Guest blogger series | Custom lunch bag

by Admin on 24/09/2011

in Guest blog series2 2011, Home+Decor, Sewing+Fabric, Whip Up Tutorials

Jackie Boucher is a freelance designer ( with past gigs including “Look of the Games” designer for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games and managing the creative department for an NHL hockey team. She’s also a contributing writer for Apartment Therapy’s ohdeedoh. Her current passions include fabric design, blogging, photography, travelling with her family and making healthy, cute lunches for her 7 year old boy. Jackie is an apartment dweller with her husband and son in downtown Vancouver, Canada where they like to play in the mountains and on the sea.

I’m completely new to this sewing thing; sure I’ve dabbled here and there but if you must know, I took industrial arts in high school and missed out on ‘home economics’ altogether. It’s my new love of fabric design that has brought me into the world of sewing. I currently have about a dozen project ideas floating around in my head but with the start of school in the air this particular project floated to the top: a custom lunch bag to carry a new set of stackable, cylindrical lunch containers that we bought at IKEA. This bag could be made to fit a more traditional tiffin or round bento box as well.

What I did:
CHOSE FABRICS I chose a fabric for each of the 4 components: The outside tube, the bottom circle, the pocket (for holding a napkin that I had made earlier) and the lining. I chose fleece for the lining to add an insulation factor. Using some sort of water proof fabric is another option. I chose fleece because I think it will last longer, especially the number of times I think this will end up in the wash. My other fabric choices are from my Robot Gear Garden collection that I designed using Illustrator and had produced at Spoonflower*.

CUT FABRIC Our lunch containers stack up to 6” high and 6” across. Starting with the bottom circle of fabric, I added 1.5” of wiggle room so that the diameter of the circle is 7.5” (plus a little seam allowance). I cut the same sized circle out of the fleece lining as well.

Next, I cut the fabrics for the tube at 11” high. This factors in the height of the lunch container (6”), some extra height so that it can close properly (3“), the folded over part creating a pocket for the drawstring (1“) and some seam allowance (1”).

Finally, I dredged up some grade 8 math to figure out how wide the fabric for the tubes should be. I took the 7.5” diameter of the bottom circle and multiplied it by 3.14 (П) which gave me approximately 23.5” in circumference. So in my case, I cut a 24” x 11” rectangle in both the inner and outer fabrics.

THE NAPKIN POCKET First I hemmed the top of the pocket. Then I top stitched it down each side. I didn’t bother with the bottom because that will take care of itself when I sew on the bottom piece. The finished size of the pocket is about 3” x 3.5”.

MADE TWO TUBES Next I sewed each tube separately. But first, I hemmed the top 1.5” where the drawstring pocket will eventually be. And it was at this 1.5” mark where I started to join the tubes. I actually didn’t bother hemming the fleece because it won’t fray. Note that it’s best if the fleece tube is slightly narrower than the outer tube to reduce bunching. I increased the hem size on the fleece to achieve this.

PINNED AND SEWED BOTTOMS I sewed on each bottom inside out after a careful pinning session. And when I say “I”, I mean my husband did this while I made us some lunch. It’s nice to have a tag team. It’s no accident that I gave him one of the trickier parts of the whole project to do. I’m clever like that. He noted that sometimes you have to do tiny gathers as you go around the circle, especially if the fabric doesn’t have a lot of give.

ASSEMBLED BAG I turned the outside tube so that it was right side out but kept the fleece lining inside out when putting them together. That way, all the seams are happily out of view.

PINNED AND SEWED DRAWSTRING POCKET First I folded the top of the bag over so that about 1” of the fleece lining was showing at the top of the bag. Then I folded about a ¼” of that edge under, as a hem, and pinned it carefully. Finally I top stitched around the hem which made a pocket for the drawstring.

THREADED DRAWSTRING I put a safety pin on the end of the drawstring, inserted it in one hole and slowly worked it through to the other hole. Finally I cut it, being careful to leave enough for tying it off at the end.

*Interested in trying your hand at designing your own fabric? If you can produce an 8” x 8” jpg of artwork, even if it started out as a vector file (such as I did with Illustrator) and you get a handle on how to make the design so that it will ‘repeat’ seamlessly, then you can do it too. If this all sounds new to you but you are intrigued, take some time to pore over the information and supporting links on Spoonflower’s help page.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ella September 24, 2011 at 2:00 pm

This would also make a fabulous sock knitting sack.


2 Vivian November 29, 2012 at 2:12 pm

You are a great designer! I love your work and the fabric! Thanks for sharing. ;)


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