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How to Sew a Bucket Buddy for Tool Organization

Author: <Paul Oh> Email:
Date: Last modified <07/05/20>
Keywords: <bucket, tool, organization, storage, sewing>

The photo above depicts “Bucket Buddy” that organizes and transports plenty of tools and/or parts with little footprint. The big picture problem is tool/part storage and organization. Many products exist, but do-it-yourself customization will ensure it meets one's needs. This tutorial shows one how to re-size the pockets of a standard shoe organizer with a sewing machine. It takes about 4-hours to complete.

Motivation and Audience

This tutorial's motivation is to (1) think about tool/part organization and storage; and (2) practice basic sewing machine skills. DASL has a Brother CS-6000i sewing machine. Introduction of the Sewing machine is the DASL tutorial to first learn how to use this sewing machine. This tutorial assumes the reader has the following background and interests:

* Threading the machine and bobbins e.g. video and video
* Back-stitching e.g. YouTube Video

The rest of this tutorial is presented as follows:

  • Parts List and Sources
  • Sewing steps
  • Final Words

Parts List and Sources

To complete this tutorial, you'll need the following items

  1. 5 Gallon (Homer) Bucket
  2. Over the Door Shoe Organizer (24-pockets)
  3. Terry cloth bathroom towel (44 inch by 8 inch)

Google Sheet link: with hyperlinks.

Sewing Steps

From the above photo, the top view (left) shows 8 pockets (P01 to P08) that sit externally to the bucket (i.e. outside circumference). Pockets P01 to P04 and P05 to P08 are seen from the front (middle) and rear (right) views respectively. Within the bucket, there are also sits 8 pockets (i.e. inside circumference). There is still space within the bucket to for items too large or don't need a dedicated pockets. The net effect is that this Bucket Buddy is portable and neatly holds a lot of items.

Step 1: Cut Shoe Organizer

The photo above (left) shows the original 24-pocket shoe organizer (top). Cut this organizer until you have four 4-pocket strips. Leftover, will be a 2-row (8-pocket) piece that won't be used. When cutting (right), do so below the pocket; the excess material above the pockets will be sewn on the terry cloth towel strip in a later step.

To envision the process, the photo below shows the alignment of the cut strips. The photo's annotations show the stitches needed, pocket orientation (i.e. direction tools should slide), and how the pocket-strips will sit inside and outside the bucket

Step 2: Stitch Pockets

As is, the pockets of the shoe organizer are rather large. Reducing the pocket's size would keep a tool from shifting around. Below, the photo depicts an envisioned tool arrangement. Here, some pockets have two tools, whereas others have three. Pinning the pockets at their desired sizes (e.g. red circles in middle and right photos) define where to stitch.

Removing the tools, bring the pinned strip to the sewing machine. The photo below shows this step's sequence (left to right). First, stitching begins (left-most). Recall that reverse stitches are used in the beginning and end points when sewing two pieces together. Such stitches do not unravel easily and thus used when strong seams are desired. This machine's reverse stitch button is shown (left-middle). Next, vertically stitch a straight line, eyeballing the pins (red circle). The resulting line (right-middle) and sanity check (right) show the tools nicely slide into these resized pockets.

Similarly, resize the remaining pocket strips as desired. Below is an example. After stitches are done, remove any loose thread (red circle) with a seam ripper tool (right photo).

Step 3: Join Pocket Strips

At this point, one should have four pocket strips as shown in the photo above (top-left). Pin two strips together (top-right) so they overlap at the white seam. The red circles (bottom left and right) show pin locations.

Vertically stitch the pinned strip (see photo below). Be sure to line-up stitching along the wide seam (see red arrow below photo left-middle). Remember to use reverse stitches at the beginning and end. The two right-most photos show the front and rear of the resulting pinned strip. Light tug the strip horizontally. The seam should feel physically secure.

Repeat the above with the remaining two strips. Once done, as a sanity check, wrap the strips on the bucket's inner and outer circumference (bottom photo). Don't worry at this point, if the strips appear too long.

Scissor cuts leave fabric edges ragged (below photo top-left). Fold over the ragged edge and pin (top-middle). Then sew horizontally across the pinned strip (right). This hem results in a clean-looking edge (bottom).

Step 4: Terry Cloth Overhang

Tools can be heavy. Terry cloth (like a bath towel) doesn't rip easily. As such, terry cloth is used to join the two pinned strips. Cut a piece that's 44-inches by 7-inches (see photo below).

Referring to the photo below, line one of the hemmed strips along the terry cloth overhang (top-left) and pin all along the strip (red circles in top-right show the first three pins). Next sew along the strip (red arrow in bottom-left). The bottom-right photo shows a close-up; the cleaner-looking hem from Step 3 also helps visualize where to stitch the terry cloth and hemmed strip.

Hem the remaining strip (for a clean-looking edge), and stitch to the terry cloth overhang. Take note of that strip's pocket orientation (photo below top-row). When finished, wrap both the outside and inside of the bucket (bottom-left). Pin the ends of the strip together (red arrows shown in bottom-middle). The strip with the holes folds over the pockets (bottom-right). These holes will be used in a latter step, to hang items like carabiners and clips.

Removing the terry cloth overhang (left), pin both the outside (middle) and inside circumference strips (right) as seen below. Stitch along these pins - don't forget to reverse stitch.

Step 5: Secure Terry Cloth Overhang to Bucket

Referring to the photo below, pop off the bucket handle and re-insert the terry cloth overhang (left). Shift-and-slide the overhang around the bucket so that the pockets don't overlap. Locate the bucket handle's hole (red arrow in middle photo) underneath the overhang. Pierce the terry cloth at this location with a knife. Use a screwdriver or drill to make the hole larger. Repeat this for the handle's other hole. Once completed, pop the handle onto the bucket (right).

The photo below shows the finished bucket. The top view (left) shows the inner pockets filled with tools. The original over-the-door shoe organizer had riveted holes. These can be used to attach carabiners or hooks so that one can hang tape measures or other items (middle). The outside pockets are also filled with tools (right).

Final Words

Bucket Buddies are commercially available and range from $10-$30 USD. This do-it-yourself Bucket Buddy uses a widely available over-the-door shoe organizer. One benefit is the clear pockets; this allows one to see their tools immediately. Another benefit is that one can customize pocket size; one stitches the pocket to better conform to the tool's size. Lastly, the riveted holes allow on to add carabiners to neatly hang often-used items like a tape measure, pen/pencil/marker, and duct tape. The net effect is that with a bit of sewing one can quickly and easily create a portable, flexible, and affordable tool organizer in a few hours.

Next Steps

Beyond 5-gallon buckets, one could apply the “buddy” concept to pails, jars, or coffee mugs. Such items can be used to organize one's desk supplies like pens, highlighters, erasers, and scissors. Here, one must substitute the shoe organizer by stitching one's own pocket strips. Here are some useful pages:

  1. How to sew a mug caddy Live with Madebylucyx
  2. Make an Awesome Knitting Tool Caddy
how_to_sew_a_bucket_buddy_for_tool_organization.txt · Last modified: 2020/07/06 12:12 by pauloh