Every year, one of our church members volunteers her Christmas Eve for a local women’s shelter. She solicits great food from her friends and then throws a feast and Christmas party for people who don’t have a home to go to for Christmas. A few years ago, our church started backing her up by providing wrapped handmade presents for each lady at the party. We’ve donated scarf and hat sets and tote bags. This year, we wanted to do something everyone could participate in providing, so I had the bright idea (ha) to make roll-up hygiene kits. A few of us would do the sewing, but everyone could bring in supplies. I assumed there would be lots of patterns for me to choose from, but you know what happens when you assume anything…
I couldn’t find a single pattern that was exactly what we needed as we walk the line between what is most functional for the recipients and what is easily doable for our volunteers. I ended up making four prototypes, drawing ideas from volunteers at the shelter, existing patterns, friends, and family. Now that I have a pattern, I thought I should probably share it so the next church or person who wants to make a heavy duty hygiene kit doesn’t have to reinvent the same wheel.
We’ve already started mass production (we’re making 50!) so that we can get these pretty things made, stocked, and wrapped by Christmas. If nothing else, I hope this post inspires you to be aware of the homeless population of your community and maybe even find a way to help.
1. Fuse wrong side of fabric square to fleece, following instructions on fleece.
2. Pin elastic strip across right side of fabric square, centered over the 3″ mark from edge, with 1/2” hanging over edge on each side. This edge will now be considered the TOP.
3. Pin 12” ribbon to right side of top, 6” in from each side, making sure not to twist the ribbon. (Please note, the picture does not show grosgrain ribbon but a knitted material I bought in Italy. You can find more details in the “Supply Sourcing” section below). Leave 1/2” hanging over edge of top. This is the loop that will serve as the handle for the finished bag. The loop will lay down over the square.
4. Pin towel square to fabric square, right sides together (if the towel has a right side), encasing the handle and elastic band. Mark a hand’s width opening to leave open for turning on a side of the bag (but not over the elastic strip). I pinned on the towel side.
5. Sew pieces together using a 1/2” seam, from the fleece side (the fleece should be out), leaving the marked opening for turning. Reinforce all your stops and starts. Reinforce bag where elastic and handle lay by sewing over, reversing across the elastic or handle, and then sewing forward again. My mom recommends doing one or two stitches on the diagonal as you turn your corners to facilitate smooth corners on the finished project. I didn’t do it on the project shown in the photo, and it wasn’t as smooth as later projects in which I followed her sage advice. (It’s great having a mom who was once a professional seamstress!)
6. Remove all pins, including those inside that hold the elastic and handle in place. Trim corners and any excess towel. Turn right side out.
7. Poke out your corners and iron flat. If the towel pooches out a little over the fabric, don’t worry. It’s cute! Iron down the edges of the turning opening to match the rest of the piece, and pin in place.
8. Pin center of each remaining grosgrain strip to the center of the back (on the fabric side), 3″ and 9″ from the top edge. Mark the center line with disappearing ink or chalk. Sew and reinforce. Remove pins.
9. Top stitch around , 1/4” from edge. Make sure to keep the handle and ties out of the way of stitching. Top stitch over the elastic for further reinforcement.
10. Lay piece out with towel side facing. Fold the bottom up so total size of bag from top edge to fold is 11”. Pin along sides. Pin at top edge of newly-formed pocket to make sure fabric is distributed evenly.
11. Mark pocket divisions for seaming by marking a line from top edge to fold line 6” in from each side (two lines total).
12. Mark elastic divisions at the following locations (include about 1/4” above and below elastic)
13. Making sure to keep handle and ties out of the path of stitching, sew the following:
14. Cut all your threads. Remove all pins. Fill it. Roll it up. Tie it. Use it.