Scribble ‘n’ Tote Lap Desk Tutorial (featuring Modern Yardage Fabrics)

Disclaimer: This post is part of a cross-promotion between myself and Modern Yardage. The fabric for this project was provided by Modern Yardage, but all content, tutorials, and opinions included in this post are my own.

The Scribble n Tote Lap Desk by - built in pencil case

This is this summer’s cure for long car rides and summer thunder storms.

The Scribble n Tote Lap Desk by -clipboard

Clipboards turned into lap desks with the addition of a squishy foam pillow back.

The Scribble n Tote Lap Desk by - squishy cushion

Everything has its place with a pocket for notepads and coloring books and a built-in pouch for pencils and crayons…

The Scribble n Tote Lap Desk by -  back pocket

and a handle for little hands to tote them around.

The Scribble n Tote Lap Desk by

These a really quick to sew up and I have included a detailed tutorial later in this post, but first let me talk about this crazy cute fabric I made these Scribble ‘n’ Totes with.

The Scribble n Tote Lap Desk by - stack of lap desks

This fabric is Wild Notion‘s Watercolor Geometrics Collection manufactured by Modern Yardage.  Modern Yardage is a new and very different fabric design and manufacturing company.

What’s so different about Modern Yardage?

They are a digital textile printing company. No, they are not yet another Spoonflower, printing their customer designs. Rather, they sell fabrics from collections made by a curated group of talented designers. Modern Yardage prints each piece of fabric as the customer orders it. Instead of gambling on what will sell and how much, they get to print just the right amount, and it gives the designers more flexibility in creating their collections and a quicker turnaround time from design to production. (More info here.)

modern yardage fabric

The second thing that sets Modern Yardage apart is their “margin” extras. Modern Yardage prints off their 44” wide quilting fabrics onto 60” wide pre-washed cottons. Holy Gigantic Selvage, Batman!? I know. I know. It seems crazy at first, but they are filling that additional space with “extras” – a note from the designer, fabric care instructions, swatches, etc. The way I see it, it is like buying a magazine with ads in it. It could be considered a waste of paper but it keeps the cost of the magazine down and the products advertised are often quite relevant to the readers. In the case of Modern Yardage, this “extra” fabric is still usable and in the following project I will show you how I used mine.

modern yardage fabric margin close up

Modern Yardage has me totally intrigued as a fabric production business model. I’m looking forward to seeing how their company grows and how this changes the industry.

Intriguing, no? Now, on to the project!

The Scribble ‘n’ Tote Lap Desk Tutorial

The Scribble n Tote Lap Desk by - kids drawing top down

All seam allowances are 1/2 inch unless otherwise indicated. Press open all seams as you go. Click on the photo to see the photo enlarged.

Step 1: Gather & Prep Materials

Scribble 'n' Tote Lap Desk Materials -

  • 1/2 yard of 44” wide fabric
  • scrap fabric for pocket lining (at least 10 inches by 12 inches)
    [If you are using fabric ordered from Modern Yardage, you can use your “margin” fabric.]
  • a nylon coil zipper more than 11” long (a 12” or 14” zipper will do)
  • coordinating thread
  • sand paper
  • really strong fabric adhesive like Gutermann HT2, Fabri-Tac, UHU, or E6000
  • a 9 by 12 1/2 inch clipboard
  • 2” thick foam cushion at least 9 inches by 10 inches
  • scissors, pins, sewing machine, etc

Cut out the following pieces from the main fabric:

  • Pillow Exterior (2 pieces): 15 inches high x 12 inches wide
  • Outer Pocket (1 piece): 10 inches high x 12 inches wide
  • Strap (1 piece): 5 inches high x 19 1/2 inches wide

cutting layout

… And cut out the following pieces from scrap fabric:

  • Pocket Lining (2 pieces): 5 inches high x 12 inches wide

Scribble 'n' Tote Lap Desk pocket lining-

Step 2: Sew Outer Pocket

To make the Outer Pocket, sew a 1/4” hem along the top (12” wide) edge of the Outer Pocket. Then, baste the Outer Pocket to the right side of one of a Pillow Exterior, matching up sides and bottom edge. (rocket science, I know.)

Scribble 'n' Tote Lap Desk- hem outer pocket- Scribble 'n' Tote Lap Desk-baste outer pocket -

Step 3: Attach the Zipper

With the zipper open, baste a half of the zipper tape to the top (12” wide) edge of a Pillow Exterior (about 1/8 inch from the edge).

