diy: bento bag

All folded up and ready to go! A bento bag is a great, practical way to transport small items, or an eco-friendly way to upcyle some fabric for gift-giving! 

All folded up and ready to go! A bento bag is a great, practical way to transport small items, or an eco-friendly way to upcyle some fabric for gift-giving! 

Make Nine

I imagined my 2018 Make Nine at the end of 2017 by considering the projects I’d like to complete, the yarns/fabrics I’d like to try, and the techniques I’d like to learn. Five knitting projects and four sewing projects made the list.

I have completed two of five knitting patterns so far - the Weekender and the Free Your Fade, both by Andrea Mowry. One of the knits on my 2018 Make Nine was a continuation of a project I was working on in 2017, which I was really close to finishing. I ended up frogging that one. The items that remain on the knit side are a sweater, which I’ll likely pickup when the weather turns cooler again, and socks, which seem like a really big project to wrap my head around (I know, I know, socks go on your feet not your head, but you get my drift.)

Now that the weather is warming up, I want to turn my focus, or at least some of it, to sewing. I haven’t really sewn a garment before (without immense help from someone else, that is.) I tried to keep the sewing patterns on my Make Nine in the ‘beginner’ realm. I mean sure, I’d love to sew up a pair of overalls, but from where I sit right now, I've got to start small. The most approachable sewing project on my 2018 Make Nine is the Bento Bag, so let’s make one, shall we? 

What's a Bento Bag?

A bento bag, as I soon learned from my Making Magazine (Issue 4 has instructions for making one!) sews up quickly from scrap fabric and can be used to carry small items or wrap a gift. I love the idea of wrapping a gift with fabric - it cuts down on paper waste, it involves a little extra thought and care, and it’s reusable! Bento bag for the win!

Items you can carry (or gift) in a bento bag: knitting project, lunch/snack, jewelry, things you want to separate from a larger bag/purse, produce, anything, really! Get creative.

Make a Bento Bag

The striations of yellow in the naturally dyed pillow case kinda resemble the wavy lines on the cover of the Making zine with the instructions for the bento bag! Coincidence, I think not!

The striations of yellow in the naturally dyed pillow case kinda resemble the wavy lines on the cover of the Making zine with the instructions for the bento bag! Coincidence, I think not!

To make my bento bag, I dug through my fabric stash for the pillow case I dyed with my best friend when she was in town. We pretty much Googled the process for naturally dyeing things with household items, and we had a go at it. We didn’t use a mordant (we didn’t even know what that was at the time), but we tried a round of beet and a round of turmeric. 

Beets did nothing to the fabric (shocking really) but turmeric produced a vibrant, cheerful yellow. In my naivety, I hung the freshly dyed turmeric pillowcase out to dry in the sunshine. (I later learned that the sun can bleach naturally dyed fabric really quickly and that yellow natural dyes are among the least colorfast.) The dried pillowcase result showcases a mixture of pale and bold yellow, which I’m actually really happy about. 

To make a bento bag, decide on a size (mine is from two 14” squares of fabric), get some fabric and scissors, cut triangles and sew. The bag has exposed seams on the front and back, and you don’t even have to finish edges (which I didn’t). Of course, you could get super fancy and line your bag with different fabric, hiding the inside seams. Two ends of the triangles become the handles that you can knot, concealing whatever’s inside. And that’s it, really. Super fast, super fun, super economical, and super practical. 

Cut triangles from your squares...

Cut triangles from your squares...

... And sew! It's that simple :)

... And sew! It's that simple :)

Need a way to carry something small? Giving a gift soon? Perhaps whipping up a quick bento bag is your answer. Give it a sew to see how fun and fullfilling this project is, and let me know what you're using yours for!