When my daughter entered kindergarten last year, it was my first time packing school lunches. I was excited about planning her lunches at first, but soon became anxious when I realized how much waste we were all contributing with serving-size bags of snacks, yogurt, and treats. I decided to not buy anything pre-portioned, but instead invest in reusable containers and spend some time doing lunch box prep every evening. Well, the story ends like this: Most of my containers I purchased for my kindergartener’s lunch ended up being accidentally thrown away or lost through the course of the year, defeating the purpose in a tragic way. So this year I’m starting over at square one—both mother and daughter a bit older and much wiser.
We have some Yumboxes that are great (and have never made it into the cafeteria trash can—hooray!), but some days I don’t have enough small pantry items to fill out each little compartment in them. I like the option of being able to just send a sandwich, a whole piece of fresh fruit, and some kind of snack—all of which won’t necessarily fit into the confines of a Yumbox. So this year I decided to make my own reusable sandwich bags and snack bags that we can use for the simpler lunches on days when mama’s too weary to compile creative lunches.
These reusable sandwich bags are made out of cotton fabric from the A Beautiful Mess Flower Market fabric line. I added a vinyl coating to them to make them durable and easy to clean. Check out how simple they are to make!
–Cotton fabric that has been washed, ironed, and cut into pieces (two 5″ x 12″ pieces for snack bags, two 7″ x 16.5″ pieces for sandwich bags)
–Vinyl iron-on interfacing
–Hook and loop strips
–Sharp scissors or rotary cutter
-Sewing machine and coordinating thread
Step One: Cut pieces of the vinyl interfacing to be 1/4″ smaller than your pieces of cotton fabric.
Step Two: Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to fuse the vinyl to your fabric. Be sure your fabric has been washed and ironed before cutting into the pieces you’ll need, as described in the supplies list of this post.
To fuse my vinyl to the fabric, I peeled off the paper backing, placed the vinyl onto the right side of my fabric, replaced the paper backing, and pressed with a hot iron (no steam) for eight seconds. Then I flipped the fabric wrong-side-up and pressed again for eight seconds.
Be sure to keep one of your larger paper backs from the vinyl adhesion process. You’ll use it in step six, and possibly later in the maintenance of your reusable sandwich bags!
Step Three: After each of your cotton pieces have been coated with vinyl, you’ll want to make rounded corners on one side of each fabric strip. I used round objects from my home as a template for this.
Step Four: Arrange your fabric pieces right sides together and pin very closely to the edges. You’ll be stitching 1/4″ around the border, so make sure the pin holes will be hidden within that seam allowance. You don’t want to poke holes in the visible vinyl.
Step Five: Sew along the border of the pinned fabric pieces, removing the pins as you go. Do not sew on the short flat edge. Only sew along the two long sides and the one rounded side. You’re leaving open the non-rounded side to flip the fabric right-side-out.
Step Six: Clip the corners of your rounded edge as shown above, then flip the fabric right-side-out.
When you flip your vinyl coated fabric right-side-out, you will heavily crinkle the vinyl in the process. Don’t panic! Simply use a reserved piece of paper backing from the vinyl you used in step two and iron the vinyl (with the paper barrier) to get out the wrinkles. Just be sure not to iron for more than a few seconds, or the vinyl will begin to degrade and come off onto the paper backing. Definitely do not use a hot iron directly on the vinyl!
Step Seven: Close up the open flat edge of your fabric with a simple straight stitch. Then add pieces of hook and loop strips as shown above. I used two straight pins near the edge of each hook and look strip to keep them in place as I sewed them.Step Eight: Now fold the fabric as shown above and stitch closely to the edge of the fabric to close up the sides of the bag. You’re going to begin by going up the left side, around the top flap, and then back down the right side of the bag.
School hasn’t started for us yet, but my kids were already excited to see these new reusable sandwich bags in their favorite colors and fun patterns. My littlest was able to easily open and close the bags herself, which was not the case with some snap-lid containers and reusable zip-lock bags we’ve tried in the past. Cute and easy to use? Win-win!
When it comes to washing these little reusable snack bags, you’ll want to stick with lukewarm water and a non-abrasive sponge or washcloth. Let them air dry then use again and again forever! If your bags ever get really crumpled looking, just use some of the paper from the vinyl adhesive process and iron the vinyl smooth again. Do not use an iron directly on the vinyl.
How cute do these little guys look?! This was such a fun and useful project, I’m already thinking about other ways I can use vinyl-coated cotton to make reusable version of disposable items. Shopping bags? Wet wipes bags? Give me all of your ideas! – Mandi