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 Cranberry-Cuties “Christmas Wine”

I’ve mentioned our holiday homebrewing tradition before. Rather than deal with crowds, traffic, people, and the kind of over-stimulation that drives us both nuts, we use holidays as a bit of quiet time at home, enjoying each others’ company… while brewing up something tasty.

A few days before the holiday, my husband clears space in the brew room, while I design our recipe. For our Christmas day brew, we try to do something holiday themed, both to remind us of our “holiday”, and so that the final wine will be something appropriately themed for future holiday consumption. You know, being labeled as “Christmas wine”!

The first year of this tradition was when we designed the recipe for “Cuties” Mead, which has since gone on to become a favorite not only with us, but with other homebrewers. Cheers, guys!

As I’d mentioned last Christmas, our 2010 Christmas Wine was a cranberry-Cuties wine. Oh MAN, did it ever turn out amazing! 1 year to the day we brewed it, we were serving this up at a friend’s “orphan’s Christmas” Dr Who marathon. (Having moved our traditional holiday brew day up 1 day to accommodate such a worthy event!).

home brew cranberry orange wine recipe

This turns out a gorgeous light red, fruity wine. The Cuties oranges work beautifully with the cranberries, and the result is a smooth, festive libation. We really love the use of “crack oranges” to flavor our holiday brews… and they certainly didn’t disappoint in this recipe. Don’t wait til next Christmas to put a batch of this on – those Cuties oranges are at peak season for another month or so!

If you haven’t attempted making wine before, don’t be intimidated! Check out our primer to home brewing, it starts here, with parts 2 and 3 here and here. Just a small handful of entries, and you’ll be good to go!


An #ActuallyAutistic view of Thanksgiving Hell

One of the earliest memories I have is one that disturbs me to this day.

I was at the crosswalk at school – I think this was kindergarten – and looked across the road to see some kid just getting pummeled by a couple other kids. It turned out that the reason for the beating was that the victim had a small bag of candy, and the bullies wanted it.

I can’t even describe the despair I felt when I found out what had happened. Candy was such a stupid, little thing… I was mortified that these kids were willing to treat another person like THAT, for… nothing. They say we’re not supposed to feel empathy, but… man, even to this day, that image upsets me to a point where I can’t even spit out the words for it.

I’ve said before… I grew up not only being treated like an alien, but sometimes seriously wondering if I got dropped off on the wrong planet. That morning? Had I actually been an alien, that would have been the point I radioed back home and told “my people” that there was no hope for this planet. Seriously.

Anyway, I bring this up because Black Friday reminds me of that morning. People pepper spraying each other, shoving, trampling, a couple people getting shot… over what? Saving some money on a TV? Just seems like a widespread, adult version of those kids with the candy. Ridiculous. I’ll never understand people.

Anyway, let’s talk about last night. By “talk”, I mean “I have to rant”

I’ll be frank here – when you’re autistic, family gatherings SUCK. Too much noise, hysteria, people are in your space, nothing’s where it is supposed to be, and it’s just not FUN. There’s an increased pressure to be “normal”, while you’re feeling like crawling under the bed and hiding until the chaos disappears.

My adult autistic friends – some of whom have spawned little junior auties – they get this. Watching twitter last night, I saw a lot of mentions of hiding in a room, hanging out in the basement… even one guy who took his autistic kid out to his truck and watched Netflix on his phone. That? That is awesome.

Unfortunately, twitter was also full of neurotypical “advocate” parents of autistics who were less than cool about it. One woman went so far as to call her autistic son “passive aggressive” for hiding in his room.

What. The. Hell?!

People, you can’t be all pro-acceptance for 98% of the year, then turn on your poor kid and TORTURE THEM. You want to be an advocate? Let your kid hide in his room if he wants. Would it be “passive aggressive” if YOUR parents tried to guilt trip you into stabbing yourself in the face repeatedly, and you declined? No? Then stop doing it to your kid. Oh, and if you force your autistic kid to do something they’re not comfortable with, it’ll be at LEAST 2x as bad the next time. Consent and autonomy are important things – Chill!

By the way, tweeting your disappointment in your kid last night? (This is directed at SEVERAL people) You realize you’re on a public account, right? My mother would have said a lot of the same things that some of you did last night, but at least when I was a kid, there wasn’t Twitter. There wasn’t written evidence of my mother broadcasting her disappointment in me being WHO I AM to the entire planet, that I could easily happen upon someday.

I am beyond disgusted with a good handful of people right now.

Parents of autistic kids: This time of year really sucks for us. There is a ton of noise, lights, noise, stressed out people, noise, pressure, and more noise. What is fun for you, sometimes is tantamount to outright torture for your kid. CHILL OUT already.

If your kid wants to hide in his/her room, or the basement, or WHATEVER during family gatherings, let him/her. Contrary to what you may believe, they’re not “missing out” on anything. If left to their own devices, they’re not going to wake up the next morning and regret not spending more time playing with their obnoxious neurotypical cousins, or whatever. Left to their own devices, they’ll wake up that next morning short of the trauma that their allistic parents could have put them through, for their own selfish purposes.

