Travel Sewing: Train-Style Vanity Case from A Bag for All Reasons

Train-Style Vanity Case from A Bag for All Reasons

Something about this last vacation made me interested in sewing useful things for travelling. Maybe it’s because I finally got to use my travel pillow I made months ago (and it was amazing! I could actually sleep on a plane! AH-mazing!!).

I’ve even been making a list of my ultimate travel sewing projects (because why buy luggage when you can make it!). You can read my ever expanding list after the review.

(source: u-handbag)

This bag definitely fills a need both at home and while jet-setting. The Train-Style Vanity Case comes from Lisa Lam’s new bag-making book, A Bag for All Reasons, that we used for last month’s Bibliostyles meeting.

I don’t often make too many bags as they’re not as exciting to me as clothes but this book really piqued my interest, mainly because I thought so many designs were clever and useful. There’s a tri-fold wallet, a convertible backpack, a snazzy iPad case (if I had an iPad), a compact grocery tote, this stand-up make-up bag and more.

I borrowed the book from Susan so I didn’t take many pictures but I did find this website, Cut out and Keep.net, where the publishers posted three projects from the book for free! Pictures and all!

Speaking of my last plane trip, this case would have been perfect on that vacation. Normally I carry a couple smaller make-up bags but I never had anything big enough for all my toiletries – until now!

Train-Style Vanity Case from A Bag for All Reasons

The Goal: My recent vacay got me all excited about travel sewing (too bad I couldn’t have been more interested before I left so I could have used my creations) and I loved how this design stood upright on it’s own for easy access to the contents.

Train-Style Vanity Case from A Bag for All  Reasons

The Pattern: I felt that the pattern pieces were pretty accurate and I liked Lisa Lam’s casual style of teaching. It really felt like I was taking a class with her. In the end I didn’t like the look of the raw edges at the inside lid and base. They just looked sloppy with piping covering them. I would have preferred a different construction method to clean that up (even if it was a structural decision to do it that way).

I think the fabric-tie handles are super cute! And I loved the addition of the elastic brush holders in the lid. So useful!

Train-Style Vanity Case from A Bag for All Reasons

The Fabric: Quilting cotton for the outside and a chambray for the handles lining. I also used pink piping and pink bias tape to cover the raw edges on the inside. I also used a boat load of different interfacings including fusible fleece which makes the sides soft but stable.

Train-Style Vanity Case from A Bag for All Reasons

The Changes: I added 3/4″ to the overall height of the bag. It’s not that large to begin with but you could easily change the proportions to make it even bigger if you needed.

Train-Style Vanity Case from A Bag for All Reasons

I also added a couple beads to the zippers to make zipper pulls. Look, ma! I’m embellishing!

Train-Style Vanity Case from A Bag for All Reasons

The Conclusion: This is a really practical bag that I’m going to get so much use out of at home and on the road. If I were to ever make it again I might try using dec weight fabric for the outside to make the sides even more stiff. Even though the bag stands up on its own, it is very easily smushed and I find myself poking at the edges to keep it looking straight and tall.

Train-Style Vanity Case from A Bag for All Reasons

Ok, I was saying earlier how I’m making a master list of awesome travel sewing projects. The vanity case is obviously on there. Imagine how cute that bag would look on the counter of some five star hotel bathroom (as if I stayed at five star hotels…).

Here are the others on my list:

Fabric by Fabric: One Yard Wonders Travel Neck Pillow

Travel neck pillow from the “Work in comfort” Travel Set from Fabric by Fabric: One Yard Wonders (which I’ve made).

The Bag Tag, Cheery Passport Cover, Travel Tissue Pack and Vacation Valet Travel Tray from the Jet Set from Fabric by Fabric: One Yard Wonders.

My friend Susan made most of this set for our first Bibliostyles meeting and I thought the travel tray was such a cute idea! It folds up flat and when you take it out you snap the corners together to make a tray. What a great way to keep keys, cards, tickets, brochures and receipts in one place in your hotel room (rather than have them scattered all over the place).

I definitely need a bag tag because after a couple layovers those paper tags the airlines give you look a little worse for the wear. The passport cover could double as a boarding pass holder and I’d love to figure out a way to make the tissue pack cover work for my make-up remover wipes.

Sunglasses case and phone case/wallet from the Smart Girl’s Set from Fabric by Fabric: One Yard Wonders (the book is proving to be very useful). I’m always worried about my sunglasses getting scratched out in the open in my purse and the phone case doubles as a wallet for credit cards and ID. When I travel I always try to downside the essentials and I often don’t even carry a big wallet so this little pouch is a perfect alternative.

