pencil pouch in navy blue waxed canvas with jeans gold topstitching and leather trim

Handcrafted Christmas gifts 2018

I’ve been in the process of shifting my business Oxford Dogma from hand sewn products to artwork, including custom pet portraits. One of my goals with this change is to put sewing back on my hobbies list to do for enjoyment instead of for income. This got me totally enthusiastic to sew Christmas gifts again! Something I haven’t done in a few years (I think 2015 was the last time).

canvas zipper pouches - handmade Christmas gifts 2018

Things got rolling when I chose Noodlehead’s Canvas Pencil Pouch Tutorial as my starting point. Normally I deliberate for days on end when it comes to choosing a sewing project, but I thought one of these pouches would be perfect for my nephew who loves to draw. I loved the zipper Anna uses in the tutorial, and ordered a set of 5 from Zipit on Etsy for my project. And after a somewhat disastrous attempt to wax my own canvas, made things easier on myself by ordering a yard of hand waxed canvas from A. L. Frances Textiles on Etsy.

With 5 of these zippers on hand, the navy waxed canvas, and plenty of different canvas options in my stash, I was able to also make pouches for my mother-in-law, a close friend, and a Dopp kit for my brother. The Dopp kit is my own design, not the Noodlehead pattern. And with one zipper left, I found a beautiful fabric from Rifle Paper Co/Cotton + Steel on Etsy that I thought my mom would like.

waxed canvas pouches with metal zippers and leather trim
A set of waxed canvas zipper pouches for my brother (the Dopp kit) and nephew (the pencil pouch).
navy blue waxed canvas dopp kit zipper pull and snap detail
This snap-strap detail was highly experimental — I’m so glad it worked out right!

I thought it would be fun to make some stickers for my nephew’s pencil pouch (always looking for reasons to use my Silhouette Cameo and the pack of label sheets I bought for it!). This sent me on a mission to learn about drawing Kawaii style illustrations. I filled some in with color and left some as black line art so he can color them in himself. If you’ve never doodled cute characters like these I highly recommend it — totally delightful.

For my mother-in-law, I used one of the same printed canvas fabrics from the big tote I sewed her back in 2015. I really like the color block design Anna used in her tutorial and went with that same concept here, pairing the canvas with a dark denim.

zipper pouch in yellow stripes canvas with denim contrast and metal zipper - Noodlehead pattern
Jeans gold topstitching complements the dark denim color block plus echos the yellow stripes of the canvas
denim and yellow stripes canvas pencil pouch - Noodlehead pattern
Detail of zipper and leather pull

For my friend I chose black and grey canvas, again in the color block style. And for hers I added a foldover leather detail.

zipper pouch in light grey and black canvas with leather accent - modified Noodlehead pattern

black and grey pencil case - modified Noodlehead pattern

To choose the fabric for my mom’s zipper pouch — which I imagine her using more as a toiletries bag than a pencil case — I thought about the colors she likes to wear and how her middle name is Rose. When I came across the Rifle Paper Co. fabrics I fell in love with them and chose one that would work well for this slender pouch. There was one I liked even more than this one, but the scale of the print was much too large for what I was trying to achieve.

zipper pouch in Rosa Natural by Rifle Paper Co - Noodlehead pattern
Fabric: Rosa Natural by Rifle Paper Co.

pencil pouch in Rosa Natural Linen Canvas - Rifle Paper Co Fabric with metal zipper - Noodlehead pattern

I think everything turned out great and I’m really happy with the results. The Noodlehead tutorial helped make these a joy to create. Treating myself to nice zippers and fabrics helped, too! I enjoyed digging into my stash of leather and hardware, putting them to use in new-to-me, interesting ways.

It was very rewarding to be able to learn new things and experiment while creating gifts for the people I care about.

