Mid-school-year The Peanut needed a new lunch bag, one that was easy for her to open and to fill herself. Luckily three-plus years of sewing backpacks and bags and totes have left me with a sizable collection of large scraps of canvas. I purchased remnant of clear vinyl, drew up a quick sketch enlarging the snack bag I made in January, and set to work sewing this lunch bag. You can, too!
If you're like me and prefer to print out the tutorials you use, download a free 5-page PDF version here [you'll need a Craftsy account, but that's also free with an email]. Otherwise, read on to learn how to sew a simple to open, clear vinyl lunch bag with an easy view of what's inside.
- Clear 16 Gauge vinyl*
- Heavy-weight Accent Fabric for the sides, bottom, and handle*I prefer outdoor canvas for structure and ease of wiping spills. And because I had scraps of it already on hand. Laminated fabrics would probably work great. If you want use lighter weight fabrics, like quilting cotton, you may need to add a stiff interfacing.
- Light-weight Accent/Coordinating Fabric for binding*This fabric will be used to back the vinyl when stitching the handle and the Velcro pieces. It will be used in multiple layers so a lighter-weight option like quilting cotton is a good choice here.
- Accent/coordinating ½″ double fold bias tape, 1 full package (or approximately 3 yards)
- ¾″ wide Velcro approximately 1 ½″ long
- Coordinating thread and heavy-duty needle
*See Cutting for the amount of materials needed. I was able to use large scraps from previous projects and a purchased remnant of vinyl.
NOTE: Pins will leave permanent holes in vinyl. When working with the vinyl use clips instead—Clover Wonder Clips [affiliate link], clothes pins, binder clips will all work. I used a collection the clippy, clothespin-like things we acquired attached to grocery store Mylar balloons. If you use a pin be sure it goes through areas of the vinyl that will remain covered with fabric—but use them sparingly as every hole is a potential tear point.
The dimensions listed here will create a final Lunch Bag 8″ wide x 8 ½″ tall x 3″ deep. You can easily change these dimensions to fit your need; keep in mind that a ½″ seam-allowance is used throughout.
Front: cut 1 piece, 9″ x 9″
Back: cut 1 piece, 9″ x 15″; Round the top to corners
NOTE: You can use a ball-point pen to mark the vinyl. Trace a mug or a can to make the rounded corner, and fold the vinyl in half to cut two even corners.
Heavy Accent Fabric
Sides: cut 4 pieces, each 4″ x 9″
Bottom: cut 2 pieces, each 4″ x 9″
Handle: cut 1 piece, 4″ x 9″
Light Accent Fabric
Long Binding Strips: cut 2 pieces, 2″ x 9″
Short Binding Strips: cut 2 pieces, 2″ x 2 ¾″
PREPARE HANDLE & BINDING STRIPS
1. Prepare the handle by folding it in half, wrong sides together and press. Open it up and press each outside edge to the center line. Fold fabric in half again and press. The final width of the handle will be 1″ with the raw edges enclosed in the fold. Edge-stitch down each side. Set aside.
2. Prepare the long Binding Strips by folding each long edge, wrong sides together, toward the center line by ½″; you will have a 1″ wide strip—the raw edges should meet in the center and remain exposed for now. Repeat with second strip. Set aside.
3. Prepare the short Binding Strips by folding the short edges ½″ toward the center back and press. Fold the long edges ½″ toward the center back and press. Your goal is two pressed pieces, each 1″ x 1 ¾″. Set these two pieces aside for now.
|Steps 1-3: Prepare the Handle, Long Binding Strips, and Short Binding Strips.|
NOTE: You will not use your iron for the remainder of this project. I am a big fan of pressing as you sew on most projects. But! Vinyl melts. So for safety, unplug your iron now.
4. Find the mid-point of one long Binding Strip. Mark 1 ¼″ to the left and to the right of the mid-point.
5. Align the bottom raw edge of the Handle with the long edge of the Binding Strip, and align the inner edges of the Handle with the marks of Step 1. Tuck the handle under the folded up edged of the Binding Strip. Pin in place. There will be 2 ½″ between the Handle ends. Sew each end in place with an X.
|Step 5: Attach the Handle to one Long Binding Strip.|
6. On the vinyl Back Panel, make a horizontal line 8 ½″ up from the bottom edge.
7. Align the top of the Binding Strip (with Handle attached) with line from Step 4, raw edges face down. Clip in place.
8. Flip the Back Panel over and align the second Binding Strip with the first, raw edges face down again, creating a Binding Strip/Vinyl/Binding Strip sandwich. Clip in place.
|Step 8: Create a Binding Strip/Vinyl/Binding Strip sandwich.|
9. With a long stitch, edge-stitch (see next note) across the Binding Strips’ top and bottom edges.
|Step 9: Edges-stitch Binding Strips in place.|
NOTE: Every time you pierce the vinyl with your needle you are creating a hole. A line of holes creates a perforated line. A perforated line is easy to tear. To limit this, remember to use a long-ish stitch (around a 3) and try to sew over each seam only once if possible.
10. Working on the Back Panel, on the same side as the handle, align one short Binding Strip centered on the rounded flap end and approximately ½″ from the edge. Stitch short Binding Strip in place with a single line of stitching across the middle.
|Step 10: Attach a short Binding Strip with a single line of stitching.|
11. Flip the Back Panel over and center the hook portion (grippy, rough) of Velcro over the Binding Strip creating a Binding Strip/Vinyl/Velcro sandwich.
