Craft – How to Sew a Cute Toiletry / Makeup Bag Travel Set

Back in the beginning of May, I posted a very long, very detailed post of the various ways that I trained and prepared to compete on MasterChef. While we all know how THAT went, I did walk out of the experience with a bunch of awesome new friends… and the super cute toiletry set I’d made mention of, near the end of that first post!

You see, I never – ever – sew for myself. I like to think of it as “I can’t afford me!”, but it’s usually more a case of a bastardized version of “The cobbler’s kids go barefoot”. Either way, I own pretty much nothing that I made for myself, save for my wedding gown.

This set was a rare thing for me. I took a bit of time out to make something pretty – albeit HIGHLY useful – for myself. The idea as inspired by a well-loved 4 piece set of a similar basic design that my friend Karen had made me for Christmas a few years ago – hers quilted from various different fabrics, embellished with ric-rac, and made from a Atkinson Designs pattern (thanks for letting me know who to reference, Karen!). They were super cute, and I loved the stand-up nature of the two little bags in the set.

For my trip, I had so much STUFF to organize, that I decided to make a big set of custom sized ones for myself. (I have a pretty OCD need for everything to match, when we’re talking things like suitcases, travel sets, etc!). The basic idea for the bags came in handy, as I was sharing a bathroom with another woman – so I made a bunch, in a bunch of different sizes. One bag for hair dye, bleach, gloves, etc… another for accessories, another for hair accessories, another for ALL my makeup, a smaller one for “day of” makeup in my purse, etc. Plus, the bright print just made me happy!

After receiving a bunch of compliments on it, I figured I should post a bit of a how-to, so you can all make them for yourselves!

So, yesterday I drafted up a few patterns – and an outline on how to make your own – and made a second set, pictured here. We documented the whole process as I went… yes, that’s a dinosaur print. I’m an adult, I can do whatever I want 🙂

So, here we go! There are three main pieces / patterns to this set – the bags, the tissue holder, and the coin purse. The bag pattern is simple to make, the the sewing procedure is the same for each, no matter what size you make. The tissue holder and coin purse use the same pattern piece, with the tissue holder requiring one other (simple!) pattern piece.

Fabrics & Notions

How much fabric you’ll need will depend on how many/ what size items you’ll be making. As an example: to make an entire set as pictured, I used 1 yard each of two different print fabrics, and one yard of very thin cotton quilt batting.

Each bag / coin purse requires a zipper that is approximately the width of the bag (more on that in the bags section!), and you’ll want thread that either matches/contrasts with the two fabrics you choose.

As for the fabric, I like to choose two prints that go well with each other, while still providing a bit of contrast in colours/ patterns. I used basic printed cotton, the kind you find in any fabric or craft store – usually with a HUGE selection to choose from!

Tissue Holder

Let’s start with the easiest piece – the tissue holder!

For this, you need:

– Three rectangles of one print fabric, 6.5″ x 4″ each
– Two squares of the other print fabric, 4″ x 4″ each
– One travel sized pack of tissues (the kind that opens on the largest surface of the pack, NOT at one small end!)
– Pins (optional

First, iron all your pieces if you so desire. I’m lazy, and usually don’t bother 🙂

Next, you’ll be folding and laying out your pieces.

Take one of your rectangles, and lay it with the right side up – this is your base. All four of the remaining pieces need to be folded in half, the long ones folded to create 6.5″ x 4″ strips.

Position one of your long strips on the base piece, lining up the two raw edges with one of the long edges of the base. Then, position one of the smaller strips overlapping it, lining up with the short edge of the base piece… like so:

Position the remaining long piece, overlapping the small piece you just put down, and lining up with the remaining long edge. Position the remaining short piece to overlap that piece, but to go UNDER the first piece you placed, lining up with the remaining short end of the base, like so:

(You can pin the corners down to make things easier, as shown!)

Stitch all the way around the edge – I like to keep the right side of my presser foot on the outer edge of fabric, as my seam allowance guide – back stitching at the beginning and edge of your seam. Trim threads, clip corners:

Finish off all sides with either a serger or a zig zag stitch, and turn everything right side out:

Slip a back of tissue in there, and you’re done! Cute, eh?


Ok, before going any further, I should detail how I do the zippers for these – it’s the way I do them for all the bags, and the coin purses.

First, pick a zipper that is about the same length as the top edge of the bag you’re making. It can be longer, but you don’t really want it to be much shorter.

