As you may have figured out from my posts, I’m a bit of a nut for tech accessories, especially pocket-sized ones. I can’t get over how awesomely small our entertainment devices are becoming; it makes traveling with them so much easier. But one issue I keep running into is how to neatly organize everything, especially the power cords and connector cables that accompany my favorite devices.
Rather than spend another plane trip rummaging through my catch-all carry-on bag searching for my headphones, bumping my head on the seat in front of me every time, I decided to make a small tech-accessory organizer using elastic ribbon and an old vintage book cover. This project can be sized up or down and customized in many different ways — the best approach is to gather all the tiny tech things you travel with and see how much there is. After that, it’s just a bit of snipping, sewing and gluing, and you’re on your way to a clean, organized carry-on. Enjoy! —
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Read the full how-to after the jump!
- vintage cloth-bound hardcover book with dimensions close to 6.5″ x 10.5″ x 1.75″ thick
- black rubberized fabric (I used a non-slip black drawer liner material from the hardware store, but a thin neoprene foam will work, as well.)
- 9 yards black elastic ribbon, 0.5″ thick
- sewing machine, pins, needle and black thread
- illustration board or thin mat board (same dimension as your book)
- Elmer’s Glue and fabric glue
- ruler, X-Acto knife and cutting mat
- black photo tape (available at art stores)
1. Use your X-Acto blade to remove the cover from the book pages, keeping the cover intact.
2. Lay the book cover face down on top of your black fabric and trace the dimensions. Use your ruler and X-Acto knife to cut a rectangle 1/8″ smaller on all sides from the traced dimensions.
3. Take your elastic and cut it into short strips (the width of your closed book cover) and long strips (the height of your closed book cover). Cut enough strips to fill the entire dimensions (if they don’t fit evenly, err on the side of one less and space out the strips). For me, this was 12 long strips and 19 short strips.
4. Starting in the upper left-hand corner of the black fabric, begin pinning the long strips in a row along the top edge (don’t pin the bottom edge yet). Sew them down along the edge, securing them to the black fabric. Remove the pins.
Note that you aren’t covering the entire rectangle, just one half of the inside cover. If you want to cover both sides of the inside cover, you can.
5. Now begin adding in your short strips. Notice the pattern is not a regular in/out weave. You want to have several places where 2 to 3 adjacent strips are exposed to the top both horizontally and vertically — this creates thick bands where you can tuck in larger items. Pin down the horizontal short strips at both ends, and you may want to have the items you plan to store (wires, cameras, iPods, etc.) handy to test placement of the strips. (Please pardon the fuzzy picture!)
A note on tightness: Since you are working with elastic, be sure to pin the strips tight enough so there is just the slightest amount of pull, so that when the piece is flattened, the elastic will be tight and hold items securely (the weave also helps this). The fabric should curl slightly inwards on all sides once pinned but mostly retain its shape so that if you pulled the rectangle open and flat, the elastic would be taut.
6. Once all the short strips are pinned in place and you are happy with the layout, sew around the other three edges of the design with your sewing machine, securing the woven strips in place. Trim any excess elastic from around the edges.
7. Cut your illustration/mat board to the inner dimension of the front book cover. Use your sewing machine or an awl to poke holes around all four edges of the board. You can hand crank the sewing machine, which allows you to space the holes out a bit more.
8. Using a needle and thread, sew the board to the backside of the black fabric (behind the side with the elastic grid) using a blanket stitch. (If you are unfamiliar with that stitch, ; don’t worry, it’s super easy.) Be sure to pull each edge tight as you are sewing to stretch out the fabric and tighten the elastic grid.
9. Once your board is sewn to the backside of the grid and the grid is pulled tight, cover the three edges with black photo tape (or you can sew or glue on fabric tape if you prefer).
10. On the right-hand side of the fabric rectangle (the side that will cover the inside of the back book cover), use your X-Acto knife to cut a 3.5″ horizontal slit for the pocket 1″ from the edges (not including the width of the spine) and 4.5″ up from the bottom edge. I also cut two smaller horizontal slits 4″ above the pocket and inserted a thick band of the fabric to hold my phone, but you can customize this organizer however you please — you could even make a second side of the woven elastic grid.
11. Now your fabric lining is ready to be adhered into the book cover. Using Elmer’s Glue on the side with the paper board (left) and fabric glue on the side with just the fabric backing (right), spread a thin layer of glue on the back of the lining and the inside of the book jacket, then press the lining into place, lining up the edges evenly and pressing down firmly. Clean off any excess glue that seeps out with a damp rag, then place the book open on the floor, cover with a sheet of clean scrap paper and something heavy, like a large stack of books (I used a case of wine — worked like a charm!), and allow the glue to dry overnight.
12. Once the glue is dry, remove the book form underneath the weights and clean up any loose thread or glue spots.
13. You’re done! You can add a closing latch or use a large rubber band to hold the piece closed, or you can leave it loose like a regular book. Fill with cords, chargers and travel papers, and take a trip somewhere!