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Photography: lesson #2 - Toilet Tree Bag

By Monday, March 9, 2009 , , ,

For a little bit now I've been wanting a toiletry bag.  {Isn't toiletry a weird word?}  I've gotten increasingly tired of reusing plastic grocery store bags for my bathroom necessities - toothbrush, toothpaste, and such.  The plastic bags always seem to tear and are really awkward to deal with.  Plus, they are totally un-cute.  

I'd been thinking it would be great to make a toiletry bag.  Not that it would be a money saver - it wouldn't.  But, I would get to pick out cute fabric - always a plus - and I could make it how I wanted it.  So I went in search of a pattern.  

I looked long and hard on the internet to find something even slightly resembling the idea I had in mind.  When I found this pattern that was kinda close to what I wanted and it was only a buck I thought I'd give it a try.  Well, after downloading the pattern and doing my best to figure it out I would have to say that it is only worth the dollar I paid for it.  I'm not saying it's a bad pattern - I couldn't say because I choose not to sew it.  But, it was more complicated than I thought it would be and I was confused by the pieces I was given.  Maybe if I'd had more experience sewing from patterns I'd have better understood it.  Anyways... in my confusion I decided that the style really wasn't what I wanted or had in mind.  

Instead, what I wanted was a toiletry bag just like Lukas has.  His is canvas but very much along the lines of these bags.  With a little inspection of his bag I promptly announced, "I think this is pretty simple.  I could make this."  Words can come back to bite you in the end.  And then I followed up my announcement by dreaming up my fabric combinations.  Then, last Friday I made my second trip to Hart's.  

First, I looked over the plastic lined fabrics and then the heavier canvas fabrics.  I was not impressed by the canvas.  They were are solids - pretty colors, but really boring.  There was one print - white with green leaves - cool, but would get dirty in two seconds.  And then I perused the cotton fabrics and the corduroys.  Both just didn't feel substantial enough.  Gosh, choosing fabric is sooooooo hard.  Finally, this brown print with little light blue birdies caught my eye.  I actually remember seeing it online, but liked it so much better in person.  I hurried back to the plasticy fabrics to pick out a matching liner material and grabbed some heavy thread, cute bias tape and stabilizer.  

I cut out my pieces using Lukas's bag as a template and then came the tricky part.  I had to figure out the best order to do things in to make this bag go together.  It's a great brain exercise and I was exhausted at the end of all that thinking.  Here's the way I did it... maybe it's not the best method, but it worked.  {This is a long winded description of what I did.  Skip to steps 3, 7, 9, and 11 for the most entertaining parts.}

Step one: Bond stabilizer to outer bottom piece and sew inner bottom piece to outer wrong sides together.
Step two: Sew upper outer piece together on short sides to make a big circle and repeat for inner upper piece.  (Outer upper got a layer of interfacing as well.)
Step three: Attach zipper to the upper pieces in such a way that the end product is the zipper sandwiched between the two and everything is going the right direction.  I originally put my zipper in upside down... the seam ripper lived in my hands during this project.
Step four: Make piping with super cute bias tape and cording.
Step five: Get boyfriend to find you some wire coat hangers to cut and bend to shape bag around the zipper.
Step six: Sew tabs around zipper ends.
Step seven: Attempt to sew bent coat hangers into bag along zipper.  Fail and go interrupt said boyfriend to complain that it is impossible to make this bag.  Require his brilliant thinking abilities to figure a way to make it work.
Step eight: Pin top to bottom with piping in between and attempt to sew it all together.  FAIL.
Step nine: Have boyfriend hold 6 pillows against his chest so you can punch them repeatedly to let off a little steam.  
Step ten: Sew piping to bottom so you don't have to worry about it slipping when you try to sew the top on.
Step eleven: Pin it all together again and curse at the sewing machine while you slowly feed the thing through.  (I'm pretty innocent in my language so my cursing consisted mostly of grumbling and dirty looks, but feel free to let the dirty words fly at this step.)
Step twelve: Sew bias trim on the ugly seam you just made in step eleven.
Step thirteen: Turn right side out and you're done!  

I was actually surprised that it actually turned out ok.  I really like it and will now be using it often.  And for a bit now I don't think I ever want to see another seam ripper again and my finger tips are soar from pressing so hard to get everything through the machine.  Well it was "simple" and "I could make it", but this is way above anything I've ever done before and not half as easy as I thought it would be.  

Then to celebrate my success Lukas gave my photography lesson number two and I got to take some pictures of my bag.  He gave me more pointers on composition.  Like having leading lines isn't enough.  They've got to take you somewhere, to something that makes you want to look. He set up his lighting equipment and we had fun shooting my new bag.  Here are some more pictures to show-off my work...

Other little bits of my life...


  1. that is absolutely adorable, megs! after your description i was expecting some hack job- but it's not!! i just love your fabric too! what was the deal with the coat hangars? i've never sewn with those before?!? love em

  2. thanks so much em for the toiletry bag love! I used the coat hangers by cutting two lengths from two and then the ends were bent in a curve. These help give the bag it's shape and run along side the zipper. When the bag is open, they hold it in a rectangular shape. When the bag is closed they cause the zipper to bend down at the ends. Lukas's bag has some kind of wires in it that do the same thing, so I thought I'd try it with the coat hangers. (sorry for the kinda confusing explaination, some day I'll just have to show you in person)