Zippered battery pouch: like a fanny pack, but sleeker

from Instagram: I had fun making this custom project for my neighbor. He loves location-based gaming and needed a slim, belted pouch to hold his @anker_official portable charger. Like a fanny pack, but not so fanny pack-like 😛 My new machine sewed the ballistic nylon fabric like a dream ❤️
shave kit for TechShop workshop

DIY waxed canvas shave kit workshop for makers

handcrafted DIY waxed canvas shave kit maker workshop

The fourth project in a workshop series I’m teaching at TechShop Chandler is for a waxed canvas shaving kit. It’s such a cool and functional project, and my first time working with fabric wax. This project expands on the skills learned in previous classes for the lined drawstring bag, denim tool roll, and simple zipper pouch.

DIY canvas shave kit ready for waxing

We’ll also be making our own zippers from zipper tape and pulls, which is a great skill to have. It’s possible to buy zippers and cut them down to size, but with this technique we’ll be removing the unnecessary zipper coils from the tape and installing metal zipper stops. That’s the part that really makes it have a nice professional look. Plus, I selected a long pull and heavier coils than the standard all-purpose zipper so it’s a more substantial feel and nice experience to use.

I toyed with the idea of a metal zipper, which would have looked very appropriate with the waxed canvas, but I was concerned about rusting since it’s a shave kit. So I went with plastic instead.

The 5″W x 10″L x 3″H shave kit also has a nylon lining, boxed corners, pull tab, and strap on one end that acts as a handle. It’s a versatile project and I’d love to make more some time, especially because I’ve got all the instructions written out step by step!

pull tab on DIY canvas shave kit

As with all of the sewing projects in this series, the goal is for students to build basic skills and gain confidence at the sewing machine which can be applied to their own ideas and projects.

Key elements of the waxed canvas shave kit workshop include:

  • learning how to choose a needle and thread for your fabric so when you do a project on your own you have a better idea of where to start
  • learning how to assemble the pieces of a lining so that you can apply those principles to a future project
  • pressing seams, a key step to a high quality final project
  • applying interfacing to stabilize or thicken a fabric in order to give you the final results you want
  • learning how to make a zipper from zipper tape, a zipper pull, and stops that’s the exact length and color you want with professional results
  • learning how to install a zipper, opening up more opportunities for your projects to fit a shape better or hold things without the risk of them falling out like with a button closure
  • sewing straight and even seams so that the final project looks nice and clean
  • sewing stitch lines that are meant to be visible from the exterior of the project (topstitching), which can be decorative or functional, as with holding down the fabric so it doesn’t get caught in the zipper
  • making strong and clean finish straps
  • making double fold binding, a solution for finishing edges of fabric that’s applied to the outside rather than hidden inside seams
  • applying wax to the exterior canvas so that the bag is water resistant

Class is Wednesday, August 3, at 5:30 p.m. at TechShop Chandler. Sewing machines and materials are provided. All you need to do is register and show up! You can visit the Waxed Shave Kit class registration page for more information or to sign up.

learn to sew a simple zipper pouch workshop

Simple zipper pouch sample for upcoming workshop

When you learn how to install a zipper, it opens up lots of new project options. And when you sew a zipper pouch, you’ll want to sew many more. Or at least I did!

learn to sew a simple zipper pouch workshop

sewing a simple zipper pouch for beginners

I’m teaching a workshop at TechShop Chandler on June 1 so more people can learn to sew this versatile project. Students will learn many essential skills in this class that they’ll be able to apply to their own projects.

  • learn how to choose a needle and thread for your fabric so when you do a project on your own you have a better idea of where to start
  • learn how to assemble the pieces of a lining so that you can apply those principles to a future project
  • press seams, a key step to a high quality final project
  • apply interfacing  to stabilize or thicken a fabric in order to give you the final results you want
  • learn how to install a zipper, opening up more opportunities for your projects to fit a shape better or hold things without the risk of them falling out like with a button closure
  • sew straight and even seams so that the final project looks nice and clean
  • sew stitching lines that are meant to be visible from the exterior of the project (topstitching), which can be decorative or functional, as with holding down the fabric so it doesn’t get caught in the zipper

Class is Wednesday, June 1, at 6:00 p.m. at TechShop Chandler. Sewing machines and materials are provided. All you need to do is register and show up! You can visit the Simple Zipper Pouch class registration page for more information or to sign up.

quick and cool grocery tote

Handmade Christmas gifts 2015

Clockwise from large picture on left: Great Big Tote, Home and Away Cable Cozy, Quick and Cool Grocery Tote, Zippy Wallet

For this year’s Christmas presents, I wanted to do some sewing, something that fit each recipient’s personal style and interests.

