If you are like me you sew and make your own cloth related projects and items, you cut fabric, you embroider and you do all manner of fabric and thread related works, then you'd agree with me that we have a lot of tools and materials and we keep getting more and more. The thing then is that we need to keep track of them and not all over the place, yet keep them handy so that they are within arm's reach. Some of you may have the luxury of an extra room for studio space and racks and drawers to proudly display your materials, your spools of thread. As fellow craftsmen of any specialty, whether you are a knitter, an embroiderer, leather craft man, carpenter, designer, engineer of any kind, I think we can all agree that that our commonality is the love and pride that we have for our tools, materials, equipment and work space. I love my tools and I love getting new stuff. Consequently, I also love organizing them and taking stock of them. However, I have only one room for studio and bed and a full wall dedicated to bookshelves. So I would require careful consideration for optimal space usage.
Over the years, my varied assortment of sewing tools, including machine parts and hand sewing odds and ends has grown and they tend to get dusted with fibers and loose threads if they are all thrown together. I would have them in a pouch I'd sewn together (my very first sewing project!) to carry them to school. But a few years later, I decided that I do really need to have them well and neatly organized in spite of my space constrains so I came up with this design to categorized and separate my general sewing tools from my specialized sewing tools. It also make it easier to carry things when I travel. They will be dust and fiber free, putting me in a good mood to work from the de-cluttered environment as well as put away back into my cabinets when I am finished with them. Plus, I have a dust problem in my room, if I leave things in the open for days on end, dust from inside and outside will settle on them.
So here is the design for my sewing storage cases where I keep my sewing tools and all the rest, as well as how you can customize to fit your tools.
- Old clothing articles, I'm using old pants that I've collected, jeans included
- rigid facing
- Heavy weight Denim (for the inside)
1 x 52cm, or the length you need to go around 3 sides of your case
2 x 5" zippers
- spare bit of cotton
- quilt batting/wadding
- Snap Fasteners and setting tools: dia 8mm-10mm
- Sewing machine
- Fabric Scissors
- Tailor''s Chalk
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Step 1: Layout Your Tools and Design Your Case
Denim is a great material for designs to last a long time. They were originally designed as a hardy material for miners to wear, made to be worn in, to withstand the elements and working conditions without need of tender care or daily wash. In tandem with the jeans, It is designed to protect and last.
Which is why Denim is my ideal choice for making cases to protect my tools.
First, decide on the tools that will go together into 1 storage case and lay them out comfortably. Make sure that you have sufficient space between each tool to take them out, and also not fitted too tightly together. Choose a general shape like a square or rectangle to be the final shape of your storage case, mirror it and fit/layout your tools comfortably within the perimeters.
Measure the thickness of your tools on both sides.
Decide if you want to add additional sleeves or pouches inside the storage case.
Add the thicknesses together and that will give you the thickness of the spine of the case.
Bear in mind that this is heavy weight denim, so it acquire thickness as you sew it up.
You have now determined the overall surface area of your storage case.
Now, you will need to draw out the pattern pieces of your storage case including all the various components to determine the amount of fabric that you will need and the length of the zippers that you will need.
Step 2: Features for Your Tools
Now that you have the outer shell of your storage case, you can decide the ad-ons you want on the inside and outside.
I have gone for:
1. Pocket with snaps for my tools
2. Thread spools feature
3. Double-sided pocket insert for materials and loose bits
4. Pens pocket on the outside
1. Use a spare piece of paper to manually measure the shape and size of the pockets for your tools. You will need to use a ruler to measure the more angular tools (like the bobbin case), but for tools like pliers, marking wheel etc, you need to make sure that when you create the pattern of the pocket that you can fit your tools inside nicely.
2. This thread spools feature sits on the spine of the storage case, and allows you to thread and change your thread spools, for easy carry as well as to act as a holder that you need not remove to unwind thread. you to make a long strip of sewn denim where you cut to create stoppers and the spool holder.
3. Refer to next step.
4. Create a rectangular pattern that is roughly 3/4 the length of a normal pen and can hold the amount of pens you want. It is as easy as that.
Step 3: Double-Sided Pocket Insert for Materials and Loose Bits
This is the #3 ad-on that I have in my storage case.
It has 2 flap pockets on 1 side, 2 zipper mesh pockets on the other side as well as a buffer unit at the bottom so that after this insert is attached, it sits comfortably on top of your tools (that will not be fighting for space hence creating bulk), and acts as a separator for the tools on both sides.
