Pencil Case Tutorial

So I thought it was about time to write up the tutorial for my basic pencil case. This pattern is a quick, simple make that is perfect for getting you comfortable with interfacing and zippers (and it makes a pretty quick gift, too!). This is the first pouch we do in my popular Bag Basics vol. 1 class and is perfect for a beginner sewer. Even better, it basically gives you all the skills you need to create a simple pouch of **any** size – just change up the cut size of your fabric, then sew it up the same way!

This is one of my favourite simple pouches to make because it is so versatile. Want to use it for stationary? Fun! How about toiletries? Even better! Maybe throw some change and receipts in it to keep them organized… awesome! It really is great for all your needs. AND… because it is made with cotton, it is completely washable!

So, are you ready?! Let’s begin with the basics – what you need!

sewing tools
Sewing Tools

You really don’t need much to make a basic pencil case, but there definitely are a few essentials. Let’s start with the necessities:

  • Scissors or rotary cuter (you will need a cutting mat if you are using a rotary cuter)
  • Thread
  • Pins or clips (I prefer clips, but there is one spot where you will need pins)
  • Ruler
  • Snips (optional, but I prefer them to scissors when removing thread)

Once you have collected up all the tools you will need, it is time to gather up the fabric and zipper! This really is the fun part – so dig into your stash and pick out your favourites!

This is a pretty great beginner project because you won’t need much in the way of supplies. You can get quite a few pencil cases out of 2 fat quarters of fabric, so dig in, and find your favourites. This project is so simple, you can definitely use your good stuff!

You will need:

  • 1 Fat Eighth Exterior Print
  • 1 Fat Eighth Lining Print
  • 1 Fat Eighth Medium Woven Interfacing (I use Pellon SF 101 – it is my go-to medium woven interfacing and it is miles above the rest for quality and finished product)
  • 1 10″ (or larger) all-purpose zipper (you may also see these listed as #3, or dressmaker’s zippers). Don’t worry if you cannot find a 10″ zipper, you can get a larger one and cut it down.
Fabric & Notion Supplies

Now that you’ve gathered your supplies… let’s get to cutting!

Cut size for exterior, lining, and woven interfacing pieces.

Now that you have chosen your fabrics, it is time to cut them out. It is best to press your fabric (exterior and lining) pieces first in order to get the most precise cuts.

You will cut 2 exterior pieces, 2 lining pieces, and 2 interfacing pieces all at 9.5″ wide x 5″ tall.

You can do this with your rotary cuter, or you can draw the cut lines on the back of your fabric with a fabric pen/chalk and then use your scissors to cut out.

OR… you can make a template of your cutting pieces – I like to use basic cardstock, cut it out to 9.5″ x 5″ and then I place that over the pressed fabric and cut around it.

Next up, you will fuse the medium woven interfacing to the WRONG side of your two exterior pieces. You can cut 2 additional pieces of interfacing and attach to your lining if you would like (for a sturdier/thicker pencil case), but it is not necessary.

To attach the interfacing, I like to press mine with the interfacing facing up. Make sure you place the fusible side of your interfacing (bumpy side) face down on your exterior fabric – you definitely do not want to be getting the adhesive on your iron!

When you press, use the cotton setting on your iron and starting in the middle, hold it still on the fabric for 5-8 seconds then move slightly over and repeat. Continue this process until you have reached the far edge of your exterior fabric, then come back to the centre and repeat going the other direction. Repeat for second exterior piece.

Fuse interfacing to wrong side of exterior fabric

Now that everything is cut and prepped, it’s time to get sewing!

Match your zipper tape edge with the top of your lining.
Both right sides facing up.
Place exterior piece WRONG side up on top, lining up the top edge of the exterior with the top edge of the zipper tape
Sew across with your zipper foot using a 1/4″ seam allowance.

Alright, now that you have your 2 exterior and 2 lining pieces cut, with the woven interfacing fused to your 2 exterior pieces, it is time to get sewing. So grab your supplies and let’s get to work!

To start, lay one of your lining pieces RIGHT side up on your work surface, then, lay your zipper RIGHT side up on top, matching the long edge of your zipper tape with the top edge of your lining. Both your lining and your zipper will be RIGHT sides face up.

If your zipper is exactly 10″, make sure to place the metal stops at the edges to ensure you will not run over them with your needle at a later step.

