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We admit to having a bit of a crush on laminates and oilcloth. This starry-eyed happiness encouraged us to scan back through some projects, looking for candidates to Re-imagine and Renovate in this fun substrate. Bingo! We landed on our classic Cosmetics & Toiletries Bag. The original sample already featured a laminate on the inside to make it resistant to damage from on-the-go spills, but we thought, “Wow… this would be awesome done entirely in laminate!”

This little bag project has been very popular on the site, bit it does fall 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.

It finishes at approximately 7½” wide x 4″ high x 3½” deep.

Part of our decision to re-do this project was to be able to take some additional photos along the way to try to help you better visualize the three-dimensional steps. Even with this additional help, if you are new to sewing, we suggest making a prototype first out of scrap fabrics. We’re not saying this to make you feel like you can’t do it. We make prototypes ALL the time to figure out the best way to do things. 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.

If you are new to working with laminates, make sure you review our technique article: Successful Sewing With Laminated Cottons and Oilcloth. If you’d like to take a look at the original version of this project, done in lovely Anna Maria Horner Loulouthi fabrics, you can find it here.

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

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NOTE 1: Our two main exterior fabrics are from Moda and are detailed below. The interior laminate we purchased locally and there were no details on the bolt. If one of our super-sharp S4H visitors recognizes the orange butterfly print, please help us with an ID.

NOTE 2: 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 – get ½ yard.

  • ⅓ yard of 54″ wide laminate for the main exterior of the bag: we originally used the Salt Air collection in Sea Garden Summer by Cosmo Cricket for Moda Fabrics
  • ¼ yard of 54″ wide laminate for the exterior accent panels of the bag as well as the handle and tab: we originally used the Reunion collection in Ink by Sweetwater for Moda Fabrics.
  • ⅓ yard of 54-55″ wide laminate for the lining of the case: we originally used a mystery laminate in white with pretty orange butterflies
  • ⅓ yard of lightweight batting (regular batting not fusible)
  • One 14″ plastic zipper in a coordinating accent color: we used light orange
  • Approximately 8″ of ⅛” ribbon for the zipper pull: we used light green
  • 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
  • Wax or parchment paper (if you are not using a Teflon®-type presser foot)

Getting Started

  1. From the fabric for main exterior (Salt Air in Sea Garden in our sample), cut ONE 13″ x 12″ rectangle.
  2. From the fabric for the exterior accent panels, handle and tab (Reunion in Ink in our sample), cut the following:
    TWO 2½” x 12″ rectangles
    ONE 3″ x 8″ strip
  3. From the fabric for the lining (white with orange butterflies in our sample), cut ONE 16″ x 12″ rectangle.
  4. From the lightweight batting, cut ONE 16″ x 12″ rectangle.

At Your Sewing Machine

  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.
    NOTE: Yes… pins do leave holes in laminate, but we’re not worried about that fact for this project because all the pinning is being done within seam allowances so no holes will show on the finished bag.
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  2. Stitch together, using a ½” seam allowance.
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  3. Open up the finished piece wrong side up and finger press both seam allowances towards the main exterior piece (the Salt Air Sea Garden in our sample).
  4. If you have one, switch now to your Ultra Glide or Teflon®-type foot. If you don’t have such a foot, place a piece of wax paper between the laminate and the presser foot.
  5. If you’d like it as an added accent, now is the also the time to switch to a contrasting thread in the top and bobbin for the topstitching. We used a pale orange.
  6. 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.
    NOTE: You can see in the photo below, we adjusted the needle position on our Janome machine to the right in order to allow us to use the edge of our Ultra Glide foot as a guide. If you do not have this ability on your machine, you might want to draw a line to follow, in a water-erasable marker, in order to keep a super straight line.
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  7. We also stitched on our S4H 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.
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  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.
  3. Along the top strip, measure ½” in from each side and make a mark. This is the actual opening. Adjust your zipper so the top pull is at this mark, which means the raw ends zipper tape will extend beyond the edges of your fabric. The bottom of the zipper will extend well beyond the opposite end.
    NOTE: We will cut away the excess zipper to create our own custom “stop” later in the steps. 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.
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  4. Make identical ½”-in marks along the top of the 16″ x 12″ lining piece on the the BACK of the lining.
  5. Place the lining, right side down, on top of the exterior, 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.
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  6. Fold back the lining to reveal the zipper, and zip it open about half way.
  7. Fold the lining back down into position, and take the assembled layers to your machine.
  8. Attach your zipper foot.
  9. Align your needle so it is in the left-most position.
  10. Starting ½” in from the edge at your mark, 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.
  11. Go slowly and gently hold the laminate 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. Re-position your fabric and finish sewing. Stop at the ½”-in mark at the opposite side.
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  12. Wrap the exterior (and batting) around from the bottom and pin it in place along the other size of the zipper (the remaining unsewn side).
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  13. Wrap the lining around from the top (that is what forms the tube) with the zipper in between. At this point you have TWO tubes laying one on top of the other.
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  14. Return to your machine, and with your zipper foot still in place, stitch this side of zipper in the same manner as above.
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  15. Remember to stop at your ½”-in marks.
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  16. The ends of both tubes are open. Turn the tubes right side out through one another to create ONE final tube with wrong sides together.
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  17. To do the final top stitch along either 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 top stitch. If that’s not possible, open up the zipper all the way and fold the tube as flat as possible,
  18. Switch to an Ultra Glide or Teflon®-style foot or place wax or parchment paper between the foot and the laminate.
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  19. Switch to a contrasting thread in the top and bobbin if you prefer.
  20. Topstitch along both sides of the zipper through all the layers, approximately ¼” from the zipper teeth. Remember to stop and start at your ½”-in marks.
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Make the handle and tab

