Pen Wrap

Introduction: Pen Wrap

If you like to carry around more than one pen at a time, here's a useful little fabric wrap to carry them in. Keep them together and, if they're nice ones, protect them from getting scratched!

If you like to have everything ready before you start, you might want to gather your tools ahead of time. Here’s the list, in order of use:

  • cutting board*
  • rotary cutting guide*
  • rotary knife*
  • scissors
  • pins
  • sewing machine
  • thread
  • pushing tool**
  • hand sewing needle

The most satisfactory wraps I’ve made so far have been made from fabrics with a crisp hand (dense but light, easy to fold with a nice crease), and a tight weave that does not fray at the edges. Because the pen wrap will roll up with your pens in it, thick fabrics can make a clumsy wrap. Loosely woven fabrics also tend to bunch up in awkward places or leave weak spots in the wrap.

For a first wrap I recommend batiqued cottons or quilting-style fabrics; you can find these in subdued patterns -- they are not all flowers or paisley prints. I look for fabric at charity shops where I can salvage high quality fabric from secondhand clothes and household linens at low cost.


If you like to have everything ready before you start, you might want to gather your tools ahead of time. Here’s the list, in order of use:

  • cutting board*
  • rotary cutting guide*
  • rotary knife*
  • scissors
  • pins
  • sewing machine
  • thread
  • pushing tool**
  • hand sewing needle

*these are so useful, but they are optional; if you don’t use a rotary cutter, get a chalk marker and a ruler -- mark the fabric and cut with scissors

** you can use just about anything long, thin and blunt as a pushing tool (maybe a small chopstick)

Step 1: Cut the Fabric and Ties.

Cut two pieces for the inner and outer wrap and one for the pocket, plus a long piece for the tie band. Cut the tie (shortest 16" and longer if you plan to stuff the pen wrap full).

To help your pen wrap roll up neatly after it is finished, you can also trim the outer wrap, lining and pocket on a slight inward angle from bottom to top before you start to sew. Stack them in a pile and trim them all together.

The tie for a wrap has to be thick enough to handle easily and hold the wrap securely. This means that you need to check the size of the holes in beads that you want use for tie ends. Many are intended for stringing on wire or fish line so their holes will not be big enough to accommodate your ties. I look for ceramic or china beads, wooden or bone beads, metal “spacer” beads for jewelry-making, and metal or glass beads with large holes. Beads that have a little weight feel good in your hand as you tie up a pen wrap during use, but watch out for beads that are too big or heavy to be convenient.

I’ve used various materials for ties, and some of them work better than others. From most to least satisfactory, I have tried:

leather thong — makes strong, flexible ties that are easy to handle and lie flat on your wrap; the rawhide-type may leave bits of themselves on the fabric of your wrap, but the smooth ones do not

ribbon — the thinnest ribbon from the fabric store (grosgrain or satin finish) makes a lovely tie and gives you color choices you can’t get with other materials; it will be moderately durable

leather cord — round instead of flat and a little stiff, but it comes in several colors and can be used with smaller beads

fake leather cord or waxed cord — I’m not sure what this is made out of, but if you object to leather this may work for you; the thinnest type is strong enough to go through small bead holes without unraveling, although you may not like its stiffness for tying the wrap

hemp or jute cord — planet friendly, but you may need to play with the tips of this cord to get it to go through all but the largest holes in beads; you can just knot the ends (no beads) ... but plan on these getting a bit scruffy looking with use, even though they will probably last well

Step 2: Hem the Pocket

2a. When you hem the pocket, fold over about 1/4” from the right side to the wrong side and iron it down. Fold again, about 1/2” this time and iron again.

2b. Stitch the hem down.

I stitch on the folded side, which means the underside of the stitching will show in the final wrap. I usually don’t pin the pocket before I sew, but if you want to sew it on the right side, you probably do want to pin it down.

When the wrap is done, your pens will hook onto the pocket right at this hem. That’s why I usually use three lines of sewing, both to make it stiff enough to hook the pens and because it will get a lot of use. Sometimes I put a little strip of interfacing inside the hem, if I have chosen a light fabric for the pocket.

Step 3: Fasten Beads Onto the Ties.

3a. Trim or twist the end of the tie so that you can thread it through the hole of a bead as easily as possible. I trim leather thongs and twist cords. Sometimes I fold small ribbon to get it started through a bead hole. When I twist cord, I usually wet it with a little spit — apply your own standards of hygiene and proceed accordingly.

3b. Make a knot to keep the bead on the tie. If the bead is loose on the tie you can also add a knot just above the bead to keep it from slipping up and down the tie. Trim the end of the tie at an angle (which will remove the spitty part if you did use that method).

You may know how to tie fancy knots, so go ahead and experiment. if you don’t know any other type, just make a loop and slip the tie end through it. Pull it snugly up to the bead and try to place it where you don’t have to trim off too much of the tie. Be sure to finish off both ends of the tie.

Step 4: Pin the Tie Band to the Outer Wrap.

Pin the tie band to the outer wrap piece of fabric.

  • Tie band is wrong side up.
  • Outer band is right side up.
  • Tie cord is just lying across the fabric; two pins help you hold it in place.
  • Place the tie band to the right of the center line of the outer wrap; if you place it in the center, it will end up too far left.

Place the tie about 3 1/2” up from the bottom edge. It may look low, but it needs to be only about a quarter of the way up the finished wrap.

I finish off the tie ends before starting to assemble the wrap for two reasons. First, if the tie doesn’t work out well (I trim off too much trying to put on a bead and the tie gets too short), I can just make a new tie without having to dismantle the wrap. Second, the extra weight on the tie ends helps to keep them out of the way while I’m sewing.

