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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!