Upcycled DIY Pencil Holders

This post is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group® and All You, but all my opinions are my own. #lifeforless #pmedia http://cmp.ly/3/8vNxcO

I started reading All You magazine back in my couponing days: it’s known as “the magazine that pays for itself” because of its many high-value coupons. Back then, it was only available at Walmart, but that’s recently changed. Now it’s available all over: I grabbed my new issue at Target.


The July issue is packed with all things summer–summer style, summer recipes, even summer reading. Appropriately, I read mine in the backyard while sitting sandbox duty. I added this book to my to-be-read list and made a note to try the peanut butter s’mores recipe. (It’s not all summer: I was happy to see a nod to Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover in an article about kicking debt, and downloaded a few new picks from their Ultimate Guide to Money-Saving Apps.)


The July issue debuted a new column called Take this, make that. Every month, two crafty bloggers each take an object (this month’s pick: tin can) and repurpose it into a pretty home accent. One blogger created a cute little storage container; the other made a floral lantern.

As I mentioned in the comments here, we’ve been struggling with a completely embarrassing problem at my house: our pencils are crappy, and we can never find them when we need them. This little thing has been a huge obstacle to getting through our schoolwork. Last week Jillian gave me the scoop on some good pencils; I needed to make sure we can find them when we need them.

I decided to adapt the All You tutorial and upcycle a tin can into a pencil holder. Or rather, into four pencil holders, because one was not enough to solve our pencil problem.


I started with 4 clean tin cans: 3 regular size and 1 small (from a can of tomato paste)

The July issue also featured a DIY involving turning old books and fabric into inexpensive framed art. I borrowed that idea for my pencil holder project.


my materials: scrap fabric, twine, and an old book that’s falling apart. I bet you thought I was going to choose Pride and Prejudice. (I almost did!)

I followed the directions in All You to create the twine-wrapped tin can. (I just wrapped it, adhering it with hot glue. It took forever but it was easy.) Then I used homemade mod podge (it’s easy: half Elmer’s glue, half water) to adhere the fabric and torn book pages to the other cans. You can use a brush if you want to keep things neat, but I just used my fingers to smooth the materials over the can.


decoupage in progress: I smeared my homemade mod podge all over my cut fabric before I wrapped it around the can


I wanted a rustic look, so I left the lip of the can exposed. Add ribbon or trim to the top of the can for a more polished look.

These pencil holders were dirt cheap to make. I used tin cans straight out of the recycling bin, scrap fabric, a decrepit book, one hot glue stick, and a little Elmer’s glue. I bought a 400 foot roll of jute for $3.29; I only used a few feet and my daughters happily seized the roll for their craft cabinet.


I picked up the pencils Jillian recommended at Target, and also grabbed a pack of the brand whose package proclaimed “world’s best pencil.” (Apparently, I’m vulnerable to advertising when I’m desperate.) They were $2.89 and $2.24 per dozen. I skipped right over the Target brand pencils, even though they were way cheaper at 57¢ per dozen. I wasn’t taking any chances!

I sharpened every one of those pencils and placed them neatly in the cans, along with some of our favorite pens.


well-stocked and ready to go


another angle on the Winnie the Pooh pencil holder. it’s my favorite. 

I’ve said one of my strategies for encouraging my kids’ creativity is to surround them with good stuff and give them room to dive in. Not 5 minutes after I’d put these pencils in the holders, my kids grabbed their sketch books and started drawing. (They approve of the pencils, phew!) They don’t want me to claim the Pooh pencil holder on my own desk, but I think that’s a good sign: I’m calling this project a win.

Head here to find out where to purchase All You Magazine near you, as well as download a moneysaving coupon to save $1 off an issue.

Is this a DIY you would try?

