homepage: Dr. Carol JVF Burns

See the Sewing/Crafts section of my main Table of Contents for other sewing projects!

To prepare for my granddaughter's first visit, I needed to get infant stuff organized!
Since Pebble is so small, it's critical that every item has its own pocket in a compact space.
This organizer has cardboard inside a big fabric pocket, so it's rigid.
It has cargo pockets, which can be made as deep as needed!

Fabric/Cardboard Stuff Organizer


the finished organizer hung on an easel

side view of the the finished organizer on an easel

WHAT STUFF NEEDS TO BE STORED, AND WHERE?

Lay out all the stuff you want to store in your organizer.

Decide on the best arrangement for the items.

Decide where you want to hang your organizer.

Use these considerations to determine the final organizer size.

Lay out all the items to be stored
 

CUT THE MAIN FABRIC RECTANGLES

Cut two large rectangular pieces of sturdy fabric; increase the size by your desired seam allowance on ALL sides.

If you choose a fabric with visible horizontal and vertical lines, it will make it much easier to sew the pockets on.

These will form a big pocket that holds cardboard to gives rigidity to your organizer.

Cut two large rectangles of sturdy fabric
 

EMBROIDER POCKET LABELS

I use my Janome Memory Craft 350E embroidery machine.
Embroider several labels at once;
they will be zig-zagged onto each pocket before attaching the pockets to the organizer.

 

CUT THE POCKET PIECES

If your items are all similar in size, then you can make identical pockets, based on the size of the largest item.

Otherwise, customize each pocket size to its contents.

This tutorial for making cargo pockets is great; it is slightly modified for the technique I use in these instructions.

Let:
  1. $\,w\,$ denote the finished pocket width
  2. $\,h\,$ denote the finished pocket height
  3. $\,d\,$ denote the finished pocket depth
  4. $\,s\,$ denote your seam allowance
    A ⅜ inch seam allowance works well.
  5. $\,t\,$ denote the finished height of your top hem
Of course, use the same units for all your measurements (inches, centimeters, etc).

For each pocket, cut a rectangle of fabric with the following dimensions:
  1. width: $\,w + 2s\,$
  2. height: $\,h + s + t\,$
(See 0:35 of the cargo pocket tutorial to see where these dimensions come from.)

For each pocket, cut a long rectangular strip of fabric with the following dimensions:
  1. width: $\,d + 2s\,$
  2. length: $\,w + 2h + 2t\,$
(See 0:55 of the cargo pocket tutorial to see where these dimensions come from.)

If you're making lots of pockets, it's helpful to create an Excel worksheet: you put in the desired finished width, height, and depth, seam allowance and hem—let Excel compute the size of pieces you need to cut!


Each pocket: $\,(w + 2s) \times (h + s + t)\,$
(This is a snapshot from the cargo pocket tutorial.)

One strip for each pocket:
$\,(d + 2s) \times (w + 2h + 2t)\,$
(This is a snapshot from the cargo pocket tutorial.)

ATTACH LABELS TO POCKETS

Position label:
Center the label as desired on the pocket.
Keep in mind the hem on top and the seam allowances.

Straight-stitch around label:
After straight-stitching, check the label position.
It's much easier to remove a straight stitch than a dense zigzag!

straight-stitch around label
Zigzag label:
Using a dense zigzag, stitch again, covering both the raw edge and the previous straight-stitching.

With my Janome Horizon Memory Craft 9400 QCP, I use: stitch width 4.0, density 0.4

How I Zigzag at Corners:
Zigzag to very end of pocket fabric; drop needle at right.
Lift presser foot, pivot, and continue sewing.

HINT: Mark top of pocket
Write ‘TOP’ at the top, on the wrong side, inside the hem allowance. This will keep you from getting your pocket going the wrong direction in a later step!

zigzag around label

ASSEMBLE POCKETS:

Attach side strip to main pocket:
See 2:40 of the cargo pocket tutorial to see how to attach the side strip to the main pocket.
Here are some notes on the process:
  • Make sure you sew with right sides together.
  • On the Janome 9400 QCP, I use stitch density 1.5 (instead of the 2.4 default) for a stronger stitch.
  • To pivot correctly at corners, I mark my seam allowance ($\,s\,$) from the end with a marking pencil, so I know exactly where to turn.
  • On the bottom piece, at each corner, snip off the corner.

pivot at corners

clip bottom corners

Overlock edges: On my Janome 9400 QCP, I use the overlock stitch (from application menu) with foot M and density 1.0.
  • Seam just sewed:
    Overlock the raw edges, easing (curved) around each corner.
  • Top:
    Overlock the top, pressing side seams towards the ends.
  • Outside edges:
    Overlock the bottom and two side outside edges.

overedge seam just sewed;
ease around corners

overedge top;
press side seams towards ends

overedge remaining outside edges

Hem the top of the pocket:

I turn down the top hem ($\,t\,$), and stitch close to the top edge.

