tutorial: mini pocketbook

by Valerie on October 21, 2010

in crafting,sewing,tutorials

I’m sure that many of you, like me, are on an eternal quest for organization. I know I’m not alone in finding the Container Store’s promise of a perfect, organized life utterly seductive. But here’s the thing…I don’t really like purging, I love my stuff. Therefore I also love pretty things in which to stash my stuff, so I get to enjoy my fantasy of being organized and contained.

This tutorial is about helping you stay organized, in a quick, easy, and super-cute way. It is a distilled version of the Holland Cox pocketbook, and is a breeze to make. It’s got six pockets, a loop for a pen, and a very simple but expandable closure. A perfect project for a beginning sewer who doesn’t need any more pillows or placemats! Let’s get started.

the mini pocketbook

the pattern
…is only four rectangles. I recommend measuring out your rectangles onto spare paper or poster board. All four are 9.25″ wide.

  • the body is 7.25″ tall.
  • the large pocket is 5.5″ tall
  • the medium pocket is 4.25″ tall
  • the small pocket is 3″ tall

materials needed
I chose a vintage cotton canvas for the body in a bright retro floral, and quilting weight cotton in a matching color for the interior. Denim, duck cloth, corduroy, or heavy weight upholstery fabric would also be appropriate for the body.

You’ll also need a button and a bit of elastic for the closure, and a bit of ribbon for the pen. You could probably use elastic for the pen loop too, or even a strip of fabric.

I used two layers of mid-weight interfacing on the body to give it some heft. I like to use Pellon brand craft-fuse, a non-woven fusible interfacing. A half yard of quilting cotton will be more than enough for your interior pockets.

materials needed for your mini pocketbook

cutting your fabric
You’ll be cutting the body in a single layer and the pockets on the fold. Fold your lining fabric so that the raw, cut edges are matching, and place the long sides of your pocket pattern pieces along the fold.

  • the body: cut 1 of your outer fabric (the canvas), and one of your lining (the quilting cotton)
  • the pockets: cut 1 of the lining fabric on the fold for each pocket

preparing your fabric
The first step is ironing your fabrics. Following the manufacturer’s instructions, apply the interfacing to the wrong side of your outer fabric. Let it cool slightly before applying the second layer. Iron your pockets so that they each have a nice crease along the top, and they are all the same width.

start with the pockets
1. Line up your pockets by size, with the largest on the bottom and the smallest on top, and baste them onto the body lining along the bottom.

2. Sew a line down the center to divide your three pockets into six. To find the exact center, fold in half and iron a crease, and then sew along the crease.

baste the pockets in place sew a double seam down the middle

the closure
3. Using a ruler, sewing gauge, or tape measure, find and mark the center point on both short ends of the outside body. On the right hand side, mark a spot about 1 and 1/8th of an inch in. That’s where you’ll sew on your button (by hand). My button is 5/8″ wide, but you could use any size bigger than 1/2″.

marking where to sew your button elastic loop for button closure

4. On the left hand side, use your sewing machine to baste the elastic loop in place at the spot you marked. I used an elastic hair tie, which I snipped down to 3.5″ and folded into a loop.

It’s very important that the button and elastic tie are lined up exactly, otherwise closing your mini pocketbook is going to be a challenge!

line up the button with the elastic loop

now for the pen loop
5. Cut a 2.5″ length of ribbon for the pen loop. I used 5/8″ wide grosgrain ribbon, but you could use any kind of ribbon, another length of elastic, a strip of fabric, or anything, really. Use a longer length (or something stretchy) if you plan on using an unusually large pen or marker.

Baste it in place along the edge of the large pocket, just to keep it out of the way of the button loop.

ribbon for the pen loop baste the loop in place

Almost ready to sew your body to the lining! But first, to make finishing a bit easier, I recommend pressing down a 3/8″ seam allowance along the top. You could eyeball it, but here’s what I do anytime I need to guarantee a perfectly straight pressed edge…

6. Placing the body and the lining with right sides facing, baste them together along the top with the longest basting stitch on your machine, using a 3/8″ seam allowance.

baste along the top with right sides together press the seam allowance open

7. Then, press the seam allowance open. When you rip out the basting stitches, you’ll have perfectly pressed edge on both the body and the lining that are straight and even. Hooray!

