A Bento Bag Recipe

Tutorials

Furoshiki is a traditional Japanese method for wrapping objects with fabric, and today it has become the essential element in gift-giving in Japan. Instead of wrapping an object with paper, a piece of fabric is folded and knotted to conceal a gift. Hundreds of variations for folding and tying fabric over virtually anything highlight this beautiful intersection of tradition and function.

A handmade bento bag is a lovely spin on furoshiki because the gift recipient can reuse it to carry daily items. In addition to sewing up very quickly, the small amount of fabric required to make a bento bag provides a quick way to use scraps of something special you’ve been saving. Additionally, sewing one is an easy way to take a break from a bigger project, or satisfy the sewing itch when you are busy with life.

Supplies / Notes

This Bento Bag Recipe is flexible to make the most of scrap fabric. The smallest recommended size uses two 10” (24cm) squares of fabric, and up to two 18” (46cm) squares of fabric. Finishing the raw edges with a straight stitch and then hand-fraying holds up with regular use, but alternate finishing instructions are provided if you prefer a more professional look.

  • Two 10×10” (24x24cm) to 18×18” (46x46cm) squares of fabric, pins, thread, sewing machine. Hand sewing needle and embroidery thread are optional.
  • Recommended fabrics: linen, voile, lawn, quilting cotton. Larger sizes can accommodate heavier fabric such as canvas. Not recommended for 1-way designs.
  • Sizing Guidelines: 10×10” (24x24cm): wrap a small jewelry box. 14×14” (36x36cm): carry a small knitting project, store a lunch, or gift-wrap finished objects such as mittens or a cowl. 18×18” (46x46cm): carry a medium to large knitting project, or gift-wrap finished objects such as a piece of clothing. The model in the first photo is holding the large size.
Left to right: Large, Medium, Small bag sizes.

Instructions

1. Cut one square in half diagonally to create two right triangles. Part of the long edge you just cut will become the handles of your bag. Be mindful when dealing with this bias edge, it can easily stretch out.

2. Lay two triangles on top of each other to make an almost-square, both sides RS (right side) up. Pin the free edge of the top triangle to the bottom one. Sew this long edge from the bottom corner all the way to the top corner using a ¼” (6mm) seam allowance.

3. Flip the two triangles over so both wrong side (WS) face up. Pin the free edge of the top triangle to the bottom one. Sew long edge all the way to the top at ¼”(6mm). Fray long edges to stitching line if desired
Repeat steps 1-3 with second square.

4. Take both sewn pieces and pin RS together. Sew the sides and bottom using a 1/2” (1cm) seam allowance. Finish edges if desired and press seam open.

5. Keep WS out and prop the bag open. Pinch bag shut at corner and lay the corner seam lines on top of each other. Be sure it lays flat and smooth. From the corner, mark at 1” (2.5cm) in (2”(5cm) in for larger bags), and sew across this corner. Trim excess and finish seam allowance if desired. Repeat for other corner. Be sure to move the handle out of the way while you sew! This step will allow your bag to stand up on its own.

6. Turn RS out and give a final press. Unravel the hem on the handle edges by wiggling a pin between the threads up to the stitching line. If desired, hand stitch with embroidery thread to reinforce at the point where the triangles overlap.

Variations

Selvage-edge handles or using smaller scraps: Instead of cutting fabric for steps 1 and 2, use manila or pattern paper. Using this pattern piece you just created in step 2, cut 4 triangles with long edges along selvage (or anywhere you can squeeze in the pattern piece). Continue with step 3.

Double-turned hem: before step 3, double turn and hem the long edges of each triangle. Turn the fabric under ¼” (6mm), press. Turn the fabric under another ¼” (6mm). Press and hem close to the folded edge. This will create a slightly smaller bag than the raw-edged version.

French seams: In step 6, use french seams to sew sides and bottom. When sewing the final seam, the corners will get bulky. Because of the way the bottom of the bag is finished, the corners will be cut off, so don’t worry about sewing all the way into the corners. Use your best judgement for this variation when making the smaller sizes as seams get very bulky with stiff fabric.

