Introduction: Minimalist Cork IPad Sleeve

About: Dream. Create. Inspire.

Build this minimalist iPad sleeve from renewable cork. Fits the iPad and iPad 2 (with cover attached), slips easily into a bag, feels great to touch. Friends and colleagues will covet it.

Step 1: Materials

Things you'll need:

a) Enough 1/8" rolled cork to make two 10" x 11" (approx.) rectangles. You can get this at most office supply stores. I've found not all rolled cork is the same. I prefer some I found at Staples. It uses slightly smaller particles of cork and is a little smoother than others I've seen.

b) Cotton fabric for backing the cork. Something like a bed sheet will do (enough to make a couple of 9" x 11" (approx.) rectangles. If you buy the fabric new, make sure to wash and iron it first to remove sizing. It'll stick better to the cork that way.

c) Fleece. Not too thick. Enough to make a 10" x 24" rectangle. Folded over it makes the inside pouch.

d) Template PDF (included with this instructable).
e) Fusible web. This is available at fabric stores. It's basically a thin sheet of hot-melt glue. With an iron, it's used to fuse the fabric backing to the cork to give the cork a little more strength. Get the heaviest variety of fusible web you can.

f) Iron, ironing board, and ironing cloth (anything to cover the fusible web when you're ironing it -- it'll really help save your iron from becoming a sticky mess).

g) Xacto knife (sharp blade) and a ruler/straight edge
h Wood glue and brush. Elmer's *wood* glue works fine.
i) Needle and thread (to sew the fleece into a pouch)
j) For gluing, a bunch of 1-1/4" wide Binder clips and about a dozen "hobby" sticks (I used sticks that were 1/4" wide and about as thick as popsicle sticks).

k) Sand paper for finishing. I used 180 grit for rough sanding and 400 wet/dry paper for finishing. The later leaves a very silky surface.

Step 2: Prepare the Template

Print out the PDF template. Twice.

It's just a little too big to fit on letter sized paper, so you'll have to use 11x17 paper. It's best to print two: one on card stock for tracing onto the cork; one on plain paper to use as a pattern for cutting fabric. I'll assume you take this advice. So, cut the card stock one on the outer lines. And, cut the paper template on the inner lines (the inner lines are on three sides. The curved side is the same for both.)

Step 3: Prepare Cork Pieces

For working with the cork pieces, I found it's easiest to to cut them to approximate size first. Once you have your pieces, trace the larger template onto them using a thin marker. After you've traced the outline, using the ruler and Xacto knife, cut the pieces to shape.

If your cork has curl from being on the roll, it's best to copy the template to the same side of each piece, curl-wise. I used the "outside" of the curl.

Admire your pieces for awhile and hold them up to your iPad just to make sure everything looks reasonable at this point.

Step 4: Prepare Fabric Backing

Next step is to prepare the fabric pieces that will be ironed onto the "inside" of the cork pieces to add a little stability. Again, it's probably easier to cut pieces approximately to size before trying to cut them to the template. Stack the two pieces of fabric and pin to them the smaller of the two templates you prepared before (the one on plain paper). Finally, cut the pieces out around the pattern.

Lay one of the fabric pieces on a cork piece just to see if everything looks right. If things are OK so far, you should line the fabric flush with the curved side and there should be 1/4" of cork border on the other three sides.

Note: if the curl of the cork is getting to be a pain to work with, you can use an iron to flatten the cork out. Set the iron to "Wool" and cover the cork piece on the ironing board with an ironing cloth. Carefully iron over the cloth and check the cork periodically to see how it's going and when it looks like it's flattening out, stop and let it cool.

Step 5: Attach Fabric Backing to Cork

This next step is to iron the fabric pieces onto the inside of the cork. You do this using the pieces of fusible web.

