Introduction: How to Make a [Totoro] Pencil Case for Under $3!

About: Salutations! I am a Finance major and origami enthusiast.
This is my entry for the Instructables Back-To-School Contest! Please vote for me~! ^_^
Thanks so much for all your support! I managed to place as a runner-up! :D

With the new school year approaching this month, and noticing that I often dig around in my bag for a pencil, I realized I needed a new pencil case.

But the dilemma I have is that all the pretty pencil cases are very expensive, and all the dull ones break easily! So what am I to do?

Well... how about make my own?

This pencil case will cost you under $3 and a few hours. For me, it took five hours or so, but be reminded that I chose to hand sew my pencil case! A sewing machine will probably take off at least three of those hours.

The only sewing skills you will need are how to thread a needle, how to do a oversewing stitch (also known as a blanket stitch), a running stitch, and a hem stitch, all relatively easy.

A great instructable on how to sew:

The pencil case I made is modeled after the Studio Ghibli character, Totoro. You don't have to make yours like I did, but with this pattern you can pretty much add any detailing you like. For example, I'm currently working on another Hello Kitty pencil case, and my first one was a Domo-kun pencil case. ^_^

This is my first Instructable! :D

Step 1: Sketch It.

I've never made a pencil case before, and only have a limited knowledge of how to sew (basic hand-sewing, no machines yet). But before we even think about that, we have to sketch the actual pattern!

In deciding materials, I chose felt. I've worked a lot with felt before, making dolls and plushes. Felt is sturdy, easy to work with, very forgiving, and cheap. Plus, it's awesome to use if you're a beginner!

I wanted a triangular pencil case, so I sketched it out. The reason there is a "x6" and an "x4" next to the rectangular and triangular pieces is that I'm choosing to double the layer of felt I'm using to make the pencil case, so that it will be durable.

The second sketch is of the pieces I'll need to accessorize the pencil case. If you want a plain pencil case, then you can skip that part.

Step 2: Materials Needed

Materials Needed:
- 2 pieces of 9 x 12 felt for your main color (I bought mine for $1 for four pieces~!)
- Scraps of felt/piece of felt for detailing
- Ruler (FREE!)
- Needle and thread (FREE!)
- Pencil (FREE!)
- Scissors (FREE!)
- Zipper/buttons/Velcro ($0.50)
- Thread the color of your felt (this is what I will be using; thread usually costs about $1-$2 a spool. However, black thread will be just fine if you don't have the color-specific thread.)
- Post-its (to help with detailing)

Step 3: Measuring and Cutting.

Since I chose my measurements of the rectangles to be 7 in x 2.5 in, I measured them out just like that and cut them out. My felt squares were 9 x 12 in,  therefore they yielded about four rectangles per piece of felt

The triangles were a little trickier. If you cut the felt with similar measurements, you will have some small rectangles as scrap. I had six 2.5 in x 2 in scrap rectangles left over from the pieces of felt where I cut the major rectangles.

From there, I took the 2.5 in side of one of the rectangles and placed it facing me. I then took two other rectangles by the 2.5 in side and formed a triangle. Trace the triangle shape, and cut. Since I cut six rectangles, I had four of these 2.5 in triangles and two rectangles leftover. Save these, because we will use them for detailwork. 

Alternatively, you can use two rulers, instead of using the smaller rectangles.

Step 4: Sewing!

This is probably the most labor-intensive part of the project. I chose to hand sew my pencil case (!), but you can use a sewing machine as well. Just adjust your measurements accordingly for seam allowances. 

The first step is to sew the rectangles together. Since we have six rectangles, and we want to double layer them, we sew two rectangles together using an oversewing/blanket stitch. Do the same with the four triangles; sew two triangles together. This double-layering of felt will ensure durability.

A general rule of thumb I use to ensure that I don't run out of thread while I'm sewing is to encircle the thread three times around fabric. 

Remember to sew close together and evenly! This provides the basis for your pencil case. The closer and more even the stitches, the prettier the outcome, and the more durable the pieces.

Step 5: Detailing

Since I wanted to make a Totoro pencil case, there are several details I had to add.
Like the ears, the eyes, the nose, and the whiskers.

I took one rectangle and planned out what I wanted on it. This rectangle would be the face of Totoro, so I drew my design on Post-its and cut them out. I then laid them on the rectangle to see how it looked, and adjusted it accordingly.

