Note: If you wanted to make a needle roll for your dpns, follow the exact same instructions but make the inner pocket piece straight instead of slanted and make all your pieces of cloth smaller to fit the length of your dpns instead of the length of your straights.
Final Dimensions: 21″ width by 16″ height
You will need:
- 5 fat quarters of fabric. Fat quarters are pieces of fabric that are 22″ by 18″. They can be found at almost any crafting or quilting store, and are generally pretty cheap– look for them in the scrap bin, since they’re often leftovers from a larger bolt of cloth. If you don’t want to work with fat quarters, you could also make the roll using one 52″ by 22″ piece of fabric, one 32″ by 18″ piece of fabric and some scraps to create the two notions pockets, if desired.
- Sew-on snaps, one for each notion pocket you decide to make.
- Two thin wooden towels, each approximately 15.5″ long.
- Needle and thread, or thread and a sewing machine.
- Straight pins.
Basically, you’re making a rectangular pouch with very narrow, tall pockets and an overhanging flap. The dowels keep the holder from being too floppy. If you don’t want to use dowels, you can make one of your fat quarters out of denim, courduroy or some other stiff fabric, and use that as the back.
To begin, take two of the fat quarters and pin them together using straight pins and with the patterned sides facing outward, folding the cut edges together on the inside on all sides. Pin all sides EXCEPT the side you have decided will be the top of the needle roll. If you start with two 22″ by 18″ fat quarters, you should end up with a piece that’s about 21″ by 16″ after pinning. This will be the back of your needle holder.
Next, take the two dowels and slide one into each side of the pinned-together back, aligning them with the two shorter sides. Think of the fabric as one of those horizontal scrolls people read in movies, and your dowels are the handles on the side. Once the dowels are slid in and you’ve made sure they’re flush with the sides of the back, add additional pins on the inward side of the dowels to keep them from sliding.
Next, make the flap. Take your third fat quarter and fold it in half. Pin the short sides together, but do not pin the long raw edge. Again, make sure to fold the cut edges inside before you pin. Make the flap as wide across as your needle holder body– in this case, 21″. The height of the flap is less important. If you want to make a notions pocket for your needle holder, use only about 14″ of the height of the fat quarter to create your flap, and cut off the other 4″ to make a pocket with, later.
At this point, you can sew the short edges of the flap together, if you want. Or you can go ahead and pin the entire needle holder together before sewing. It’s really your choice.
Next, insert the raw, cut edge of the flap you just made into the unpinned top of the needle holder back you’ve just assembled. Remember to fold under the raw edges of the top of the needle holder back. Pin the flap and needle holder back together– you’ll be pinning six layers of cloth (the first layer of the needle holder back and its folded-over edge, the two layers of the flap, and the second layer of the needle holder back and its folded-over edge), so keep the cloth used for the flap light, especially if the fabric for the needle holder back is heavier.
At this point, you have a needle holder back with dowels pinned inside the short edges, and a flap attached to the top, all with pins. At this point, sew the edges of the flap together if you haven’t already, and sew the flap to the top of the needle holder back. Use two rows of stitches about 1/4th of an inch apart, to anchor the flap most sturdily. In addition, sew the INSIDE STITCHES of the sides of the needle holder back, along the dowels. Not the outside edges, but the line of pins along the inside of each dowel that keep the dowel from slipping and sliding around inside the needle holder back. Keep the sides of the needle holder back pinned and do not sew them for now. Similarly, do not sew the bottom of the needle holder back.
Now you have a half-sewn back (inner dowel edges sewn, top sewn) with an attached flap to keep your needles from falling out. Next, you need to make the pocket you’ll keep your needles in. To do this, take two more fat quarters and pin them together on the bottom and sides, again making sure to fold the raw edges in as you pin. The pocket piece should be 21″ wide and approximately 16″ tall. Do not pin the top edge of the pocket piece.
To create the slant of the pocket piece, you will now cut a diagonal line across the two pieces of you have just pinned together. Start your line 8″ from the bottom on one side of the pocket piece (I started the pocket low on the left, but it’s your choice), and end 14.5″ from the bottom on the other side. If you have mostly short straight needles, you may choose to make the pocket shallower by choosing a shorter ending height (12″ instead of 14.5″, for example).
