Tutorial: Quick and easy ring binder cover

Fabric file Cover tutorial

One of the sewing classes I teach at Hollies Haberdashery, is for people who are totally new or newly returned to using a sewing machine. Because I know that people will have lots more fun if they learn sewing by actually doing AND because I want them to feel full of the confidence that having completed a project gives you, I needed a REALLY simple sewing pattern to use with my students.

So I came across this fab idea on YouTube (and in lots of places elsewhere) to create fabric covers for ring binders/folders – and as it only involves a few straight lines of stitching and some zig-zagging, it struck me as being the perfect project for a beginner – especially as I give my students lots of helpful sewing info to take home with them in their newly-covered folders. So here is my simple step by step pattern, using the same idea – with lots of photos to guide you through.

As I found out at my first teaching session, there are almost as many different ring binder sizes as there are people who come to my class! Who would have thought that a folder for A4 papers could come with so many different dimensions? My contribution to the pattern is to explain how to calculate the fabric measurements you will need to cover your own folder. I really hope you find it useful.

Easy Ring Binder Cover

Finished folder

Notes on taking measurements

  1. Open up an A4 ring binder (like this one) and measure the height and the width (rounding up to the nearest half inch), making a note of the measurements for each dimension. Remember, the width measurement needs to be the width of the OPEN folder.
  2. Add 2 inches to the width measurement and 1.5 inches to the height measurement. These are the measurements you will need to cut the main outer piece, the lining piece and the piece of batting.
  3. The pocket pieces will be the same height measurement as calculated in Step 2. To calculate the width of the pocket pieces, divide the width measurement you took in Step 1 by 3 (round up to the nearest half inch), add one inch to that total, then double it.

Here’s an example – and the measurements we will use for the pattern. The binder I used measures 12.5 inches high and is 21 inches wide (again, like this one), so the fabric measurements will be as follows:

  • Width of outer, lining and batting pieces: 21 inches plus 2 inches = 23 inches
  • Height of outer, lining and batting pieces: 12.5 inches plus 1.5 inches = 14 inches
  • Height of pocket pieces: 12.5 inches plus 1.5 inches =14 inches
  • Width of the pocket pieces: 21 inches divided by 3 = 7 inches. Add one inch = 8 inches. Double that total = 16 inches.

You will need

These quantities may differ slightly for you, depending on the measurement of your folder, so do check!

  • 1 metre of fabric for the outer, lining and pockets. You can use different fabrics for all of these if you want to – just consult the cutting list so that you can calculate how much you will need.
  • 1/2m low loft batting, wadding or single-sided fusible fleece such as Vilene H630

Cutting list

  • Cut 1 piece measuring 14in by 23in the outer cover.
  • Cut 1 piece measuring 14in by 23in for the lining.
  • Cut 2 pieces measuring 14in by 16in (remember, the 14 inch measurement will be the vertical axis of the pocket, if your fabric has a directional pattern) for the pockets.
  • Cut one piece of batting/wadding or fusible fleece measuring 14in by 23in.

Here’s a PDF if you’d like to print out the pattern – Step by Step Binder cover.

Step 1

Fold and press the 2 pocket pieces in half to create two pieces measuring 14 inches high by 8 inches wide.

Step 1

Step 2

If you are using batting, place it on your work surface and put the piece of outer fabric on top, right side facing you. If you are using fusible fleece, iron it onto the outer fabric first, following the manufacturer’s instructions.

Step 3

Put the 2 folded pockets on the outer fabric, one on either side, raw edges aligned with the 2 short edges of the outer piece, and folded edges towards the middle:

Step 2

Put a few pins along the folded edges and the middle of the pockets (through all the layers), so that they stay in place for the next stage. Make sure that you don’t put any pins within an inch of the edges.

Step 3

Step 4

Put the lining fabric on top, right side down. Pin all round the edges – insert the pins perpendicular to the edges. Leave one of the short edges free of pins.

Step 4

Feel along the two long edges with your fingers for the places where the pocket folded edges are located. Make a mark with a fabric marker at those points.

Step 5

Step 5

Stitch with a scant half inch seam around the 2 long edges and one short edge. Leave the unpinned short edge unstitched. Reverse stitch at either end of stitching and over the folded pocket edges where you have made marks.

Step 6

Turn the cover right side out and check everything looks ok – it is well to check that your folder fits ok at this stage. If all is well, turn the cover inside out again and trim the seam allowance to about 1/4 inch. Also trim diagonally across the stitched corners – mind your stitching!

Step 6

Turn right side out, but keep the pocket on the open end of the cover on the wrong side of the cover – it will look something like this:

Step 7

Use a knitting needle or similar to push out the corners at the completed end of the cover, and press thoroughly, making sure you are creating a really nice neat edge.

Step 7

Stitch the open edge closed (with a scant ½ inch seam again) reverse stitching at either end.

Step 8

Step 8

Trim this seam to ¼ and finish with a zig-zag stitch to neaten (optional).

Step 9

Turn the final pocket right side out to finish and give the whole thing another press, then insert your binder to finish – you will need to fold the binder back on itself to get it into the pockets, but be patient!

Finished folder3

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