Soft Sack Insulated Lunch Bag
Packing your own lunch for school or work saves money and very likely provides you with a more nutritious meal. Now… it can also be the most stylish of alternatives. This pretty insulated lunch bag is fun, colorful, and features a bold monogram that clearly states, “That’s my PB&J, dude… hands off.” We used the Janome Skyline S9 sewing and embroidery machine for construction and embroidery. It made stitching through the multiple layers a snap, and the monogram was super easy to set-up and stitch out.
We started with a mid-weight linen blend in a bold solid color for the bag’s exterior, then added an upper accent panel and detachable strap in a striking quilting cotton. The lining is a wipe-clean rip stop nylon. It’s a combination guaranteed to create a very happy meal.
If you haven’t had a chance to test out one of the machine’s in the Janome Skyline series, you owe yourself a visit to your local Janome dealer. There are four Skylines that are just right for sewing at various affordable price points: Skyline S3, Skyline S5, Skyline S6, and Skyline S7. The Skyline S9 combines all the function and precision of the sewing machines and adds the beauty of embroidery. It’s awesome to have one machine that can handle both sewing and embroidery.
Our lunch bag features a detachable shoulder strap, which is perfect for carrying when you fold down the top. Simply clip the swivel clips to the side D-rings and sling the sack over your shoulder.
If you have a particularly big lunch, you can leave the bag straight up and seal the Velcro® at the top. You can then detach the strap and just carry the bag in one hand.
We added a layer of thermal batting to help your food stay warm or remain cool. It’s not a substitute for an insulated cooler, but works well for maintaining temperatures when commuting to school or work.
There’s a Velcro® tab at the top of the lining to help close the bag, plus a wrap-strap that loops from front to back, using a second Velcro® seal, to keep the bag folded down into place.
The bag has a 5” boxed bottom, which is a great size for standard food containers. Slip your tub into the flat bottom and stack other goodies on top. The finished bag is soft and flexible – not stiff, so you can load it up with a lot.
We show you the basic steps we used on our Janome Skyline S9 for monogramming. Of course, this is an optional embellishment, but it beats scribbling your name on a brown paper bag, dontcha think?!
Do you know someone who is a DIY Luncher? This would make a great gift, maybe with your own favorite sandwich or salad recipe.
Our bag finishes at approximately 10″ high (when unfolded) x 7″ wide x 5” deep.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing Machine and standard presser foot
NOTE: You’ll need a machine with a monogram feature if you want to add the cool lettering as we did on our sample; we used the Janome Skyline S9
Fabric and Other Supplies
- ½ yard of 44″+ wide lightweight canvas, mid-weight linen blend or similar for the bag exterior base, strap, and D-Ring tabs; we originally used Moda Mochi Cotton/Linen Blend in Teal
- ¼ yard of 44”+ wide quilting weight cotton or similar for the upper accent; we originally used Grandmother’s Garden in Multi from the Handmade collection by Bonnie & Camille for Moda Fabrics
- ½ yard of 44″+ wide rip stop nylon or similar for the lining; we used rip stop in black
- ½ yard of 44″+ wide thermal batting; we used Insul-Bright from The Warm Company
- ½ yard of 20″+ wide lightweight fusible interfacing; we used Pellon Shape-Flex
- ⅛ yard of ½” – ¾” wide sew-in Velcro® in a color to best match the lining; we used ¾” Velcro® in black
- TWO ½” D-Rings and TWO ½” Swivel Clips for the detachable shoulder strap; we used Dritz® ½” D-Ring/Swivel Hook Sets in Gunmetal
- Stabilizer for the optional embroidery as recommended for your embroidery machine; we used Pellon Stitch ’n’ Tear
- All purpose thread to match fabric
- Embroidery thread in a contrasting color for the optional monogram; we used Sulky 30wt cotton for our monogram, picking up a spring green from the accent cotton
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Rotary cutter and mat
- Iron and ironing board
- Straight pins
- From the fabric for the bag exterior base, strap, and D-Ring tabs (teal linen in our sample), cut the following:
TWO 13” wide x 13½” high rectangles for the exterior base panels
NOTE: If doing the optional monogram, cut one panel larger than needed to best fit your hoop. We cut one approximate 16” x 20” panel to hoop.
