Insulated Lunch Bags

Warning - this is a photo-packed blog entry! :-)

Insulated Lunch Bags
"Pretty Maids all in a row"
I've been making Insulated Water Bottle Carriers for a little over a year now, so you might say it was just a matter of time until I came up with Insulated Lunch Bags, too. I gave it a go last September, when I made a simple lunch tote for myself, but never got around to making more - until now.

Last spring, one of our cousins asked if I could make a knock-off of a lunch bag style made by a famous designer for her 3 girls, in time for this school year. As an added twist, the girls' names would be embroidered on the bags. Of course I agreed, and even suggested they each could choose their own fabrics for a truly personalized bag.

Insulated Lunch Bags
To prepare for this project, I did some online window shopping to research the size and shape of the designer bags, made some notes about the design details, sketched up a draft pattern and started collecting the raw materials. Over the summer I looked at a lot of lunch bags available in department and other stores, but never did find the exact designer bag for a true comparison.

Flash forward to mid-August, when I finally had a break in my schedule to make the bags. We arranged to meet so the girls could choose fabrics; I packed up a supply from my stash in a variety of colors and patterns that I thought might be appealing. Their selections were surprisingly interesting - and inspiring!

Please excuse the wrinkled background in these photos - I rushed to get them done in natural lighting just before delivering the bags to the girls!

Insulated Lunch Bag
Draft #1 - Emily's Lunch Bag:
I needed to make up a sample to test my pattern; Emily chose this groovy peace, hearts and flowers fabric. The bright turquoise blue and hot pink go with her new (purchased) backpack, so I decided to feature those colors on her lunch bag by using bright pink zippers and contrast piping with turquoise fabric for the name panel.

The main shape of the front, back and pockets were already drafted, and I figured out the dimensions for the remaining pieces for the gusset, handles and piping as I worked my way through the bag-making process.

Emily's name is embroidered in bright pink on turquoise fabric using 2-inch letters from the Orange Juice font from 8 Claws and a Paw Embroidery.

Insulated Lunch Bag
On the back side of the bag, I created a border using flowers and peace signs included in Five Star Fonts' Funkadelic applique font pack.

Framing each turquoise band of fabric is contrasting bright pink piping. Piping matching the body of the bag is also stitched on each front and back. I used the specialty piping foot for my sewing machine to make all the piping - about 3 yards per bag.

The handles are padded with a narrow strip of fusible batting. The shoulder strap is optional and detachable (more on that below).

Insulated Lunch Bag
Most of the main pieces of the bag are backed with fusible batting and quilted in a diamond pattern at 45 degrees.

The front has a zipper pocket that is lined with matching fabric. The zipper matches the contrast piping, which is applied to the bottom of the zipper in this first trial version.

On one side of the gusset is a pocket with a clear vinyl window; on the other side is a small pocket with an elastic top edge.

Insulated Lunch Bag
The inside of the bag is lined in white nylon fabric, with one simple flat pocket decorated with fabric binding along the top edge.

Before sewing the lining together, I basted the nylon fabric pieces to Insul-Bright batting, which provides most of the insulation to keep things cool (or hot).

Insulated Lunch Bag
Draft #2 - Jenna's Lunch Bag:
Emily's lunch bag turned out almost as I imagined it should be; Jenna's bag reflects some of the design improvements.

Jenna chose this fabric print with medallions in teal blue, olive green, chocolate brown and tan on a cream background. I chose tea-dyed muslin for her contrast bands, dark brown fabric for contrast piping and matching dark brown zippers.

Jenna chose to have her initials embroidered on the front of her bag; I used the same Orange Juice font from 8 Claws and a Paw, in the 1-inch size.

Insulated Lunch Bag
For the back side of her bag, I found a medallion embroidery design on my machine from Husqvarna Viking (D100SE37T) that doesn't perfectly match the fabric print, but has similar elements. Using 4D Embroidery software, I reduced the size of the design, then created a border with 3 repeats rotating the middle one 45 degrees for variation.
On the front of the bag, I rotated and mirror-imaged a coordinating corner design (D100SE38T) on either side of the initials. The embroidery colors closely match some of the colors from the fabric.

The quilting on this bag is done in a diamond pattern using a 30 degree angle.

Insulated Lunch Bag
On one side of the gusset is the pocket with a clear vinyl window. The vinyl has binding on all 4 sides to cover its raw edges.

The shoulder strap attaches to the bag by clipping the swivel hooks to D-rings that have been sewn onto the fabric handles. On the previous bag, I had sewn in extra fabric loops for the D-rings but the extra fabric made that seam too bulky to sew neatly.
Insulated Lunch Bag
The front pocket has a dark brown zipper; on this draft of the pattern, I attached the contrast piping above the zipper. I think it looks better that way.

Insulated Lunch Bag
Draft #3 - Abbey's Lunch Bag:
By the time I started this bag, the shape and size of most of the pattern pieces were finalized and my sewing process was established, so all I needed to do was to follow my notes to test-sew my own instructions.

Abbey had chosen a larger black-on-white damask print, but the scale of that print didn't really suit a smaller bag. I substituted this black and white damask print. She also preferred to have just her initials embroidered on her lunch bag.

I thought 8 Claws and a Paw's Harrington font would go well with the damask. I used the 2-inch size letters reduced to 75% or about 1.5 inches high. Using 4D Embroidery software, I created the flourishes on either side by selecting a machine font for fashion stitches, then mirroring and editing as needed.

