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Homemade Tool Roll-Up

My husband bought two large sets of combination wrenches — one standard and one metric. But he had no way to store them that would keep them accessible and orderly. We looked around on the internet for tool roll-ups. They weren’t expensive — about $10 to $15 each. He would have needed 4 or 5 of them. But the largest and the smallest of his wrenches would never have fit in those commercial roll-ups.

I told him I could probably make him some tool roll-ups that would fit all his tools and save us some money. I don’t think he believed me at first, but now he does! (Reading this article through, my husband just told me that he tells me things like this to challenge me.) I practiced some different methods on thrift store canvas before I bought the heavy duty duck cloth that I used in the end. Each roll-up, including fabric and notions, ended up costing me about $7. So not only did we save money, but we custom fit all his tools.

So far, I have made him 4 roll-ups. The first one took me hours, I’m not kidding. Now I can make one in about an hour to an hour and a half. So if you’re going to attempt this project, I want to encourage you to stick with it. Everyone has a learning curve, including me. I always take forever the first time I do something.

The top folds over the tools and then it all rolls up, with a buckle to secure it.

If you would like to make this tool roll-up for the man in your life (hint, hint… plenty of time until Father’s Day), consider these important points about supplies, technique and machinery.

Divide Up The Tools — You’re going to create a tool roll-up based on a known set of tools, so before you begin, know what tools you want to put together. If you have a whole bunch of tools destined for multiple roll-ups, lay them all out in front of you. Divide them up how you (or your husband) prefer, by type or by usage. Put the tools in each group in order of size. Take the time to consider what will work best for the future.

I will tell you how we divided up my husband’s tools. He bought a set of 18 standard combination wrenches and a set of 25 metric combination wrenches. We divided up each set into 2 sets as follows.

Standard Set 1 (the 13 smaller wrenches) — 1/4″, 5/16″, 11/32″, 3/8″, 7/16″, 1/2″, 9/16″, 5/8″, 11/16″, 3/4″, 13/16″, 7/8″, 15/16″

Standard Set 2 (the 5 larger wrenches) — 1″, 1-1/16″, 1-1/8″, 1-1/4″, 1-5/16″

Metric Set 1 (the 16 smaller wrenches) — 6 mm, 7 mm, 8 mm, 9 mm, 10 mm, 11 mm, 12 mm, 13 mm, 14 mm, 15 mm, 16 mm, 17 mm, 18 mm, 19 mm, 20 mm, 21 mm

Metric Set 2 (the 9 larger wrenches) — 22 mm, 23 mm, 24 mm, 25 mm, 26 mm, 27 mm, 28 mm, 29 mm, 30 mm, 32 mm

Measurements — Taking accurate measurements of your tools is really, really important. You will do some rounding, but please take the time to accurately measure your tools so that your roll-up will end up fitting the tools well. You might find that taking the measurements and drawing out the dimensions of your tool roll-up is the most time consuming part of this project. I am not trying to overwhelm you; the results are worth it. So, use an accurate ruler or measuring tape and put the data in a chart such as the example I’ve given in Step 2. You’ll then use that data to create a diagram of tool roll-up that fits your tools.

Design: Buckle v. Tie Cords — After experimenting with tie cords to go around the tool roll-up, my husband asked me if I could add a buckle instead. He thought there would be less stress at the seams that way because of the tendency of the ties to pull at the seams on their way around the roll-up. So I tried buckles and we were both very happy with the result. The following pattern will show you how to add a buckle. If you’d like to do the tie cords instead, add them in as you sew the outer seams.

Duck Cloth Fabric — Duck cloth can be tricky. You’ll use large pieces of this heavy cloth. In order to get it smoothly feeding through your sewing machine, roll up the excess to fit it through the machine bed space. I have seen duck cloth online and at local stores such as Wal-Mart and JoAnn’s. Wal-Mart and JoAnn’s duck cloth is priced similarly, but JoAnn’s offering is heavier and stronger. I used my 40% off coupon at JoAnn’s to buy several yards of it in black for all the 5 tool roll-ups I intended to make. The resulting price per yard was $4.19. I chose JoAnn’s because, overall, it was a strong duck cloth at the best price.

