Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Quilted Suitcase Tutorial

This post is sponsored by Fabricworm

One of my girls favorite things to do is play "Baby"... which consists of packing every play baby item that they own, loading up their strollers, and going on an adventure with their bitty babies all over the house. They usually use their messenger bags that I made them as diaper bags, but as we have collected more and more baby clothes, the bags aren't quite big enough to hold all of the items. So last year, I made a dolly suitcase for them to share. The only problem was just that... sharing! That little suitcase is very much fought over in our house... and who can blame them?! It is pretty darn cute! 

 So after months and months of promising another suitcase to play with, and having the perfect bundle of Acorn Trail fabric show up at my doorstep from Fabricworm to use, I hunkered down and made a second suitcase.
Since it is such a fun little case, I thought I had better make a tutorial so y'all can make one too! Believe me- this little case is not limited to the use of holding dolly clothes either! It is perfect to hold just about anything! :)

Let me start with a preface. 
I made this case bigger and sturdier than my first case- which resulted in a tougher sewing job to complete, but I really love the result of how shapely it is. I will warn ya- there were brief moments of "Weekender Bag" flashbacks and a short, but very real moment where I wanted to throw it across the room... But all in all its a fairly simple bag to construct- especially if you opt not to do a "super sturdy" version... I'll explain that option in a bit.
For this case, I used a Quilt As You Go method for making my pattern pieces (just like I do in my Weekender Bags). I learned the technique from Elizabeth of Oh Frannson. She has a fabulous tutorial if you are not sure how to do this (just click to the link above). The only thing that I did different for this bag, was I substituted and used fusible peltex instead of quilt batting which resulted in a super stiff panel for my case. I really love the flat stiff panels that I created- but like I said... there were a few moments that I was regretting that choice! Sewing with peltex is a pain, but now that I am all done- I love it!

 So for the supply list, I'm gonna give the sturdy (peltex) suitcase list and the softer (non-peltex) suitcase list and depending on which version you make, you'll just make adjustments throughout the pattern, but I will do my best to accommodate my instructions for either version. Keep in mind that when I say "softer"- I use that term lightly... Creating a quilt as you go panels for your project results in a very sturdy/stiff case... But using peltex results in a RIGID case.  Make sense?

Please remember that I am an not a professional pattern maker. I just do this for fun. You may find a mistake or two in my instructions/design of the case. My hope is that if you are making this, hopefully you aren't too new to sewing and you've probably made a bag or two and should be able to make any adjustments needed along the way. 
And as always- my patterns are for personal use only... DO NOT MAKE ITEMS USING THIS PATTERN TO SELL

Whew... Enough chit chat- yes? 
Let's get down to business!
I am going to give a few supply lists. The first list will be the supplies you need regardless of whether you are making the stiff or softer case. The other two lists will be specific to whichever case you are making. 
Keep in mind that my case is about 11x15 inches and is 5 inches thick. You can totally make your own size, but the supply list and my instructions will accommodate this size.

One last thing... Please read through the entire tutorial before buying your supplies. There are a couple modifications you can make that are not included in the supply lists. 

-Various sizes of fabric scraps to created your patchwork panels
-1/2 yard fabric for lining
-3 1/2 yards bias tape (store bought or you can make your own with 1 1/2 inch strips of fabric cut on the bias)  
-36" Robe Zipper (It's a non-separating zipper- I get mine at Joann)
- eight inches of 1.5 or 2 inch wide grosgrain ribbon or twill tape for the suitcase handle
-Regular quilting machine needles as well as heavy duty machine needles to change out throughout the project.

STURDY CASE                    SOFTER CASE
1 yd. fusible Peltex           large scraps quilt batting
3/4 yard drill cloth                    3/4 yard duck cloth

(the reason I use drill cloth for the sturdy case is that I haven't had much luck with peltex fusing well to duck cloth since it is a rougher weaved fabric, but it fuses great to the drill cloth. And using duck cloth in the softer case, will give it just a slightly stiffer feel which results in a better shape than if you used the softer drill cloth. You can find both duck cloth and drill cloth in the utility fabric section of Joann or Hobby Lobby.)

Alright... I think we are ready to start!