Cut a strip of fabric to either match or contrast the fabric that will be on the outside of the bag you’re making. (I prefer to match, as shown throughout this tutorial!). It should be at least 5″, by the width of the zipper you’re using (usually an inch or so). Cut that length into two roughly equal pieces:

Open the zipper a little, and place it face down on the right side of one of your fabric strip pieces. Stitch them together with a straight seam, just beyond where the actual zipper ends (immediately to the right of the metal ends, in this picture):

Flip the zipper over, and pull the fabric back so that it is resting over the very end of the zipper. Stitch it down with a straight seam, like so:

Position the other fabric strip face down on the right side of the zipper at the other end, just before the actual zipper ends. Depending on the length of the original zipper, I like to leave 1/8 – 1/4″ before the metal end doohickey, as shown.

Stitch the strip down with a straight seam, and trim the excess zipper away, including the end bit:

Flip the fabric over and stitch it down, as you did with the other side.

Center your zipper across the top of the bag that it will be sewn into, and trim the edges to fit:

Place zipper face down on the right side of the bag (see bag instructions first!), and sew a straight seam down the length of it. Repeat with the other side of the zipper, and the other bag piece:

Flip the bag over and top stitch a straight seam near the edge of where the fabric folds back, on both sides. This flattens everything out and makes it look cleaner/more finished:


Wow, this is getting to be a long entry, sorry about that!

Coin Purse

Of the bags, the coin purse is the easiest, so let’s do it first! For this, you need:

– Two rectangles of one print fabric, 6.5″ x 4″ each
– Two rectangles of the other print fabric, 6.5″ x 4″ each
– Two rectangles of thin quilt batting, 6.5″ x 4″ each
– 1 prepared zipper, as described above.

First, lay out your pieces. Place one set of fabric (both the same print!) down on your work surface, with the right sides facing down.

Place a quilt batting piece over each, and top with the remaining pieces of the other print fabric, right sides facing up. Line everything up well!

You can pin everything together and zig zag around the edge if you’d like – I usually don’t bother. I do recommend serging or zig zagging one of the long sides of each piece, though – it makes the zipper installation easier / look more finished!

Apply your zipper, as described above. OPEN YOUR ZIPPER BEFORE CONTINUING (!!!)

Fold the bag in half so that the right sides are facing each other, and stitch a straight seam around the three raw edges.

Finish edge with a serger or zig zag seam:

Turn it right side out, and you’re done!

Toiletry and Makeup Bags

Finally, the makeup and toiletry bags. These are slightly more complicated to explain, but are easy to make!

For each bag, you need:

– Two pattern pieces cut of one print fabric
– Two pattern pieces cut of the other print fabric
– Two pattern pieces cut of thin quilt batting
– 1 prepared zipper

First, you need to decide what size bag(s) you’re going to make. As an example, here’s what I use as the “final dimensions” measurements:

Large Toiletry Bag*: 12″ x 8″ x 5″

Makeup Bag: 10″ x 6″ x 4″

Sunglasses Bag: 9″ x 3.5″ x 4″

* I made a large one in the MasterChef set, but not in the set pictured throughout this tutorial. Was short one zipper, whoops!

When looking at each set of measurements, this is what they’re going to translate to, in the order mentioned above:

A = Intended length of the bag

B = Intended height of the bag

C = (One half of) the intended bottom width of the bag. Measurement above is final size, but when drafting the pattern, use half of that measurement as “C”!

Using the measurements and the letters I give above, use a ruler to draw a pattern like this:

(This pattern is made to the proportions of the makeup bag I listed above. Different sized/proportioned bags will look a little different, but still this basic shape!)

Then, draw a second set of lines around your original pattern – these will add your seam allowance. I like to add 1/4″, all the way around:

Go on and cut out the pattern pieces that you’ll need, using the outermost set of pattern lines as your final pattern.

Now, lay out your pieces. Place one set of fabric pieces (both the same print!) down on your work surface, with the right sides facing down. Place a quilt batting piece over each, and top with the remaining pieces of the other print fabric, right sides facing up. Line everything up well!

You can pin everything together and zig zag around the edge if you’d like – I usually don’t bother. I do recommend serging or zig zagging one of the long sides of each piece, though – it makes the zipper installation easier / look more finished!

Apply your zipper, as described above. OPEN YOUR ZIPPER BEFORE CONTINUING (!!!)

Fold the bag in half so that the right sides are facing each other, and stitch a straight seam around the the side and bottom edges – NOT the “C” edges, though!

Finish edges with a serger or zig zag seam:

Now, go to one of your “C” corners, and open it. Within that opening, fold it in half to line up the side seam with the bottom seam, like this:

Stitch a straight seam across the new edge, taking care to stitch through ALL layers of fabric – they’ll want to move! Trim the edge if it becomes uneven at all, and finish off with a serger or zig zag seam:

Repeat on the other “C” corner. Trim all thread ends, and turn bag right side out.