The seam width for everything on the pen wrap is about 5/8” -- I like a little serendipity and a handcrafted look in my own products, so I use the edge of the presser foot on my sewing machine to measure seams. You can measure more precisely if you want to. But I do iron between every step. This keeps my seams flat and helps me line everything up as I go.

Step 5: Sew the Tie Band Onto the Outer Wrap.

Fold the tie band over to the left and iron the seam. Lay the wrap down so that you can see the tie band; the seam you just sewed is on your right. Iron the band to the left — the right side of the fabric will be facing you now.

Fold about 1/2” of the band under. Iron it, and pin it in place if you want to. Sew on top of the tie band down the left side. Then sew a matching line down the right side. Each of these seams should be 1/4” or so from the edges of the band.

As you sew the left side, be sure you have either placed a pin on either side of the tie to keep it in the right place, or hold the tie in place with your fingers as you sew past it. If you don’t watch it, the tie may sag so that one side is higher than the other when you’re done — keep it level as you sew it down. Iron again.

Step 6: Stack, Pin and Sew the Pieces Together.

  • Outer wrap is right side up.
  • Lining is wrong side up.
  • Pocket is wrong side up.
  • Be sure the pocket is between the outer wrap and the lining.

When you stack the pieces together pull the two ends of the tie down straight to the bottom of the wrap so they hang down. This way they don’t get sewn into one of the edges later.

If the tie is a little stiff, it may want to spring apart to the sides of the stack. If that happens, secure the ends to the outer wrap with a pin.

Pin three sides of the stack together. Be sure to place pins on both sides through the pocket hem so the pocket doesn’t slide around in the middle of the stack while you’re sewing. Double check the stack:

  • the outer wrap has its wrong side out on the bottom of the stack
  • the tie ends are hanging out of the bottom of the stack
  • the pocket is in the middle of the stack, right side facing the right side of the outer wrap
  • the lining is on top with the wrong side up

Sew a continuous seam from one lower end of the stack almost to the top. Raise the presser foot and turn the stack 90 degrees to make a sharp corner. Sew to the next corner, repeat the turn and sew to the bottom, leaving the bottom of the stack open.

Step 7: Turn the Wrap Right Side Out.

Take out the pins. I usually snip a triangle of fabric off the corner ends of the top of the wrap — not too close to the seam, but enough to take a little bulk out of the corners after I turn the wrap right side out.

Reach into the wrap between the pocket layer and the outer wrap layer. Pinch the top corners with your fingers and pull them through to turn the wrap right side out.

Use a long, slim object with a blunt end to push the fabric in the corners at the top of the wrap so that they are fully squared. Smooth everything down and iron both sides of the wrap. As you iron, coax the seams apart with your fingers so that you get the full width of the wrap laid flat on both sides.

Step 8:

Turn the lower edges of the wrap in and pin them, adjusting to make the lower edge as straight as you can and to make sure that both sides of the wrap are fully turned in. I turn in as much as 1/2” — this still leaves plenty of room for my pens in the pocket.

Start hand stitching the seam by setting the knot into the crease at the edge of the wrap where it won’t be seen. Whip stitch the seam, unless you want to get fancy and use a blanket stitch or a blind stich. Set the stitches close together so that the tips of fine pens don’t poke out between them when you are using the wrap.

At the end of the seam, take a knot stitch. I usually run the needle down into the seam and turn the wrap pocket to the wrong side to make an extra knot there where it won’t be seen. You can also just run the thread into the wrap and snip it off after your knot stitch.

Step 9:

Start at the bottom end of the wrap and sew a single line of stitching about 1/3 of the way from the right hand side up to the top. I do this with the inside of the wrap facing up, and I usually find that I am sewing just along the edge of the tie band on the outside of the wrap. Sew another single seam about 1/3 of the way in from the left side of the wrap. These create the sections in the wrap that make your pens lie nicely instead of jumbling around in the pocket.

Be sure to hold the tie out of the way on each side as you stitch the dividers.

I sew from the bottom of the wrap to the top because if the pocket fabric stretches a little I prefer that it stretch upward rather than downward. Experiment with this to see what you like. You may also want to lay the wrap outside up as you go; there’s no particular reason not to.

Step 10:

Depending on the slimness of your pens, you can fit 6–9 into your finished wrap. They don’t have to have clips, although a clip is handy to hook each pen onto the pocket. Beware of sharp implements like mechanical pencils; they will wear through your wrap over time.

This design will not accommodate pens much over 6” tall (like tall brush pens or double-headed art pens) because the tie is placed too low to secure the wrap when it is folded over very tall pens. You can alter the design by increasing the height of the overall wrap and the pocket, and placing the tie higher on the outer wrap.

Likewise, you can create a compact two-pen wrap by keeping all measurements the same except the width of the pieces. Cut the outer wrap, lining and pocket pieces about 4” wide. You may want to shorten the tie for the wrap as well.

Step 11:

Your folded wrap will make a compact bundle that feels satisfying in your hand. It will fit into a surprising number of spaces in bags, pockets or briefcases, and it will protect your pens well.

Depending on the length, material and flexibility of the tie, you can tie the wrap with a simple, loose knot or a bow. In some cases you can bring the ends of the tie around the wrap and tuck them across each other, allowing the tie ends to keep the wrap closed through their tension alone.

If you carry your wrap often it may get grubby on the outside. Spot clean it with a damp microfiber cloth, hand wash it if you know that all the materials are washable — or make yourself a new one!


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