Back-to-School Items to Make (or the I’m not ready to think about school yet list)

At the end of August it will be time for me to go back to my day job as a high school librarian. When do you or your munchkins go back to school?

With the clock ticking, I decided to compile a list of 10 fun projects that I have made, taught or would like to make myself before the hectic days of lunch making, bus catching and busy schedules begin again. These projects also make great teacher appreciation gifts if you ask me.

1. New key chain wristlet:

If you are like me and need your stuff tethered to your person, otherwise you might leave it behind somewhere, then a new key chain wristlet is a stylish way to accomplish this. Picture below is the “Ruffled Wristlet Key Fob” from the book “School of Sewing” by Shea Henderson. I taught this project at Terryville (CT) Public Library and would love to teach this at your library or as a private lesson. With a little math, you could even make this into a lanyard!

Ruffled Wristlet Key Fob pattern (above) and book (below) by Shea Henderson

Instructions are easy to follow, with clear photos of each step. But what really I love about this book are the tips in the margins from people who actually sewed the projects. It helps the maker understand they are not alone in feelings of uncertainty or the need for perfection that plague us all. Remember, grace over guilt!

2. New lunch bag:

Ditch the manky old thing you’ve been carrying your numnums around in for years and make your own “Peas and Corn Lunch Bag” by Sew Sweetness. Included in the pdf pattern are instructions for three different projects: two reusable bags in snack and sandwich sizes (adventurous beginner), a rounded (intermediate level) lunch bag (pictured below) and a top zip (advanced level) lunch bag.

Peas and Corn rounded lunch bag made by The Stitching Coach in a private sewing lesson.

Sara, the genius behind Sew Sweetness, does an excellent job writing clear, concise instructions that even a beginner will understand. She includes actual photos for nearly every step of the process and has a great collection of YouTube videos to support visual learners or those who just need a helping hand.

3. Cord or wireless earbuds case:

If I had a penny for every earbud, charging case or power cords I have found at school I could retire in luxury. Having them in a convenient case that hooks onto a backpack or keychain is great way to make sure you never misplace them again. I adapted the pattern “Pocket Purse” from the book “Knitting: Learn to knit six great projects” by Klutz books. Unfortunately, the original kit is no longer available but you can find the paperback book that was part of the kit from various booksellers online or do what I did and pick it up for free at your local library. I’ve even taught this at Trumbull (CT) Public Library.

Modified “Pocket Purse” pattern from the Klutz book “Knitting”

I modified this to fit my Airpods case by casting on fewer stitches and skipping a few of the decrease rows. You will need to knit a gauge swatch to figure out how many stitches to cast on and where you need to start decreasing to fit your model of wireless earbuds. But if you knit the pattern as written it is the perfect size for earbuds with a cord, tablet power cord or to hold lunch money.

4. Pencil case:

For beginners, I recommend See Kate Sew’s “DIY Pencil Pouch With a Bow” pattern (pictured below top left) and for advanced sewist, try the “Freisian Pouch” by Sew Sweetness. I have taught both projects to young sewists and made the bow pouch for a bag exchange at The New York Sheep and Wool Festival, commonly know as Rhinebeck. Both have well written, easy to follow instructions. Don’t blame me if you make more than one.

Or make this knitted pencil case and try your hand at blending two fiber arts and installing a zipper in knitting. I made one for a niece and remember it being a quick stash buster and not as intimidating as it might look.

5. Gym bag:

Stitch up a drawstring backpack for carrying sweaty gym clothes or sports uniforms in style. I like this one from Apple Green Cottage.

I don’t have a photo of the one I made as a gift since it was before I started documenting my projects. But trust me, it is a fun sew and anyone, young or the young at heart, will love this bag. I sew a more simple drawstring bag in private lessons and in my work with Days For Girls.

6. School supply case:

For the budding artist who loves to carry lots of sketch pads, pencils and other art supplies, try making ByAnnie’s “Fetch Your Sketch.” I made one over a weekend for a niece and another for myself a few years later that I take on camping trips filled with kitchen utensils (pictured below. But this could hold just about any school supplies you or your child may need to carry.