(source: a handmade tale)

Amy Butler’s Weekender Travel Bag. I’ve never been a heavy packer. Often when we travel Justin and I can fit all of our stuff in one carry-on size bag not much bigger than the Weekender Bag.

I’d make a version out of vinyl to make it extra heavy duty (and curse myself as I try to sew through all the layers…) but a fun fabric print might be too irresistible.

***Can you think of any other patterns I should add to my travel sewing list?

I’m leavin’ on a jet plane…

Yep, I’m heading out on vacation for a couple of weeks. But no worries, folks, I’ve got some awesome bloggers lined up for fun guest posts while I’m lounging on a beach in the Dominican Republic. And look out! When I get back I’ll have tons of swim suits that I’ve made to show you! No, I didn’t make all of those in the sketches but I did make quite a few. 😉 See you all later!!

Dixie’s Guide to Awesome Road Trippin’


Beach at Cape Cod

I finally uploaded pictures from my most recent big road trip this July with my good friend, Adriane. We started in Austin, drove to New Orleans; Pigeon Forge, TN (Dollywood!); Washington D.C.; Boston, Salem and Cape Cod, MA (via an unexpectedly harrowing journey through Manhattan); Niagara Falls, NY; Fallingwater, PA; Maker’s Mark Distillery in Kentucky, and back home.

Good times at Dollywood!

I though to make this post a little more interesting than just travel photos I would add some tips I’ve collected on my many road trippin’ journeys made in my little Kia (that car has taken me from Austin to San Francisco and back, from Austin to Miami and Back, from Austin to Detroit and back, and from Austin to Massachusetts and back!). Most of these tips only apply to US travel, though.

  • Call your bank ahead of time and inform them of when and where you’ll be on the move so they won’t think your card has been stolen. This happened to my boyfriend and they put a hold on his account and he couldn’t buy gas or food. When you tell the bank, tack on a few days to the beginning and end of your travel schedule in case you decide to leave early or don’t get home until later than you planned.

Andrew Jackson statue, New Orleans

Classic French Quarter buildings.
  • GPS systems are great but sometimes it is nice to see the big picture. I like bringing an atlas rather than maps because I don’t like to fold maps and my atlas fits nicely in the pocket behind my car’s front seats. I like seeing the entire state and all the roads on one big page than waiting to zoom out on the GPS. Plus if you make a wrong turn the GPS can take far to long to “recalculate” sending you into an endless recalculating cycle like we had trying to navigate through New Jersey and Brooklyn.

Using and iPhone, guide book AND mini map to try to find a place to eat in New Orleans.

  • Speaking of bad GPS – have change for toll roads and bridges. I usually try to avoid them but sometimes in major cities there is no getting around them.

  • Bring a cooler full of water and other drinks and maybe some chilled snacks. Buy frozen chill packs instead of using ice. Most motels have mini fridges and we would put our chill packs in the freezer portion of the fridge each night and they would stay cold the next day on the drive. We also brought plenty of snacks – fruit, crackers, peanut butter, chips, pretzels, Pop Tarts, nuts, etc. Sometimes you can forgo buying lunch. Don’t forget napkins and hand sanitizer!

Dolly’s Dixie Fixin’s at a Dollywood gift shop. Dollywood turned out to be a lot more fun than I expected.
  • It is a good idea to bring a pillow and an oversize towel. You never know if a motel is going to have those nasty threadbare towels and pancake flat pillows so it is nice to have your own and the towel can also double as a blanket if you want to lean back and nap in the car (another use for that pillow).

  • Here’s a trick for taking photos of people in front of far away monuments or focal points. Take this picture of me and the White House for example. My friend and I were standing a few hundred yards away behind this fence that tourists crowd around. If you use a point and shoot camera to take this kind of shot you might automatically shoot with the default wide angle on you camera while standing right in front of your subject. This can make the subject seem really big but the monument behind her tiny, so small that you might have a hard time recognizing whatever is behind the person.

