Elastic Pencil Pouch Tutorial and Pattern

I am so tired of having to hunt down a pen or pencil when I need one. Anyone else? With my kids home way more than usual right now due to the pandemic ... somehow my writing utensils seem to be wondering off on their own (since no one will own up to actually taking/using them)

Well, this creative mama decided to take things into her own hands and design a way to keep all my necessary writing instruments close at hand. The bonus is that I can use it for post its, notecards, and anything else I might need to use along with my pens and pencils. 

My favorite fabric to use for pencil pouches is waterproof canvas. In this case you don't necessarily need it to be waterproof, but by being waterproof it means that it's way more durable and cleanable, and it's stiffer so it holds it shape better without needing interfacing or lining. I'm all about keeping things easy!

(I will put a list down at the bottom of the post with links to my materials.) 

The first step is cutting out my pieces. I have designed this to fit a 7"x9" planner -- since I know a lot of us use that size -- but you can adjust your measurements to fit any journal or notebook you want. I actually made one of these for each of my kids for Christmas to go along with their Primary scripture study journals from Line Upon Line. This same sewing pattern will work for these journals and lots of other notebooks and journals too! 

I used some bright colored waterproof canvas to create some fun color combinations for them. They are also getting some Frixon erasable pens for Christmas to put in these pouches to use as we study our scriptures as a family this year. (Their study books are still wrapped up nice and neat in their plastic since it's a gift.)

This could be considered a beginner sewing project, just be sure that you know how to sew a straight line and don't let the fact that it has a zipper make you nervous. This is an easy zipper pouch that is designed to sew with ONLY straight lines, and makes it easy to get a beautiful finished top corner every time! 

Let's get started. (Fair warning... this is a LONG post with lots of pictures!)

First step is to cut out your pieces. You don't need much, so if you buy a yard or even a half yard of waterproof canvas you can make a few of these cute pouches for yourself or to give away as a gift. I find it easiest to trace my cut lines onto the back of the waterproof canvas. Using a disappearing ink fabric marker (or a ballpoint pen) and a quilting ruler, draw 2 rectangles that are 9 inches long by 6 inches wide, and 2 rectangles that are 1 1/2 inches long and 1 1/4 inches wide. If you choose a fabric that has a pattern to it, read ahead to make sure that your pattern print is going the correct direction on your finished pouch. 

I prefer to use zipper tape when I sew bags and pouches (see below for the link to the one I'm using here) but you can also use a regular 7 1/2 inch long zipper. Cut your zipper tape at 7 3/4 inches long, then slide on the zipper pull. (That can be tricky, so YouTube it.)

Now we are going to work on the zipper itself. So, grab the two smaller rectangles (the zipper tabs) and your zipper. Fold your tabs in half and finger press them so that you have a folded rectangle measuring 1 1/2 inches by 5/8 inch. 

Take one end of your zipper tape and place it inside your folded tab leaving about 1/8 inch from the end of your zipper to the fold line. If you are using a 7 1/2 inch zipper, trim off some of the excess zipper tape on the end and be sure that the metal clip at the end of your zipper is past your stitch line on the open end of your tab. 

I prefer to use clips (linked below) to hold my fabric in place rather than pins. Since this canvas fabric has been treated to be waterproof, using pins can leave tiny holes in the fabric. 

Repeat this step with the other end of the zipper so it looks like the photo below. 

Be sure when you are clipping your tab in place, that the edges all line up as best as you can. It will give your pencil pouch a more professionally finished look. 

Take your zipper to your sewing machine. I like to use an adjustable foot on my sewing machine. It has a little spring on the back of it (and comes standard with more sewing machines) so that you can sew over thicker things like zippers.

Topstitch 1/8 inch from the raw edge of your zipper tab, backstitching 3 times over the zipper. If you are using a regular zipper (rather than zipper tape) go slowly to make sure you don't break your needle. 

I use a stitch length of 3-3.5 for this step. You want to make sure that the stitches hold that zipper in place since it's going to get lots of use. The zipper tab is short, so a shorter stitch length is better. If you find that your thread is getting jumbled as you stitch, try lengthening your stitch just a tad, or hand-cranking your needle so you have more control. 

Repeat for the other side and your zipper is done! 

Now we are going to attach the zipper to the pouch panels. If you are using waterproof canvas, there is a right and a wrong side to the fabric. The right side has a slight sheen to it, and the wrong side is pretty matte. 

(In my photo, the one on the left is the right side, and the right is the wrong side.)

We want to trim the excess zipper tab off so that our tab is the same width as the zipper. 

Take one of your pouch panels and lay it right side up. Then lay your zipper right side down on top. Try and center it as best you can. If you want to be exact you can measure the halfway points on the zipper and the panel and then line those marks up. Or, fold each piece in half and finger press it, then line up your creases. I tend to just eyeball it... again, I like to keep it easy. 

