tutorial: mini pocketbook

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 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 where to sew your elasic loop

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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122 thoughts on “tutorial: mini pocketbook

  1. I just made a very similar “book” that fits a 5 x 8 pad. I have it all finished and was closing the elastic loop and it pulled out of the seam. Is there any other way to fasten it, I stitched over in several times as you did.

    1. I got around this problem by using hair bobbles – the elastic ones that are sold in thrift shops by the card (I bought one with 20 bobbles, nearly run out now). This way, you have a flat ‘loop’ behind your stitches, so nothing pulls out.

  2. Thank you. Love your enthusiasm and simple instructions. Going on a big trip next year and will try this project.

  3. Thanks so much for the tip for the pen holder. I have made wallets before and this has been a problem to place the holder where it does not affect the construction of the rest of the wallet.

  4. Valerie,
    I just made four of these. The problem is they all open on the wrong side. I should have noticed that the pen holder and the elastic should be on the same side. Just a heads up so someone else doesn’t make my mistake. They are very cute and I enjoyed making them. Thank you.

  5. Fantastic site. A lot of helpful information here.
    I am sending it to some pals ans additionally sharing in delicious.
    And naturally, thank you for your sweat!

  6. Hi Valerie I really love the pocket book pattern and instructions, Can you please tell me how I
    can print it out as I find it very hard trying to copy from my lap top.

    Many thanks


  7. I replaced the phone pocket with netting or tulle so I could read my phone thru it without removing phone from pocket. Thanks and I Love this pattern!!

  8. Thank you for this tutorial. I am very much a beginner. I was able to follow your instructions reading them, I just hope I can follow them when I attempt to make my first mini pocket book.

  9. Thank you, nice pattern. I was looking for something a little different than the wallets I have been making. I might try a magnetic closure on a mens version as the button could get caught in a pants pocket. Art

  10. I made this and I love it. I made a few changes so it can fit my passport. I used cardboard as backing. But cardboard not suitable because it can get wet easily and damaged. So I used old plastic folder as the backing. Thank you Valerie for sharing

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