Posted by: michelenel | 9 June, 2013

The fabric mail catcher…..

We have an old house – a VERY old house – and there are a lot of things we can’t do with it because it is protected by law.  There are other things I would not want to do to it because it would just look dreadful and out-of-place on a 300+ year old house.  Take the front door with the ridiculous post box that dumps your mail onto the tiled floor which is 2mm higher than the stone entrance so when you arrive home the mail gets wedged between the door and the tiles!! Infuriating for most people but especially for me as I have such difficulty bending down to retrieve the mail through the tiny crack that it leaves  open.

A solution could be one of those hideous wire baskets you attach to the door but a) they are HIDEOUS and b) it would bash against the stone wall and not allow you into the house anyway.  After months of annoyance it suddenly came to me after making Daughter Two a privacy cover for breastfeeding – why not use the same technique with the boning?  Scarily, the two of us are so alike we seem to have come up with a similar idea at the same time so I have to give us both credit for the invention of the Fabric Mail Catcher.

So here it is – and how I made it…..

What you will need:  

Fabric – I used upholstery/curtaining but most non stretch fabrics will do.

Wooden lathe – we used what was lying around from a previous roman blind project, but otherwise purchase an 18 inch x 3/4 inch flat lathe.

Boning – 22 inches

Velcro – 15 inches

Two screws to mount to the door.


Cut 1 back section – 18 inches x 15 inches

Cut 1 front section – 18 inches x 23 inches

Cut 1 channel for door mounting (this covers the lathe) – 3 inches x 18 inches

1) Either sew a tube the appropriate size for the size lathe you have and insert the lathe into the tube and stitch the ends closed  by hand OR glue the fabric around the lathe using a hot-glue gun.

2)  Sew the front and the back sections together along the 18 inch sides. Note that the front is wider than the back but you will ‘remove’ this excess in the next step.


3) Depending on your preference you can choose to add either an inward or outward box pleat in the front section – mine is made with an inward box pleat (image 2 below).  Make the pleat in the centre of the front section and of a size that will make the front and back the same width.  Stitch the bottom of the bag closed.  Sew another line of stitches right next to the previous one to reinforce the bottom.  If you want all three sides can now be overlocked or zigzagged to prevent fraying.

IMG_1872   IMG_1874

4)  Fold and iron under 1 inch around the entire top of the bag.  Fold over again to create a channel for the boning.  Sew close to the bottom edge of the channel leaving a 3 inch gap on one side of the front section for you to feed the boning into the channel.  Top stitch another row of stitching all the way round the top of the bag to give it a nice finished look.  Feed the boning into the front section channel making sure you have it threaded in the right way up – it should form an upward/outward curve away from the back section.  Stitch your opening closed and also stitch a small row of stitches across the end of the boning at each side seam to prevent the boning from moving through to the back section (avoid sewing over the boning or you will damage your needle).

IMG_1875   IMG_1876

5) Stitch the loop half of your velcro to the back section of the bag.  If you prefer, this step could be done before you begin sewing the channel in step 4 and then the stitches would not be visible from the inside of your bag (I forgot to do it on mine but it is not noticeable so don’t worry either way is fine). Press your bag ready for installation.


6) If you don’t do DIY then get one handy hubby, family member or friend to screw your fabric covered lathe to the inside of your door below the mail slot.  My hubby practiced being the mailman before he made his final placement to ensure the letters would drop into the bag.  Using two wood screws drill straight through the fabric and lathe into the door – make sure it is level!  Add the other half of the velcro to the lathe with a staple gun or tiny nails.  It should all becoming clearer now!  Note the left hand picture is the OUTSIDE of our as yet un-refurbished front door – a bit of a mess but full of potential.

IMG_1879   IMG_1881

7)  Affix your mail bag to the velcro on the door and stand back and admire your pretty AND functional creation!  No more mail on the floor for me.

IMG_1882   IMG_1883  Ah! we have mail 🙂IMG_1886

Please don’t judge my door – the inside is even uglier at the moment than the outside!!!  Years of this being a pub and inn have taken their toll but I think my pretty mail catcher brightens it up just a little.  This is SO much better than those ugly metal basket type mail catchers AND you can make a new one whenever you have a mind to redecorate!  You can also make these in different sizes to hold all sorts of things in children’s bedrooms, bathrooms, on the back of doors or inside cupboards for underwear perhaps?

Let me know what you create yours for.

Happy sewing 🙂



  1. You are so innovative. This is a genius way to solve a not uncommon problem – patent it!

    • Thank you so much for the lovely kind words. It is amazing how creative you become when you have a big renovation to do and NO money! Take care. Michele

  2. Such a creative and beautiful solution!

    • Thank you so much – I am really glad you like it – I know it has made things a whole lot easier for me 🙂

  3. Super excited to be making one of these for myself today. This would make a great etsy product!

    • Hi Lucy, I am so glad you like it! I love mine and it has saved me getting trapped outside the house in my wheelchair on many occasions because the mail was always getting lodged between the stone step and the inside tiles – very annoying. Just an aside – I made a minor modification to mine because we receive a LOT of mail and small parcels and found that my boning sometimes did not keep its shape and mail spilled over the top. I took a strip of fabric a couple of inches wide and about a foot long and created a nice flat tube. I then attached it to the door with a small nail about a foot above the door (and centred on the mail box) and then added a popper to the boning (also in the centre) and added the other end of the flat tube to it. This effectively keeps the boning half circle from drooping and allowing mail to spill over. An easy fix if you have the same issue. Good luck and let us see the results 🙂
      PS. Maybe one day I will create a proper pattern and put it up on Etsy – when I have more time and energy.

      • I took your comments into account and ended up making it with stiff fusible interface inside, instead of boning, to eliminate sagging. I had to get rid of the pleat and add sides, so it ended up looking quite different. Unfortunately I can’t upload a photo!

      • Well done for making one and making it right for you! I wish I could see a picture. Maybe on my Facebook?

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