Woo hoo! You’re done! (Now go make several more bags, so you have a complete set!)

Homemade Wine Slush Mix!

If you’ve ever been to a large trade show, home show, or – in our case this weekend, a Food and Wine show… chances are, you’ve seen a booth hawking wine slushie mixes. “Frappe Vino”, “Wine Slush”, “Party Slush Mix”, “Vino Slush”… there are a bunch of companies offering it. The samples are so good, it’s easy to drop the $12 or so for the 12 oz baggie of powdered mix. Trust me, we’ve done so… twice. That second time, I took a look at the ingredients and almost had a heart attack. I couldn’t believe what I’d just paid so MUCH for!

I was reminded of that this weekend, as the D’Marie company was once again set up with their wonderful wine slush. While we all loved the slush, I decided that I would set about to “reverse engineer” it. Cue jokes about “Dis Marie” bastardizing “Dat Marie’s” recipe…

Anyway… between the ingredient listing, listed weight, nutritional info, and the unused second bag sitting in our liquor cabinet… I didn’t figure it would be hard to do.

It wasn’t. 🙂

The ingredients are simple, and the technique is one of those “so simple, it shouldn’t be considered an actual recipe” deals. You, too, can make homemade wine slush mix at home! While matcha powder isn’t cheap, this recipe doesn’t take much at all – your wine slush mix should cost less than $1.50/batch!

Oh, and remember the citric acid you bought for my Quick mozzarella recipe? Well if you haven’t bought some, what are you waiting for? Cheese and wine slushes aren’t the only cool things you can do with it – more citric acid recipes are coming!

Oh, and that Czar of cakes competition? I won! Click here for photos of my cake entry. (more…)

Booze Bouquet Tutorial

As you may know, my husband and I are not really Valentine’s Day people. We don’t really have any need for the traditional V Day gifts (and I am SO not a jewelry person!), it ends up feeling pretty contrived, so we usually just hang out and chill. Of course, external pressures usually have us checking in with each other every year, with “do you WANT to do anything…?

It always feels like we *should*. This year, we decided that we’ll be brewing a small batch of a red, “Valentine’s Day” wine or mead. I think we’re leaning towards a sweet raspberry mead. Anyway, I digress…

Last night we were eating dinner and discussing the various funny stuff we’d seen on the net, when I mentioned a booze bouquet I’d seen on Pinterest. The person had affixed mini booze bottles onto sticks, and made a little bouquet of it.

As we’d recently been reminiscing on how much fun we’d had doing V-day ceramic mugs for each other a few years back, the idea of making booze bouquets for each other came up. Like many of our crazy ideas, it went from “wouldn’t it be fun…” to DONE in no time flat!

We headed to a craft supply store to pick up all kind of crazy Valentine’s Day craft stuff on clearance. Neither one of us really knew what we were planning to do as we poured over ever manner of red, pink, and sparkly V Day nonsense, discussing ideas, and ultimately purchasing our respective supplies. After that, we went to our favorite liquor store, and each bought a dozen mini bottles for each other, each not letting the other see the surprise selections.

The whole time – and on the way home – we excitedly talked about our ideas and plans, actually looking *forward* to our little V Day celebration. Neither of us could WAIT to get home and dig into the craft supplies, and seeing what we could come up with.

We had a blast. Weird crafty projects with my husband are always a ton of fun (Pi Day Pi-natas, Chocolate Zombie Easter Bunnies, and epic Pysanky using Crayons, for instance!).

Also? Men + Booze + Craft supplies are a pretty epic combination. Just WAIT til you see what he came up with!

Free Crochet Pattern – “1 Up” Mushroom Baby Hat

Still without an at-all functional kitchen (not so much as a sink hooked up, at this point!), let’s go for something completely different today!

This weekend marked a first for me – attending a baby shower. I tend to meet friends after they’ve finished spawning, and my younger friends tend to be happily childfree. The opportunity to attend such a shindig just hasn’t come around.

Not that I really minded, btw. From what I’ve heard (Games involving melting chocolate bars into diapers and “identifying the poopie”, for instance)… they sound sort of horrible. I’m not a huge fan of anklebiters in general (though I’m sure yours are awesome, dear readers!), and I’m not the type whose uterus shudders with delight at the idea of teeny tiny socks.

Yep, sometimes I just fail at being a girl! Haha!

