Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Upright Zip-It-Up Pencil Case Tutorial

This upright pencil case is one I first saw earlier this year in a store in Japan and loved the design. Then last week I found this tutorial online to try making one. While this was a great tutorial to get me started, I failed in making the pencil case! But I hate to be beaten and then spent the next few days trying again and again to figure it out so I could understand how to make one. On my 7th attempt I finally got it!  I took lots of photos and copious notes, so thought I'd share my version of how to make this cute 
Upright Zip-it-up Pencil Case. 

I've added all the small details and instructions that I need when sewing, with photos of EVERY step - it may seem like overkill in explanations to some, but I'd like to be able to come back to this tutorial at any time in the future and be able to make it without having to 'remember' anything! I changed a few things and added a lot more detail than the original tutorial. I'm hopeless at binding so changed that, and also made the pencil case smaller, as that was more like the one I was looking at and had wanted to make originally. I also took out the padding, to avoid the thick layers to sew through. The plastic sheet holds the shape of the pencil case well, and some of the fabrics I chose were very thin and still worked. It depends what you're looking for. 

So here's my tutorial, as simple and straightforward as I could make it!

Materials you will need:
Outer and inner fabric. I'm all for sewing with whatever fabrics take your fancy - but I found here that one of your fabrics needs to be reasonably firm to help the case hold its shape. I used denim from an old pair of jeans and this seemed to work fine. Also the fabric you use for the base of the bag needs to be fairly thin, as you'll end up sewing through a lot of layers. I tried a double denim layer for the base and broke 2 machine needles sewing just a few inches of it!
1 Zip - at least 40 cm (16") long. Longer is fine, you can cut it at the end.
Plastic - I used a piece from an old kids plastic placemat, you could also use an old plastic folder or book cover, or buy a piece of thin flexible plastic from a craft shop.
I haven't used templates to make this pencil case - just measurements and simple cuts to curve the edges where needed! Trying to keep it all as simple as possible.

1 Piece Outer and 1 Inner Fabric 20 x 22 cm (8 x 8.75")
1 Piece Inner or Outer Fabric for plastic sheet pocket, 20 x 10 cm (8 x 4")
2 Pieces of your thinner fabric for the base 8 x 16 cm (3.25 x 6.25")
1 Piece of either fabric for small pocket on base 7 x 8 cm (2.75 x 3.25")
1 Piece thin flexible plastic 8 x 17 cm (3.25 x 6.75")
1 Zip minimum 40 cm (16")
1 Scrap fabric for zipper pull tab

The main pouch
First take your plastic pouch pocket piece (20 x 10 cm (8 x 4"))
Fold it in half lengthways.

Then measure down 2 cm (0.75") from the top left corner - the open end. And lightly draw and arch up to the top folded corner like this.

Then cut along your line.

And open out flat.

Now take your piece of plastic.
Mark on either short side 1 cm (0.5") down from the top, and also mark the centre top of the long edge. Then draw a curve from side point to side point, through the top centre mark.

Cut your plastic curve. These two pieces are now ready to use!

Putting it together
Lay your main inner fabric piece face up with the longer sides on the left and right. Place your pocket piece on top of this lining up the bottom edges. Pin along the bottom and sides, but only to within about 2 cm (0.75") of the top of the sides of the pocket.

Stitch where you have pinned. I used small 2/8" seams when sewing this pencil case. I found that smaller seams worked better to keep the fabric layers out of the way of the zip. Now it's ready to slide your plastic piece in.

The plastic piece should fit in the pocket easily with room to spare around all sides. This is important,  I found if I kept the plastic smaller, then I could always 'push' it aside when stitching so I never stitched through it and added it to the layers to stitch through. 
Fold the top of the pocket under and pin to hide the raw edge.

Stitch across the curved top and the remaining top side parts of the pocket.

The Zip
Now it's time to add the zip!  Open your zip up and lay it facing upwards on either side of your inner piece with pocket like this.

Notice the pin in the top centre of the inner pink piece in the above picture?  This is marking the centre of the top. To find the centre, just fold your piece in half and pop in a pin.