Upholstery Thread — Using upholstery thread is a must. I tried normal all-purpose thread on my practice roll-up. Of course my husband put it to the test. One yank on a seam and the threads broke. I tried both Coats and Clark and Gutermann upholstery threads, as well as an even heavier nylon thread. My favorite choice is the Gutermann upholstery thread because it is very strong and my sewing machine handles it easily. I found the Gutermann thread at JoAnn’s (online) for about $3.99 for 300m/328yd. Choose a good strong thread that works in your sewing machine.

Denim Machine Needle — Use either a 100/16 or 110/18 denim sewing machine needle. If you intend to make multiple roll ups, plan on using a fresh needle after every one or two completed roll-ups. The needles wear out quickly and sometimes bend on the heavy duck cloth.

Test, Test, Test — You already have the benefit of what I learned when making a practice roll-up. I wrote this pattern based on what I found worked best. However, I don’t have your sewing machine, nor will I necessarily have the same thread or fabric. So I encourage you to run some multiple layers (preferably 4 layers) of duck cloth scraps through your machine. Use a denim needle and upholstery thread to see how your machine handles the thick fabric in multiple layers. Adjust your thread and/or bobbin tension(s). Refer to your manual for how to make these adjustments, if you find they are necessary.

Notions — The notions needed for this project are: a 20-inch piece of 1″ nylon strapping, a 1″ quick release buckle and a 1″ strap adjuster. Nylon strapping is available inexpensively with the cords and trims at a fabric store or in a fabric department. The buckle and strap adjuster are available there, too. However, I found the prices for the last 2 items to be needlessly high — around $3 each. I looked around locally and to my delight, I found a package of 2 buckles and 4 strap adjusters at an outdoor shop for $1.99.


Now on to the pattern itself…


  • Duck cloth, dark color — 1 to 1-1/2 yards per roll-up. This is just a ball-park figure; your roll-up might be significantly different than mine.
  • Upholstery Thread, dark color
  • 1″ nylon strapping, a 20″ piece — Hold the raw ends in front of a candle flame to heat seal them from ravelling.
  • 1″ inch buckle
  • 1″ strap adjuster
  • Fray Check

1. Lay Out Tools.

In order of size, with the smallest tool on the left and the largest on the right, lay out all the tools that will be included in this tool roll-up.

2. Take Measurements.

Using the following chart and the column descriptions that follow, take measurements of each tool and fill in the values. For each measurement, the most precise you need to be is to the 16th of an inch.








Tool Name or Size (ex: 6mm) Length of Tool How Much of Tool Covered by Roll-Up End Width (the end that will fit slot) End Depth (the end that will fit slot) Space Needed in Roll-Up Rounded Space Needed in Roll-Up

Column A = In order to identify each tool, list each one by name or size, starting with the smallest tool. Most tools have this engraved on it by the manufacturer.

Column B = Measure the length of only the shortest and longest tools.

Column C = How much of this tool do you want the roll up to cover? This measurement is only needed for the shortest and longest tools. Usually, leave about 1 to 2 inches exposed for easy identification and grabbing.

Column D = On the end of each tool that will fit down into the slot of the roll-up, measure the width of the end.

Column E = On the end of each tool that will fit down into the slot of the roll-up, measure the depth of the end.

Column F = Take 2 times the value of Column D and add the value of Column C.

Column G = Take the value in Column E and round up to the nearest quarter or half inch. (Ex: 1-3/8″ becomes 1-1/2″)

3. Create Diagram.

Use the data from your measurements to mark the distances in the following diagram.


Line AB = Add up all values in Column G (above) and add 1-1/2″.

Lines DC & FE = Height of longest tool (Column B).

Line CG = Height of longest tool (Column C) plus 1/2″.

Line EH = Height of shortest tool (Column C) plus 1/2″.

Line BD & AF = Take the length of tallest tool (Column B), subtract 1/3 of the length of shortest tool (Column B), and then add 1/2″. Round this value up to the nearest 1/4″.

Line HG = You do not need a distance for this line; it is a connector of the points H & G.

Line BG = Add up Lines BD, DC, and CG. Make a note of this distance off to the side of the line.
Line AH = Add up Lines AF, FE, and EH. Make a note of this distance off to the side of the line.

The lines AB, BG and AH tell you the needed dimensions for fabric to make your tool roll-up. You will need 2 such pieces for each roll-up. Now you can figure out how much duck cloth you need to buy. The duck cloth I purchased was 60″ wide.

