A couple of years ago, a friend did something kind for me and I thought that I would return the kindness by making her a similar file holder to help organize her boys. (We’d had discussions about how hard it is to keep track of everything.) Before I started I thought – “Gee. This may turn out pretty cute, maybe I’ll make some to sell on Etsy.” Hahahaha! Then I endured days of fabric strewn across my dining room table, pins and scraps on the floor, and kids who kept begging me to please let them sew something too! Yep – scratch that Etsy idea.
So here I am, years later, and I decided to put myself through the same torture once more. Kinda like childbirth – you forget how painful it was once you are focused on your beautiful finished product!
I am not a seamstress. So so so not a seamstress. I can sew simple curtain panels and pillows that never have sharp corners – and that is about the extent of my talents(?). The really sad part about this is that my mom is an excellent seamstress. My parents had a furniture reupholstering business, and my mom sewed almost every cushion for the hundreds of couches and chairs that they upholstered. She also made every formal dress I ever needed, and countless Halloween costumes for me (and some for my kids too.)
I also have a sister that is an awesome seamstress. She makes beautiful quilts, wall-hangings, dolls – really just about anything that can be sewn. It’s amazing.
Kevin always teases me for not paying attention when my mom and dad were working. It would be so nice to have learned some of their secrets. Pretty much the only thing I learned how to do was pull staples and tacks out of the piece so that they could remove the old upholstery and get to work. Hmmm….maybe they recognized my lack of talent??
So… back to my project. Truthfully, the hardest part about this project was not the sewing. The hardest part was figuring out how to put it all together. I used my old file holder as a guide, and that definitely helped with dimensions, but determining how to fit the pieces together hurt my head.
Ahem… Update to this story.
A very, very sweet friend (Rheanel) saw my initial post about the organizer and thought that she could use one to manage her mountains of paperwork. And she told her very, very sweet friend (Lori!) about it. That friend also thought that she could use one. Do you see where this is going?? How do you say no to 2 very, very sweet ladies? You don’t.
I did procrastinate for a long time though. Then I decided to take them up on their offer to help. We had one marathon sewing session, and another morning get-together to add the finishing touches. So much fun. They told me many times what a blessing this was to them, but they have no idea how much they blessed me! It was wonderful to share stories and laughs with 2 amazing women while we worked. Unfortunately I have no pictures of the lovely ladies at work. I am terrible about stopping to take pictures. ugh.
Soooo… Here’s what you’ll need for this project:
3 1/2 yards of fabric (this is based on an organizer that is nearly 4-feet long, with 9 pockets)
fusible interfacing (the size of the organizer base)
heavy-duty sewing machine needles (make sure to have several extras!)
metal book plates (optional)
thread and other notions
DISCLAIMER: As I mentioned earlier, I am not a seamstress. My methods and instruction may not be the best possible way of doing things. If you need clarification on a step, feel free to email me. If you need further instruction on proper methods of doing things, please search any of the very competent sewing sites out there!!
STEP 1. Determine the size.
This will dictate the number of pockets you can fit, and how much fabric you’ll need. I was happy with the size of my original holder, so I kept the same length (47″), but made it a little bit wider (15″ – the original is 13″). I intended to make the same number of pockets, but (ahem) didn’t space them quite right, so I ended up with one less. I have 9 pockets. Plenty.
STEP 2. Buy your fabric – fun!
I used one fabric for the base, and a different fabric for the pockets. I recommend a medium-weight fabric. You will eventually be sewing over multiple layers of fabric, and you don’t want it too bulky.
Unless you are buying home decor fabric (which is 54″ wide and rolled onto a long tube in the store), your fabric will likely be 45″ wide off the bolt. My holder is 15″ wide, and it is double-sided. So I only needed one width of the fabric. One width covers front and back of the holder, plus seam allowance.
I bought enough fabric for the length of the holder PLUS enough to make each of the pockets 2-ply. (To make them more substantial.)
STEP 3. Make the base.
(I never take the time to take pictures of the process. In order to show you how I did things, I went back through my steps, making a very small organizer with some scrap fabric.)
Cut your fabric to the size you want the organizer – Add at least an inch to the length measurement, and double + 1 inch for the width.
Lay the fabric face down and center a piece of fusible interfacing (cut to the size of your base) in the middle. Follow the interfacing instructions (usually included when you buy it) to adhere it to your fabric.
This picture shows the edges already pressed in. I suggest that you wait until the next step until you press the edges.
Fold the ends of the fabric in. You want the ends to meet in the middle, but not overlap (to avoid additional bulk). Fold excess fabric under, so that the folded edges meet neatly in the middle. Press the edges. You need to sew the edges into place.
Sew each folded edge. (It might seem weird that you’ll have 2 seams running down the middle, but the pockets will cover most of this. Just make sure you pick a good thread color so that it isn’t as noticeable. Or be sure to sew as straight as possible! :)).
This picture shows how it looks from the front of the base. I used yellow thread (it was in my machine already), and you can see that it really isn’t that noticeable, even though it’s right in the middle of the base.
Leave the top and bottom edges unfinished for now.
STEP 4. Make the pockets.
I recommend making them 2-ply. I cut 9 pockets (18 squares total). I made my pockets 16″ wide and 9″ high. (Regardless of the size your choose, just make sure the pockets are at least as wide as your base!)
For each pocket: Put the right sides of the fabric together. (You are going to stitch the top edge, so pay attention to how you lay the fabric, in case there is a pattern that runs up or down. ) Sew a 1/4″ seam along the top edge, sewing the piece together. Press the seam open.
