Food-a-plenty lunch bag tutorial

When I pack my lunch/dinner for work, I take a lot of containers, silverware and a big, reusable water bottle. So I need something that holds a lot. I wanted to make a cute, functional and ROOMY bag for my lunch. 

I fell in absolute love when I saw this tea fabric. It’s cute, and I’m also into that natural, burlappy, linen-y look right now.

I made a short strap, but you could always make it longer if you want to carry it on your shoulder. This bag uses Peltex as a stabilizer – it’s stiff and sometimes a bit of a pain, but worth the effort if you don’t want a floppy bag. It also uses Insul-Bright insulated batting to keep your foods warm or cold. I used a simple clasp closure because my current lunch bag has a zipper, and I can never get it closed anyway. It’s usually packed too full.


(Click fabrics for direct links for purchase at Warehouse Fabrics Inc.)

Tea House Black - TEABLK

Wisdom Burlap Base - WIPBAE

Purse clasp

D-rings (3)


I had half a yard of each fabric. The Peltex is very stiff and gives the bag lots of body. The Insul-brite is an insulating batting. I used scraps in my stash, but I’d recommend buying a yard of each since they are single fold. 

1/2 inch seam allowances unless noted otherwise.

The pattern

All of the pattern pieces are rectangles, so I didn’t upload a printable pattern. Cut out the following pieces. Since you’re cutting multiples of each, it may be easier to draw them on paper first.: 

Front/Back/Bottom (all same dimensions) 7.5″x13″:
Cut 3 outer fabric
Cut 3 lining fabric
Cut 3 Peltex
Cut 3 Insul-Bright

Flap 9.5″x12.25″:
Cut 1 outer fabric
Cut 1 lining
Cut 1 Insul-Bright

Sides 7.5″x7.5″:
Cut 2 outer fabric
Cut 2 lining
Cut 2 Peltex
Cut 2 Insul-Bright

Elastic bands 2.5″x11″:
Cut 2 outer fabric
Cut 2 pieces of 3/4″ elastic 6.5″ long
(Use 1/4 inch seam allowance to sew this part)

Long: 4″x16″
Cut 1 lining fabric (either fabric will do, but I wanted the contrast)
Short: 4″x5″
Cut 2 lining fabric

Strap (for bag closures):
NOTE: This part came out too long for me, so I have adjusted these measurements from the way I did mine.
Long: 1-3/4″x20″
Cut 1 lining fabric
Short: 1-3/4″x3″
Cut 1 lining fabric

The process

We’ll start with the closure straps. After I finished my bag, I found mine was too long. (I made this project up as I went.) So I have adjusted the length of the pieces in the pattern instructions above. 

For each strap (the one with the D-ring and the one with the clasp), press the sides to the center.

Then fold the whole thing in half, lengthwise, so the raw edges are hidden. Loop a D-ring through the short strap and a clasp through the long strap.
I had already sewn my flap piece when I decided I wanted to do the closure like this, so that’s why my picture looks like this. I unstitched to add this. Place your strap down the center of the outer flap piece, with the raw edges lined up with the top of the flap. 

Stitch down the right side of the strap, stopping about two inches above the bottom. Pivot, stitch across, then stitch back up the other side.

NOTE: My strap hangs down pretty far in this picture. Like I said above, it was too long and I ended up adjusting it later. So yours doesn’t need to hang down this far. It should be shorter.

Take your two flap pieces (one outer fabric, one lining) and place them right-sides together, along with the Insul-Bright. The silver should face the side with nearest the food. Sew around the sides and bottom, leaving the top open. Be sure not to catch your closure strap. Turn and press.
Top stitch around the flap, but do no catch the closure strap in the top-stitching. In this picture, the top edge is left unsewn.
Now let’s start on the outer bag. 

Baste your Peltex to your outer bag pieces, including front, back, sides and bottom. If you bought fusible Peltex, fuse it on instead.

NOTE: I have to add something here before you do this step. I don’t have a picture. Add the small closure strap with the D-ring to the bottom of the front piece. Line up the raw edges of the strap with the bottom of the bag and sew up one side, across under the D-ring and back down the other side. I added this step after the fact and it was a huge pain. You should do it here. Look at the main photo to see what it looks like.

Sew your bag front and back to the bottom pieces along the long edges. In this pattern, the three pieces are identical. But take note that if you are using a directional fabric, like this one, one of the pieces has to face a different way so that it’s right-side up in the end.

Start and stop sewing 1/2 inch from each end. This will help later.

Sew one of your small side pieces to each side of your bag front piece. Line up the top edges of the pieces and let the overhang be at the bottom seam. Stop sewing 1/2 inch from the bottom, at the seam. There should be a tiny bit left unsewn. You’ll need this when you sew it to the bottom. 

If this is confusing, open the picture bigger and examine.

You’ll end up with this. Now sew the other side of each of those side “flaps” to the back piece.
It will look like this. Notice how the bottom seam of the side pieces remains unsewn.
Pause and take note that your newly crawling baby has opened your bobbin case and dumped them everywhere. Note that said child has one dozen invisible arms and will shovel those bobbins into his mouth as fast as you can snatch them away. This Tiny Tornado will also grab pins out of your pincushion and wrap the iron cord around his neck. You never knew sewing could be so dangerous.
Now that Tiny Tornado is safe destroying Daddy’s CD collection, sew the bottom side seams. Now is when it comes in handy that you didn’t sew all the way to the ends of the earlier seams. It allows you to pivot and manipulate the corners better.
Turn your outer bag right-side out and push out the corners. Add the flap by placing it right-sides together with the back piece of your bag, raw edges together and baste across.
Left: Now we’ll do the straps. For each of the small strap pieces, fold and press the sides to meet at the center. Then fold in the center and press again. Sew down each side. 

Center: Fold small straps around a D-ring and stitch close to the D-ring to secure.

Right: With raw edges aligned with top of bag, baste strap to bag sides.

NOT PICTURED: For bigger handle strap, follow the steps in the left-hand picture above but also fold and press in a tiny bit at each end so there are no raw edges showing. Stitch down each side. As the very last step for your bag, later, you’ll take each end of this strap and wrap it around a D-ring and sew to secure.


Now we’ll start the lining of the bag. These photos show us making elastic bands to secure a drink. 

Left: Take your two elastic band pieces and fold them in half, right-sides together. Stitch with a 1/4″ seam allowance down the long open side.


Center: Then turn right side out using the safety-pin method.

Right: Attach a piece of elastic to a safety pin and run it through. Stitch at each end to secure.

Baste each of your elastic pieces to one of your lining side pieces.
For each of the lining pieces, baste your Insul-Bright to the back side.
Sew together as above. But on one of the seams where the front or back meets the bottom, leave a hole for turning the bag later. I’d recommend reinforcing with extra stitches on either side of the hole because this bag is stiff and there will be strain on those stitches as you turn it.
Here is your finished lining. The turning hole can be seen along the bottom there.
Left: Insert the outer bag into the lining so that right-sides are together. Line up the corner seams and pin. 

Right: Sew around the top. With a stiff bag like this, I find it easiest to position it as shown above.

Turn the bag right-side out through the hole. 

Left: Stitch the hole in the lining closed by folding in the seam allowance and top stitching.

Right: Press the top of the bag smooth so that the lining is not popping out.

Clean up aftermath of the Tiny Tornado.

Other views

(Click for bigger views)