ONE 3” x 11½” strip for the wraparound strap
ONE 1½” x 4” strip for the D-Ring tabs
- From the fabric for the upper accent and strap (multi-color hexies in our sample), fussy cut the following:
NOTE: As shown in the photos below, we do recommend taking the time to mark and fussy cut. It will make both the accent panel and the shoulder strap look so much better.
TWO 13” wide x 5½” high rectangles for the upper accent
ONE 42” x 2” strip for the shoulder strap
- From the fabric for the lining (black rip stop in our sample), cut TWO 13” x 13½” rectangles.
- From the lightweight interfacing, cut the following:
TWO 12“ x 4½“ rectangles for the accent bands
TWO width-of-fabric (WOF or 20” in our sample) x 1” strips for the shoulder strap
- From the thermal batting, cut TWO 13” x 13” squares.
- Cut the Velcro® into TWO 2″ lengths.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Create the accent panels, place the back accent panel and Velcro®
- Find the two accent panels and the two matching interfacing panels. Center an interfacing panel on the back of each fabric panel so there is ½” of fabric showing beyond the interfacing on all sides. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place.
- Fold back the fabric ½” along the top and bottom, which means you are folding right along the edge of the interfacing. The sides remain unfolded.
- Find the main exterior base panels. Place each right side up and flat on your work surface.
- Place an accent panel ¾” down from the top raw edge of a base panel. The raw side edges of the accent panel should be flush with the raw side edges of the base panel. Pin in place.
- At this point, you are only going to edgestitch the accent panel onto ONE exterior base panel. This will become the back panel.
NOTE: If you are doing the optional monogram, you have one regular size panel and one oversize panel. This means your regular size panel is your back panel.
- Thread the machine with thread to best match the accent panel fabric in the top and bobbin. Slightly lengthen the stitch.
- Edgestitch along the top and bottom folded edges of the one accent panel.
- Find one of the 2” lengths of Velcro®. Peel apart. Place the loop side (the soft side) vertically on the exterior base panel. It should be centered side to side with the bottom of the Velcro® 4½” up from the bottom raw edge of the panel. Pin in place. Re-thread wtih thread to best match the Velcro®. Slightly lengthen the stitch and stitch the Velcro® in place around all four sides.
- Find the one larger front panel. This is known as “hooping wild,” meaning you hoop plenty of fabric to embroider so you can cut down the piece to size when done.
- Place the oversize panel right side up and flat on your work surface.
- Centered within the larger panel, draw in the finished cut size (13” wide x 13½” high). You are working on the right side of your fabric, so make sure your marking tool is one that will wipe away easily or will vanish with exposure to the air or the heat of an iron.
- Place the remaining accent panel into position based on the drawn line, ie. ¾” down the top drawn line and flush with the drawn side lines. You can also use the back panel as a positioning guide, matching front to back.
- Draw in the squares for the bottom box corners (2½” squares that will result in a 5” box corner).
- With these guidelines in place, draw, find the exact center of the panel side to side and mark this measurement with several vertical lines.
- Measure 5½” up from the drawn bottom line at the center line and make an intersecting horizontal line. These crosshairs mark the center point of the monogram.
NOTE: Bear in mind that your positioning might be slightly different depending on your machine make and model.
- Layer the marked fabric with stabilizer as directed by your machine’s instructions. Place the layers over the bottom hoop ring. We are using the RE20a Hoop on our Janome Skyline S9.
- Place the upper hoop ring over the bottom ring, centering it over your marked lines.
- Use the hoop template to confirm the center point. When confirmed, push the top ring down into the bottom hoop ring and tighten with the adjusting screw. Remove the template.
- Thread the machine with embroidery thread in the top and bobbin thread in the bobbin.
- Attach the hoop to the machine.
- The Janome Skyline S9 is easy to set-up for monogramming and there are lots of great options. You can select your favorite lettering. We used block
- Select the type of monogram. We used three letter.
- Select the frame. We used a modified shield.
