This project was a lot of fun to play around with 😀 It’s kind of a triple threat in that it helped me use up some cotton scraps, I got to try out some more travel bag ideas for my upcoming trip to Metrocon, and I got to experiment with quilting in bags and pouches (and how it holds up as a stabilizer). With all that in mind I’d say it was a rousing success! They come together super fast and allow a lot of room for fun improvising. They’re a lot more forgiving to make than most train case patterns, because they’re not done the conventional way. You’ll see you use a box dart to make their shape instead of sewing curved seams or having to bind edges.
While you might be tempted to make this in whole cloth without any patchwork, I found that the finished case isn’t as sturdy without the extra quilting stitches going through it for support. So I would definitely recommend doing the quilt-as-you-go method in some fashion to get those extra seams going through your case.
The hardest part of this is likely the zipper, but everything else is really forgiving and easy to work with if you make little mistakes.
Makes one case that’s about 6½” wide, 5½” tall, and 5” deep
Materials & Tools:
• 1/2 yd. of cotton fabric for outer case (preferably a collection of strips about 15” long)
• 1/2 yd. of cotton fabric for lining
• 24” Two-way zipper or two 14” regular zippers (see step 8)
• 24” x 11” piece of cotton batting
• 8” x 3” piece of medium-weight fusible interfacing
• Matching sewing thread
• Basic sewing tools (sewing machine, scissors, iron, needles, pins, fabric marker, seam ripper)
Before you begin:
1. Print out the project pattern here
2. Assemble the pattern pieces, see the page here for more help
3. Lay out the pattern pieces on your batting and cut it out.
4. Use the handle & zipper tab pattern pieces to cut from your outer fabric and interfacing.
5. Leave the remainder of your outer fabrics and lining uncut until we start piecing.
1. Our project is built around the rectangle of batting I had you cut in the “Before you Begin” section. First off, lay your batting over your lining fabric with the wrong side facing up. Center the batting over the lining and trim around the fabric leaving a really wide margin, about 1” or 2” is good.
2. Now we’re starting quilt-as-you-go! If you haven’t heard of this method before, it involves making a quilt sandwich by sewing pieces onto your quilt batting and backing and working your way across the layers. You’ll see what I mean in the next few steps.
If you’re not using up your stash of fabric strips, you’ll want to cut strips from your outer fabric to get the finished look for this project. Here, I used bits from a leftover jelly roll. I would trim your fabric down to 15” long strips with a width of about 2-5”. Don’t worry about being precise — or even straight. If your edges are wonky, I’ll think it’ll add extra charm to the project, so go for it!
Lay one strip down on one edge of your batting/lining layer with right side facing up. Lay it down so it extends beyond the batting by at least 3/4”. As you can see, mine is tilted to achieve the wonky stripes I’m going for. Lay your next strip on top of it with right sides facing, matching up the edge on the right (going towards the batting). Take this to your machine and sew the two strips together going through the batting and lining as well.
3. When you’re done, press the top strip away from the bottom strip and it will look something like this! You see how it starts to cover the batting. Continue like this, adding another strip on top of the previous one, sewing along the edge, and pressing away from the previous strips. Again, notice there’s lots of extra fabric above and below the batting for insurance – make sure you’re extending at least 3/4” beyond the batting.
4. Here we are about halfway done! You’ll see how if your pieces are imperfect and wonky it will add to the charm of the project. Just keep layering strips, sewing, and pressing towards the other end of the batting.
5. Keep sewing and covering that batting until you get to the other end. When you reach that end, be sure the fabric extends at least 3/4” beyond the other end of the batting.
6. When you finish, measure out 3/4” all the way around the batting and trim along those lines. You can usually feel where the batting is and be able to measure out from there. The rectangle should measure about 25 1/2” x 12 1/2”, but if it’s not exact you’re still fine, just be sure your edges are straight and your corners are 90 degrees 😀
7. To make room for the zipper, cut the rectangle along its length 4 1/2” in from one edge. You should have two pieces as shown, one a bit skinnier than the other. The skinnier half will become your case top, and the wider half will become your case bottom.
8. As mentioned in the materials list, you have an option of using a two-way zipper or two 14” zippers. I didn’t have any two-way zippers on me so I improvised and sewed together two of my 14” zippers xD
You can do the same by matching up the top ends of both of your zippers and sewing them together through the teeth and tape. This way the zipper pulls come right together when the zippers are zipped up. I would suggest sewing them together by hand, as the teeth will always slip around if you try to shove them under your machine. When you’re done, be sure to trim the excess zipper tape. Press the zippers open and then you can treat it like one long zipper!
9. Trim your zipper so it’s 24 1/2” long (or 1” shorter than your case pieces). Be sure to trim it so the seam (if you joined your zippers) stays in the middle.