Both my parents and my husband’s parents like to travel, so for the guys I made Home and Away Cable Cozies. This pattern includes a zipper pouch, which went together fine, and strips of elastic to hold cables. That part was trickier. For the first one, I tried stitching down just the width of the elastic, which required tying off each thread end. For the second one, I learned my lesson and ran the stitches all the way across the panel, allowing them to simply be backstitched at each end.

For my mom and a close friend, I made Quick and Cool Grocery Totes from Sewing to Sell by Virginia Lindsay. This was a fun pattern to make because it’s an efficient use of fabric, and it accommodates different fabric widths (which was good because I ran into that issue with my fabric choices). Boxing out the bottoms was an interesting and challenging experience. I couldn’t envision how they would come together, and had to just go for it (“use the Force” as a friend would say). Luckily it worked out just great!

My sister-in-law tends to like dark, basic colors (like me) and has simple, unfussy taste. I thought she’d appreciate a little Zippy Wallet for unencumbered trips to the store or whatnot. It turned out cute, except I wish I had attached the snap with my new snap tools — this one is a little unrefined.

And I also made two zippered pencil pouches for my nephews that didn’t get photographed — one in a Minions fabric, and the other in Skylanders fabric. I filled them with some mini markers and Field Notes-style notebooks with their names printed on them.

It feels great to sew something special for loved ones, and I hope the projects get lots of use. One of the best parts of this project is that I started making them back in August, making it a relaxing experience free of rushing and pressure. That’s definitely going on the calendar this August, too!

Zippered knitting project bag

Zippered Knitting Project Bag

Full immersion into sewing made me forget about knitting for a spell. And recently I was re-inspired to pick my needles up again, which is a good excuse for…a sewing project! Specifically, a zippered bag to hold my current knitting project, the Guernsey Wrap from Brooklyn Tweed.

Guernsey Wrap in progress in zippered knitting bag
The interior patch pocket holds the yarn labels and needle package

Process Notes


  • 15 in. nylon zipper
  • exterior: Robert Kaufman Chambray Union Light; Country Classics quilting cotton in Teal Blue; Kona Cotton in Charcoal; heavy cotton denim
  • lining and strap: linen blend in natural; Robert Kaufman Chambray Union Light
  • Pellon SF101 fusible woven interfacing on exterior pieces; sew-in fleece interfacing on lining pieces
  • light grey top stitching thread for top stitching the denim panel


  • 75/11 sharp needle for piecing the exterior panels
  • 100/16 jeans needle for the denim portions
  • 90/14 sharp needle for construction and top stitching

For the exterior panels, I cut strips 15 in. wide, with pieced height totaling 13 in. I cut lining to 15 x 13 in., with some trimming to square it up after piecing.

For construction, I basically followed the Open Wide Zippered Pouch tutorial on, adding an interior patch pocket and exterior strap.


It was really fun putting some nice fabric scraps to good use on this bag. I went with denim on the bottom section because it’s sturdy, and the lining is a light color so it’s easy to see what’s inside. I love the color combo, especially the way the natural linen coordinates with the blues.

Zippered knitting project bag

Zippered knitting project bag

The zipper tab isn’t awesome — it’s great on the top side, but on the bottom side the folded edges are poking out. It was a bear to get on straight, so I didn’t feel like ripping it out and trying again.

