When my sons began attending full day preschool last year, I found myself intimidated by the prospect of packing lunches. Such a simple act, yet somehow so very perplexing, I’m not sure why. As the year went on we fell into some sort of rhythm that seemed to work well enough for all. That seems to be the way of these things: worry and wonder, then act out of necessity, and slowly grow a bit more comfortable in the rhythm.
I did quickly grow tired, however, of the parade of plastic bags used to corral the bits and pieces, then either discarded (with cringing at the waste) or washed (with grumbling at the unwelcome task); and so, I made up a batch of reusable bags that were fun to use, I felt good about, and could be simply tossed in with a load of laundry when in need of a cleaning.
These simple bags are easy to make, adjustable, offer the chance to get rid of (at least some!) of those plastic bags, and add a bit of fun to the job of lunch-packing to boot.
I have made two sizes: a larger, sandwich-sized bag, and a smaller, snack-sized bag. The instructions below are for the larger size, with measurements for the smaller size following in parentheses. For a lining, options include a waterproof utility fabric such as PUL, rip-stop nylon, or second cotton fabric such as unbleached muslin. If using rip-stop nylon or cotton as a lining, I would suggest adding to your materials list one piece of muslin cut to the same size as the lining, to be sandwiched in the middle of the outer cotton and inner lining. This will help to keep your foods a bit fresher.
1 piece cotton fabric, 15.5” x 6.75” (9.5” x 6.75”)
1 piece lining fabric, 15.5” x 6.75” (9.5” x 6.75”)
2 lengths hook and loop tape, 4” (2”)
Coordinating thread (coordinating to velcro and to outer cotton fabric)
Scissors or rotary cutter & mat
Fabric marking pen or pencil
Knitting Needle or similar
Cut cotton and lining fabrics to size. Cut hook and loop tape as follows:
2 pieces of hook tape, 1”/ea (2 pieces of hook tape, 1”/ea)
2 pieces of loop tape, 4”/ea (2 pieces of loop tape, 2”)
Mark the cotton and lining fabrics on the top right side for placement of the hook and loop tape as follows: for the cotton piece, mark 1.5” from top and 1 ⅜” from each side (1” from top and 1 ⅜” from each side); for the lining piece, mark .75” from top and 1 ⅜” from each side (.5” from top and 1 ⅜” from each side).
Match loop tape to marks on cotton fabric and hook tape to marks on lining fabric and pin. Sew around each piece approximately ⅛” from edge of tape.
Line up cotton and lining pieces with right sides together. Hook and loop tape should be at opposite ends (see photo). (If using an additional piece of cotton fabric, this would be layered on top of the outer cotton piece, against its wrong side.)
Pin both long sides, as well as the short side with the loop tape, leaving the short side with hook tape open. Sew three pinned sides at ¼” and clip sewn corners.
Turn bag right side out, using a knitting needle or similar tool with a blunt point to gently push out the corners. With an iron on low heat , being careful not to touch the lining (if using a non-cotton fabric) or hook and loop tape directly with the iron, press sewn edges.
Turn in the raw edges of open side approximately ¼” and pin closed.
Fold up the bottom (the short side with the loop tape) so that it is 2” from the top (the pinned short side). Carefully match up the folded sides (lining against lining) and pin each side.
Sew three sides with an edgestitch (approx. ⅛” from edge), being careful to catch both front and back layers in the stitching, beginning at the bottom left corner, proceeding to the top left corner, top right corner, and ending at the bottom right corner. Leave the folded bottom as is.
That’s it! You’re ready to enjoy (though if the fabric hasn’t been washed prior to sewing, I’d suggest giving it a wash first).
To care for your reusable bags, simply turn used bags inside out, and throw in with the rest of your laundry. If using a waterproof lining, line drying will help prolong the life of the fabric.
Annie Demko lives in Northeast Ohio with her husband and twin boys on a small, historic homestead where she spends her days caring for and playing with her sons, cleaning, cooking, creating, and attempting to coordinate and accept the chaos. You can find her reflecting on her days at her blog Moon in the Window, selling reusable sandwich and snack bags through Fab Wrap and various other creations in her Etsy shop.