Three Emmaline Retreat Bags

This was a fun project, or should I say three? I made each of my grandsons one of these dopp kits. They all travel, camp, and just plain get around a lot. I think they will like their own little bag for their personal items and it's quite grown up looking after all.

This is the  Retreat Bag from Emmaline Patterns. It is for a traditional dopp kit shape and comes in two sizes. Here you see the three I've made and I used the 9 inch smaller size. The pattern is FREE from Emmaline and is a PDF download.

I made the two solid colored bags first for Graham and Zack. I decided to get a bit adventurous on my third effort which is for the oldest, Jack. I like how they all came out. The above pics shows the bags fully extended open. The zips are on the outside of the bags and have tabs, or what I call  "yanks" so you can hold them and yank the zipper open. You don't really yank, but just tug the zipper open like any other zip. The bags are lined and have interior pockets on each side. I chose to use just one slip pocket in these.

The exterior fabrics are a faux leather that really looks quite authentic. I bought a lot of it about five years back from WalMart. It's the only thing I've ever purchased in their fabric department and the quality has been quite good. I've used it for many projects and it has quite a "real" look and easily sews. 

The linings are all 100% cottons  from Joanns. They have all been given a protective layer of vinyl. It is now sold at JAs in a two yard box and is made by Pellon. The vinyl lets the inside of the bags have some wash/wipe ability. It is easily fused on. 

The interfacings vary. 

On Graham and Zack's bags the interfacing used is SF101 from Pellon/JAs and  fusible fleece as specified. You can see that in the front bag. The Pattern specs fusing the lining with SF 101 but I did not as the vinyl applications stiffened the lining a lot. 

Jack's bag, on the other hand, got a different treatment. I used a fusible foam behind the exterior fabric. But I did not fuse the foam to the bag. Instead I fused it to a layer of cotton batiste and stitched that to the bag pieces. therefore turning the interfacing (Flexfoam) into a sew in. I like how it "fills" up the space between the two layers.  I have to say I don't really have a preference. Both methods worked and the SF101 bags were easier to "seat" into their shape. But they all got there. Since Pellon SF101 is far cheaper than the Flex Foam, I'd say go with that but make sure you fuse both lining and exterior fabrics.

One of the things I discovered while making these bags is that the release paper for the clear vinyl is an excellent press cloth for the faux leather. Use it under and on top of the leather and let it cool before peeling off. It gives great pressing results, not easy with faux leather. 

The bag requires a zip longer than the bag opening in order to give that "pull tab" effect. Instructions are given on what length to cut your zipper. I might go another inch longer next time. There are also two wire frames   that give the bag it's recognizable look. I've seen  bags made without them and with. I prefer with the frame. Those without the frame still look cute but just don't have that obvious well known shape. Without the frame, it's close, but closer with the frame. The frames are quite inexpensive and come with little rubber tips that I recommend gluing on before using. Make sure you order the right size frame. Size A is what is used for these smaller bags.


This is really a rather simple project and if you don't add an extra border and don't vinyl-ize your lining it can be made in a couple hours. That makes it a great gift. You are basically making a tote with a zipper across the top. The corners are boxed to give it the traditional shape. The lining is left open across the bottom so the bag can be turned, a bit trickier with that sticky clear vinyl, but doable. After turning and closing the lining a casing is stitched in all around the bag and following the zipper.  The wire frame is inserted inside the casing. Critical: make your casing with a GENEROUS 1/2 inch seam allowance. Mine were a bit short of that and I really had to shove to get the frame through the casing.  I ended up having to undo stitches and resew the casing after the wire was in. ( insert eye roll).  The wire of the frame is heavier than a coat hanger and quite sturdy. 

My vinyl lining and faux leather outside plus interfacing made for a quite firm little bag. That's how it is supposed to be. Instructions on the Emmaline site tell you that the frame needs to be zipped open and shut several times and will eventually seat itself properly on it's own. It's true. I just kept opening and closing the bags and they took their shape after a while. I believe this process is much easier on a fabric bag. There are some adorable feminine bags made from this pattern with prints. Handles are attached and they look quite functional. Just look how the bag opens wide. How nice is that for a women's bag?
Here is the inside of Jack's bag, a cotton batik that's been vinylized.

Above is a close up of the zipper installation and the wire frame channel next to it. The topstitching really seems to sink right in this faux leather.

In Conclusion:

This is a great design, easy to make, and FREE. It looks better with the specified  wire frames so I recommend them. A nice zipper pull , which I did put on Jack's, adds a bit of panache as well.  If you feel that you haven't been sewing enough for the men in your life and would like to make a gift that is quick, looks good and is functional, the Emmaline Retreat Bag is for you. For the women in your life, this would make a great makeup bag and I might make myself one out of some cottons. I will definitely be making more of these and I hope you give them a try. As always, NAYY.........Bunny


  1. I love these bags (so well made, etc) but as a frequent traveller who does carry on luggage, my toiletry bag has to be an ugly plastic baggie! Karen

  2. They are so gorgeous, and so much better than any thing you can buy.

  3. Just so you know, comments are disappearing. I will see a new one, go back and it's gone. Sorry about this. Hopefully blogger will get this fixed soon. Thanks for the nice comments. I did see them and they are appreciated. Hopefully this will stick.

  4. A fun project and an entirely successful one. They do look great in the "leather". I also love that you can get a good look inside.

  5. These bags are definite winners! The faux leather really does a good job of imitating the real thing, taking this simple design to another level. I picked up some of this same faux leather at Walmart a couple years ago too, and wish I'd bought more! I made Bible covers out of mine and got rave reviews. It's a pleasure to sew with too. Great job as always Bunny, and thanks so much for sharing : ) Linda S.

  6. Oh these bags are just amazing! I always love your attention to detail. I was given a supply of faux leather by a downsizing crafter and this would be a great way to use some of it. What size/type needle and thread would you recommend?

    As for the disappearing comments...this blog post appeared twice in my feed, with different comments in each post.

  7. These bags are beautiful. They are definitely well made high end bags! I am sure your grandsons will treasure these bags. The care, thought and love you put into each bag is quite evident.


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