How to Sew a Bento Bag

bento bag filled with fruit

Family, friends and coworkers, please stop reading now…

bento bag filled with fruit

I’m making these cute bags for everyone on my gift list this holiday season! Bento bags for all!

Produce Bag Sewing Meetups

I started organizing sewing meetups earlier this year to make cloth produce bags to give away at the Sunnyvale Farmers’ Market. I’ll be there on October 27th from 9am to 1pm, sitting in the Sunnyvale Environmental Services booth.

We’ve sewn close to 400 produce bags for people to use in place of plastic. People donated the fabric—old clean sheets or scraps that had been sitting in their attics and on their fabric piles—notions, thread scissors, ribbon, their time… Below are the bags I’ll give away. (Click here for the pattern.)

reusable cloth produce bags
Just some of the simple cloth produce bags we’ve sewn to give away

In Search of a Working Machine

At our last meetup on Sunday, my friend Mayumi, @zerowastetraveller, gave me two bento bags she had made. They are so beautiful! I had to try making some and posting the instructions.

homemade bento bags
Mayumi’s bento bags

But my sewing machine hasn’t been working. My serger works but I can’t do everything with it. So on Sunday, I asked Chandra if he would lend me one of his sewing machines. He said he would and that he would also keep an eye out for one for me.

On Tuesday, Chandra found the metal Singer sewing machine below on the side of the road.

If you read my blog or follow me on Instagram, you may have seen just some of the ridiculously nice things we find on the side of the road here in Northern California. I post so much nice stuff that at this point, you might think I’m making this all up, that no one finds a practically new ice cream maker, or two Ethan Allen chairs, or a slab of marble for photo backdrops, or a vintage cast iron muffin tin or a sturdy metal sewing machine, all just sitting on the side of the road, discarded.

If you live in the Bay Area, you simply nod and say to yourself, “Yup, that’s the Bay Area.”

Bento Bag Instructions

1. Cutting the fabric

These bags, like people, are beautiful in all sizes. For the bento bag in this post, I cut out a square 22 inches by 22 inches.

square of fabric for a bento bag
Cut a square

Next, I cut the square in half along the diagonal, creating two isosceles triangles. If you plan on making a pile of these, cut out one square or one triangle and use that as your template to cut the pieces for many bags.

two triangles for sewing a bento bag
Cut the square into two triangles

2. Finish the edges of the two equal sides

If you some of your edges are selvages (the tightly woven edges of a piece of fabric), you don’t have to finish those. They won’t fray.

I used my serger to finish the edges with a rolled hem. You could do a zig-zag stitch on a regular sewing machine.

rolled hem
Rolled hem
bento bag triangles
Finished edges

3. Lay out the bento bag

Now lay out the bag and pin it for sewing. Overlap the triangles as in the pic below, with the right side facing up. I’ve overlapped the right triangle onto the left one.

how to sew a bento bag
Lay out triangles for sewing

Next, fold the left triangle onto the right one and the right onto the left. You’ll end up with what looks like a square with a triangle cut out of the top. Pin the front together and the back. Remember, the right side of the fabric is on the inside.

how to sew a bento bag
Fold to make the sides and bottom the same length

4. Start sewing!

So the roadside machine started to act up. I have to play around with the bobbin tension. My standard sewing machine that hasn’t been working well decided to work today. Phew! I’m on a self-imposed, artificial deadline to get this post up!

You’ll now stitch along the equal sides of the inner triangle on the front and back of the bag. If you have a free arm machine, set that up. You’ll avoid sewing together parts that aren’t supposed to be sewn together.

bento bag pattern
Sew here through the two front layers, then flip over and sew through the two back layers
sewing a bento bag
Sewing the triangle

Next, sew along the bottom through all the layers. I used my serger, which sews and finishes the edge in one fell swoop. If you use a standard machine, sew the bottom and then finish the edges with a zigzag stitch.

sewing the bottom of a bento bag
Sew the bottom edge, through all four layers

To make a bit of a flat bottom, sew an inch or two at the end of each corner of the bag, perpendicular to the bottom edge.

sew a flat bottom
Make a flat bottom

You’re done! Turn the bento bag inside out and press if desired.

finished bento bag
Finished bento bag

The Bag in Action

bento bag filled with apples
Testing out the bag
bento bag filled and tied up
Bento bag filled and tied
bento bag filled with fruit
Bento bag in action

3 Replies to “How to Sew a Bento Bag”

  1. Cute bag. I wish people around where I live tossed out good stuff. Sounds like you have found a lot of treasures! 🙂

  2. Sheridan Katy says: Reply

    In 1969 having just graduated from college my roommate and I moved into our first apartment in Illinois. We had little furniture but we did have a card table to serve us for dining. On what came to be known to us as Garbage Eve we would drive through our new city to hunt for useful items. One night we found 2 wonderful slightly ornate dining chairs which we snagged for our use at the card table. When life called us in different directions, I got the chairs and used them for a number of years until I gave them to my sister in Georgia as they perfectly matched the used dining room set she had purchased for her new home. Three years ago, I attended a post wedding breakfast for the out of town attendees of my niece’s wedding hosted by a family friend and there were those two chairs refinished and re-upholstered for the 2nd or third time over the years and standing regally at my sister’s old dining table which she had given away to young friends for their brand new home on a bluff over a lazy river. I still check out items on the side of the road and often offer things to others for free on local web sites. Thanks for your blog, I really enjoy it.

  3. Kristi Alison Miller says: Reply

    Ummm…what is a bento bag? I can see it, but I am wondering what is the benefit of using it over a regular bag? Just curious. It’s cute, but looks like the stuff might fall out.

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