Zippered Case with Reverse Applique Tutorial

Just in time for the back to school season, this embroidered pencil case is perfect for all ages. This case can be pieced together out of various fabrics or made from just a single cut.

 The addition of hand embroidery elevates this utilitarian item to a whole new level. The pen and pencil motif are embroidered on cotton fabric and then reverse appliqued to the front of the pouch. It's an easy technique that results in a striking effect.

To embroider the design, I used just two of the six plies of cotton embroidery floss. Using a simple back stitch, I embroidered over the lines. Remember, you can always add more detail, fill in areas with color, etc. There are lots of possibilities for embellishment with embroidery.

The Pencil Case


(1) 10.5 " x 8.5 " fabric for the outside - either pieced or a single cut
(1) 10.5 " x 8.5 " fabric for the lining
(2) 1.5 x 7" in strips of lining fabric for the binding and optional tab
(1) long vinyl zipper, at least 10 inches in length
basic sewing supplies, zipper foot, iron

*Note - 1/4 inch seam allowance throughout

1. Cut strips of fabric and sew them together, making a larger piece of fabric. Press the seams open. Cut this larger piece to 10.5"x8.5" or cut a single piece of fabric to that size. Also cut the lining fabric to 10.5"x8.5"

2. Arrange the outer fabric so that the longer sides are running vertically. Fold up 4 inches of the bottom edge. Press and make a crease. This will be the front portion of the case that is below the zipper. You will be placing your embroidery on the right hand side of this area. ( You might like to mark the bottom fold crease on the wrong side so that you have a reference point for folding when the case is eventually turned inside out.)

3. Cut the embroidery into a rectangle with approx. one inch of extra fabric all around the stitching. Cut another piece of the fabric to the same size and place it behind the embroidery. Look at the front of the pencil case and eyeball where you want to place your embroidery. You will be placing it on the back side of the fabric, facing forward, and then cutting away the front fabric to reveal the embroidery beneath it.

4. Rotate and turn over the large piece of fabric and open up the fold. Place the embroidery face down onto the wrong side of the fabric. When opened up like this, the top edge of the fabric is aimed up, so be sure to lay your embroidery face down with the top of the design toward the top of the opened fabric.
If you find it helpful, place pins on the front side to help guide your placement on the back side. Once you are ready, stitch around the design, creating a rectangle approximately 1/2 inch away from the embroidery. I drew a rectangle with a water soluble ink so I would have a guide. Of course, you can stitch some other shape around your design and create a totally different look.

5. Turn the fabric over and carefully lift the outer fabric away from the embroidery. Make a small snip in the middle of the rectangle and then cut away the fabric, 1/8 inch from your stitching line. To strengthen the seams that were cut to remove the rectangle of fabric, I stitched on top of my previous line of stitching, being sure to back-stitch when I crossed over the seams.

6. Place the lining fabric and the outer fabric wrong sides together. Pin.

7. Top stitch next to the seams, around the reverse applique, and wherever else you would like. This step stabilizes the fabrics as well as reinforces the seams and acts as a design element.

8. Sew a line of stitching 1/4 of an inch away from the edge on both the bottom and the top of the pencil case - i.e., the shorter ends. This is going to act as your guide for pressing in the next step.

9. Fold and press the top and bottom edges to the inside, using the stitching line as a guide, but fold over approximately 1/8 inch beyond the guide. The line helps keep your fold even. These folds will be stitched down to the zipper next.

10. Line up your zipper with the bottom fold, both ends extending beyond the fabric.

With a zipper foot, stitch the fold to the zipper. I used a triple stitch, which creates a thick line of stitching. It is optional.

11. Using a marker, make a line on the zipper tape where the fabric begins and ends. Unzip the zipper and extend it past the edge of the fabric. Match the upper fold to the lines you drew on the zipper tape, and stitch to the zipper the same way as the other side.
Press the case, noting the folds on the top and bottom edges. You will need to turn the case inside out and re-press these creases in the opposite direction in a following step, so you may find it helpful to make a small mark on the creases inside the pencil case.

12. Optional Side Tab - cut a 1.5 inch strip of fabric and then press it in half. Open it out and press the two sides toward the center fold, but not all the way. Fold the strip in half again, encasing the raw edges. Edge stitch the strip and cut into 2 inch lengths. You may choose to place a tab at both sides of the pencil case, or just one, as in the demo.

13. Turn the case inside out and just partially close the zipper. Carefully re-crease the case. You will need the zipper pull to be inside the case, not extending beyond it. With the non zipper side facing down, place the tab of fabric against the right side of the fabric, raw edges extending beyond the seam allowance. You can place the tab anywhere along the side. I chose to place it directly below the zipper. Stitch the tab to hold it in place.

14. Note that the zipper is partially closed. Stitch both sides of the zipper tape to secure. Stitch right across the teeth of the zipper. Next, trim away the excess zipper tape.

15. Binding. Cut two strips of 1.5 " x 7 " lining fabric.

16. Pin the strips to the sides of the case, right sides together, folding the excess length over to the back. Stitch.

17. Open out the strip and press well.

18. Turn over the case and press the strip toward, but not quite touching the seam allowance. Fold the strip once more, covering the seam allowance and binding the edge. Pin to keep in place and then turn over the pencil case.

19. Stitch very close to where the strip was initially sewn to the sides. This is called stitching in the ditch because you are stitching in the recessed area. Repeat on the other side.

20. Turn the case right sides out and press. Work the corners with your fingers to adjust the bulk of the bound seams. Press again. Trim any remaining threads. Enjoy your new pencil case!

As an alternative to the reverse applique, you may like to simply attach the embroidery as a patch to the front of the pouch. Create a textural frayed edge by stitching away from the cut edge of the fabric and then pulling out some of the warp and weft threads to make fringe.

The pencil case in the photograph was made with a single piece of heavy linen and lined with a cotton print. Because there were no seams to stitch next to, I stitched randomly across the fabric, overlapping in some areas and back-stitching in others to add texture as well as stabilize the outer and lining fabrics.

Another option for this project is to leave out the applique and embroider directly onto the outer fabric of the pencil case. I hope you enjoy making and using your new case.

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