Back to School Lunch Bag

School is starting and that means lots of new things: a new teacher, new clothes, and new school supplies. We thought we'd add to all the excitement by making a new re-usable, totally washable lunch bag!


To make one 10-inch tall by 5-inch wide by 3-inch deep lunch bag:

Making the Panels

Cut two 13-inch by 9 1/2-inch panels of the fabric.

Using the water soluble marker, mark a 2-inch tall by 3 1/2-inch wide rectangle in the middle of one of the panels- 5-inches from the top and 3-inches from either side of the panel.

Iron on the embroidery pattern pieces you want to use inside this marked rectangle. Be careful doing this step. The markings from the embroidery patterns are permanent. If you mess up you can try it on the other side or cut another piece. However, keep in mind that you can only iron the patterns on a couple times before they fade completely.

Embroider over the marked pattern with a small back stitch.

Spray the rectangle marking with water to make it disappear and iron the panels.

Hem each of the panels by folding the tops over 1/4-inch two times towards the fabric's wrong side. Sew these hems down with a scant 1/4-inch seam allowance.

Sewing the Bag

Pin the panels right sides together around their three raw sides and sew them with a 1/2-inch seam allowance. Make sure to backstitch at the beginning and end of each seam.

Pull the bag flat so that the two long seams meet each other and a diamond shape is formed by the bottom of the bag as shown above. Iron the diamond shape flat.

Using any kind of marker (I used clover tailor's chalk) mark the point where the diamond's bottom and top point measure 3-inches across. You can make sure this mark is straight by using a see though rotary cutting ruler and placing it perpendicularly to the straight  bottom seam as shown above.

Sew on top of each of these markings and cut the outside corners off about a 1/2-inch from the seams.

Zig zag stitch around all the raw seams, especially at the top of the bag.

Turn the bag right side out and iron the edges straight as shown above.


To make the little strip of fabric that will be the button hook:

  • Cut the fabric into a 1-inch by 5-inch piece.
  • Iron this piece in half length-wise to make a crease and then open it back up.
  • Iron the long sides in to meet the middle crease.
  • Iron this in half length-wise so that  the raw sides are encased and the outside is smooth.
  • Pin the piece closed this way.
  • Edge stitch the piece closed along the open edge.

Cut this piece to be 3 1/2-inches long and fold it in half so it's raw ends are next to each other and laying flat (as shown above).

Place it on the wrong side of the back bag panel in the exact middle of the panel and sew it down a 1/4-inch from the edge.

Sew on your button in the middle of the front panel 3 1/2-inches from the top edge of the bag.

Now pack a lunch and enjoy! --Molly

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38 Responses to Back to School Lunch Bag

  1. feebeefee says:

    lovely! thanks for the clear instructions

  2. Coffee and Vanilla says:

    What a beautiful lunch bag! Great tutorial, thanx for sharing it.

  3. ginger says:

    This lunch bag so cute! Thank you so much for sharing be relinking .

  4. Lydia says:

    I make lunch everyday and am always saving my brown paper bags. I like the idea of having something permanent that is green. The project seems a bit advanced for me, but when I do make this I would suggest that any fabric but white be used. That will get dirty so fast! Thanks!

  5. swbrattain says:

    If you added some rip stop to the bag it could be some what waterproof (from the inside) too. I’ve also seen some use those thick sunshades for your car to add insulation.

  6. Ann-Elise says:

    Thanks for the great instructions! I just finished my first one, and it looks so cute!

  7. RobbieLee at Chickiedee says:

    This is an awesome way to send lunches to school while being totally Green! Thanks for sharing. I love this tutorial o much, I’m going to do a blogpost with a link back here to share with my readers! Thanks again!

  8. Annette says:

    Thank you Molly for another excellent tutorial! My husband recently began taking his lunch to work and has been using old paper sacks that I’ve saved. I am excited to try and make this for him.

  9. Zoe says:

    so simple yet soooo lovely too!

  10. Fanie says:

    What am amazing craft, I will certainly make one or two. :-)

    I linked this craft back at my blog, Art”>”>Art vs Craft.

    Thanks again! ^-^

  11. Federicankits says:

    What a great idea! I will have to make one soon! Thanks for the tutorial!

