As an Environmental Studies student at the University at Buffalo, I am constantly looking for new ways to reduce my impact. One thing that really drives me nuts is how wasteful plastic sandwich bags are, but this girl needs to eat! Tupperware containers are a sustainable alternative, but they can be rather bulky, and I hate to have to cut down on healthy snacks to save space. The solution? Reusable fabric sandwich bags! I found two simple templates for large and small size bags on the Better Homes and Gardens website, and in honor of National Sewing Machine Day I decided to give it a whirl. Check out the steps below to make your own and stop throwing out plastic sandwich bags!
What you need:
- Outer fabric, 14-1/2 inch square (100% cotton works best, but any fabric will do—you can even reuse some old fabric you might have lying around)
- Liner fabric, 12-1/2 inch square
- My mom had an old polyester laundry basket that she was ready to get rid of, so I used that for my liner – it was a canvas bag with a waterproof lining, perfect for these bags!
- Better Homes and Gardens recommended ripstop nylon or polyurethane laminate for a liner, but neither of those materials were in my home
- Bobby pins, safety pins, or sewing pins
- A button (or you could use a strip of Velcro)
Some optional, extra supplies:
- Your favorite cup of tea – I was feeling chamomile
- Some relaxing music – If you’re like me, you haven’t touched a sewing machine since you were 11 years old and in 6th grade Home and Careers class; I chose Iron & Wine
Some tips before you start:
- If your fabric is wrinkly (like mine was), be sure to iron it before you start. It makes measuring and cutting much easier.
- When I was a kid my dad used to always say, “measure twice, cut once” and for probably the first time in my life, those words were relevant to this project. So do it!
Here’s what you do:
- Start with your 14.5” square of fabric (outer fabric) with the side that will go on the inside facing up, and fold in a 1/2" seam on one side and press with a warm iron for about 5 seconds. Fold in a 1/2" seam again in the same direction and press so you have a finished seam on all three remaining sides.
- For this part, I used a manila folder as a guide for the half inch line and bobby pinned the fabric around it. Don’t fret; you won’t light your folder on fire when you iron over it. But I wouldn’t leave the iron on too long to try and find out.
2. Secure the corners either by simply folding or sewing (I just pressed them a little longer)
3. Place outer fabric right side down on table so the folded seems are facing up.
4. Place liner fabric, right side up (the shiny, water resistant side), on top. Tuck liner under the un-sewn seams of the outer fabric and secure with bobby pins. This takes a little adjusting, so it helps to bobby pin one side and adjust the rest accordingly. If needed, trim liner so it fits flat.
5. Now you’re ready to sew! Using a 1/8" seam allowance, sew down inner edge of folded seam. This is where 6th grade Home and Careers evaded me; I forgot to backstitch when I started, so I’m reminding you to do this when you make these!
6. And for the finishing touches, I sewed a loop of thicker thread to one corner, and a button to the opposite corner. A couple of things to note here:
- You’ll want to measure the loop of thread to your button; seems common sense, but I almost didn’t do this
- You’ll also want to practice folding up your sandwich wrap to your typical sandwich size so you can see where the best place to sew your button is
Now you can pat yourself on the back – you’ve made your first reusable sandwich bag! If we’re being honest, this project was pretty high up on my list of “really proud moments.” I managed to successfully sew a square without putting a needle through my finger or breaking anything. And now you can rest easy, because Mother Earth thanks you for saving all of those silly little plastic sandwich bags from ending up in the trash.