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Christmas Once a Month: Travel Pillow Case & Book Bag Tutorial

Christmas Once a Month at The Crafty Quilter

I’m not sure which I like more: giving a handmade gift or receiving one.  This month we’re going to tackle some gift making that will make your Christmas list a little shorter and a lot happier!  I have several quick and easy gifts to share with you that are perfect for the young child, the teenager or the adult on your list.

Travel-size Pillow Case & Book Bag Tutorial

I’m sure you’ve all made a pillow case before and if you’re one of my kids, you have at least two or three made by yours truly!   But a travel pillow case with Cuddle (Minkee) fabric is super soft, a bit more novel and it’s perfect for road trips, sleep overs and camping.

Travel Pillows @ The Crafty Quilter

And a simple book bag is always nice to take on the go as well.  If you’ve never made a bag before, this will be an easy introduction for you.  It can have one or two pockets on the inside and it’s reversible!

Book Bags @ The Crafty  Quilter

inside bag

And why not go all out and make some bookmarks to go with the cute book bag.  It’s a great way to use up scraps and they are sew easy, it will be hard to make just one!

bookmark trio on bed

So let’s get sewing!

I have made a separate pdf file with instructions for the pillow case.  You can find the instructions here:  Travel-Size Pillow Case

Small Travel Size Pillow Case

I found two sizes for a travel pillow: 12″ x 16″ OR 14″ x 20″.  I was working with the smaller size, 12″ x 16″ since that’s what I had. The pdf gives instructions for both sizes.  A great place to shop online for pillows is Pillow Cubes.  They have many sizes available and lots of filling options, too.

pillow case size compare

I used the “hot dog” style of making a pillow case and it’s my favorite way to make them.  It only requires TWO seams and I can usually make one in less than an hour.

pillow pinning top 3

Also, I have customized the instructions for working with Cuddle or Minkee fabrics.  They include 1/2″ seam allowance rather than 1/4″ and you’ll need a walking foot.  When I make most of my pillow cases I use a “french seam” to enclose the seam allowances, but this is not possible or necessary if you’re using Cuddle fabric because it’s too thick and it doesn’t fray anyway.  If you’re not using Cuddle or Minkee and you want to add french seams, then you should add 1/2″ to the width of all cut pieces.

I will be doing a separate tutorial about working with Cuddle and Minkee fabrics in the near future.  For now it’s important to know that it’s made of 100% polyester and it stretches.  I always use a walking foot and 1/2″ seam allowance when sewing with it and be careful when you press it.  Use a warm iron and a gentle hand so that you don’t “crush” the nap.  Here is a peek at my crushed section. 🙁

You can see a little crushed section near the accent strip.
You can see a little crushed section near the accent strip.

The Book Bag.  The finished size of this bag is 12″ wide x 14″ tall and 2″ deep.  I made two versions of this and there was a little trial and error along the way.  I don’t consider myself an expert bag maker, but I have read up on it and I’ve made a good many of my own.

Book Bags @ The Crafty Quilter

Recently, I found a great source of information at Geta’s Quilting Studio on the many different interfacings used to make bags.  Her Interfacing Guide for Bags is a must-read if you want to learn more.

Interfacing Guide for Bags at Geta's Quilting Studio
Interfacing Guide for Bags at Geta’s Quilting Studio

After making the first book bag, I decided a slightly smaller version would be nice for the little ones.  You can add as many (or no) pockets to the inside – it’s up to you!  For such a simple bag, I think using a light to medium weight fusible interfacing on the lining is sufficient.  I tried a heavier weight (Decor Bond) and it was just a bit too stiff for this project.

Book Bags @ The Crafty Quilter

Book Bag Instructions:  (All seam allowances are 1/4″)

Fabric Requirements:

  • Main Bag Body & Straps:              1/2 yard
  • Main Bag Top Band:              1/4 yard
  • Main Bag Accent Strip:              1/8 yard
  • Lining Fabric:                           1/2 yard
  • Pockets: Scraps
  • Lightweight Interfacing  1/2 yard

Cutting Instructions:

