Thursday, March 14, 2013

A Robotic Pencil Pouch Tutorial!

We are thrilled to pieces to share this adorable pencil pouch tutorial with you!  Our talented colleague, Christina McKinney, worked up this fabulous tutorial for all you beginning sewers out there.  Or even if you need a quick go-to project to give as a gift, this is it!  Check it out!

Here is what you are going to need:

  • 2-outer pieces, 9.5in x 5in
  • 2-lining pieces, 9.5in x 5in
  • 1-7in zipper
  • 2-zipper tab pieces 2in x 3in (cut in the outer fabric)
  • Optional: 2 pieces of heavy or medium weight iron-in interfacing cut to 9.5in x 5in. Iron this to the wrong side of the outer pieces. This will give your pouch extra stability.

Notes before getting started:

This is a pretty basic pattern that can be made bigger/smaller depending on your preference. I highly recommend prewashing then pressing your fabric before cutting. (This will ensure everything is even and will give you a more professional finished look.) I DO NOT recommend ever sewing over pins during your projects. Stitch to just before the pin & remove as you go. And finally, seam allowances vary in this project so make sure you double check before sewing any of the steps.


Attaching the zipper tabs - Fold each tab piece in half length wise & press.

Next, turn each side under 1/4 inch & press.

“Sandwich” the end of your zipper with the tab piece & pin in place.  Make sure that the ends of your tabs are PAST the metal zipper tab before you sew.

You need enough clearance to sew a 1/8 inch seam without running over the metal stopper. (*important* Only do this with nylon/plastic zippers. DO NOT sew over the teeth of a metal zipper.) Sew as close the edge as possible and keep stitches neat. Go slow to help your machine over the zipper teeth. For a finishing stitch such as this, I usually extend my stitch length a little, something like 3 or 3.5.

This is what you should end up with

Repeat with the other end. You will need to unzip the zipper about halfway to make this easier. Once pinned in place, zip and unzip a couple times to make sure you have the teeth lined up properly.

Once you have sewn tabs across both ends of the zipper, clip the tab sides down even with the zipper.

Lay a piece of your lining fabric right side UP and lay the tabbed zipper even with the top edge. (Make sure to center your zipper.)

Lay a piece of outer fabric right side DOWN, matching the top edge, and pin in place. If your fabric has a specific direction, ensure that you place it properly for this step to keep it from being upside down in the final product.

So now you have a fabric & zipper “sandwich” and you will stitch a 1/2 seam along your edge. A zipper foot makes this easier, but IS NOT necessary for this. As you can see from this photo, I stitched this in place with a regular foot. I typically start stitching with the zipper halfway open so that it’s out of the way. (Wait to unzip it until everything is pinned in place to keep things from shifting.) Don’t stress about sewing the zipper without seeing it - you can feel it between the layers to make sure you don’t accidently stitch over it. Just take it slow!

Once you near the zipper, stop your machine NEEDLE DOWN and pivot your fabric around until you can shimmy the zipper back up. This will get it out of the way while you finish stitching.

Once stitched, flip your layers right side out and press.

With your pieces now right sides out, you will stitch a 1/8 hem along the edge going through all three layers. This gives a more finished look and will keep your lining from getting caught in your zipper.

As before, to make things easier, zip/unzip your zipper as you sew and pivot it out of the way. This is what you should have so far:

Lay the second piece of lining fabric right side UP & lay you assembled zipper piece right side UP on top.

Next, lay your outer fabric right side DOWN on top and pin in place. You’re repeating the steps from before to secure your lining/outer to the other side of the zipper.

And just like before, you will stitch a 1/2 inch seam along the edge ensuring you’re going through all layers. Don’t forget to zip/unzip your zipper out of the way! Once the second side is stitched, turn the layers right side out, press, and stitch in place.

Your ends should look like this:

Before you do anything else, UNZIP THE ZIPPER!! (You cannot turn the pouch right side out without the zipper open.) Take the pouch and open each side, pairing the two outer pieces and two lining pieces. Put them right sides together and pin in place.

When you get to the side where the tab is, just pinch it either up or down and pin in place. (Just make sure that whichever direction you pick is the same on both sides.)