A couple of notes about using the fusible web.

a) First, make sure the fabric you're using has been washed. This removes new fabric's "sizing" and makes the fusible web stick better. If you're repurposing fabric from something else, chances are its already been washed.

b) Read the instructions for the fusible web you're using.

c) Use a pice of scrap cloth between your iron and the web when there's any chance of the iron coming in contact with the web. If you don't, and the iron touches the web, it'll become a sticky mess. You've been warned.

Before you get going on this step, heat your iron … the fusible web I used suggested the "wool" setting with no steam, but read the instructions for the web you're using to be sure.

OK. Back to ironing the fabric on. This is done in two steps: first you tack the fusible web to the fabric with the iron; second, you remove the paper backing from the fusible web then position and iron the fabric onto the cork. The web between them melts and fuses the two sides together.

To tack the web to the fabric, place the fusible web on the ironing board, paper side down. Next, place one piece of fabric over it. Then, carefully with the heated iron (see the fusible web instructions), heat the fabric long enough so the web begins sticking. Once the fabric is fairly well stuck, you should let it cool. Then, finally, trim off any excess web by cutting around the edge of the fabric. Repeat this for the second fabric piece.

Now, to iron the fabric onto the cork. First, peal the paper backing off of one piece of fabric and place the fabric face-down on the cork. Line it up so the fabric is flush at the top and there's a 1/4" border around it. Next, cover the fabric/cork with an ironing cloth and heat with the iron, section by section, until the web has melted and attached the fabric firmly to the cork. You can remove the ironing cloth periodically to see how things are going. Make sure that the fabric is firmly attached with no bubbles.

Step 6: Prepare Fleece Pouch

The fleece pouch is what the iPad actually comes in contact with. The easiest way to prepare this is to fold the fleece piece in half, cut the folded piece so it's the right width, then sew up the edges to create the pouch.

Fold the fleece in half along the short dimension. Make sure the fuzziest side of the fleece is inside. Next, take the pattern you used for the fabric before and pin it to folded fleece. Line up the flat "bottom" side of the template with the fold. Let the fleece extend past the top of the template, the excess will be trimmed off after the sleeve has been glued together. Finally, carefully trim the fleece to the size of the pattern on each side. And, round the corners at the bottom a little to match the pattern.

When you're done, lay the fleece on top of the cork piece and make sure it doesn't extend beyond the fabric. This is important to make sure there's room to glue the cork sides together later.

The last thing you need to do with the fleece is to stitch up the sides. This may not be totally necessary, but it makes everything a little more secure. I just used a "whip" stitch running from the bottom to the top. Notice how in the picture the stitching stopped just below what would be the top and is looped around a few times to reinforce the end. Leaving the top a little open will make it easier to slide the iPad in later, and put less pressure on the cork.

When you've stitched one side, you might put your iPad in the fleece to see if it looks like everything is continuing to fit. If all looks good, stitch up the other side.

Now, we're ready for the big step of gluing everything together!

Step 7: Glue It All Together

So the gluing is the tense part of this operation. If this step goes awry, all the previous work is lost and you have to start over, so tread a little carefully. Of course, once you start, you have to move quickly to make sure the glue doesn't dry before everything is put together.

Even though it's a tense moment, it's really not that difficult.

First, get all the materials you need for this step together:

a) The cork pieces
b) The fleece pouch
c) Wood glue and brush. I used a small container to hold the glue so it's easy to dip the brush when I'm gluing
d) Binder clips (the 1-1/4" size is what I used, with a couple of smaller ones to fill in)
e) Some small "hobby" sticks to go between the clips and the cork so the cork surface isn't marred. The ones I used were 1/4" wide and about 5" long. I had to cut a couple of sticks down to fit across the bottom. You can do this with some clippers or your Xacto.

OK. Put the two cork pieces side by side and lay the fleece on one of them. Make one final check to be sure everything looks good.

Now, take a deep breath and start gluing. Paint glue along the curved top and a little towards the bottom of the fabric. This will serve to attach the fleece at the top and anchor it at the bottom. Put the fleece down and press it onto the glue.