Here is the pattern for this insert pocket.
And here are the materials you will need:
- 2 x mesh pieces (I got mine off an old pencil case with a spoilt zipper), 14cm x 13cm, 14cm x 5cm
- 2 x 5" zippers
- the pocket flap middle piece and the double pocket back piece cut out according to the measurements.
- some strips of denim fabric for binding.
Step 4: The Padding Insert
The size of your padding insert should be smaller by 1cm all around.
Cut a piece of cotton fabric double that size and a piece of quilt batting/wadding half that size.
Sandwich the wadding between the fabric folded over and sew it in.
Then tack it in various spots so that it does not shift around.
Step 5: Cutting Out All Patterns and Iron Facing
Cut out all your pattern pieces.
From the backing diagram, draw the both sides and the middle spine separately, adding 1 cam seam allowance and cut them out.
The opening for the pockets will be hemmed, so the seam allowance is 1cm.
The sides that are to be fixed down have a seam allowance of 0.5cm, they will be stitched down with a zig-zag stitch.
The shapes of the pockets are based on the object they are going to hold.
After you have cut out the patterns, cut out the facing for the both sides of the backing plus the spine using a rigid facing without seam allowance.
Iron the facing onto the back of you corresponding pattern pieces.
Pieces you should have:
- left and right side of the case, backing (faced)
- spine (faced)
- double sided leaf pocket pieces
- tools pocket patterns
- 2 x side stripes, thickness of the storage case including zipper, length of strip= top + side + bottom (mine will be 15+23+15cm= 53cm), width of strip= (width of final case - zipper)/2 (mine is (7cm - 1cm)/2=3cm); 2 pieces of 53cm x 3cm - 55cm x 5cm (with seam allowance all around)
Step 6: Sewing the Double-Sided Pocket Insert
This is the most complicated part of the design as it is double sided, so we are doing it first.
Follow my instructions listed with the diagram and you will not get a headache.
Double-Sided Pocket Insert (following the diagram):
First, start with 2 pieces of net material (I got mine from an old pencil case with a spoiled zipper), 14cm x 5cm and 14cm x 13cm. Attach the 5" zippers to the 14cm length and the 13cm length respectively. Connect these 2 pieces with a strip of fabric.
You should have 3 major pieces, the net piece, the pocket flap piece (middle) and the double pocket piece.
Now we begin.
0. Hem and Top Stitch these sides.
1. Using a strip of fabric, bind accordion side of the middle piece to net piece.
2. Bind top of zipper piece with a piece of fabric strip.
3. Taking the pocket flap piece and the double pocket piece, align and stitch pocket separating line to create 2 pockets
5. Use the side of the double pocket piece, fold the accordions and bind to the middle piece.
6. Fold the accordion for the double pocket piece and bind it to the net piece, which is the other side of the zipper.
7. Sew down top of binding to the pocket flap piece.
8. Sew a line across the bottom firmly securing the 3 piece together.
9. Fold up the bottom of the double pocket piece, creasing all the dotted lines, hem and top stitch
10. You are done!
Step 7: Erect and Sew the Tool Pockets
For the pattern pieces of boxes and cases, erect them so that they are ready to be attached to the backing.
You should now have our backing on both sides, a spine that will sit in the middle and connect the 2 sides, as well as the double sided leaf insert and all your tools pockets.
Step 8: Attaching Your Tools Pockets
Mark the pocket placement with your original tools placement template.
Without sewing together the backing or spine, sew your tools pockets respectively onto both sides of the backing where they should be.
Step 9: Straps and Snap Fasteners
Cut long pieces of denim and sew them into straps by folding them over.
you will need 2 segmenting straps for the thread spool on the spine and straps to attach snap fasteners for securing your tools.
With your 2 segmenting straps for the spine, have them about 1cm longer than then width of the spine.
Arrange them at the 1/3 and 2/3 point down the length of the spine so that they segment the spine into aprox. 3 equal parts. sew the straps at points 1/3 and 2/3 across the width so that the strap is divided into 3 parts. Don't sew down the sides yet.
Next, you will need 1 long piece of strap. This is for threading 3 spools of thread onto the spine. Create 1 super long piece of strap and thread 3 spools of thread onto it, adding 1 and a half times more length to that amount.