First we need to do some cutting.
(when we are cutting- be sure to ALWAYS cut your side panel pieces in each fabric and peltex or quilt battting because this panel needs the width of fabric since it's so long and then cut your other panels)
Drill cloth or Duck cloth
side panel= 5 x 36 inches (cut first)
front panel= 11x15 inches
back panel= 11x15 inches
bottom panel= we will cut this panel later on in the pattern

Fusible Peltex (if you are using it):
(we cut these panels slightly smaller to allow for less bulk in seam allowance)
side panel= 4.25 x 35.25 inches (cut first)
front panel= 10.25 x 14.25 inches
back panel= 10.25 x 14.25 inches
bottom panel= we will cut this panel later on in the pattern

Quilt batting (if you are using it):
(we cut these panels slightly smaller to allow for less bulk in seam allowance)
side panel= 4.25 x 35.25 inches (cut first)
front panel= 10.25 x 14.25 inches
back panel= 10.25 x 14.25 inches
bottom panel= we will cut this panel later on in the pattern

Lining Fabric
side panel lining= 5 x 36 inches (cut first)
front panel lining= 11x15 inches
back panel lining= 11x15 inches
bottom panel lining= we will cut this panel later on in the pattern

Step 1: We need to make our quilted panels first. This is done by taking your drill/duck cloth panel, layering it with your peltex (and fusing) or quilt batting centered on the panel and then doing your quilt as you go method to cover both layers and make one panel. You will need to do this with your front and back panel as well as your side panel. I like my front and back panels to have a slightly rounded corner, so I used a jar lid as a cutting template and rounded the corners before I started my quilt as you go. If you want, you can leave your corners square, which will result in a more boxy/square case.

One thing to note... if you are using peltex instead of quilt batting, you may need to insert a new needle a couple times throughout your quilt as you go panels... Sewing through the peltex is really easy, but it seemed to dull my needle quicker than usual. 
To cut down on the time, I used one fabric for the side panel instead of doing a scrappy panel- but you can do yours however you like. 

So once you are finished with your quilted panels, you should have your front panel- back panel- side panel (all quilted), and your front, back, and side panels cut for your lining. 
 (now you will notice in my picture that I added fusible peltex to my lining pieces as well- just for added structure... which caused the weekender bag flashback and moment I mentioned above of wanting to chuck this thing across the room! I would not recommend this... which is why I didn't add the extra peltex to the supply list or cutting list. If you want to have a little more support and bulk in the lining, opt for a canvas fabric for your lining fabric, or you could add fusible fleece or stiff fusible interfacing (just remember to cut it slightly smaller than your lining to allow for less bulk in seam allowance). Or if you want full out crazy, get another yard of peltex and line yours like I did... just don't say I didn't warn you!)

Step 2: It's time to add the zipper to your side panel.. Take your quilted side panel and place your zipper face down along the top side of the panel and pin in place. Using a zipper foot and the longest stitch on your machine, baste your zipper to the panel with a 1/8" seam allowance. 
 Step 3: Place your lining side panel wrong side down on top of your quilted side panel and pin. Your zipper should now be sandwiched in between the two layers. Now, using your zipper foot and a regular stitch length, sew as close as you can to your zipper. (if you aren't fusing anything to your lining- just ignore the peltex fused to my lining piece)
 Step 4: Once you have sewn your seam, fold your lining panel to the back and press. Then top or edge stitch along the top of your panel to give it a finished look and also hold your lining in place to allow your zipper to open and shut nicely.
The front of your zipper panel will look like this:
The back of your zipper panel will look like this:
 Step 5: Now it is time to make cut and make your bottom panels. To do this, you need to take a flexible tape measure and measure all the way around your front panel. If you didn't round the corners of your front and back panels, then your measurement will be 52" (15+15+11+11). With the radius of my rounded corners, mine ended up being 50 inches. So you will take that measurement and put it into this equation (just put your measurement in where mine says "50")... 
50 (my measurement) - 36 (length of our zipper/side panel)= 14 inches
Now measure how tall your zipper panel is with your zipper closed. Mine was 5 1/2 inches tall, but yours may be slightly different. 

Take the 2 measurements and that will be the size of your "bottom panel". You will need to cut out your drill/duck cloth and also your lining piece (my panel was 5.5x14 inches) and then cut out your peltex/quilt batting (remember to cut it slightly smaller than your panel to allow for less bulk in seam allowance). 

(Now you are probably wondering why I didn't have you add a seam allowance for your bottom panel, right? Read on to the tip I shared at the bottom of Step 6.)

Once your bottom panels are cut, use the same technique to quilt your bottom panel. Again, I used a solid piece of fabric instead of going for a scrappy look, but you can do whatever you would like.

Now it's time to put your heavy duty needle into the machine.