Mark a start/stop point on your lining side. (indicated in the photo with a green & a red pin) You’re going to leave a small gap here for turning the bag right side out. 

Make sure to secure the stitches on either side of the gap so that they won’t come loose when you turn the bag.

Stitch around using a 1/4 inch seam allowance. When you come to the sides where the tabbed edge is, you’re sewing close to the tabs but not through them. Once you’ve gone all the way around, clip your corners to reduce bulk but make sure your don’t snip through your stitching.

Through the gap you left in the lining, turn the bag right side out. Use something pointed to turn out all your corners. Be gentle! You don’t want to stab through your seam! (I find that chopsticks are ideal for turning corners.)

Before you stitch the lining shut, leave it out and give the outer fabric a good press.

Tuck under the open edge of your lining 1/4 and press.

You can do a blind stitch to close this or a small 1/8 inch seam across the bottom.  (Once your pouch is tucked in and filled with goodies, no one will see the bottom of the lining!) Tuck the lining down inside and you’re DONE!!


  1. I love the pouch and the print. So cute.

  2. Thanks for the very clear instructions & photo's. I've added the tutorial to my blog.

  3. Thanks for the construction details. I made a little zipper bag the other day and while I knew something was missing, I couldn't figure out what it was. It was those handy little zipper tabs!
    I was recycling, reusing and repuposing the leg of a pair of jeans, a recycled zipper and some scrap ribbon. The zipper is a bit long, so I will add a zipper tab to the back end to keep the zipper pull from getting lost inside. I still have the other jean leg to work with, and I will start with the zipper tabs. I'm sure it will go together much easier.
    I will link back to you if I end up posting about my bags on my blog.
    Thanks again!

  4. Your pics and directions are so clear!! Please make more tutorials! I need a blouse (hint hint)

  5. Fantastic tute!!!!!!!!! :-) :-) :-)

  6. I love the tabs to attached to the zipper - great construction and super tutorial! thanks!

  7. I used your instructions and my little project turned out great. thanks a lot! I will be making more of these.

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  9. This is the BEST zipper tutorial I've seen! Fabulous photos!!

  10. This this such a clear tutorial. The step by step photos are self explanatory. I think I will add a small mitered corner at the bottom to match the width of the top corners. Will pin to my sewing Pinterest.

  11. This is really cute! Thanks for the great tutorial :)

  12. This tutorial has very clear instructions and pictures! Nice work!!

  13. Wonderful tutorial, thanks so much!

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  16. This fabric is AMAZING! Can you tell me what the name/designer is? I would love to get some!

    1. Hi Desiree,
      The print is called The Lab fron a collection called Robotic by Rebekah Ginda for Birch Fabrics. :)

  17. Hahaha, nevermind, I see it in the sidebar. *faceplam* :D

  18. Thanks for a great tutorial, can't wait to make some for my science friends.

  19. Just made this...super cute! I took the advice of one of the other comments & boxed the corners. Thanks for the tutorial!

  20. Is the the 1/2 seam by the zipper a misprint? It would be right smack in the middle of my zipper! 1/4 inch would work though. I measured both coats and clark and ykk zippers.

  21. This is a great tutorial. I agree with the comment above about a 1/4 inch seam by the zipper. Thanks for posting this tutorial. I just made a case and can't wait to make another.

  22. Thank you for the tutorial. I made one for my daughter, and we love it!

  23. Thank you for helping me overcome my fear of zippers with this tutorial!So easy to follow-one small problem I ended up with is a gap by the zipper tab..I didn't want to sew over the tab but then there is a small gap left.Any suggestions??Mahalo!

  24. This is a great tutorial and I love the tabs!

  25. Thank you for a great tutorial, so well done.

  26. Thank you!!!!! I have trying to figure out how to make a bag with the zipper tabs.
    Doing a happy dance...

  27. Hi, thanks for this, trying as my first bit of sewing experience.

    What do you mean by 'Make sure you tabs are PAST the end of the metal zipper..'

    Put the zipper right to the end of the tabs or just past the inside 1/8 folds?

    1. Grrrrr.. never mind, I found out. :/ Right to the end of the tab it is.