To get the zipper ready to insert, we have to add some tabs to each end. Sandwich one end of the zipper between two of the tabs and sew through all the layers. Then trim the seam allowance down to 1/4” and press the tabs away from the zipper. Repeat this with the other end of the zipper when you finish.
10. Attach the zipper to the case by lining up the tape along the cut edge of one of the case pieces – that is the edge that has all three layers of outer fabric, batting, and backing. Don’t sew along the edge that’s just fabric and no backing, we need that edge for your side and top/bottom seams.
Sew the zipper in place using a 1/4” seam allowance.
11. Repeat the stitching on the other side of the zipper with the bottom half of your case. When complete, press the fabric away from the zipper and top stitch about 1/8” away from the zipper to keep everything nice and flat.
12. Now for a quick detour to do the handle! Take your handle interfacing and fuse it in the middle of your handle fabric piece (on the wrong side).
13. Fold the long edges of the fabric against the interfacing and press the folds in place. Leave the short ends alone for now.
14. With the edges pressed, fold the entire handle in half with wrong sides together, lining up the folded edges. Edge stitch around both sides of the handle for a finished look.
15. To attach the handle, copy the markings from the paper pattern by centering it on the case and transferring the markings found on the top. If your case isn’t quite the same size as the paper after adjustments, basically you begin by finding the middle of your case along the long edge. Then measure out about 2 to 2 1/2” out from the middle and mark it.
Then take your handle and fold the short ends in half. Align the short ends along the markings you made and baste them in place with the folds pointing outward.
16. Now we’re finally making the body of the case! First up is the back seam which we’re doing with a French seam. So fold the case in half, matching up the short edges with WRONG sides together. Sew the edge together with a 3/8” seam allowance.
17. Trim the seam allowance from your previous seam down to about 1/4”. Turn the case wrong side out and press the seam. Now we’re going to sew that seam again with another 3/8” – this should completely encase the seam from the previous step. Press the finished seam and you should have a kind of tube with the zipper going down the middle.
18. The top and bottom seams are next. Match the wrong sides together again while flattening out the case as shown. The center front of the case should match up with the back seam on the back. You can follow the fold lines found on the paper pattern if it helps. Line up the upper and lower raw edges and sew them together with a 3/8” seam allowance just like in step 16. Then trim the seam allowance, turn the case right side out, and sew the seam again like in step 17.
19. Almost done! Now we’re making the corners of the case. Do this by folding one corner of the case at a diagonal as shown above.
20. With your corner folded as in the previous step, measure down from the corner by 2 1/2” and mark across the corner. Then take the case to your machine and sew across this line as it’s folded. Repeat this with the other 3 corners of your case.
21. To finish up, take those big flappy corners and anchor them down along the bottom and top of the case by whip stitching it to the lining. This will also help add some stability to your case.
You’re all done! I hope your case is super helpful in stashing away toiletries, sewing tools, or other fun necessities 😀
If you do try making the project, I’d love to see it! Send me a photo and I’ll send you exclusive free patterns as a reward!
8 thoughts on “Freebie Friday! Quilt-as-you-go Train Case”
I’m a new subscriber to your blog and I LOVE your tuts and your blog and your bags! Thank you for sharing!
It’s a pleasure to have you here! Thanks so much for subscribing and I hope you enjoy what you’ll see in the future!
Very nice. I may try making it this weekend. Why is it called a train case?
Thanks so much! I hope the sewing goes well 😀
As soon as I posted it I suddenly wondered why I picked the antiquated name to describe the case, haha ^-^ But nevertheless they call cases of that particular size and dimension train cases because back when traveling was usually done by trains, ladies typically had a luggage set. The larger bags were stowed away with the other luggage and the smallest in the set held the lady’s essentials (like makeup and toiletries). That piece was small enough to hold with her while she was on the train to get her through the trip. So it’s kind of like the old-timey version of carry-on luggage 🙂
Sorry this may sound funny but do i always need to use quilting foot when quilting? And why i tried the regular foot the finish product was a bit wonky?
If you’re getting wonky results, then you may need to use a quilting foot, yes 🙂 I find I only need it if my project is really big and hard to keep an eye on all the layers while sewing. If your machine has it, you could also try lowering the presser foot pressure. That might help keep the layers from shifting too much while you sew.
I have made a TON of these now, but never remembered to come and say THANK YOU for a beautiful, easy and fun pattern. (And zippers that I could manage installing!!) These were a hit at Christmas last year; since we couldn’t travel I packed each person’s gifts into their case for tidy shipping (and extra padding).
Wow, that’s so wonderful to hear! Thank you for the kind words and feedback ♥ I’m so glad the pattern was fun and easy to follow!