We’ve designed traveling cases for make-up and toiletries before, but never with a full zipper that allows the top to open up completely, giving you easy access to all your necessities. We used a fun Team Spirit zipper from Coats. At 26”, with separating plastic teeth, and in a dozen team color combinations, these zips are long enough, water-resistant enough, and bold enough to fit the bill. Open wide, fill to the brim, zip it up, and go!
For the exterior, we used a pretty cotton laminate from our friends at Cloud9 Fabrics: Woodland Critters in Navy by Ed Emberley. You can click here to see all the Cloud9 laminates, then look for them at your favorite online or in-store retailer.
The lining is PUL (polyurethane laminate) so all the surfaces can be wiped clean. We recommend white or a similar light color for the lining to make it easy to see what's inside.
Fusible foam provides the stability for the sides, top, and bottom; we used Pellon’s Flex Foam. This type of soft foam is easy to work with, provides great structure, and gives the entire case a layer of soft padding, which means you can carry glass jars and bottles with confidence. It also has a “memory,” so if the case get jostled inside a larger suitcase, it pops right back into its original shape.
If you’re new to working with laminated cottons (and other sticky stuff), we have a full, step-by-step tutorial with lots of great tips and techniques. Take a look prior to starting this project to learn about the best needles (16 Jeans is our favorite), the best way to hold layers in place (we like using Wonder Clips), as well as stitch length, pressing tips, and more.
We think you’ll have fun with the clever way we’ve designed the zipper installation on this project. We stitched it flat to the exterior of the case so you can see the whole thing. A hidden fold allows a clean finish on the inside and keeps it super easy to zip open and closed. The ends are finished with laminate tabs and secured into the back seam, forming the hinge that allows the top to fully open.
Our case finishes approximately square, although with its rounded corners, we prefer to call it a square-ish oval: 7” high x 7” wide x 7” deep.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Jeans or Denim Needle - Size 16
- Sewing Machine and standard presser foot
- Ultra Glide foot or similar Teflon® style foot; optional but very helpful for sewing on the right side of the cotton laminate
- We also used the built-in AcuFeed™ Flex fabric feeding system on our Janome Skyline S7 for several of the construction steps; if you have this system or similar, it’s another good option as is a standard Walking or Even Feed foot.
Fabric and Other Supplies
- ½ yard of 56"+ wide cotton laminate; we used 56” Woodland Critters cotton laminate in Navy by Ed Emberley for Cloud9 Fabrics
- ½ yard of 45"+ wide polyurethane laminate (also know as PUL); we used 1 mil PUL in Optic White
- ONE 26” separating zipper in bright colors; we used a Coats Team Spirit Zipper in orange with black teeth
- 1 yard of 20” wide fusible foam; we used one-sided fusible Pellon Flex Foam
- ¼ yard or scrap of lightweight fusible interfacing; we used Pellon Shape Flex
- ONE package (four yards) of double-fold bias tape to match PUL, we used Wright’s Double-Fold Bias Tape in White
- ONE package (2½ yards) of narrow piping to coordinate with the exterior laminate; we used Wright’s Maxi Piping in Stone Blue
- All-purpose sewing thread in colors to match the fabric and zipper
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pencil or pen
- Straight pins or clips; we used Wonder Clips
- Iron and ironing board;
- Pressing cloth; important when working with cotton laminate and PUL as neither are fans of the direct heat of any iron
Getting Started & Pattern Download
- Download and print out the Top & Base Pattern
IMPORTANT: This pattern is ONE 8½" x 11" sheet. You must print the PDF file at 100%. DO NOT SCALE to fit the page.
- Cut out the pattern piece along the solid outer line.
- From the cotton laminate, cut the following:
NOTE: If using a directional motif as we did, make sure all your cuts are going the right way.
TWO 3” wide x 2¼” high strips for the zipper tabs
TWO 10” wide x 1½” high strips for the handle
Using the pattern, cut TWO on the fold
ONE 29” wide x 7½” high rectangle for the main exterior panel
Slice 2” off the TOP of this rectangle so you have two pieces to work with for the exterior panel: one at 29” x 5½” and one at 29” x 2” – these two strips will go on either side of the zipper
- From the PUL, cut the following:
Using the pattern, cut TWO on the fold
ONE 29” wide x 7½” high rectangle for the main exterior panel
As you did above with the exterior laminate panel, slice 2” off the TOP of this rectangle so you have two pieces to work with for the lining: one at 29” x 5½” and one at 29” x 2”
- From the fusible foam, cut the following:
ONE 28” wide x 4½” high rectangle for the lower exterior panel
ONE 28” x 1” strip for the upper exterior panel
Cut the paper pattern along the dotted seam allowance line.
The foam is really too bulky to cut on the fold. Instead, place the trimmed paper pattern on the foam and draw a line along the straight edge.
Cut along the curved edge.
Un-pin the pattern, flip it, and re-align along the drawn guide line. Pin in place and cut the opposite half to create the full piece.
Repeat; you need one piece for the top and one for the bottom.
