Back to School Pencil Case [September 2020]

When I was younger I loved it when my mother would create my very own bookcases, pencil cases, and backpacks for school.

Me and the other kids would compare our mother’s sewing and skills and would love to show off our own custom things our mothers would make us.

Now that it is time for my kids to head off to school I love taking them down to look at all the different fabrics & materials to get them to pick out what they want for their school gear.

This pencil case is a great project for anyone starting off sewing, it is fairly straightforward with only a few basic straight sews. If you are yet to make the big purchase of a sewing machine check out my post  to help you buy the best sewing machine for beginners

I hope your kids enjoy their new pencil cases as much as I enjoyed making them!


What You Need For The Outer Layer:

  • 1 x 7″ zipper
  • 1 x 9.5″ x 10.5″  rectangle in your chosen outer fabric
  • 1 x 9.5″ x 10.5″ rectangle in heavy sew-in interfacing
  • 2 x 4” diameter circles in your chosen outer fabric
  • 2 x 4” diameter circles in heavy sew-in interfacing
  • 2 x 10.5″ x 1.5″ rectangles of piping fabric
  • Approximately 19″ of 1/4″ piping cord, cut in half to create 2 equal pieces

What You Need For The Lining Layer:

  • 1 x 9.5” x 10.5” rectangle of lining fabric
  • 2 x 4” diameter circles in lining fabric

Along With Your Sewing Machine Other Required Items:

  • Coordinating sewing thread
  • Needle (for hand-basting)
  • Regular presser foot
  • Seam ripper
  • Zipper foot
  • Pins

Please Note: 1/2“ seam allowance has been included in all measurements.

Back to School Pencil Case: A Step By Step Guide

Making the Lining Layer of The Pencil case

  1. Start off by folding the lining rectangle (9.5” x 10.5”) in half. Right side to right side so the shorter 9.5” side is the side along your fold. The result should be a new triangle 9.5” x 5.25”.

    You now want to create a stout tube. To do this sew (with backstitching) a straight line a 1/2” from the tip of the rectangle and 1” in from each short side. You should be left with a tube with an approximate opening size of 6.75” for the 7” zipper.
  2. Part the unsewn part of the seam opening where the zipper is going to be placed, test the zipper is going to fit before proceeding any further. Make any adjustments as necessary.
  3. At each end of the tube make 1/4″ – 3/8″ cuts/snips along the whole length of the 1/2“ seam allowance. Make sure you DO NOT cut all the way into your stitching line when making these cuts.
  4. Pin one of your 4” circles you cut from your lining fabric to one of the tubes end openings. You want to pin the circle so the inner side of the circle meets the inner side of the tube.
  5. Place your pinned circle outside face down (so the outer side of where the circle end and the tube meet is facing you) and sew all the way around using a 1/2“ seam allowance. Make sure you keep the snipped seam allowance spread out and tightly pulled so you get a smooth sew all the way around. Don’t worry if your stitching is not a perfect circle, this will not matter on the end product. Trim the seam allowance to 1/4″ to reduce the overall bulk of the pencil case.

    Repeat exactly the same for the other end of the tube.
  6. Once both sides are complete, congratulations you have finished the lining of your pencil case! Set aside.

Making The Outer Layer of The Pencil Case

  1. Pair up your pieces of interfacing with the corresponding pieces of outer fabric. You want to sew them together by sewing the interfacing pieces onto the wrong side of the outer fabric. You want to sew fairly close to the edge (about 1/4″ or less if you can). This is so the stitching line is hidden within the seam allowances when the whole pencil case has been assembled together
  2. Repeat step number 1 from the above section with the outer fabric rectangle to create a second stout tube with an opening for the zipper.

Making The Piping of The Pencil Case

  1. Attach the zipper foot to your sewing machine and move the needle to the outer most position available on your machine.
  2. Fold one piece of the piping fabric over one piece of the piping cord. Line up the long edges of the fabric up together.
  3. Using the longest stitch length possible on your machine (you will be unpicking this down on ‘attaching the piping’ step 4), hug the piping cord tightly with the edge of your presser foot and sew as close to the piping as possible to enclose the piping cord with fabric. Sew right to the end of the fabric.

Attaching The Piping to The Pencil case

  1. Get your outer layer tube and line up the seam allowance of one open end with the seam allowance of the piping and pin in place. (this is now the head end)
  2. Adjust the stitch length of your machine back to regular and start sewing the piping from 1” in from the end. Sew as close as you can to the piping cord to attach it securely to the circumference of the open end of your tube.
  3. When you reach 1.5” from the end of the piping (the new tail end) stop sewing with the needle down.
  4. Get your seam ripper and unpick the long stitches in the remaining 1.5” of piping to expose the naked cord. (the long stitches you created back up in ‘making the piping’ step 3)
  5. Trim the naked cord back enough so the cord only just meets the head end of the piping and does not overlap. Do not trim any piping fabric at this point! It will be overlapping but needs to stay like this.
  6. Fold back the piping fabric by about 1/2″. Release the head end of the piping and tuck it snugly into the tail end. You should aim to have the ends of the cord meeting and not overlapping.
  7. Fold the fabric of the tail end back over the head end. Keep sewing to finish attaching the piping to the open end of your tube.

Finishing The Outer Layer of The Pencil Case

  1. Cut the seam allowance of the end again just like you did back up in step 3 of the ‘making the lining layer’.
  2. Pin one of your outer circles to the open end of your tube with the right sides facing together and sew as you did in step 5 of the ‘making the lining layer’.Using the zipper for you will be able to sew very close to the piping cord.
  3. Trim the seam allowance to 1/4″ to reduce the overall bulk of the pencil case. Turn the pencil case to the right side out to check all the piping is sewn in place neatly and correctly.
  4. Repeat steps 1 – 7 & 1 & 3 of ‘attaching the piping’ & ‘finishing the outer layer’ to complete the open end of your tube.
  5. Congratulations your outer is not complete!

Attaching The Zipper to The Pencil Case

  1. Make sure your pencil case is now folded the right way out and insert the lining from the ‘making the lining layer’ steps into the outer layer from the ‘finishing the outer layer’ steps above.
  2. Line up the two zipper openings.
  3. Get your zipper and upzip it entirely. Insert the zipper between the two layers and hand baste in place from the outside of the pencil case.
  4. When the zipper is securely in place, carefully fold the pencil case inside out. Be sure to leave the zipper open. Starting in the middle of one side of the zipper start to sew (about 1/4” away from the zip) towards the end of the zip. Be sure to take your time and make this sew as neat, tidy and straight as you can. Repeat this step 3 more times until the zipper is securely attached.
  5. Remove the basting stitches and turn the pencil case to the right side out.

Congratulations your pencil case is complete!

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