4. Mark Fabric According to Diagram.

You will need to cut out 2 pieces of duck cloth that match the dimensions you diagrammed in the previous step. I found it best to fold the duck cloth in half lengthwise (parallel to the salvage edges) with the salvage edges together. Then I marked my dimensions on the duck cloth using dressmaker’s chalk in a light color.

I started by marking points A and B at the required distance. I used a carpenter’s L-square and my tape measure to extend out from A to H and from B to G. Then I connected B and G by making a straight line between those two points. I also marked points C, D, E and F, at the appropriate distances (using the diagram), so that I could draw dotted lines between them (see photo). These dotted lines become the fold lines in the finished roll-up.


Call this side, where you’ve made all your markings, the right side. The side that faces down of the underside layer is also the right side. In other words, the fabric is now in the position of wrong sides facing in and right sides facing out.

5. Check Your Work.

This step is a necessary visual check to make sure you’ve gotten your dimensions correctly calculated. You don’t want to cut the duck cloth until you make sure you’re on the right track.

Lay the shortest tool’s bottom end at the dotted line EC all the way over against the line AH. Lay the longest tool’s bottom end at the dotted line EC but all the way over against the line BG. Now at about the dotted line FD, fold the duck cloth down over the tools. Does it cover them both, with the shortest tool being covered two-thirds of the way? Unfold it.

Now fold up the diagonal edge at the dotted line EC. How much of the tools are exposed? Is it what you had in mind for how much would be left seen for easy identification and grabbing?

With the diagonal edge still folded up, fold the top back down. Are any of the tools showing?

If you’re not satisfied with any of these checks, you need to go back to the drawing board. Verify all your measurements. Create a new chart and a new diagram, if necessary. Map out new markings on your fabric (the old ones should brush off the duck cloth with a little rubbing) and perform the checks again until you’re satisfied with the dimensions.

6. Cut Out Duck Cloth.

Cut out both layers of duck cloth along the outside lines of your markings.

7. Sew the Roll-Up.

Turn duck cloth so that the wrong sides are facing out. Pin together, matching sides. Using a 1/2″ seam allowance, sew around all sides. Leave a 3″ to 4″ opening at about 1″ up from point C toward point D. Backstitch securely at beginning and ending of stitching.

Clip corners close to stitching. Turn to the right sides facing out. Press well, turning raw edges of opening evenly to line up with sewn edges.

Thread the nylon strapping through the receiver end (see notions picture at beginning of article) of the buckle. Pull 2 inches through the buckle and fold back over the long end of the strapping. Sew the two layers together securely, as picture shows. The seams should make about a 1-inch rectangle, about 1 inch away from the buckle. The red arrow marks the 2 inches of strapping that is overlapping the longer end of strapping.


With dotted lines facing you, fold up along line CE. Press. On the underside, about halfway between points C and D, mark along the edge of the roll-up where strapping for buckle should be sewn down. Unfold along line CE.

Turn the roll-up over, so the dotted lines are on the underside and your mark for the strapping placement is facing you. Lay the strap over the mark, perpendicular to the edge and so that the end of the strap with the receiver end of the buckle is hanging off the marked edge (see photo). Butt the edge of the previous seaming on the strapping up with the edge of the roll-up. The red X’s in the photo show points C and D. The arrow shows where the seam on the strapping butts up against the edge of the roll-up.

Securely seam the strap to the backside of the roll-up, as picture shows. The 1″ rectangle of seaming should be about 1/2″ from the edge of the roll-up (as shown by the little red arrow).


Top-stitch along diagonal edge HG.

Turn roll-up so the dotted lines are facing up. Refold along line CE (previously pressed). Pin down, lining up edges.


Top-stitch along edge of both sides and the top of the roll-up (leaving bottom edge folded without stitching). It is okay to stitch over the strapping along the edge where it is already stitched down, but be careful not to get the loose ends of the strapping caught in the top-stitching.

Lay the tool roll-up out on a flat, hard surface, with the folded edge at the bottom. Using the measurements from Step 2, Column G, mark sewing lines at these intervals to create slots for the tools. Create the spaces in order of size, with the shorter tools on the left and the longer tools on the right. See photo.


Top-stitch along these marked lines, being sure to keep the straps free of the stitching. Backstitch securely at beginning and end of each line of stitching. If your sewing machine offers a triple stitch (either straight or zigzag), use it. I used my zigzag triple stitch with stitch width set at 2 and stitch length set at 4. Your machine’s settings may differ, so be sure to do a test swatch. See photo.


