A Bento Bag Recipe

Tutorials
a woman in an apron demonstrates how to tie a cloth bag.
© Carrie Bostick Hoge

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.

3 patterned bento bags laying down.
© Carrie Bostick Hoge

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.
3 bento bags spread out on a table
Left to right: Large, Medium, Small bag sizes. © Carrie Bostick Hoge

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.

Myosotis Dress I

finished objects, sewing

I made this Myosotis dress back in May using this beautiful silk panel print that has lingered in my stash. My original plan was to make the ruffle-y version, but sadly, I did not have enough fabric. I purchased 2 panels worth of material, but the fabric was barely 40″ wide.

Experimenting with how to make this work. Not the final layout.

Somehow it worked out that I was able to match the prints fairly well between the sleeves, bodice and skirt. I added more fullness to the skirt piece to take advantage of the left and right selvedge edges: no need to finish the side seams! I also thought it would be a way to add more fullness without the ruffle. Spoiler alert: I think the added fullness at the waist isn’t the most flattering thing.

Because the silk is very sheer, and I am a sweaty person, I fully lined the dress with Bemberg rayon (THE BEST!). If I am going to be super-technical, I actually underlined the bodice and finished the seams with bias tape. 🙌for sewing 6 darts once, not twice!!

dress guts

I hand-sewed the collar, sleeves and front facings with silk thread to make it feel special. I love how this detail looks! This print is so unique, and I love how I was able to use the different parts given how little fabric I had. I am especially happy that I found a spare sliver of the purple section to use for the collar.

I LOVE this dress. I am definitely going to make another with the ruffles soon. Based on other people’s reviews, I went down a size and I am happy with that decision. There’s still a lot of positive ease in the bodice and waist so its quite comfortable.

Pictures in public make me so self-conscious!

Tracing a RTW Short Sleeved Shirt

finished objects, sewing
You can’t even see the pocket! Pattern matching FTW!

I’ve made quite a few collared shirts for Jacob over the years from different patterns but none of them fit him perfectly, so I ripped apart a RTW shirt that fits him well to make a pattern from it. I was pretty intimidated by the idea of this, but it wasn’t too hard.

To start, we went to the thrift store to find a short-sleeved shirt that fit well. Next I spent an hour or so seam ripping it while watching TV. I found this strangely meditative, and it went very quickly. I dissected almost everything completely, except one side seam and the center front folded stuff, I ripped those just enough to figure out what was going on there.

Some of the shirt pieces.

I noted the seam allowances and where they were trimmed down. I then traced the pieces and added SA where necessary. I harvested the buttons from the shirt to use on my version.

Scribbles for notes.

At this point in my sewing life, I have sewed several collared shirts so I didn’t need instructions. It was helpful to have the seam-ripped pieces handy to check things, like where to put the pocket. It was SO EASY to lay the RTW left front over my cut one, and figure out the perfect pocket placement. My buttonholer hasn’t worked since the Jean Jacket Saga of 2018, so I took this shirt to Jonathan Embroidery and they sewed the buttonholes perfectly and quickly.

The verdict? Jacob is really happy with the fit of this shirt, so its going to become his go-to short sleeved shirt pattern! He requested a fun fabric so he could participate in “tiki shirt Fridays” at work this summer, and I am in the process of sewing a second one in a more subdued check.

Me Made May 2019: Week 3

me made may

May 15

Self-drafted basic elastic-waist skirt (and that jean jacket again…)

May 16

White linen gauze Inari tee.

May 17

Linen Ruby dress.

May 18

barely visible linen Brumby skirt (repeat)

May 19

Riding on the Hudson River Greenway on a beautiful Sunday. Wearing a self-drafted linen gauze tank (same fabric as my Inari crop tee from earlier this week!)

May 20

Its a scorcher today, wearing my favorite vintage dress and a Tokyo Jacket.

May 21

hand-me-down RL collared shirt, Peppermint Mag Peplum top, Ginger jeans.

May 22

Previously unblogged Astoria cropped knit tee. I don’t wear this much, but I really should! Maybe thats the whole point of Me Made May!

Me Made May 2019: Week 2

me made may

May 8

Brumby skirt. This guy is a workhorse, and it matches everything!

May 9

Megan Nielsen Dove Top in the SAME linen as yesterday’s Brumby. I forgot to take a pic all day and remembered just before I changed into soccer garb.

May 10

I have to get better at remembering to take photos. I wore this Tea House dress yesterday.

May 11

Knitting and workin’ on my sunburn in a grey linen Acton dress.

Thanks for the photog, Asheley!

May 12

See my sunburn??? Today it was rainy and cold, so I wore my Carbeth. (and those Ginger Jeans…)

May 13

Pulled this quilted top out of the closet, I think I have only worn it once or twice since I made it four (OMG 5!!) years ago. Its hard to not see all my mistakes when I look at it. Now that I am wearing it, though, I don’t mind it! So I should wear it more!!! The quilting also really nice and cozy in the yoke on this dreary day.

May 14

My first Archer button up I ever made! The fabric is from Bolt in Portland. PS its still dreary.

