Friday 7 July 2023

Free Pattern Friday: Laminated Toiletry Bag Tutorial

Welcome to my monthly 'Free Pattern Friday' feature, where I road test a free sewing pattern or tutorial: sometimes a children's one, sometimes an adult's one . I publish these posts every first Friday of the month, timed to provide inspiration for those who plan to get their sew on over the weekend. I firmly believe that, if you pick your projects carefully, sewing doesn't have to be a crazy-expensive way to clothe yourself and your family. I also firmly believe that pattern designers deserve to be properly paid for their work, so if you enjoy using a pattern and can afford to do so, make sure you support that designer. Some designers' websites offer the option to make a donation, alternatively you can buy one of their paid-for products. If you can't afford to do so, you can support the designer by sharing your project via social media to help draw more attention to their work. Thanks to all the amazing pattern designers who have offered up their hard work for us to enjoy for free.

Yes!!! I promised that the Free Pattern Friday series would be back around the summer, time and today I'm making good on that promise. Since the last post in the series that I published back in January, I've found a number of free patterns and tutorials that I genuinely wanted to try, to make things that I genuinely think will be useful for my family. Starting with this one! 

Whilst prepping for the Travel, Sustainability and Sewing episode that I made for my podcast with return guest Shams el Din Rogers, I decided to wanted to make a couple of toiletry bags for my family to use for upcoming trips. I was inspired by some awesome bags and pouches that another podcast guest, Rachel Kirby, made earlier this year for her trip to the US. Now, I probably could have figured this out myself. But you know, sometimes you just want to be told what to do! So after some sniffing around, I found this post featuring 40+ Zip Pouch Tutorials on Polkadot Chair, which led me to the Laminated Toiletry Bag Tutorial, also by Dolkadot Chair. Big thanks to them for putting this together for free. If you've got some trips coming up and your wash bag, makeup bag, medicine pouch, or anything-else bag situation isn't looking very strong, you could quickly and easily whip yourself up a new one using fabric from your stash. 

(image source: Polkadot Chair)

Pattern type:

The tutorial is for making a simple, lined, water-resistant wash bag that closes with a zip.

Sizing info:

If you follow the measurements in the tutorial (which are in inches), the resultant bag will be about 24cm wide X 17cm tall (9 1/2" X 7"). A 12" - 14" zip is also required. This makes a small-to-medium sized wash bag, perfect for one person going away for a few nights to a week if they don't use too many products. If you're going for longer, or you want to fit a couple or a family's supplies in it, you'll want to make it bigger. It'd be super easy to change the size and dimensions by cutting the rectangles to your own specification. You can also make a subtle alteration to the dimensions when it comes to stitching the corners by altering the depth.

Fabric info:

The fabrics used in the tutorial are matte laminated cottons, which are probably A LOT softer and easier to sew than the vinyl scraps I had to hand. But sometimes scrap busters can't be choosers. I'm pretty sure mine will be more robust in the long term anyhow. I used some coated vinyl stuff, the kind that's sometimes used to cover tables when kids are around, that was leftover from my rain coat. (BTW, that raincoat was made nearly eight years ago and is still going strong.) Whilst I was hunting through my stash to find the sailboat vinyl leftovers, I unearthed this kitsch, blossom print vinyl that I bought close to twenty years ago! Which meant I was able to make two that could be easily distinguished from each other. I'm wondering if PUL might also work for the lining of these type of bags.


If you're looking for a quick and simple tutorial to hold your hand through making a zip pouch, then this one is for you. However, if you'd like to make something a little more refined, with a more pleasing zip finish such as this, then it probably isn't. I'm not sure how viable that alternative, neater kind of zip finish is for this kind of laminated or vinyl fabric anyway, but I might trial that with some 'regular' fabric. Other options include a washbag with an extended zip tape like a lot of shop bought ones have such as this. Or if you'd like a different shape, then something like this or this might be more up your street. 

Generally speaking, the tutorial was easy and pleasant to follow. There was little-to-nothing about this tutorial that made it specific to water-resistant fabrics, other than a link to another post about sewing laminate fabrics, and a link to where you can buy laminate fabrics on Etsy. The one thing I really didn't enjoy about this tutorial, is that it's one of those websites that is dripping in distracting ads. I understand that that is the business model that allows them to offer this content for free, but it still annoys me. 

Customisation ideas:

Off the top of my head, you could:

  • add internal or external pockets to keep ear plugs or something else that's small
  • alter the size, shape and depth
  • use a non waterproof fabric on the outside, and a vinyl, laminate or PUL fabric on the inside only, particularly for a makeup case or other pouch that's less likely to sit in a pool of water!
  • add a label, name tag, decal or embroidery to personalise it or make it easier to return to its owner lost (you may have guessed that I'm thinking of my kids here)

Would I use this tutorial again?

Yes! And I have. I had some seeds that I wanted to send to a friend, so I made her a smaller version of this to put them in. For that, I used the same kitsch vinyl on the outside to keep the seeds away from moisture, but I used a scrap of gingham cotton for the lining. 

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