Scribble 'n' Tote Lap Desk- zipper lined up-

The right sides of zipper and Pillow Exterior should be facing, and the zipper teeth are pointing away from the top edge. Because I couldn’t find an 11 inch zip for the life of me, we are using a Zipper that is longer than the width of the fabric. So, line up the “open” end of the zipper tape with one side of the Pillow Exterior and the “bottom stop” end of the zipper will be hanging off the other edge of  Pillow Exterior. (phew. ever notice how the simplest things to show are also the hardest things to verbalize?)

Lay a Pocket Lining piece on top of the Zipper and Pillow Exterior, the right sides of the Pocket Lining and Pillow Exterior facing and the zipper sandwiched in between them. Line up the sides and top edge of the Pocket Lining with the Pillow Exterior. Sew the Pocket Lining, zipper, and Pillow Exterior together at the top edge with a 1/4” seam allowance.

  Scribble 'n' Tote Lap Desk- sew pocket lining on -

Press the Pocket Lining and Pillow Exterior away from the zipper teeth and topstitch (1/8 inch). Take care to not to melt the zipper teeth with your iron!

Scribble 'n' Tote Lap Desk- topstitch zipper- Scribble 'n' Tote Lap Desk- topstitch zipper-

Repeat to attach the second Pillow Exterior and Pocket Lining to the other half of the zipper.

Scribble 'n' Tote Lap Desk- second zipper attached- Scribble 'n' Tote Lap Desk- second zipper attached-

Step 4: Sew Pillow Halves Together

Bring the Pillow Exteriors together, right sides facing, by folding along the zipper teeth. Line up the Pillow Exterior sides and bottoms, the zipper seam, and the topstitching. Pin the folded zipper tape in place.

Scribble 'n' Tote Lap Desk- fold along zipper-

Keeping the zipper folded together, fold up the Pocket Linings along the zipper seams and away from the Pillow Exteriors. Line up the sides and bottom of the Pocket Linings.

Scribble 'n' Tote Lap Desk- fold  along pocket lining -

Sew the Pocket Linings and then the Pillow Exteriors together along the sides. Taking extra care while sewing over the zipper. Because we chose to use a nylon zipper, your machine should be able to sew over the zipper teeth, but be sure to not sew over the metal zipper stops. We are leaving the bottoms of the Pillow and Pocket open for now. So it looks more like a fabric “tube” instead of a Pillow.

Scribble 'n' Tote Lap Desk- sew sides making pillow tube -

Cut off zipper excess and turn right side out.

Scribble 'n' Tote Lap Desk- pillow tube -

Step 5: Make the Strap

This is my MOST FAV EVER strap method for a closed end straps. This version doesn’t utilize interfacing or stabilizer, but if you want to add that in refer to this detailed tutorial about this style of strap.

To make the Strap, accordion fold the strap along the long edges into fourths. In other words, fold the long edges to the center of the Strap, wrong sides facing, and press. Scribble 'n' Tote Lap Desk- making strap -

Then fold the Strap again along the center with the long raw edges are on the outside and the folds form an “M” on the short edge.

Scribble 'n' Tote Lap Desk- making strap -

Sew a seam along both short edges 1/4” from the edge.This forms a very shallow pocket along the length of the strap.

Scribble 'n' Tote Lap Desk- making strap -

Flip the “pocket” inside out with the last sewn seams on the inside, and poke out the corners. Press.

Scribble 'n' Tote Lap Desk- making strap -

Topstitch around all the edges, and closing the opening of the “pocket”.

Scribble 'n' Tote Lap Desk- making strap -


Step 6: Attaching the Strap

Scribble 'n' Tote Lap Desk- attaching strap -

With the Pillow Exterior turned right side out, pin one short end of the Strap 12 inches from the bottom edge, centered across a side seam. Attach the Strap end to the Pillow Exterior by sewing a 1/2 inch tall rectangle close to the end of the strap. It will take some maneuvering to sew through only one layer of the Pillow Exterior, but it helps that the bottom edge is open.

  Scribble 'n' Tote Lap Desk- attaching strap -

Repeat to attach the other end of the Strap to the second side seam of the Pillow.

Scribble 'n' Tote Lap Desk- attaching strap -

Step 7: Finish the Bottom of the Pillow

Turn the Pillow inside out again, and sew the bottom edges of the Pillow Exteriors together. Trim off corners.