Fumeterre Skirt

finished objects, sewing

I finally got around to making a Fumeterre skirt from Deer and Doe. I have almost made it so many times, but whenever I felt the urge, I didn’t want to wait for the pattern to ship from France. So a couple of weeks ago, when I got their email newsletter announcing this skirt among their newly available PDF patterns, I jumped on it!

I got this VERY fancy wool-bamboo houndstooth from B&J Fabrics. Its my second most expensive fabric I’ve ever purchased, EEEP. I used faux-leather piping for the pockets, and I am particularly happy with my zipper fly. The back elastic seemed superfluous when I was adding it in, but it really helps to keep up the skirt without digging in to my waist too much. I did hong kong seams and wow did they take forever. It looks really nice, though!

I didn’t make any adjustments to the pattern, I am 5′6″ and its floor length in flats. I wore it to work for a party last week, and I had to hoist it up as I walked since it dragged on the ground a bit. The fabric is so dreamy and drapey, and it’s very fun to wear. I will definitely make this again in a warm-weather fabric this spring.

Ginger Jeans

finished objects, sewing

I finally made some jeans, and I am pretty happy with them! The motivation to make these came from the sad day when the zipper broke on my favorite pair of black jeans. I really felt their absence from my wardrobe, so I decided I would take the plunge and use my Cone Mills black denim and try out the Ginger Jeans (View B).

posting a picture of my butt on the internet is a very odd feeling.

Overall I am extremely happy with these jeans and have incorporated them into my everyday wardrobe, so thats a huge positive!!! I am also very happy with the zipper fly, the way the pattern has you do it is very easy. I did a raw hem, so I cut 3.5″ off the bottom of the jeans, and did a straight stitch a 1/2″ up from the bottom to prevent extreme fraying.

Next time I will place the pockets higher on the butt, and take in the waist a little more, they are a little bit baggy in the front crotch area. I also think I’ll raise the hem a couple of inches, as these could really have a higher rise. 

Oops, I forgot to lengthen my stitch length for the waistband…

BTW, I am wearing my Shadow Pullover and my New Yorker tote in these photos!!

Handmade Vacation

finished objects, sewing

Hey there! I just got back from my epic trip to Spain, and I wanted to share what handmade clothes I wore while traveling. Two standout pieces, my grey linen Brumby skirt, and my Red cotton/linen Moss skirt, were workhorses. I wore them almost every day!! I was looking forward to getting some wear from my jean jacket, but it was so hot in Spain, I only wore it once. What a beautiful country!

walking

About to discover the wrong entrance to the Toledo Cathedral in my Brumby skirt and carrying my New Yorker tote.

view

Taking in the Barcelona view from Montjuïc in my Moss skirt

washerwoman

Posing as the Washerwoman at Park Güell with my New Yorker tote and a Wiksten tank dress

jeanjacket

In awe of the Sagrada Família wearing my Hampton jean jacket

dress

Drinking in the Barcelona culture in my Lois dress

miro

Bonus Brumby skirt pic next to a delightful Joan Miró sculpture

I was daydreaming of sewing the whole time we were gone, so I can’t wait to get back into the swing of things and get to autumn sewing.

Jean Jacket!!

finished objects, sewing

I finished my Hampton jean jacket!! What a saga this thing has been! I was cruising along pretty well, and was almost finished, but right when I began topstitching the armholes, my machine broke. I had to take it somewhere to have it repaired, which was its own difficult tale, but I’ll spare you the details. Long story short, its very hard to crate around a heavy sewing machine in New York without a car! But Crown Machine Services came to the rescue and fixed it right up, so I was able to finish my jean jacket on Friday (just in time for it to be 97 degrees on Monday)!

emilywools_hamptonjeanjacket_6

I used 10oz. Cone Mills denim from Threadbare Fabrics. I just found out that Cone Mill has shut down, so there are no longer any American denim manufacturers in existence, so I wanted to snag some of what’s left. I washed and air dried the fabric before cutting out the pattern pieces, and again after I completed it but before the buttons and buttonholes. I used some stashed scraps of Liberty to line the pockets and the back yoke.

emilywools_hamptonjeanjacket_3

After reading Alina’s super awesome sewalong post about distressing the jacket, I used 220 and 120 sanding sponges to go to town on the seams prior to topstitching. As I was sanding, I thought it wasn’t really making a difference, but after washing the jacket it looks great and a little bit worn in!

I got a Hot Tip (thanks for the lingo, Karen!) from the_other_emily to take my jacket to Jonathan’s Embroidery in the Garment District to have the buttonholes done, and WOW I am so glad I took her advice! The seamstress sewed all the buttonholes in less than an hour (while I popped over to Mood) and they are BEAUTIFUL! I couldn’t be happier, and I think it helps make the jacket look more RTW.

emilywools_hamptonjeanjacket_2

emilywools_hamptonjeanjacket_4

emilywools_hamptonjeanjacket_5

I am a little bit disappointed with the welt pockets, the top and bottoms are a little bit wonky, but other than that I really love how it came out! It fits perfectly, and I can’t wait to break it in.

emilywools_hamptonjeanjacket_1