If you have a longer zipper, you can centre it on your lining piece, still ensuring the zipper tape edge is lined up with the top of the lining.

Use your pins or clips to hold the zipper in place.

** OPTIONAL ** you can now use your zipper foot to baste your zipper in place. While this step isn’t needed, it is best for beginner sewers and people new to working with zippers. To baste, sew across the zipper tape about 1/8″ away from the raw edge using a long stitch length.

Next, lay one of your exterior pieces WRONG side up on top, lining up the top edge of the exterior fabric with the top edge of the zipper tape. Use pins or clips to hold in place.

You will now have a 3-layer sandwich – lining RIGHT side up, zipper RIGHT side up, exterior WRONG side up. You will sew along this long edge.

Make sure your zipper foot is installed on your machine, and your bobbin and top thread are ready.

Now, sew across the long sandwiched edge with your zipper foot using a 1/4″ seam allowance. You want to be close to the zipper teeth, but not right up against them as that will make zipping and unzipping your pouch difficult once finished.

Use a regular stitch length and be sure to back-stitch and the beginning and end of the line.

If you chose to baste the zipper onto the lining, sew with the lining side (where you will see your stitches) UP – that way you will be sure to enclose your basting stitches inside your seam allowance, but also it allows your feed dogs to move the exterior piece evenly.

Once done, bring over to your iron and press each piece down and away from your zipper. You have created one side of your zippered pouch, the lining and exterior pieces will be wrong sides together with the zipper at the top.

We are now ready to complete the second side!

Just like with the first side, you will lay your second lining piece RIGHT side up on your work surface, then lay the other side of your zipper (side NOT attached to your fabric) RIGHT side up along the top edge of your lining. Use pins or clips to hold in place.

** OPTIONAL ** baste in place using a long stitch length about 1/8″ from raw edge.

Next, take your second exterior piece and lay it WRONG side up, lining the top edge of the exterior piece with the top edge of your zipper tape. Use pins or clips to hold in place.

You will now have a 3-layer sandwich – lining RIGHT side up, zipper RIGHT side up, exterior WRONG side up. It will be the same process as the first side, this time you will just have the other side of the pencil case hanging between the layers.

Now, using your zipper foot again, sew along the long raw edge with a regular stitch length using a 1/4″ seam allowance, making sure to back-stitch at the start and end of the row.

Now, make your way back to the iron and press both the lining and exterior pieces you just sewed down and away from the zipper.

** When pressing close to a zipper, make sure you do not hold the iron over your zipper to prevent melting. A basic, all-purpose coil zipper should not melt with a little bit of heat (unlike a plastic one that will!), but it is a good habit to get into. Just press along the edge of your zipper teeth, being careful not to hold your iron right on top. **

Now back to your sewing machine, it is time to top stitch along the zipper!

With your zipper foot still attached, sew along the edge of your exterior fabric about 1/8″ away from the edge, making sure to catch your seam allowance. You can use a long stitch length for top stitching. Top stitch along each edge.

Match the zipper tape edge to the top edge of your second lining piece.
Press your seams away from the zipper.
Top stitch on your exterior fabric along each side of your zipper
about 1/8″ from the edge.
Completed top stitching – you can use a longer stitch length if desired.

Now let’s turn it into a pencil case!

Lay your pencil case with the right side up, spread out on your work surface, and open your zipper up at least 1/2 way (this step is very important to ensure you have a way to turn your pencil case at the end!).

Bring the two exterior pieces together, RIGHT sides together/WRONG sides facing, and the two lining pieces together, RIGHT sides together/WRONG sides facing.

With pencil case lying right side up, open your zipper half way.
Bring your exterior and lining sides together,
RIGHT sides facing each other/WRONG sides out

Next up is dealing with which way the zipper goes. I remember when I first started making pouches it always bothered me that no pattern or tutorial would tell me which way to put the zipper teeth… well, I’m here to make sure you know!

You are going to gently fold your zipper so it lays flat with your fabric with the SEAM ALLOWANCE going UP towards your EXTERIOR and the ZIPPER TEETH going DOWN towards your lining (I did a few pictures to demonstrate). Make sure your zipper teeth are straight and the edges of your zipper tape are lined up as best they can be (it’s really okay if it’s not perfect). Throw a pin in to keep it in place, then repeat for the other end of the zipper.

