Van Seat Back Organizer

The other day, I was loading up the kids in the van at a friend’s house and she was admiring my van’s seat back organizer.  I didn’t make my own – it’s an Avon product from my grandmother (it looks like a puppy dog).  But she had seen a similar one through thirty-one, which cost $35!  So I knew immediately that I had my next project.  What busy mom on the go couldn’t use a little bit of organization in their mom-mobile?  Especially my friend – she has 3 little ones!  So I got to work, and here’s what I ended up with.

Supplies:

  • Fabric – about a yard total (I used coordinating prints, so it was less than a yard of each)
  • Batting – 1/2 yard
  • 1/4″ elastic – 1-1.5 yards
  • 1″ elastic – about a yard
  • Coordinating thread

I’m gong to start off with a disclaimer: you don’t have to make yours the way I made mine!  I put extra cup holders because of my friend’s number of kids, and a book holder because her oldest is 6.  At this stage for us, that’s too many cup holders and my kids don’t read yet!  You can also nix the wipes holder if your kids are out of diapers… that’s what is so great about this organizer, is that it’s totally customizable.  So my instructions will show you how to make one identical to mine, but you can make yours perfect for you.

I measured the seats of my own van, since I drive the same kind as my friend, to get the dimensions for my organizer.  I measured the width of my seat to be 18″, the height from the top to where I wanted the elastic to be was 20″, and then I had another 8″ to the floor of the van.  I also measured around the headrest to be about 11″, which should be the same for all cars.  Lastly, measure all the way around the bottom of the seat (I got 45″).  So for my car, I cut 2 pieces of fabric and 1 piece of batting 19″x27″ (so the finished size would be 18″x26″ with 1/2″ seam allowances), 24″ of 1/4″ elastic (45″minus 18″ for the organizer minus 3″ so it will be taught), and a strip of fabric 4″x12″ for the top.

Press the 4″x12″ strip of fabric in half long ways, open up, press each raw edge to the center, and press in half again, making a strip 1″ wide with no raw edges (except the ends), and stitch a scant 1/4″ up both sides to secure.  Place the two large pieces of fabric right sides together, with the batting on top.  Insert the strip you just made at the top, between the fabric layers, with the raw ends each showing about 1/2″ over the top of the fabric (place them about 7″ apart).  Also, place the elastic 20″ from the top on each side, between the two layers of fabric (make sure it’s not twisted if you’re OCD like me!).  Stitch around the edge (1/2″ SA), leaving an opening about 4-5″ long on the bottom for turning.  Turn right side out, turn in the opening, and stitch 1/4″ around the whole edge.  You can keep the top loop out of the stitching, but you’ll have to go over the elastic – that’s ok.  Now you have a blank canvas for adding your pockets to your organizer!

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Fold back one of the fabric layers to insert the top loop; do the same at the bottom for the elastic.

I started off with the cup holders.  For a full fabric cup holder, cut a piece of fabric 7″x10″ and one Cup Holder Pattern.  Press the 10″ side down 1/4″, then another 1/2″ and stitch at the bottom of the fold, making a casing for the elastic.  Thread 8″ of elastic through with a safety pin, and stitch in place on the ends.  Then pin the bottom 10″ side right sides together around the curve of the cup holder bottom and stitch in place.  Then press the raw edges in, pin in place on the seat back organizer, and stitch in place.  I made 2 of these (although if you’re using a directional print, pay attention to which way is up so you don’t have flowers growing upside down like I did!).

Cup Holder

Left: Pin the rectangle around the cup holder bottom. Center: Press the edges in 1/4″. Right: Pin in place and stitch onto the organizer.

My 3rd cup holder was made with elastic – I thought it would be more useful for a bottle for the baby this way.  It’s also a lot easier!  Cut 3 pieces of 1″ elastic, 2 that are 6″ long and 1 that’s 3″.  Use a zigzag stitch to attach the 3″ piece to the center of one of the 6″ pieces.  Then sew the other end of the 3″ piece (with a straight stitch again) where you want the bottom of the cup holder on the organizer.  Fold the two ends of the attached 6″ piece in 1/4″ and pin in place on the organizer about 4″ apart, as pictured below, and stitch it on.  Fold the ends of the other 6″ piece similarly, and stitch in place about 4-5″ higher to complete the elastic cup holder.

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The bottom of the elastic cup holder

I don’t know about any other mom, but I am always looking for a wet wipe, so I wanted to make them easily accessible for my friend (and her little helpers in the car).  I found that using elastic was the easiest and most effective way to hold it on.  I also played around with the measurements, so the directions that follow should hold a brand new pack of wipes and also one that’s almost empty.  Cut two pieces of 1″ elastic 7.5″ long.  Fold the ends over 1/4″ like for the cup holder, and sew onto the organizer 4.5″ apart (width-wise), with the height of the holders 5″ (that means 5″ high for the 7.5″ elastic, so they’ll bubble out).  A package of wipes will insert in there snugly when full, but still securely when almost empty.

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Simple but effective wet wipes holder

Next to the wipes spot I had some extra space, so I made a little utility pocket.  It’s pleated at the bottom for more space, and has elastic at the top to keep the contents inside.  If you don’t want a large book pocket like mine, you can add more of these in different sizes – they’re super easy to make and super useful!  For mine, I cut a piece of fabric 6″x9″ and a 7″ piece of 1/4″ elastic.  Press the top 9″ edge in 1/4″, then another 1/2″ and stitch in place to make a tube for the elastic.  Feed the elastic through with a safety pin, and stitch to the ends of the pocket.  Press the other 3 sides of pocket in 1/4″.  Then pin in place on the organizer, creating a pleat on the bottom.  Stitch around the edges and you’re done!

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I had OCD making my pleat – this was about the 7th try!

The book pocket was by far the easiest part of the whole organizer.  I cut a large pocket, 12″x17″.  Press the top edge down 1/4″, then another 1/4″, and stitch in place.  Then press the other 3 edges in 1/4″, pin in place on the organizer, and stitch around the 3 sides.

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The inside of the book pocket, with all the edges pressed in

One thing to keep in mind when you’re attaching your pockets and elastic to the organizer – these will take a lot of stress, especially at the tops, so be sure to backstitch for security!  They’ll have kids pulling on them for years, so you don’t want it to fall apart!

Once you put it all together, this is what you get!  It’s super handy for all those things that seem to collect in the car.  My favorite is the wet wipes – you can never have too many of those when you’re on the go!

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The cup holders are great for bottles, Playtex sippees, Take N Tosses… whatever you use! And I know my friend’s 6-year-old will love having a special place to keep her books safe from her younger siblings.

I hope you find inspiration in this tutorial to create your own car organizer.  It really does help keep the clutter down and the necessities accessible!

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