5 Upcycle Old Clothes Into A Pencil Case

This is the first year that we have had to buy our own school supplies and when I received the list it made it very clear that everything had to be void of all personality. No characters, no distracting patterns. There goes my idea of buying a shark pencil case from Etsy where you actually put the pencils into the sharks mouth.  I still wanted B to have something that fit into the rules but also his personality, so I decided to hand make his pencil case.

You can stop laughing now

It was important to me that I find a way to make this without having to buy a lot of materials. I really wanted to use what we already had on hand. We have a butt load of pants kicking around that have holes in the knees, including PJ pants. From that I picked jeans as the main material and the shirt from a PJ set that has massive ripped knees in the pants. It is also PJ's that reminds us of many inside jokes making it the perfect choice for the inside of B's pencil case.

Don't have a sewing machine? No problem! I don't have one either so this bad boy was hand stitched. 

What You Will Need
Jeans, cords or any other material
PJ's, shirt or any other material
Zipper (10 - 12")
Small binder clips
White pencil crayon

Let's Sew!

Cutting the jeans/outside material

Step 1 - Pick which part of the jeans you want to use. I was going to use the back of the jeans so I could incorporate the pockets but I couldn't get the sizing to work so I settled for the back of the one leg. I didn't pick the front of the leg because the material was very thin due to all the sliding that occurs in this house. 

Step 2 - Start by trimming along the seam of the jeans to a point that is larger than the size of pencil case that you want to make (I just cut it right up to almost the pocket).

Step 3 - Measure the size you want your pencil case to be, making sure you measure against what you are going to put into it. I cut mine to 24cm (length) x 18cm (height).  Mark your measurements with a white pencil crayon and cut.

Cutting the secondary outside material

Step 4 - Pick which part of the PJ's you want to use for the inside of the pencil case to make sure you don't cut into that when you are cutting the strips for the outside material.

Step 5 - Cut two strips that are the same length as your square of jeans and each have a height of 5cm. If you chose old pj's or a t-shirt as your material you have to watch for the stretch and ensure it doesn't effect your measurements. You can always trim the material to match the jeans later if you cut it too big.

Sewing the outside material

Step 6 - Lay the secondary outside material down with the side you want showing on the outside of the pencil case facing up. Lay the jean material on top with the side you want showing facing down. Pin the two pieces together, noting that the secondary material may stretch and need to be trimmed.

Step 7 - Repeat step 6 with the second strip of secondary material for the other side of the jean material.

Step 8 - Sew both pieces together allowing a small seam allowance.

Cutting the inside material

Step 9 - Cut along the seam of the PJ top until just the front panel remains,

Step 10 - Measure a square that matches the size of the newly sewn outside material (length 24cm x height 28cm) and cut to this measurement. Again, watch for the stretch in this material and how it could affect your measurements.

Zipper Time!
It is okay if your zipper is longer than your material. You can cut it and surge over top of the zipper to make a new stop or you can leave it long and just have it tucked inside the pencil case.

Step 11 - Lay the inside material down with the side you want to see facing up. On top of this lay the zipper facing upwards, lining it up with the left side of the material. Lay the outside material face down on top of the zipper and pin/clip once lined up.

Step 12 - Sew along the zipper allowing for a small seam allowance (amount depending on how much of the zipper you want to see). Stop sewing when you get to the edge of the material. This is a really great video on how to sew a zipper.

Step 13 - Flip the material over so the outside piece is now facing up with the zipper on top. Flip the bottom up so that the secondary outside material is sitting on top of the zipper and pin/clip into place. This will feel like you are doing it wrong but trust me, you aren't.

Step 14 - Follow the same instructions as in Step 12.

Sewing the sides
Not going to lie. I got really confused during this part and was convinced that I had completely messed this thing up. It took a lot of sitting back and looking at what I had done and walking through what I wanted to happen until I figured out how to fold that material to sew it where it needed to be sewn. If you mess it up and sew in the wrong place that is okay, just carefully unstitch and start over again.

Step 15 - Flip the material inside out so the inside piece is facing out towards you. The zipper will be upside down so unzip it a bit so you can still access the pull when you need to. Pin/clip the first short edge and sew from the bottom all the way to the top and over the zipper.

Step 16 - Repeat Step 15 on the opposite side.

Finished product

Step 17 - Unzip the zipper all the way and flip the pencil case material so the inside is now inside.

Step 18 - Tie a small ribbon to the zipper pull to make it easier to open. I opted for a piece of material that B had pulled off of his quilt that his Great Grandma made.


Try using the material that is around the pockets of the jeans so that when the pencil case is sewn it has pockets on the front and back. This will be a handy place for putting materials that are currently in use, like different coloured pencil crayons while colouring or an eraser and ruler while doing math.

Simplify the pattern and eliminate the inside material. The look of the inside of the jeans when you open the pencil case will still look really cool. To do this skip Steps 9-10 and eliminate all steps that involve the inside material in Steps 11-14.

Leave your mark by stitching a small heart (or other shape) on the front bottom corner. Do this step before you begin sewing pieces together, ensuring you account for the seam allowance.

Made your own version? Let's see it! 

Yes I probably should have just done this whole post as a video but that would have required me to clean the house so.....

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  1. Really cute idea! Love the fabric you chose.

    1. Thanks! I was pleasantly surprised how it turned out.

  2. What a good idea! I love it!

  3. This is so cool! I would love to get a sewing machine to take on projects like this. :)

    1. I don't have a sewing machine either, did the whole thing by hand. But I am totally checking out machines now so I can make more things.