This bento bag tutorial needs to be shared. Because if I – the most mediocre seamstress of all – can whip it up simply, it means it’s the perfect zero waste project.
You can use these bento bags for bulk shopping, gift wrapping, a lunch box, and even a camera bag. Best of all, it’s simple enough that even a dysfunctional seamstress like myself can whip one up in just about 30 minutes with a sewing machine.
This bento bag tutorial is really, really simple. For your pattern, all you’ll need is a rectangular piece of fabric exactly three times as long as it is tall. My bento bag pattern was 9 inches by 27 inches which makes a medium-sized bag. Feel free to make the bag as large or small as you’d like – as long as you keep that 3:1 ratio in mind – but I found that this size is very versatile.
Where I shop for fabric (some links are affiliates):
- second-hand stores. Especially for bags or other items I know will get a lot of use (ie. dirty), older material is cheap and awesome!
- Alexa Organics: all of their fabrics are 100% certified organic cotton printed with eco-responsible, low impact dyes. Baby-specific so a lot of their patterns are childish, but they have some nice, plain-colored fabrics as well.
- Organic Fabric Company: based in San Diego, all of their fabric is “certified GOTS, Oeko-Tex, OCS, or similarly organic certified which covers not only the cotton but also the inks and labor practices in.”
- Fabric.com: huge repository of fabrics with ethical, organic cotton options!
- Joann Fabrics. While they don’t have a ton of high-end sustainable fabric, it is an easy resource if you’re looking for something specific.
When cutting out your fabric, don’t forget seam allowances! I added an extra inch to the length and width so that each side had a 1/2 inch seam allowance – I’ll explain more about that below! So while my bento bag pattern was 9″x27″, I ended up cutting out 10″x28″ so I could make a hem on this bag!
First, start by hemming the edge of your fabric. Remember that 1/2 inch seam allowance? Now’s the time to use it – fold the edges of your fabric once (1/4 inch) and then over 1/4 inch again. (You’re folding it towards the wrong side of the fabric.) Do this on all four sides and pin to hold in place. Sew around the rectangle at the bottom edge of your fold.
Next, you’ll want to fold your fabric into three even parts which will become A, B, and C. If you have an iron, you can press the parts like that. I just make the two folds, put a heavy book on top, and take a few minutes to make coffee. Then unfold the fabric to its full size.
Make sure your fabric is facing right side up at this point!
Fold part C over Part B and sew their tops together. Sew as close to the edge of the fabric as you can, making sure to backstitch at the start and finish to make sure the thread holds even when your bento bag is full of stuff!
Flip the fabric around so that part A is on the right side and the part your just sewed is on the bottom. Fold back part C so that its top edge is not touching any of B’s top edge.
Fold part A over part B, making sure that part C is still folded out of the way. (The first time I made a bento bag I accidentally stitched part C in with A and B, so be careful before you get going!) Sew the tops of part A and B together, making sure to stay as close to the edge of the fabric as possible. Remember: backstitch at the start and finish to make the bag nice and sturdy.
Additional unpictured step: if you’d like your bag to sit up, sew a diagonal line about an inch above the tip of the two corners that have been stitched together (Part B.) then snip off the extra fabric of the corners for a more box-shaped base.
Flip the bag inside out so the right side of the fabric is now on the outside. You’ll see the spot where the two handles meet. To reinforce this area, simply sew a few zig-zag stitches up and down. It can look a little messy, but pick a nicely complementing thread color and make it look like you meant it. Do this to both sides.
Ta-da! And you’ve done it – a super-simple, 30-minute bento bag!
And you’re done!