How to Make a Roll-Up Tool Organizer, Complete with Embroidered Size Labels

comments (7) December 20th, 2008     

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JenniferStern Jennifer Stern, contributor
Love it! 56 users recommend
Heres the luxe leather version...its actually super quick to make because you dont have to worry about the edges.
The denim one is great, too!
Heres a close-up of the size labels I embroidered on the pockets.
Heres the luxe leather version...its actually super quick to make because you dont have to worry about the edges.

Here's the luxe leather's actually super quick to make because you don't have to worry about the edges.

Photo: Jen Stern
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Here's the perfect accessory to make if you have small hand tools without a home. Tired of looking for your 3/8-inch wrench? Or maybe you're tired of looking for someone else's? This tool roll is so quick and easy to make, you can whip up one for yourself and one for all your crafting friends in time to stick them under the tree. Don't be put off by the machine-embroidered size labels if you don't have an embroidery machine; you can label the pockets by writing the sizes using a Sharpie marker!

If you do have an embroidery machine, use the built-in numbers to stitch them out. My good friends Sue and Dan suggested this project to me when I was trying to come up with the perfect guy craft last week. I had already started the cozy baseball cap headband, but I loved this idea, too. I got on the phone with my dad to see if he needed one of these to organize his wrenches and he spent the next half an hour explaining the differences between his two sets-one being metric and the other in inches. Somewhere in the conversation I interjected, "Yes, Dad, I know. There's 25 mm to an inch" (I think he was impressed!). Anyway, I told him I was making a leather tool roll, and I would embroider the sizes on the pockets so he could organize one of his sets of wrenches. I wrote down the details and got off the phone. Not two minutes later, he called me back to say that he thought I should make one out of canvas or denim to make the project more user friendly. I thought this was a great I made two, one leather and the other denim. There are slight differences in the steps because you don't have to finish the edges of the leather. No matter which one you choose to make, your tools will be very happy!

embroidery Get more on embroidery:

• How to Embroider a Greeting Card
• Embroidery Term: Topping
The Last Stitch: How to Finish Your Hand-Embroidery
How to Turn Photos into Embroidered Portraits

You can customize the size of this project to fit your set of tools. You will need the length and width measurements of the smallest and the biggest ones. You will also need to know how many tools there are in the set. I am making a tool roll for a set of wrenches with the smallest wrench being 5 inches long and 1 inch wide. The largest is 9 inches long and 1-1/2 inches wide.

Here's what you'll need:

  • One 14-inch x 18-inch piece of leather (if you are making yours out of denim, you need a 28-inch x 18-inch piece)
  • One piece of leather (or denim) that is 18 inches wide and 2 inches shorter than the longest tool in the set
  • Two 14-inch pieces of leather, twill tape, or grosgrain ribbon for the ties (I used 1/2-inch-wide strips of leather for both)
  • Leather or metallica needle, size 14 or 16
  • All-purpose polyester thread
  • Heavy topstitching thread
  • Embroidery machine with built-in numbers, tear-away stabilizer, 505 Temporary Adhesive Spray, embroidery thread

To make the pocket piece, measure the shortest and longest tools and subtract 1 inch from the shortest and 2 inches from the longest. To place the tools shortest to longest, mark the left side with the smaller measurement and the right with the longer one. Measure from the bottom edge on both sides. My shortest wrench was 5 inches, so I marked the left edge 4 inches from the bottom. The longest wrench was 11 inches long, so I marked the right edge 9 inches from the bottom.

Lay a ruler across the pocket, matching the markings on either edge. Cut across to make the graduated shape of the pocket.

Here are the two pieces you need to make a leather tool roll. If you are going to make yours out of denim, the back piece needs to be twice as high-you can fold it in half and sew around the edge to finish the raw edges.

I found this leather in the home decor department of a large fabric store-it's too heavy to make a garment, but it will work great for this!

Measure the width of your tools-it's likely that the shorter ones will be narrower than the taller ones. I made my pockets three widths: 1-1/2 inches for the smaller tools, 1-3/4 inches for the middle-sized ones, and 2 inches for the two tallest. You want to allow about 1/2 inch extra room to make it easy get the wrenches in and out of the pockets.

Lay a ruler along the bottom edge of the pocket piece. Starting 1 inch in from the left side, begin marking the pockets with a small vertical line of chalk. (I drew four lines 1-1/2 inches apart to make the three narrowest pockets. Then I switched to drawing lines 1-3/4 inches apart for the next two pockets, and finally 2 inches apart for the last two pockets, making a total of seven pockets. To make a guideline for the embroidered numbers, mark the center of each pocket with a vertical line. Draw a horizontal line 2 inches up from the bottom edge across all the vertical lines. Use this horizontal line to stitch the numbers on. Check your tools to see if they are metric or inches.

