Introduction: Jeans Cuff Pencil Case

About: I make pretty pictures. I make sites for the web and things that are interactive and sometimes I make interactive things that also move. I make things to wear. I make things to play with. Sometimes I make thin…

Some time ago I posted an instructable for making a wallet using the leftover cuffs from hemming jeans. Sadly, there's been no improvement in the height department so I'm still stuck hemming most pants purchases. I still have plenty of these hemming leftovers hanging around. For this project, I made a pair of pencil cases using the leftover cuffs from hemming a pair of jeans.

This is a simple sewing project that turns a little tube of fabric left over from hemming jeans into a charming, zippered pencil case and can be completed in an afternoon. The most challenging part of the project might be sewing the zipper. If you haven't sewn a zipper into anything before, just take your time as you follow the steps.

Good luck!

Step 1: Materials and Supplies

You will need:

  • The end left over from hemming a pair of pants or jeans. The longer the piece is, the deeper the finished pouch will be. The one pictured here is about four inches long. The wider the cuff (say boot-cut vs. skinny), the longer the pouch. If you don't have such a thing lying about, a strip of fabric can be sewn into a tube and used instead.
  • A zipper, about 7 to 9 inches. Much longer and it will have to be trimmed. This one here is a 9in metal zipper that I happened to have on hand.

You will also need (not pictured):

  • Sewing thread. Basic cotton-wrapped poly-core sewing thread is fine.
  • Jeans-weight needle if you are sewing something thick like denim. A number 10 or 12 regular sewing needle will probably work on khaki or basic cotton.
  • Fabric scissors
  • Thread snips
  • Straight pins
  • Marking chalk or pencil
  • Zipper foot for sewing machine (not strictly necessary, but it really makes things easier)
  • Ruler

Step 2: Getting Started

  1. Turn the tube inside out. I chose to have the hemmed part of the cuff against the zipper teeth for a more finished look.
  2. Flatten the cuff and decide where you want the side seams to be. In the first one I made, I put the side seams in the middle of the pouch. In the one document in this instructable, the side seams more or less line up with the zipper ends.
  3. Thread your sewing machine, install the jeans-weight needle, and attach the zipper foot.

Step 3: Attach the Zipper: First Side

  1. With the cuff inside out and flattened on the work surface, place the finished edge on the bottom half against the zipper teeth. The zipper should be closed and the zipper pull on your left. Pin the zipper in place. How close you put the cuff's edge towards the center of the zipper teeth depends on if/how you want the teeth to show.
  2. Line up the right edge of the zipper foot with the right edge of the cuff hem or finished edge. The important thing to remember is to make sure there is enough room for the zipper pull to move along the zipper unhindered. Start your seam by tacking: sew forward a few stitches, reverse direction (stitch backwards) and sew the same number of stitches, reverse to go forward and continue stitching the length of the zipper tape.
  3. As you get near the end, you may need to move the zipper pull behind the presser foot to have enough room to maneuver. When you are about an inch or so away from the pull, stop the machine with the needle down to anchor the fabric. Raise the presser foot and open the zipper so the pull ends up and inch or so behind the foot. Lower the presser foot and sew to the end. Tack the end of the seam just as you did the beginning.
  4. Raise the presser foot and remove the cuff and zipper. Clip your threads at both ends of the seam.

Step 4: Attach the Zipper: Second Side

  1. Close the zipper and make sure the tube is still inside out.
  2. Position the opposite edge along the zipper teeth, same as with the the first edge. Make sure the tube's edges and zipper line up comfortably. There may be gaps at either end, depending on the zipper's length relative to the tube's folded length. The gaps should be about the same size.
  3. Pin the zipper in place at about the center of the tape's length to hold the edges and zipper in place.
  4. Open the zipper and continue pinning the cuff's edge to the zipper tape.
  5. Leave the zipper open and sew the cuff to the zipper tape, starting at the top of the zipper. This part of sewing the zipper is the trickiest to maneuver through the machine. It will be especially so as you near the zipper pull. Take your time.
  6. Clip your threads. Close the zipper to check everything still lines up.

Step 5: Finishing the Zipper

  1. Stay stitch the bottom pieces of the zipper tape. This will help keep the ends from poking through to the outside of the pencil case. If you needed to shorten the zipper to fit, you can do so here. Stitch back and forth several times across the zipper teeth to create a new zipper stop. Be careful not to try to sink the needle into the teeth or you will likely break the needle. Trim the zipper tape ends, if you are shortening the zipper.
  2. Stay stitch the top ends of the zipper tape to the cuff. Open the cuff so that the ends line up along the finished edge of the cuff and meet in the middle. It's okay if the ends overlap or don't touch at all. Sew the zipper tape in place, along the edge.
  3. Clip your threads.

Step 6: Sewing the Pencil Case Bottom Seam

  1. Open the zipper if it isn't already. It will be a touch difficult to turn the case right side out if the bottom seam is sewn with the zipper closed.
  2. Switch your machine presser foot to the regular sewing foot.
  3. Line up and pin the bottom, unfinished edges of the fabric tube.
  4. Stitch along the bottom end of the cuff--the unfinished edges.
  5. Clip your threads.
  6. If you want a flat pouch, turn the case right side out and admire your handiwork. Congratulations! You're done!
  7. If you want a more box-like pouch, like the one pictured, continue to the next step.

Step 7: Adding Faux-Box Corners

  1. Turn the pouch inside out, if it isn't already.
  2. Flatten one corner into a triangle.
  3. With a straight-edge or ruler, mark a line approximately two inches long one inch from the point. The line should go edge to edge. How long you make this line and how far from the corner it is will affect the box-like shape of the pouch's bottom. The closer to the corner and shorter the line is, the narrower the box shape will be and the taller the pouch. The further away from the corner and the longer the line, the wider the box shape and the shorter the pouch.
  4. Repeat with the other corner.
  5. Pin the corners in place.
  6. Sew each corner along the line marked. For a stronger seam, tack-stitch the beginning and end of the seam. Sew a few stitches, reverse direction and sew the same number of stitches, and reverse direction again and continue to sew to the end of the seam.
  7. Clip your threads.
  8. Trim the corners to about 1/4 inch from the seam.
  9. Turn the pouch right-side out. Step back and admire your handiwork. Congratulations! You're all done!

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