    Instead, back up about 20ft (depending on how many French tourists wearing awkwardly short shorts want to walk into your shot…) and zoom in on the subject with the monument in the background. This angle can be more flattering on the subject and the monument appears much larger than in the normal wide angle shot.

normal “wide” angle
zoomed in, notice how much bigger the White House looks in the background
another “zoomed” example, this time in front of the Lincoln Memorial

  • I’m not much of a hostel kind of girl, I prefer good ol’ hotels so Adriane and I both got ourselves rewards accounts with Choice Hotels (affordable and abundant choices everywhere we went). We never planned in advance where we were going to stay. Instead while still on the road to a city we’d look up on the GPS a hotel/motel and call the direct number and ask if they had the kind of room we needed. With that we called the Choice Hotel’s hot line and asked to get a reservation at that hotel we just called. I even told them I had a Sam’s Club Travel Card and that usually knocked off at least $15 off the quoted price. Sometimes I was making the call 30 mins before we showed up at the hotel. Every stay racks up points and can earn you free nights.
  • In general, major interstate rest stops have OK bathrooms. They tend to be a safe bet compared to sketchy “did someone die in here?” lonesome gas station restrooms. Interstate rest stops are run by the states so you know someone has to go by and clean them every once in awhile. Unless it is a really nice truck stop, most gas stations are questionable. And if you stop by the rest stops near state borders you can pick up free brochures about activities in that state. That is how I discovered cool plantations you could tour in Louisiana and the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.
Old Plantation House from the 1790s.


Extremely large bottle of whiskey.
  • Check out audio books from the library. You’ll get tired of your iPod eventually and radio stations play the same stuff no matter where you go and if you and your travel buddy have limited music preferences in common you’ll run out of road trip soundtracks quick.

  • I think the absolute limit you can reasonably drive in a day without going insane is 12 hours but I wouldn’t drive more than 8 unless absolutely necessary. Six hour drives are reasonable in that if you leave one city in the morning you can arrive in the next city, check into a hotel and roam around town and get dinner before turning in for the night. You don’t want to be driving all day long, do you? If you do have a very long driving day scheduled, try to stay in whatever city you arrive in for a full day or two. Driving takes a lot out of you and you need time to recover.

  • If a city has good public transport it can be much cheaper to stay outside of a city and commute. We stayed away from downtown Washington D.C. and saved at least $50 a night at a motel and we used the trains to go downtown. In Boston we did Park and Ride on their metro and paid much less than we would have for street or parking garage parking.
Finding my uncle’s name at the Vietnam Memorial.
  • Don’t be afraid to deviate from the plan. We kept our schedule open even though we had a general time line and route. When we saw most of Boston in less time than we though we decided to add Niagara Falls to our list of destinations as it was only a few hours away. Plus, the best experiences are the unexpected spontaneous ones.



Niagara Falls

Going off the beaten path in Pigeon Forge, TN – mini golf!

  • I love free and cheap activities. Washington D.C. and government run historical sites tend to be cheap and/or free. Boston has the free Freedom Trail (although some stops charge fees to enter). National parks have low or no entrance fees and free trails and ranger activities. Las Vegas can be expensive but coupon booklets are everywhere and nearly every hotel/casino has free attractions to lure in tourists. City parks are a great place to hang with the locals and have a cheap picnic. Museums usually have free or discounted days and if you have a student ID use it to your advantage!
Paul Revere’s 17th century house along the Boston Freedom Trail.


Random Revolutionary soldier statue along the Freedom Trail in front of some restaurant. Obviously this guy is a popular photo op. The owners had to bike lock him to the building.

  • If there is something you absolutely MUST see or do make sure you do your research ahead of time. I didn’t realize how popular Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece house in the middle of the Pennsylvania woods was and nearly missed being able to buy tickets ahead of time. Adriane and I showed up to get the free tickets for the hourly inside tour of the Washington Monument at 8:30 am and we were surprised to discover that the tickets had already sold out for most tours. The earliest tour we could get tickets for was at 7:30 pm!
Classic Fallingwater image in the rain.
The view from the top of the Washington Monument.
  • Good websites to have on your smart phone –
    http://www.roadsideamerica.com
    – like off the beaten path roadside attractions like the largest ball of whatever?
    http://www.frommers.com
    – My favorite maker of travel guides has every guide book listed online for free! Great for major cities but their hotel guides can be a little pricey for the budget conscious like me.
    http://www.tripadvisor.com
    – Most reliable hotel reviews if you want to crash at someplace more exciting than the Holiday Inn.

Road trips are fun but they can take their toll which is probably why it took me so long to share these photos. You can see more pictures in my Flickr album. Happy Tripping!

That dress

That I re-made after that mess that was produced the first time, remember that one? Well it finally turned out all right, at least Lucy thinks so…

More Las Vegas images tomorrow. I have a doctor’s visit early in the morning so I should be off to bed.

Oh, and I did end up buying some organic milk and it is yummy.