Monday, 2 November 2015

Azuma bukuro - linen lunch bags

After I finished making my Japanese trousers, I had a few sizeable scrap pieces leftover. I loved the textural linen - slubby and coarse-woven, so that the plain weaving forms the texture. I thought that the pieces would be lovely for some kind of home ware.  Following from my analysis of my textile purchases last year, I know that I should try to make more everyday items such as tea towels. This cloth would have been perfect for that purpose - but unfortunately my leftovers were too narrow. I didn't want to make napkins (boring!) or an apron, so I was a little stumped for what to do as I equally didn't want the cloth to get sucked into my stash. Then I discovered the blog Fringe Association; and more specifically, their sister site Fringe Supply Co's product 'bento bags'. I was smitten!

These gorgeous little textiles are more commonly known as 'azuma bukuro', but I loved the product name 'bento bag' - a textile to stash all your snacks in so that they don't get lost in your backpack; and which folds up very small.

There are several tutorials available online; three methods are reviewed here. After some consideration I chose to follow the simplest method available which uses only two seams. I used the tutorial on Coco Stitch; and there's a clearer diagram available here.  The bag is formed by cutting a long rectangle, hemming it, and folding it into thirds. 

I love how the flat, geometric bag is immediately transformed into vessel and a form, just by placing an object inside. The tied bag has a pleasing quality to it; a bundle of snacks.

I made my first bag very simply, to try out the method. I immediately fell in love with this textile and had to make another from my remaining linen scrap. This time, I added a piece of interfacing into the centre third; and lined it. I bagged out the rectangle with a piece of lovely quilting cotton (leftover from my quilt) and topstitched the seam before sewing it together. This made it sturdier, so you can carry more food in it.

The fabrics look great together; and I was so thrilled by the simplicity of this useful everyday project. I forced everybody that I met the next day to admire my lunch bag (sorry!). 

I'm now excited at the other possibilities that this wrapped textile project can offer. It's a seriously good way to use up leftover scraps that are an otherwise awkward size. There are only so many zip pouches that one can make and give; but this bag has a sense of novelty and fun. I think that it would be a great alternative, eco-friendly approach to wrapping for that big celebration of food and gift-giving that's coming up soon…

Project details
Project details:
Azuma bukuro / Bento bags
Pattern: This tutorial by Coco Stitch. 
Modifications: Interface the central square; bag out to line. 
Fabric: leftovers from trousers and quilt
Cost: £0

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