On the strap, the accent fabric with topstitching worked really well. But it would have been better to rotate the strap 180° so the edge with the folds was facing down and the clean edge was facing up. I was so focused on remembering to insert it in the right place that I forgot to check the orientation of it.

When drafting the size to make this bag, it seemed plenty large, and maybe even too large. But the final bag, at 13 1/2 in. wide x 9 1/2 in. tall x 4 in. deep, is definitely not too large. Stuffing it with yarn somehow shrank it! It remains to be seen whether the Guernsey Wrap will still fit as it grows.

If I were to do it over, I’d increase the height by a couple of inches and skip the fleece interfacing on the lining. But all in all I really like this bag, and it’s good to have a home for my knitting project.


Sewing skills project 7: Carry-All Clutch


Carry-All Clutch from School of Sewing by Shea Henderson

Project features:

  • sewn curves
  • hook and loop tape
  • zipper closure + zipper tape ends
  • sturdy interfacing
  • attached key fob

Process notes


  • dark navy chambray
  • Moda Weave in a light grey
  • Pellon 987F fusible fleece
  • Pellon 808 Craft-Fuse fusible interfacing

Equipment and settings:

  • Microtex 80/12 needle for most of the project, except for the final assembly used Jeans 100/16
  • used default stitch length settings for straight stitches
  • basting stitch #06
  • used pinking shears to trim seam allowances


This is a great size for a small clutch — it easily holds a phone, some cards, and lip balm. And this project was definitely a step forward in complexity with so many new techniques! It also featured more pieces and notions, more layers, and more to align. One thing I’m learning through this process is the importance of taking my time and aligning things carefully because once they’re sewn down, a small misalignment can have a big impact on how straight the final piece is.

I liked the technique of sewing the hook and loop tape down with a zig zag stitch. I wish the tape matched my fabrics better, but I had to make do with what was available at the fabric store.

carry-all clutch with ruffled key fob carry-all clutch open

Joining the lining pieces and exterior pieces around the zipper tape was hard for me. It was really thick there and I had trouble sewing in a straight line while keeping the tape ends free.

When I sandwiched together the lining, zipper, flap, and exterior I didn’t get things properly aligned and my basting stitches were visible on the flap. Also, that set of layers was too far from the zipper teeth. So next time I’ll look at that area more carefully to see if I can get it even.

Considering how challenging it was for me, I was pleasantly surprised how polished my project looked when I turned it right-side out and pressed it into shape. Such a good feeling!

zipper pouch

Sewing skills project 5: Zipper Pouch


Zipper Pouch from School of Sewing by Shea Henderson

Project features:

  • easy zipper
  • fully lined
  • sturdy interfacing
  • topstitching

Process notes


  • navy and white chambray
  • Robert Kaufman Betty Dear by Darlene Zimmerman in Stripe and Dots Lipstick
  • Pellon 931TD medium weight fusible interfacing

Equipment and settings:

  • used microtex 80/12 needle, tension 4 and 5
  • I zipper foot
  • used basting stitch #06 to hold the zipper in place
  • for zipper topstitching used 3.0 stitch length


This is a great medium-sized pouch that opens up nice and wide when fully unzipped.

I had a hard time making the topstitching on the zipper match on all sides and had to rip out the second seam a few times to get it closer to matching the first one. In addition, the fabric got uneven, making it difficult to line up the exterior and lining pieces during the final seaming.

Trimming the zipper tape to 10″ before sewing made it difficult to line all of the pieces up evenly, and a raw edge is starting to poke out from one end of the zipper.

I made a boxed bottom, and according to the instructions making 1 1/2″ notches in the corners of the exterior and lining would form a 2″-deep base. However, my 1 1/2″ notches resulted in a 3″ base. Which is fine, but a pretty big difference. I have yet to find a dependable formula for these boxed corner pouches. It’s going on my list of things to do!