Sew down the end of the strap to the bottom of the spine. Thread 1 full spool of thread onto your strap, then thread the strap through one of the segmenting straps, repeat until you have 3 full spools of thread on the long strap. Mark the end of the strap after including allowance for a button hole. you cannot attach a snap fastener here as it will not go through the spool of thread. Sew a button hole and using the same stitch create a stoppering stitch much like the button hole then cut of the end. this will ensure that the end of the strap will not fray. Cut a notch in the middle of the end so that you can bend it.
Next, arrange where the straps will be able to hold down your tools on your backing. I have designed the straps to be anchored down on both ends to have a snap fastener in the middle so that when secured, the strap will hold down the tools and when unsecured, you will be able to easily take out your tools.
Mark where the snap fastener will be on your strap and where it will be on the backing. This point needs to be align. Do this for all your tools that need fastening straps.
Then attach all the snap fasteners.
when you have attached both sides of the snap fasteners to the straps and the backing, you can proceed to sew your strap end down onto the backing.
If you find this step a hassle, you can use elastic bands. I find that they loose elasticity over the years, so I'm using handmade straps.
Step 10: Connecting the Backing
Attach the zipper that runs around the storage case to the 2 side strips. Set aside.
Sew and attach the spine, the double sided leaf pocket and both sides of the backing together, bearing in mine to sew in the ends of the segmenting straps on the spine.But, don't sew the zipper bit to the spine part yet, it will make sewing the other parts really difficult. We are leaving that to the end.
You should now have 1 connected piece of backing that is the inner part of your storage case.
Step 11: Take Note Of:
At this point, you should be able to feel the thickness of the insert and everything.
At any time you feel that the bulk of the fabric is building up too much thickness, and you fear your will break your sewing needle, cut/shave off so of the behind build up to help you sew better and safer.
You should have 5 major pieces:
- the inner backing, for the tools
- the outer material, i'm using my previous sewing pouch case which i deconstructed, previously made from an old pair of pants
- the padding insert
- the side with the zipper
- outer pen pocket
If you hold all the parts together you will be able to have a rough idea of the end product.
Edit as you go along, try your tools in their pockets, see the bulk and bulge of the whole thing. If you decide you want to move some stuff around (the ones that are not fixed), go ahead.
For me, i decided to relocate where the pouch for the footers will go. So instead of beside the chalk box, where after zipping there is no space, I decided to put the snap fasteners on the front of the bobbin case, so now they clip there.
I have also made some small drawstring pouches from leftover cotton so that they fit into the left pockets. They will be able to hold additional things. These drawstring pouches are an easy sew.
Step 12: Attaching the Closure
Open the zipper, since it's a detachable zipper you can still separate them into 2. Attach each of the zipper side piece to their corresponding side of the backing. You are now attaching the closure to the backing (inner tool fixture piece).
You have now connected 2 of the 5 major pieces together.
Step 13: Attach the Outer Pen Pocket and Padding Insert
Align the outer material, outer pen pocket, the padding insert to the back of the tools backing piece. Make sure that where the pants open, you are able to insert you pens.
Once you are happy with where the pen pocket will go, sew the bottom of the pen pocket it's corresponding spot on the padding insert. With the padding insert smaller than the tools backing, the end and the top of the pen pocket should be jutting outside of the padding insert.
Then, tack the padding insert to the tolls backing securely.
Sew the bottom and the top of the pen pocket to the tools backing.
You have now attached 4 of the 5 pieces together, only the outer material remains unattached.
Step 14: Attaching the Outer Material
Attach the outer material the outside of the tools backing, the front of the pants with the buttons and the zippers should be where your pen pocket is.
Do it side by side if you are concerned.
I sew all the sides except for the top and the bottom of the spine, do this bit last as it will make using the sewing machine difficult.
Make sure you leave the buttoning flap for the front of the pants un-sewn because that's where your pen pocket is.
Make sure that you are able to undo the buttons and the zipper so that you can retrieve your pens.
Step 15: Sewing Down the Spine
Finish up your storage case by putting the zipper part between the tools backing and the outer material. Then sew them down.
I had hand sewn them down because they simply will not feed into the machine as it is now a big bulky form.
With that you are done!
Step 16: Insert Your Tools and Enjoy!!!
Pat yourself on the back for the hard work, it certainly has been a long process!
You can now enjoy by putting all your tools in their own personal pocket and relish in the thought that this sturdy case will last you a long long time. If you find it a bit stiff, throw it into the washing machine for a wash to soften it. It is a fully fabric case so it will stand the wash!
Now, if you will excuse me, I have to go create more storage cases for my embroidery and embellishment tools as well as my knitting and crocheting tools :D
Runner Up in the
Sew Tough Challenge