Hoop a piece of heavy tear-away stabilizer and use 505 Temporary Adhesive Spray to adhere the pocket in the hoop. I line the bottom edge of the pocket with the long edge of the hoop. You can stitch several labels in one hooping. Program the first size, orient it sideways on the screen, and move it to the first marking. After you embroider it, clear your screen, program the next number on the screen, and repeat the process until you've stitched as many labels as will fit.

By stitching one number at a time, you don't have to worry if you didn't get the spacing exactly right between numbers.

When you remove the leather or fabric from the hoop, trim all your threads first and then carefully pull it away from the stabilizer without removing it from the hoop. If you're careful, you should get little holes where the numbers stitched. Use a scrap of stabilizer and some spray to patch the holes. Patch the holes from inside the hoop so you don't have to worry about the scrap falling or folding over under the hoop while it's embroidering.

All those speckles are from the suede side of the leather that was stuck there a minute ago!

My denim tool roll will be home to a set of wrenches that are sized in inches. If you have embroidery software that allows you to customize lettering, it's much easier to make the fractions on the computer and import them to your embroidery machine (my machine didn't have a back slash to make the fraction).

See how easy it is to get all the numbers evenly placed across the pocket using the horizontal line.

After you're finished embroidering, remove the stabilizer and finish the top edge. I used a three-step zigzag.

If you have a serger, you can run the edge through it instead.

After you finish the edge, press it under 1/2 inch.


Topstitch along the edge to finish it. If you are working with leather, stitch 1/4 inch away from the top edge to help keep it from stretching.

I used heavy Jean Stitch thread from YLI to do my topstitching.

Position the completed pocket on the lower edge of the backing. Cut two pieces of 1/2-inch leather, grosgrain ribbon, or twill tape approximately 14 inches long. Position them at the midpoint along the left edge. If you are making a leather tool roll, position the pocket and ties as shown, then sew all the way around 1/4 inch from the edge.

Pin the pocket in place and baste it to the backing. Baste the ties in place, too.

Fold the top edge of the denim over, aligning it with the bottom edge. Press to get it to lie perfectly even, and pin along the edge.

This is the lower left corner.

Stitch along the raw edges, leaving a 6-inch opening on the left side so you can turn the tool roll to the right side.

I basted on the pocket using a 1/8-inch seam, then I sewed the front and back together using a 1/2-inch seam...that way you don't have to pull out the basting.

The lower corners are going to be really thick-three layers of denim. Trim the point and a few inches of the seam allowance down to 1/8 inch so you can get a crisp point when you turn it to the right side.

I like to use a bamboo point turner to poke around in the corner to get it shaped nicely when I turn the fabric to the right side.

Press the seam allowances under 1/2 inch along the opening.

Topstitch around the outer edge using the heavy thread.


My lower corners came out pretty good!

Draw lines with chalk, centered between the numbers to make the individual pockets. Start sewing 1 inch to 1-1/2 inches from the bottom edge. (Don't sew all the way to the bottom edge...the tools will fit in there better.)

If you're working with leather, alternate between starting at the bottom end and starting at the top edge of the pocket so the leather doesn't stretch out of shape in one direction.

Add a bartack at the top edge of each line of stitching to reinforce the pocket openings.

  Bartack to reinforce the pocket openings.

Also, bartack 1/8 inch away from the edge over the ties to reinforce them.

I used one of the built-in bartacks in my machine. If you don't have one, use a narrow zigzag or satin stitch.


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Comments (7)

kclabaugh writes: Where did you find the leather to use? I haven't been able to find any at the fabric stores in my area and I'd love to make this for my husband. Thank you!
Posted: 5:55 pm on April 18th
justpaintit writes: Hi,
Will you please email me the templates for this item at [email protected]
Thank you
Just Paint It
Posted: 3:53 pm on January 4th
JenniferStern writes: There were templates mentioned in one of the captions. That was actually text from a previous post that I forgot to delete. I apologize for the confusion.

Posted: 4:50 pm on January 3rd
JenniferStern writes: Hi Everyone...There are no templates to download for this project. When I first read your comments, I couldn't remember if there were any or not...I did this project the week before I moved into my new house. (It's been a little crazy--between loosing my e-mail address in the transfer--to having no heat because the boiler blew.) Happily, the cable company found my e-mail address, and the heat is on! Please let me know if you need more help.

Posted: 4:41 pm on January 3rd
bigkitty writes: Nope, no templates. I think, though, it would be easy to adapt to individual needs. Looking forward to making one for my husband's set of chisels. Thanks
Posted: 12:58 pm on January 2nd
noranora writes: I couldn't find the templates either, colleen 7.

BUT, I'm really excited about this because a friend wanted me to make a knife roll to store her pro. knives in and I had no idea how to make one. But, I think I can adapt this project.

THANKS for posting this!!

Posted: 4:17 pm on December 31st
colleen_7 writes: It says to download and print the templates select 5 cards. I can't seem to find them. Maybe having a seniors moment. Could you tell me where to find them. Thanks

Posted: 8:10 am on December 31st
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