** NOTE ** I prefer to do the closed end of the zipper first, and then the open end, but it really doesn’t matter!

Seam Allowance towards exterior.
Zipper Teeth towards lining
Teeth Towards the lining
Pin to hold in place.
Match your 2 exterior pieces together and your two lining pieces,
using pins or clips to secure.

Once you have pinned the two ends of the zipper, match up the RIGHT sides of your 2 exterior pieces and your 2 lining pieces. Using your pins or clips, place to hold in place.

If your pieces don’t line up exactly, don’t stress! It is okay and it will all get fixed as we sew around the edge. Just be sure that your zippers line up as that is the most important part.

You will need to leave about a 4″ turning hole at the bottom (long) edge of the lining. I like to centre mine, sewing only a few inches on either end and having the hole in the middle.

Now it is time to stitch around the outside of your pouch. Using a regular stitch length, starting at the bottom long side of your lining (about 2″ from the edge), start stitching, making sure to back-stitch at the start. Your seam allowance will be ABOUT 1/4″ ish (I very much like “ish” in bag and pouch making. So long as you are consistent, a bigger or smaller seam allowance will just give you a bigger or smaller bag.

As you sew, remove the clips or pins. When you reach your zipper, be sure you are NOT stitching over the metal zipper stops. Depending on your machine, you may need to increase your seam allowance to easily make it over your zipper, and sometimes, you may need to hand-crank it over the thickest part (but honestly, I’ve never seen a machine not make it over the zipper in any of my classes).

Stitch all the way around, stopping at each edge with your needle in the down position then turning your pouch at a 90 degree angle and continuing to stitch along the next edge. You will stop about 2″ or so in on the bottom edge of your lining, making sure to leave your 3″-4″ turning hole and back-stitching when finished.

When you have finished sewing around your pencil case, trim your seam allowances down to about 1/4″ all the way around, cutting off the excess zipper at either side. You can use scissors or your rotary cuter for this.

Once your seams are trimmed, clip at an angle the 4 corners of your pouch (square your corners). This will help your pouch have nice, crisp corners by removing most of the excess fabric.

Sew around the edge of your pencil case, leaving a 3-4″ turning hole along the bottom edge. Be sure to back-stitch at the beginning and end.
Trim down your seam allowance to about 1/4″ and clip at an angle the 4 corners of your pouch (square your corners).

Now we are ready to finish our pencil case! Put your hand up inside through the turning hole and open your zipper up all the way. This will make it easier to turn your pouch.

Pull your exterior out through the turning hole and get your entire pencil case right side out. Keep the exterior and the lining separate (don’t tuck your lining into your exterior just yet), and using your finger or a plastic chopstick, or any turning tool, push out the four corners of the pouch, getting them as crisp as possible.

You now need to fold under your turning hole. To do this, I put a finger at either edge of the opening and gently pull, turning the opening in onto itself. This will turn your opening under at pretty much the same seam allowance as the remainder of pouch. Give the turned under opening (and entire bottom of the lining) a good press.

open zipper
Reach through the turning hole and open your zipper up all the way.
fold under lining
Fold your turning hole in, creating a smooth line across the bottom of your lining.
press turning hole
Press the bottom of your lining well.

Using your regular foot and stitch length, sew along the entire length of the bottom lining at 1/8″ seam allowance. This will close up your turning hole and give the bottom of your pouch a nice, clean finish. Make sure to back stitch at the beginning and end of the line.

sew turning hole
Stitch along the bottom of your lining with a 1/8″ seam allowance,
closing your turning hole.
across entire bottom
Stitching all along the bottom of the lining gives you a nice, clean finish.

Tuck your lining down inside your exterior and smooth out with your hands. You can use your fingers to pop the ends of your zipper up.

Give your pencil case one final press, then sit back and marvel in your new, fun pouch!

tuck in lining
Tuck the lining inside the exterior.
Give your pencil case one final press, and voila, you’re done!

How do you find making the pencil case? Pretty easy and fun, right?! Once you are done and filled it with all your goodies, why not make another? Maybe 5 or 10 more?! They make perfect gifts for everyone in your life, are easy to personalize, and quick to sew up. Once you’ve done a few, you can get one done, cut to finish, in under 30 minutes!

You can also try making them bigger or smaller, maybe adding some fusible fleece interfacing to make them squishy and more padded… it really is up to you!

I would love to see what you’ve made using this tutorial – be sure to tag me on your social media posts @madeby_meag and #madebymeagtutorials

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