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the World’s Fastest Pencil Case {a tutorial in 10 easy steps}

2014 August 11

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I always try to make a little gift to send home with the kids at my daughters’ parties. There are quite a few opinions out there about take-home party gifts. I’ve read many a blog post about the merits of sending home items that will be used, provide entertainment and won’t get thrown out within a few days. So, my aim has always been to try to find something useful, and home-made. I am lucky because I have fun doing it, and I generally have the extra time it takes to make a handmade gift happen. One year it was homemade playdoh and cookie cutters. Another year they all got one of these beach towels. I think I also made bath crayons and wash cloths for everyone another year. This year I knew I was not going to have a lot of time, so I spent quite a while thinking about something fun that would be fast and this one is a winner!

I spent about 3 hours total making 13 pencil cases – which averages out to about 18 minutes each – and I know I took a coffee break in there a couple of times! Thirteen, of course, included one each for my kids as well – since you can’t leave them out. Anyhow, I needed the kids to have one for the photo-shoot! The packaging didn’t take long, since my husband designed-up a little 4×6 card to put in with the gift and we included a few fabric markers and a healthy snack. I even enlisted the kids to help me divide the 8-packs of markers into groups of 4. Hooray for help!

It helps to have this amazing IKEA Tidny fabric – because it definitely ready to colour. But, I think it would be fun to search through the Spoonflower library of designs and find something in just black and white that would work well. You could even design your own theme-appropriate fabric! The fabric markers I used get mixed reviews online, and I can tell you that they definitely don’t work on dark colours, but they are great for this project. And, true to the brand, they wash off of little hands just fine… I know from experience!

If you are scared off by the zipper, this project doesn’t even need a zipper foot. I used my regular zig-zag foot for the whole thing. Definitely give it a try! It might even work out to be a good project to make with your kids, since the beginning of school is soon upon us. (Don’t worry, I won’t mention it again.) And it also has a simple french seam on each edge, encasing the seam and providing an easy way to make this an un-lined, and still “nice-looking” pencil case!

 You will need:

  • 12″ zipper
  • 12″ wide by 14″ high fabric – cotton/home decor weight/canvas
  • 2 pieces of 3″ grosgrain ribbon
  • sewing machine, thread, scissors, chopstick

Here we go:

  1. Unzip your zipper and lay one side along the top of your rectangle. The zipper teeth are facing down and the top of the zipper is aligned with the left side of the rectangle.
  2. Pin/Glue if desired and stitch along the edge with an aprox. 1/4″ seam – attaching one side of the zipper to the pencil case. I put my presser foot right next to the zipper teeth and moved the needle to it’s left-most position. (I was extra quick by eyeballing the edge instead of pinning as I sewed each zipper on.)
  3. With the zipper still unzipped, fold the pencil case right sides together and line up the left side. This helps to line the zipper up so both sides match when you are finished. Pin the second side of the zipper in place and stitch as in Step 2. (I only pinned it once, making sure  it was aligned, and then lined the rest of the edge up as I went.)
  4. Your pencil case should now be a tube. Turn and press the fabric away from the zipper teeth so it lays flat. Be careful not to heat up the teeth too much, so they don’t melt.
  5. Now press the case again while it is right side out, this time measuring so the zipper is aprox. 2″  down from the top edge. Make sure the raw side edges are aligned, this will ensure the pencil case corners are squared up.
  6. Open the zipper and stitch a wide zig-zag over the zipper tape and raw edges of your fabric. This is easier when sewn with the right side down and finishes the seam so the fabric will not fray. Fold each tab in half and pin them centred beside each end of the zipper.
  7. Keep the case folded right sides out and stitch along each raw edge with a 1/4″ seam. Catch each tab in the seam as you go, and make sure to watch for any metal parts of the zipper so you do not stitch into them.
  8. Make sure everything is well aligned and cut off the excess zipper.
  9. Turn the pencil case right sides together and use a chopstitck or similar object to push the corners out. Stitch a 3/8″ seam down each side, enclosing the previous seam and the tabs. (Your french seam is done! Easy, peasy!)
  10. Turn your pencil case right side out and give it a press. All done!

