This is a bucket-style bag that has soooo much room for creativity. We made about 12 for Christmas, & each person got different handles & paintings. The grandfathers got shoe bags instead of mats...Even though I went to Japanese schools, I do have to say that I call this baon (ba-own) instead of bento. That would be bento in Pilipino. As in, "Eat! Eat more! Pack a baon!"
It takes about an hour each for the bag & the mat. If you want you can paint the mat fabric first so the utensil pockets can be sewed a bit over the painting like "famous ducks on the pond," above. It was painted with acrylics. For napkins we just cut some matching denim & frayed it the wash. This is a beginner sewing project, with the 7 year-old helping with every procedure. Lake (3) & Kai (11 months) helped with the painting & pedal work.
Our handles were fingerknit from various decorative strings of cotton. If you want the handles to act like drawstrings, you might use a lighter cotton than denim, or, you can make the casings an inch thick. These casings are 1/2". The boys wanted them to look more like buckets, so this pattern has a drawstring effect, while still being wide open for grazing.
Bucket-Style Bento Bag
(2) each fabric: 14 1/2" x 11" - these are the walls
(1) piece fabric: 8 1/2" x 6 1/2" - bottom
(2) lengths ribbon or icord: 35" - handles
Sewing Machine, Scissors, Ruler
Assembling the Walls
1.) Take 1 piece of 14 1/2" x 11" fabric. Fold over the sides 1/4" & iron.
2.) Fold the top down 1/2". Iron. Fold down another 1/2" & iron.
3.) This will be your casing. Fold the sides in as you fold over that top. Like this:
4.) Do the other rectangle. With top folded over twice, stitch along bottom edge of casing. Backstitch at beginning & end. Grab your other rectangle & just keep stitching through without cutting the thread. It's much faster.
5.) With right sides together, line up the edges of the two rectangles. Sew along that 1/4" line you creased with the iron. The foot should stop about 1/2" below the casing. Backstitch. Do other side.
6.) Now you have a tube for the walls. Grab the bottom piece & turn it upside down. Line up the edges with the tube bottom, making sure to place the corners along those side seams. Use a 1/4" stitch. When you come within 1/4" of each edge, just put your needle down into the fabric, lift the foot & pivot the fabric. Backstitch the beginning & end.
7.) Using a large drawstring needle or a safety pin, pull one handle length through one casing, out the other end. Put it into other casing & pull through to other side. Tie two knots, one above the other. You can also pull the knot through & hide it in the casing. Take the other length of ribbon & insert it into the other side of the bag, & pull through entire bag. Tie off.
8.) Pull each side a bit & even out the gathers. Insert your bento boxes, mat & napkins!
I'll show you guys how to make the mat tomorrow. My mind is just buzzing with the possibilities of this set. If you try it, please send pictures! I love sewing & I love food, & I happen to know many of you do, too. And there's nothing more inspiring than seeing all your projects. Thanks!