in sewing

I’ve been aiming to get more into Urban Sketching, i.e. sketching cool sights on location. Something that became obvious to me right away is that I need a better on-the-go setup for my colored pencils. Awhile ago, I had bought a little plastic sheath box to store the pencils in, which is nicely compact. However, it rattles pretty loudly, and the tips of the pencils get dirty as they all hit the same end of the box. Instead, I wanted something that would keep the colored pencils a little more separate, so that they wouldn’t cross-contaminate each other, so to speak.

Enter the Bookhou tool roll!

A folded, black canvas tool roll with a black leather cord wrapped around it. A patch on the front reads 'tired hands, quiet minds' and has a glowing hand illustration on it.

For this one I used some black-and-white fat quarters that I’ve had for years, supplemented with plain black canvas for the exterior. I chose a plain, heavy material in case this takes some abuse in backpacks.

I also sewed on a patch that I’ve had probably since 2014; it reads “tired hands, quiet minds”. I can’t remember for the life of me where this particular patch came from, but I *think* it might be from a conference I attended that year. In any case, good excuse to finally use one of the patches I have around.

The tool roll unfolded. There is a pocket with a flap, and a row of spaces for pencils to slide in (also with protective flap). Materials used are a black and white floral print, and a painterly striped black and white print.

The interior of the tool roll has a row of slots sewn in for the colored pencils, and a perpendicular pocket that can house pencil sharpeners, erasers, and assorted whatnot.

A close-up of the side pocket.
A blue pencil with one lined sewn after it. No other pencil slots are sewn yet.

To space the pencils, I slipped one pencil into this tool area, and put my finger down where it had enough space to comfortly but snugly fit. This ended up being ~5/8"—terribly convenient given that this is a standard marking on sewing machines.

A rainbow array of pencils inserted into the slots, with the protective flap down over their tips.

I sewed 5/8" slots all the way down the row; it fits 16 pencils.

The protective flap is lifted to show the pencil tips
A hand slipped into the side pocket, which is about a hands-width.

As I had feared, the worst part about this project was putting in the grommet. I kid you not when I say I sweated bullets placing the grommet into the final piece. Perhaps due to nerves, one of the test grommets I did on scrap fabric ended up looking better than the final result! C’est la vie.

I think what was challenging for me was getting the bottom half of the pliers lined up with the eyelet just so. It seems like if you apply uneven pressure, or are just a little off with the tool, bad things happen. Being just a bit off is easy, as you’re working with a couple slippery pieces and having to hold everything steady on two sides of the fabric. It’s maybe hard to tell from the photos, but the grommet looks like absolute butt. Luckily, the knot in the cording covers up the worst of my sins, i.e. the back side of the eyelet/washer combo (which isn’t really flush to the fabric, and is sort of jaggedy). I imagine this must get easier over time, but I also have a mind to remove any jackets with interesting hardware from my sewing wishlist. 😉

The folded-up cover again, with the cord playfully curled to the side.

Since I left the outside of the tool roll a solid color, I think this will be an opportunity to embroider some custom patches and swap them out on the front of tool roll from time to time—great excuse to finally use some of the embroidery floss that’s been lying around!

  • Saili

    THIS IS SO GORGEOUS??? I love omg also can’t wait to see more urban sketches now that you have quiver for all your colored pencils 😤💯💯
  • Ann Bassetti

    Fantastic job, Melanie! And so handsome. I’ve been into UrbanSketchers for quite awhile, although I’ve slacked in last couple years. I need to get back in it. Hope to run into you.
  • Melanie Richards

    @Ann Bassetti: thank you! And it would be lovely to run into you at a sketch meetup, I haven't been able to quite make an event yet since they've been back on in Seattle, but watching for new dates. :)