Kate Makes a Tool Roll

Quite a bit earlier in the school year, my lovely classmate Eve completed her conservation tool holder, giving it the form of a box fitted with a shelf and tray.

Eve set the bar high with her superior Eterno-board-manipulating skills, so I knew I would have to put myself  right to thinking up a design for my tool roll that would fit the requirements and allow me to work in a new medium.

Our first requirement for this project was to create a two-dimensional drawing and a materials list. As such, I began my brainstorming process in a program called SketchUp (Google, the previous owner of the so-called “Google SketchUp” program recently sold to Trimble Navigation, a mapping and communications company based in Sunnyvale, CA.) This program is easy to pick up and use, even for people who are techno-phobic or otherwise more likely to resort to the messier paper-and-paste method of 3D modeling.

Eventually I decided to make a tool roll, so there was no longer much need for any 3-dimentional components. Instead, I turned over a few quick patterns for my future foray into fabric-cutting:

Fabric was indeed a new medium for me, but I suppose that I wanted a wee challenge.

The second operation involved in this tool-roll challenge was to find a fabric store. This happened accidentally: I had gone back to the Print Shop to retrieve a notebook that I had abandoned there, and I found myself on Fashion Avenue at the mouth of the largest fabric store that I have ever seen, New York Elegant Fabrics. Although this particular store did not make the list of the Top 5 Best Fabric Stores, as determined by CBS New York, it is featured in this fabulous photo-tour of the Garment District.

As far as I was concerned, though, I had just stumbled upon an entire city block covered in an intimidatingly unfamiliar medium. I didn’t know where to start, so I just took a lot of pictures:

I must have looked silly to all of the Parsons students who were there shopping for their school projects. But despite the fact that I was the only one in the building who did not know the difference between muslin and moleskin, I eventually brought myself to begin browsing. Although I was surprised at the expense of some of the bolts that first caught my eye, it was just as well, because they would have been too hard to sew.

Quite honestly, the store employees were not too eager to attend to the shoppers–no matter how clueless they looked. I eventually gained the sympathy of a worker on the floor, who was very generous and helped me choose and cut my fabric. I chose a rugged cotton twill and a cotton corduroy, which I knew would be relatively easy to sew and to handle roughly–both for my sake as the artiste and for the sake of tool-roll longevity.

Next in the process was the recruitment of a sewing-machine instructor: The coordinator of our Technology & Structures class, Margo Delidow, fit the bill and generously volunteered to demonstrate the basic operations of our school-owned sewing machine. My classmates, Annika and Saira came along for the ride–Annika because she relished the opportunity to learn a new skill, and Saira because she also planned to make a tool roll for this assignment.

My new sewing skills at hand, I drew out my to-scale pattern on tracing paper to hand in to Margo:

I used this pattern to cut out the fabric components. Then I pinned the denim onto the corduroy facing in the comfort of my own apartment:

The pinned components with hem allowances--partially rolled.

The pinned tool-roll body with hem allowances–partially rolled.

Next, I pinned the pocket component onto the body:


I decided to eliminate the top reinforcing strip that I included on my initial SketchUp sketch, because I was afraid that things would get too bulky. The pocket piece extends past the edge of the body in this photo because I had not yet made allowances for the pocket volume required for each of the tools I planned to include.

Armed with my sewing machine manual, I began by facing the pocket component, pinning it into the body, and then rolling over the top and left-side hems of the body. I stitched these hema using your typical running stitch, set to a length of “2” on the machine:

The sewing machine settings.

The sewing machine settings.

I then backtracked and decided to include fabric ties attached under a pretty gold-beaded appliqué I bought from India. I did this while I still had access to the back of the denim fabric, so that my stitches would not show through the corduroy. The ties are attached with a satin stitch in the same gold-colored polyester used for the rest of the tool roll. I used a worsted-cotton scrap string to attach the appliqué by hand, because it was stronger.

Working late one night, I finally finished the pockets, pinning them to the body to give the appropriate volume to each, sewing in-between, and rolling the bottom and right-side hem over. Certain pockets I made quite big, and this required a dart on the bottom.

And VOILÀECCOCI…a slideshow of the final product:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In conclusion (cheesy, I know, but I do feel that this whole process deserves some reflection in a cheesy mode), I’m very glad that I chose to delve into the unknown and to make a tool holder out of fabric. I learned how to use and to troubleshoot the sewing machine with some competence. The project was surprisingly simple, and I will be able to complete the same operations a few times faster when I sew in the future. I can now say that I am no longer afraid of fabric.

I do hope that my tool roll winds up being functional–It certainly is pretty!

Pffew…That was a long post. I enjoyed documenting and reflecting on the process, so thank you, readers, for sticking with it.

Until next time,

Kate Brugioni


One response to “Kate Makes a Tool Roll

  1. Pingback: Amy Brost’s Tool Kit (Better Late Than Never!) | Institute of Fine Arts :: Conservation Center·

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