I’d like to work on my zipper skills more to improve the accuracy of my sewing so that all sides of the zipper (either side to left and right, and interior/exterior) match up nicely. This involves basting more precisely, writing down machine settings, and pressing with consistency so that I can reliably sew in a zipper with good results.

I really like how these two fabrics look together.

zipper pouch detail

Adjustments to consider for next time:

  • leave zipper untrimmed until final seaming
  • align layers more carefully so they match up on final seaming
  • try narrow fusible web instead of basting stitch
  • explore some tutorials for making the zipper ends lie flat
fair isle zippered pouch closed

Fair Isle zipper pouch

This knitted zipper pouch is a little different format from my previous two (argyle and chevron) pouches. It has a flat bottom so it can stand up on its own, making it good for traveling.

To make this one open all the way so it’s easy to see what’s inside, I adapted the tutorial for Open Wide Zippered Pouch for sewing with a knitted exterior rather than a fabric one. I also changed the zipper tab up a bit so it’s a pocket that the zipper slides into before stitching it down, rather than the folded-over style from the tutorial.

fair isle zippered pouch open

inside the fair isle zippered pouch

I designed the pouch using a variety of stitch patterns from Alice Starmore’s Book of Fair Isle Knitting, after creating a gauge swatch and determining which stitch patterns would work for my stitch count. I wanted it to be more organic with some plant references rather than modern and geometric in style.

To make this pouch approximately 5 1/2 in. wide x 4 in. high x 2 1/2 in. deep, I started by casting on 46 stitches on size US 3 DPNs and worked a linen stitch, alternating the three yarn colors. I worked this back and forth for 38 rows to form the bottom of the pouch. Then I picked up the stitches around the edge to form the sides of the pouch, placing 41 stitches on each of the long side needles and 19 stitches on each of the short side needles.

After blocking, I sewed the interior (using interface-supported natural cotton canvas), added the zipper, and finished by hand-stitched the exterior to the lining. For this stand-up style pouch, I really like the way the zipper extends past the end and opens all the way up. I’m really happy with how this one turned out.

fair isle zippered pouch in chevron pattern

Chevron Fair Isle zipper pouch

A friend and I were recently chatting about how much we like little zippered pouches. What is it about them that makes them so appealing?? Anyway, we love them. Luckily, we had this conversation after I had finished knitting her Christmas gift: a little zippered pouch.

I’d describe her style as clean, modern, and casual, so I chose a Fair Isle stitch pattern that fits this style. The color scheme is based on her affinity for greys and peacock blue.

inside the chevron fair isle zippered pouch
Surprise! There’s a bright peacock blue lining hiding in this otherwise muted and mellow pouch

The piece was worked in the round on double pointed needles: size US 2 for the stockinette stitches and US 3 for the pattern rows. I cast on 128 stitches and divided them equally onto 4 DPNs (32 stitches each). The chevron pattern is an 8-stitch repeat, 4 rows high. This resulted in 16 total repeats of the pattern around the piece and 46 total rows: 6 rows in stone; 25 rows of blue/stone chevron pattern; 4 rows blue/grey chevron pattern; 10 rows of grey. The final size is 9 in. wide x 5 in. high.


knitted zippered pouch with argyle stitch

Argyle Fair Isle zipper pouch

This zippered pouch is for my knitting needles and little knitting tools. I used a 12-inch zipper and my stash of leftover sock yarns, making a color combination that I didn’t care for at first but has really grown on me.

The stitch pattern is an argyle pattern from Alice Starmore’s Book of Fair Isle Knitting. It’s a 12-stitch repeat, 10-row pattern.

fair isle argyle stitch pattern pouch
Fair Isle argyle stitch pattern
zipper tab
I included these little zipper tabs to make the finish cleaner

I lined it with a zippered fabric pouch liner and attached the knitted piece to the zipper, using this zipper lining tutorial. It has a heavy interfacing, making it hold a solid rectangular shape.

Also pictured in the main photo is a little zippered pouch I made following the course Bag-Making Basics (one of the free courses). I’m so in love with these days.