I wrote this tutorial for a front zipped pencil case for Jennifer's Back to School Sewing series last year. But I thought it might be time for a rerun on my own blog. These little pouches/pencil cases make great presents - especially if they have a few cute little bits of stationery inside them. Plus, in my experience, with 2 kids in primary school, you can never have too many pencil cases, as my kids manage to break them, lose them, or just get bored with them and want something fresh.
Instead of going with a traditional top-zipping pouch design, I decided to make a feature of the zip and placed it on the front of the pencil case instead. This means that there is a slightly different construction method to a normal zip pouch, but its very easy to make, and a good alternative for people who have difficulty getting their zipper ends to turn out nicely rather than all squished up. I hope you enjoy making this - its a great way to use up some precious fussy cut scraps and would work equally well with a low volume print or a solid as the background fabric.
Please read through the full tutorial before starting to make this! Also please note that seam allowances are 1/4" throughout, except where specified.
1 Fat Quarter of solid/low volume fabric for the background
6 small scraps for fussy cutting (they only need to be big enough to cut to 2" x 2")
1 Fat Quarter of lining fabric
An 8" zip
Approx 10" x 10" of fusible fleece
Approx 10" x 10" of woven fusible interfacing
From your features scraps, cut 6 squares, 2" x 2" each
From your background fabric cut the following:
6 pieces, 1.5" x 2" each
4 pieces, 1.75" x 2" each
4 pieces, 1.75" x 4" each
1 piece, 1" x 9.5"
2 pieces, 2 x 9.5" each
From your lining fabric cut the following:
1" x 9.5" piece
4" x 9.5" piece
5" x 9.5" piece
2 pieces 1" x 4" for the zipper tabs
From your fusible fleece cut the following:
1 piece 0.5" x 9"
1 piece 3.5" x 9"
1 piece 4.5" x 9"
From your woven interfacing cut the following:
1 piece 0.5" x 9"
1 piece 3.5" x 9"
1 piece 4.5" x 9"
1. Prepare your lining fabric:
Firstly, start by fusing your interfacing to the wrong side of the corresponding lining fabric pieces following the manufacturer's instructions. (Your interfacing is a half an inch smaller on the width and length than the corresponding piece of lining fabric.) The interfacing should be centred so that it is a quarter inch in from each raw edge of the fabric - as shown in the picture below. This is to reduce bulk in your seams.
Set aside for the moment. Next you need to make the front of your pencil case.
2. Make the Front Panel
We'll start by making the lower panel on the front of the pencil case. Take 3 of your feature scraps and for each of them, sew one of your 2" x 1.5" background pieces to the top edge, and another to the bottom edge. Press the seams.
Next, take 4 of the background pieces measuring 1.75" x 4" and piece them to the sides of the strips you just made as shown in the picture below. Press. Your front panel is made!
Now take your fusible fleece. Following the manufacturer's instructions, and in a similar way to how you did the interfacing, fuse the 3.5" x 9" piece to the back of the panel you just pieced, and the 0.5" x 9" piece to the corresponding strip of background fabric.
I decided to outline the fussy cut squares by hand quilting around them using perle cotton #8. You can skip this bit if you want, or add some machine quilting, but its very simple to do. Simply tie a knot in the end of your perle cotton, push your needle through from the back at your start point, embedding the knot in the fusible fleece, and sew a running stitch around your squares. I added in some crosses as well just for fun. There is a great tutorial on hand quilting here if you need more help.
3. Prepare your Zipper
Next you need to prepare your zip. Firstly, trim the excess zip fabric off each end to within a quarter inch of the start and end of the zip. (I forgot to take a picture of this stage with the original zipper, hence the shorter zip in the pic below!) I usually stitch a couple of basting stitches right at the start of the zip to keep it easy to work with.
Now you want to slide your zipper in between the folded edges and pin these in place over the beginning and end of your zip. They should come just far enough up your zip to allow you to sew a seam across them without hitting the metal. When you have both in place, your zip, including tabs, should measure at least 9.5" (longer is ok, you can trim back). If it isn't long enough, you might want to re-do your tabs.
Sew a seam across each tab - make sure to catch both the top and bottom fabric, and not to hit the metal end or start bits, as you will break your needle. It's useful to use your zipper foot for this, it will help you get closer to the metal tab without hitting it. It can be hard to get this seam totally straight, but you won't notice it in the finished pouch and your kids certainly won't!
Your zip should look like this. If you have any excess at the sides of the fabric tabs, trim it off so that your tabs and zip edges are a straight line.
