Vinyl Pencil Case / Craft Satchel / General Purpose Hold-All Instructions

Here’s a project that: is great for beginners

It’s quick (about an hour, if you don’t need to take photos)

uses little material, and,

creates a genuinely useful utility item that is better quality than shop bought!

I recently made up some pencil cases as gifts for all my Grandies. One of my little Grandsons is heavily into craft and he has a huge collection of watercolour markers, crayons, pencils etc ….. far too much to all fit in his pencil case. My daughter asked if I could produce the same thing, but about the size of a sheet of office paper. This was the result. It occurred to me that this is a great beginner project and it just might be of interest to others. I thought I’d avoid lengthy text and let the pictures do the talking.


You will need:

Some vinyl ………….. (leatherette, naugahyde, PVC, pleather etc, depending on where you grew up). Alternatively, you can use rubber-backed curtain material.

The important thing is that the finished case is reasonably moisture proof, to protect the carpet from the inevitable leaky marker. Curtain material, being thinner is much easier to work with but the vinyl bag is pretty much bullet proof, even against a five year old. The weakest part of the whole thing will be the zipper.

A zipper

I used a length of continuous zipper but any zipper that is heavy enough and longer than the project is fine. You can always just cut your zipper shorter. I have taken to collecting discarded clothing and carry bags to salvage usable zippers.

A sewing machine

Just about any domestic sewing machine will sew vinyl and one that can’t handle rubber-backed curtain material wouldn’t really be worth owning. In my example, I used an old treadle Singer … a 103K which was sold mainly to tailors. I used a #18 leather needle and #40 bonded nylon thread Any normal sewing thread is probably OK and you can get by with a normal needle point too. I was going for Grandie-proof ….. a pretty high resistance specification!

Some Double-sided Tape

Neither this, nor the super glue is absolutely necessary. In fact, I always worry when mentioning super glue. If it isn’t used carefully, it can be downright dangerous. PLEASE don’t underestimate this stuff and, if you are one of those people who tends to be at all careless, skip it altogether. The double sided tape though, really is your friend on this project. You can manage without it, but it will make the whole project much easier.

Some Super Glue

See above. This stuff is great. But it’s DANGEROUS. Use it with great care and PLEASE, don’t leave it where children can possibly get access to it.


DSCF2193 [800x600]Cut a couple of pieces of material to the size of the bag that you want, plus ½ inch (12mm) all round. You can literally make this any size that you want and the uses expand with your imagination. Great for storing papers (like sheet music), great as a make-up bag for a quick trip away … and a really good, robust pencil case / craft storage for home or school. As a guide, a good finished size for a generous pencil case is 10” X 6 ½ “ (250mm X 165mm). For something larger for a craft satchel, maybe the size of a sheet of writing paper. My satchels came out larger, at about 340X270mm (13 X 10 1/2”). I use different colours for each side, to try to make the bag more visually interesting.

DSCF2195 [800x600]Cut a length of zipper Just a little less than the finished width of your bag. Mark the width of the zipper’s opening on one piece. Allow a depth for the opening of about 1” (25mm) from the edge of the material. Mark the opening on the zipper too (see the chalk marks on the zipper). Mark the diagonal lines at about 45 degrees from the corners of your zipper opening, as shown.

Zipper Stopper

DSCF2199 [800x600]If you are using a closed zipper, this bit is easier. If using a length of continuous zipper …… Open out a small section of the zipper, as shown and then have minutes of fun, coercing the zipper teeth into the slider. I can’t tell you how to do this. I’m not good at it and it takes me awhile. When you get the zipper started, move the slider to the centre of the zipper, which will leave the teeth meshed together at both ends.

Now, sew some zig-zag stitching (zero stitch length) at each spot where you made the chalk mark, so that the stitching straddles the zipper teeth. …… rather like you were sewing a button. This will create a stopper for the zipper at each end. I am a cynic, so I sew an extra stopper, just outside of the marked ones (closer to the ends).

Put a drop of super glue on each of your sewn stoppers and let it dry thoroughly.

DSCF2197 [800x600]Put some double-sided tape along the outsides of your marked opening, as shown. Cut the diagonally marked lines, into the corner of the opening.




DSCF2206 [800x600]

Remove the protective covering from your double sided tape and fold your material back over the tape, as shown here. Also, mark a 12mm line along the long edge of your second piece of material (marking on the wrong side / inside. Place a strip of the tape along the inside of that line. Remove the protective covering from the tape and fold the material to the wrong side, along the line.

The whole purpose of all this folding over, is simply to avoid a raw material edge, where the zipper is sewn in.

DSCF2208 [800x600]Place the two pieces of material together, right sides facing down and adjust the spacing to create an appropriate gap for your zipper. Be sure to leave enough gap, not only for the teeth, but also the slider. The slider is wider than the teeth. I used double sided tape to hold the two pieces in their correct orientation, while I sewed them together along the outside edge.

DSCF2209 [800x600]Put some double-sided tape along the edges of the opening and position the zipper, outside facing down, neatly along the centre of the slot. I had to repeat this several times, to get it properly centred. The best strategy that I found, was to sort of roll the zipper along the gap, so’s I could see both the teeth and the gap for most of the process.

DSCF2212 [800x600]

Sew two rows of stitching, one as close to the edge of the opening as you can and the second, another 1/8” (4mm) outside of that.





DSCF2213 [800x600]Your zipper is now installed and you are almost finished.






DSCF2216 [800x600]I have to admit that, when I initially instructed you to cut two pieces of material of equal size, I was being a bit lazy. The zipper is set further into one piece of material, than the other (thus creating the necessary overlap at the ends of the zipper). You will now need to trim the excess material from the second side (in this picture, the yellow side) because it is now longer than the blue side.

Just take care that the zipper is correctly positioned, square across the top of the bag and note the width of material that needs to be removed.

You can see in this image that I have already marked a 1/2” (12mm) seam line down the sides and bottom of the blue material. It’s easier to sew to a line, than to try to judge seam widths.


Before you go any further, OPEN THE ZIPPER. If you don’t, you won’t be able to turn the bag right side out, after you have sewn the sides and bottom!

DSCF2218 [800x600]Yellow material is trimmed, diagonal corners are marked and the pieces are sewn together along the seam lines. Just one continuous line of sewing, back tacked at each end. Be sure to sew along the diagonals, on the lower corners.



DSCF2223 [800x600]Trim the excess seam allowance, as shown. At this point, you will be very annoyed if you didn’t remember to open the zipper, before you sewed around the edges!




DSCF2225 [800x600]Carefully turn your now completed satchel right side out. Try to avoid putting too much stress on the zipper while you are doing this step. The zipper is the weakest element in this project and it is possible to break the zipper while turning this heavy material.



DSCF2226 [800x600]Add a tassel to the zipper pull, to make life easier for little fingers and you are done.

This is a very simple project, requiring very little material or time, to produce an item that is genuinely useful and of better quality than similar items available in stores.


I’m sure you could come up with creative ways to decorate these.  It must be possible, for example, to add graphics to the surface of the material and a nice picture of minions or some other popular animation character would no doubt make them more attractive.

I hope this little tutorial will be of some value to you.

Andrew Caddle 2015-07-10


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