ByAnnie patterns are not for the faint of heart. Beginners may struggle with the number of steps it takes to complete projects but it is well worth the time invested. Instructions are very well written and include good illustrations, but there are no photos or videos to help inexperienced sewists visualize project steps in their mind. If you choose to accept this sewing assignment you will learn to install zippers, work with mesh and vinyl, make handles and assemble dimensional projects. I modified both versions I made with a small purse turn lock from Emmaline Bags instead of the magnetic style recommended in the pattern.

6. Phone/ID/Badge holder:

Lanyards are great for holding an ID card or keys, but this next project takes it even further with a pocket on one side big enough to hold a phone and cash/card for making purchases in the caf and vinyl pocket for a school ID or conference name tag on the other.

Name Tag by Butterfly Threads Quilting

I made the two Name Tags pictured above using the tutorial by Butterfly Threads Quilting for my trip to the 2019 American Quilter’s Society’s Quilt Week in Paducah. But they are also handy for quick errands, classes and other times a big bag will just get in the way.

7. Bookmark

Hold your place with a cute bookmark. I love making bookmarks because they are quick and great for using up small bits of yarn, fabric or floss, so nothing goes to waste. Pictured below (from left) are the Twisted Eyelet Bookmark, Bookmark from the Art Deco Desk Set in The Cross-Stitcher’s Complete Companion and lastly a sampler bookmark of my own design.

8. Device pouch (laptop or tablet)

This is on my personal to-make list because my school provided iPad case is a disaster with the faux leather and rubber edgings peeling off. A few patterns that appeal to me are:

  • Kraft-tex Mini Tablet Case because I’ve been curious about sewing with this faux leather that’s made from paper!
  • Tablet sleeve from the book “Sew Me! Sew and Go: Easy-to-Make Totes, Tech Covers, and Other Carry-Alls” by Choly Knight, author of eight best-selling books by craft book publisher Fox Chapel Publishing. I’ve already put in a request for the book at my public library so stay tuned for a possible book review.
  • And my favorite pattern so far is the Custom iPad Cover from Chica and Jo because the case also serves as a stand, which is perfect for following a pattern in Knit Companion without the glare of lights hindering my vision. I’m thinking I’ll modify their pattern and use Pellon Peltex instead of the chipboard so it can be washed.

9. Hand Sanitizer holder

Let’s be honest, how many of us are really good hand washers – especially kids? Make it easy and convenient for you and your peeps to sanitize before digging into that PB&J by adding a hand sanitizer sleeve to that new lunch bag you made. The Inspired Wren has a cute “Sanitizer Jacket” that uses up small fabric scraps and that button collection we all have in a closet somewhere.

10. Locker organizer

No time to shop for supplies, not a confident sewist or have a younger maker but don’t know how to create a lesson plan that works? Classy Threads has perfected the art of making sewing fun and easy to teach. Kits include everything you need – well written patterns, fun fabrics, thread and more. I have used their kits with students in my school sewing club, library class and a summer sewing camp. Their kits are especially useful if you live in a “craft desert” and finding sewing supplies require long drives or low quality options.

One of the Classy Threads kits I haven’t tried yet with my school sewing club is the “Locker Bin.” Depending on the school, lockers can be all different sizes. My school has very narrow lockers so I’ll need to do some calculations for the organizer to fit.

Well, I hope you found something on this list to make before the first school bell rings. Make sure to share your finished objects with me, @stitchingcoach on Facebook, Instagram or here on my blog.

What are some of your favorite handmade back-to-school patterns? Curious makers want to know.

Hope everyone has an amazing school year,
Coach Dawn

By stitchingcoach

High school librarian by day, crafter for life. I'm an award winning embroider, quilter and knitter. I advise a high school sewing club as well as volunteer with Days for Girls. Students will find I'm passionate about all needle arts and want to pass that along to all generations and skill levels. Learning to sew, knit or hand embroider can be intimidating, but with the right support can become a lifelong hobby that provides joy to your life. Let me show you how to get started. I look forward to helping you exercise your creative side.

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