NOTE: Another option would be to print TWO copies of the paper pattern. Once you've cut your exterior and lining top and base panels, trim both pattern pieces along the dotted seam allowance line, then flip over one piece and align the two halves along the straight edges. Butt together, do not overlap. Tape in place. You can then use this full pattern to cut the two top and bottom pieces of fusible foam.
- From the lightweight interfacing, cut the following:
ONE 9” x 1” strip for the handle
TWO 3” x 1¼” strips for the tabs
- From the piping, cut TWO 10” lengths and TWO 31” lengths.
- Leave the bias binding as one length.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Create the handle
- Find the two 10” x 1½” strips of cotton laminate and the 9” x 1” strip of lightweight interfacing.
- Center the interfacing on the wrong side of one of the laminate strips. There should be ¼” of fabric showing beyond the interfacing on each long side and ½” showing beyond the interfacing at each end.
- Using a pressing cloth and following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place.
- Find the two 10” lengths of piping.
- Place the fused handle strip right side up and flat on your work surface.
- Place a length of piping along each 10” side. The raw edge of the laminate should be flush with the raw edge of the piping. Pin or clip in place.
- Baste the piping in place.
- At each end of each length of piping, open up the stitching to reveal the piping cord within. Clip back the piping cord ⅝”.
- Re-fold the fabric back into place and re-pin to the laminate. Cutting back the interior cording at the ends will help the handle sit more smoothly into the seam.
- Place the remaining strip right sides together with the piped strip, sandwiching the piping between the layers. Pin or clip in place.
- Using a ¼” seam allowance, stitch along both sides.
- Turn the handle right side out through one of the open ends. It’s a little sticky to turn, but can be done since the wrong side of the cotton laminate is not as sticky as the right side.
- Using a pressing cloth, lightly press flat.
- Lengthen the stitch.
- Topstitch along both sides approximately ⅛” in from each seam.
Add the zipper tabs
- Find the two 3” x 2¼” laminate pieces, the 3” x 1¼” interfacing pieces, and the zipper.
- On each tab, fold back and then finger press one 2¼” end ½” and both 3” sides ½”. If you are using a directional fabric, the end you fold back should be the inside end of each tab – the end that will be against the zipper.
- Unfold the tabs so their crease lines are visible.
- Place the interfacing against the wrong side of each tab, aligning the interfacing with the folds along each side and the raw ends. Following manufacturer’s instructions, and using a pressing cloth, fuse in place.
- Re-fold and finger press.
- At the tail end of the zipper, measure 1” up from the end of the zipper tape and draw in a couple marks on the wrong side of the zipper tape.
- The folded end of the tab should align with these marks, which will keep the seam from hitting the zipper’s bottom stop.
- The tab should be placed right side up over the front of the zipper and then wrapped around to the back. Clip in place.
- To secure, stitch one short seam along the folded end of the tab through all the layers.
- The tab at the top end of the zipper is done in the same manner, but should be positioned with the zipper all the way closed so the folded end butts right up against the zipper pull.
- Once positioned correctly, open up the zipper to move the pull out of the way, and stitch the same short vertical seam to secure the top tab.
- This is an excellent time to switch to a Teflon® type foot to help you stitch across the laminate. We used our Janome Ultra Glide foot.
- With the tabs in place, the zipper unit should now be 29” – just like the exterior panel.
- Fold the finished zipper in half to find its center point. Place a pin at this center point on both the top zipper tape and the bottom zipper tape.
Assemble the exterior layers and place the zipper
- Find the two laminate pieces that make up the main exterior panel, the two pieces of PUL that make up the main lining panel, and the fusible foam pieces.
- Center the fusible foam on the wrong side of both laminate pieces. There should be ½” of laminate showing beyond the foam on all sides on both pieces.
- Using a pressing cloth and following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse the foam in place.
- Place the PUL pieces wrong sides together with the exterior pieces, sandwiching the foam between the layers. Clip in place all around.
- Baste around all four sides of both layered sections, using a small zig zag stitch.
- Starting with the smaller 2” top section, mark its center point with a pin (14½” from each end is this 29” layered section’s center point).
- Find the zipper. Align the zipper’s center pin point with the panel’s center pin point.
- Place the wrong side of the zipper against the PUL. The top edge of the panel should sit just below, about 1/16” below, the edge of the zipper tape. Pin in place through all the layers.
- Fold down the top edge of the laminate/PUL, bringing the zipper down into position so it is now right side facing up and laying flat on the right side of the laminate. Re-pin in place in this new position. Make sure the zipper teeth are clear of the PUL. There should be a clean folded edge along the teeth at the back of the zipper.
- This means that underneath the zipper, the laminate and PUL are folded down against the right side of the fabric. The photo below shows what is happening under the zipper.
- Re-thread the machine with thread to match the zipper tape in the top and thread to match the PUL in the bobbin. Set-up the machine for a wide zig zag (we used 9mm),
- Stitch along the edge of the zipper tape all the way across.
