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How to make a USB cable tidy

Like many people, I have a lot of electrical equiupment, a mobile phone, a digital camera, an MP3 player, a Kindle. My husband has similar. We had a growing pile of electrical cables, USB connectors, charging cables, and so on. They were all in a box so they didn't get lost, but everytime something needed recharging or downloading to or from the computer, we would have to sort through these cables, disentangling them and trying to find and extract the correct cable. Finally, my patience snaped, and I designed a USB tidy (see right). It does work! I have put it on the web in case anyone else is interested in making a similar one.

Start by getting all your cables together, and working out which ones you actually need. I suggest that you label the cables somehow. A good way is using electrical insulating tape. This is plastic and sticky. Stick a bit round the cable or on the back of a plug or round a connector. Of course you must be careful not to stick this somewhere where it will get in the way when the cable is in use. Write on the tape what the cable is. If you have more than one mobile phone or camera in the household, remember to distinguish which is which.

There are different types of cable, of varying weight. USB cables are very light, and easy to wind into quite a tight loop. Mobile phone chargers have a wire and a plug, so are heavier. Battery chargers may be heavier still, with transformers. Very heavy or large cables aren't suitable for this tidy. So work out which cables are suitable, how many they are, and which type. This tidy has 6 pockets of 4 inches square (10 cms) and 4 pockets of 6 inches square (15 cms). The smaller pockets take my USB cables and phone chargers, and the larger ones the heavier camera battery chargers. By the way, I give the sizes in both inches and centimetres. Use one unit or the other - don't mix them!

USB cable tidy

You need several pieces of cloth. You might be able to buy these from charity (thrift) shops, or use a sheet or curtain that you no longer want, or even some clothes if they are big enough. Or even buy the cloth specially, I suppose. Make sure you have enough. For this tidy, I needed the following pieces of cloth:

one piece of 26 x 14 inches (65 x 35 cms)
two pieces of 20 x 7 inches (50 x 17.5 cms)
two pieces of 18 x 9 inches (45 x 22.5 cms)

If you need more rows, then you will need more pieces, plus a bigger back piece, which is the single large piece. Also I suggest that you check if your cables would fit these sized pockets. If not, you'll have to work out your own sized pockets. Each pocket needs the width of the pocket + 2 inches (5cm) for the sides. The whole row needs an extra 2 inches (5cm) for the hem. The row must be the depth of the pocket plus an extra 2 inches (5cm) for the hem. The back piece needs to be big enough to take all pockets plus an extra 2 inches (5cm) for the hem plus a bit to hang it up by.

to make USB cable tidy Cut out the pieces. Hem all edges. This is a little boring if you don't have a sewing machine, but it does make the rest of the project easier. Unhemmed cloth will fray. I have allowed an inch (2.5 cm) on each edge for the hemming. An easy way to to do this is to iron an inch fold from your cut edge. If you don't have an iron, then pin the hem before sewing it. Then tuck a bit on the edge under (see left), and sew down the hem so you catch the tucked under part (see right). Do not use bright red thread! Try to use a thread that will blend in with the cloth. But I want to show you what's happening. You should end up with one hemmed piece of 12 x 24 inch (60 x 30 cms), two pieces of 18 x 5 inches (45 x 12.5 cms) and two pieces of 16 x 7 inches (40 x 17.5 cms). to make USB cable tidy
to make USB cable tidy

The largest piece (12 x 24 inch or 60 x 30 cms) is the back piece. I am going to make it a different colour to make the diagrams easier to understand, but it will probably be the same colour as the pockets. Lie that out flat. Now lie one of the 16 x 7 inches (40 x 17.5 cms) pieces along the bottom. This will make one of the rows of two 6 inch pockets. Sew the edges of the pocket piece to the back piece (see left). It will be baggy in the middle. It's supposed to be. When you do the sewing, continue onto the back piece where possible. This will make it stronger.

Find the middle line of the back piece, and the middle line of the back piece, and sew them together (see right). The pocket piece will still be baggy on both sides of the central seam.

to make USB cable tidy
to make USB cable tidy

Now you need to pull the pocket taut, and make folds in the sides to create the width of the pocket. These sides are one inch (2.5 cms) wide, but since you fold it in half, you need to make each fold half an inch (1.25 cm). The picture on the left has been exaggerated to show how the folds work. It's useful to iron in these folds, or pin them.

Then sew along the bottom, making the bottom of the pockets, and also trapping the bottoms of the side folds. You are trying to sew through rather a lot of layers of cloth by this time, with the multiple levels and the hemming. If you are using a sewing machine, you may not be able to persuade it to do the corners, so finish them off by hand.

to make USB cable tidy
to make USB cable tidy

If you start with the bottom row, this aligns it to the bottom of the back piece. Now do the next row above (see left). You can leave a gap if you want, but I didn't and it seems to work.

Then add the top two rows. These use the remaining pieces, 16 x 7 inches (40 x 17.5 cms). They behave the same way, except you have three pockets, not two. This means that there isn't one central seam, half way along but two seams, a third and two thirds of the way along (see right). That, by the way, is why they are wider than the 6 inch pockets, as there are more pockets, so more sides to pockets.

to make USB cable tidy

When you have finished, you need to fasten it to the wall. Originally I thought that I'd need to attach it to a stick, but in fact, I just used drawing pins on the tidy itself. It hasn't fallen down yet! Put all the cables into the right pockets, stand back, and admire.