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  1. Linda says:

    I love this idea. I may have to try this one out before the beginning of our school year. I have to admit up front that ripping a book apart made my heart stop. I lovelovelove Winnie the Pooh. He’s totally my favorite and I have the very same edition that you used. I think that I would have to replace my worn out copy first, then have months of therapy before and after I tear the book apart. 🙂

    • Anne says:

      Yeah, I had a hard time with that, too. But we have two identical copies in our house that haven’t been in a damp basement for ten years, so that helped. 🙂

      I thought about photocopying the pages first. That would definitely work if you don’t want to rip a book apart.

  2. Kimberly says:

    The Ticonderoga pencils won’t disappoint-the cost is worth it because they last so much longer in my experience (there is a reason our school specifies that brand on their lists each fall)

    • Anne says:

      Why didn’t anyone tell me this sooner??? I probably shouldn’t be surprised that the school specifies a specific brand, given all the difficulties we’ve had with cheap pencils this year. I’m so glad you told me that. 🙂

      • Allison says:

        We were on a hunt for good pencils this year too. The pencil situation was stressing us out during school too. I found the American made pencils on Wal mart’s web site and they had a jumbo box of 96 for about 18 bucks so we’ll never run out! They have held up nicely so far. And we order a pencil sharpener from Classroom Friendly supplies that is the coolest pencil sharpener we’ve ever had. We’ve only had it for a few weeks, but it makes the prettiest points on the pencils.

  3. Jaimie says:

    Glad you got the Ticonderoga. That’s all my dad buys–they have an old-fashioned crank pencil sharpener and I MISS it!

    I have old Pringles containers covered in brown paper for pencil holders (why we had Pringles in the house I don’t know for sure). But I like it, and this way all my mugs and cups stay clean and can be used the way they were intended. 🙂

    However, now you’ve inspired me to do something a little more cute for my pencil holders…hm…what sort of things do I have lying around the house that I could use? 🙂

    • Anne says:

      My friend gave me formula containers that are the perfect size for our big supply of markers. When you peel the labels off it leaves shiny silver underneath. They’re pretty as-is, but now I’m thinking of dressing them up because doing these pencil holders was so much fun. 🙂

    • Anne says:

      Seriously, I can’t believe I didn’t know about good pencils before. But I am glad to hear you like the Ticonderoga. (I’ll keep an eye out for Black Warrior.)

  4. I definitely want to try this! We had the same issue with pencils. I could never find them when we needed them! I have sharpened a bunch and put them in a kitchen cupboard for easy access, but I would like a prettier holder like these ones!

  5. Barb S says:

    Do you do anything to smooth the edges of the cans? That’s what worries me about this type of craft. They came out really cute, and I agree about the Ticonderoga pencils. Worth every penny,

    • Anne says:

      Nope, mine seemed smooth to start with. To be extra careful you could completely cover edges with trim, folding it over the lip of the can. It would be safe and cute. 🙂

    • Anne says:

      Aw, thank you! All credit goes to my photography class. I’ve been practicing and I think I’m improving. 🙂 (Seriously, I had nowhere to go but up!)

  6. 'Becca says:

    I love this type of craft! My son made me a pencil holder for Mother’s Day by cutting an old dish detergent bottle in half and decorating the bottom half and putting a few marbles in it; I like the way it looks, but the edge is sharp and the marbles are crucial to keeping it upright. A tin can would work better.

    I decorated a plastic oregano bottle to hold my thrifty homemade scouring powder. It’s funny how a little decorative paper made me feel much happier with it!

  7. Sarah R says:

    lol…I’m nearly tempted to trade in the glass beer-stein glasses I picked up cheap at the dollar store and fight your kids for the Winnie The Pooh holder! I’d do it myself but I would feel sacrilegious cutting up a book!

  8. Jennifer H says:

    I love the Winnie the Pooh one, and since I was just at Half-Price Books, I know they have some of these old classics for $.50. We are still using the one J made S last year (?). It’s just white printer paper wrapped around the can, with a navy ribbon glued around the middle and the words “Friends Forever” written on it (altogether now…awww). We could definitely use some more, though. I just showed S the pictures and he is now rooting through the recycle bin so he can make one (or more) 🙂

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