Insulated Lunch Bag
Since I didn't have a damask border design in my collection, I chose this Fanciful Flourish design from Embroidery Library for the back side of the bag. The design is stitched all in black to mimic the damask fabric.

The result is a very classic black and white bag.
Insulated Lunch Bag
On one side of the gusset of each bag is a pocket with elastic at the top edge. This pocket is large enough to hold a cell phone, sunglasses or perhaps a container of hand sanitizer.

For Abbey's bag, I added some fabric tabs on either side of the main zipper so there's something to pull against when opening and closing the zipper.

Abbey also asked for a matching cell phone pocket, which I'll share in a later blog entry (but you can peek at it on Flickr here).
Insulated Lunch Bag
Lunch Bag #4 - Erin's Bag:
Erin's choice of fabric was bright and mod, but her selection presented several creative challenges!

First, the fabric was a remnant of just under a yard, so I knew right away that I would need to mix and match some other fabric for piping, binding and pocket linings.

A second challenge was choosing a fabric for embroidering her name. I tested several patterned fabrics in coordinating and contrasting colors before choosing this neutral linen-look fabric, which turned out to be just about perfect.

Erin's name is stitched in the same Orange Juice font from 8 Claws and a Paw using 1 inch letters.

The third challenge was choosing a motif to stitch on either side of her name. Does that flower look familiar?

Insulated Lunch Bag
Using 4D Embroidery software, I selected just a small part of the same embroidery design used for the back of Abbey's bag (above), this time in colors that matched Erin's fabric.

The flower petals and center are stitched with 3 color stops in shades of aquamarine and peapod green. The border for the back of her bag is the same flower design with the colors shuffled and the flowers each rotated just a bit for variety.

Insulated Lunch Bag
I'm pretty sure I tried to match the pattern of the fabric on either side of the zipper, but until I started editing my photos, I didn't realize how well they lined up! That was actually another challenge - keeping the linear pattern aligned horizontally across the bag.

The photo at left shows the fabric tab near the zipper pull a little clearer than in Abbey's photo.

Insulated Lunch Bag
The biggest challenge was the fact that I didn't have enough of the main fabric to make the entire bag and neither of my local JoAnn Fabric's had restocked it yet. 

Fortunately, I found a coordinating plaid fabric from the same collection. I didn't want the bag to look too scrappy, so used the plaid in a supporting role for the lining of the front zipper pocket and design details of piping and binding. The plaid is printed on the diagonal, so instead of cutting strips on the bias for the piping and binding, I cut straight across the width of the yardage.

Insulated Lunch Bag

Insulated Lunch Bag
Lunch Bag #5 - Emma's Bag:
Emma chose this fun and whimsical fabric, an out-of-print design from Blank Quilting in some of my favorite colors.

Once again, I had only a remnant of fabric to work with - a mere 1/2 yard! I'd have to mix and match coordinating fabrics for even more for this bag than for Erin's! The tiny checked pattern fabric in light blue and lavender became my secondary fabric, with a marbled blue/purple for contrast piping and binding.

Emma's name is embroidered using a font from 8 Claws and a Paw called New Shoes (Sorry - I can't find the link to this font).

Insulated Lunch Bag
By this time, I was out of clever new ideas for border designs, so re-used this one from Emily's bag, changing up the colors to match the inspiration fabric.

Insulated Lunch Bag
I was running short of time - I was finishing up Emma's bag on the day I was supposed to deliver all 5 bags. As soon as the last thread was trimmed, I had just enough time to snap some photos before we drove down to the beach.

Even though we were hours behind schedule, it was worth the trip just to see each of the girls' enthusiastic reactions!

I hear the lunch bags are a big hit with each of the girls - and their friends, too. :-)

This was a fun project for me - each bag was like a puzzle, waiting for me to piece together the fabric, colors, patterns and design details so that all the elements meshed together. 

You can see more photos of these and future lunch bags in my Insulated Lunch Bags set on Flickr


  1. These are awesome. Any chance you have a pattern to share or sell?

  2. Thanks! I've been pleasantly surprised by the response to these lunch bags and have had a couple of inquiries about making a pattern available, so I'm exploring how to do that. Right now I have just my own personal notes and scribbles! I'll post an update here when I have something ready to publish. :-)

  3. I see it has been over a year since you posted anything on this lunchbag. Have you considered offering the pattern for sale? Of course, free is good too! ;)

  4. Thank you, Peggy, for the gentle reminder! I don't have a pattern ready yet; I haven't even had time to make another lunch bag since my original post. But since I've received multiple requests (and I need a new bag for myself, too!) I'm putting it nearer the top of my to do list. Fingers crossed, I want to begin this again after Easter, in April 2013.

  5. Thank you, Donna! I will be waiting eagerly for your pattern. I love all the lunchbags, particularly the black and white damask one.

  6. Just popping in to update the status of this project as of April 2014 - unfortunately, I have not been able to get a pattern drafted. I hope I will have time soon. I have found a very similar style pattern and have pinned it for those who have been waiting - I have no affiliation with the author, I just liked the photos:

  7. 2018 update: I never did have time to make a pattern for these lunch bags. :-(
    But I have found a similar style bag designed by Sew Sweetness, called Peas and Corn Lunch Bag and I'm sure these instructions will be much clearer than any I could ever write:


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