Introduction: Artist Portfolio From Oilcloth

When my daughter left for college I was left with a pile of artwork that I couldn't bear to throw out, but I didn't have a place to store. I looked on the internet for artist portfolio and realized that the good ones cost $50 and were boring black. Then I thought about making one and remembered I had a big piece of oilcloth left from another project. Oilcloth in the old days was cloth coated in linseed oil to make it water repellent. Now when you buy it is is cloth coated in plastic.

A couple of tips on oilcloth:

1. When you sew oilcloth on a machine you literally have to gently pull it through. I heard about putting tape on it to make it glide, but a freind who is a much better seamstress told me that that will gum up your machine and your needle. I found that when I made seams I just gently tugged from the back of the machine and it worked fine.

2. Also, you don't want to use pins because they will leave little holes in the plastic coating of the oilcloth. Binder clips work great. I only had a few, so I augmented with tiny wood clamps I had. You could also use chip clips I think. The tiny binder clips are the best. You can't leave them on as close to the machine as you can a pin. I take pins out very close to the presser foot, but the binder clips have to come off a bit sooner. Clamp as much as you would pin or even more. You cannot pick and resew without ruining the cloth. So clamp a lot!


For this project I wanted to be able to store a 20 inch by 30 inch piece of poster board easily.

4 pieces pieces of oilcloth:

*34 inches by 44 inches for the body of the bag

*30 inches by 6 inches (2) for the sleeves for the dowels

*30 inches by 10 inches for the flap over the top

You also need

36" dowel 1/4 inch thick (2) I got lucky and had just taken down some old blinds and I got to use the pull sticks from them. They had a cool platic hole on one end that I used. If you use plain dowels, you will have to use a drill to put a hole in them to accomodate the split rings. If that is the case you might want to go up on the diameter of the dowel slightly.

12 " of stick on velcro

Long strip of fabric for the handle. I had some light weight demin. Depending on your desired handle width you could go as skinny as 3 inches. The handle was very long, about 84 inches, so it was tough to turn because the fabric was so stiff. I would go with a four inch wide piece about 90 inches long. I will show you how to join the strips since you will likely need to.

1" split rings. (2) (If you use a 1/4 inch dowel you might want to go a bit smaller on the split rings.

A "denim" needle for your sewing machine. (The only other time I used oilcloth I went with a regular needle and it was OK, But the denim needle is recommended.) At least use a fresh needle if you use a regular one, the oilcloth is definetly going to give your machine a workout.

Thread that is not lightweight. I used just regular cotton/poly thread and it was fine.

Step 1: Cut the Oil Cloth

I used the poster board as a guide to cut the main piece of oilcloth. I wanted at least an inche on each side to account for a seam allowance.

Next I cut the two pieces that were going to hold the dowels. I would have made them longer, almost as long as the main body of the bag, but I was using cloth in the house so I had to make do.

Finally the piece I had left was just big enough to make a flap.

Step 2: Sew All the Edges Under on the Three Smaller Pieces.

I sewed the shorter edges first on all three pieces. I folded them over and used lots of clips so they wouldn't shift when I sewed. I sewed about 3/8 inches under, but really just used the edge of my presser foot to measure. The goal is to have all three pieces with edges sewn under all the way around. Then do the same with the short sides of the large piece. (The edges that will become the top of the envelope.

Step 3: Sew the Two Long Edges of the Dowel Holders Together to Make a Sleeve and Attach It to the Wrong Side of the

The sewing machine was fine with three thicknesses of fabric, but you do have to tug it gently over the entire time. The feed dogs will just stop if you don't tug.

Step 4: Add the Flap on One Side.

I sewed this right sides together just below the edge of the tube for the dowel and it was long enough to fold over. You can see from the back that I sewed it with the "raw" edge under and then folded it over.

Step 5: Use Sticky Back Hook and Loop to Close the Flap.

Step 6: Trim the Dowels So They Are Just a Bit Longer Than the Bag.

You might have to drill a hole to accomodate the split ring. I only put one split ring on each end and ran the handle through that, so the handle is one big loop. Then I added a hook and loop 'fastener' to keep the two ends together to carry the bag.

Step 7: Next Take the Dowels Out and Sew Up the Sides of the Bag, Right Sides Together.

In this picture you can see all the seams. I used a 3/8 inch seam on the sides. Use lots of clips, (Or in my case the same clips over and over) so the fabric doesn't move when you sew. You can't take oilcloth seams apart and resew without damaging the fabric so clip clip clip.

Step 8: Turn the Bag Right Side Out and Add the Hook and Loop Closures.

I bougth one foot of hook and loop and it was plenty.

Step 9: To Make a Long Strap You Might Need to Join Two Strips of Fabric Together.

This is a quick reminder of how to do it, but you can search "join two strips of fabric with a diagonal seam" on the internet and finds tons of videos on how to do this step. I then folded the strap in half and sewed right sides togeher. Next is turning which can be tricky with such a long piece. I ended up using the dowel as a turning rod. I did sew along the edges of the strap after I turned it so it would lay flat, but you do not have to do this. I tried out the size of the strap then trimmed a bit off, tucked one end in the other and sewed it into a loop WHILE IT WAS TRHEADED THROUGH THE RINGS.

Step 10: Add a Little Hook and Loop Closure Around the Ends of the Rods.

To get the dowels to stay together when using the portfolio I wrapped one dowel at each end with hook and the other with loop. I left a plain piece of foam core in the portfolio to give it shape when it is empty. I put two nails in the wall in a closet to be able to hang it when it is not in use. (You could hang it by the handle, but then the nails have to go into the wall very high!)

Hope you enjoyed this instructable. I like that I got something for (almost ) nothing, as I had all materials on hand except for the hook and loop.

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