DISCLOSURE: This blog contains Google Adsense ads and affiliate links to Bluprint, Creativebug, and CreativeLive via which potential commissions are earned when visitors click through.

Search This Blog > > >

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Testing the Travel Toiletry Tote

Guy Laroche Toiletry Case
My 25+ year old toiletry case...
In January of 2015, I worked out a draft pattern for a roll up travel toiletry bag like the one you see pictured here.

This was shortly after I had purchased my supply of waxcloth; my original plan was to make this out of that material.

I'm not quite sure what exactly led to me shelve this project for over two and a half years. Perhaps at some point I realized that the waxcloth was not going to be sturdy enough to stand up to the punishment that an item like this would face.

But then, I only really found out about the durability issue last year, so that can't be the whole reason.

Travel Toiletry Tote by eSheep Designs
The end of my two and a half year long project!

When I dug it out of my small "projects in progress" box a few months ago, I realized that it was almost finished.

Check out Craftsy's latest promos... Craftsy
[affiliate link]


Travel Toiletry Tote by eSheep Designs
The waxcloth version of my Travel Toiletry Tote was about 80% done...

You may be able to make out that the design is based on four triangular zippered compartments attached to a backing, that all rolls up into a big rectangular box. In this configuration, it was completely made out of vinyl and waxcloth (with four regular zippers).

Here is the bottom view of the "inspiration" organizer that I purchased back in the early 1990s.

Guy Laroche Toiletry Case
My toiletry bag is showing its age...

I paid $28, which wasn't an amount that I regularly spent on anything back then. But I convinced myself that it would serve me well for many years, which it has.

Guy Laroche Toiletry Case
The fabric has worn through on both ends of this case, exposing the white vinyl underneath...

While still functional, it's got visible rips and tears.

[By the way, you may remember seeing a similar case that I use to store and organize my bag making "hardware". It is, however, a much smaller version — purchased on eBay for about five bucks — that in no way, shape, or form could ever have replaced my original toiletry bag.]

Since I was now quite certain that I wasn't going to use waxcloth to make this, my first step was to take out the seam ripper and remove the binding around the outer edges (which would also remove the triangular side panels at the ends of the pockets).

What I was going to use, was a lightweight cotton twill version of one of my Canadiana designs similar to the chiffon that I used to make my mini infinity scarf. The cotton twill has a durable, sturdy feel to it and doesn't need any stabilizer.

Travel Toiletry Tote by eSheep Designs
End view of my Travel Toiletry Tote...

The original bag is made out of fabric on the outside, but lined with vinyl for some measure of waterproof-ness and easy cleanup in case of spills. (And I suppose this was the original motivation for me to make this out of waxcloth.) The pocket panels themselves are clear vinyl. It has a carrying handle and closes with hook and loop tape.

My prototype here is similarly constructed, with the exception that the pocket end pieces (i.e., the side panels) are just fabric.

Travel Toiletry Tote by eSheep Designs
Interior of my Travel Toiletry Tote...

I could easily have incorporated an interior layer of vinyl there, but truth be told, I cut four side panel pieces out of fabric before I remembered this. (What can I say, it was a project that spanned over two and a half years!)

That being said, there may also be a practical reason for not adding more vinyl to the mix: that whole side panel is an absolute B-I-T-C-H to sew. I knew this from January of 2015 when I stitched on the original ones made out of waxcloth.

So here I will offer a warning about this project. Although fairly easy to figure out and relatively fast to make (and doesn't require a lot of material), it features a step — that you have to do twice — that may drive you around the bend, cause you to punch out your sewing machine, or something much worse.

Travel Toiletry Tote by eSheep Designs
Wrapping the binding around the side panels isn't that hard... sewing it is!

I will say that my use of waxcloth on the zipper tabs probably didn't help my cause. They ended up being quite firm and trying to wrap binding around them as well as around the "wavy" side panels created a 3D sewing nightmare. Also, the bias binding that I used was extra wide, which wasn't ideal (but was what I had on hand).

All lessons learned, but — and this is a very important "but" — even if you do use optimal materials in terms of size and type, this will still be a step that you'll likely hate with a passion.

