetics.
  13. Tie the optional ribbon/cord through the zipper pull and knot off.


Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation: Leah Wand

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Jan B
Jan B
7 months ago

Just finished making this ….it is adorable!! I learned some new tricks (love turning the bag right side out in one of the corners). Thanks for the pattern, I’ll definitely be making some more for gifts.

Liz Johnson
Liz Johnson
7 months ago
Reply to  Jan B

Hi Jan – Yay! Learning something new is always one of our goals. Thank you for sharing your success.

Linda L
Linda L
1 year ago

I really love Sew4Home projects and often refer to your techniques even when sewing some other project. I have made box corners with no problems in the past. However I think your instructions here are wrong. Because one side already has a seam and the other does not, they are not the same size when matched up. I fudged the outside with the fleece, but that is not going to work for the lining, which I have a fused vinyl on. Any hints?

Liz Johnson
Liz Johnson
1 year ago
Reply to  Linda L

Hi Linda – This cute little bag has been made lots o’ times, so the instructions are proofed and tested. It’s hard to troubleshoot long distance – so I’m not sure I’m following where you are encountering an issue, but I think the most important thing to remember from the steps is that you are not only working with each layer independently, you are also stitching each side independently, “You now have four side seams to stitch, using a ½” seam allowance. Remember earlier when you were being very careful about starting and stopping ½” in from each edge? This is why. Now you… Read more »

Linda L
Linda L
1 year ago

IAm wondering why you open and close the zipper during application since the zipper is longer than the fabric? Can’t the zipper be left closed until it is completely sewn in? Am I missing something obvious ?

Liz Johnson
Liz Johnson
1 year ago
Reply to  Linda L

Hi Linda – these are our “standard” suggestions for sewing a zipper, but in this case, yes, you could initially stitch with it closed since the zipper is longer at each end. That said, we found it easier to work with when having the flexibility to open and close the zipper. As in all things sewing… you should always do what is easiest and makes the most sense for you 🙂

Patricia olliffe
Patricia olliffe
1 year ago

Lovely shape and looks easy to follow, will hopefully try one and see how hard it is. If I can remember where to find this site…memories shocking these days lol

Liz Johnson
Liz Johnson
1 year ago

Thanks, Patricia. Ha — just remember sew4home 🙂 We have lots of ways to navigate by category as well as key work. Hope you’ll give it a go!

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