Now to start pinning your zip. Start at one of the bottom corners. Place your zip with its outer edge in line with the edge of your inner fabric piece and place the bottom metal zip end about 1 cm (0.5") up from the bottom edge of your inner pocket piece.

Then continue to pin the zip along the edge up towards the top.

Curve your zip around the corner and towards the centre of the top where you marked with your pin. Place your last pin about 1 cm (0.5") before the zip. This is where you will stop stitching.

Now turn your fabric piece around and repeat to pin the other side of the zip in the same way.

You need to make sure that both metal zip ends are the same distance up from the bottom so they match up when you zip up your pencil case!

And the other end of your zip - make sure you've left about a 2.5cm (1") gap in the middle where you don't stitch!

Now stitch around the 3 edges where you just pinned, remembering to leave that gap in the top centre.  Stitch as close to the edge as you can, this is just to hold the zip in place before you add your outer fabric.

At this stage, you can zip up your pencil case to make sure everything lines up. This is how it should look so far.

Now open it out again.
You need to tuck the end of your zip out of the way. Put your hand through the gap in the zip at the top and pull the end through and down so the zip lies flat down the centre of your inner piece. Make sure the zip still lines up with your central pin to keep things nice and even.

 Place your outer fabric face down on top of this piece, matching up the edges.

Pin around the sides and top and just a little on either side of the bottom seam.
When you get to the bottom edges of the zip, fold them out of the way like this when you pin the two pieces together.

Now you are ready to stitch the main inner and outer fabric pieces together - remembering to leave most of the bottom edge open to turn it right sides out after stitching.

When you stitch, keep your seam as small as possible again - about 2/8" if you can. The further away from the zip teeth as you can go the better to keep the fabric back from the teeth and also to allow space for you to attach the base afterwards without it getting to close to the zip and obstructing it from opening and closing (I did that on one of my attempts at this pencil case!).

Once you have finished this stitching, clip the corners,

then turn right sides out carefully through the gap in the bottom. This does take a little manipulating of the plastic piece, so just go slow and careful.

You can press with an iron now if you like, then turn the bottom edges in on themselves and pin.

Now topstitch around all 4 edges of this piece. Here's what it now should look like from the front and back.

The Base
Now take your 2 base pieces and small pocket piece.
Place the two main base pieces on top of each other. 

Fold in half widthways.

Then slightly round the open edges by cutting in a curve from the folded corner to the open outer edges.

Open your pieces out. They should now both have the same rounded edge like this.

Now take your small pocket piece.
You need to finish off the top edge (one of the longer sides). To do this, double fold the top edge and stitch.

 Place this little pocket face up on one of your base pieces, near the top, straight edge like this. Leave enough space at the top for your seam.

Now flip the pocket down and over.

Until it's flat once again but facing down.

Slide it up very slightly and pin into place.

Stitch across where you have pinned, then flip the pocket back up into place. Pin along the sides, then stitch.

Now place your other base piece on top of this one, so both right sides are together.  Pin around the edges, leaving a gap so you can turn it right sides out after stitching.

Stitch where you have pinned, once again using a small 2/8" seam. Then clip the corners, 

And turn right sides out. Make sure and push the seams out flat all around. Press if you need to. Pin your gap closed with the raw edges turned inwards.

Then top-stitch around all the edges. Your two pieces are now ready to join together.

Joining the base to the main part
Find the centre points of both your main case part and your base curved edge, Mark with pins and match up as shown in the picture below. The small pocket on your base section should be facing upwards.

The layers are now too thick to pin comfortably, and it's actually easier to just try and manipulate the pieces together as you sew them slowly.
The base needs to wrap around the corner kind of like this.

Place your matching centre pieces under your machine foot and make a couple of stitches to start and secure. I found it best to use a denim needle for this as there are a lot of layers to sew through!

Now just stitch slowly just a few stitches at a time, turning and lining up the base piece on top of your main piece as you go. Try to stitch on top of the line of stitching already there to keep things neat. This will also mean your thick layers of fabric are kept away from the zip teeth so they won't obstruct the zip when it opens and closes.

Your base should finish at around the top of your plastic pocket on your inner fabric. 

If you lift it up, you can see the 3D base taking shape now.

