As a child, I used to live above my grandfather’s printing press and I used to get a lot of art supplies as gifts all the time. I grew very fond of paper, pencils, markers, paint, glue, etc. Even today, being surrounded by art supplies makes me happy. Art supplies are like catnip for me! The tradition continues and I recently got a ton of micron pens as a gift.
Whenever I am traveling, I like to take a sketchbook and my pens with me . However, there isn’t always space to dump out the pens to find the right color. So I needed a case where I could see the colors easily and pull out the pens I needed. This is my pencil case featuring my little penguin Polaris. By the way, he is modeled after my slightly gimpy kitty Charlie.
I thought this Christmas you could kindle an interest in art in someone you love. So I wrote up this tutorial to help you a make a pencil case.
This is my first sewing tutorial and I hope you find it useful. Instead of giving you a tutorial for a one-size-fits-all pencil case, I decided to make this tutorial generic. This way you can calculate and measure your own custom case not only for pencils, but for your knitting needles, crochet hooks, etc. The measurements here are for example purposes only.
Let’s walk through cutting each piece for this pencil case as we are assembling the pieces.
The amount of fabric you will need will depend on how large your pencil case is going to be and the print direction of your fabric. I suggest you read through the measurement parts of this tutorial before you purchase fabric for this project.
If you want to roll up your case, you generally don’t want to use interfacing. However, I like my pencil case to be a little on the stiff side so that I can fold it to show off the decorative piece on the front. Interfacing also keeps the shape of my folds. Therefore, I used medium weight iron-on interfacing.
Ribbon – 3 yards of good non-wire ribbon
Basic Supplies –
Rotary cutter, cutting board, scissors
Pins, matching and contrasting thread for the top stitching if you like.
Inside pocket piece –
(the black fabric with snowflakes on it)
First of all you will need to figure out how many pencils you want your pencil case to hold. Keeping a 1″ pocket for each pencil, we are going to multiply the number of pencils by 1″ to get the width without seam allowance.
For example, for 12 pencils, it’s going to be 12 x 1″ = 12″.
Add 2″ extra to that, that way in case you are not at 1″ on the dot for each pocket, you have room for error and you will not come up short. We can always trim the excess after we finish sewing the pockets.
Add 0.5″ seam allowance each for the left and right sides.
Total width = (number of pencils x 1″) + 2″ extra for error + 1″ (combined seam allowance for the left and right sides)
This will be the width for all of the pieces you will cut.
Measure the height of your pencil and note that down. Considering that pencils shorten as you sharpen them, I would say a little less than half the height of the pencil is a good rule of the thumb. So if your pencil is 10″, the height will be 4″.
Add 0.5″ seam allowance for the bottom and 0.75″ for folding at the top.
Total height = little less than 1/2 of the pencil length + 0.5″ (seam allowance for the bottom) + 0.75″ (for folding at the top)
Now go ahead and calculate the width and height of this piece for your pencil case depending on the number of pencils it will hold and how high your pencils are.
Once you have the measurements, go ahead and cut the piece.
Fold and press the top of the fabric first 0.25″ and then 0.5″ along the width. Stitch along the edge. Set the piece aside.
Inside piece –
(the white fabric with trees on it)
The width for this piece is exactly the same as the pocket piece.
I like to fold the top of the case over the pencils so my pencils won’t fall out. You already have the height of your pencil from the previous step. Double that measurement for the height of this piece. That way, when you fold, you won’t have a bulge in the middle where the fold ends. So if the length of your pencil is 10″, then doubling that would make the height of this piece 20″.
Add 0.5″ seam allowance each for top and bottom.
Total height = (height of the pencil x 2)” + 1″ (combined seam allowance for top and bottom)
Now go ahead and calculate the height of this piece based on the height of your pencil using the formula above. Once you have that, cut this piece as well. Also note these measurements down because you will be using them for your outside piece and your interfacing, if you choose to use one.
Sewing the pockets –
Place the smaller inside pocket piece (black snowflake fabric) on top of your larger inside piece (white fabric with trees) aligning the left side and the bottom. You should see the printed side of both fabrics. I usually use a few pins to hold the pieces together.
Place your ruler aligning one of its horizontal lines with the top of the pocket piece. We are going to draw lines in 1″ intervals for the pencils. Draw the first line at 1.75″ from the left edge. That allows for space for the 1st pencil, 0.5″ seam allowance and a little extra. This way, the first pencil insert won’t be too tight in case your seam is not exactly 0.5″. After that, keep on drawing lines at 1″ intervals. The total number of lines should turn out to be 1 less than the number of pencils. In other words, if you are making a case for 12 pencils, you should have 11 lines. Stitch the pocket piece to the inside piece along these lines.
Then measure 1.75″ from the last line on the right and trim. We are now done with the inside piece.
Outside piece –
Width & Height – same as your trimmed inside piece.
You have a lot of options for the outside piece.
Using print or solid fabric – cut out a piece matching the measurements of your inside piece.
Using strip piecing – Make sure to trim the piece to match the measurements of your inside piece.
Using a decorative piece – If you feel comfortable assembling the front, you can use an embroidered block, a quilt block, or even a piece of pretty fussy cut to dress up the front of your pencil case.
If you are not using interfacing and rolling it up, then the size of the decorative piece really doesn’t matter.
If you are folding it like mine and want to show off the front piece, you will need to remember a few things.
We are going to use the inside piece as a guide to figure out the size of the decorative piece.
Test fold the inside piece along the width the way you would want to fold the finished case to get an idea of the size of front of the case. The folding will depend on the width of your case. I had to four-fold mine because it holds 24 pens. Make sure that the width of the decorative piece sits well within the front. Its height should be a little less than the height of your pencil. That way, when you fold your case, it will be framed nicely on the front.
I used a paper pieced block for mine and added a 1″ border for the bottom and the right side (pieces C and D in the picture).
Once you have all your pieces, assemble the front. Sew A to the decorative block, then B, C and D in that order. Make sure the overall size matches the inside piece.
Width & height – same as your trimmed inside piece.
If you have decided to use interfacing, go ahead a cut a piece and iron onto the “wrong” side of the outside piece.
Stitching the ribbon –
Cut the 3-yard ribbon in half, so you have two pieces measuring 1.5 yards each. Place the “wrong” sides of the ribbon pieces facing together and stitch along the length at both edges to make it a little stiffer.
Then fold the stitched ribbon in half, pin it to the right side of the outside piece – 1/4 of the way up from the bottom.
Stitch the ribbon to the front a few times at 0.25″ from the edge. Since your seam is 0.5″, the stitching will be well hidden.
Assembling all the pieces –
Now place the “right” sides of the inside and the outside pieces together. Make sure the ribbon is tucked well inside.
Sew along with 0.5″ seam allowance leaving an opening on one side. Mine was at the top, but it really doesn’t matter. Clip the corners, turn the piece inside-out through that opening, press and top stitch all around.
If you want to, you can stitch a line along the width in the middle where you are going to fold the top over. That defines a nice line for folding.
Now fill the pockets with pens and pencils, fold the top down halfway so the pen/pencils don’t fall out. Remember, if you used interfacing like I did, you will not be able to roll it up you will need to fold it up. I needed to fold mine 4 times since it’s pretty long in order to hold 24 pens. This way the decorative block sits perfectly in the middle of the front.
If you didn’t use interfacing, then just roll it up and use the ribbon to tie the roll together.
That’s it! I really hope you will find my first sewing tutorial helpful and you will make someone (or even yourself!) very happy with a custom pencil case. Please don’t hesitate to drop me a line if you have any questions.