How to sew a pretty perfect pencil pouch
This year, my third-grader needs a soft pencil pouch for class. So we’re saying goodbye to the hard plastic case and hello to something with a lot more personality. And even better? This is a quick project with pretty perfect results. In fact, I’ve already made 4! Let’s get sewing.
Gather some supplies. In addition to the usual suspects (sewing machine, thread, scissors, rotary cutter, cutting mat, etc.), you’ll need:
- 2 pieces for outer fabric, cut to 5″ x 10 ½”
- 2 pieces for inner lining fabric, cut to 5″ x 10 ½”
- 2 pieces of one-sided fusible fleece, cut to 4 ½” x 10″
- 2 pieces of fabric, cut to 2″ x 2″ (this will cover the zipper ends, so you can choose the same fabric as your outer lining or an accent fabric like your inner lining)
- 9″ zipper
If you need a bit of fabric, find some ideas here. (Note: I used fabric from Erica Hite’s Mouse Camp, which is out of stock.)
Start by pressing your inner and outer fabrics to get everything nice and flat. I like using a spritz or two of Flatter. (It really does work, and also adds a little bit of stiffness.)
Next, center the fusible fleece on the wrong side of your outer fabric. Do this for both outer pieces.
Flip it over so the right side of the fabric is facing up and press the fleece to the fabric, following the manufacturer’s instructions for your fusible product. (You definitely don’t want to press the iron directly on the fusible fleece!)
Now let’s start on the zipper. Don’t freak out! I promise it won’t be that bad. To start, we’re just going to lay it out along the top of the outer lining, like shown above.
I’m using a 9″ metal zipper here. (You can use a nylon one if you prefer.) It’s worth noting that with zipper measurements, the length is measured from the top zipper stop to the bottom zipper stop, and is not the actual full length of the zipper tape from top to bottom.
And that is why my 9″ zipper shown above is the same length as my 10 ½” wide pencil pouch.
Let’s fix that by trimming off the ends. For this zipper, I cut off about ¾” from each end. Note that my zipper stops are still in tact. Do not cut through those. (I’ve even left a little space after each stop, and you can do the same.)
So now you’re thinking, “Oh my… Those zipper ends sure are unsightly.” And yes, they are. But we’re going to fix that, and these next few steps are going to give our finished zippered pencil pouch a very…ummm…finished look.
Take your 2″ x 2″ squares and fold them in half, as shown in the 1st picture above. Use your finger to press it and get a crease (like middle picture above). Next, fold in the ends toward the middle crease (shown in last picture). Now fold it all closed and give it a good press.
Sandwich the zipper in between the folded tab. Do this for both ends of the zipper. Use a Wonder Clip to hold it in place.
Since we’re using a metal zipper, we won’t be sewing a straight line across the tab and zipper teeth. Instead, we’ll stitch along both sides of the zipper. (See purple lines in 2nd picture above.) You don’t want to sew too close to the zipper, but you also don’t want to be right on the edge. Ultimately, this stitch will be hidden in the lining of the pencil pouch.
Once you’re done stitching, trim off the excess fabric on both sides. Now we’ve got pretty tabs on our zipper.
Let’s start sandwiching! Lay your outer fabric down, right side facing up. Lay your zipper down on top of it, right side facing down, lining it up along the top edge (first image above). Next, lay your inner lining fabric on top of the zipper, with right side facing down.
Wonder Clip the layers together, lining them up along the top, and stitch along the zipper edge using your machine’s zipper foot.
(Tip: As you get closer to your zipper pull, it’ll become harder to sew a straight line. So stop when you get close, raise the zipper foot, leaving the needle down, and gently pull the zipper in the opposite direction from which you are sewing. It’ll be out of your way now and you can resume sewing in a straight line.)
There’s your 1st side!
Now let’s give it a good press and move on to the next step.
Here we’re going to layer the entire pouch together. Start with the other outer fabric, right side up (a). Place the zipper piece on top, facing down (b). Finally, place the other inner lining fabric on top, right side down. Line up all layers along the top, Wonder Clip them together, and use your zipper foot to sew along the zipper edge.
Once you’ve got it stitched, open it up and give the other side a good press.
Now let’s topstitch along the outer fabric to give everything a clean, finished look. This also helps keep the fabric out of the zipper’s path once it’s all done. Because, let’s face it: No one likes a snaggy zipper.
Next, unzip the pouch a little over halfway and then open it up so that inner lining fabrics are right sides together (RST) and outer fabrics are RST (like shown above).
Line up the edges all the way around, making sure you match up your side seams. Also, make sure the zipper teeth push up toward the inner lining. Use your Wonder Clips to hold everything in place.
Sew all the way around using 1/4″ seam allowance, leaving a 2-3″ opening along the bottom of the lining fabric (like above). Clip your corners to reduce some of the bulk, being careful not to clip through the seam.
Turn the pouch right side out through the opening and push out your corners. (You can reach through the opening in the lining to push the corners out on the outer fabric.) Once you’ve done that, press the pencil pouch with your iron and slip stitch the lining closed.
And now you have your very own pretty perfect pencil pouch!