DIY Scrap Fabric Reusable “Brown” Bag Lunch bag

Back-to-school means back  to life if you’re a parent! No more 24/7 entertaining. No more constant whining complaints of boredom. You’re ready to throw them back to their teachers. I know, I’ve been there. Of course that doesn’t mean you don’t want to throw them back in style. Of course not! That’s a direct reflection on you Mom.

Lunch bags are a big deal. They continue to be a hot trend with kids and adults. That statement lunch bag could spell the difference between the cool kids and everybody else table! But hey Mom, this doesn’t just have to be for the kiddos. Absolutely not! You deserve a new, colorful cool kids table lunch bag for those days you “brown” bag it! This is more than your run-of-the-mill brown bag.

With it, you’ll lighten your stash as well as know that you’re leaving a substantially smaller footprint. These bags are not only reusable, they’re also leak resistant because its secret core is a plastic grocery bags! But be warned! This is a bag you can look good and feel good about too; so don’t be surprised if your admission of who made it lands you back in the sewing closet to make more for your friends so they can be cool too!

But that’s okay, because this is a quickie project. Read on to learn how with another one yard or less/one hour project.

Drawstring Lunch Bag

Difficulty Level: Beginner – some sewing experience needed


1 yd Cotton Duck (I used Zigzag Lipstick)**

2 yds size 5 Cotton Welt Cord or drawstring of your choice

**Optional: 4 Plastic grocery bags cut open with handles removed if you plan to make this leak resistant. You will need 1 ½ yds for this version.

**Optional for leak resistant version: 1 yd Hanes Thermafoam Dim Out Lining

Tape Measure

Popsicle stick or chopstick and Duck Tape or one of those fancy puller-througher thingies. It’s actually called a bodkin. Oh! Did…you…know…that a bodkin also refers historically to a long pin used to hold ones hair up. It also refers to a sharp dagger like tool used in the printing industry to remove mistakes from a type set.

Optional plastic container to fit inside bottom

Passages Garnet
Vintage Linen Burlap

Update: Aaaaaand…one more quick note. I was thinking about this project today long after I published it. Since this is a “brown-bag” tote, why  not make yours out of burlap! Here are some awesome suggestions:


  1. With the design running as you desire, cut four lengths of fabric for the main body, each one measuring 12” x 12”.  Cut one for the bottom 24” x 12”. The design will run with the long side as the top.
  2. With right sides together, sew main body pieces together along the side  using a ½” seam and join to create a tube. If you’re making your bag leak resistant, repeat with the second set.
  3. With right sides together, fold the bottom piece in half with the long sides on top. Stitch ½” along each side seam. **If you’re making a leak resistant bag, see steps 8-10 below.
  4. Turn the top and bottom right side out. Place the bottom inside the top with the side seams of the bottom in the middle of what would be the side of your lunch bag. Pin and stitch the top and bottom along the open edge. Trim your seam to ¼ inch
  5. Open bag up with the wrong sides still up. (Note: my bag is leak resistant so it looks like I’m sewing on the right side because there are two layers.
  6. With your bag laying flat and the center point facing up as pictured, place your ruler or tape measure along the seam. Slide it up to find where the corner measures 6 inches from side to side. Measure from the point to that mark and draw a line across as shown. Stitch across the line you drew and stitch. Trim close to your stitch line. Repeat for the other side.
  7. To create a defined side for your bag, pinch the side seams together on the RIGHT side. Making sure the seam is directly in the middle, start at the bottom where the top and bottom meet and stitch ⅜ inch away from the edge, stopping at the casing.
  8. **Cut a second set of panels.
  9. To create leak resistant panels, sandwich a single layer of grocery bag between each pair you made putting wrong sides together.
  10. Using a hot iron, place a pillow case or press cloth down if necessary, and press with some vigor, checking periodically to see if the plastic is bonding to the fabric. Continue and cool until you’ve made a bonded piece. This will take some patience! You can also use plastic wrap.

One note, it’s not like this plastic is going to fuse hard on to the fabric. It will fuse, but you could remove it. If you don’t want to take the time to iron it, use spray adhesive on both sides of the plastic. You can also use double-sided fusible interfacing and a water resistant lining such as Hanes Thermafoam

Let’s create the casing for your drawstring now.

  1. Turn in the top edge 1 inch. Press. Turn in again to create a double fold. Press and stitch close to the inside edge. Leave an opening of 1 inch where you want your drawstring to be and backstitch both openings for reinforcement.
  2. Take your drawstring and tape it to the end of your puller-througher-thingy. Starting at the opening, carefully draw it through. Tie the ends together.
  3. Insert your container in the bottom.

Now go make a healthy lunch or snack!

BTW…Here’s a link to an older post I can take no credit for with an adorable lunch satchel project. It’s a little more involved and will take some experience and skill. I would recommend a longer, adjustable strap. At any rate, SUPER CUTE!!



Note: You can customize your bag to the size of any container. Measure the bottom of your container adding ½ inch to each side for seam allowance. Divide by 4. Keep the length the same or adjust it if you want it longer or shorter. The bottom measurement will be same as what you want as the front/back of your bag. Adjust the depth if you want. When creating the bottom corners, find whatever your side measures and mark this as with Step 9.