Sunday, 14 March 2010

Making a Pencil Case

From reading my past entries you will understand my fear of sewing with zips, which developed from not finishing off a project from a Dressmaking & Soft Furnishing course at the local college. Today I have decided that I am going to overcome this obstacle and make something simple which includes a zip. In a wonderful book written by Diana Rupp titled Sew Everything Workshop, there are instructions not only for making a pencil case but also how to attach zips in detail with pictures, as well as many other delightful projects to make.

Equipment needed

  • Scrap Fabric 9x4 1/2”
  • 8” Zip
  • Tailors Chalk
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Pins
  • Thread
  • Seam Ripper
  • Sewing Machine (I used a Universal needle)
  • Iron, Ironing Board & Pressing Cloth
  • Optional: Rotary Cutter, Cutting Mat, Measuring Gauge

Techniques: Inserting zips, shortening zips, baste stitch & straight stitch.

Time Taken: 1 Hour

Cutting the Fabric

Fold the fabric in half and cut out 2 pieces using scissors or a rotary cutter and ruler measuring 9x4”. If required press out any creases with a hot iron.

Seam Preparation

Put the right sides of the fabric together and measure a 1/2” seam allowance  marking with chalk on one of the long sides of the fabric.

Sew a Seam


Put the sewing machine on straight stitch and use the longest length setting, this is known as a baste stitch, it will make it easier to pick the stitches out later.

Pressing the Seam

Open out the seam and press it open using an iron.


Shortening the zip


If the zip is too long for the pencil case it can be shortened very easily. Line up the zip with the pencil case and make a mark on where the zip needs to be cut. Line up the chalk mark with the needle on the sewing machine and use a zigzag stitch, repeat this a few times to reinforce the stitching. Cut off the excess of the zip using household scissors. This technique can be used for concealed zips as well.

Holding the Zip in Place

Line up the zip again in the seam and use a baste stitch to keep the zip in place.

Marking the Fabric

Turn the fabric over to show the right sides facing upwards and measure 1/4” from the centre seam repeat this for the other side. This will be your guide to sewing the zipper in place.

Using the Zipper Foot

Put the zipper foot on a sewing machine and use a normal straight stitch to sew over the stitching lines you made.

Unpicking the Baste Stitches

Use a seam ripper and carefully unpick the baste stitches that were created to keep the zip in place.


Unpick the middle seam also to show the zip.

Closing the Case

Put the right sides together and pin around the sides that need to be sewn. Remember to keep the zip open an inch to be able to turn it the right way round. Use a straight stitch with a seam allowance of 1/4”.

Sewing the Case Closed

Swap the zipper foot back to the normal sewing foot to sew a straight stitch remembering to reverse sew for a few stitches to reinforce the stitches at the beginning and at the end. To go around the corners leave the needle in the fabric, lift the pressure foot and pivot the fabric, it keeps the sewing consistent.

Cutting Corners

Cut the corners at the bottom of the case, be careful to not cut into the seam. Tidy up any loose threads with the scissors and turn right side out through the open zip.

Finished Case

Its now ready to be used.

Final Thoughts

Learning how to insert zippers has not been as frightening as I first thought, it is actually a very useful skill to develop. I can now go and attempt all of those projects that I want to make with a zip. If you have any views or can offer further advice on zipper insertion please write below.

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