Whoohoo! It’s time to start our summer vacation and in celebration I’ll be doing a Summer Travel Series over the next few weeks on the blog!
To start it off today I have an in-depth tutorial on making your own car seat organizer.
We’re heading off on a big road trip and I really don’t want to spend half my time dealing with “Mom, I lost my pencil!” It’s nice to have an organized place to keep road trip necessities within reach. This organizer can hold drinks, snacks, and entertainment. And it’ll keep the “Can you help me find my _________” problems to a minimum.
Let’s get on to the tutorial!
- Main body fabric
- Fleece interfacing
- Utility mesh
- ½” double fold bias binding tape
- ¼” wide elastic
- 1″ wide webbing
- 2 sets of parachute buckles
- ¼” thick wooden dowel
If you’re making one just like mine, here’s what you’ll need to cut (length by width):
Main body fabric:
- Two 22.5″ x 16.5″
- 6.5″ x 9″
- 2″ x 15″
- 22.5″ x 16.5″
- 22.5″ x 16.5″
- Two 11″ x 11″
- 11″ x 15″
- Two 4.5″ x 9″
- 6.5″ x 5″
- 8 yards
- Three 7″
- Two 9″
Car Seat Organizer Tutorial
Throughout this tutorial I’ll be explaining how to determine measurements if you want to make your own custom organizer, but if you want to use my measurements you’ll find them in italics at the end of the paragraphs. The best part about sewing your own stuff is being able make it however you want!
Step 1: Size
You need to know how big your seat is before you can make an organizer for it! Measure from just below the top of the seat back down as far as you like, then measure side to side. Decide how much space you want the organizer to take up. We have a small car so mine takes up the entire back of the seat. We have to optimize what little space we have!
I used 22.5″ x 16.5″
Step 2: Layout
I’m a visual person so it helped to gather the items I wanted it to hold and keep rearranging things until I had a layout I liked. I didn’t know if it would hold everything I wanted so I started with the most important parts and worked from there. Here’s what I ended up including: two drink holders (one for water and one for an extra drink), a pocket for books, pencils, our e-reader, and some smaller pockets for snacks.
Step 3: Main Body
Using the measurement from step 1, cut two pieces of fabric, one interfacing, and one fleece interfacing.
I used some old fleece I had left over from another project, but fleece interfacing works fine as well. No one will see it so use whichever is cheaper!
Gently round out the corners of all these pieces. It’ll make it easier to attach the bias tape later if we don’t have any sharp corners.
Layer and pin the main body pieces in this order: fabic (face down), fleece, interfacing, and fabric (face up).
Unpin and fold back the top layer of fabric about 6″. Re-pin the remaining 3 layers back together.
Baste the four pieces together, starting and stopping where you folded back the fabric. DO NOT BASTE THE FOLDED PIECE DOWN.
Step 4: Support Sleeve
The top got pretty floppy when hung around the headrest, so I felt it necessary to add some support to firm it up.
You’ll need to cut some main fabric to form a sleeve to hold a wooden dowel. Cut it about 1 ½” to 2″ smaller than the width of your main body and 2″ long.
I cut 2″ x 15″ of fabric
Press the edges over ¼” and sew.
Remember how we folded back that fabric on the body? Here’s why that was important. We’re going to machine sew the sleeve on without having the stitching showing on the front or sewing through any pockets. If we didn’t do it now we’d have to hand sew the sleeve on later.
Pin the sleeve piece right side up on the back of the organizer. Sewing through the three layers (fabric, fleece, and interfacing), start at one of the top corners and along the top edge, sew all the way around the edges of the sleeve, stopping when you’re halfway up the last short side. This leaves a small hole just big enough to slide the wooden dowel in. Sewing halfway helps hold the dowel in place so it can’t easily slip out of the sleeve.
Cut the wooden dowel ½” shorter than the width of the sleeve from seam to seam. Just hang onto it for now – put it in after the whole organizer has been finished.
Now you can fold the top piece of fabric back over and baste it down.
Step 5: Book Pocket
Stack your books and use a measuring tape to measure the width across the two sides and the front plus a little wiggle room. You’ll need to decide whether you want to books to fit upright or sideways. Measure the height, subtract however much you want to stick out the top for easy grabbing, and add about 2″ to account for wrapping around the bottom of the books.
Cut mesh in your desired size.
I cut 11″ x 15″ of mesh
The depth of the pocket is determined by how thick your stack of books is.
Mine was 2″
To form the corners of the book pouch, mark a square in one corner using your depth measurement. For example, my book stack was 2″, so I measured a 2″ square.
Fold into a triangle so the lines match.
Sew along the line.
Repeat for the other corner, making sure the both triangles are on the same side. Flip so the triangles are on the inside of the pocket.
Sew binding along the top leaving the sides open to form a casing. Your elastic needs to be:
Rectangle width – (depth x 2)
Using my measurements as an example,
15 – (2 x 2) = 11
I cut 11″ of elastic
Slide the elastic into the casing and baste it in place at the openings so that the raw edges are even.
