101DIYdiy projectssewing 101

sewing 101: electronics sleeve

by Brett

It’s really starting to feel like fall, and whether or not that means back to school for you, fall always seems to mean new supplies. Don’t forget your electronics this season, so you can whip up a cozy little wool sleeve for your laptop or tablet! In this project, you’ll learn how to install a zipper around a curve, which really isn’t difficult to do, I promise. You can use these instructions to make a case for a laptop, tablet reader, or any flat electronic device. Once you get the hang of the construction, these sleeves really only take a couple hours to make, so they’re great weekend projects (and good gift ideas, too). Let’s get started! — Brett Bara

Read the full how-to after the jump!



  • 1/2 yard of fabric for exterior — A thick fabric is recommended. Wool plaid works great; you could also consider using a vintage wool blanket or even a wool men’s shirt.
  • 1/2 yard of fabric for lining — A thick, cushy fabric is recommended, such as wool felt, fleece or other soft material.
  • zipper, about 4–6″ longer than the width of your device
  • sewing machine with zipper foot
  • sharp scissors
  • tape measure


1. Cut the fabric.

Measure your device (this pattern will work for a laptop, tablet reader, or any flat electronic device) as follows: Measure the width of the device plus the depth, and add 1.5″, then measure the length of the device plus the depth, and add 1.5″ to this. Cut two pieces of exterior fabric and two pieces of lining fabric to these dimensions.

2. Attach the zipper to the first exterior piece.


Place the zipper right-side down on the right side of one of the exterior pieces, orienting the zipper so the overhang is equal on both sides. (Note: I’m placing the zipper on the long edge of my sleeve, but you could just as easily place it on the narrow edge if you prefer.) Pin the zipper in place along the side edge.


At the corner, make small snips in the zipper tape every 1/4″, which will allow the zipper to bend around the corner more easily. (Be careful not to snip too close to the zipper itself.)


Pin it in place, placing extra pins at the corner so things won’t budge while you’re sewing around the curve.


Using a zipper foot, sew the zipper in place, beginning and ending the seam about 1/2″ before the stops at the end of the zipper. (Remember to remove the pins as you sew, taking them out before sewing over them.)

3. Attach the first lining piece.


Next, place a lining piece right-side down over the piece you just sewed, so that the zipper is sandwiched in between the two pieces of fabric. Do a quick check to make sure the right sides of the fabric are facing together at this point, and the right side of the zipper is facing the exterior piece. Pin the lining in place all along the zipper just as you did for the previous piece.


Now, sew the lining down, following the exact seam line you made in the previous step. I find I get the best results if I sew this piece with the exterior piece facing up, so I can sew right along that first seam line, assuring that the two seam lines will be lined up perfectly.


After this seam is sewn, trim the excess fabric from the corners, following the curve of the zipper, and clip the seam allowance every 1/4″, which will help the corners to look neat once you turn the piece right-side out.

4. Add the second exterior piece.


Turn your fabrics right-side out, and this is what you’ll have — the lining and exterior will be neatly attached to one side of the zipper, and the other side of the zipper tape will still be naked. We’ll be working on the naked side now.


Place the second piece of exterior fabric right-side up, then place the assembled piece over this, aligning the naked edge of the zipper with the new piece of fabric so that everything is aligned the same way it was the first time around. Remember to snip the corner curve on the zipper tape. Pin everything in place, then sew the naked edge of the zipper to the new exterior piece. (Things might start to feel a little awkward at this point, since you’re working with so much fabric already attached to one side of the zipper, but just take your time, and you’ll get through it!)

After sewing the exterior piece, place the remaining lining piece right-side down on top of the whole stack. So what you’ll have, from bottom to top, is: second exterior piece (which you just sewed), the zipper, the first exterior piece, the first lining piece and finally, the second lining piece. Pin the second lining piece in place and sew it, following the seam line you just made when attaching the second exterior piece.

Whew! Turn everything right-side out, and this is what you’ll have — the zipper is installed, but the bottom and sides of the sleeve are still unfinished. (Confession: In this photo, I made my zipper seams a little too long. I should have stopped the seams about 1/2″ before the stops at the end of the zipper. I later redid those seams but forgot to redo the photo [sorry]. The reason you need to stop the seams earlier is so the zipper stops will be hidden inside the next seam we’ll be sewing.)

