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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Tutorial: Art Portfolio Case

I have a pattern drafting class at the local community college and they would like us to carry a foam board and poster board to class with us.  Those things are fairly awkward to lug across campus, so I needed something to carry them in.  I don't need much of an excuse to go buy fabric and I thought it would be a fun project to try and make an art portfolio case.

Here is the concept - essentially make two pillow cases, insert cardboard into them and then sew them together.  Put two zippers and handles on.

Items needed:
  • 3 yards fabric for portfolio case and lining
  • 1 yard contrasting fabric 
  • Two zippers 30 inches long (I custom cut mine from much longer zippers)
  • Cardboard 
  • Spray adhesive
The items I wanted to carry were 24 X 30 inches, so this case is specifically for that, but you could easily vary yours.  I could have chosen a different fabric for the inside, but I wanted the inside to look as nice as the outside, since it is made to open flat.

  • Cut 4 of main fabric.  26 x 32 inches square.
  • Cut 4 contrast on bias (case sides) 2.5 x 30 inches
  • Cut 2 of contrast (case bottom) 3.5 x 32 inches
  • Cut 2 of contrast (case handles) 6 x 18 inches
  • Cut 2 cardboard pieces 25 x 31 inches

  •  Prepare handle by folding the edges toward the center, then ironing.  Fold in half, then iron again.
  • Sew together.  I put another stitching line on the other side to match the seam line. 

  •  Sew handles to main fabric.  I marked the fabric with pins at 14 inches from each side and six inches down from the top.  Do this for two of the main fabric pieces.  These will be the outsides of the portfolio case.

  • On the last bottom 1.5 inches, I sewed a square with an x through it to secure it.  
  • Stop sewing the sides of the handles .5 inches from the top.  That part will be tucked under in a seam allowance. 

  •  With right sides together, sew two main fabric pieces together on three sides, leaving top open.  One on the pieces has a handle, one without.  Use .5 inch seam allowances.  
  • Repeat for the other two pieces and turn both of them right side out and iron seams flat.

  • You will now have two pillow case-like pieces with one handle on each pillow-case.

  • Sew right sides of case bottom contrast together, then turn right side out and iron flat with seams at sides.
  • Sew bottom contrast piece to inside of bags, stopping three inches before each corner.
  • The piece should be sewn to the inside of the case, sewing it to the side opposite the handles. Match edges.

  • When each side of the case bottom is sewn to the insides of the case, it will look like this.  Both edges are sewn to the insides of the case.

  • With right sides together, sew one piece of contrast side pieces together lengthwise with a 1/4 inch seam allowance. Repeat for remaining three pieces. This will make 4 long tubes.
  • Turn right side out and iron flat.
  • Sew strips of side contrast to zipper, sewing one piece of contrast to each side of zipper.  the zipper


  • The width of the two side pieces (with zipper attached) should be the same as the bottom of the case.

  • Sew sides with zipper attached to case bottom piece, two inches from edge.  This will allow the case to open flat.

  • Hand-sew the zipper assembly to the case with a pick stitch.  Here is a tutorial for a pick stitch.  I originally did this step by machine, but found that the tension was too hard to control and the zipper went in wavy, so I had better results with hand-sewing.
  • Leave top of zipper unfinished for now.
  • Fold top of case over 1/2 inch and press into place 


  • Insert cardboard into case sides through the top.  


  • Spray a thin layer of spray adhesive on the cardboard, then smoothed out the fabric over it, after positioning the cardboard in place.  This is done so that the fabric doesn't sag or bunch.


  • Hand sew top of case with a slip stitch.  Here is a tutorial on a slip stitch.  I imagine you could try to machine-sew it, but with the cardboard in it, I found this method easier.

  • Finish bottom of case contrast.  I folded the bottom over and hand-stitched it into place, hiding some of the zipper bottom.
  • Finish top of zipper.  I folded the zipper over and hand-stitched, making the top just lower than the top of the finished case. 
  • I am not thrilled about the seeing the back side of the pick stitches here... but I had to make a color choice with thread since I couldn't find a green zipper. Next time, I may choose to hide the zipper completely in the side contrast fabric instead of making tubes out of them.  For this time, I may color the green thread with a permanent black marker just to make the green thread a little less obvious.

  • This is the inside of the case.  I opens flat, but I found that really, really hard to photograph, so here it is open at a 90 degree angle.


    1. This is awesome just what I was looking for, cant wait to make it ! Thanks so much!

    2. A fantastic idea. I'm going to make one for my A3 paper I use for calligraphy.


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