December 13, 2010

Handmade Sketchbook Organizer

A couple of weeks ago I was asked to contribute a project for Ella's 12 Days of Christmas giveaways.  On behalf of Ella, I was sent a set of monogram labels from a company called Sweetwater.  The labels are iron-ons and are printed on a linen-like fabric; the color of which is not too white or too cream, just right in my opinion.  They feature several ideas for using their labels on their blog.  Many of the ideas are accessible and easy-to-do for those who do not know how to sew since you can always just iron the label onto a premade item.  Here is a close-up of one of labels I was sent:

When I first received the labels I thought they were quite lovely, but I didn't know what I wanted to do with them.  So I went searching.  I wanted to find something that was relatively easy to make and also practical.  I am sometimes excessively practical.  What I found was this tutorial from Martha Stewart's website for an artist's organizer.  It is a fabric notebook cover that holds a paper pad and the art supplies of your choice.

The organizer on Martha's website is made using oilcloth which I didn't want to use.  I have never sewn oilcloth and I don't need any frustrations at the moment; I know from listening to my mother that oilcloth can be difficult to work with. I went with simple lightweight cotton fabrics instead. I made some minor changes to the construction of the organizer and so I wanted to share what I did with you here.

In addition to a sewing machine and basic sewing supplies, here are the additional tools and materials you will need:
Lightweight cotton fabric and felt (the measurements will depend on the size of notebook you choose; see the directions below for how to measure)
Two pieces of ribbon measuring 18 inch long
Medium weight fusible interfacing

You will also need to choose a notebook and your artist supplies before you begin; you need these to measure your fabric and pocket sizes.

Instructions for sewing your organizer:

1.  Begin by measuring the sketchbook. The height of the foundation felt piece will be this measurement plus 1 1/2 inches. The width of the felt will be double the width of the sketchbook and I recommend adding 3 1/2 inches for the fold.

2.  Cut your felt piece according to these measurements.

3.  To create the pockets you will add one inch to the width of the sketchbook, and subtract 1 1/2 inches from the height; this is your book pocket. The tool pocket is the same width as the book pocket; the height of the pocket will vary. For a sketchbook of size 6" x 8" I found that 4 1/2 inches worked just fine. However, I made a smaller sketchbook using a notebook that was only 4" x 6" and the height of that pocket was only 3 inches. I think it is best to measure your tools first to determine the appropriate height of the tool pocket; I recommend for the pocket height to be a little over half the height of the tools.

4.  Cut both pockets according to your measurements out of the same felt material as your foundation piece.

5.  The measurement of your outer fabric piece - the cover - will be the same as the foundation piece with one inch added to both the width and the height. You will also need to cut a piece of interfacing the same size as the foundation felt piece.

6.  To begin sewing, first decide which side you want your tools on and which side you want the notebook. To sew the pockets onto the foundation piece place the corresponding pockets 1/2 inch in from one side and 1/2 inch from the bottom and pin. Repeat this with the other pocket. Sew the pockets to the foundation felt piece, using a 1/4 inch seam allowance around 3 sides. I recommend reinforcing the edges on the top of the pockets.

7.  Decide where and how many tools you want in your tool pocket. From experience I can tell you that the felt will buckle quite a bit if you try to put too many tools in the pocket and so you will need to be selective here. Also, I found that tailor chalk or washable sewing pencils did not mark on the felt. I used pins as a marker to show the placement of my desired lines and I used the edge of the already sewn pocket seam as my guide. I was able to sew a straight stitch this way fairly easily and if you keep a steady hand I think it is probably pretty simple to do on felt (versus a more slippery fabric). {Maybe someone else has a suggestion for the best product to use for marking felt?}

8.  To begin sewing the cover you will first need to fuse the interfacing to your fabric. Center the interfacing on the wrong side of the cotton fabric and following the directions for your particular brand and apply it to the cover piece. Then iron down the edges of your cover fabric by 1/2 inch. Place the wrong side of the fabric to the back of the foundational felt piece and pin. Insert a 1/2 inch of the ribbon between the fabric and the felt in the middle of each short side and pin.

9.  Sew the fabric cover and felt pieces together using a simple straight stitch with a 1/4 inch seam allowance. Be sure to reinforce the ribbon seam by going backwards over the ribbon and then forwards again.

10.  The last step is to insert your notebook and tools into the pockets and enjoy!

Gabriel's organizer holds a medium-sized notebook and colored pencils:

Nathan's organizer holds crayons:

A few comments - Gabe's organizer has the pencils on the left-hand side because he is left-handed. This means that the organizer, when closed, is a bit lumpy on the top. This doesn't bother me, but it might be something to consider if you think it might bother you. =) Also, I found that I needed to adjust the thread tension when sewing the felt alone vs. sewing the cotton fabric to the felt. You might want to practice first on some scrap pieces to see what settings work best on your machine. You might find that there is no need to adjust the tension at all. I think it may have been pickiness on my part, but I think the stitching looked better when I decreased the tension when sewing the felt pieces.

Finally, I'm counting this towards my goal of sewing an apron.  Part of why I chose to make sewing an apron a goal this year was that I wanted to just start sewing again, period. I thought an apron would be an easy project to start with before moving onto more difficult ones, like say, sewing a quilt. I feel like this project gave me the push I've been looking for. And as for those goals, I'll have a post on that soon.

If you have any questions don't hesitate to ask in the comments!  Thanks.  =)


  1. I adored this when I saw it on the Ella blog and I appreciate all the extra notes, especially about sewing the felt. This would be a perfect item to take as an activity item in the car, I love it!

  2. that is fabulous! I may have to craft one of these for another slower paced holiday. Gabriel would love it!

  3. I love that you posted how to make these! I thought they were so cute when I saw them over at Ella!

    I chose you as one of my recipients for the Stylish Blogger Award because you literally changed the way I scrap. Your sketch challenge over at Ella, and then your eBook were so inspiring to me. I now keep a notebook of sketches and almost always begin my layouts with a sketch. I had never thought to do that before, but it fits my style so well. You just rock!

    Here are the Stylish Blogger award rules:
    1. Thank and link back to the person who awarded you this
    2. Share 8 things about yourself
    3. Pay it forward to 8 bloggers that you have recently discovered
    4. Contact those bloggers and tell them about their awards

    Thanks so much for all of your inspiration!!! :)



Hello! Thank you so much for stopping by my blog, and for taking the time to comment. I love comments and I love hearing from you!

If you'd like, you can also email me at donnajannuzzi {at} gmail {dot} com

Have a blessed day!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...