If you have any questions I’d love to help – you can email me: or contact me on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

I’d love to see your creations! You can share your projects on Twitter and Instagram @sherrisylvester with the hashtag #alongforthreadride or #threadridinghood, or post them on the Thread Riding Hood Facebook page.

This tutorial is for personal/charitable use only. Thank you!

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57 Responses leave one →
  1. Laura E. permalink
    August 11, 2014

    This was such a great idea for a goodie bag! Thank you! And I love that fabric…the possibilities are endless and it’s great because the kids get to put their own “stamp” on it. Love it!

    • August 11, 2014

      I’m so glad you like it Laura! I was not sure your youngest would appreciate colouring… but maybe he’ll grow into it or use it for storing cars? :)

  2. August 11, 2014

    Awesome idea party favors!! My daughter’s birthday is in November, and when she was little I’d stock up on 24-packs of crayons during back-to-school, and then use them as party favors – along with a little scribble pad and some after-Halloween discounted candy. I did it for too many years to count, lol!

    I’ve got a Craft Gossip post scheduled for tomorrow morning that links to your tutorial:

    • August 11, 2014

      Ooohhh… good idea Anne, my oldest’s birthday is in November as well… I am filing that away. Thanks again for the link!

  3. August 11, 2014

    Thanks so much for sharing your tutorial. The pics are super clear, as are the instructions (always a big concern before one jumps into a tut!) I’ve pinned it for future reference. What really caught my eye is that I’ve been sewing with the exact same fabric for the past 3 days and actually said to my husband this morning that it would be perfect for colouring with fabric markers!

    • August 11, 2014

      Oh… now I’m curious Jenn, and so is Debbie! You’ll have to let us know what you are making with the fabric. It has so many amazing possibilities! :) Thanks so much for pinning it!

  4. Debbie Rogowski permalink
    August 11, 2014

    this is so adorable, I need to make a few for the kid in me (and my friends) I wonder what Jenn from ‘a quarter inch from the edge’ has been making with the same fabric :)

    • August 11, 2014

      Thanks so much Debbie! I had to resist colouring on my test case… but one of these nights I think it will get finished! I’ve asked Jenn so hopefully she’ll come back and let us know! :)

  5. August 12, 2014

    Fastest for sure!

  6. Kay permalink
    August 12, 2014

    Great idea. Thanks for sharing. x

  7. August 12, 2014

    Thank you for this great tutorial! This is a great party gift, I have to remember this. A pencil case like this is also great to use for little sewing supplies to take with you when you’re going to sewing classes / club.
    (Yes, I’m back. I’ve even written a new post… ;) )

    • August 17, 2014

      I’m so glad you are back Mirjam! And it would be perfect for sewing supplies too!

  8. August 12, 2014

    I LOOOOOOVE this. What a clever idea. I predict very happy recipients!
    Well done Sherri.

  9. August 19, 2014

    Very easy! I never knew a pencil case could be so simple! Thanks :)

  10. Elizabeth permalink
    February 3, 2015

    Hi – I made drawstring bags last year for my little one in the most amazing quirky superhero fabric but this year we’re lego themed so will do this but sew on 6 rounds onto plain fabric to make the block! Thanks

    • February 6, 2015

      Nice Elizabeth! This is such a great idea! I think my girls would love a lego pencil case like that as well :)

  11. Ashley permalink
    February 6, 2015

    That is brilliant! So super easy and you still have concealed raw edges. I will definitely be trying this. :-)

  12. February 9, 2015

    This is brilliant.

  13. Angela permalink
    June 11, 2015

    Was looking for an easy to sew pencil case to use up some camouflage trouser material – ideas for a church craft stall, low cost & appealing to children. My machine skills are rusty & basic so this looks like a great place to start. Feel encouraged to give it a go! Thank you

    • June 15, 2015

      I’m so glad you have a good use for it Angela! I’m sure you can do it and they do come together fast, which is so satisfying for a project!

