My niece is starting a new school year this week—and I’m jealous. She’ll be in sixth grade, which, thanks to all sorts of pre-teen awkwardness, doesn’t even crack my academic-year top ten. So it’s not necessarily the school part that I envy. It’s the school supplies.
I miss them! All those unsharpened pencils and empty notebooks and folders waiting to be filled. All those symbolic promises of new beginnings and possibilities. I miss wandering their aisles and searching well-stocked shelves for the best tools to help build a perfect school year. In my middle-school era, those tools were often bright pink and purple, and adorned in flowers and/or animals. Because fluffy white kittens = success. Always.
But I’m an adult now. So even if I do wander those aisles (as I might’ve in Target recently, for old times’ sake!), it’s not the same. It’s not as fun. Those freewheeling school-supply days are done.
Or are they?
Behold the Well-Kept Trapper! This fabric binder cover is an elegant, grown-up version of the Trapper Keeper, one of my very favorite school supplies of all time.
In its heyday, the Trapper Keeper was bold. Daring. Cool. (Or mint, as the kids said back then!) Made of canvas duck and denim twill, the Well-Kept Trapper isn’t exactly bold…but it’s definitely mint. It features an accent spine and flap, keeps your noteworthy notes secure with sturdy interior slip pockets, and forgoes Velcro for metal purse snaps for an updated look. Best of all, the design can be made in countless fabric combos.
To make your very own Well-Kept Trapper you’ll need:
Canvas or home décor fabric A for exterior
Canvas or home décor fabric B for spine, exterior flap, interior slip pockets and lining
Denim sewing needle (I used size 14)
Wonder (or other) Clips (not required, but helpful!)
Scissors, rotary cutter, cutting mat
1” three-ring binder
From canvas/home décor A:
(2) 9” x 13” for main exterior panels
From canvas/home décor B:
(1) 8” x 13” for spine
(1) 5” x 13” for exterior flap
(4) 5” x 13” for interior slip pockets
(1) 13” x 29” for lining
(1) 13” x 29” for full exterior
(2) 5” x 13” for interior slip pockets
A Few Notes:
On fabric: I kept things simple with two fabrics, but you can definitely incorporate more via the interior slip pockets, lining, etc. This design offers many creative options!
On fusible fleece: I find interfacing to be a matter of taste, so please adjust this recommendation any way you’d like. I love fusible fleece for certain bags and accessories, because it adds a bit of weight and softness, but that’s just me. You do you!
On stitch length: I used 3.5” for topstitching and 2.2” for all other sewing.
On seams: I used ¼” for topstitching and ½” for all other seams.
Let’s Start Stitching!
1. As there are a few optional steps along the way, please read through all instructions before beginning!
2. Construct Trapper Exterior
a. Sew Fabric A exterior panels to either side of the Fabric B spine (along long edges).
b. Sew Fabric B exterior flap to the right side of the right exterior panel (along long edge).
c. Press seams toward the spine and flap. Topstitch to secure.
d. Following package instructions, iron fusible fleece to the entire exterior length.
e. Optional: Insert exterior snaps. To do this, find the front Fabric A panel. Measure 2” in from the right side and 2.75” down from the top edge, and mark. Repeat with left side. Insert snaps. OR, to ensure that your snaps are exactly where you want them, skip this step for now. The backs of these snaps will be eventually covered by the binder, so you don’t absolutely need to hide them inside the lining.
3. Construct Interior Slip Pockets
a. Find your (4) 5” x 13” Fabric B rectangles. Fuse fleece to the wrong sides of two of these rectangles.
b. Place 2 fleece-free rectangles on top of the fleeced rectangles, right sides together. On each, sew along one long side.
c. Turn the slip pockets right side out. Press and topstitch along side seams.
4. Prepare Lining
a. Attach right interior slip pocket to lining. To do this, mark or draw a line on the right side of lining, 5.5” in from the lining’s right/flap edge. Place the interior slip pocket right side down so that its raw edge rests on the drawn line. Sew along the raw edge, then fold to the left and press.
b. Insert interior flap snaps. For placement, measure and mark 2” in from the lining’s right side and down from its flap edge. Repeat with the left side. For extra stability, press a 1” piece of fusible fleece to the wrong side of the lining at these marks. Attach snaps.
5. Assemble Trapper
a. Place your Trapper exterior and lining right sides together. Your “loose” interior slip pocket will go in between the exterior and lining, right side down, with its raw edge even with their raw edges. Pin or clip, then sew around all edges, leaving a 4-5” opening for turning. (I left my opening along the spine.) Be sure to backstitch on either side of this opening.
b. Clip corners, then carefully turn Trapper right side out through opening.
c. Using a chopstick, knitting needle or other pointy utensil, reach through opening to push out fabric for sharper corners.
d. Press Trapper, then hand sew opening closed. If you don’t mind a small line of stitches, feel free to use your machine instead.
e. Topstitch flap’s outer edge. (Optional: Topstitch the Trapper’s entire perimeter. I tried this with an early version and didn’t love the look, but again, that’s just me! If you choose to topstitch the entire perimeter, you can close the opening in this step, too.)
6. Insert Exterior Snaps (if you didn’t already!)
a. Insert binder and close as you would if you were enjoying the finished Trapper. Then, using your lining snaps as a guide, mark exterior snap placement on Fabric A.
b. Remove binder, then carefully snip snap prong holes, being careful not to cut into interior slip pocket fabric.
c. Insert snaps.
7. Enjoy your Well-Kept Trapper!
I’d love to see your creations! Feel free to tag me (@triciarayburn) on Instagram!