Beat-Up Binder Makeover

by Admin on 10/08/2007

in Paper+Mixed Media, Whip Up Tutorials

Three-ring binders: a school essential. After another year keeping records of my students, my binder was beat up once again, its flimsy plastic cover partially ripped. Instead of tossing it into the landfill for several thousand years, I decided to give it a second life. I pulled out the ever-handy duct tape to reinforce the rip in the binder and whipped up a lovely fabric cover closed with a Velcro strap. Here’s an easy way to give your ugly binder a makeover.

You will need:
Fabric for the cover exterior and the Velcro strap || Fabric for the cover lining || 3” x 3” piece of Timtex (interfacing/stablizer) || 1 ½” of one-inch wide Velcro || lid of a wide-mouth jar (about 3 inches in diameter) and pen for tracing || scrap of accent fabric for decorative circular closure (I used brown corduroy.)

Cut it out

(1) With your repaired binder opened and lying flat, measure the length and width. To find your fabric cutting dimensions, add 1 ½” to the width and 10” to the length. Using these dimensions, cut one rectangle from the exterior fabric and one from the lining fabric. In addition, cut one rectangle 3” x 6” from the exterior fabric. This will become the Velcro strap.

(2) Using the jar lid, trace and cut out two circles from the accent fabric. Set these aside for now.

Sew it up

(3) Sew together the exterior fabric and the lining: Pin the large rectangles together with their right sides facing. Sew along the edges using a ½” seam allowance, leaving a 3” opening in the middle of one of the long sides. Trim the corners and turn right side out by pulling through the 3” opening. Push out the corners with a turning tool and press. Set aside.

(4) Fold the 3” x 6” Velcro strap piece in half lengthwise, with right sides together. With a ¼” seam allowance, sew down the long side, forming a tube. Turn this tube right side out. Tuck in both short edges ¼” and press the entire tube. Edge-stitch a scant 1/8” around the entire Velcro strap.

(5) Sew the rough side of the Velcro to the middle of the right side of one of the decorative circles.

(6) Lay down the other circle with its right side facing up. Set the circle with the Velcro attached on top, with its Velcro side facing down. Pin the two circles together. Sew around the edges with a ¼” seam allowance, leaving a 1 ½” opening beneath the short edge of the Velcro, as shown below. Clip the edges and turn right side out.

(7) Cut out a circle of Timtex just slightly smaller than the decorative circular closure you’ve created. Insert it into the opening of the decorative circular closure and smooth flat.

(8) Tuck in the open edges of the decorative circular closure so they are both on the same side of the Timtex. Press. Insert the end of the Velcro strap through the opening. Sew around the decorative circular closure using a mere 1/8” seam allowance. This seam will attach the Velcro strap to the decorative circular closure.

(9) With a contrasting thread, machine stitch a design on your circular tab closure. You could also add hand stitching, beads, or buttons.

Finish the Velcro closure

)10) Lay the binder cover, with its lining face up, on a flat surface. Open your binder and lay it flat in the center of the binder cover. Fold the cover’s edges around the binder and close it. Place the Velcro strap on the middle edge of the back cover, pinning it in place.

(11) Using the pinned Velcro strap as a guide, place the soft Velcro piece on the front cover.

(12) Sew the strap and the soft Velcro piece in place.

Last steps

(13) Lay out the binder on the binder cover, lining face up, as in step 10. Fold the cover’s edges around the binder and pin the edges in place. Remove the binder.

(14) With a 1/8” seam allowance, stitch along both long edges of the binder cover, securing the folded-over cover edges and closing the opening that you used for turning.

Et voila! You just saved another piece of plastic junk from the trash can and made a unique and useful back-to-school fashion statement.

About the maker:
Meg McElwee is a Montessori teacher who lives with her husband and two cats in rural Mexico. She spends most of her free time fiddling with fabric and keeping up her blog. She recently began selling her original sewing patterns at montessori by hand.

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 gwensmom August 10, 2007 at 7:44 am

This is adorable! It is also a great idea for binders that are intact but boring. Thanks for taking time to post it.


2 Hanane August 10, 2007 at 9:34 am

Thank you so much for this tutorial. Now I must go dumpster diving in my own dumpster to get a broken ugly binder out to save the world.


3 cindy@staged4more August 11, 2007 at 4:18 am

i love your color combo. also the instructions are so simple yet the result looks great! fabulous! ;)



4 Kirstin August 11, 2007 at 10:57 am

Wouldn’t that be a great surprise to put in some kiddo’s backpack with some appliqué or embroidery that personalized it with their name? Thanks, M! Great idea!


5 charli August 11, 2007 at 8:59 pm

I just used that coordinating fabric for a bag yesterday- it’s brown with teal dots! I love the polka dots!


6 Amanda August 12, 2007 at 9:51 am

I really love that. I think i might just have to give it a try for my school binders this year.


7 Alisa August 12, 2007 at 2:27 pm

What a great idea! Thanks!


8 clémentine September 8, 2007 at 3:56 am

Magnifique ! ce tuto est parfait, merci beaucoup.

Gorgeous ! this tuto is perfect. Thank you very much.

Clémentine from south of France .


9 Knitting Scarves March 10, 2011 at 5:19 pm

This is adorable! Thanks for posting this! I’ll add this to my favorites!


10 Mary Diran July 14, 2011 at 2:33 pm

Thanks so much! I am doing this with zebra stripes and pink fabric! I embroidered the Velcro strap with my name!


11 Ophelia Johnson December 20, 2011 at 10:06 pm

That sounds really pretty! Good luck.


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