Pencil Roll Tutorial

pencil roll with pencils

Every time we go for a long trip I buy the boys a packet of pencils so they can entertain themselves in the car. Their drawing books seem to last for ages, but pencils get lost, broken, used in craft creations, or just disappear to places unknown. I hope that the pencils will be more likely to stay together in the roll, hope that they don’t (like pencils in a box, or pencil case, or any other method of containing pencils I have tried) all fall out of the box onto the floor of the car two seconds after the kids open them. It may be wishful thinking, but I’m hoping a pencil roll will solve all my pencil woes (as long as they boys put their pencils back when they are finished with them…and that is probably the wishful thinking bit).

It is the school holidays, so the boys helped to make two rolls, one each. It proved to be a simple project that both kids could actively help with. They chose their pirate fabric from Spotlight a couple of days ago. We washed, dried and ironed it and sat down to make a pattern. We tested the distance needed between rows of stitching to work out what would allow the pencils to fit nicely and decided on 1.5 cm. We decided on a roll that fit 16 pencils (we usually get a packet of 12 coloured and then there is space for some HB pencils for writing as well). The pattern ended up being a rectangle 21 x 28 cm and this included a 1 cm seam allowance on all edges and a few extra millimetres around the edge for top stitching.

pencil roll pattern

We cut out the fabric – three rectangles of the dimensions above. Quilting fabric was used for both the outside of the roll and also the pocket on the inside, and we used 6 oz drill fabric for the inside. I decided not to interface the drill only because it is a robust, relatively thick fabric. If I had been using quilting fabric I would have used an iron-on interfacing.

fabric pieces for pencil roll

Next we folded one of the quilting fabric rectangles in half lengthways with wrong sides together. This was to become the pocket for the pencils. The raw edges were lined up with the raw edges of the drill fabric piece and pinned in place, making sure to place the pocket on the right side of the drill piece. We stitched around the pocket in the seam allowance to make it easier for the kids to do the next step without worrying about pins. My 4-year-old (5 at the end of the year) son currently loves trying to pin fabric pieces together, though he finds it quite difficult.

pinning on the pocket

We turned over the drill piece and used a pencil to draw the stitching lines for the individual pencil pockets on the wrong side of the drill. To do this, draw a line where the folded edge of the pocket is (you can feel it through the drill fabric), then draw in the stitching lines making sure to use pencil and not ink or Texta or some other marker that could run through to the other side of the fabric when it gets wet. Stitch the lines, starting from the raw edge at the bottom of each row and finishing at the pocket fold, making sure to backstitch to secure the threads and using a matching thread for the pocket fabric in the bobbin. Snip the threads. My 6 year old son was able to do all this stitching on his own (supervised, of course, and using a stop/start control on the machine to control the stitching).

The next step was to place the rectangle of outside fabric on top, making sure that the right sides of the drill and outside fabrics are together with the pocket in-between. Stitch around the rectangle, leaving a gap for turning. Trim the corners to reduce the bulk and turn the pencil roll the right way out. Iron and topstitch around the entire rectangle.

clipped corners

Our final step was the add the closure. While Mr. 6 was keen to use Velcro, I had decided that a button and some elastic would be a better option. We used about 25 cm of round elastic, lined the ends together and wound some thread around tightly before tying off. We did the same thing about 1.5 cm from the end to make a small opening to go over the button. I sewed the button onto the outside edge of the pencil roll and we slipped the elastic over. Then the boys excitedly put their pencils into their rolls. The younger one had a bit of trouble and found that it was easier to put the sharpened ends in first, but at 6 my elder son didn’t have any problems. Now we just need another big car trip to test out my Pencil Roll theory. 🙂

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