Now you are ready to sew both pieces together!

ready to sew together!

8. With right sides facing, and the folded edges matching, sew the body to the lining using a 3/8″ seam allowance, on three sides only. Leave the top, folded edge open. I like to double sew all of my seams, and reinforce the stress points of the elastic and ribbon loops.

9. Clip the corners at an angle, and turn your mini pocketbook right side out. Use your fingers to press open the seams, and a dull pencil to gently push the corners out much as you can, and then iron your pocketbook flat. Make sure you keep the top folded edges matching while you’re pressing. Fold your pocketbook closed and iron along the spine, as well.

ready for the final step! sew along the top edge

the final step!
10. Topstitch along the top edge to close up and finish your pocketbook. If you wanted to insert lightweight cardboard, plastic canvas, or timtex (the stuff the goes in the bill of baseball hats), you’d do that at this step, before the topstitching. But I found that the double layer of craft fuse gives it plenty of stiffness.

finished product!

Finito! Your finished pocket book is approximately 4″ wide and 6.5″ tall when closed. That makes the largest pockets the perfect size for a checkbook or a small Moleskine, the medium pockets Passport sized, and the small pockets ideal for credit cards, business cards, ID cards, and the like.

perfectly fits passports and checkbooks perfectly fits moleskines and ID cards

You could easily add or remove a pocket, if you were so inclined. Also, since these pattern pieces are fairly small, this is an ideal project to use up scraps, especially if you’re not fussed about all the pieces matching exactly. If you make one, I’d love to see a picture!

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If you found this tutorial useful, please use the links below to share with your friends, and of course comment to let me know what you think, ask questions, or to make any suggestions!

so, what do you think? leave a comment & let me know.

{ 84 comments… read them below or add one }

51 Miriam October 6, 2011 at 11:24 pm

Thankyou for sharing your pattern. I have just made one of these this afternoon and love it! It is perfect for our up-coming travels.

52 Maryse December 9, 2011 at 11:21 am

Thank you I can’t wait to make some for gifts!

53 Laura Bray December 9, 2011 at 5:22 pm

So cute! I just “pinned” this. I’m going to have to make it!

54 Nancy December 10, 2011 at 10:02 am

Great tute. I’m going to give this a try this afternoon. Thanks so much for sharing!

55 Sasha December 11, 2011 at 7:18 pm

I loved this tutorial and what a perfect look! I might try creating one…..Thanks for sharing this.

56 elya December 13, 2011 at 1:46 am

I do love this tutorial and try one for my self. It is simple and easy to understand…elya/Jakarta

57 Sasha December 13, 2011 at 6:23 am

Hi Valerie,

I couldn’t sleep until I made this after reading your tutorial. So headed to Joann and got Pellon Heavyweight fusible interfacing and tried out on a simple polyster/cotton mix fabric for outer body. I encountered one problem while sewing the last open end. I kept the elastic band side open and sewed the remaining 3 sides and my machine wouldn’t move. I had to hand sew that edge. If only I did not miss out reading that bit from your tutorial this would not have happened :-) I want to also try putting a interfacing to the inner pockets with a single piece instead of a fold.

58 Dorria embroidery design December 23, 2011 at 9:16 am

ooooh thank you it’s really nice pocketbook and I will try make it

59 Amy December 26, 2011 at 10:59 pm

I’m very much a beginner sewer, but I thought this was cute, so I gave it a try tonight. I’m not sure if I used the wrong kind of material, or what, but the bottom of the pocketbook is really…. fat. Like there is just too much material down there. The whole thing just looks kinds bunchy- not sleek like the one in the pics. But I had fun making it- Thanks for the tutorial!

60 Valerie December 27, 2011 at 2:35 pm

Amy, don’t worry, it’s supposed to look like that! With all three pockets sewn together at the bottom, and only 2 layers of fabric along the top, there’s no way to avoid the bottom looking “fat” like you said.

If you make another and would like to reduce the bulk along the bottom, instead of cutting the pockets on the fold, cut them in single layers and then just hem the top of each pocket.

Thanks for commenting & for trying the tutorial!

61 Kristin January 2, 2012 at 10:31 am

I am SO excited that I found this. I am going to Europe in May, and I was in need of a way to carry all my credentials and such around. I might try and make a pocket larger to fit a thin camera into, as well.