  12. Laura says:

    Thanks for the pattern! It was so easy to sew and turned out perfect! Here is my finished lunch bag…and I plan to make some more for my husband too.

  13. the green gal says:

    I love this, thanks so much for the detailed instructions. It’s simple yet gorgeous-looking and when I’m feeling brave I’ll have a go making one myself!

  14. Sheila says:

    I loved it !!! And I’m very happy to find your blog too. Thanks for share your patterns.

  15. Kasey at Thrifty Little Blog says:

    I can’t get over how great that bag is. Too cute!!

  16. Megan says:

    Thats fantastic, great clear tutorial. I wonder if my husband would take that to work :) i really want to make one.

  17. Erika says:

    love this design! question though…how do you care for it? i can see the lunch bag getting pretty dirty from the use of a three year old!

  18. purl bee says:

    HI Erika-
    Thanks for your comment. You can just throw it in the washing machine! I might turn it inside out just to protect the button. You could use a darker background color too, if you were worried about stains:

    Hope this is helpful!- Molly

  19. laura says:

    How cute!!!!!It is so little and fun

  20. Meeks says:

    I’m loving this bag! Thanks so much for sharing!

  21. candy bello says:

    I can’t wait to make one of these!!


  22. Josepa says:

    I like it very much. I have published a post and a link on my blog, Thank you very much for this nice idea! Josepa

  23. jackie says:

    beautiful and clear tutorial; thanks for such an attractive and useful project.
    only two suggestions:
    first, I’ll make the bottom the same size as a gel pack — my kids have gotten sick off those bagged/boxed “juice”s, so I can’t freeze them and use them for coolers.
    second, a strap so kids are less likely to “forget” it and it’s less likely to get all grimy from the kids clutching it.

    Mine are pretty strong-minded, so they’ll definitely be doing the artwork on their own bags. yea.

  24. Allison says:

    i’m going to make this very soon! i love it! i just ordered my fabric! but i was wondering what you would suggest to insulate it?

  25. Sue says:

    I really love this this lunch bag but it’s way too good to send to school. As a teacher, I can tell you after a week or so of being kicked around the classroom and dining hall it will be ruined.

  26. cata says:

    Thank you indeed for this beautiful Tutorial!
    Love it!
    Regards from Tuscany
    PS: I put your link in my blog

  27. Lori@Kitchenfunk says:

    I loved this simple tutorial – thanks so much. I made my first one tonight and I linked up to your post to make sure you get credit. I didn't find a button here, but I did link the tutorial and the website by name. Thanks!

  28. Julia says:

    thank you for the pattern!

    one thought though for the beginners like myself: you have to zigzag around the edges BEFORE you start with the bottom. otherwise it doesn't really make it easy…

  29. Lynne in N. Calif. says:

    I am going to do this for my accountant daughter, but I'll use oil cloth so it can be wiped clean, and I'm going to try a single continuous strap that forms two straps on the bottom and double handles on top for easy carrying. Have you thought about making an inner pocket that runs around the inside and would hold the soft, freezable gel packs? Just a thought.

    Great tutorial. Thank you for generously sharing.

  30. Kim @ The Celebration Shoppe says:

    I'm in LOVE with this idea! Adorable!

  31. J.Hill says:

    I have included your tutorial link on my article:

    What a great idea for a lunch bag!

  32. Charlotte says:

    These bags are so awesome! I've been making them like crazy since I discovered the pattern. Thanks so much for the Tutorial!

  33. Maggie says:

    This looks really interesting, but only two of the pictures are showing up right now :( I would love to see the finish product :)

  34. purl bee says:

    Hi Maggie-

    All of the photos are displaying properly on our end. Maybe try using a different web browser?

    Thanks for writing in!


  35. M-La says:

    I may be a little bit late to the party, but I just wanted to thank you for this great tutorial! I made a lined one for my husband today, onto which I embroidered his name and a basketball. He is so happy with it! He loves the fact that he can just roll it up and put it in his pocked when he's done eating! I love the fact that it is washable and reusable! What a great alternative to “brown bagging it”!.

  36. The Junk Drunk says:

    What a wonderful and adorable idea. I recently turned your embroidery stitch lessons into a tea towel of my friend's Yorkshire Terrier:

  37. Christine says:

    This fabric doesn’t appear to be available anymore. What would you recommend?

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