4. Insert your Zipper
You're now ready to insert your zip. This is the fun bit! Firstly, open your zip a little way. This helps you get a straighter line when you sew. Figure out which end you want your zip to start at - make sure your fabric direction is correct. Take your front bottom panel and place it right side UP. Then place the zip on it right side DOWN, with the start of the zip at the correct side, as per the photo below. Line up the raw edges of the zip and the panel at the top.
Now, keeping your raw edges in line, place the lining fabric right side DOWN over the zip and pouch front. Your right sides should be facing each other, and you should have the 3 raw edges lined up at the top. (Be sure, if your lining fabric is directional, to orient it the right way). Pin carefully in place. You can see I have pinned quite closely on such a small piece of fabric. The gap in the pins is where the zip pull is, as the zip curves a bit there to make room for it - don't worry, we will adjust that as we sew. (You can see I made one of my tabs a bit longer than I should, I'll trim that back in due course. If you have done the same, make sure that your zip is centred correctly and don't worry about any overhang.)
You need to change your presser foot now and use your zipper foot on your sewing machine if you haven't already. Backstitch at the start of the seam to secure, then, slowly and carefully, sew your seam across, nice and close to your zip (my zipper foot allows me to get about 1/4" away from my zip, which is about perfect. ) You can see where the fabric is raised to the immediate left of my presser foot from the zip - I sew with the side of the presser foot flush with the side of the zip which gives me a nice neat finish.) Don't rush this bit as you want a straight seam.
Sew until you get close to where the zip pull is, removing your pins as you go. Leave your needle down after your next stitch, then lift your presser foot. Carefully reach in and pull the zip pull back to the start, where you have already sewed. Make any adjustments you need to line up your raw edges if they curved out a bit where the zip pull was, and quickly pin to hold. Lower your presser foot and continue sewing slowly and carefully to the end, backstitching to secure. Press your fabric away from the zip on either side.
Now you want to repeat that process on the other side of the zipper to finish the front of your pencil case. First take the strip of background fabric and place it on the front of the zipper, matching the raw edges. Place the corresponding strip of lining fabric on the back. Pin and sew exactly as you did for the lower portion.
Press your fabric away from the zip. Hey presto, your pouch front is finished!
5. Make the Back Panel
Take 3 of your feature scraps and the 4 background fabric pieces measuring 2" x 1.75" and piece them together as shown in the middle of the photo below. Press your seams. Then take the 2" x 9.5" strips and piece 1 each to the top and bottom of the centre piece.
Fuse the corresponding piece of fusible fleece to the wrong side of the panel you just pieced, and add any quilting detail you wish to match the front. Your finished back piece should look like this:
And you're now ready to put your pencil case together!!
6. Constructing the Pencil Case
Take the front of the pencil case, making sure you have pressed it properly, and the back lining piece with interfacing attached (measuring 5" x 9.5"). Place them with the lining pieces facing each other, i.e the right side of the front of the pencil case should be facing down, then the back lining piece should be placed directly on top of it, with the right side of the lining fabric facing down and the interfacing facing up. Match and pin your raw edges carefully.
Sew a line 1/8" in from the raw edge all the way around. You could use a basting stitch, as the purpose is to hold this in place for when you attach the back of the pencil case, but as pencil cases tend to get pulled and dragged a bit by kids taking stuff in and out, I use a normal seam here to strengthen it. You can just see the seam in the picture below, and if you look at the zip carefully, you can see the back lining fabric peeking through where it's open.
Next, take the pieced back panel of your pencil case and place it right sides together with the front of the pencil case. Make sure that both pieces are oriented in the right direction.
Pin all the way around again, matching your raw edges.
Start at the bottom of the pencil case, back stitching to secure, and sew a seam all the way around and back to about 2.5" away from your starting point, back stitching again to secure. This leaves you a nice gap for turning. Your seam should be 1/4" in from the raw edges. Cut the points off your corners (make sure not to cut into your stitching!) so you can get a nice sharp corners when you turn it. It should now look something like this:
Reach into your gap and start pulling through the fabric to turn the pencil case right side out. Once you have it all pulled through, use a chopstick or knitting needle to poke out the fabric in your corners to give you a nice sharp point. All you need to do now is to handsew your turning gap closed.
Push any excess fabric back in and press so that the seam runs straight and there is no bulge in the seam. Then slip stitch it closed with a needle and thread.
Press your pencil case carefully, and ta-dah, you're done!
Sit back and admire your hard work from the front:
And the back:
If you have any questions on this tutorial, please email me at fairyfacedesigns at gmail dot com, or ask them in the comments :-)