  14. Diana butler permalink
    July 18, 2015

    Love this!! I’m looking forward to making these for Operation Christmas Child boxes. Question….what are the ribbon loops for? Is thete a practical purpose or are they just hiding the ends of the zipper? Thanks!!

    • July 23, 2015

      Hi Diana! Thanks for asking – I put the ribbons on to act as tabs – to hold onto while opening and closing the zipper. They are totally optional! :)

  15. Jacqueline Ford permalink
    August 4, 2015

    This is a fantastically easy project – thank you so much. I already have this fabric, so away I go!

  16. Wendy permalink
    August 16, 2015

    I am making this bag for my daughter to carry her feminine supplies for the month. I will use a plain colored canvas and embroider these words: VAMPIRE TEABAGS

  17. Barbara permalink
    August 20, 2015

    What is the finished size of the pencil case? I am a beginner sewer and making this with my daughter – I did a practice run with a scrap of fabric for our Sat Nav but it came out tiny! Want to make sure I get it right (and big enough) for the fabric she has chosen!

    • August 21, 2015

      Hi Barbara! I don’t have a pencil case in front of me, since I’m not at home – but I think it finishes around 6″ high by 11″ or so wide – rough estimates. Hope that helps! :)

  18. S. L. permalink
    September 22, 2015

    I’ve been making tote bags and using your pencil case tutorial to make a zippered pouch to sew onto the inside of the tote bag. I changed the dimensions a bit but your instructions are so clear and easy to follow.

    • September 22, 2015

      I’m so glad it has worked well for you! That’s a great idea! Thank you :)

  19. Deanna permalink
    February 29, 2016

    Hi Sherri,

    I just love your website, blog and smile! I also love that you’re Canadian, me too!! I am first noticed your website because of a really fun jacket you were sewing and came right here. I am beginning to sew again after years of not having the time and your website is a real inspiration to me, thanks!!


  20. Tammy permalink
    April 17, 2016

    This is a great idea! I have a question. In step 6, do we zigzag over the zipper teeth or zipper tape?

    • April 17, 2016

      Hi Tammy – Zigzag over the tape! Thanks for catching that. Yikes. Sorry for the error. I’ve fixed it now! :)

      • Tammy permalink
        April 17, 2016

        I figured that was what you meant, and I wasn’t going to say anything until I realized that someone less experienced might not realize it. :)

  21. December 15, 2016

    what if you were a kid, how would we be able to make it?

    plz reply

    • December 15, 2016

      Hi Hadassah. If you have access to a sewing machine and are 12 years old or older you can make this yourself! Just find the supplies and follow the directions. If you are a bit younger, ask for an adult’s help. If you have any questions while you are making it, please let me know!

      • awesome333 permalink
        February 7, 2017

        what hapens if you are 10 and want to make it as a gife to an adult

        • awesome333 permalink
          February 7, 2017

          also plz do not us my name call me beck

          • February 7, 2017

            I think if you are 10 you might be able to do this without help. But only if you have experience sewing by yourself on a sewing machine. Can you get another adult’s help?

  22. Taryn permalink
    December 31, 2016

    Thank you! I’m a muddling beginner, but I managed very well with your fantastic tutorial! My daughter loves her new pencil bag. X

  23. Rebecca Patterson permalink
    June 25, 2019

    Hi Sherri,

    I seem to be having trouble,when I cut off the excess zipper then turn in to do the French seam the end where the zipper starts and finishes won’t fold so the end is bulky not flat like yours. Am I doing it wrong or is it the zippers?

  24. Angela permalink
    June 19, 2020

    Dear Sherri,
    I just found this super idea for paintable fabric. I was looking for something like this as a present for “my” children in the after school kids club I am working at at the moment. As I will leave ( for to work at another place) I wanted to make something with the kids that they can keep and ist also made in their own. I think this project is perfekt!

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