Jenni, however, is awesome. Awesome person (I mean, she’s a librarian… I’ve yet to meet a less-than-awesome one of THOSE), total geek… one of the very first friends I met through Convergence. Love her!

Still, I was super stressed out about attending. After looking up her registry, the idea of shopping at “Babies R Us” terrified me. I don’t know what ANY of that stuff was for, but it mostly looked… tremendously unsettling. LOL. Yep, I was gonna have to wing it, and make something. Besides, making something meant no risk of duplication of gifts, right? 🙂

In honor of the geeked-out beginning of our friendship (and the guest list for the shower!), I decided that I would crochet some baby hats based on “random fandom” – 4 hats in total. This one – for a Super Mario Brothers inspired baby beret – was my favorite of the lot. I’d like to show you how I made it! (more…)

Homemade Iced Tea Liqueur Recipe

Remember back in September 9th’s post about homemade blueberry liqueur, I said I was gonna post a whole series on making liqueurs, with the aim of getting it all done in time for holiday gift giving?

I got a little sidetracked. Whoops. In my defense, there’s been SO much going on here in the way of repairs. Getting my husband to photograph anything … well, it’s got to be a lower priority, what with winter coming!

So, let’s go with something super easy – iced tea liqueur!

You’ve probably seen a bunch of iced tea liqueurs on the market in the past two years: Jeremiah Weed Sweet Tea Vodka, Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka, Burnett’s Sweet Tea Vodka, Sweet Carolina Sweet Tea Vodka, Barton Long Island Iced Tea Liqueur, etc. 2009 marked the real explosion of “Sweet tea” flavored liqueurs on liquor store shelves.

For what mass produced offerings, they’re not bad. Expensive for what they are, but they get the job done.

Homemade sweet iced tea liqueurs not only taste a million times better, they allow you to have a lot of control over the flavors, and are only a fraction of the cost of the retail versions. Also, they are so ridiculously easy to make, I’m almost embarrassed to post a recipe!

While the infusion time needed for this liqueur is much, much shorter than any of the others, it really benefits from aging. If you’re looking to do a batch for holiday gifts, you’ll want to start it soonish.

Iced Tea Liqueur.


Homemade Blueberry Liqueur

This time of year, I’m torn.

One one hand… I really hate the commercialization of certain holidays, and how THAT results in stuff like Halloween displays in Menards… in August. Christmas displays in September. It gets earlier and earlier every year. Also, really… The holiday season stresses me out. It means doing my grocery shopping at 5 am, to avoid the crowds and horrible bell-ringer-induced headaches. People body checking each other in order to get the perfect gift or the last box of cocoa on the shelf. Just.. yeah. I digress…

On the other hand, I love giving handmade gifts. There’s something really satisfying about putting the finishing touches on the presentation of your own handiwork, and seeing the joy on the recipients’ face. It’s something personal small-batch, unique, and… not pulled off a shelf at the last minute. You know. Special.

Thing is, a lot of hand made gifts require planning ahead. It does no one any good for me to give Christmas gift ideas in December, when they take 3 months to make. As my friend Karen pointed out yesterday, she always gets a laugh when newspapers publish recipes for making your own corned beef ON St Patty’s Day.

So.. I’m sorry. I know it’s the beginning of September, and I hate thinking “Holiday” this early just as much as anyone. In the interest of helping you give some awesome gifts this year, however, I’m going to write a few blog entries on homemade holiday gifts. Now.

Some will take only a couple weeks to make, others may take a couple months of wait time. Many are ingredient dependent, and best to start NOW. What’s the point of posting a recipe for fresh blueberry liqueur in mid December, for instance? Also, most liqueurs taste better (smoother) with a bit of aging,

So, let’s talk liqueur making.

Liqueur makes an awesome gift, especially when it makes use of seasonally available produce, herbs, etc. On a cold December night, is anything better than getting a whiff or a sip of summers’ bounty?

This recipe was inspired by Fragoli liqueur, a beautiful little libation I was recently introduced to via Twitter. It’s an imported sweet wild strawberry liqueur. Tasty in its own right, but what makes it really special – and pretty – is all of the little wild strawberries floating at the top of each bottle!

As much as we love Fragoli, one of my first thoughts was “Hrm… this would be FABULOUS as a blueberry liqueur!”. And.. here we are. Oh, it’s delicious!

This recipe makes about 6 cups of finished liqueur, perfect to bottle in either 2 750 ml bottles, or 4 375 ml bottles. To bottle it as pictured – “Fragoli-style”:

– The day before bottling, soak a pint of blueberries in vodka overnight. Remove any smashed or mushy blueberries before covering with vodka. Refrigerate.

