Posts Tagged tool belt

A Crafty Tool Belt Tutorial

As I mentioned in my previous post, one of my largest problems in the organization of my studio space is the constant misplacing of hand tools.  The solution is blindingly obvious, a quilters tool belt.  Of course this is not restricted to quilting.  If you move from place to place in your work space, and have small hand tools that need to travel with you, then a tool belt is a great idea.    For me (and I bet most of you too) a standard premade apron was not what I needed.  I wanted specific pockets/holsters for each hand tool I carry, not just the usual tools carried by someone who makes quilts. 

Lucky for me my abilities tend toward sewing, so I custom-made my own.  If you can sew  (you don’t need to be a master seamstress, if you can sew a straight line and make a hem you can probably do this) use this tutorial to create your own custom tool belt. If you don’t sew or don’t have the time right now, I would love to make one for you.

Firstly, gather all the tools you want to carry.  I had to think about this a bit, and mentally go through the motions of a project.  These items are the ones you reach for constantly, and are used in different places.  Depending on how you work you may find it convenient to carry small components as well.

I decided to add an item I hadn’t used previously, the index cards.  This is because one of my current disorganisation problems is that I write notes on random scraps of paper, and then lose them.  Adding the index cards to the belt is part of my larger reorganization.

So anyway you get the idea.  After figuring out exactly what I was going to carry, I laid it all out and took measurements, and decided where to place each item on the belt for easy access.  This is naturally going to be different for each person, but here are some guidelines. 

  • For pens, pencils and similarly shaped items I allow 1 1/4″ width per pen. 
  • For scissors I used a holster loop, rather than trying to fit them in a pocket. 
  • Make the pockets a bit shorter than the items, so you can grab the bit that sticks out, instead rummaging in a pocket.  (the one exception was my tape, which would fall out if I stored it that way)
  • For items with a bit of thickness I add that to the pocket width.   For instance, my calculator is 3″ wide and 1/2″ thick, so I made the pocket for it 4″ wide. 
  • Put each item where it is easiest to grab,  being right-handed I put scissors and pens on my right hip.  I hold an index card or calculator in my left hand when using them, so I put these items on my left side.   
  • Lesser used items can be in the middle, with the more frequently used items getting the prime hip real estate.
  • I decided a magnetic pin cushion was the best way for me to carry pins.  You may find carrying them on a wrist pin cushion more convenient.
  • Cluster similar shaped items together, into one large pocket, but divide it with lines of vertical stitch.  (see the photo with the pens at the top for an example)

Once I had all my pocket sizes and locations figured out I was ready to actually construct the apron/tool belt.  I had some pieces of linen from another project and  I added some bits of lace and rickrack as well as some 3 1/2″ patchwork squares that I found. 

I used the pocket sizes as well as my own body measurements to decide the sizes of the main apron panel and the belt.  For belt take your measurement at the place you want the apron to tie (waist or hip or somewhere in between).  Add 30″ for tying. (I only added 20 and need to add more because it is not quite enough).  Width 4″.  press all edges in 1/2″.  Fold in half lengthwise, with the good side out.

For the main panel length I measured myself from the farthest back on my hip I was comfortable reaching, around to the same point on the other side, the width was the height of the tallest pocket + 3″.  I decorated the panel with rickrack, lace and a strip of patchwork squares, and turned the bottom and sides under and sewed them.

Cut the pocket patches, (adding 3/4″ to length and width for hems).  Turn under all the sides around 1/4″, or a bit more (I just kind of eyeballed it).  Sew across the top edge, then pin onto the main panel and sew around the other three sides.  Mark and sew the dividing lines if needed.

Find the center of the apron panel, and the belt strip.    Carefully insert the main panel into the folded belt and pin along the length.  Now sew along the 3 open sides of the belt 1/4″ from the edge, making sure that the apron panel is sewn into it. 

Lastly add scissor holsters.  I made my own 1″ fabric tape, but you can use purchased tape if you prefer.  Measure the scissors just below the finger holes, add about an inch for overlap.  Sew the edges of the tape together, and then pin it to the bottom edge of the apron.  Sew it in place.

Your apron is complete!  I have found that as an unexpected side benefit, the act of putting on my tool belt helps me mentally switch into work mode.  I would love know how this works out for others, so please let me know, links to pictures of your finished apron/tool belt would be great too.


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