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Next to felt, plastic is one of the most versatile, trouble-free materials to use when making accessories, especially convenient bags in which to keep bath sundries and cosmetics. With minimum expense and no time-consuming sewing, you can stitch up little bags like the duffel featured today.

The duffel is made from vinyl plastic, which is easy to work with. Its natural static allows you to join most of the bag without first pinning the sections together. The plastic can be cut with ordinary scissors or a rotary cutter, and the edges require no finishing.

Vinyl plastic comes in a lovely variety of rainwater colors, such as blue, green, pink, yellow and clear. It also comes in solid crayon colors, but this plastic is usually found in thicker weights with a fabric backing.

There are only three simple stages to making the featured duffel bag: cutting the plastic, sewing the sections together and installing the grommets through which you thread the pull-string. That's it.

If you haven't worked with grommets, you'll be surprised at how easy it is to use them. Grommets have two pieces -- a peg and a protective metal jacket. With a squeeze of the grommet pliers, you can install grommets in any fabric. Grommets can also be used on shower curtains, hammocks and myriad other projects where you want tidy and sturdy protection around a hole. Grommet pliers and grommets usually come together in a package, and can be found in the notions department of a variety or sewing store. Though relatively expensive (a full set will cost $12 to $14), this tool is well worth the investment.

Before you begin, here are a few helpful hints for working with plastic.

First, use a scrap of plastic to test the tension on your sewing machine; the needle of the machine perforates the plastic, so you will want to be certain that the plastic feeds well and that you stitch with some confidence. To make for a smooth feed, put masking tape under the zipper foot and over the machine table so that the plastic feeds through easily.

Estimated working time: 1 hour

Estimated cost: $16


To make one plastic, pull-string duffel bag, you will need:

1/4 yard of 45- to 60-inch-wide vinyl plastic

Matching thread

1 1/4 yards of decorative cord, 1/4 inch diameter

2 beads, 1 inch diameter, with hole

6 to 8 straight pins

Grommet pliers and 8 grommets with 5/1 6-inch diameter

Sewing machine

Masking tape

Plastic, $2 ($7.99 per yard); thread, $1.10; cord, 49 cents; wooden beads, 8 cents; grommets and pliers, $12; masking tape, 39 cents.


Note: All seams are 1/4 inch wide; prepare pressure foot and sewing machine table as described above.

1. For bottom section of bag, use ruler and scissors to measure and cut one small rectangle measuring 6 1/2 inches wide and 5 1/2 inches high from plastic.

2. For body of bag, cut a second rectangle, measuring 24 1/2 inches wide and 11 1/4 inches high.

3. Fold large rectangle in half, matching short sides.

4. Machine-stitch along short side, 1/4 inch from cut edge, to create drum-shaped tube.

5. To make top hem of duffel, fold down 1 1/2 inches of plastic; pin to secure, if necessary.

6. Machine-stitch hem 1/4 inch from cut edge.

7. To install grommets in hemmed section, follow package directions to affix 8 grommets, all centered in hem and installed at even intervals.

8. To construct bag, fit plastic tube to bottom rectangle, raw edges even; pin plastic at each of four corners to secure, distributing plastic evenly all around rectangle and easing at corners.

9. Machine-stitch tube to bottom rectangle, being careful to keep plastic flat and cut edges even.

10. Turn bag to right side so cut edges are inside bag.

11. Thread cord through grommets, securing ends with wooden beads.

12. Fill bag, pull drawstring and display or use, as desired.

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