12. Sewing from the Velcro side, edge-stitch in a rectangle around the Velcro. Edge-stitch again, this time around the short Binding Strip. Set the Back Panel aside.
|Step 12: Edge stitch around the Velcro and around the short Binding Strip.|
13. On the Front Panel, align one short Binding Strip centered vertically and 1 ½″ from top edge. Stitch short Binding Strip in place with a single line of stitching across the middle.
14. Flip the Front Panel over and center the loop portion (fuzzy, soft) of Velcro over the Binding Strip creating a Binding Strip/Vinyl/Velcro sandwich.
15. Sewing from the Velcro side, edge-stitch in a rectangle around the Velcro. Edge-stitch again, around the short Binding Strip. Set the Front Panel aside.
16. Using ¼″ seam-allowance, baste two Side Panels together, WRONG sides together. (The vinyl is see-through, now the view inside will be as lovely as the view outside. Plus the doubled-up canvas adds a nice structure. If you are using a cotton or a thin-weight laminated fabric, here is a great place to add in a medium–heavy-weight sew-in interfacing.)
17. Repeat Step 16 with remaining two Side Panels and with two Bottom Panels.
18. Sew bias tape to top edge of each Side Panel. Trim the bias tape to the same width as the panel, and leave the ends unfinished.
19. Sew bias tape to top edge (closest to Velcro) of the Front Panel. Trim the bias tape to the same width as the panel, and leave the ends unfinished.
|Steps 18 & 19: Sew bias tape to the tops of prepared Front and Side Panels.|
NOTE: Remember you’re using a long-ish stitch (around a 3) and trying to sew over each seam only once. This means do NOT baste seams before you add the bias-tape, and DON’T properly sew one open-, inside-edge of the bias-tape along the seam before folding the bias-tape over the seam-allowance and top-stitching. No. Just hold the seams together, slap the bias tape on there, clip it all in place and top-stitch from the get-go. And keep doing that throughout.
20. With WRONG sides together (the Velcro side of the Front Panel should be facing out), align Front Panel with Side Panel and enclose the seam-allowance with bias tape. Clip in place. Extend the tape ½″ above top edge, open the folded tape, and fold the open piece down over the top edge of the seam and into itself. Trim the bottom edge of bias-tape even with the Panels and leave unfinished. Sew full length of bias tape in place. All bias bound seam-allowances will remain on the outside of the bag.
|Step 20 & 21: Sew the Front to the Side Panel while encasing the seam-allowance in bias tape.|
21. Repeat Step 20 with the opposite Side Panel.
|Steps 20 & 21: Encase the seam-allowance with bias tape; finish the top end.|
22. With WRONG sides together (the Handle side of the Back Panel should be facing out), align Back Panel with Side Panel and clip in place. The top edge of the long Binding Strips on the Back Panel will meet the bottom edge of the bias tape on the Side Panel without overlapping. Align second Side Panel in same manner and clip in place. Starting at bottom edge, enclose seam-allowance with bias tape going up one side, around the edge of the top/flap portion, and down the seam-allowance of the other side. Trim both ends of the bias tape even with the panels and leave them unfinished. Sew in place.
|Step 22: Sew the Back to the Side Panels with continuous bias tape around edges of the back panel.|
23. Align the long-side of the Bottom Panel with the Front Panel; at the ends pinch the Side Panel and side seam-allowance flat. Trim the ends of the bias-tape even with the Bottom Panel and leave the ends unfinished. Sew the seam extending all the way to each end of the bias tape.
24. Repeat Step 23 with the Back Panel.
25. Pinch the Bottom Panel to one of the Side Panels and clip approximately 2″ from the bottom to hold flat.
|Step 25: Pinch sides and bottom together and clip in place to create a flat seam on the short edge of the Bottom Panel.|
26. Enclose the seam-allowance of the short side of the Bottom Panel and the Side Panel with bias tape. Finish each edge: extend bias-tape tape ½″ above top edge, open the folded tape, and fold the open piece down over the top edge of the seam and into itself. Carefully sew in place.
|Step 26: Enclose the seam-allowance in bias tape and finish by tucking both ends in and under.|
27. Repeat Step 25 with opposite Side Panel.
This is a great bag for little ones: it opens easily, has a wide mouth that’s effortless to fill, and the clear vinyl lets you see the contents with a quick glance (how much did your little one eat today?). Customize it with multi-color, bright bias tapes. Or your child’s favorite character fabric. Use 1″ cotton or nylon webbing for the Handle and Binding Strips instead of fabric. Try using vinyl for all of the panels. Or skip the vinyl and use all canvas.
If you use this tutorial, I’d love to see and hear about your results. Come share your projects on The Inspired Wren Share page.
|This inaugural bag, made quickly--wobbly stitches and all--is proportionally smaller and perfect for a Preschooler's snack.|
|The Vinyl Lunch Bag would also work great as a project bag for crochet and knitting! Or for toy organization! What will use it for?|
Ren Murphy writes for The Inspired Wren.
You should really see all that goes into each project!
From my model preferring to wear washi tape on her belly button instead of the clothes I've sewn for her, to the ingenious way that I’ve re-purposed my favorite sewing tool, a chopstick, into a spool pin for double needle sewing on my machine. Daily updates on Instagram (and Flickr) of works-in-progress will give you that behind the scenes view you’re looking for, and sneak peeks of First-Tuesday Tutorials, too.
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