Now to stitch the other side.  This time start from the top end, matching it with the top of your plastic pocket just as your other side matched so that they are even.

Then carefully stitch the first couple of stitches with your machine to hold. Slowly stitch the remaining part of the base to the main piece, turning and matching the fabric as you go and again following the lines of stitching. Keep checking you aren't pulling or stretching your fabric, so that when you reach the centre point you don't have any folds or creases! The last part you stitch will be very curved as you can see in this picture!

That's your upright pencil case almost finished!

Adding a zipper tab
All that remains now is to finish the zip off and add a pretty tab.
First cut your zip about 5 cm (2") from the top of the pencil case.

Take your scrap of fabric for the zipper tab. This should be a rectangle wider than the zip and a little more than twice as long as you want your tab.

Using your iron, fold the edges over and press,

 then fold the sides in and press to make it the same width as your zip.

Then press in half lengthways to complete your tab.

Slide your zip into one side of the tab so that you can't see the edges of the zip.

Then pin into place

And top-stitch around all four edges.


You now have an Upright Zip-it-up Pencil Case of your very own!

Well done!  This is one of the trickiest things I've made. I hope you found the tutorial clear and detailed enough and you managed to make one for yourself successfully!

Here you can see the three usable pencil cases I ended up with after all my trials and many errors! A mixture of fabrics on the insides and outsides

If you liked this tutorial, I have over 100 more FREE sewing tutorials for all levels of sewing ability and for making all manner of things, from bags to pencil cases, a Penguin costume, some clothes and some interesting novelty gifts.
Do go take a look on my Free Sewing Tutorials Page.

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Thanks for reading, and do let me know if you make one of these pencil cases, or if you have any questions!

I shall be linking this post to many of the fabulous linky parties whose pretty buttons and direct links can be found on my linky party page.


  1. Incredible architecture! We, the collective internet, thank you for gifting this to the crafty world.

  2. I saw this on your Instagram feed and was intrigued. What a fantastic tutorial, full of details! I really love this and would love to try it! :) Lisa

    1. Thanks Lisa. It was worth all the effort and broken machine needles to figure this one out! I love it!

  3. Thank you for the great tutorial! Will pin it for future use, would be great gift idea for kids' friends' birthday parties. :)

    1. Thank you! My girls both love this design!

  4. I'm so glad you shared this, that's adorable!

  5. What thorough tutorial! I'm so glad you shared this with us at Dishing It & Digging It! Hoping to see more of your creativity each week! :)

  6. Great job figuring out how to make this, Jill.

    1. Thanks Pam! I'm glad I stuck with it! It was a very frustrating but in the end rewarding process!

  7. Hi Jill, thanks for sharing this sewing tutorial with us at C&C with J&J.
    Enjoy the week.

  8. This is very cute! :)

    I would love for you to share this with my Facebook Group for recipes, crafts, tips, and tricks: https://www.facebook.com/groups/pluckyrecipescraftstips/

    Thanks for joining Cooking and Crafting with J & J!

    1. Thanks Jessica - will pop over and share on your Facebook Group page - thanks for the invite!

  9. These are lovely Jill, my daughter would love one of these :) Thanks for sharing at Creative Mondays

  10. Lots of pictures are always good. Things are much easier if you can see what to do :). Love this.

  11. What clever and adorable pencil cases! I've never seen anything like it before!!

    1. Thank you Katrin - they are such a good design aren't they! So practical!

  12. Since I tried and failed to make one of these from the other instructions, I'm dying to try your version! It's next on my to-do list. Great job!!!

    1. Let me know how you go Niki. Hope you can follow these instructions - I tried to fill in all the gaps and bits I struggled with from the original tute!

  13. That is so cute! I'll have to save it for when I have grandkids but will be sharing it with friends who have young kids. Thanks for linking up with us at Waste Not Wednesday!

  14. Wow! I love the details and photos! I am going to try this! I did make a similar case using another tutorial and my daughter loves it. I have always meant to make another!

  15. I saw a video on Portuguese TV last year where this pencil case was demonstrated.....I downloaded it but haven't made it yet. Thanks for the clear photos! ♥♥♥

    1. You're welcome Muis! Hope you make one!


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