  • Main Bag Body:  Cut (2) 9 1/2” x 12 1/2” rectangles
  • Main Bag Top Band:  Cut (2) 4 1/2” x 12 1/2” rectangles
  • Main Bag Accent Strip:  Cut (2) 1 1/2” x 12 1/2” rectangles
  • Straps:  Cut (2) 3 1/2” x 21” rectangles
  • Lining:  Cut (2) 12 1/2” x 14 1/2” rectangles
  • Interfacing:  Cut (2) 12 1/4” x 14 1/4” rectangles
  • Pockets (optional):  Cut (1) 6” x  12” rectangle and (1) 4 1/2” x 10 1/2” rectangle

Outer Bag Assembly:

Step 1:  Stitch top band, accent strip, and main body together.  Press seam towards accent strip.

bag 1 tops done

Step 2:  Sew the front and back together.  First, cut a 1 1/4″ square out of each bottom corner of bag front and back as shown below.  Pin with right sides together, matching sides, accent strip seams, and bottom edges.  Stitch.  Press seams open.

bag 1 pin sides outer

Step 3:  Create the boxed corners of the bag by matching the side and bottom seams at corners.  Pin and stitch, back stitching at beginning and end.

boxed corner collage

Lining Assembly:

Step 1:  Fuse interfacing to wrong side of both lining pieces.

Step 2:  Make pockets (optional).  Fold pocket rectangles in half along width, wrong sides together and stitch all sides, leaving a 2″ opening for turning.  Clip corners and turn right side out.  Press.  You don’t need to stitch the opening closed.  We’ll take care of that at the same time when we sew it onto the lining.

pocket collage

Pin pocket 3″ down from the top and centered on the lining.  Stitch in place close to edges, back stitching at beginning and end.  Repeat to make another pocket on the other side of lining if desired.

Step 3:  Sew the front and back lining pieces together.  Follow Step 2 of outer bag assembly, but leave a 3″ wide opening along the bottom edge for turning.  Since I used Decor Bond for this bag, it was easier to use clips rather than pins to hold the pieces in place.  I love my Clover Wonder Clips!

bag lining sewn together

Step 4:  Create the boxed corners – follow instructions for outer bag, Step 3.

Step 5:  Make Straps.  I fused some lightweight interfacing to the strap pieces first.  It adds extra stability, but it’s not necessary.  Fold the strap along the length, wrong sides together and press.  Fold each long side to the middle crease and press.  Fold in half again and press, creating a 3/4″ wide strap that is four thicknesses of fabric.

strap collage

Topstitch along both long edges.

hancles top stitched

Pin straps to the right side of lining – 3″ in from each side seam.  Make sure they aren’t twisted.  Baste in place.

bag inside straps pinned

Step 6:  Sew bag lining and bag outside together.  With the outer bag turned right side out, insert it into the bag lining (right sides should be facing each other).

insert bag into lining

Match side seams and pin along the top edge.  Again, I used my Clover Wonder Clips.  Stitch.

clip top edges

Step 7.  Turn right side out.  Remember the opening we left in the bottom of the lining?  Use that to turn your bag right side out.  Stitch opening closed.

bag brith

bag turned

Push lining into the bag and press top edge.  Topstitch close to edge.

bag topstitched


bag finished

Are you ready for some quick and easy bookmarks?  From your bag scraps, cut two rectangles approximately 5 1/2″ x 7″.  You need a double-sided fusible interfacing or web.  Cut it into a 5 1/4″ x 6 3/4″ rectangle.  I used Fast2Fuse Interfacing to adhere the two race car rectangles together and give it some stability.  It’s pretty thick, so then I tried Heat’nBond Ultra on the pink bookmark and it was a little wimpy but o.k.  Either one will work fine.

book marks fabric cut

Fuse the interfacing or web between the two rectangles.  Cut into (2) 2 1/4″ x 6″ bookmarks.  I used my pinking blade to cut with so there would be little fraying.

bookmark cut pinked

Stitch 1/4″ all the way around the edge.

bookmarks topstitch

Two bookmarks in 10 minutes!

bookmarks done

And if you want the three-in-one combo:

bag trio race 2

What little guy wouldn’t want to get in the car with his new pillow and book bag?

Travel Pillow Case & Book Bag @ The Crafty Quilter

This would make a great gift no matter what season it is!  I have six great nephews and I know what they’re getting this year.

And I’d be tickled pink if this gift combo were under my Christmas tree:

pink trio on chair

If you want more Christmas inspiration, stop by Amy Made That! and see what she made for Christmas this month.  I just love this pattern and Amy’s version is just right for a holiday table.  And she gives some great tips on how she made it.