This pattern was originally published in the No. 4 / Lines issue of Making Magazine. All photos by Carrie Bostick Hoge. Illustrations by me.

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Lined Drawstring Pouch Tutorial

finished objects, sewing, Tutorials
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I made lined drawstring and zipper pouches for Christmas gifts this year. Since we moved and majorly downsized our living space, I have become much more aware of “stuff” and didn’t want to add more clutter to people’s lives. But… I saw bella_zilber‘s photo of some beautiful drawstring pouches she made, and I kept going back to it, thinking what nice gifts they would be. At the very least, someone can reuse these as gift wrap for their own giving! I made one test pouch to figure out exactly how to make them before cutting out several more, since all I had to go on was Bella’s photo. I wanted to share how I did it, in case you want to make one, too.

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How to make this lined drawstring pouch:
Notes: All seam allowances are 1/2″. Its very simple to adjust the height/width of your bag. Experiment to see what you like! This is a great scrap-user-upper. It takes very little fabric to make one. You will need: 4 bag pieces, 2 top strap pieces, and 2 drawstring pieces.

elements
  1. Create your pattern: Cut a sturdy piece of manilla (or cardboard, or pattern paper, whatever you’ve got) into a rectangle at your desired dimensions. I created an 8″ x 5.5″ rectangle, and curved the bottom corner. Cut out 2 lining and 2 fabric pieces on the fold.
  2. Next, cut 2 11″ x 3″ (size note: basically, cut the width as wide as your main pouch piece is wide. You want the straps to be a little bit skinnier than your pouch, and double turning the side seams will make this happen), turn the side seams of the top straps’ seam allowances and sew. TIP: Sew the folded side down and the right side up on your machine so the nicer looking stitches will show.
    top straps
  3. Fold the top straps in half, hot-dog style and lay on each outer pouch piece, right sides together, and raw edges aligned. Baste a little bit smaller than your seam allowance.
    sew_top_straps
  4. Position the lining, right sides together so the top strap is in the middle of the sandwich. I turned the sandwich so the outer pouch piece faces up so I can be sure to sew outside the original stitching line. Sew, then press the lining and outer pouch piece away from the top strap. Repeat for other outer pouch piece, top strap, and lining. Make sure your placement lines up between both of the pouch sides!
    top_straps_3

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  5. Open up the sewn pouch groups so the lining is away from each outer pouch piece, and the top strap is face up. Align the second pouch group right sides together on top, so right side lining 1 matches right side lining 2, and right side outer pouch piece faces right side outer pouch piece. You realllly want to make sure your seams line up here. See how mine are a teensy bit off? You want to make it more perfect than that.
    right_sides_together
    Sew around the outside of the pouch pieces, leaving a 2″ gap in the lining so you can turn the pouch right side out. I like to put two pins close together to remind myself to leave a gap.
    right_sides_together_2
  6. Trim the seam allowances and clip the curves. Turn the pouch right side out. Press. Sew the lining hole shut, either by hand or by machine (if you want your bag to be reversible, its a good idea to hand-stitch).
    DSC_5395
  7. Create the drawstrings. Cut 2 1.25″ x 25″ strips (or ~2.5x as wide as your finished bag is to allow room for knotting the ends), and fold in half lengthwise and press. Open the fold, and press each edge into the center. Fold in half again and sew the fold shut. “Thread” each drawstring through the top straps, and knot each end. I had no trouble pushing these through by themselves since the linen is fairly stiff, but you may need to use a safety pin if your fabric is being fiddley. You could also use cording if you didn’t feel like making drawstrings.
    drawstring_1

    insert_string

Yay!!! All done! You can experiment with different widths and heights, and go for a curved bottom, or do a rectangular one, or maybe a pointy triangle bottom?? Or scallops?

These bags turned out so lovely, and were quick to make, especially once I got into a rhythm after making the first one. I also made two zipper pouches using Flossie Teacake’s tutorial. A great way to use up scraps!

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