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!

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

{ 84 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jessica October 21, 2010 at 9:20 am

Cool new blog design. And sweet pocket book. I’m lazy. I’ll order one. :)

2 Valerie October 21, 2010 at 4:08 pm

Thanks Jessica!

One of these days, I’m going to get you to start sewing. I know you love your yarn & crochet hooks, but sewing is awesome too, I promise :)

3 Amanda November 19, 2010 at 4:34 pm

Valerie, thank you for such clear instructions. I do have a sewing machine that has been rather neglected, taught myself to use it then got dispondent. But I will definitely try this. Blessings…Amanda

4 Valerie November 19, 2010 at 10:37 pm

Hi Amanda,
So happy that you’re going to try this! Please do share a photo of your finished mini pocketbook, I’d love to see it!

5 Tascha December 16, 2010 at 12:35 pm

Valerie,
This site is awesome!! I love to sew and I found your blog last night and so far I have done 3 of your tutorials! I would like to send pics but the camera is out of commission! :( I am a blog stalker and I love checking out tutorials and projects done by other people but this is the first time I have completed 3 tutorials from one blog!!! <3 Your awesome chick! Keep up the good work!

Tascha <3

6 Valerie December 16, 2010 at 3:40 pm

Tascha,
I’m so happy that you’re enjoying the tutorials! When you get your camera fixed, I’d love to see some pictures. I have some new projects planned for the new year, so I hope you like those too! :)

7 Frances January 26, 2011 at 4:00 am

Love this site! I can’t wait to get a sewing machine and do some of your tutorials! Thank you so much for the clear instructions and photos :) They are all really appreciated!

8 Valerie January 26, 2011 at 3:40 pm

Frances, thank you so much. I’m so happy you’re enjoying my tutorials! Please feel free to send me questions if you run into problems while you’re making them, and of course, I’d love to see pictures of what you make!

9 Gen Chicka January 29, 2011 at 5:21 pm

WOW! Love it, thanks for such a great idea and for sharing it.

10 Lauren January 31, 2011 at 1:34 pm

Hi! I stumbledupon your tutorial here and immediately thought “this looks like my wallet!” and got all the way to the bottom before I realized you made them both! Thanks for the tutorial! I’ve picked up sewing since I bought my wallet from you in Raleigh, NC a few Christmases back, but yours is still my favorite. Best of luck!

11 Valerie January 31, 2011 at 4:21 pm

Gen Chicka – Thank you, I hope you have fun making one!

Lauren – That’s amazing, small world, huh? Thanks for reading the blog and for commenting to let me know! I love that you are still enjoying the wallet, and I *really* love that you have picked up sewing! Please feel free to let me know if you have questions doing any of my tutorials, and of course I’d love to see pictures of anything you make!

12 Kathy Marks February 2, 2011 at 10:12 am

Valerie, your instructions and photos are excellent! What a great gift idea. I have been sewing for years but am in a bit of a rut! My teenaged daughter will love this! Any ideas for male 20 somethings? My nephews are so hard to shop for! They are amazing and I always want something special! Thanks!

13 Valerie February 3, 2011 at 10:34 am

Kathy,
Thanks so much! Please send me a picture of the one you make for your daughter! Sadly I have not designed many things for men, and I haven’t worked on any sewing patterns at all for guys. Something to add to the list for 2011 for sure! Thanks so much for reading the blog, and for commenting. Stay tuned because I intend to post new tutorials and patterns regularly!

14 Jennifer February 5, 2011 at 1:55 pm

That is a freaking awesome design! It should be super easy to make and it is soooo super cute! Thanks so much for sharing!

15 Valerie February 6, 2011 at 12:48 pm

Jennifer,
I’m so glad you liked it! I’d love to see a picture of the one you make. Thanks for reading the blog and for commenting!

16 Carol February 13, 2011 at 11:09 am

I love this tutorial! I am going to save it and try to make some of these for gifts! By the way I think it is so cool that you reply to all comments! :) You really impressed me!

17 Valerie February 13, 2011 at 11:28 pm

Carol, thank you so much. :) I always reply because I cherish every comment, I know not everybody is moved to comment when they read a blog they like, so I want to make sure my readers know how much I appreciate it! Good luck with your mini pocketbooks, and let me know how it goes once you make some!

18 Ashley February 17, 2011 at 1:20 am

Hi, I just made a version of this wallet, and I am in love :) I made a few changes, I would love to share the pics with you if you want to see them!

19 Ashley February 17, 2011 at 1:20 am

20 Heidi Ferguson February 18, 2011 at 4:20 pm

Hi! This is a beautiful tutorial! I just love how the pocketbook turned out. You clearly have talent! I would love for you to share this tutorial on my blog as a guest poster. Let me know if you are interested!

Heidi
http://www.honeybearlane.com

21 Leah February 20, 2011 at 9:53 am

Hi It looks easy but i am 11 and i have a sewing machine, but it looks too hard

22 Valerie February 20, 2011 at 8:00 pm

Ashley – I love the changes you made! I will be posting the picture on my Flickr account, thanks for sending it to me!

Heidi – I would love to share this tutorial on your blog, thanks for the offer!

Leah – I bet you could handle this no problem. It’s really just a bunch of straight lines! Give it a try & let me know how it turns out. :)

23 Beverly February 21, 2011 at 8:45 pm

Great work and happy colors!

24 Donna February 24, 2011 at 8:45 am

woww great work. The pocketbook is just amazing ;)

25 LJ Spain February 25, 2011 at 1:30 am

That is a wonderful Christmas gift idea!

26 Valerie February 28, 2011 at 5:34 pm

Donna & LJ Spain – thanks so much for dropping by and for commenting! I love that you love the mini pocketbook. Please send me pictures of ones that you make, I’d love to see your interpretations!

