This tutorial on how to make a simple toiletry bag is perfect if you’re looking to make a dent in your fabric stash while finally tackling the whole ‘adding a zipper to a bag that stands up straight’.
I started making this specific type of toiletry bag after learning that Hope In A Suitcase is always in need of tween & teen toiletry bags for the foster children they serve.
After connecting with Marsha from HIAS I learned more about their exact needs.
She explained that the goal of the toiletry bag is to provide one that is, “fairly spacious, because they do feel like a gift in themselves. We like to be able fit at least a hairbrush, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, feminine hygiene products, and a few sample size items like shampoo, conditioner, body wash.”
So I set about determining the size and shape that would meet her request and give each child something that is unique and special.
Designing A Simple Toiletry Bag
I did some background research how to make a simple toiletry bag to see what people consider to be the latest and greatest.
Toiletry Bag Closure
There are lots of closures for a toiletry bag, but zippers seemed to be a staple. For simplicity’s sake, I thought about using hook and loop tape. That didn’t add any pizazz to a bag, however, and I wanted it to be special.
So a zipper it would be.
Fortunately, I was able to find a good quality and cost effective pack of 70 colorful 12″ zippers on Amazon that (sadly) is no longer available. I imagine one of these zipper options (*affiliate link) will work well too.
Toiletry Bag Fabrics
After deciding how to secure the top of the bag, I had to select fabric.
Since part of this toiletry bag project is about stash busting, I knew I wanted to work through some of the wonderful cotton prints I have. I also wanted the inside to be water resistant so I decided to use my reusable snack bag staple, rip stop nylon.
It also needed to hold its shape so that the tweens and teens could easily place their items in the bag when it is unzipped.
So I felt lightweight interfacing along with the cotton and rip stop nylon was the most straightforward answer. I decided I would fuse the cotton to the interfacing to simplify things.
I didn’t use the thicker pre-made fusible interfacing people use for bags because it’s fairly costly and a little bulkier than I wanted.
I knew having to fuse three pieces (instead of just two) would add an extra step to the construction, but felt the keeping the costs down was more important so that everyone could make more toiletry bags instead.
Having worked with rip stop nylon before, I anticipated it might cause some issues with the overall patterns I was going to attempt so I played with a couple of shapes and sizes to get it right.
Hint: Let’s just say, several didn’t hit the bullseye…
Toiletry Bag Size And Shape
I am not going to bore you with all of the pictures from the various attempts. There was a misshapen first try at a smaller boxy/dopp kit style toiletry bag that appears to be all the tutorial rage.
In the second go, all of the fabrics weren’t caught in the seam aka #sewingfail.
My conclusion? When you’re looking to crank out a simple toiletry bag that is cost effective and water resistant, that dopp kit boxy style didn’t fit the bill.
So I decided to be a square. Well, not me personally of course, but the toiletry bag. Using a standard-size square would allow me to use with one of the acrylic quilting squares to cut out all of my pieces and save a lot of time.
Size-wise, I wanted big but not too big so I settled on the starting point being a 12.5 x 12.5. The final size is 10″ H x 11″ W and it’s 3.5″ deep.
Make A Square(ish)Toiletry Bag
Now all the decision making is done and it’s time to get sewing!
I am writing the steps of this tutorial as though you’re only making a single bag at a time so that it’s clear how many pieces of each fabric you need. If you want to do several at a time, multiply by the final number of bags you’re making.
I didn’t draw up a pattern to share because it doesn’t need one. The construction of this bag is a lot of straight-line sewing, some edge trimming, and then adding a ‘bottom’ to the bag.
Materials & Tools For Simple Toiletry Bag
– 2 pieces of cotton fabric in a fun print cut to 12.5 x 12.5
– 2 pieces of lightweight interfacing cut to 12.5 x 12.5
– 2 pieces of rip stop nylon cut to 12.5 x 12.5
– 2 pieces of fusible web (I used Pellon)
– 12″ zipper in color matching cotton print
– Plastic clips to secure pieces together while sewing (*affiliate link)
– Pinking blade for a rotary cutter or pinking shears (*affiliate link)
Let’s start constructing and sewing!
Step 1: Fuse the fabric and webbing together.
The fusible web is a ‘cheat’ I’m using to create a stiffer piece of fabric to hold the shape of the bag.
