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Back to School: Zippered Pencil & School Supplies Case

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I have a wooden pencil box that has been a fixture on my desk since grade school. I believe my sister gave it to me... or perhaps I stole it from her; my memory is a little hazy when it comes to how things once hers came into my possession. A new pencil box instantly sends me back to crisp fall days dressed in even-crisper white shell-button blouses, itchy wool skirts and droopy knee socks. What does all this have to do with our cool little corduroy zippered pencil case with the cute front-buttoned pocket? Nothing really. But it was a sweet story, wasn't it?

Our cool little corduroy zippered pencil case with the cute front-buttoned pocket is an ideal matching accessory for our Back to School: Perfect Slouchy Book Bag. Make them both, then give them to your sister... you probably owe it to her for all that stuff you stole.

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

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  • Fabric scraps to fit the cutting dimensions shown below: we used Valori Wells' Nest Corduroy from Free Spirit Fabrics in Autumn Paisley for the exterior fabric and Moda Fabric's Bella Solids in Natural for the lining.
    NOTE: If you don't have enough scraps on hand, you will need ⅓ yard of exterior fabric (based on a horizontal corduroy wale; ¼ yard will work if you use a plain fabric) and ¼ yard of lining fabric.
  • 9" zipper
  • 1 small carabiner in a coordinating color: we used lime green
  • 3" of ½" wide coordinating grosgrain ribbon for carabiner hook: we used an orange with white polka dots
  • 7-8" of 2.5 mm waxed cotton cord to match fabric: we used dark brown
  • One ¾" button
  • Two large-hole wooden beads
    NOTE: Hole must be large enough to thread onto waxed cord.
  • All purpose thread in color to match fabric
  • All-purpose thread in color to contrast with fabric: we used dark brown
  • See-through ruler
  • Seam gauge
  • Fabric pencil, pen or chalk
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • Straight pins

Getting Started

  1. From the exterior bag fabric (Valori Wells' Nest Corduroy from Free Spirit Fabrics in Autumn Paisley in our sample), cut the following:
    NOTE: We wanted the corduroy's wale to run horizontally for our pencil case, and so cut all our pieces accordingly.
    TWO 10" wide x 7" tall rectangles for case body.
    ONE 8" wide x 6" tall rectangle for the front pocket.
    ONE 4" x 4" square for the front pocket loop.
  2. From the lining fabric (Moda Fabric's Bella Solids in Natural in our sample), cut TWO 10" x 7" rectangles.

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

Making and placing pocket and loop

  1. Find the 8" x 6" pocket piece.
  2. Press under ½" along both 8" sides and one 6" end.
  3. On the opposite 6" end, make a simple 1½" hem. To do this, press under ½", then press under again 1", pin in place, and stitch close to the fold to finish.
  4. Sew the button at the exact center of this hem line on the front of the pocket.
  5. Find the 4" x 4" loop piece.
  6. Fold it in half diagonally, right sides together, to form a triangle.
  7. Stitch ½" away from the fold. Folding and stitching on the diagonal will make the loop bias-cut, which will allow it to curve without wrinkling.
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  8. Trim the seam allowance to ¼" and turn right side out with a safety pin, loop turner or hemostat. Press flat.
  9. Place the pocket, right side up, on the right side on one 10" x 7" exterior piece. It should be positioned approximately 2" from each end and 1" from the top and bottom. Slip the folded loop in place and test its position with the button. Pin everything in place.
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  10. Adjust the loop as needed to best fit the button, also making sure the top edge of the pocket stays flat beneath the loop. When it fits just right, pin the ends in place.
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  11. Sew the loop ends in place with a line of stitching, going back and forth several times to secure.
  12. Edgestitch the pocket in place along both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners.
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Inserting the zipper

  1. The process outlined below is very similar to how we inserted the zipper in our wristlet tutorial. If you are new to inserting zippers, you might want to review this tutorial; there are several additional photos, which help you walk through the process.
  2. Place the finished front of the case right side up on your work surface.
  3. Lay your zipper upside down on top of it (teeth facing down on the right side of the fabric). The edge of the zipper tape should be even with the fabric's raw edge.
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  4. Lay a 10" x 7" piece of lining, right side down, on top of the front piece, sandwiching the zipper in between the two layers of fabric. As above, line up the top raw edge with the edge of the zipper tape. Pin all three layers together, being careful to pin through just the top of the zipper. You need to be able to open and close the zipper; you can't do that if you've pinned through the whole thing.
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  5. Fold back the lining to reveal the zipper, and zip it open about half way.
  6. Fold the lining back down into position and take the assembled layers to your machine. Attach your zipper foot. Your needle should be in the left-most position.
  7. Stitch as close to the zipper as the foot will allow, removing the pins as you sew.
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  8. Go slowly. When you get to the middle, where you can start to feel you're approaching the zipper pull, stop with your needle in the down position. Twist your fabric around slightly and open up the layers so you can access the zipper. Be gentle! Carefully close the zipper. Re-position your fabric and finish sewing to the end.
  9. When finished, your lining piece should be on one side of the zipper and your front piece on the other. Fold the lining and front piece wrong sides together, so the zipper stands straight up, and press.
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  10. Repeat to attach the other side of the zipper between the back exterior panel and the other piece of lining.
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Final assembly