5. Finish sewing the exterior.

Flip the piece inside out so that the right sides of the exterior pieces are facing each other. (Move the lining pieces up and out of the way for now.) Pin the exterior pieces together around all three unfinished edges. Using the zipper foot on your machine, begin sewing at the center of the bottom edge, and sew up around the side, stopping at the point where the zipper seams begin. Backstitch at the end of this seam to secure. Repeat for the other side, again beginning at the center bottom and working up the side. (Sewing in this direction, and using a zipper foot, helps you get a neat, finished seam at the point where this seam will meet the zipper.)

If you like, sew a curve rather than a 90-degree angle on the bottom corners, to mimic the curves created by the zipper on the other corners.

6. Finish sewing the lining.

Finally, flip the piece again so that the right sides of the two lining pieces are facing each other (move the exterior pieces out of the way). Pin the lining pieces together as you did for the exterior and sew them in the same way, but leave a 6″ opening along the bottom edge so that you can turn the piece right-side out.

After sewing these seams, carefully turn the piece right-side out through the opening in the lining. Finally, stitch the opening closed by hand or on the machine.

And you’re done! I know these steps may seem a little tricky, but once you wrap your head around the construction, this really isn’t a difficult project. Have fun!







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  • What a cool diy project!! It definitely look do-able, not too much out of my league. I love how personalized the materials can be. Think I need to get myself a sewing machine asap!! :-)

  • Man, that is gorgeous! Thanks so much for sharing that. I’m very new to having a sewing machine (I have to read the instructions to re-thread it, that’s how new) and terrified of anything complicated (for me at least) like zippers.

    For the zipper-phobic, would it be possible to make a buttoned down or even better velcro version do you think? Promise I won’t be turning it upside down with the laptop inside it.

  • My oh my, how I so look forward to this column on d*s! So informative, clear, and stylish! You rock, Brett Bara! I’ve been thinking about doing something that would require a curved zipper and you’ve nailed it. As always! <3

  • This is pretty much amazing! Definitely something I could do for my husband or his folks for all of their technological gadgetry! This might be one of my favorite “how-tos” on d*s so far. Very useful!

  • Fabulous tutorial! I still remember the first time I realized that zippers are sewn in before the rest of the piece is finished. It was like sewing heaven itself opened up before me :) Thanks for the great post!

  • I just bought my first sewing machine and have been looking for easy projects to get my feet wet- this looks like a winner! I don’t have a laptop but it would be a great diy Christmas gift to get an early start on. Thanks!

  • I agree with Katrina, do not use fleece or fabrics that create static. Static is not good for electronics.

    Also, for laptops cases, I’ve always added small handles (using sturdy ribbons), so that I can pull the case (with laptop) out easily from my backpack. This is especially handy for airport security checks.

  • I have a healthy dose of plaid fabric that has been waiting for a project like this. PERFECT! Thank you so much, can’t wait to make it.

  • Just made it!!! Looks cool, love it! But used polar fleece as the lining and just read other comments :( Now I just have a big funky note bag! Oh well practice makes perfect.

  • I made several attempts at making a sleeve for my kindle. Sadly, not a single one turned out. I am not am not an expert seamstress but have sewn my fair share of pillowcases. Anyways, I found this project to be fairly difficult. Just my 2c.

  • i had tried making something like this before with a less than perfect outcome, so was great to see this very detailed step-by-step. figured what i was doing wrong is putting the zipper in at the end! didnt wait to go out and get fabric, but recycled instead the faux leather from my handbag (that incidentally used to carry my laptop around most of the time) for the outside layer, and some plain strong cotton for the lining.. it turned out great, especially as i left in some of the detailing (hooks and buttons) from the old bag. great tutorial, thanks!

  • Thanks for the great idea! I am also wondering where you found those really cool sewing pins? They look so much nicer than the tiny round tops and I’d love to get some.