Stitch perpendicular for 1/4″ to 1/2″ to each seam at opening for extra strength. Pull all threads to back side. Knot ends. Apply Fray Check. Allow to dry for about 15 minutes before cutting thread ends.

Slip all the tools in the roll-up. If any of them are loose in their compartments, add another line of stitching about 1/8″ away from existing stitching, to take up a bit of the slack.


With backside of roll-up facing up, thread loose end of strap through the strap adjuster.


Thread the strap through the inserting end of buckle.


Turn everything over — the strap, the inserting end of the buckle, and the strap adjuster. Thread the strap back through the underside of the strap adjuster.


Now, with the tools in your creation, fold over the top edge and roll it all up. Adjust the straps so the buckle fits to your desired degree of snugness. You’re all done!

I have followed this procedure 4 times and carefully checked for errors. If you do find an error in the directions, please accept my apologies. I would love to hear of anything that should be corrected or clarified. I also appreciate hearing success stories — so if you make, use or love this tool roll-up, please let me know.

© Copyright 2007 by Wardee Harmon. Used with permission from the author.


  1. Dan

    I just wanted to thank you for not only sharing your plans but also for taking the time after making the rolls to sit down and help out others with your experience. My wife said people like you sharing your ideas is invaluable when trying something new. My only suggestion is to put 2 metal ring grommets in flap so that you can hang the tool roll above workbench when using a particular roll. Thanks

  2. Sandy

    This is so wonderful! I just had a request from a friend of mine’s son to make him a tool roll up, and I think this will work perfectly! Thank you so much for sharing it 🙂

    • Sylvia

      So glad you found it, Sandy!

  3. Louis

    I was wondering if, with some additional fabric, this could be adapted to
    wood chisels.

  4. Dave

    Great article. I ended up buying a few rolls last year but wish they were more customized to my tools, plus they are from China which I do not like at all. My wife has a an old Singer 15-91 sewing machine with the fold up wooden cabinet, but unfortunately she does not like using it, so I might have to try to figure out how to use it. I suppose there is no shame in a man using a sewing machine if it is for making tool rolls. 🙂 Just kidding. Thanks for doing the write up on making tool rolls. If I ever get one made I will send you some pictures.

  5. Steve in W MA

    This is NICE! But for those of you who need to organize your tools in a flash, and don’t have time to make a formal roll up, just line your tools up on a piece of fabric. An old pants’ leg that you have cut open works nicely. Now fold the fabric over the wrenches or other tools from the bottom (where the “pocket” area of the rollup would be) and the top as well (over the tops of the tools). Now fold over the right side of the roll over the rightmost wrench and roll the whole thing up. Tie with a string or just stuff in your toolbox.

    It’s almost as good as a formal rollup and takes no time whatsoever. I like my sewn-up rollups the best but I still have several plain, unsewn “old pant leg” rollups I haven’t gotten around to finishing. But they still work great.

  6. Johnathan

    Hi, Wardee. I wanted to thank you for this tutorial. You might want to consider putting it over at instructables.com too!

    I have lots of precise (and expensive!) tools that I use for making daguerreotype cases and I’ve wanted to make a tool roll for some time. I’m going to be using leather and I’ll be hand stitching mine since I don’t have a machine. 🙂

    Thanks again for the tutorial!

  7. Merlin

    Nice job. I have been making tool rolls for years. I use denim, but I buy the material at the Salvation Army…so many colors to choose from, lots of new jeans…with the right layout on the rolls I am able to use some of the factory seams…

  8. The Brandon

    This is incredibly helpful. I’m an art student and I ride a motorcycle to work. You can imagine how difficult it is to squeeze all those tiny pencils, pens, markers ect in a bag with everything else and keep it organized. I thought to myself “tool rolls” but I need a custom fit. This fills in the gaps in my mental working of it all. I appreciate it! Now to get the fabric. Also I need to take this design and tweek it a little, but I can’t wait. This will totally do the trick.

  9. tom dinsmore

    i am looking for several different tool rolls. i use klien tools. long screwdrivers and large pliers. the plan is all phillips in one and straight blade in another. then cutters and pliers in another. i may have to the tool to you. my office phone is 775 331 4151 and the cell is 775 741 1324. hope you can help i have looked every where. tom