  1. Find your 3" piece of ribbon. Fold it in half, wrong sides together.
  2. Pin it to the right side of the front of the case just below the zipper tape, as shown below. The raw edges should be flush and the loop facing in. Machine baste it in place.
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  3. Un-zip the zipper about half way and fold the case right sides together.
  4. Align the raw edges of the sides and the bottom, all layers, and pin in place.
  5. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch down both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners. Clip the corners and turn right side out through the zippered opening.
  6. Push out the corners and press well.

Optional French seam

  1. The final assembly steps above work just dandy, but do leave a raw-edged seam allowance on the inside of your case. I made a French Seam to create a finished inside edge.
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  2. After attaching the ribbon loop as described above, un-zip the zipper about half way and fold the case WRONG sides together.
  3. Align the raw edges of the sides and the bottom, all layers, and pin in place.
  4. Using a ¼" seam allowance, stitch down both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners.
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  5. Trim the seam allowance back very close to your stitching – to about 1/8".
  6. Turn wrong side out through the zippered opening.You'll need to carefully poke out the bottom corners with a blunt tool, like a large knitting needle or a chopstick, but don't be rough or you'll poke right through the seam.
  7. Using a 3/8" seam allowance, stitch AGAIN down both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at each bottom corner and being careful to start and finish as close as possible to the head and tail of your zipper.
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  8. Turn the case right side out again through the zippered opening. Poke out those bottom corners again... carefully. And you have a lovely French seam for a clean inside finish.
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Zipper pull and carabiner

  1. Clip the carabiner onto the ribbon loop.
  2. Find your length of waxed cord.
  3. Cut one end at a diagonal to make it thin enough to thread through the zipper pull.
  4. Once through the pull, thread a bead on each end and make a knot on each side of each bead to hold them in place. Tie both ends in a knot against the zipper pull to secure.
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Project Design: Alicia Thommas  
Sample Creation and Instructions: Liz Johnson



Comments (26)

annamarie s said:
annamarie s's picture

Hi, im going into yr 8 and id really like to try this. Is it really hard to make?

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ annamarie s - this is not a hard project. The inside French Seam is optional as it says at the end of the article, but even that isn't difficult. As with everything, carefully read through the steps before you start and go slowly.

Amber Bennett said:
Amber Bennett's picture

I made one in a flame fabric for my son to start 2nd grade with! He loves it and I made the pocket big enough to fit a 24 pack of crayons!

Pencil Cases said:
Pencil Cases's picture

Really nice and great informative blog.Thanks for share........:-)

Liz Johnson, Editor, Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson, Editor, Sew4Home's picture
@ Petra. T - The only tricky part at all is the zipper, but if you have a zipper foot for your machine and you go slowly and carefully, you should be just dandy. Give it a try! smilies/wink.gif
Petra. T said:
 Petra. T's picture
Hi I'm still in school and I'm wondering about making this. How easy is it though??? smilies/tongue.gif thank you!!smilies/cheesy.gif
Kimberly's Cup said:
Kimberly's Cup's picture
LOVE IT! Glad I wasn't the only one with droopy kneesocks. I remember pulling on those all the live long day!
alicia.thommas said:
Cristi, If you look at Step 10 in the section Making and placing pocket and loop, imagine sewing back and forth several times parallel to the pin shown. It's just one short, well-secured line of stitching. You could also zigzag across and trim any excess off the bottom of the loops. You just need to be sure you follow the steps so this is hidden under your pocket.
Cristi said:
Cristi's picture
Can you explain the triangle part (button loop) a little more in detail? Is it supposed to be stitched all the way around?
Soupseeds.blogspot.com said:
Soupseeds.blogspot.com's picture
I love this bag and matching pencil case! I had to repost on my blog!
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture
@ kim -- thanks for including us in your round-up smilies/grin.gif
Kim @ seven thirty three said:
Kim @ seven thirty three's picture
These are so clever! I featured you today in my 19 Creative Back to School Ideas and Treats Round-Up at 733blog.blogspot.com!
Maggi said:
Maggi 's picture
This little trendy bag is adorable. I made it and use it almost everyday.

thanks so much.
Mrs B. said:
Mrs B.'s picture
Thank you, just got an e-reader and this will be a perfect fit. The outside pocket for the cables and I'll pad the main body. Perfect for throwing in my daybag.
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture
Hi Nancy L and audrac! So glad you like this little case. It's fun to make!
audrac said:
audrac's picture
This is SO STINKIN' CUTE!!! I love it! This definately goes on my project list!
Nancy L. said:
Nancy L.'s picture
This is exactly what I have been looking for...something to hold my keys, phone and cash... Thanks! I am going to get all the parts cut and make it next week at Retreat...smilies/smiley.gif