Using applique to make a zippy school bus pencil case

Yesterday, I showed you how to sew up a pencil-shaped pencil case. Today I want to discuss applique the easy way with this sweet school bus pencil case, another great opportunity for zipper insertion mastery as well! I’ll feature a free pattern download and some very useful sewing notions…HeatnBond Lite Iron-On Adhesive Sheets, COSTUMAKERS General Purpose Closed End Zippers, Fairfield Quilter’s 80/20 Quilt Batting, UNIQUE sewing Wash-out Marker FabricFuse by HeatnBond Quickbond Fabric Adhesive  and Fabric FunFabric Markers

I’m sure we can all think of a child, grandchild, niece, nephew or neighbour who would just love this little pencil case. A great pay-it-forward opportunity as well. Fill it full of snacks or school supplies and give it to a child. Happiness is about giving.

School bus pencil case


  • free PDF downloadable school bus applique pattern available here: School Bus Applique
  • freezer paper
  • lining fabric (blue)
  • batting
  • front fabric (blue as shown)
  • 9” [23cm] zipper (white or to match fabric)
  • scraps of fabric (refer to photo)
    • yellow for school bus
    • black
    • red
    • white
    • gray
  • thread to match
    • black
    • blue
    • yellow
    • white
    • red
    • gray
  • sewing machine
  • free motion foot (optional)
  • walking foot (optional)
  • zipper foot
  • zigzag or open toe foot for your machine
  • fusible web (I used HeatnBond Lite Iron-On Adhesive)
  • FabricFuse by HeatnBond Quickbond Fabric Adhesive
  • flat flower head pins (optional)
  • UNIQUE sewingWash-out Marker (optional but helpful)
  • iron
  • parchment paper or a Teflon pressing sheet (optional
  • small scissors
  • basic sewing supplies
  • light box (optional)

Supplies needed for the school bus pencil case

cutting instructions

From the scraps of fabric listed in the supplies list, cut the following:

  • yellow fabric for the bus – 4” x 6”
  • batting – 12” x 14”
  • lining fabric – 12” x 14”
  • fabric for the front of the pencil case – 10¼” width x 13½” length

sewing instructions

Step 1

Download the School Bus Applique Pattern, print it out and trace each pattern piece individually onto the matte side of freezer paper or printer paper as shown.

Note: If you don’t have freezer paper, I recommend you get some as this is the easiest way to keep applique patterns directionally upright (you do not have to reverse the pattern) and gives you stiffness to cut through the pattern, fabric and fusible with accuracy.

School bus pattern traced onto the matte side of freezer paper

Step 2

Iron the shiny side of the freezer paper pieces onto the right side of the corresponding fabric pieces and cut out with space around the individual pieces as shown.

Note: The shiny side adheres only temporarily to your fabric and will not harm it.

Freezer paper ironed to fabric and cut out roughly

Step 3

Lay each freezer paper applique piece carefully onto the HeatnBond Lite Iron-On Adhesive. The fabric should be wrong side down onto the glue side (shiny side) of the adhesive as shown.

Pattern pieces and fabric laid out on HeatnBond Lite Iron-On adhesive

Step 4

Cover with parchment paper or a Teflon pressing sheet and iron, pressing for about 10 seconds with a hot dry iron.

Ironing the appliques with parchment paper on top to protect the Olisso iron

Step 5

Remove the pressing sheet and let the adhesive cool for a minute. Cut out each pattern piece using the freezer paper pattern as your guide. Cut through all 3 layers, freezer paper, fabric, and HeatnBond Lite Iron-On Adhesive.

Applique pieces cut out accurately through all 3 layers

Step 6

Find the center of your pencil case front fabric and mark with a UNIQUE sewingWash-out Marker; this is to get ready to center the applique in the top ½ of the fabric.

Marking the center of the fabric with UNIQUE sewing Wash-out Marker for applique placement

Step 7

Start to remove the freezer paper and paper backing off the adhesive. Lay out the applique pieces on the front of the fabric to audition, and press with an iron.  Press as you lay down each piece so as not to lose pieces.

Removing all paper and placing applique pieces to build a school bus

Step 8

Keep building the applique and then mark any other details you may want with a UNIQUE sewing Wash-out Marker as shown below. These details also show on the downloaded paper applique pattern.

Marking for satin stitch embellishment with a UNIQUE sewing Wash-out Marker

Step 9

Add hubcap details with a Fabric FunFabric Marker (black) as shown below (optional).  I felt that it was easier to use a marker then to try and applique these tiny details.

Marking details with a Fabric FunFabric Marker

Step 10

Zigzag and satin stitch any remaining details to complete your applique.

TIP It is recommended to stabilize your fabric on the back of the applique to avoid puckering. I ironed the shiny side of the freezer paper to the back of the entire upper half of my front of the pencil case fabric before starting the satin stitch.

Satin stitching with an open toe foot

Step 11

It’s time to sandwich the lining and front of the pencil case. Sandwich the batting in between to be ready for quilting as shown.

Sandwiching the pencil case with the front fabric, batting and backing

Step 12

Quilt as desired and square up the quilted sandwich. As you can see, I quilted a spiral, reminiscent of the tires – the wheels on the bus go round and round…

Quilting the pencil case

It’s time for zipper insertion. We’re going to do it like we did yesterday where we glue basted one side of the zipper and hand basted the other side. Both are great time savers and allow the zipper to be secured while sewn with a zipper foot.

Step 13

Run a bead of glue with FabricFuse by HeatnBond along the upper right edge of the pencil case fabric (above the school bus as shown), lay the zipper right side down along the edge matching sides, allow to dry for 5 minutes, and then sew with a zipper foot.

Running a bead of FabricFuse along the top edge of the pencil case

Allowing the glue to dry for 5 minutes

Step 14

Once the upper side of the zipper is sewn with a zipper foot, fold the bottom (RS) edge up to match the RS edge of the other side of the zipper and hand baste as shown. Sew once again with a zipper foot; you can remove basting stitches and cut off any excess zipper end at this point in the process. The needle position needs to be to the far left, and stitch close to the zipper teeth or look at your zipper foot and adjust the needle position as necessary.

Pencil case rolled up to other right side of zipper and hand basted

Back side of zipper, zipper is hand basted on one side and glue basted on the other

Zipper sewn by machine with a zipper foot, needle position to the far left

Step 15

With the right sides of the fabric together, the zipper prongs teeth facing upwards and zipper open to the middle, use flat flower head pins to pin both sides and sew with tack stitches at each end.

Zipper pinned with zipper prongs upward and sides pinned

Pencil case pinned on both sides

Step 16

Clip the corners.

Lining complete with corners clipped

Step 17

Turn to the right side and admire your efforts!

The finished school bus pencil case, ready for a new little student

I hope you enjoyed today’s pencil case tutorial. Tomorrow I’m talking about making a whimsical markers case soft and pretty but could be made in any colors. You’ll see more of the HeatnBond Lite Iron-On Adhesive, COSTUMAKERS General Purpose Closed End Zippers, Fairfield Quilter’s 80/20 Quilt Batting, UNIQUE sewing Wash-out Marker FabricFuse by HeatnBond Quickbond Fabric Adhesive and Fabric FunFabric Markers and just how awesome these sewing notions are.

This is part 3 of 5 in this series

Go back to part 2: Sewing up a sharp-looking pencil case for back-to-school

Go to part 4: Stay organized and sew up a Pretty Zippered Pencil Case


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