Canvas "Pocket Book" Shelf




Around my house summer means kicking back with a good book. My 3 year old granddaughter loves books, but her bookshelf was a mess...books stacked and falling over and she could never find the one she wanted. So I took the bookcase out of her room and made a “Pocket Book” shelf that hangs on the wall. She can see the covers, books are easy to take out and easy to put back and it looks great in her room! It turned out so well I have been “commissioned” to make one for my niece’s daughter.

This project takes minimal carpentry and sewing skills.

4 pieces 1x4 pine
2 1/2 yds canvas or other heavy fabric
5 dowels—3/8' or 1/2”dia
wood screws - #6 x1 1/4”
wood screws -#8 x 2 1/2”
wood glue

sewing machine
scissors or rotary cutter
drill bits
stud finder

Step 1: Making the Frame

Cut the 1x4 into 4 pieces...2 sides and 2 cross pieces. Mine is 33” wide x 33” long. I had a specific space in mind for hanging the bookshelf, so my dimensions match that. You can adjust the size to make your shelf taller or wider to accommodate more pockets...use your "Instructables" creativity  And it doesn’t have to be square. That’s jut how mine worked out.

Place the pieces on a flat surface and check for square. I set my cross pieces down a couple of inches from the top and up from the bottom so they don’t show. Mark on the sides where the cross pieces go and where you will pre-drill the screw holes.

Step 2: Marking Dowel Placement

Next I decided where to place the dowels. They need to be about 6-7 inches apart and on a diagonal line along the side to allow space for books to fit in. I marked the line in masking tape and placed colored dots where I wanted the dowels. 'X' marks where I will drill. I clamped the 2 side boards together and drilled through both boards at once so the holes would line up perfectly. The hole marked furthest down on the side board will be the TOP of the shelf.

Step 3: Assembling the Frame

To assemble the frame I like the “glue and screw” method. Drill the holes slightly smaller than the diameter of the screw. (Thjis helps prevent splitting the wood.) I used 3 screws in each cross piece. Apply wood glue to the raw end of the cross pieces and insert screws. Do NOT screw dowels to frame yet. (That was the voice of experience!) Cover screw head with wood filler, sand the entire piece and put 2 coats of polyurethane on it. (Or paint yours to match the room.)

Step 4: Measuring the Fabric

Since my shelf is 33” wide I cut the canvas to 34” allowing 1 inch on each side for turning under and hemming and a half inch clearance from the side frame. I cut the length to 90". (I may adjust this after I've laid out all the dowel sleeves.)
I wanted each of the pockets to be 6-7” deep to hold some of her bigger picture books. Each dowel sleeve takes 4” of fabric. The first and last sleeves take an extra inch for hemming. The math would look something like this: 1 + 1 (inches for top & bottom hemming) + 6 1/2 (inches between pockets) x 4 (the # of pockets) + 13 (the length of a 6 1/2" pocket folded) x 4 (the # of pockets) + 4 (inches for each sleeve) x 5 (the # of sleeves) = 88"

Step 5: Hem the Sides

Long Sides: On the back side of the fabric, fold under 1/2” of fabric, iron, then fold over 1/2” again and iron. Sew along the edge to create a hem. Repeat for the other long edge of the fabric. Double check your overall width (32" for mine) after you iron, but before you sew the second side.

Step 6: Top Dowel Sleeve

Top Sleeve: The top dowel is going here. Iron under 1/2” of fabric then fold under another 2” and iron.

Step 7: Sewing the Top Dowel Sleeve

Sew 1/4” from the edge all along the top.

Step 8: Measure Out the Rest of the Dowel Sleeves

Measure down from the top edge the distance you are putting between dowels (for mine, it’s 6 1/2”). Mark it on the fabric (I use plain old white school chalk. It wipes off later with a damp cloth.) From this mark measure down TWICE the depth you want the pocket and mark again.( My pockets will be 6 1/2 “ deep so I measure down 13”). Now measure down 4” from this and mark again. This is your next dowel sleeve. Match up the last 2 chalk marks, pin, and sew across the fabric making another sleeve.

Repeat this step for each of the dowel sleeves. I’m using 5 dowels, so I’ll sew 4 more sleeves.

Step 9: Finished Sleeves

When you have all the sleeves sewn, the fabric should look something like this.

Step 10: ...and With the Dowels Inserted

Step 11: Assembling the Dowels and Frame

Now cut the dowels one at a time to fit into the frame. Pre-drill the end and slide the dowel into fabric “sleeve”. Screw into place. Repeat this step for each dowel. Photo shows my frame with the top 2 dowels in.

Step 12: Fill 'er Up!

Time to hang it on the wall. Since the shelf is 33” wide it will span 2 studs. Mark where the studs are. I used 2 screws in the top and bottom crosspiece. Pre drill the holes in the shelf. Attach to the wall using 2 1/2” wood screws.

Fill with good books, pour some lemonade, and find a hammock in a shady spot to share a story with your best friend.



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    10 Discussions


    4 years ago

    Its a great way to organize my daugter books


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I love how this one can be hung on the wall. All the ones that I've found sit on the floor. This would free up some floor space in my son's already tiny room.

    Oooh, I saw one of these in a catalog, but it was quite pricey. Maybe I can convince my dad to make this for his granddaughter for Christmas!


    8 years ago on Introduction

    These book shelves are so great and I have admired them for some time. Now I can make one without the store bought expense! Thanks for posting - looks beautiful (and your Babar is great too).


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Great idea ! I've been looking for a project like this for my niece.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    babar lives in my closet. your babar is fake.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you Thank you thank you for putting this up!! this is just what i asked my husband to make but i was too daft to draw it out well enough for him to understand my scribbles! this is perfect! now my 3 year old can look though his books without making a mess each time! Thank you!!! One step closer to an always clean home with kids!


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I always wanted to buy one of these for my kids, but they were too cost prohibitive. Thank you for taking the time to do this!


    8 years ago on Introduction

    ooh this is very cool and a great opportunity to play with some cool prints in like a duck fabric or something. ima try and make this and repost to the comments!


    8 years ago on Introduction

    This is very nice! Enough detail, and good pictures, for someone to reproduce it. Thank you for putting it up :-)