So, you need to first iron the fusible web onto the each piece of the cotton fabric.
Then, fuse the cotton fabric and the lightweight interfacing together using the iron settings specified by the fusible web manufacturer.
Step 2: Layout the ‘fabric & zipper sandwich’ of one side of the toiletry bag.
Layout the first side of the bag for construction.
This will include one piece of the fused cotton and interfacing, the zipper, and one piece of the rip stop nylon.
The cotton piece should be right side up and the zipper should be face down on the cotton fabric.
The beauty of the rip stop? It doesn’t matter which which side you use when placing it for construction, so that takes one less possible “OOPS!” out of the equation.
Step 3: Clip the fabric and zipper together for sewing.
Fasten all of the pieces together with plastic clips then sew them all together. I use a zipper foot to make life a little bit easier.
Step 4: Finger press to make future steps easier.
After you’ve sewn the pieces together, open it up so you can finger-press the edges of the right side of the bag and fabrics.
Step 5: Layout the second side of the bag.
Now it’s time to construct the other side of the bag and sew the second set of fabric layers to the zipper.
Once sewn together, this completes the top part of the bag.
Start by placing the rip stop nylon down first. Then place the zipper with the teeth facing UP on top of the rip stop nylon.
Finally, place the second piece of cotton right side DOWN on top of the zipper. Clip it all together then sew.
Step 6: Finger press the second side so that you have a clean line. Then, put the right sides of the cotton fabric together and line up each of the edges. Use the plastic clips to secure the left and right sides in place for sewing.
– Unzip the zipper a little bit so you can turn it right side out once you’re done.
– This is a 12″ zipper and instead of cutting it to size, I just sew up each side and then trim the whole edge, cutting off the ends of the zipper that are no longer necessary.
– The rip stop nylon gets a little squirrely so as you may note from the photo below, the lines don’t always look straight on the inside but once you trim the edges and turn it inside out, all is fine.
Step 7: Sew the left and right sides of the bag using a 1/2″ seam allowance.
Step 8: Clip bottom edge and sew using 1/2″ seam allowance.
Use the plastic clips to secure the bottom edge. This make sure that nothing moves around while you’re sewing.
Sew everything together using a 1/2″ seam allowance.
Step 9: Create shape of bottom of the bag.
Now it’s time to start creating what will become the bottom part of the bag that allows it to stand on its own.
Cut a 2″ square from each corner of the bag.
Step 10: Trim all of the edges with pinking shears.
Trim all the edges (right, left, and bottom) using pinking shears.
This keeps the inside edges from fraying with continued use.
Step 11: Sew the bottom shape of the bag.
Create the shape of the bottom and ‘puff up’ the toiletry bag by lining up and pinching together the edges of the already sewn seams then secure the edges with the plastic clips.
Using a 1/2″ seam allowance, sew these edges closed. Repeat on the second side and then trim using the pinking shears.
The bottom of the bag should now look like the picture below. Clean up the edges like you did with the sides of the bag to prevent fraying.
Step 12: Turn it right sides out and zip up tight!
Now comes the most exciting part: Unzip the bag completely, turn it inside out and…you’re done!
Donate Toiletry Bags To Hope In A Suitcase
I had a lot of fun creating these bags and finished a handful that I will be sending to Hope In A Suitcase this month. I am hoping you too will create some extras to share with the foster children Hope In A Suitcase serves.
As a reminder, Hope In A Suitcase’s ideal donation is a finished toiletry bag that includes a handwritten note and is filled with the following:
– new toothbrush
– new toothpaste
– hair accessories
– feminine hygiene products
– lip balm
Hope In a Suitcase Mailing Address
Donations should be sent to:
Hope in a Suitcase
9663 Santa Monica Blvd. # 927
Beverly Hills, CA. 90210
How many stash-busting toiletry bags will you make?
When you make toiletry bags for Hope In A Suitcase, please connect with me on Instagram (@goodsgivingback). Make sure to use the tag #create2donateHIAS so that I can repost it on the Goods Giving Back FB page and the IG feed.
Check Out Pinterest For Additional Craft For A Cause Inspiration
Disclosure: I included affiliate links in this post meaning that if you click on the link and purchase a product from that vendor within a set amount of time, I would receive a small commission for the referral. There is no additional cost to you, but it does help keep the lights on here at Create To Donate. Thank you.