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This project was written by Helen Wright who blogs at She blogs about her sewing adventures and love of fabric.

Back to School - Barrel Pencil Case Project

How to make a barrel pencil case

Do you want something a little different from your usual rectangular pencil case?  Why not make a spacious round pencil case which will fit plenty of pens in.  Follow the instructions below to make your own.

Sewing supplies

Art Gallery Fabrics Feel The Difference



Fabric – for outside (2 different fabrics if you prefer) and lining. I used Drift by Angela Walters for Art Gallery Fabrics, provided by Hantex.
A Zip
Stiff fabric/interfacing/thicker fabric for middle layer (not required if one of your other fabrics is stiffer)
A circle template (I have used a mug)
A Tape measure
Thread, Sissors, pins etc


Create a circle template, use this to cut out circles of fabric, 2x outer fabric, 2x lining fabric, 2x stiff interfacing. I used the bottom of my mug to get my template.

How to sew a circular pencil case


Measure the circumference of the circle with your tape measure. Measure the length of your zip.These measurements will help you figure out the size of rectangles that you need to cut from your fabric. 

Add approximately 4cm to your zip length, and 4 cm to your circle circumference.

So if for example your circumference is 11cm and your zip 14cm then you will be cutting rectangles which are 15cm wide (11 + 4) and 18cm (14 + 4) long.

 Using these measurements cut rectangles of fabric for the outer layer, lining and middle layer (I used a sturdy linen but calico or interfacing would also work well).

Also cut 2 smaller rectangles (approx.4/ 5cm by 10cm), these will cover the ends of your zip.  You now have all your pieces ready to sew.

Sewing a tubular fabric pencil case

Starting with the small rectangles, Fold them in half and then fold in the cut edges. Slot the zip ends into these neatened ends and sew across the top enclosing the zip ends in fabric.

How to cover the end of a zip

Next, take you outer fabric and fold over one zip edge (about 1 cm). Place the edge of the zip against this folded edge and sewn it on. The top of the zip should be placed against the right side of the fabric.

How to sew your own pencil case Barrel pencil case project

Pin one of the circle ends to the main fabric piece, starting at the middle of the zip. Work it round using your fingers until you reach the zip again. This will tell you where to fold the second edge of the fabric and where the second edge of the zip should be attached. You should now have a tube of fabric with a zip in it.

Back to school sewing projects

 Now pin the circular ends to the tube of fabric (right sides facing) repeat for the lining and the mid layer (using the stiff interfacing circles). 

Make sure the zip is left open!

With the lining, fold back the excess fabric, this will help strengthen the opening. With the mid layer excess fabric can be cut away.

Sewing a barrel pencil case

Then, slowly sew around the edge of the circles. Take your time, and sew a cm or 2 at a time. You will need adjust the tube of fabric every few cms, tucking it under and away from the edge that is being stitched.

Repeat for both ends of the main fabric, lining and mid-layer.

How to make a pencil case
                Left: Lining layer                        Right: External layer

Turn the top layer to the correct side (this is why you need to leave the zip open). Also turn the mid-layer so the stitching is on the inside as per the above image.

Slot the lining layer into the mid-layer, and then pop both of these layers into the  top layer as per the image below.

Sew a lined pencil case


Pin the layers together along the edge of the zip. You may want to turn the whole thing inside out for this.

Then sew the 3 layers together. You can hand stitch this or machine stitch, if you are feeling brave.

Sewing a lined pencil case

Poke into shape, the stiff interfacing should sit and hold out the circular ends.  

Now admire your handy work and fill with pens and pencils.

Pencil case in a barrel shape

Do pop over to the Undomesticated Scientist blog to find out more about Helen Wright, the author of this project.