Next, glue around the three exposed sides (left, right, and bottom). Make sure not to put glue too far in from the edges. Glue all the way to the top on the sides When the first cork piece has been applied with glue, repeat with the second piece of cork. You have to move a little quickly so the glue doesn't dry. When you're finished with the second piece, check the first piece and if any spots have begun to dry, dab a little more glue on them. Make sure there's enough glue, but not too much that it will spread all over when you clamp the sides together.

Once the gluing is finished, it's time to put the two halves together. Turn the side without the fleece over and place it on top of the fleece with glue side down and line everything up.

Now, it's time to clamp the sides all around. You have to move carefully, but quickly, here. Pick an edge and put a hobby stick on either side of the cork sandwich. Now, while you're holding the sticks in place, clamp them together using a binder clip. Keep the clip close to the edge of the cork. This sleeve is a snug fit on the iPad and if you clamp too far in from the edge, the iPad may not fit.  Once the first clip is in place, make sure everything is still lined up and move to the other side and repeat the process with another set of hobby sticks and binder clip.

If the pieces are still lined up and with the first two clips in place, it should be easy to move around and place the other clips. As you place the other clips, make sure you place them with hobby sticks close together and close to the edge. Pay attention as you bring the sides in contact with each other that there's enough glue to make a good bond. If it looks like a spot has dried too much, you can carefully dab a little glue in before you clip it. As a final step, make sure the fleece has been pressed completely against the inside at the opening. You'll cut off the excess later after the glue has dried.

WHEW! When you're all finished, step back and take a breath. Then, look at everything to make sure it's OK. (e.g. you didn't accidentally put one of the pieces on backwards, etc.)

Now you have to wait a while. Good time to take a break. Clean up a bit. Whatever. Read the instructions on your glue, but with standard wood glue, I'd leave your sleeve quietly for 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Then, it's OK to remove the clips and admire your creation. Treat it gingerly still, but if it looks like everything is holding you can try inserting your iPad at this point. You might hear some crackling as the glue joints separate a little on the inside, but as long as everything stays attached, it's ok and actually will help the iPad fit better later. If everything looks OK. Remove the iPad and let it sit some more. Overnight is good. Of course, if you just can't wait, you can begin sanding, but carefully.

Step 8: Finish

OK. You're gliding to a landing now.

To finish the sleeve, first, cut off the excess fleece on the top. You can insert the corner of a cutting pad and use an Xacto. Or, you can use scissors. Whatever works best for you. After the trimming, the sleeve should look pretty good. But, a little sanding will make a lot of difference.

Using some 180 grit sandpaper, sand over the surface of both sides and carefully smooth and round the edges. Go gently, but make sure to sand off the lines from the template tracing, etc.

After you've finished with the 180 sandpaper, go over everything again with 400 wet/dry paper to really smooth things over. It creates an amazing velvety texture.

When you're done with the sanding, you can add other touches. Paint, stamp, draw, any decoration you want. You can leave the cork otherwise unfinished (my choice). Or, you can use a finish of some kind to seal the surface. One I'd like to try is just applying paste wax.

Another thing you might want is a strap to go around the top/bottom to make sure the iPad stays in the sleeve. Like I mentioned, the iPad is pretty snug in the case so, depending on your circumstances, you may not strictly need it, but it's up to you. I made my strap very simply with some double-sided velcro. It works great for me.

I've mentioned the iPad is snug in this sleeve. That's by design. I didn't want the iPad to slide out too easily. The sleeve will actually loosen up over time as the cork stretches a bit and forms to the iPad. That's one of the things I like about this cork design. If you're making this for an iPad 2, you might want to make sure it's loose enough not to catch on the hinges of the cover (assuming you have an iPad 2 cover).

So, there you have it. Like I said in the beginning, I'm really happy with mine. It feels really good to carry my iPad around in it. And, it leaves a unique impression. Enjoy!