- Attach the remaining raw edge of the zipper tape to the larger bottom exterior panel in the same manner. First pin the wrong side of the zipper against the PUL (remember that the zipper should sit just about 1/16” beyond the raw edges of the laminate/PUL).
- Then fold to the front and re-pin.
- Make sure the zipper teeth are completely clear, which means there should be a gap of about ½” between the two laminate sections to allow the zipper to open cleanly.
- Open the zipper and zig zag this opposite edge of the tape in place.
- Below is an illustration that will further help you visualize how the edges of the panels are folded forward and covered by the zipper. This is a rather unique (and rather clever) way to insert a zipper. It allows us to use the entire zipper as a design element while also creating clean edges on both the exterior and the lining. We used this same technique on the pocket zippers of our Summer Sling Bag.
- Remember, you can also use an Ultra Glide foot or similar for all of these steps.
- With the zipper in place, fold the exterior panel right sides together to create the back seam. Take the time to make sure the tabs, tab stitching, and zipper teeth are all perfectly aligned. Clip in place.
- Re-thread the machine with thread to best match the PUL in the top and bobbin. Re-set the stitch length to normal.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch the back seam.
- Find the bias binding. Cut a length to match the back seam allowance. The binding will be used to bind the seam allowance for a neat finish on the inside of the case. To do this, first open up one folded edge of the bias binding. Align this raw edge with the seam allowance.
- Re-thread the machine if need be with thread to best match the binding in the top and bobbin.
- Re-set the machine for a small zig zag.
- Stitch the binding to the seam allowance, following along in the crease line of the bias binding. Remember, you are just stitching to the seam allowance – do not stitch onto the body of the case.
- Wrap the binding around to the other side of the seam allowance and stitch in place to secure. You are still using a zig zag and you are still only stitching to the seam allowance.
- You now have a lovely little tube with a zipper in place through the center and a lovely bound back seam. Set it aside.
Prepare the top and base panels
- Find the two sets of laminate, PUL, and fusible foam for the top and bottom panels. Also collect the remaining piping and the finished handle.
- Center the foam on the wrong side of the each laminate panel. Using a pressing cloth and following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place.
- Place the PUL panels wrong sides together with the fused exterior panels, sandwiching the foam between the layers. Clip in place all around.
- Place the handle across the center of what will become the top panel. The raw ends of the handle should be flush with the raw edges of the top panel unit, which means the center of the handle will bow up slightly, like… well, like a handle! Baste each end in place.
- Place a length of piping around the perimeter of both layered panels (the top and the bottom). The raw edge of the piping should be flush with the raw edges of the laminate/PUL and the ends of the piping should be overlapped to finish. Clip in place.
NOTE: If you are new to finishing the edge of piping in a continuous loop, take a look at our full, step-by-step piping tutorial.
- The overlapped ends of the piping will eventually be lined up with the back seam of the body of the case. If you have a directional print, make sure this overlap is at the center of the top edge of the panel for the top and the center of the bottom edge of the panel for the base. The photo below shows the base panel unit.
- Baste the piping in place on both the top and base units. We continued to use thread to match the PUL in the top and bobbin and a small zig zag stitch.
Set the top and base panels into the body of the case
- The key to any project where you are inserting a flat base into a tube is to make accurate quarter-panel marks on both the tube and the circular base. To create these marks on the base, think of it like the face of a clock. You will make four marks at 12:00, 3:00, 6:00 and 9:00.
- On your top and base panels, the piping overlap is your 12:00 mark. Fold the panel in half, right sides together (laminate sides together), to find the exact opposite mark – the 6:00 point. Mark with a pin. Finger press lightly to set a crease. Place a pin at both outer edges of this creased fold to mark the 9:00 and 3:00 points.
- Find the tube. The back seam is your 12:00 mark. With the tube wrong side out, flatten it in half so the seam forms the left edge. At the right edge, place a pin in the fold. This pin marks your 6:00 point.
- Flatten in the opposite direction, bringing together the seam and the 6:00 point. With the pin and the seam aligned, place a pin at both outer edges of the new fold. These are your 9:00 and 3:00 points.
- Place the marked base into the bottom marked end of the tube, right sides together, matching up the 12:00, 3:00, 6:00 and 9:00 marks on both pieces. It's a bit like setting a lid upside down into a box. Clip at the main quadrant points first, then fill in all around, easing the base to fit the tube.
- Stitch all the way around the base, running the seam as close as possible to the piping. Your seam allowance will be about ¼”. You may want to switch to a Zipper foot and move your needle position all the way to the left.
- Cut a length of bias tape and bind this seam allowance using the same method as for the back seam of the body of the case. We continued to use our Janome AcuFeed™ Flex foot; you could also continue to use a Zipper foot.
- Repeat to insert the top panel into the top open end of the tube.
- Don’t forget to open up the zipper about half way before you clip the layers in place and stitch.
NOTE: If you are new to inserting a flat circle into a tube, we have a great step-by-step tutorial that explains the basic method and a variety of options.
- After binding the top seam allowance, turn the pretty case right side out through the open zipper.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Debbie Guild