Just over five years ago, I did a series of sewing posts for a blog called The Glamorous Housewife, which I recently found out has since gone defunct. Consequently, people have been clicking on the tutorial link for my Constance Organizer tutorial and sadly coming up empty. I've gotten quite a few emails about it in the last few weeks from people who want to make them as Christmas presents for friends and family (especially teachers!), so after spending a bit of time tracking down the text and photos from that original post, I'm reposting it all here for you below. It's a quick little tutorial and a truly useful gift. If you make one, please share a photo on Instagram with the hashtag #constanceorganizer and tag me @fabricmutt. Enjoy!
It took me years, but I finally learned the secret to getting (most of) what I need to do finished every day: lists. It's all about lists for me when it comes to organization. If it's not written down, forget it. Unfortunately, I usually end up with two or three running lists for different areas of my life, and then it comes down to trying to track down the lists themselves so I can figure out what I needed to remember in the first place. The solution? A handy little organizer for keeping everything straight.
|Joel McCrea & Jean Arthur in The More the Merrier|
This month's tutorial is inspired by The More the Merrier, a wonderful 1940's screwball comedy. Jean Arthur stars as Constance Milligan, a compulsively organized working girl who decides to sublet half of her apartment to help out with the housing shortage in wartime Washington, D.C. Life takes a crazy turn when retired millionaire Benjamin Dingle (played by Charles Coburn) moves in and then decides to do a little matchmaking by renting half of his half to a handsome soldier named Joe Carter (played by Joel McCrea). It's classic comedy at its best, and Jean Arthur's costumes are absolutely divine examples of 1940's fashion. If you'd like to see an updated version of the story, it was remade in 1966 as Walk Don't Run -- this time concerning close quarters during the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and featuring an utterly charming Cary Grant in his last film appearance.
By the way, there are always ways to tweak any of my tutorials to make them fit your own style. I made another one of these organizers for my mom using linen accents and a magnetic clasp. This version is a little more grown-up, and I love the vintage inspired prints it uses (scroll to the end of this post for a look inside this one). It never ceases to amaze me how a change in fabric can transform the whole feel of a project. Even though this is an item that's going to see a lot of everyday use, I think it's important to use fabrics that you love. Those lists are easier to face when they're framed by happy fabric.
But enough chit-chat . . . let's get sewing!
(2) 6.75 x 10.5" print for exterior
(1) 4 x 10.5" solid (linen or cotton) for exterior accent
(1) 10.5 x 16.5" batting for exterior
(2) 8.5 x 10.5" print for lining
(1) 10.5 x 16.5" interfacing for lining (I used Pellon 809 Decor Bond)
(1) 8.5 x 14" solid (linen or cotton) for pad pocket
(1) 7 x 8.5" interfacing for pad pocket
(1) 8.5 x 16" print for top interior pocket
(1) 8 x 8.5" interfacing for top interior pocket
(1) 8.5 x 13" for middle interior pocket
(1) 6.5 x 8.5" interfacing for middle interior pocket
(4) 4.75 x 8.5" prints for interior zipper pocket and lining (cut 2 each of 2 different prints)
(1) 3 x 3.5" solid (linen or cotton) for exterior flap
(1) 3 x 3.5" print for flap lining
(1) 3 x 3.5" batting for flap
(1) 3 x 3.5" interfacing for flap
(1) 9" or larger zipper for interior zipper pocket
(1) magnetic snap or (1) 2" piece of velcro
Adhesive basting spray or fabric glue
Chopstick for turning
Sewing clips or clothespins
Note: All seams will be 1/4" wide. Don't forget to press your work between steps to keep things neat and tidy. Half the work is cutting out all the pieces for this project. Once you have the prep work done, it goes together pretty quickly!
Step One: Make the basic interior pockets. Take the fabrics for the pad pocket and the top and middle interior pockets, fold them with wrong sides together (8.5" ends meeting), and press the folds well. Slip the matching piece of interfacing between those wrong sides and press again so it sticks in place. Top stitch 1/4" from the fold on each piece. Baste the pad pocket in place on the bottom of one of the 8.5 x 10.5" lining pieces. (That means setting your machine to its longest stitch length and sewing around the sides and bottom 1/8" from the edge. This will hold it in place when you're sewing everything together later.) If you're using linen, by the way, keep in mind that it can be a little finicky at times, so don't worry if it seems to stretch a tad while you sew. You can always trim the extra bits off later.
Step Two: Make the interior zipper pocket. Stack in this order along an 8.5" edge: lining piece (right side up), zipper (right side up), exterior piece (right side down). Sew down that edge, fold the fabrics back so that the wrong sides are together, and press. Top stitch 1/4" from the zipper and then repeat on the other side. Trim the zipper ends off on each side of the pocket, making sure that the zipper pull is in the middle first! Fold the sides of the pocket together so that you match up all four pieces of fabric and the lining pieces have their right sides together. Baste the sides of the zipper pocket together.
Step Three: Assemble all the interior pockets. Stack the three interior pockets in order from top to bottom: top interior, middle interior, and zipper pocket. Line them up along the bottom edge of the lining piece and baste along the sides and bottom.
Step Four: Finish the interior. Stack the two lining pieces right sides together and stitch along the 10.5" side, joining them together so that the pad pocket will be on the right when opened. Press the seam to one side and place the whole interior piece on top of the matching piece of interfacing, pressing it in place. Be careful with your ironing around that zipper! Once the interfacing is securely attached, flip the piece back over to the right side. Measure and mark a line 1.25" from the center seam. Stitch a line down the solid pocket to create a pen pocket in the center, making sure that you backstitch at the top so the pocket doesn't come loose with use.
Step Five: Make the cover. Sew the two exterior prints to either 10.5" side of the solid accent strip which should be in the center. Attach the batting to the back of the cover and then top stitch down both sides of each of the seams. Center and sew half of the 2" piece of velcro about 1" from the edge on the right side of the cover (scroll down to step six for a photo of this). I usually sew around a piece of velcro at least twice just to be sure that it's not going to budge anytime soon.
Step Six: Make the flap. Attach batting to the flap exterior with fabric glue or adhesive basting spray and iron the interfacing onto the flap lining piece. Stack the lining and exterior pieces with their right sides together and sew all around them, leaving a few inches open on the bottom for turning. Trim around the edges, clipping the corners, and turn right side out using the chopstick to poke out the corners. Tuck in the raw edges and and topstitch 1/8" from the edge all the way around the flap. Center the other half of the velcro on the right side on the flap lining about 1/4" from the edge and sew all the way around it twice.
Center the flap on the left side of the exterior, about 1" from the edge with the velcro pointing away from the cover. Sew a 1/4" wide rectangle on the flap to hold it in place on the cover.
Step Seven: Finish the organizer. Stack the lining and exterior with right sides together, tucking the flap inside out of the way. Clip them together and then sew all the way around the outside of the pieces, backstitching at both ends and leaving a gap for turning on what will be the upper side of the back of the organizer. Trim all the way around the stitching and then turn it (carefully!) right side out, using the chopstick to press out the corners. Tuck the raw edges inside the gap and press it well -- again being careful of that zipper! -- then topstich 1/8" all the way around the outside. Tuck in your office supplies, and you're in business!