Step 6: 
Attach your bottom panels to your side zipper panel. 
first take your quilted bottom panel and place it right side up . Then take your zipper panel and place it so that the exterior side or quilted side of the panel is facing down with the zipper closed. Then place your bottom lining panel right side down and pin along the end. Sew layers together using a 1/2" seam allowance. Do the same to the other side. Since your zipper side panel is so long, you will need to fold it in between your bottom panels to sew the 1/2" seam on the other side. See below for example.
 Now once both sides are sewn and you flip everything right side out, your zipper side panel and bottom panel should be making a big circle. Press the bottom panels in place on and top stitch using a 1/8" inch seam allowance on both ends of the bottom panel. After topstitching the ends, you can bast your bottom lining panel and quilted bottom panel on each raw edge if you would like just so everything holds together- but not necessary. 

Tip- For some reason after I did this step, even though I measured around the perimeter of my front and back panels and I made my panel without adding any for any seam allowance, the side panel (zipper and bottom panel sewed together) was still a little long.  (I have found that when I am pinning fabric to a curve for a bag, I don't need to add seam allowances, sometimes less fabric through the curve gives a better finish less bulk. and with the peltex being in my side and bottom panel that was even more true.) So when I made this bottom/side panel the length I had calculated (even without adding any fabric for seam allowances), when I went to pin and attach my side/bottom panel to the back panel, it was just a little too much bulk through the curves of the bag and I needed to shorten both the side and bottom panels about a 1/2 inch to make my panels and peltex smooth out and not have a wavy side and bottom of my bag.  So I folded everything back and repeated the above step after removing 1/2 inch from both the side and bottom panel. 
So you are probably wondering why I didn't have you do this to start with right? Well since I made my bag with crazy amounts of peltex, I think that may have a lot to do with why I had to do this. Peltex doesn't gather and ease around a curve super well so it needed to be a perfect fit for my side panel to lay correctly. 
(Sorry that was long and I hope it makes sense...)
So I would suggest after you press your bottom panels, before doing your top stitching on the bottom panels, do a little "test run" of pinning your side/bottom panel circle piece to your back panel just to make sure that your panel is the right length and everything fits well together. Unpin and make any needed adjustments. Then you can top stitch that last edge of the bottom panel. (If for some reason your panel is too short, you can always shorten your seam allowance to 1/4" instead of a 1/2" to make your panel a little longer. 
(look down to step 8 to see how to pin your panels together for your "test run")
Step 7: Attach your handle to the side panel. I did this by using fray check on each end of my ribbon to prevent the ribbon from fraying (if you don't have fray check you can just fold the raw edge under and then sew) and then centered the handle on the zipper side panel, pining in place, and stitched a 1 inch rectangle on each end to secure it. There is no rhyme or reason to how much of a bend you put in  the ribbon when attaching it... It's all personal preference and as long as you center it on the panel properly, the weight of the bag should be evenly distributed. 
Step 8: Now it is time to assemble the case. Do this by marking the center of your bottom panel and the center of your zipper panel (these are attached to each other at this point but just fold the piece in half to find the center). Then mark the center of the top and bottom of your back panel. Now, using your center marks, start pining the bottom (raw edge- not zipper edge) of your zipper/bottom panel around the perimeter of your back piece. Do this by putting the linings right side together and your quilted pieces should be facing out. We are going to have our raw edges left exposed when the case is sewn together. See below.
Tip: You may want to make small clips in your side/bottom panel piece to ease it around the curves of the back panel while you are pinning and sewing. 
Once the zipper/bottom panel is pinned in place to your back panel, use a basting stitch and sew using a 1/8" seam all the way around the back panel. 
(When you are done basting your panels, you should have the bottom of the case and side of the case in place with no raw edges on the lining side- all raw edges should be outside the bag.)
 After your panels are basted together take your bias tape and apply it. The bias tape will conceal the raw edge. I used my machine to sew it to the "side" edge of the case and then hand stitched the bias tape to the back panel. See below. 
(I just did it this way because of how much peltex I had used and there was no way I was getting that bunched up under my machine to stitch the other side of the bias tape to the back panel to finish it- but you are welcome to finish the bias tape however you would like.)
After you have attached the side panel to the back of the case and applied the bias tape, you need to attach the side panel to the front panel. This is so much easier than attaching it to the back panel- so if you are about ready to toss your project across the room- hang in there! 
Ok... Unzip your zipper and pin the zipper and bottom panel around the lining side of the top panel. Make sure you match up the center marks that you marked earlier on your side panel to the center marks on the front panel so that everything lines up correctly. Also-  make sure you have your panels facing the correct way so you don't sew anything upside down! ha ha
Once your two panels are pined together, baste around the edge with 1/8" basting stitch to hold everything in place for while you apply the bias tape. Once they are basted together, apply your bias tape.  
Again, I applied mine to the zipper side with my machine (and a zipper foot) and then hand stitched the other side of the bias tape to the front panel. I don't mind hand sewing- but you can do yours however you would like. I used quilt binding clips to hold it in place and I hand stitched. 