I can’t emphasize this enough: Forcing your autistic kid to participate in holiday festivities that they’re not comfortable with – you’re not doing it for them. You’re doing it for yourself. Subjecting them to holiday gatherings they don’t want to be a part of isn’t going to give them some warm, gushy, Hallmark-type holiday memories. All it will do is show them that you are more concerned with what other people think, than the well-being of your kid.

Trust me. I’m in my early 30s, and none of the holiday-induced forced socialization of my childhood has magically morphed into anything other than just wishing my parents had accepted me for who I am. I’m guessing that most of my adult autistic friends who holed up away from the racket yesterday feel the same!

Ok, so that probably all came off really negative. Let me try to balance it with a bit of positive.

If you are autistic, or parent of an autistic kid… you should follow @aspieside on twitter. She’s an allistic parent of an aspie boy, and she’s pretty awesome – even if it’s a bit weird for me to read her posts.

For one, her son reminds me of me. He has some of the same “quirks” I had as a kid – which feels a bit bizarre to read about now, given how much of a “freak” I was at the time. It’s weird – but cool – to read about someone I’ve never met, that – OMG – sounds like me.

Secondly… if there was a textbook perfect way to parent an autistic kid, she’d probably be the author of it. My own mother’s way of handling me was pretty much the opposite of “perfect”, so it gets a bit weird to read her too. I’m so happy for her kid, that SOMEONE is being raised right. I’m happy that there is this stunning example of a allistic able to relate to her autistic kid – it’s such a rarity. She speaks his language so well, I sort of question her neurotypicality!

Reading her posts are also sort of bittersweet, because it does dredge up some crappy feelings about my own childhood. I wish my mom had been even HALF as good with me, as she is with her kid. Yup, I’m a bit envious!

So… if you’re one of the neurotypical parents that act like those I mention in the first half of this entry… try to learn from her before it’s too late. My mother was one of you. She never accepted me for who I am, never made any effort to understand me, and she has resented me for my whole life. While I spent 30 years wishing and hoping for her to eventually come around, I’ve recently realized that it’s a lost cause. We will never have a relationship.

The sad thing is, had she tried at ALL when I was a kid, she may not have resented me so much. Things could have been very different today, with just a little effort a couple decades ago. Had she been tweeting her disappointment in me to the world, it wouldn’t have taken me a full 30 years to resent her right back.

I’ll stop ranting now…

The “Juicy Goosey” Burger – Perfect for Thanksgiving!

When I was a kid, my mother made the most fabulous burgers. She stuffed 2 thin patties with sauteed mushrooms, mozzarella cheese, and green onions. Best thing ever. We never had a special name for them, it was just “Mom’s stuffed burgers”.

Fast forward a bunch of years. I move to Minnesota, and find out that I can get something very similar to those burgers on many different menus here! Here in Minnesota, they have a proper name – “Juicy Lucy” or (ugh) “Jucy Lucy”. (Seriously, it hurt me to intentionally misspell a word like that!)

With Thanksgiving just a few days away, I want to share my new favorite adaptation of my childhood burger. I call it the “Juicy Goosey” – a turkey based, Thanksgiving version!

This burger is incredibly tasty, and might just be the ultimate seasonal comfort dinner. Unfortunately, photos just don’t do it justice. It’s not a pretty burger!


Brandied Apple Upside Down Cake recipe

Hey everyone!

Still recovering from this weekend’s trip to Chicago, so I’m posting today’s entry without a ton of commentary 🙂

This Brandied Apple Upside Down Cake is one of the recipes from our boozy cookbook, The Spirited Baker. (Have your copy yet? If not, what are ya waiting for?!). The aroma of the cake – even while still in the oven – evokes warm images of Thanksgiving, Christmas eve, seasonal get togethers, etc. Yum!

Oh, and this cake is ridiculously easy to make – anyone cake do it! – and requires absolutely NO decorating!Bonus!


Happy Thanksgiving – Pumpkin Spice Nanaimo Bar Recipe!

Happy Thanksgiving!

You know, this is my very first Thanksgiving as an out-of-the-closet immigrant! Feels good to not have to worry if wishing “Happy Thanksgiving” in the beginning of October will “out” me!

Unfortunately, this is also my first Canadian Thanksgiving that I’m actually too busy to celebrate. Normally, we celebrate both Thanksgivings each year. It kind of snuck up on me, too. I was listening to the Z103.5 morning show online, as I always do.. and they were excitedly talking about their long weekend plans. Drat!

So, while I didn’t have time or energy to really do much for Thanksgiving this weekend (because today isn’t a stat holiday in the USA), I decided I’d do something that was at least Thanksgiving-ish and Canadian – I’d invent a new, Thanksgiving themed Nanaimo Bar! It may not be a full turkey dinner, but as desserts go – you can’t get more Canadian than a Nanaimo bar. Done! Click through for a photo and the recipe!