A couple of weeks back Cat Noonan of @tincatsew on Instagram kicked off a Bento bag swap. I immediately loved the idea as a way to reduce my plastic bag use. All of us involved in the swap are using the lined bento bag tutorial by Melissa Wastney on her Tiny Happy blog.
With Melissa's great instructions, these cute little bags seriously only take 15-20 minutes to make. I've become a bit obsessed and have made about 6 in the last couple of weeks.
After a bit of stalking I discovered my swap partner likes pretty stuff, so I decided to embellish one of the bags I am making her with some Liberty hexagons appliqued onto Essex yarn dyed linen.
Since posting that picture on social media I've had a lot of people wanting to know how I got the hexagons to wrap around the bag like that. It honestly is so simple, but here you go...
The first thing you need to do is sew a long row of hexagons end to end. I've used 5/8" hexagons on this smallish bento (I've made the 8 x 24" size this time) as I liked the scale in relation to the finished bag and the tiny florals.
Because of the way the bento bags are constructed, all you need to do is mark the centre of the fabric. I just folded it along the length and made a crease. Then pin and applique the hexagons in place and you're ready to make the bag up. In the first posh bento, I also added a running stitch in pale blue perle thread along each side of the hexagons. Doing it at this stage means that your knots will be hidden inside the lining.
Then your ready for a quick 10 minutes at the sewing maching and BINGO, you have a pretty little project bag ready to go.
Both of these little bento bags are made using Liberty from my stash and our Essex yarn dyed linens. The original is made using taupe and the one in this tut is Fog in metallic (its almost impossible to capture that sparkle!)
I've also been experimenting with different sizes of bags. Last week my great delivery guy dropped off a big box of Kokka fabrics . I adore the colours and the quirky Japanese illustrations. Their canvas weight gives a bit more body to the bento bag and makes them perfect for the larger sizes.
For my Kokka bag I used a 13 x 39 " piece of fabric as this is the largest size I could make while sticking to the 1:3 rule for the bento bags and not having to have an extra seam in the exterior.
The best thing about the 13 x 39 " size is not only do you get a super roomy bag, you also eliminate waste. Now that's a win - win right?
This time I decided to just add a few rows of stitching. Once again I did my decoration before constructing the bag.
I ruled a line down the centre of the exterior (lenght ways again) using a fabric marking pencil and then two more lines, 1 inch either side of the centre line.
I used a different colour (you can hopefully just make out the blue) to mark dots one inch apart all the way along all three lines. Then using the dots to ensure even spacing I ruled a zig zag line.
I stitched over this line with pale blue perle thread. There wasn't really as much contras as I hoped, so I added deeper blue lines either side. In the image below you can just make out all of those blue dots from the erasable marker
Once I'd consturcted the bag I ran another row of stitching around the edges and reinforced the seam. I've seen a lot of other stitchers doing this and loved the simplicity of the decoration.
This size is perfect for shoes and I will definitely be packing one in my luggage when I head off on a teaching trip next month. It would also be great for larger knitting projects such as chunky jumpers (that's what most of us Aussies call sweaters) or cardigans.
I've also played with some boro stitching on another. I like the organic wabisabi feel of this, but wasn't as happy with the placement of that patch. I need to explore that a bit further.
I can see many more bento bags in my future.
In support of Plastic Free July our brand new Kokka fabrics are on sale at only $24 per meter. This means you could grab the fabric for a medium sized bento for only $6.
Go check out all of the colours here.