After that, I made the actual pieces. They're all relatively easy to make:

TIP: Fold felt in half so you don't have to cut two separate pieces, but rather, cut both at the same time!

- For the eyes: I cut out two circles from the white felt. Then, I cut two slightly smaller black circles, and finally, two tiny white bits from the white felt. To sew them on, start with the large white circle, put on the black circle, and then put on the glint. Stitch them all on with the same stitch. In other words, pile them all on top of each other on the needle and then sew it on. 

- For the nose: I cut out a nose shape that I drew previously on a Post-it. I used only three stitches to secure it onto the rectangle, but they were tight so it wouldn't fall off easily. I used black thread so that it wouldn't be that noticeable. Again, I added a little white glint in the corner to make it more anime-like. 

- For the ears: Remember those six 2.5 in x 2 in rectangles from the triangles? We only used four for the triangles! That means we have two leftover to make dun dun dun~ EARS! I folded them in half and traced an ear pattern that I drew on a Post-it and cut them out. As is with this project, by folding it in half, we double-layered it! Cut it out, then sew it together using an oversewing/blanket stitch.

- For the whiskers: You have two options on this one, the easy option and the slightly harder option. Whiskers are super easy to make and you have two materials you can work with: strips of felt, or thread. Strips of felt are harder to work with, only because the material is so thin that it is prone to separation.
Therefore, you can embroider on some whiskers with just black thread. It's really easy: just poke the needle through from the back of the rectangle, bring it to the front, pick your endpoint, and poke it back through to the other side of the rectangle! And there you have a whisker! You can repeat this process a few times until you get the desired amount. Totoro has six whiskers; two on each side.

Step 6: Bringing It All Together

After you finish sewing, you should have three 7 in x 2.5 in double-layer rectangles and two 2.5 in double-layer triangles.

Time to sew it all together! You have your pieces, so now you can create a rectangular prism!

1. Sew one 2.5 in side of a rectangle to one 2.5 in side of a triangle. [Pic 1]
2. Sew two more rectangle to the remaining two sides of the triangle. [Pic 2]
3. Sew two of the 7.5 in sides of the rectangles together to make an edge. [Pic 3]
4. Sew on the second triangle at the end. Sew it to two of the 2.5 in sides of the rectangles. [Pic 4]
5. Sew up another two of the 7.5 in sides to make a second edge. Don't forget to sew the rectangle to the triangle as well. [Pic 6]
6. You should now have two triangles sewed to three sides each, and two 7.5 in connected edges. One edge should be open for the zipper. [Pic 7 and 8]

Another way to think of this is just making a rectangular prism, but leaving one 7.5 in open. It's easier to do it than to explain it, so just sew.

Step 7: Sewing on the Zipper

Quite possibly the easiest thing to sew, zippers are a nice little addition to pencil cases and add a more authentic-y feel.

The nice part about zippers is that they come with a lot of fabric on each side of the actual zipper, so you can just sew them onto the cloth. Which you're going to do.

Really. Just line up one side of the zipper with one side of the cloth. Do a simple running stitch and you've got it connected to one side! From there, open up the zipper, line up the zipper's fabric with the rectangle, and do another running stitch. Zipper, done!

TIP: Poke the needle from the inside of the pencil case to the outside to hide the knot.

Step 8: Attaching the Ears [Optional]

If you're not making a Totoro-specific pencil case or a pencil case with any kind of ears, then feel free to skip this part.

Now that you've finished the actual pencil case and it has a face and zipper, you can add on little details like the ears! We finished them in the details step, and now it's time to attach them.

It's actually really easy: just outline the bottom part of the ears with a hem stitch and sew them on tightly. If they start to fall off, you can add more stitches.

Step 9: Done!

Now you have your very own pencil case that you made yourself!

I've been using this pencil case for a few months now (since July; I had a summer class, too!) and it's pretty durable. I've had no problems with the felt so far. However, if you didn't stitch the rectangles together tightly enough, they may come a little loose. But no worries, you can just reinforce it by sewing it again. 

Again, you don't have to make a Totoro pencil case! You can make whatever character you like. :D

TIP: Once you finish, and if you are not going to use it right away, I recommend stuffing it with newspaper, or polyester fiberfill, or cotton balls; really, anything that will hold a shape temporarily until you use it.

Other than that, the felt tends to ball up a little bit, but this is a great, durable pencil case. 
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