- Put all these selections together right on the machine’s touchscreen, typing in your monogram letters. We simply used A-B-C for our sample.
- Set-up the machine for embroidery and start the monogram process.
- The frame will stitch first…
- … followed by the letters. So pretty! We used the monogram at full size, which finished at approximately 3⅜” wide x 3¼” high. You can reduce or enlarge on screen by approximately 20% in either direction.
- When the monogram is complete, use your drawn lines to cut your panel down to 13″ wide x 13½” high with the monogram appropriately positioned.
Create the D-Ring tabs and the strap
- Find the 1½” x 4” tab strip. Fold back each 4” raw edge ¼” and press. Fold the entire strip in half, aligning the folded edges. The strip is now ½” x 4”.
- Re-thread the machine with thread to best match the fabric in the top and bobbin. Re-set the machine for normal sewing.
- Edgestitch along the folded edge of the strip.
- Cut the strip in half so you have have TWO ½” x 2” tabs.
- Find the two D-Rings. Slip a tab through each D-Ring. Pull the tab through so the its raw ends are flush. Pin in place. This completes the two D-Ring tabs.
- Find the 3” x 11½” wraparound strip. Fold it right sides together so it is now 1½” x 11½”. Pin the long side.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch the long side.
- Roll the seam to the center and press open the seam allowance.
- While still wrong side out, use a ½” seam allowance to stitch across ONE end.
- Trim back this short seam to ¼” and clip the corners.
- Turn the strap right side out through the open end.
- Push out the corners with a long, blunt tool, such as a knitting needle, chopstick or point turner. Press flat.
- Find the hook half (the scratchy half) of the 2” Velcro® pair (remember, you stitched the loop side to the back panel already). Place this piece of Velcro® at the finished end of the strap. It should be centered over the seam on the back of the strap and approximately ¼” down from the finished end – as shown in the drawing above. Pin in place.
- The machine should still be threaded with thread to match the fabric in the top and and to best match the Velcro® in the bobbin bobbin. Slightly lengthen the stitch. Because you will see the stitching on the front of the strap you want the thread to match the fabric.
- Stitch the Velcro® in place around all four sides through all layers.
Complete the front and back exterior panels
- Find the back panel, which should have its accent panel and Velcro® already in place.
- Find the two panels of thermal batting. Pin the batting to the back panel. The batting should be flush along both sides and across the bottom. It should sit ½” down along the top raw edge of the panel.
- Find the two tabbed D-Rings. Place one at each side edge of the back panel 4” down from the top raw edge. The raw ends of the tab should be flush with the raw side edge of the fabric panel. Pin each in place.
- Machine baste along both sides and across the bottom, using an approximate ¼” seam allowance. This secures the tabbed D-Rings as well as the thermal batting.
- Find the front panel, which should have the monogram stitched in place if you chose this option. Layer it with the remaining panel of thermal batting in the same manner as for the back panel.
- Find the remaining accent panel and place it in position ¾” down from the top raw edge of the panel. Check the front alongside the back to be sure both accent panels are in the same exact position. Pin in place.
- Find the strap. Slip it under the bottom folded edge of the accent panel at the exact center point, inserting it under the accent panel approximately ½”. You are inserting the raw end of the strap and the strap and the panel are fight sides together, which means the seam of the strap is facing up as shown in the photo below. Pin in place.
- Re-thread the machine with thread to best match the accent panel in the top and bobbin. Re-set as necessary for a lengthened stitch to match the stitch you used on the back accent panel.
- Edgestitch across both the top and bottom of the accent panel.
- Fold the strap up into position – so it is now facing right side out.
- Re-thread the machine with thread to best match the strap in the top and bobbin. Stitch just across the width of the strap through all the layers to secure the strap in its upright position. This tiny seam should be exactly in line with the previous stitching.
- Using your original drawn lines, cut out the 2½” boxes from each corner of each panel.
- Find the two lining panels and the remaining 2” length of Velcro®. Peel apart the Velcro® into two halves.
- Along the top 13” edge of each panel, center one half of the Velcro® horizontally on the right side of the rip stop. Place the panels right sides together to make sure the Velcro® halves line up correctly. Re-thread the machine with thread to best match the Velcro® in the top and bobbin and slightly lengthen the stitch. Stitch each half of Velcro® in place around all four sides.