Bind any edges that are not along the outside edges of the organizer. This meant for my book pocket I had to add binding to the right side.
Pin the pocket in your desired placement on the organizer. I found it handy to pin it in place around the books so I didn’t accidentially sew the pocket too small. Use a ruler to check that you’ve pinned straight.
Sew along the sides and bottom. (Don’t accidentally sew the top opening shut!)
Step 6: Pencil Pocket
Cut vinyl into your desired size. I determined the width based on how much room was left after the book pocket was in place plus about 1″. I made it shorter than pencil height to make it easier to grab pencils out of the pocket.
I cut 6.5″ x 5″ of vinyl
Sew binding along the top and any sides not touching the outside edge of the organizer.
Gently fold the vinyl over a little on each side to form the pocket and sew in place on the organizer along the sides and bottom. Trim off any excess.
Step 7: Snack Pockets
These measurements were determined in tandem with the e-reader pocket in step 8. They were the same width as the e-reader pocket and 2″ shorter in height.
I cut two 4.5″ x 9″ of mesh
Attach binding to the top of the both pieces of mesh to make casings, again leaving the ends open. Cut elastic about 2″ shorter than the width, insert and baste into the casings.
I cut two 7″ of elastic
On one pocket only, cut bottom binding to be the desired width of the pocket once gathered. In my case this was the same width as the tablet’s gathered size, (see step 8 to determine measurement).
I cut 8″ of binding
Because we can’t gather mesh like fabric just pin a few small folds evenly along the bottom into the binding. Sew.
Bind all other sides not touching the edge of the organizer (in my case, all the edges needed to be bound).
DO NOT bind the second pocket as it will be attached to the hidden e-reader pocket in the next step.
Sew the first pocket to the organizer in the desired place. I waited to sew mine on until after the e-reader pocket was attached so I could place it directly below.
Step 8: Hidden E-Reader Pocket
Because I don’t want it easily seen that we’re toting around an e-reader, this pocket was made from fabric to better hide its contents.
Following the same method we used to measure the books, use measuring tape to determine the width for the e-reader pocket. Don’t forget a little extra for wiggle room and seam allowance! Add an inch or two to the height so the pocket fully covers the e-reader. You can make it so the e-reader either fits upright or sideways – it’s totally up to you and how it best fits with the rest of your organizer.
I cut 6.5″ x 9″ of fabric
Attach binding to the top to make casings, leaving the ends open, cut elastic about 2″ shorter than the width, insert, and baste into the casings.
I cut 7″ of elastic
To gather the pocket, baste along the bottom and push the fabric towards the center until you have your desired width. I’d suggest at least 1″ longer than the e-reader’s actual width. Tie off the thread on each side and adjust until the gathering is evenly spread.
I cut 8″ of binding
Lay the second mesh snack pocket on top of the e-reader pocket, matching the bottoms. Bind both together along the bottom, folding the mesh to fit as you did in step 7. Bind all other sides not touching the edge of the organizer (in my case, all the edges were bound).
Sew in the desired place on the organizer.
Mine is 2 ½” from the top, centered.
Step 9: Water Bottle Pockets
I determined the width by laying the bottle on the table and measuring with measuring tape around the bottle from table to table on each side, adding a little more than 1″ for some wiggle room. The length of the pocket was the height from the bottom to the neck plus the bottle’s diameter.
I cut two 11″ x 11″ of mesh
Attach binding to the top of both pieces to make casings.
Make the corners in the same way as we make the book pocket corners in step 5, except use a square size that is approximately ⅓ of the mesh width.
I used a 3″ square
Cut a piece of elastic about 3″ shorter than your total width, insert and baste into the casing.
I cut 8″ of elastic
Bind around the sides not touching the outside edge of the organizer. Sew in place in the desired position on the organizer.
I placed one on each side and so that the top of the bottles when in the pocket were about even with the top of the organizer.
Step 10: Straps
For the top, determine the length of webbing you’ll need by measuring around the headrest and add several inches extra. The extra is mostly going to be determined by how much extra adjustable length you want. Use 9″ of this measurement to attach the snappy-into half of the buckle according to the package instructions. Use the rest on the forky-looking buckle half (which should also be the adjustable half). And yes, I do believe that “snappy” and “forky” are the technical terms.
I cut 9″ and 12″
Embrace your inner pyromaniac and use an open flame to melt the cut ends of the webbing so that it doesn’t fray.
The bottom straps were tricky for me as we have bucket seats and I didn’t know how I was going to attach the organizer! Then I realized my seat covers had zippers on each side, so I unzipped them just enough to slide the buckle straps through. Wherever you wrap the straps, remember to add extra length to your measurement.
I cut 9″ and 18″
Attach the straps to the organizer on the back in your desired places with the raw edges even. On mine, the top straps were sewn to the top while the bottom straps were off the sides close to the bottom.
Bind all the way around the outside of the organizer.
Fold the straps out and stitch in place.
Whew, that was a lot of work! But the good news is now you have an awesome, custom made car travel organizer for your trip! Happy travels!