– Immediately before bottling, strain the blueberries. Carefully add the smaller berries to the clean bottles BEFORE bottling the liqueur.

– Pour liqueur over the berries, leaving only an inch or so of head room. Cap as desired.

Interested in boozy culinary experiments? You’ll LOVE my first cookbook, The Spirited Baker!

Combining liqueurs with more traditional baking ingredients can yield spectacular results.Try Mango Mojito Upside Down Cake, Candy Apple Flan, Jalapeno Beer Peanut Brittle, Lynchburg Lemonade Cupcakes, Pina Colada Rum Cake, Strawberry Daiquiri Chiffon Pie, and so much more.

To further add to your creative possibilities, the first chapter teaches how to infuse spirits to make both basic and cream liqueurs, as well as home made flavor extracts! This book contains over 160 easy to make recipes, with variation suggestions to help create hundreds more! Order your hard copy here, or digital edition here.

Homemade Vanilla Extract Recipe

Ah, the best laid plans… or intentions. What is it they say? I don’t know. Got so overwhelmed by scheduling all of the remaining tornado reconstruction over the past couple of days that I had a mini breakdown yesterday. Awesome. Don’t really know up from down today! This has to be done before that, THIS can be done only on weekends… we need a permit for that, and THAT takes X number of days… don’t forget to buy X,Y, and Z before we do THAT… man, it gets overwhelming. Never mind that we’re talking about several major projects – kitchen, bathroom, patio, and deck… concurrently!

So, my big plans to do a week of cookie recipes went right out the window. Sorry about that! If you need a cookie fix, you should invest in the ridiculous shopping list of ingredients required for my “Sweet Ecstasy Cookies” recipe, and make a batch. I swear it’s worth the cost and effort. Insanely addictive!

So I’m planning a special blog entry for tomorrow, and realized that I haven’t posted an extract recipe yet. Well, it comes in handy for tomorrow’s recipe, so here we go – how to make your own vanilla extract at home! (This involves a couple of months of waiting, so plan ahead.)

The first chapter of my first cookbook(“The Spirited Baker“) is all about making ingredients from – and for – liqueurs and cocktails. Sweet and sour mix, various syrups – including homemade grenadine.. SO much better than the store bought versions! – and even various baking extracts.

Just be forewarned: Once you’ve tried fresh, pure, homemade ingredients, you’ll have a very hard time settling for their commercially available counterparts in the future!

Making flavor extracts at home can be rewarding on several levels. It can be more economical, provide a better tasting product, provide *more* of a product (convenience!), and also allow for a greater variety. In addition to being great to use in your own kitchen, homemade vanilla extract makes an excellent gift for the foodies on your holiday list. Present the extract in a pretty bottle, add a vanilla bean for added visual interest, and maybe wrap a ribbon around it. Done!

Homemade Vanilla Extract.

3 cups good quality vodka*
8 Vanilla beans

Cut vanilla beans in half, lengthwise. Place in a sterilized glass jar or bottle, cover with vodka. Store in a cool dark place for 2 – 4 months, giving the jar an occasional shake. Strain out the vanilla beans and bottle
the extract

*If you so desire, try using a less-than-neutral spirit for a more complex taste. Rum, Bourbon, Brandy – all can produce an interesting variation on vanilla extract!

Home Brewing: The Genesis of our Favorite Hobby… and a Gift Idea!

Picture it… Minnesota, October of 2009. It was our second year in our new house, and -unlike the year before – the giant apple tree out back was fruiting.

Actually, that’s a bit of an understatement. The giant apple tree out back was loaded with hundreds of pounds of apples, with even more apples on the ground rotting. We’d never had to deal with an apple tree before, so between a lack of experience, a lack of planning, and a shortage of time – we were woefully unprepared to deal with the onslaught of apples.


As I’ve mentioned before, I tend to have my best ideas while I’m sleeping. My husband really shouldn’t have been surprised when I woke him up that Sunday morning with the words he has grown to dread: “I have an idea!”. He *claims* to dread them anyway, saying that whenever I utter that phrase, it means money or effort. Well, true… but it also means things like doing something crazy for a cake competition, making pretzels stuffed with jalapeno poppers, or – in this case – making hard apple cider.


How to make Candy Apples

Candy Apples are a fun activity for the family, are cheap and easy to make, inspire nostalgia, and are a tasty way to use some of the bountiful apples this season. What’s not to love?

Well.. aside from sugar burns, anyway. While this is an easy recipe, I recommend keeping little hands away from the cooking sugar, and ideally away from the dipping process as well. Kids can have just as much fun picking out the apples, the flavors, etc… without the risk!