If you have a zipper foot for your sewing machine (again, most sewing machines come with one), you will want to switch to that for this next step. A zipper foot allows you to stitch closer to the zipper for a more polished end product. I will link my favorite zipper foot at the end of this tutorial. It is an adjustable zipper foot that lets me choose the side I want the needle on. 

Stitch along your zipper and zipper tape with a 3-3.5 stitch length, and a 1/4 inch seam allowance. I tend to just line up the edge of my fabric with the edge of my zipper foot to keep it simple. It doesn't need to be exact, but if you are making more than one pouch just keep your seam allowance consistent. 

When you get close to the zipper pull, lower your needle (to hold your fabric in place), raise your presser foot, and gently slide the zipper pull behind your presser foot. Then lower your foot and continue sewing to the end of your zipper tab. 

It should look something like this. Don't worry if the threads on this side don't look very pretty... no one will ever see them. 

Topstitch the panel. This is tricky with waterproof canvas, and takes a little bit of finagling, but isn't hard to do. As you stitch, try and keep the zipper reveal the same size all the way down. I like to top stitch with a bit longer stitch length, 4.0. 

Start at one end of your panel (you will need to fold it over so that it lines up all the way down) and back stitch. Sew all the way down, moving your zipper pull out of the way if need be) and backstitch at the end of the folded panel piece. 

Your piece will look like this. 

The amount of zipper reveal that you have will depend on the original seam allowance when you sewed the zipper on. I like to see about 1/8 - 1/4 of my zipper tape. It leaves plenty of room for the zipper pull to easily glide open and closed along the zipper teeth. 

Now we are going to repeat the same steps for the other side. Lay your other panel right side up, and place the zipper right side down on top, lining up the top of your zipper tape, and the side edges of your panel pieces. (The bottom of your panel pieces will not line up and that's okay.)

Double check that you have right sides of your panel pieces facing each other on the inside. Clip your zipper in place and sew from zipper tab end to zipper tab end backstitching at the beginning and end. 

You will need to reach in between your panel pieces to slide your zipper pull out of the way as you stitch. 

Top stitch this panel piece in place. 

Here is how your pouch should look. 

I like to have my zipper at the top of the pouch when it is closed. Open your zipper all the way and lay your pouch so that the zipper pull is at the top. On the right panel piece, mark a dot 3 inches from the bottom of your pouch on both sides of that panel piece. This is going to help you center the elastic band. 

I have a bunch of fold over elastic left over from when I made baby headbands years ago. I like that it comes in lots of different patterns so you can really have fun mixing and matching prints and solids. I also like that it has a line right down the center of the elastic, making it super easy to center it on the fabric. FOE (fold over elastic) has a right and wrong side to it. The right side is shiny and the wrong side is matte. In this case, either one are fine to use, but if you want to have the right side showing, you will want to lay the right side of your elastic down on the right side of your panel -- right side to right side. I cut my elastic just shy of the 9 inch measurement of my panel piece. 

Clip one end of the elastic. Then stretch it slightly to clip the other side in place. Line up the center line of the elastic with the dot you put on your panel piece. Your fabric will curl a little bit because it is longer than your elastic. 

Fold your left panel piece over to the right and match up your edges all the way around. You want to make extra certain that the folded edges you top stitched on the zipper end of your pouch line up with each other, because that's the part you will see on your finished pouch.

It will not want to lay flat because of the elastic, but match everything up as best as you can. 

When sewing the pouch together, I like to start with the bottom first, then sew up one side. I find that it's easier to control the fabric that way since the elastic is making it bunch up a little. 


When you get 1/4 inch from the corner, put your needle down, lift up your presser foot, and pivot your fabric so that you can sew up the short side. 

When you get to the end where your zipper tab is, your zipper foot and stitch line should be about 1/8 inch from the zipper tab at the end. If it ends up being a little too close, simple adjust your seam allowance to leave that 1/8 inch gap. It makes turning your pouch right side out SO much easier if you have that space. I like to reinforce this by triple backstitching. 

Clip your threads and sew up the other short side of your pouch. Be sure to backstitch at the beginning and end of your stitching. 

The next step is optional, but I like to clean up the inside edges and reduce some of the bulk by trimming my seam allowance in half. I also angle the tops at the zipper a little to make it easier to turn it right side out. 

You can also clip the corners a little bit on the bottom of the pouch to give you a little sharper of a corner, but it's totally optional. 

Now it's time to turn it right side out. It's easiest to turn the bottom first, then the top where the zipper is. Use your index finger and thumb to turn the zipper tab part right side out. 

Make sure that your elastic ends up on the back side of your pouch. 

You're all done! Now go make a bunch more ... because you can never have too many of these cute little pencil pouches! 

Let's take a second and talk about how perfect your zipper corners turned out! This is the BEST way to make any kind of zipper pouch It gives you that finished look and saves you the frustration of trying to get your zipper corners to turn out right. 

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