Scribble 'n' Tote Lap Desk- finishing bottom of pillow -

Next, we will “box out” the bottom corners of the Pillow. At one bottom corner, pull the Pillow Exteriors away from each other, bringing the bottom and side seams together, and forming folds coming out of the corner 45 degrees from the seams. Mark a 2 inch line from fold to fold, perpendicular to the seams and 1 inch from the corner.

Scribble 'n' Tote Lap Desk- finishing bottom of pillow -

Sew across the marked line.

Scribble 'n' Tote Lap Desk- finishing bottom of pillow -

Repeat on second bottom corner. Turn the Pillow right side out through the opening in the Pocket Lining..

Scribble 'n' Tote Lap Desk- finishing bottom of pillow -

Step 8: Stuff the Pillow and Finish the Pocket

Cut out a piece of foam 9 inches by 10 inches.

Scribble 'n' Tote Lap Desk- finishing pillow -

Stuff the foam into the Pillow through the hole in the Pocket Lining. The 9 inch width of the foam goes across the width of the pillow.

  Scribble 'n' Tote Lap Desk- finishing pillow - Scribble 'n' Tote Lap Desk- finishing pillow -

Before tucking the Pocket Lining inside the pillow, press under the open edge of the Pocket Lining 1/2 inch and sew the folded edges together 1/8 inch from the fold. Tuck the Pocket Lining inside the Pillow and zip shut.

Scribble 'n' Tote Lap Desk- finishing pillow - Scribble 'n' Tote Lap Desk- finishing pillow -

 Step 9: Glue on Clipboard

Roughen in the back surface of the Clipboard with the sandpaper to help with adhesion.

Scribble 'n' Tote Lap Desk- glue on clipboard-


Follow manufacturer directions to apply glue to the back of the clipboard, concentrating on the edges as they will receive the most stress.

Scribble 'n' Tote Lap Desk- glue on clipboard-

Lay the clipboard on top of the Pillow on the non-pocketed side. Lining up the bottom and side edges. Press the Pillow and Clipboard together help them adhere. Fuss around a bit shifting, squishing and adding more glue to making sure that the exterior edges of the clipboard are securely glued to the surface of the pillow.

Scribble 'n' Tote Lap Desk- glue on clipboard-

Allow the glue to fully cure (this probably will take 1 to 2 days) and then give to your very happy children.

  The Scribble n Tote Lap Desk by - kids drawing


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  1. says

    Fabulous! As always, of course :) I am so sure my people would love those for long car rides, and I love the fabric! Must check out this new company!

  2. says

    This is perfect for Beadboy2 who loves to draw, and the long car trip coming in August. The problem with your site, Jodi, is that you give me too many ideas for the limited sewing time I have!

  3. says

    I love this! We just finished our road trip for the year, and this would have been perfect…. but now I have time to make one for next year. =)

  4. Shawn says

    Wow, that looks like such a neat little pattern, it is so cute,. Hmm I might even be able to do this haha?? Thanks for the tute!

    (smjohns63 at yahoo dot com)

  5. Nancy says

    I’ve never seen instructions for a closed strap – it’s something I will definitely use. The details you included in this tute are fabulous. Thanks so much for sharing!

  6. Zari says

    I love this project! Your tutorial is the best I have ever followed, everything worked perfectly! I made 2 of these for a boss’s children who will be leaving us for another state. They are ages 3 and 4 and love to doodle and draw. I did make a couple of changes because I wanted them to be easily washable if need be. Instead of permanently closing the inside pocket I used Velcro for closure so the foam can be removed as needed to wash the exterior. I also used Velcro to attach the clipboard to the bag again so it can be removed. The last thing was that I had a boring plain clipboard (not the lovely one you used) and I covered it with fabric (using spray on glue). I am very impressed with your tutorial and greatly appreciate all the work you put into making it for us. Thank you so much!

  7. says

    Hello There. I found your weblog the use of msn. This is a very neatly written article.
    I will make sure to bookmark it and return to learn extra of your
    useful info. Thank you for the post. I’ll certainly return.


  1. [...] Jodi from Sew Fearless shows how to make her Scribble ‘n’ Tote.  It’s just the thing for a child to bring with them on a road trip or airplane ride.  It’s a lap desk with a clipboard attached and a built in zippered pouch to hold pencils and crayons.  A pocket on the back holds notebooks or coloring books, and a strap makes it easy to grab up and carry with you.  Her project uses fabrics from Modern Yardage, a new digital fabric printing company.  (You can read more about their business model on her blog or at their site.)  Go to her tutorial. [...]

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