Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Not-So Brown Bag

Tony and I usually eat dinner leftovers for lunch the next day. Since I'm at home for lunch it's easy for me to reheat my entree, but Tony has to carry his food to work. If there's more than one container, he needs something to carry them in. A small lunch box isn't the right size or shape to hold our microwavable containers, and a larger box is too big for the refrigerator in his office.

He usually ends up stacking everything in a plastic grocery bag. Even though they're bad for the environment, we always seem to have a pile in the pantry. They're the right size and they can be reused many times before they fall apart. However, they leave something to be desired in the style department. I decided I'd try to come up with a bag the size of a plastic grocery bag that wasn’t plastic. Today I made a lunch bag patterned on plastic grocery bag.

My inspiration was this post on Supafine, which gave wonderful detailed directions for putting the bag together, along with step-by-step pictures. I modified the directions just a bit when I cut out the bag pieces (she called for tracing around the template; I pinned the bag to the material and cut through both layers at once), but otherwise followed everything to a T.

What I did:
  1. The project called for about a half yard of two different fabrics. I dug through my leftover fabrics until I found two remnants I could use.
  2. I grabbed a plastic bag from the pantry and cut it open at the top and bottom to use as a pattern.
  3. After folding the main fabric together wrong side out, I placed the plastic bag on the fold, pinned it, and cut around it 1/2" from the edge of the bag (to allow for a seam allowance). I did the same thing with the lining material, ending up with two very long rectangles.
  4. I pinned the rectangles right sides together, then sewed around the entire piece, leaving a 4" opening for turning on one of the long edges.
  5. Next, I trimmed the corners and notched the curves so they'd lay flat, then turned the rectangle right side out. A small dowel poked into the corners made sure they were crisply turned.
  6. All the seams were pressed flat with an iron.
  7. I folded the bag in half right side in, matching the edges, and stitched down the sides and across the top of the handles. The very last step was to turn the bag right side out.
I could have stopped there for a basic flat bag, but I decided to make it more resemble a plastic bag by folding the handles in half and folding the bottom edges in. I stitched across the top of each handle and sewed down the points at the bottom. It's amazing how the modifications took a simple bag and made it look just like something I'd get my groceries packed in.

I was happy with the results, but next time I'd use nylon fabric so the bag would be lighter and a bit easier to wash out. Tony thought it looked like it would work for him, so if I want one of my own I'll have to do this again. At least I can use the same plastic bag template, and keep a second one out of a landfill.


  1. This is terrific! It looks just like the enviro-sax that I carry in my purse. I have done away with plastic bags, and have different cloth bags that I take to the grocery. But this is a fabulous and fun idea!

  2. Crafty! I've used reusable bags for years now @ the grocery store, but Toronto has just [this is the second week] introduced a 5 cent fee on all bags in all shops. I know it's not a huge fee, but it does seem to be working. I'm still on the lookout for something small enough to fold up in my purse for unexpected purchases.

  3. I think this bag, made in two layers of poly-cotton fabric, would be small enough to keep in a purse. Maybe a lighter weight material would work, though.

    For years I've shopped at Aldi for groceries, where you have to pay for bags. I used to pick up boxes off the shelves to hold my purchases (and of course recycle the boxes when I got home!), but now that I'm only shopping for two I keep a stash of bags in the car. My favorites for grocery shopping are flat bottomed, similar to a paper bag, but I have some lightweight organic cotton totes that I try to remember to slide into my purse when I'm going into a store for a small purchase.

    I'm finding that clerks at non-grocery stores aren't used to people bringing in their own bags, and sometimes get annoyed; I think it's easier for them to use their own store bag that's conveniently racked open right next to them than to use my bag.

  4. Very clever...we have about 10 different cloth shopping bags around here and I sometimes use one to carry my lunch. We always use our own bags when shopping, except at Target where I really should because they go crazy sticking just one thing in a bag and I end up with a dozen or more of their darn plastic bags.