  • I know you wrote this a while ago but I just wanted to thank you. I just got a sewing machine and I was able to follow this tutorial and your curtain tutorial without hardly any experience. I never would’ve been able to figure this out without your directions so thank you so much!

  • Thanks so much for the tutorial! Your instructions are easy to follow for a beginner (that’s me!) I made this case with a bicycle patterned fabric and added foam padding to the case for extra protection.

  • Thanks a lot. This is the first time I experienced with zipper, and I installed it through 3 sides of the laptop. I attached elastic so that my husband doesn’t need to get the laptop out of the cover. I recycled old jeans and pants.

  • I tried this same tut on another site, which had less steps and got so frustrated! Yours is so easy to follow and understand, thank you!!! I was just about ready to give up on my sleeve but reading through yours I believe I can finish the job.

  • i just finished this in pendleton wool for my laptop. it took about 2.5hrs and the directions were pretty dialed. i would reduce the 1.5″ extra fabric to .5″ (width/height+depth+.5″). the zipper also creates some extra depth, so when sewing it in i would set it back from the outer fabric about .25″ so you have a uniform rectangle when you finish. i would recommend a prototype if you have fabric to spare or a device you don’t use as much to make for.

  • Love love love this!!! Very pretty photos, very cute project, amazing instructions….perfect!

  • Thank you, great pattern. My daughter now has a great bag to protect her laptop. Very good instructions. It went together very quickly. I will use this again and recommend it to friends.

  • Just made this and it turned out great for a 9″ tablet. I made it big enough to hold the keyboard and stand as well and it works perfectly. My husband loves it! Thanks!

  • This is such a great tutorial! For a sewing newbie like myself (I even accidentally sewed over the zipper hah.. but I fixed it >o<), I still managed to make it, so I recommend this easy tutorial for all beginners! ^_^

  • Thanks so much for this post. It was so easy to follow, and the pictures helped a lot. I’m very happy with my new case!

  • Thank you, Brett, for this wonderful tutorial. I just finished sewing one as a Christmas gift for my hubby. I found some wonderful acoustic guitar themed cotton fabric in my local quilt store. (He’s a professional guitar player, so he will love it.) Added fusible fleece interfacing to the cotton fabric for both exterior and interior fabrics. I also sewed some pellon foam interfacing for extra cushion. Your instructions worked wonderfully. Thank you for your great step -by-step photos, which are extremely useful to all of us visual learners.

    • thank you so much for this amazing tutorial. I,ve just finished my laptop case and I´m so proud and happy. I can´t stop looking at it. I put some foam between the exterior and the interior pieces and combined different colours and flower patterns. Thank you again for such clear instructions. xo

  • Are there any video tutorials on this? I am a new sewer, and I want this to be my first project as I have a drawing tablet that really needs protection from dust. I’m having trouble following some of the written directions, and need more visuals.

  • Made this, turned out great but was a bit big, definitely reduce the extra 1.5 inch to 1 inch, and I didn’t even use a machine – seams were not quite as clean

  • Thank you very much for this tutorial. Very well explained! Great tutorial. I tried with an old Jeans and it turned out pretty good..but not as good looking as yours :)

  • I made this out of some vintage barkcloth drapes and I love it! I used quilters batting and some cotton for lining, but it was really thick so it was clunky to sew and the parts where the zipper joins wouldn’t go under my sewing machine foot. Lesson learned there! Thanks for this tutorial, it was really helpful!

  • Thanks so much for this tutorial, it’s the only one I could find with a curved zipper!

    I quilted the lining to a light weight batting for extra protection for my new laptop and it worked perfectly. I’d suggest cutting the pieces an extra 1/4 in to allow for the batting.

  • Thanks soooo much for this. We looked everywhere for a straightforward tutorial on this. The zipper is super cute too. Where did you get it? Looking for a bulk supplier.

  • Thanks for this tutorial. I made myself one, added handles, a front zippered pocket and a mesh pocket on the back. It turned out great. Thanks again

  • How do I hide the zipper stops and ends? When I sew the outside pieces together up to the zipper seam, the ends of , my zipper are in the seams and show on the outside. I know I’m doing something wrong but can’t figure it out. Any help would be great.