Frugal Ikea Hacks: Make Your Own Laptop Case

by Kelly · 14 comments

in Living Frugally

I bought a laptop for school and I need a laptop case, or rather a laptop sleeve. The sleeve is to go into my favorite shoulder bag. The bag is big enough to carry a laptop as well as the accessories (mouse, power cord) and the other various tools I’ll need for school (pencil case, notebook, shiny red apple for the teacher.)

I don’t want to buy a laptop case because I don’t like the way most of them look, all hard and black and industrial. The ones whose look I like, I can’t really afford. These factors, combined with my love of sewing, Ikea, and all things hacked, led me to make my own.

I wanted something pretty, that I could, if a cat or child threw up on it, throw in the wash, that would serve more to protect my laptop from the elements than from being thrown off a moving, burning truck. This is how I met those goals.

Here’s what I started with:

  • an Ikea comforter for padding, bought in the ‘As-Is’ section (€1.50)
  • Two thin plastic cutting boards, bought on sale (€.75)
  • Ikea fabric (the black and grey) (€6.00)
  • fabric bought at Walmart on sale, during my first, last and only trip to Walmart ($1.00)
  • A pen
  • Scissors

The plastic cutting boards are to add rigidity and protection to the sleeve, so you want them to be the same size as the laptop. Lay the computer on the sleeve, trace around it to determine the size, then cut the sleeve according to where you traced.

The board is thin enough that it’s fairly easy to cut.

You now want to wrap the board in the comforter (so it’s warm and snuggly!). Cut out a piece of the comforter large enough to go all the way around the board, then sew three of the sides.

Turn inside out (so the seam is on the inside), insert the board and close the open edge using a zigzag stitch to reduce fraying. Cut the excess fabric. Make two of these, one for each side of the laptop.

Now things start to get a bit more tricky.

Determine which of your fabrics is on the inside of the case, and which is on the outside. Then place them right side to right side, so that the wrong sides are on the outside. You now need to measure for your laptop. The easiest way, I’ve found, is to lay the laptop with a comforter wrapped board on either side, on top of the fabric. Then fold the fabric around the laptop and boards until you get a good idea of how much fabric you need.

The fabric should be the same width as your computer plus the the thickness of your computer, plus a little bit for seam allowance. So in other words, if your computer is 20 inches wide and 2 inches thick, you want the fabric width to be 23 inches: 20 inches, plus 2 inches plus 1 inch for seam allowance. It should be long enough to go all the way around the computer, plus at least six inches for the top flap, but longer is definitely better.

Once you know how much fabric you need, you can mark a straight line on the fabric- this is the wrong side, so go ahead and draw on it. Then pin your pieces of cloth together (unless you are like me and don’t mind living dangerously and ripping out seams if necessary). Then, starting at the top of one of the long sides, sew down one long side, across one short side, and up the other long side. Leave the fourth side open.

Turn the fabric right side out, and test the width by inserting your fabric covered boards inside. Then put your computer inside and imagine that you are sewing the side seams closed. Does it fit snugly but not too snugly? Then it’s perfect. If it’s too loose, then be happy that you haven’t trimmed the excess off yet (don’t trim the excess off!). You can always sew another seam slightly smaller. If it’s too small, well, start ripping seams out.

Once you are happy with the fit, then trim the excess fabric. Turn the sleeve right side out. Insert the first board into the bottom, and (carefully) stitch a line across, taking care to stay as close to the edge of the board as possible. You now have one side of your laptop sleeve.

Next create the bottom of the sleeve by sewing another straight line across the width of the fabric. The distance between the seams should be equal to the thickness of your laptop. Then insert the second board and sew another seam to enclose it, much as you did the first board.

Finally, tuck the open, unhemmed edges of the fourth side into themselves and pin across the top. Sew closed- I prefer a zigzag stitch.

Now, keeping the material you have chosen for the outside of the sleeve on the outside of the sleeve, pin the side edges together. Pin them well! Stitch together, making sure to reinforce the top part of the seam (nearest the opening to the sleeve).

Your laptop sleeve is nearly finished. In some of these photos you might notice a black band of velcro. I stitched it in the early steps, but have changed the process in these directions. I feel that it is much easier to hand sew the velcro closure in after the sleeve has been finished, in order to properly judge where you want it to be placed.

I also made a pouch for my mouse and a slightly larger one for the power cord. I can send instructions for those as well. The total cost for the laptop sleeve was under €6; for the project I spent about €10. And I’ve been testing it for the past month or so and I can tell you that it meets its needs very well!

If you enjoyed this post, then why not take a look at Babycat Goods, my Etsy shop, where I sell my handcrafted baby goods! (I do take custom orders as well).

Do you sew or do other crafts? What’s your frugal hobby? What was the last thing you made?


1 Michelle September 12, 2008

Awesome. Love the funky fabric too!

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2 Denise September 12, 2008

I am impressed.

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3 Kelly September 12, 2008


Ikea baby! I love their fabrics… I have also used this one for my diaper envelopes; it’s one of my favorites.

4 Lucie September 12, 2008

What a neat project! This makes me regret just buying a sleeve at the Mac store.

I don’t have too many crafty habits, but I do most of the decorating around our house (painting repurposed boards and making shelves, finding and old trunk and repainting, making the fun stuff that decorates our boys rooms). I am not great with a needle and thread, but I hope to one day take up sewing.

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5 Eponine September 12, 2008

I’m amazed that you’re able to do things like this. I am definitely NOT crafty. In fact, I failed art class in 7th grade. (I bet you didn’t even know that was possible!)

6 Kelly September 12, 2008

That’s OK Eponine. I had to take remedial PE (physical education) in grade school… learning to bounce a ball, jump rope, skip… bet you didn’t know that was possible!

7 Vintage Mommy September 12, 2008

Kelly, you’re amazing!
You should sell those – though I suppose they’re time-consuming to make.

I’m crafty but I can’t sew, I just get too frustrated. I managed curtains for VG’s room when she was a baby, and thank goodness she still likes them. I think I was in some sort of sleep-deprived mania when I made them and I could probably never do it again!

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8 Rhonda September 12, 2008

Hi ~ just wanted to say – this is a fabulous post. Thank you for the instructions and detailed pictures… a great source of inspiration! I am somewhat crafty, and like you, would rather rip out a seam than take the time to pin properly. I enjoy sewing, but am not that good since I’m not very patient, and usually do things in such a hurry or I don’t care if it looks absolutely perfect. Your stuff looks fabulous though! Great job!

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9 Gidget September 12, 2008

Wow, that’s great! I attempted to make one myself, but it came out pretty bad, heehee. Good thing I’m not traveling with the laptop much these days. 🙂 Thanks for the frugal inspiration though!

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10 Amber Jones September 13, 2008

That’s awesome! I love it! Make me one??? 😀 HAHA!

I will definitely be trying this out! It looks awesome! 😀

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11 Miss Thrifty September 13, 2008

Wow – that looks gorgeous! Well done you.

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12 Sister Julie September 14, 2008

This is a great post and idea! I found your blog via the THESIS blog — I’m also a Thesis user and i love it. You did a great job customizing it.

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13 Danielle October 2, 2008

I saw a link to here from Mrs. Micah, this is a neat idea! I already have the thin cutting boards too because we bought some for camping and backpacking.

I am moderately crafty when I set my mind to something and this sounds doable! Not sure what you have against paying $1 per yard of fabric at Walmart though.

14 Nikki January 27, 2010

I never thought of making your own laptop case. That is so crafty and smart! What a terrific tutorial. I love the fabric you chose as well.
.-= Nikki´s last blog ..I *heart* happy lunches. =-.

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