WI travel bag Cath Janes 1

How to sew a toiletry bag

Ever wanted to sew a toiletry bag? Well it’s your lucky day because this is how you do it. Thing is, it’s not only easy to sew a toiletry bag but it this method involves minimum measuring and it a cracking chance to learn about zip sewing. Even better, once it’s done you can bung in your sunscreen, shades and toothbrush and fly off somewhere gorgeous to put it to good use. I mean, c’mon! What more do you want!

Anyway, this tutorial about how to sew a toiletry bag first appeared in the WI Life, the WI’s magazine, and it’s perfect for anyone with beginner to intermediary skills. You’ll end up with a bag that is 30cms long, 16cms wide and 16cms deep but once you get the hang of it you can easily modify the measurements to create bigger or smaller bags or even a set.

You’ll need

Sewing machine (unless you have pristine handstitching skills and patience)

One piece of outer cotton fabric in a favourite print 50 x 72.5 cms

One piece of lining cotton fabric in a coordinating colour 50 x 72.5 cms

One piece of medium weight, iron-on white interfacing 50 x 72.5 cms

One zip 54 cms

Sewing machine and zipper foot

Iron and ironing board

Tape measure or ruler

Dressmaker’s pins

Water soluble pen or tailors’ chalk

Fabric scissors


And here’s how you do it…

Iron the interfacing to the wrong side of the outer fabric as per the manufacturer’s instructions. This will stabilise and strengthen the fabric.

Attach the zip. I used a continuous zip but you can also buy a complete zip with the end stoppers attached. Lay your outer fabric right side up on your work surface. Place the zip, right side down, along the raw 50cm edge, evenly overlapping at each end. Then place the lining fabric face down on top of the zip, raw edges together to create a zip ‘sandwich’.

Pin through the three layers and stitch, stopping 1.5 cms from each end. When you open this ‘sandwich’ the raw edges will not be visible from the right side of the fabric.

Repeat this on the opposite end of the fabric, sandwiching the zip between the right sides of the outer and lining fabric, along the raw 50cm edge. Pin and stitch, again stopping 1.5 cms from each end to create the same neat finish. The two 50cm edges of both the lining and outer fabrics lie inside out with the zip separating the two.

Turn through your work to check that the zip is neatly in place and no raw edges are visible along the zip. Iron the zip seams carefully (do not melt the plastic zipper teeth!) and top-stitch along both edges of the zip to stop fabric from catching when it’s in use.

Open the zip halfway to allow you to turn the bag later on.

Now turn the fabrics the wrong side out so that both lie independently of each other again. Layer these pieces by laying the outer fabric flat with the lining fabric on top of it. The zip runs horizontally along the middle of both of them as if it’s bisecting the fabrics. Make sure the zip lies evenly from each long edge of the bag.

Turn the bag so that one raw edge faces you. At this end, pull back the lining so the zip is visible.

Pin the zip end to the outer fabric and stitch along the entire edge, creating a seam through both layers of outer fabric and the zip end.

Flip over the bag so that the lining is now against the work surface and do the same again. Sew as closely as possible to the stitching that now lies across the zip end. It’s a bit fiddly so take your time to get it right.

Now flip the bag around and do exactly the same to the other end. You will have four seamed raw edges that sandwich the zip ends. If your zip is now completely inaccessible you have done it correctly!

To create the boxed shape and allow you access to the right side of the bag cut out the corners of the outer and lining fabrics. With the bag flat on the work surface, measure 7.5 cms from the seams and edges and mark with your pen or chalk to create squares.

Do this on all eight corners and cut them out.

Next stitch the corners. Open out each cut corner to create a ‘mouth’, pinch the raw edges of each ‘mouth’ together and stitch.

Each one should have a seam running vertically down from the raw edge, forming a T-shape.

Repeat this for seven of the eight corners, leaving one open to allow you to turn the bag. The bag should now have a box shape.

Turn the bag through the one remaining open corner. When the bag is the right way out, push the lining into the bag.

Complete the bag by stitching the remaining open corner in the lining: turn the raw edges of the corner fabric towards the wrong side of the lining by 1cm. Pin them together as you did with the other corners. Stitch closed. Your bag is now ready to use.

And that’s how you sew a toiletry bag! Don’t forget that you can use this shape for all sorts of things. Use a more durable fabric such as a canvas for heavy duty items, add a handle for a craft project bag or pop a small pocket in the lining. And if you have the zip-sewing bug check out this tutorial by Professor Pincushion and add a zipped pocket to the outside. Oh, and don’t forget to show me your efforts when you’re done. I’d love to see your work!