27 Joanna February 28, 2011 at 11:05 pm

I had fun with this! I have so many ideas on how to “interpret” it! I haven’t gotten to do them yet, but I promise I’ll share when I do!
Thanks!
Joanna

28 Joanna February 28, 2011 at 11:09 pm

Hi Valerie! I loved this! I had fun making it. I can’t wait to try my own interpretation. When I do, I’ll share! Thanks! I added my link to my blog if you want to see pictures!

29 Ashley Nicole March 1, 2011 at 8:57 pm

I found this a few weeks ago and bought my fabric today to make it as a gift for my best friend. I’m so excited to make it!

30 Valerie March 6, 2011 at 8:22 pm

Joanna – LOVE the fabrics you chose, what great colors. Thanks for sharing the picture!

Ashley Nicole – thanks for dropping by and for commenting! I’m glad you’re going to make one, and I’d love to see pictures of the one you make!

31 Jody Skalski March 12, 2011 at 9:27 am

I made one of these last night, it was so much fun! Thank you for sharing this and I’ll send photos soon as I want to make some more.

32 Valerie March 13, 2011 at 9:35 pm

Jody – I’m so glad you had fun with it. I can’t wait to see your versions!

33 Missy March 15, 2011 at 2:36 am

I found this tutorial through the website stumbleupon.com. I just tried it and it turned out wonderful! I think I will make more. Thanks so much :)

34 RhettDidntGiveADamn March 16, 2011 at 5:15 pm

I love this and I will try to make one of my own!

35 Jacqui March 17, 2011 at 4:31 pm

Amazing tutorial, can’t wait to it a go, thank you so much for sharing it.

36 Hannah March 21, 2011 at 9:07 pm

I made one of these lovely pocketbooks as my first project on my new sewing machine. It wasn’t hard at all. Thank you for sharing!

37 Valerie March 25, 2011 at 2:31 pm

Missy, Rhett, Jacqui & Hannah ~ thank you! I’m so glad you all are enjoying the tutorial & find it easy! I’d love to see pictures of the ones you make. :)

38 Shawna March 30, 2011 at 10:53 am

Thanks for being so generous to share these tutorials.

39 Kelly April 1, 2011 at 8:55 am

I loved the tutorial – it’s exactly what I’ve been looking for seeing as I am suppose to always have my passport with me seeing as I’m a Canadian citizen living in Germany.
Here is a link to my blog where you can see pictures of the completed project.
http://bendel-life.blogspot.com/2011/04/sick-days.html
Keep up the great tutorials

40 Valerie April 4, 2011 at 2:21 pm

Shawna – you’re welcome and it is honestly my pleasure. :)

Kelly – I love the classic polka dot fabric you picked! Can’t go wrong with pink and brown. I’m so glad you’ll be using it every day, as well. :)

41 Holly Day April 26, 2011 at 8:03 am

OMG! What a cute pocketbook! I want to make one just like that! Saving this page on my computer so that I can give a try to this project!

42 Valerie April 29, 2011 at 2:48 pm

Holly, please share pics when you’re done! Thanks for stopping by :)

43 Missy August 16, 2011 at 2:09 am


Here is the photo of my book. I am helping my room mate make one tomorrow :)

44 Valerie August 16, 2011 at 3:44 pm

Missy, such pretty fabric! Thanks so much for sharing your results! Would you mind if I posted this on my Facebook page as well?

45 Mrs.Bee August 19, 2011 at 1:00 pm

So I have been dying for a new wallet. I finally went to the fabric store today and picked up what I needed. Next time I’ll definitely be doing this earlier in the day (as oppose to 2am) and reading the tutorial fully first :P luckily I have my problem-master hubs to save the day…erm night (and my pocketbook) and it still came out wonderful :) thanks for the awesome tutorial!

46 Amanda September 1, 2011 at 8:59 am

I just found this through tipjunkie and was so excited! I’m doing a homemade Christmas this year and this is going to be perfect for my sister!!! Thanks for the idea, I’ll post pics when it’s done.

47 LOO COURTLAND September 1, 2011 at 10:04 am

I encourage all of you to SEW!! The machines are so wonderful nowdays. When my mom first started teaching me to sew, we had a treadle machine! Can you imagine that? It’s a wonderful skill to have, and to teach to your kids. Yes, boys can learn, too. A little. And this organizer is a nice one. Any of you who are discouraged, or keep putting it off, do a little to get started, practice by sewing squares together, do something, even if it’s small. Get in the habit of looking at the beauuuuutiful fabrics available nowdays! It’s a GREAT time to be a sewing person :)

48 shannon September 8, 2011 at 11:55 pm

I have been sewing Halloween costumes for years, but I still consider myself a beginner sewer. So I have a question for you. I am trying to base the pockets together and my thread keeps breaking. I played with tension and stitch size. I am using a purple needle which I think should be strong enough. And all purpose thread. Should I be using stronger thread? Any other recommendations? I am so frustrated because I thought I could whip this out quickly today and I’ve barely begun!!! Thanks!

49 Valerie September 12, 2011 at 3:41 pm

Shannon, it sounds like your needle is actually too big. If you are using regular quilting cotton for the pockets, sewing through a pile of that fabric is actually easier with a skinny needle. Try size 80 or even 70 and it should work.

If that fails, baste the pockets in two sets instead of all 4 layers together, or baste along each side instead of the bottom (inside the seam allowance). Good luck and let me know how it turns out!

50 Dorria @ embroidery designs to download September 20, 2011 at 10:30 am

This is the first time I see a wonderful pocketbook, I should make one soon.
Thank you for sharing Valerie

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