• Mary Jane

The Pet Food Pencil Case Project

Every time I give Ninja, my borrowed cat (it's complicated) some food, I bemoan the fact that the pouches themselves end up in the bin. Unfortunately, this type of packaging isn't usually accepted by council recycling schemes. OK, you can recycle some brands of pet food pouch (including Whiskas) with the TerraCycle scheme, but that means taking them to a collection point or sending them off by post. Surely there's a more fun, creative and immediate way of doing something creative with this waste?

A couple of years ago I visited a very inspiring recycling scheme in Accra called Trashy Bags. This Ghanaian not-for-profit accessories brand, creates all sorts of wonderful things out of rubbish. I've always wanted to have a go at doing something similar myself, but never had the opportunity - until now!

Three Whiskas pouches sewn together make the perfect size for a pencil case. Add a bit of scrap fabric for the back, and a plastic bag for the lining - and you have yourself a totally upcycled product that's even able to hold wet things like a toothbrush or soap. Plus the fabulous pink shiny surface with cute cat print is soooo delightfully kitsch! It's win win!

If you've never had a go at making a lined zip purse or bag before, may I recommend that you take a look at this excellent on-line tutorial by I've found it really helpful, and it will take you step by step through the process. Apply the same techniques to this pencil case, and you should have no problem. It's essentially all about making the perfect sandwich!

A word about zips before you start. I don't usually use a zipper-foot myself. I use the normal foot on my machine - but do practice first as there's a bit of a knack. Don't sew TOO close to the zip, or you won't be able to open it - there won't be enough room for the zipper to slide up and down. Finally, if you can't find the right length of zip - then worry not. Did you know that you can cut your zip to fit? Nobody tells you this! Just look for a zip with plastic teeth (most are like this anyway) rather than metal ones, as if your machine needle hits that metal zip, it will snap.

Sewing with the plastic pouches is fine, but use a longer stitch length than normal, and avoid using pins. You don't want unnecessary holes in the plastic. When you come to turn your pencil case the right way out do it very carefully - this is when it's possible to rip the plastic. Once it's turned, it will be fine!

This project is suitable for those with some machine sewing skills.

You will need:

A sewing machine, scissors, thread

Three cat food pouches (thoroughly washed and dried)

A zip that fits (see note above)

A remnant of fabric for the reverse of the pencil case

A plastic bag (or more fabric) to make the lining

Clips instead of pins

Remember to use a slightly longer stitch length

  • Trim your pouches to the same size and zigzag together, overlapping slightly. That's the front of your pencil cases sorted.

  • Cut two pieces of either plastic bag or fabric for the lining and one piece of fabric for the reverse. They should all be the same size as the front piece.

  • Lay one of your lining pieces face up and place the zipper at the top (face up). The front piece goes on top (face down). Line everything up and clip in place. Machine stitch the zip in place (check out the tutorial I mentioned if you're unclear how to do this).

  • Now take your other lining piece and place it (face up). Put the zip on top face up (it will have the other bits of fabric attached to it now). Put your reverse piece of fabric on top (face down). Clip in place and stitch in the zip.

  • Open out all the layers and check the zip runs freely. Press the layers out with your hand and top stitch either side of the zip ensuring you pull the layers away from the zip so they all lie flat.

  • Now OPEN THE ZIP (if not you won't be able to pull the pencil case the right way out) and line up the two outer pieces and the two lining pieces. Trim if necessary. The zip will stick up a bit. Push it TOWARDS the lining. Clip everything in place and sew right the way round leaving a gap in the lining for your hand to pull everything through. Trim the corners and the bulk next to where you've sewn the zip.

  • Gently turn the right way out, poking any corners out carefully. Be very careful not to rip the plastic at this stage. Well done! It's purrrr-fect!

Please do share any pictures of what you make. Maybe you'll try this make using other types of upcyclable plastic. Can't wait to see!

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