Then, I do a decorative stitch that hits the bottom of the hem.

hem the top
ATTACH POCKETS TO FRONT OF ORGANIZER:

See 6:30 of the cargo pocket tutorial to see how she attaches the pockets.

Make sure you leave enough seam allowance around all the organizer edges to attach the backing to the organizer and to allow for how you'll hang the organizer.

Here is my method for attaching the pockets.
Note: all marks will be hidden when the pocket is attached.
  • Turn over the seam allowance and stitch it close to the outer edge. This stitching is hidden when the pocket is attached.
  • Push out the two bottom corners of the pocket.
    Make a mark on both sides of your pocket, close to the edge, at a distance $\,h\,$ from the top. These marks are your pivot points for the bottom corners.
  • Measure between the two marks just made, and call this $\,W\,$. It may be slightly different than $\,w\,$ (the finished pocket width), but it should be close.

turn over seam allowance;
stitch close to outer edge

push out bottom corners;
make two marks at a distance $\,h\,$ from top;
the distance between these dots is $\,W\,$
  • Put four dots on your organizer to mark the four desired corner positions.
    1. Put a dot (call it $\,D_1\,$) at upper left corner.
    2. Measure across from $\,D_1\,$ a distance $\,W\,$ for the upper right corner dot.
    3. Measure down from $\,D_1\,$ a distance $\,h\,$ for the lower left corner dot (call it $\,D_2\,$).
    4. Measure across from $\,D_2\,$ a distance $\,W\,$ for the lower right corner dot.
  • Attach the pocket to the organizer with four pins, one at each corner.

put four dots on organizer
to mark pocket corner placement

attach pocket corners to dots with four pins

  • First, straight-stitch the two sides, from top to bottom, close to the edge.
    Remove pins and straight-stitch the bottom.
  • Stitch again with a zigzag: width 4, density 0.4.
    Curve nicely around the bottom corners; pleat the corner material to keep it out of the way.
    Make sure this zigzag stitch hides all marks. Zigzag again, as needed, to get good coverage.

first straight-stitch two sides;
then remove pins and straight-stitch the bottom

zigzag, curving nicely around corners

PLEATS, AS DESIRED:

Depending on each pocket's contents, you may want to put small pleats at the pocket top, as shown. This makes the opening a bit smaller, but keeps the bottom space the same. It may help to keep contents from wiggling around too much.

Fold as desired, and stitch (several times, for strength) close to the side seam, from top to the bottom of the hem.

make small pleats (as desired)


FINISH TOP EDGES OF FRONT AND BACK OF ORGANIZER:

Turn over the top edges of both the front and back slightly; zigzag to enclose the raw edges.
Be careful not to catch in any of the pocket fabric!

finish the top edges of front and back:
turn over slightly; zigzag to enclose raw edges

another view of finished top edges
(with front/back right sides together)


CREATE POCKET FOR CARDBOARD:

To create the pocket for cardboard, pin the front to the back of the organizer, right sides together. Be careful not to catch in any of the pocket fabric!

Stitch bottom and both sides. I decrease the stitch length to 1.5 (from the default of 2.4), for a shorter, stronger stitch.

If desired, overedge the seams just sewed.

pin front to back, right sides together

sew bottom and both sides


CUT CARDBOARD:

Measure the finished size of your organizer pocket.

Cut sturdy cardboard to put inside; this gives rigidity and sturdiness to the organizer.

I used two pieces of cardboard, held together on the sides with extra wide gorilla tape.
The tape also helps the cardboard slide in and out easily.

cardboard insert


CUT CARDBOARD FOR BOTTOM OF POCKETS:

Cut cardboard for the bottom of pockets (as desired).
You may only need to do this on the deeper/wider pockets.

The bottom cardboard gives more shape to the pocket, prevents it from flopping,
and makes it easier to insert and take out items.

Measure the pocket depth and width.
Cut cardboard that is about ¼" deeper and wider, to ensure a nice tight fit.
Press the cardboard firmly into the bottom of the pocket.

cut cardboard for bottoms of pockets
(as desired)


HANG, AS DESIRED

I hung mine on an easel (as shown at top of this page).
I sewed an extra fabric strip on the organizer top front to match the easel bar width.
(The easel bar is slightly shorter than the organizer width.)
Then, I attached the organizer with velcro: extra fabric strip to easel bar.