Once you’ve cut your pocket piece, fold under the raw edges of the diagonal, pin them and sew them together, creating a pocket that goes from 7″ high on one side to 13.5″ high on the other. You now have a pocket piece that is sewn on the diagonal edge and pinned the other three sides.
If you don’t want any external pockets to keep notions or dpns, then keep going here. If you do, now is the time to attach those pockets. Head to the “External Pockets” instructions at the bottom of this post before you go on to the next step.
The next task is to attach the pocket piece to the needle holder back. Align the bottom of the pocket piece with the bottom of the needle holder back, and align the sides of the pocket piece with the sides of the needle holder back. Pin into place. You will have eight layers of fabric all the way around– the first layer of the pocket piece and its turned under edge, the second layer and its edge, and the two layers of the needle holder back with their turned-under edges. Once you have the pocket pinned in place, sew all the way around the three pinned sides of the needle holder back, securing the pocket in place and sewing up any remaining open edges on the needle holder back.
You now have a needle holder back with a pocket and flap and dowels securely sewed in to the two short sides to keep the holder straight. Excellent! The next task is to divide the pocket into the many long, narrow pockets required to hold knitting needles. Here you can use your judgment concerning how many pockets you want to use. I included one 3.5″ wide pocket on the shallow side of the needle holder to hold circular needles (back when this was my all-purpose needle holder). All in all, I divided the 16″ of pocket into 12 separate pockets, each about 1″ across (with the exception of the large pocket).
To divide the pockets, again use pins to mark the divisions from pocket to pocket. These pins will help you sew straight. You can either pin out all your pockets and then sew them individually, or pin and sew one pocket at a time. Make sure to keep your pockets straight, as a crooked pocket can’t hold as many needles.
Once you’ve sewn your pockets, congratulations! You have a basic needle holder. Attach a tie of your choice to one end to keep the roll closed up when you aren’t using it, and you’re in good shape. Tassels are optional, but strongly recommended!
Making External Pockets
If you want to store needles, stitch markers or dpns in your needle holder, you will want some smaller pockets. I attach my smaller pockets to the outside of the larger, straight-needle-holding pocket. You will need fabric scraps that are at least 2.5 times as wide or tall as you want your pocket to be.
I have two pockets attached to this needle holder: a 2.5″ by 4″ pocket for darning needles and stitch markers, and a 2″ by 7″ vertical pocket for DPNS. The thing to remember is to never plan to store anything in your external pockets that is wider than 1″, because then your needle roll won’t roll up properly. Your objects can be as tall as your pocket is, but should never be wider than 1″.
To make a 2.5″ by 4″ pocket with a snap-closing flap, take a piece of fabric that measures approximately 5.5″ by 4.5.” Fold it in half lengthwise and fold the cut edges under so that you have a two-sided piece of fabric about 2.5″ by 4″. Sew across the top of the fabric. Sew a snap onto the side of the fabric that will become the outside of the pocket.
Pin this two-sided fabric to your as-yet-unattached large pocket, attaching the fabric on the bottom and two sides, but not the top. Sew the fabric to the pocket along the pinned sides, making your external pocket. Make sure to keep the snap on the outside of the pocket.
To attach the flap, take another piece of fabric that is about 1/2″ wider than your pocket and twice as long as you want the flap to be. Fold the fabric over, fold under the cut edges and pin, pinning the top edge of the flap to the large pocket directly above where the external pocket is attached. Sew down the flap and sew across the pinned sides of the flap. Sew the other side of the snap to the inside of the pocket flap so that it will connect with the inside of the snap when the flap lies flat.
Congratulations, you have made an external pocket! You may notice that you won’t be able to stitch all the way down the straight needle pocket if an external pocket is placed in the way. Fortunately, since straight needles don’t bend, all you really need to do is to stitch the first two inches of the vertical straight needle pockets– even if the rest of the larger pocket isn’t divided by your stitching, the needles will still stay straight and vertical in their pockets.
To make a pocket for your DPNs, follow the same instructions but make the pocket much taller.