- Draw in matching 2½” boxes on the lining panels.
- Cut out the drawn boxes, and with the panels still right sides together, pin along both sides and across the bottom. Along the bottom, leave an approximate 2” – 3” opening for turning.
- If necessary, re-thread with thread to best match the lining fabric in the top and bobbin. Our rip stop was black so we did not need to re-thread. Re-set the stitch length to normal.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch both sides and across the bottom. Remember to lock the seam at either side of the bottom opening.
- Flatten the corners and stitch across on the diagonal, also using a ½” seam allowance.
NOTE: Our steps for boxing corners are summarized here. If you are brand new to the technique, you can check out our full step-by-step tutorial, showing Two Methods for Boxing Corners.
Stitch and box the exterior and assemble lining and exterior
- Keep your lining box wrong sides out for now and find the two finished front and back exterior panels.
- Place the front and back panels right sides together being very careful to align the accent panels.
- Pin along both sides and across the bottom.
- Re-thread with thread to best match the exterior fabric in the top and bobbin.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch both sides and across the bottom.
- Flatten the corners and stitch across on the diagonal, still using a ½” seam allowance.
NOTE: Again, if you are brand new to boxed corners, take a look at our full tutorial.
- Leave the exterior wrong side out. Turn the lining right side out. In the photo below, you can see that unstitched opening at the center of the lining’s bottom seam.
- Slip the lining inside the exterior so the lining and exterior are now right sides together. Align the boxed corners of the two layers. The top raw edges of the exterior and the lining should be flush. Pin together all around the top.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch all around the top.
- Pull the bag right side out through the opening in the bottom of the lining.
- With the lining still pulled out, pin together the opening.
- Hand or machine stitch the opening closed. It will sit way down at the bottom of the bag, so machine stitching in either color will really never been seen.
- It is not 100% necessary, but we chose to add a line of edgestitching around the top of the bag in order to best hold the “billowy” rip stop down inside the bag.
- To do this, re-thread with thread to best match the exterior fabric in the top and to best match the lining in the bobbin. Slightly lengthen the stitch.
- Edgestitch all around, through all the layers running the seam just above the top edge of the accent panel.
- To help the bag form its “paper bag” shape, it helps to reinforce each of the four corners with a short vertical seam.
- First measure to confirm the four points of the upper corners. Each corner point should be 2½” from a side seam.
- Pinch at each corner point. You are creating a tiny outward tuck.
- Re-thread with thread to best match the exterior fabric in the top and bobbin. Re-set the stitch length to normal.
- Tack each corner with a tiny vertical seam, stitching only through the exterior base fabric; do NOT stitch down into the accent panel.
- Repeat at all four corners.
- Find the 42” x 2” fabric strip and the two 1” x WOF strips of interfacing.
- Center the interfacing down the middle of the fabric strip, butting together the two 20” lengths at the mid-point of the fabric strip. This leaves 1” of fabric free at each end. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place.
- Press in each long side edge ½” so the raw edges meet in the middle.
- Fold in half, aligning the folded edges. Press well. The strip is now 42” x ½”.
- Re-thread with thread to best match the accent fabric in the top and bobbin. Re-set for a slightly lengthened stitch.
- Edgestitch along the folded edges along the length of the entire strap.
- Find the two Swivel Hooks.
- Slip a raw end through each Swivel Hook.
- Tuck under the raw end ¼” then pull through an additional ½” and pin in place.
- Stitch horizontally across each end to secure, staying as close to the base of the Swivel Hook as possible.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Kathy Andrews, What Sew Ever
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If I was still regularly
If I was still regularly taking a lunch somewhere, I would definitely make this. But what I wanted to comment on was that I greatly appreciate the little finishing touches that are often included in your projects, elevating their value considerably and creating learning opportunities. (I’m speaking of the little corner seams in this case.) Great work as usual!
@Rochelle – Thank you so much
@Rochelle – Thank you so much. We would have to agreed that the little things can make a BIG difference