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Saturday, 14 February 2015

Deconstructing the Multi-Zip Organizer

Gadget Organizer Proof Concept by eSheep Designs
My own (mini) multi-zip organizer...
How good would you say you are at seeing something and then getting an image in your mind of how it is constructed?

It's an ability that's developed through practice and experience, but you may be surprised by how quickly you can pick it up. Until a little over two years ago, I had no experience with craft sewing. But once I started, it wasn't hard to "see through" how things are made. All it really takes is a couple of intermediate to advanced level projects to pave the way.

Which is to say, I would recommend seeking out patterns (or online classes for that matter) to create something a little more substantial than what you're used to doing. As long as they're decent patterns — and yes, there is the rub, to paraphrase Shakespeare — you can gain a wealth of experience from merely reading them. You may not have the confidence to take them on immediately, but just seeing how something complex is put together can start turning those lightbulbs on over your head.

This leads me back to the topic at hand: the multi-zip organizer that I showed you a couple of weeks ago. While putting on the final touches to that project, it occurred to me that the basic foundation of the item is really very simple. The specific pattern that I was attempting to follow had features in it that — in my humble opinion — precludes it from being a beginner level project. But that doesn't mean that a beginner can't make something similar, and I was determined to prove it.

Two days after completing the project — while the construction process was still fresh in my mind — I scribbled out some dimensions and started cutting. I was convinced enough about how easy this was going to be that I did not bother making my usual test prototype and instead "sacrificed" some Robert Kaufman fabrics to the cause. You can see the interior here and the exterior at the top of this post.

Gadget Organizer Proof Concept by eSheep Designs
My multi-zip organizer eliminates the frustrating elements I found in the "inspiration version"...

Here's the plain honest truth about my relationship with sewing: frustration bites. I don't like it. And when it's a hobby — something that I do to relax, that's a creative outlet for me — I especially don't want to be frustrated while doing it. (If I wanted frustration, I'd go back to work full-time.) The Multi-Zip Organizer project frustrated me on a number of levels.

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Which is why, when I thought about making my own version, I asked myself, how do I simplify the construction so that a beginner can manage fine on her/his own?

At its most basic level, this is not a difficult item to sew. It really only has four main components to it: a large rectangular outside piece, a couple of side panels, one long inside piece made up of some "zipper sandwiches", and a wrap around zipper. Attaching the binding to the sides and around the main zipper will be the most challenging part for a first-timer working with binding (which I was), but it's manageable. With some changes, the remainder of the sewing is easy.

Gadget Organizer Proof Concept by eSheep Designs
Another view of the interior...

One change that I immediately made was to have only two — generously spaced apart — zippered pockets. It's not because zippered pockets are bad or hard to do. I figure that having two as a start is good enough because once you master how that works, you can always add more. (And the bit about them being generously spaced apart? That's entirely for the sake of reducing frustration and not having you curse at me as you follow along with the pattern that I plan to release in a couple of weeks.) I also changed how the pocket linings are finished off in the corners.

Gadget Organizer Proof Concept by eSheep Designs
End view...

The second change that I made was to cut down on the thickness at the seams. The Incredible Bulk at the edges contributed to a lot of frustration when I made the original organizer. Eliminating some of the interfacing was also a priority. When you need to interface a lot of fabric, it's hard on the pocketbook. (Some hobbyists have sky high budgets when it comes to buying supplies, but that's never been me.) This would be a great project for "making and selling" and in that sense, it's important that it be somewhat economical to make in the first place.

The third change that I made was to the side panel. It is entirely flat along the bottom and symmetrical at both ends. Symmetrical means that you won't have to pay any special attention when you cut out the fabric and interfacing. Flat means that you won't have to wrestle with a three dimensional object coming up at you while you're trying to sew it together... 'nuff said about that.

The fourth change that I made was to the overall size, of course. It is, after all, meant to serve a different purpose.

Shortly after I made that mp3 carrying case for my hubby, I noticed that he was also carting around a battery charger and spare batteries. So when I considered what sort of storage my version of this roll-up, multi-zip organizer was going to solve, I immediately thought of electronic gadgets.

Gadget Organizer Proof Concept by eSheep Designs
A storage solution for electronic gadgets... here are my hubby's battery charger,
spare batteries, speaker and mp3 player...

As another example, I've often travelled with different cell phones and/or needed to bring along additional SIMs, chargers, adapters, etc. (I last used a rectangular food storage container for this purpose... no joke.) And even if you put a SIM card into one of those little plastic cases that usually hold microSD cards, they are notoriously hard to keep safe. Having a zippered pocket in an organizer like this would be the perfect solution.

Here is everything all zipped up inside.

Gadget Organizer Proof Concept by eSheep Designs
Room for everything and more...

This was made with just two main fabrics (well, actually the interiors of the pockets are made from a third) and I did a kind of patchwork thing with the inside lining to accommodate the size of scraps that I had. I also reversed the side panels for some added interest. For the main wrap-around opening, I did something different and used two of my red zippers. (In a pinch, using two actually works as an alternative to buying a longer zipper.)

As I was in the middle of making this one, I thought about how I could further differentiate this design in order to offer it up for sale as a pattern. Look for the Gadget Grab 'n' Go in a couple of weeks...!


  1. I'm really impressed that you were able to visualize this and put it together without a pattern. I admire that ability and hope someday I can develop it! As it is now, I can look at elements of something and replicate them, but haven't achieved (and to be honest, haven't tried visualizing) the Whole Thing. This is a neat project, though, and it intrigues me--so does the process. You do a great job of breaking down the components and explaining them--who knows what that will lead to for someone reading this? :)


    1. Well, if it allows them to figure it out on their own, all the more power to them! Actually, it's probably true that there is a certain percentage of people who can "reverse engineer" almost anything and an equal percentage who will never be able to do so. The rest of us are "teachable"! So I'm sure the day will come when you push through that wall. ;-)

  2. I had also bought the " multi-zip organizer" pattern but have never made it because when I read the instructions i just coukdnt visualize it ?? Guess i need more pictures that or I was having a bonde day ??!! LOL

    1. I wouldn't blame it on having a blonde day, Liz.... let's just say that the pattern needed to be a bit more helpful because if someone like you couldn't figure it out, I don't feel so bad about my difficulties with it!

  3. Just wanted to let you know I responded to your email..just in case i land in the spam box :-)

  4. I've also bought this and like Liz...just couldn't see it! I'm pretty good with visualizing and can easily build my own patterns by looking at someone else's item and only buy patterns from those I know, even thoug I could make them easy enough without one...just seems right! But this thing...there are many versions of this thing floating around....yours is the fifth different designer one I've come by! Maybe one day I'll make it, just because...well, I DID buy it...I like the style and design, but since buying it, reading the reviews and seeing a sew a long for one of the versions, it just seemed like too much trouble.


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