  1. Find the 3″ x 8″ strip.
  2. On the back of the strip, use a ruler and marker to draw a line down the center of the entire strip (1½” from each side). Fold the strip in half lengthwise along this drawn line and finger press a center crease.
  3. Unfold so the crease/drawn line is visible.
  4. Fold in each long raw edge to the center to meet at the drawn line. It looks like a piece of double-fold bias binding.
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  5. Fold in half again along the crease/drawn line so the two long folded edges are flush and the raw edges are enclosed. Finger press and clip in place.
  6. Stitch together, staying close to the folded edges and starting and stopping as close to each end as possible.
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    NOTE: As above, any time you at stitching on the right side of the laminate, it is best to switch to an Ultra Glide or Teflon®-style foot or to use a piece of wax or parchment paper between the presser foot and the surface of the laminate.
  7. Cut 2″ off one end. This smaller 2″ piece will be the tab; the larger 6″ piece is the handle.
  8. 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. Clip the tab in place.
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  9. On the back, make sure the lining is folded back, as if following the lines of the seam allowance. This will help keep all the layers flat (take a look at the second photo below).
  10. Machine baste the tab in place close to the raw edge.
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Side seams, handle and cutting out the corners

  1. Turn the bag wrong side out. You are reversing the process from up above so you once again have TWO tubes.
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  2. Flatten the tubes out, one on top of the other, with the zipper running down the center.
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  3. You now have four sides 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.
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  5. Remember, you sew each pair of sides together independently.
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  6. At the top, where the tab is basted into place, clip away the raw edges of the tab or there will be too many bulky layers to easily move through the machine.
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  7. Trim away the excess zipper after all your side seams are complete.
  8. Draw 1½” squares on each corner and cut out.
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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.
  9. 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.
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  10. Trim away your eight corners along the drawn lines.
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  11. Find the remaining 6″ piece of the sewn strip, which is your handle.
  12. Slip the handle in between the layers of the exterior tube at the bottom end of the zipper. 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.
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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. As we mentioned above, make sure the raw end of the handle is centered and flush with the edges of the corner. Pin in place.
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  3. Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch this first corner seam.
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  4. Continue pinning and stitching in this manner. Here is our first two corners with the handle now stitched in place.
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  5. Pin and stitch SEVEN of the eight corners together.
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  6. Leave one of the lining corners open for turning. Gently turn your bag right side out through this opening.
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  7. To finish the edge of this last unsewn corner, turn both raw edges under ½”. Match up these now folded edges.
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  8. Stitch closed from the right side.
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  9. 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.
  10. Tie the ribbon into a loop through the zipper pull and knot off.

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Project Design: Alicia Thommas and Liz Johnson
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Debbie Guild

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11 months ago

This is a very fun travel accessory to make! The only change I would make to the instructions (or, perhaps, pattern) is to add that the corner seams (once the cut corners have been flattened and ready for stitching), will not exactly meet across the inside of the square cut-out, and that you’ll have an uneven amount of fabric (about 1/8″ each end of the seam/inside cut corner), that you’ll have to “cheat” in order for a 1/2″ seam to be made here. Other than that, it’s a bit of a challenge getting the exterior fabric and batting, and zipper… Read more »

Liz Johnson
Liz Johnson
11 months ago
Reply to  Jeannie

Hi Jeannie – thanks for sharing your notes. 3D projects are always a little tricky and it’s great to hear what others do to make the most sense out of it. I LOVE your idea of making this for your daughter out of such treasured fabric. She’ll adore it, I’m sure.

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