Fold the wrong sides together, and then press the seam flat. (The bottom edges will be sewn together when you attach it to the base.) You have your first pocket!
Repeat for all of your pockets.
STEP 5. Sew the pockets to the base.
***Before you begin to arrange your pockets, fold the top edge of your organizer back about 1/2-inch, and sew into place.***
a. Sewing the bottoms of the pockets:
Obviously, only the bottom and sides of the pockets are sewn to the base. (The top of the pocket stays open – sounds so obvious, but these are the reminders that I need when I’m in the midst of a sewing project!)
Decide how much of the base you want to show at the top. Keep in mind that the folders will stick out of the top pocket a bit, and you will need space to attach grommets.
On my ‘real’ organizer (not this tiny one) I placed the top of my first pocket 5 inches from the top of the base. Try to keep the space between pockets even. Measure from the top of one pocket to the top of the next pocket the whole way down. (I spaced mine approx. 4 inches apart.) When you’re happy with the spacing, pin the top edge of each pocket in place.
The pockets will be wider than the base. They get finished later – just try to have about the same amount of excess on either side of the base. It doesn’t matter if your bottom pocket is at the very bottom of the base. If you have the spacing the way that you want it, and there is excess at the bottom, you can trim the excess later.
Start at the bottom pocket, and sew the bottom edge of the pocket to the base. Remove the pins from that pocket, and fold it over so that it’s out of the way and you can sew the bottom edge of the next pocket.
(In this picture, I have already sewn the 3 bottom pockets, and am moving them out of the way to sew across the bottom of the top pocket. Notice how even this tiny organizer is too long, and starts to roll up the side of the machine.)
Add each remaining pocket, sewing only along the bottom of each pocket. (You’ll have to roll up the organizer so that it fits in the machine as you work your way to the bottom.)
b. Sewing the sides of the pockets to the base:
I had a little problem with this when I made mine. My fabric was too thick, and I didn’t have a heavy-duty needle. My mom finished it with her upholstery machine. (And my quilting sister was there to help finish the edges! Lucky me! :))
Rheanel and Lori chose less bulky fabric, and I changed the process a bit, so I really didn’t have trouble sewing theirs with my machine. I did break several needles though, so hopefully you bought extra!
On the wrong side, (so that you are sure not to veer off of the base as you sew) sew along each side of the organizer, about 1/4 -inch in from the edge of the base. Sew along the pockets only – there’s no need to sew to the very top of the organizer, but you can if you like the look of the seam going to the top.
STEP 6. Finish the edges.
First, you’ll need to trim any excess pocket fabric from along the edges.
I didn’t finish the sides of the small organizer because I actually remembered to take pictures when I was working on the Lori’s and Rheanel’s.
Cut a 4-inch strip of fabric that is long enough to run along both edges and across the bottom of your pockets. (You could also use twill tape for this – but it needs to be 3-4 inches wide.)
You will probably need to piece sections together to make it long enough. You can just sew the pieces together straight across, but if you want it to look a little more seamless, this is a nice way to add them together (go to the joining the strips section). The joint is not as obvious if you use this method, especially when using a printed fabric. This is how it looked when I did it…
And this is my finished piece…
Once you have a strip long enough to go around, press in one of the short edges about 1/4-inch. Lay the pressed edge, wrong side up, along one edge of your organizer (at the top of the first pocket). Position the strip at least 1/2-inch in from the edge of the base. (Sorry – the following picture shows the strip lined up along the edge of the base. I moved it in about 1/2-inch before I sewed it. Forgot to take another pic!)
The next step gets confusing when you get to the bottom corners of the organizer. I have tried to show pictures to help, but please check out videos on sewing websites if you need further help. I’m really not very good at corners (at all), so I recommend that you look to an expert for more explanation. The process is called mitering corners (of quilts or blankets).
Sew the strip along the edge, stopping (and then reversing as you would at the end of any seam) about 1/4-inch from the bottom. Remove the organizer from the machine, pinch the strip (like in the following picture), and then starting about 1/4-inch from the edge, resume sewing the strip across the bottom. Stop about 1/4-inch from the other edge of the organizer. Remove the organizer from the machine, pinch the strip (like in the following picture), and then starting about 1/4-inch from the bottom, resume sewing until you are about 2-inches from the top of the first pocket.
Trim the strip so that you can fold it in about 1/4-inch and it will reach the top of the first pocket. Hold the fold in place (you can press it if you want) and sew to the end.
Unfold the strip so that it wraps around the edges of the organizer. You might have to fuss with the corners a bit to make them as sharp as possible. Press the strip into place, making your edge nice and sharp. Now you have to sew the back edge of the strip. Fold the unsewn edge of the strip under so that your seam can be close to the edges. Press into place. Sew along the pressed edge of the strip.
This is the only picture that I took of the finished edge! Notice that my corners are not perfect!
STEP 7. Finishing Touches!
Now you need to add a way to hang it. I used grommets. I found them in the drapery aisle at JoAnn Fabrics. Buy the package that includes the tool that you’ll need to attach them to the fabric (if you don’t have one already!). It’s really simple! I used three – I wanted to make sure it would hang straight, and I also knew that it would get pretty heavy as the school year moved along.
Metal bookplates on the front of each pocket make it easy to add labels to the pockets. I found these in the scrapbooking section at JoAnn’s. You can sew them in place, but it is much easier to buy a pack of brads (like these) to attach the plates to the pockets.