Sunday, May 26, 2013

Pencil case tutorial

My cousin's two boys will be twelve next week and I decided that homemade gifts were called for. It's nice to get parcels in the post sometimes, isn't it? A friend of mine showed me how to make these pencil cases years ago. I like the fact that you don't have to make boxed corners (I always struggle with getting them even), and also the added feature of those folded triangles on the outside makes a nice difference.

I did a search online, but couldn't find a tutorial, but I had a fair idea of how they were made so I set to making them from memory. To have a reference for later use I took pictures along the way, and realized later that I had the makings of a tutorial here, so let's give it a try, shall we? Now if I had thought about making this into a tutorial earlier I would have removed all the clutter on my table, but you'll just have to bear with me - it adds a touch of realism, really...
I won't go into all the details here, as I assume you are familiar with skills like quilting and binding. If not, there are plenty of tutorials for that kind of thing online. So here goes: You need a 11 x 12" piece of quilted fabric - you can either use a whole piece or a piece of patchwork like I have done. Layer with batting and backing fabric and quilt as desired. I usually start with a somewhat larger piece and cut it down to size after I have quilted it, as the quilting will make it slightly smaller. Add binding along the 12" sides. I used 1 1/2" strips attached to the front, turned them over and fastened with pins and stitch a line about 1/8" from the seam to catch the fold on the back. You could also stitch them down by hand on the back if you prefer.
Now it's time to add the zipper. Use a zipper foot and stitch the outer edge of the binding down close to the teeth of the zipper, but not so close that it will get snagged when you use the zipper. I find it helpful to use the needle down position on my sewing machine, so you can easily adjust the zipper along the way without any shifting. If the zipper is 12" you will have to move the pull past the machine foot when you get to it to keep the seam straight. If you use a longer zipper, you can keep it out of the way all along (just remember to move it in before you sew across and snip the ends off later!). Now you need to add an extra seam just inside the seam you used to attach the back of the binding so that you the edge of the zipper ribbon is attached neatly.
Attach the other side of the zipper in the same way. It's easiest to do this with the zipper fully open, so you can move the resulting tube around a bit when you get to the end. Again - keep the needle in the "down"-position while adjusting, so things don't shift.
You will end up with three seams on the binding and two that will show on the zipper ribbon inside.
So far, so good - there are many different pouches that are similar to this, but now we get to the interesting bit - the folded edges.Turn the tube inside out and start with placing a pin right opposite the zipper (purple pin above) and then a pin halfway there on both sides (the green pins).
Now you need to prepare the little triangles that will be used to hold onto to zip and unzip the case. You need two 3" squares, folded inhalf and in half again, like prairie points.
Press so the shape holds well. I used the same colour triangles on both ends, but since I made two pencil cases, you see two different colours here. But that's up to you of course, if you want to use different colours, feel free!
Now pin one triangle with raw edges along the edge where the zipper is and with the point on the middle of the zipper. Now to the folding bit. Bring the sides together so the two green pins meet. Pin them together. The opening should now be like a figure 8 with the purple pin in one circle and the zipper on the other circle. Bring the purple pin in to meet her green friends in the middle, folding the circle flat and pinning down. Do the same on the other side by bringing the zipper in towards the middle and flattening that circle.

Clear as mud? I hope this sketch helps. It's like folding milk cartons for recycling, really.  The top and bottom will be flat and the sides folded in to the middle.
Add a 1 1/2" binding strip, folding in  a piece at each end before stitching a seam across the end, through all the layers. Go slowly, especially as you cross the zipper, so your needle don't break. (Note: if you have used an extra long zipper and left the zipper pull outside, make sure you pull it in before stitching this seam!) Cut off the excess zipper.
Fold the binding strip over and stitch it to by hand. Do the same on the other end, making sure your zipper is open, so you can turn your pencil case inside out when you're done.

That's it! Once you turn it inside out you will see that the creative folding stage made those soft triangular shapes on the outside. Looks nice, doesn't it? Now you can use this to make all sorts of differnet pouches, experiment with the length and with and the size of those triangles and you can make make up pouches, sewing pouches, wash bags (you could also add handles). A nice little technique to keep in your arsenal, don't you think? Have fun!

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