62 Angela January 2, 2012 at 10:35 am

Thanks for this great tutorial! This may be may 2012 go-to birthday gift for all of my girlfriends!

63 Heather January 25, 2012 at 8:32 am

Lovely idea. It’s the kind of article you make to have ready for when you need to find a litle gift for a friend. I think it’s ideal as a “Thank You gift or a “Just because” gift. It might be an incentive to the younger set to be more organized,,,and it could be personalized too. Thanks for a wonderful idea.

64 Dana February 3, 2012 at 4:01 pm

I made a pattern based off of your pattern for a pocketbook that would hold a moleskine notebook in it. So pleased with the results! Thanks so much!

65 elisia April 3, 2012 at 3:30 pm

Achei o tutorial muito bom.Obrigada por torna fácil algo que não é tão fácil assim.

66 Pvc fabric April 15, 2012 at 10:38 am

I made this with your pattern and it is so great that now my sister and another friend are begging for their own. So guess I’ll be making more. Lol. I made some smaller pockets for a couple of credit cards and the pen holder came loose so I fixed with stronger thread in that spot.

67 Marilyn April 23, 2012 at 9:11 am

Love your tutorial. Can’t wait to make it

68 Rita April 23, 2012 at 10:14 am

I like this. Maybe I’ll try it with denim.

69 Adele April 24, 2012 at 10:23 pm

Made 2 today, it was fast and easy, and very cute! I used leftover Hello Kitty fabric and I put the button in the back so the front stays flat. I also used different color fabrics for the pockets. Perfect for size for our passports! Thank you!

70 Glory Lennon April 26, 2012 at 12:04 pm

This is nifty!

71 Cheryl Pieri May 14, 2012 at 10:37 pm

I am really looking forward to making this!! I have 4 daughters, and 2 grand-daughters plus lots of female in-laws. Good thing it’s a simple design. Can’t wait too get started. Thank you sooooooooooo much.

72 varintip May 14, 2012 at 11:51 pm

I love it. Thank you verymuch.

73 Genevieve May 15, 2012 at 1:05 am

I’m loving this!! Very Nice!
Thank you so much for sharing as I have been looking for something stylish and functionally beautiful like this to companion the purses I make.:)
Thanks again!

74 Epesse May 15, 2012 at 2:18 am

Thanks for sharing this amazing tutorial. I have some lovely scraps…. maybe I have to try :)

75 Jennifer Gilmour May 15, 2012 at 10:15 am

Wonderful tutorial!

76 Susan May 15, 2012 at 10:18 am

Thanks very much for sharing this. I just hate large pocketbooks and this is a fantastic find for me!! I have made it into a PDF if you would like to email me I would be glad to send it to you

77 Vicky May 15, 2012 at 10:37 am

I LOVE this. Definitely going to try it when I have a sewing machine…

78 stephanie lloyd May 16, 2012 at 4:44 am

Made this using my favourite Toyota Sewing Machine after seeing the link and absolutely love the easiness but effectiveness of this…love it!! Thanks

79 alex m lynch May 16, 2012 at 7:17 am

very nice colors and design, thanks for the tutorial !!!!!!!!!!

80 Mariëlle July 10, 2012 at 2:14 pm

I’m dying to try this.. If only fabrics, sewing thread and interfacing weren’t so expensive in Paris *hummmm…

81 rosa rodriguez February 2, 2014 at 12:08 pm

hello and good morning….just want to say that this was a very cute and easy project that you have made. I will enjoy making this for my daughters. Even for Christmas gifts or as gifts for a special occasion.

Thank you for sharing…awsome!

82 Mikey March 10, 2014 at 8:38 pm

I also found the bottom to be quite “fat”. If I make another one, I will certainly make the pockets out of one layer of fabric and simply hem the tops of the pockets, as Valerie suggested.

Made a few changes to the original tutorial that worked for me:
1. I swapped out the button fastener and used a large elastic that wraps the length of the pocketbook.
2. Made fewer pockets; I’m using the pocketbook as a family passport holder.
3. Instead of interfacing (didn’t have any), I used cardboard from an empty cereal box!



Thanks for the tutorial :)

83 väike laen August 1, 2014 at 4:16 am

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will often come back in the future. I want to encourage yourself to continue your great posts, have a nice morning!

84 Edwardo August 20, 2014 at 7:31 am

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