Welcome to my first tutorial! I thought I’d start with something fairly simple and a product that I sold when I first opened Closet Geek – the box pencil case. A bit like a Tardis, these pencil cases look fairly small but are bigger on the inside! They hold loads of pens and pencils, and my girls are always pinching them off me at the beginning of the school year. This tutorial does require a sewing machine but is probably possible if you can only sew by hand. Sewing with a sewing machine however will make the pencil case much sturdier and longer lasting.
What you will need:
- Some nice looking fabric for the outside and some plain looking fabric for the inside. You don’t need very much of each and you can adjust the measurements depending on how big you want your pencil case to be.
- A colour coordinating or contrasting zip (I used a 10 inch one as this works with the measurements I’m using for this example)
- Cotton thread (and a sewing machine to sew it with)
- Pins (these aren’t essential as you can just hold it in the right place but they definitely help).
Step 1. Start by cutting your pieces of fabric. I have a template from when I used to make pencil cases – it’s 26cm by 14cm (or approximately 10″ by 5.5″) so you can start by making a template if you want but you don’t have to. If you have a template then all you need to do is draw around it twice, twice. You will need two pieces of the pattern fabric and two pieces of the plain fabric. If you don’t want to bother with a template, just measure out 26cm by 14cm directly onto the fabric itself. If like me you’re using black, chalk works well to mark it. If you’re using any other colour then a pen or pencil should work fine. Cut out the pieces of fabric so you have two of each type. It doesn’t matter if the marks where you drew it out still show.
Step 2. Get your zip and pins. We’re going to start by laying down one piece of plain fabric, flat on the surface. Next lay your zip along the very top edge. The top edge of the zip should line up with the top edge of the plain piece of fabric. Next get a patterned piece of fabric and lay it on top. This should have the wrong side of the fabric facing out towards you, the right side of the fabric facing inwards towards the plain fabric. The zip should be sandwiched between the two pieces of fabric with all top edges lined up. Try and makes sure the edges are lined up neatly.
Once you have all the pieces in place, pin along the top edge, through all three layers. You now need to take this to your sewing machine and sew along that edge where you have pinned. Be careful not to run over the pins with your sewing machine and remember to run the sewing machine stitch alongside the edge of the zip, not catching the teeth in the middle. You will feel a sort of bulge where the teeth part is, just keep the sewing machine foot running gently next to that.
Step 3. Now you’ve sewn one side of the pencil case, you’re going to sew the other side. For this you will need to fold over the bit you have already done. To do this, lift the patterned piece upwards and then fold it back down the other side. Once you have done that, turn it back around to face you, so you can see the patterned piece again. It’s hard to explain but if you look at these images and hopefully try it yourself, you’ll see what I mean. If you’ve done it correctly, both pieces should still be hanging downwards from the bottom of the zip edge.
Step 4. Add on the other side. This is basically a repeat of Step 2. You’re going to lay your plain piece down first, then add the zip along the upper edge (trying to ignore the fabric already attached to it) and then add the patterned piece on the top, with the right side facing inwards again. It should all line up properly at the edges, but the pieces already attached to the zip should show slightly longer at the bottom. Pin in place again, then sew on the sewing machine again.
Step 5. Once it’s all sewn together, you should have two pieces coming off one edge of the zip and two pieces coming off the other side. It should be one patterned on each edge and one plain on each edge. Lay the fabric out flat, with two pieces up and two pieces down, the zip along the middle. Then fold the bottom two pieces of fabric upwards towards the top edge of the top two pieces of fabric. Pin along the edge. You will now run this through the sewing machine. Use the sewing machine foot as a guide, having the edge of the foot on the edge of the fabric as you sew straight down the edge.
Step 6. If you have some pinking shears, this is a great time to use them, but if you don’t then don’t worry, it’s not important. Cut close to the line that you have just sewn, but not too close that you risk cutting the stitching you have just made. Pinking shears are great for this as they help to stop fraying but as this is just a home/fun project it’s not going to be the end of the world if your fabric frays a little. I forgot to take a picture at this stage, so for pinking shears reference, see Step 8.
Step 7. Now we’re going to sew up the ends. For this you will need to flatten the pencil case down. The zip should run along the middle on one side and the seam we just sewed should run along the middle of the other side.
Pin both ends closed, through all layers of fabric. Be careful where the zip meets the fabric as this will be harder to pin through. Remember once you have pinned both ends, to open the zip a little. This is to make sure you can still access the zip after you have sewn up the ends. You will also need a gap to turn your pencil case the right way around.
Sew the ends carefully on a sewing machine. Take extra care as you go over the zip. At the end where the zip is now open, make sure you sew the two pieces of zip sides as close together as possible otherwise you may have a gap in your zip once it’s all finished. To make sure it’s all secure, you can even sew over the zip parts twice if you want.
Step 8. Again, like in Step 6, you can now use pinking shears to neatly cut off the access fabric. If you don’t have any, regular scissors are fine too. Cut close to the stitching line you just made, but not so close that you could catch the stitching. Trim off all lose threads you may have from previous stitching lines, just to neaten things up.
Now you have all edges of the pencil case sewn, but you need to give it the box shape. This step is by far the hardest that I have to explain, so I’m going to add a ton of photos and just hope you can understand where I’m coming from.
Step 9. Sewing the corners to give a box shape. If you’re holding the pencil case flat as you look at it, with the width left to right and the length straight out in front of you, the zip should run along the middle top. For this next step you will need to push each corner flat, pinching it outwards. Put a pin in each corner and then sew each corner on the sewing machine. I really have no idea how to explain this better to you so I really just hope you can tell from these pictures what I’m talking about!
Step 10. Once the four corners are all sewn flat, you can trim them with the pinking shears or scissors. If this is your first time making a pencil case using this tutorial, before cutting off the corners you may want to turn the pencil case the right way round first and just double check you’ve done it right. Once you cut off the fabric there is no turning back, but if the fabric is still there and you realise you’ve made a mistake, you can always unpick the stitching. I learnt this advice the hard way as I am always making mistakes and needing to unpick things. Once you’re sure it’s right, trim the corners.
Step 11. Open up the zip fully and turn the pencil case the right way around. Push out each of the corners with your fingers to make sure it has the right shapes and definition at the corners. Do up the zip again and tada! You’re done. I went for a fairly safe colour palette, with black/white patterned fabric (though who doesn’t love some Captain Marvel) and then plain black fabric for the inside and plain black zip. However you can let your imagination run wild with the colour combinations you can make. I love a good pop of colour and this pencil case would have looked equally fab with a bright red zip and a surprise royal blue lining inside!
Feel free to drop your comments below and if you end up making a pencil case, post a picture in the comments too. Obviously this project has also been shared to my instagram account closetgeekmakes and if you tag me there I’ll share your projects in my stories!