That's it! You're all done! Now you have a darling case to hold anything your heart desires! :) 
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and I hope everything makes sense!

I love seeing everything you guys make following tutorials on my blog so be sure to tag me on instagram (@crafterbynight) or email me a picture of your cute projects along the way and after you finish!
Have a great week!
xoxo, Ashley

P.S. Fabricworm sent me the fabric for this project. I used various prints from the Acorn Trail collection by Teagan White for Birch Fabrics to do the patchwork panels. I used Tonal Floral Shell for the bias tape, Birds and Branches Coral for the side panel, and I used Peonies Mint for the lining. LOVE this collection! So gorgeous!


  1. Awesome tutorial Ashley!!! I can easily see me making these for gifts (or myself!!!) Thanks for sharing.


  2. Another beautiful bag, and yet another item on my to make list. Thanks so much for the tutorial!

  3. Great tutorial. Just in time for Christmas, perfect project to use up some scraps as well :)

  4. I keep having problems with comments - I hit submit and they don't show up - so irritating. I did thank you for the great tut. I have granddaughters and I know they would love to have this suitcase. Thanks again.

  5. This is so cute! Thank for for sharing your pattern. I'm totally making one for myself :D

  6. So adorable! I have been looking for a cute pattern !
    my granddaughter wants one for when she visits (NANA) me!

  7. Darling! Can't wait to try it out!

  8. What an adorable pattern & great tutorial! I have two friends who recently had girls, so I see a cute present in their futures! Thank you for sharing!

  9. The best idea I had seen, and browse the internet quite often. Pretty suitcase

  10. Your timing is perfect! My daughter recently asked for a suitcase and I wanted to make her something original. This is fantastic. Thank you for sharing your talent with us.

  11. Lovely suitcase, great instructions. Loved tiptoeing through your blog!

  12. This is just perfect and great tutorial too. My girl needs a suitcase for her 'everything'. Thank you for sharing.

  13. This is so super adorable! I think I need to make them for my boys.

  14. This is just darling! I'm wondering what you think of substituting soft and stable for the peltex or batting. Surviving my ONE Weekender was traumatic enough that I'm not going to use peltex, but was wondering if the soft and stable might give a nice result, a little sturdier than the batt. thoughts?

  15. Cutest suitcase ever!!!! Thank you for making it a tute!

  16. i thought your suitcase was so cute that i decided to make FIVE of them for christmas presents. i did a lot of swearing while i made them, but they sure turned out cute! thanks for the great tutorial!!

  17. I would love to make this cute suitcase to hold my granddaughter's Lammily doll clothes I made her! I'm a visual sewer and would love to see this tutorial in a YouTube video!!

    1. I would like to make a smaller version size to store Lammily doll clothes I make. But I'm not good in math help my email is gladtidings4all@yahoo.com

  18. I am having a fun time making your bag. Thank you so much for sharing this pattern and tutorial!

  19. I want to make mine with square corners and size 11x11" with a 6" depth so what size would be strip all around it? I'm having problem understanding how to attach to top and bottom covers. I need a visual YouTube video tutorial. Thanks

  20. I don't understand step 6 at all. Help

  21. This is such a great tutorial on so many levels - thank you!
    Question - if you had to buy everything (no stash to raid) what do you think this would cost? I realize that prices are different everywhere, but what's your guestimate? Thanks so much!!

  22. thanks for sharing your tutorial. the suitcase you made is beautiful :)

  23. love your suitcase. i tried making one gonna give it another go soon :) i shared this page on my blog hope that's ok

  24. I love this little suitcase. I have been looking for something like this! Thank you so much! Rhonda

  25. Hi,
    I just made this with three hours of work. It went much faster than I thought it would. Thank you for this tutorial. I did use solid panels instead of scrappy quilting, but the fabric I used made it look great. I added an inside hidden pocket and hanger loops.
    THANK YOU!!!

  26. Can you explain to me why people CAN'T sell what they make?

    1. Hi kathie,

      I don't allow others to sell anything made with my patterns just because I create tutorials and patterns to teach others. It is a hobby and passion of mine. I am happy to help someone learn, but I feel that to sell something made with my design is profiting financially from my tutorial. There are many patterns out there that you can buy the license to sell items made from the patterns so I feel justified to ask that you don't sell items made from my design. I hope you understand. Thanks for asking.

  27. THis is one of the cutest things I have ever seen.. THank you sooo much for sharng it and giving me inspiration!!


Thanks for taking the time to comment. I honestly love reading every single one! If you have a question you would like answered- be sure to include your email so that I can get back to you!

Thanks so much for stopping by! Have a great day!
xoxo, Ashley