Thursday, March 4, 2010

Reusable and Washable Lunch Bag, a tute

Reusable and Washable Lunch Bag – A Green ProJEct
Paper bags are costly to the environment, and reusable bags can help us all be better stewards.  This little lunch bag is an easy skill builder and practical, too.  It makes a great gift and allows you to use your imagination as well as your leftover scraps.  I made this one for my daughter's birthday.  It is 10” x 6” which is about the size of a paper bag, but you can adjust the dimensions as you like. 


The best (and greenest) part of this project is that you can recycle fabric from scraps or unwanted garments you’ll be throwing away.  It's lined in a waterproof fabric that's food friendly (you can use an old tablecloth if you like). For Julie's bag, I embroidered this sweet dragon in her favorite colors on the front outer fabric.  I used leftover tulle netting for the stabilizer which worked out great.  Voila -- Green!  It's somewhat simple to make, and is great for the beginner to build their skills; basically you make two bags, put one inside the other and sew them together at the top.  

Here's how you make it:
1.  Cut out the pieces for the outside bag and the pieces for the inside bag (the lining).  Be as precise as you can, you'll appreciate your precision later on, especially when you attach the bottom piece, step #3. 

   You'll need two (2) pieces 10.5" x 4.5" of outer fabric and two (2) pieces the same size of inner fabric.  – a total of four (4) for the sides.

   You'll also need two (2) pieces 10.5" x 6.5" of the outer fabric, and two (2) pieces 10.5" x 6.5" of the inner.  – a total of four (4) for the front and back sides.

   You'll finally need one (1) piece 6.5" x 4.5" for the bottom of the outer bag, and one (1) piece the same size for the inner bag's bottom. 

*If you wish to embroider a design on your sack, do this now using your favorite stabilizer and embroidery method. 

2.  Sewing the sides of the outer bag.   Take one (1) of the 10.5 x 6.5" pieces.  Place one long-side right sides together with one (1) of the 10.5 x 4.5" pieces long-sides.  Sew the two together (along the long-sides) using a 1/2".  Do the same with the other pieces making sure you sew a small piece to a large piece.  After finishing these 4 long-sides, you will have an open-ended box shape.

3.  Sewing on the bottom of the outer bag.  Now place the 6.5" right side of the bottom along the 6.5" side of one of the larger pieces centering the piece as well as you can.  Stitch these two together along this side.  Now, match up the adjacent shorter sides together making sure you're keeping the right sides together, and sew.  Be careful not to catch any of the excess fabric as you're stitching.  Do this for all four sides.  Now you have something that looks like a bag.  BIG HINT!  As you sew these bottom seams, try to start and stop your sewing a stitch or two before reaching seamline.  You won't notice that you haven't completed the box, and nothing will fall out since you're lining the bag.  This way, you won't accidentally sew into the sides which will make it wonky looking.

4.  Do the same procedure for the inner bag.

5.  Putting the inner and out bags together.  Turn your outer bag right sides out, and your inner bag wrong sides out.  Put the inner bag inside the outer bag and match up the edge seams as best as you can.  This is where your cutting precision pays off.  Once you align the seams, baste the two bags together around the top.  HINT:  If one of the bags' sides is larger than the others', then you can take a small tuck at the seam line so the seams won't be very noticeable at the seam lines.

6.  Finishing the top.  You can turn the top over two times and top stitch or use purchased bias binding, as I did here.  Measure around the bag and add 1/2 inch for overlap. Open up the binding, choose an inconspicuous spot to start, then pin it along the wrong side of the lunch sack and stitch carefully along the crease line.  Stop short of the end and fold over the raw edge then finish sewing the rest.  Then refold the tape, bringing the unstitched side over to the front and folding the raw edge under.  Top stitch this all around, stopping before you reach the end again to make sure your raw edge is turned neatly.  Stitch the final few inches and carefully backstitch to secure.

7.  At this point you can leave it as it is, making it a Fold'n'Go sack.  If you wan,t you can place Velcro on the inside to allow closing.  Other ways to add closure is to incorporate a tab on the back looped onto a button on the front, or an elastic band and button.  You would need to add the tab or elastic band before you bind the top.  This example has two giant snaps; the one above has snap tape that I recycled from a pillow cover.  I like using a button and buttonhole, too. 


So, go through your scraps and cobble this nifty lunch bag together for yourself or a loved one, and save a tree or two.

(* This tutorial is available in PDF.  If you would like a free copy, I can email one to you.  Just drop me a line at

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  1. This is great! I made a bunch of reusable sandwich sized bags for my grands.

  2. Oooooh, That's a great idea. That sounds like a lovely way to utilize some of my dinosaur embroidery patterns.....


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