Travel in Style: Make a Slipcover for Your Road Atlas

An atlas envelope made of canvas will help protect the road atlas and keep corners from getting bent. A mountain camellia bloom is interpreted here in fabric applique. (photos by Bob Farley)

Are you traveling anywhere fun this summer? You are ready to go, but your road atlas is starting to show wear and tear? Laminate pages, plastic cover or not, the corners always get caught on the seat pocket when tucking the book away. A fun and easy solution is to make a protective envelope to slip the book into. A fabric envelope makes atlas storage simple, and it looks nice as well. By using a good sturdy cotton fabric, a zigzag stitch, an applique technique, and a velcro closure, you can make a fun personalized atlas envelope for yourself or for a friend.

I set out to make an atlas cover for someone but ended up giving it to another. A photo and a story about a mountain camellia (Stewartia) inspired me, so it had to go to my friend Mary K. and nobody else. Mary K. had a Japanese Stewartia in her old yard, and when she moved to Alabama, she found out we have two species of mountain camellia (Stewartia malacodenron and ovata) native to the state. She hoped to find them in the wild, and even had a dream about the encounter, but the trees remained elusive, until one day, she was hiking out at Oak Mountain State Park and found one serendipitously. She was hot and tired so she sat down on a rock to rest. She looked up and saw a small mountain camellia — and it was in bloom! The flowers were so lovely, so she took a picture of one, and continued on with her hike. I understand the kind of enthusiasm my friend has for nature. I will drive for hours to catch a plant in bloom, and I long for the next nature journey.

Why use an atlas when your smartphone has a map app?

Believe it or not, I still like to use a good old fashioned map and road atlas, and I especially like my Alabama Atlas & Gazetteer. By studying the topographical lines and geologic features, I am able to get the lay of the land. I love that Birmingham is smack dab in the middle of page 30 and 31, and that the city is orange from the yellow with red street lines, but there is green and blue all around. I can look at the map to see how the city fits into the Ridge and Valley physiographic region, and thankfully, there is still beautiful countryside I can find in a 10-30 minute drive. I can find surrounding State Parks and Nature Preserves, National Forests and Wildlife Management Areas, the railroad lines, and places of historical interest. I can find rivers, swimming holes, backroads, and more. Don’t get me wrong, I like my technology too. I like to use the map app on my iPhone for its GPS capability along with websites like Trek Birmingham with its Go, Learn, Do motto. But a good keen sense of place and direction can be honed with a road atlas and a wanderlust to get in the car and drive.

A simple velcro closure will work well for the atlas envelope, but a button or tie will work just as well. Use whatever you have on hand.


Step 1

 Open Gallery

Measure and cut a piece of sturdy fabric (canvas, cotton duck, twill, denim) 12 1/2″ X 36 3/4″. Hem one end of the fabric by folding the end 1/2″ in, and fold over again to finish the edge. Pin and sew with a straight stitch.

Step 2

 Open Gallery

Fit the fabric over the map by bringing the hemmed edge almost all the way up to the top of the map. Pin in place at the top of both sides and crease the fabric (along the hard edges of the atlas) where the top and bottom folds will be when you sew the envelope together.

Step 3

 Open Gallery

Figure out your design, and cut out the pieces of scrap fabrics to make up the design. Think of this process as similar to making a paper collage. Line up and layer the fabric pieces onto the fabric between the creases. Here I chose a mountain camellia flower with leaves. I started by sewing the leaves first, the flower petals on top of the leaves, then the center of the flower last. I used appropriate colors of thread for each layer. You may choose a simple design or a more difficult design depending on your skill level. If you are not comfortable in sewing applique, you may omit this step all together.

Step 4

 Open Gallery

Fit the atlas again and hold in place with a pin on each side. Fold over the raw edge of flap, fold again and pin. Place the hook piece of Velcro in the center and pin. Figure out where to attach the other piece of Velcro by closing the map and marking with a pin. Open the flap again, and pin the other Velcro piece in place.

Step 5

 Open Gallery

Take the two pins out of the sides, and sew the Velcro pieces on with a narrow zigzag stitch at a stitch length set at 1.

Step 6

 Open Gallery

Fit the atlas again, and this time, pin along both sides as close to the edges of the map as you can.

Step 7

 Open Gallery

Take the map out of the pinned envelop and sew just inside the edges with a wide zigzag stitch at a stitch length of 1. This will give a strong seam and have a casual appearance. Sew along both sides and at the top and bottom of the top fold. You may have to adjust to a narrow stitch width as you sew over the Velcro.

Step 8

 Open Gallery

Fray the edges by pulling the strings until you meet the stitches. Cut away the threads to finish with a neat look.

Step 9

 Open Gallery

Fit the atlas again, and this time, take it to the car for your next road trip.


  • sturdy fabric
  • fabric scraps
  • thread
  • Velcro


  • measuring tape
  • scissors
  • sewing machine
About Michelle Reynolds 


I’m a slipcover maker who refuses to fill the trash with the cutaway bits of designer fabrics, so I strive to make use of every scrap. I live with my ...

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