Pattern: Cotton Way Candy by Cotton Way. Made by Amy DeCesare

I hope this helps you get your gift-making groove on!

I’m linking up with Lily Patch Quilts:  Christmas Through The Year

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  1. When I turn my hotdog to the correct side, the accent piece is inside out. My directions say to fold and iron with wrong sides together. What am I possibly doing wrong?

  2. I just finished your mini travel pillow pillowcase for a gift for my grandson. I’m a little confused however, as the case directions for the smaller one 12X16 and it was miles too long–well actually I cut a good 6 inches off it. Did i do something wrong as I followed the directions for cutting the pieces on your PDF. It was sad I wasted so much material–may try to make a rice bag from the left over corner. I did french seams and had to trim it before I finished the seams but just am curious if anyone else had this issue? 16X 26 was way too large a piece for a 12X 16 pillow.

  3. Help! The trim piece on my travel size burrito pillow doesn’t show when I pull out the inner fabric. I followed instructions so what haooened?

  4. I’ve made a few pillowcases in my time using this “hot dog” method, but using minkee and making for travel size pillow in genius. I was especially impressed to see you cautioned being certain a directional fabric is correctly placed. I learned this the hard way! I have watched lots of pillowcase tutorials and never seen anyone mention this very important fact. But, since you are the BEST teacher ever, I should not have been surprised that you pointed it out. Thank you again for taking time to share ideas and methods with us.

  5. That is sew adorable! I can’t wait to make one for my little guy. Let me say,your post has been the most explanatory I’ve found. We are making a library bag. Can’t wait to get started!

  6. Thank you for your extensive blog post on this project. You’ve educated me & given me the knowledge to complete the project. You did a great job with this!!

  7. WOW! I think you’ve given me enough ideas to keep me busy for some time! I love the addition of the Minkee for the pillowcases. I have a few smaller piece and this would be perfect for that. I’ve not made any bags yet, but I have had them on my list and this does look like the perfect one to whip up. And the bookmark will be a big hit too – books are my favorite non-handmade gift to give. Thank you for so many great ideas!

  8. Love your gift sets! I love the idea of using the minky fabrics for the pillows. They look so soft and comfortable. The book bags are wonderful for pretty much anything and I love the bookmarks. They make great projects for scraps.
    Thanks for linking up with CTTY. Hope to see you next month 🙂

  9. Wow! What great gifts and the tutorials are amazing. Thank you! I have 3 grandchildren that would love tote bags and travel pillows. What great ideas!

  10. I LOVE these gift ideas!! I feel like my kids always need a bag for something 🙂 I haven’t seen those clips before to use instead of pins. I’ll have to check into that. Thank you so much for taking time to post such a detailed tutorial!! I know my readers would love these ideas, too! We have a weekly link up party at allthingswithpurpose.com and we’d love to have you join us!!

  11. Hi, I found your blog thanks to “Amy made that!” I just got this book in the mail and I remembered seeing it somewhere, LOL. Absolutely love how that racer bag and pillow came out, I have some black and white checks I may have to pull out…

  12. Hi, I found your blog thanks to “Amu made that!” I just got this book in the mail and I remembered seeing it somewhere, LOL. Absolutely love how that racer bag and pillow came out, I have some black and white checks I may have to pull out…

  13. What a lovely idea…the travel pillows are great! I think I need to make a few of those for our trips. Thanks for sharing today at Anything Goes and for the great tutorial.

  14. Thank you for some great ideas, Julie. I have yet to do a “CTTY” project this month and I believe the minky pillowcases might be just the answer for the two grandkids. I love this idea! Yes, I’ve made lots of pillowcases but haven’t done one with a minkie. And, what’s funny, this past Christmas I gave them each a minkee lapsize quilt so the minkie pillow will just perfect.

  15. Oh my gosh,these look SEW stinkin’ cute!! Thanks so much for the great pics/tips and for the PDF file!! I hope to make some soon.


  16. Thank you for such practical, useful, and easy things.
    Geta is the most talented and famous Roumanian quilter, I pin it her interfacing bag guide, and I also buy her bag patterns.

  17. I love the travel pillow case and yes! I will be making a few! I think I will slightly enlarge the book bag to make it a bag that will hold my travel pillow and a small handwork project!

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