I would go so far as to say that even if you come up with a temporary way of securing all the layers first, it'll still be a bear to deal with. The only way that I can see it being easier is if you skip the clear vinyl — because you can then hand baste everything first — but not using vinyl would be a deal-breaker for me. (I'm used to being able to see what's inside each compartment; having to guess would drive me bananas!)

Watch live classes for FREE at CreativeLive!
[affiliate link]

If you want some proof of the difficulty, take a look at some of my stitching of the side panel binding here...

Travel Toiletry Tote by eSheep Designs
Not exactly my best work...!

What I told myself as I was sewing up the side panels was just keep on going. Y'see, I'm sewing through vinyl and if I were to stop and yank out the stitches every time something went wrong — and then start over again and again and again and again — I would eventually just perforate it. So, my solution was just to barrel along and finish, warts and all.

Speaking of perforating, take a look at this set of tracks that went awfully awry (this one I did have to stop and start again; I also decided to sew from the top instead of from underneath, which is not the normally recommended approach).

Travel Toiletry Tote by eSheep Designs
This is what happens when you can't see where you're sewing!

Upon reaching the end, I went back to the most egregious spots, pulled out the stitching and then just resewed in those spots. Certainly, it's not a technique I would normally employ, but for the sake of completing this and ensuring its ultimate usability, that was my best option. Even now, there are several small puckers that I'm not going to fix; it's not worth the suffering.

Travel Toiletry Tote by eSheep Designs
My "warts and all" finished bag is definitely functional and that's what matters...

What's more, that binding is not particularly visible when the bag is rolled up. The exterior polka dot binding (which is just ribbon) has no issues.

On the subject of issues, for some reason I did not trust my original cut piece of exterior waxcloth and reduced the length for the replacement fabric. The shorter length affected the placement of the velcro and eliminated some planned exterior binding. The good news is that I retained the original waxcloth and recorded the measurements for future reference.

Travel Toiletry Tote by eSheep Designs
If only I could move those pieces of Velcro up a bit...!

For now, the project is done — yippee! — and I'm fairly pleased with it. That said, I have no desire to do it again any time soon, which means that there are currently no plans for it to become a pattern for sale. I did take enough photos of the original process with the waxcloth (and there is a template for the side panels) to write up a tutorial. So if there is sufficient demand, I could be convinced to do that. (Or, if a few of you are gung ho enough about this that you might be interested in testing any future pattern, let me know that too.)

Travel Toiletry Tote by eSheep Designs
And if only the zippers were just an inch longer...!

Since writing up the main part of this post, I've now also taken this on vacation with me. It's passed the usability test. The most significant issue I had with it (apart from the placement of the velcro which I had already identified) were the zippers: they were a touch too short. I would definitely go with longer zippers next time.

Travel Toiletry Tote by eSheep Designs
Filled to the brim and functioning fine!

Have you done any sewing of bound fabric and vinyl around curves? Was it a pleasant experience??


  1. Amazing job! I can't imagine working on a project like this travel bag. You have much more patience than I would have.

  2. Looks like a very useful case! I got some new fangled clips recently, called Big Magic Clips. They have metal tips that allow them to go under the presser foot so control is maintained over slippery things for a longer time. They might be helpful for this. https://www.fatquartershop.com/big-magic-clip-set-6pc

  3. Good for you Rochelle in finishing it! Yikes that sounded like too hard of a project for me to want to finish. I have sewn a small bit of clear vinyl for an ID pocket and made a see-through project bag with a zipper with curved edges that lies flat. Those weren't bad to sew, but anything 3-D, forget it! I will stick with 100% cotton fabrics, which I have in abundance!!!

  4. I would love to see a template for this-and would throw myself under the bus and volunteer to be a pattern tester for you if you were thinking about writing one.

    1. LOL... good on you for laying your life on the line like that! I would be happy to keep you in mind on a list, but right now, I have no way to contact you since you are a "noreply-comment" person right now. Maybe send me a message via the contact widget on my sidebar at left?


You have the power to brighten my day. Leave me a comment; I'd love to hear your thoughts... you can even remain ANONYMOUS! And rest assured that I acknowledge all comments, either here or via email. (That is, if you don't see a response from me here, I would have responded privately to the person.) Spam or generic comments with unrelated links, however, are promptly removed... and I may take appropriate action or report you to Google. Thanks for reading! (✿◠‿◠)