I'm taking a bit of a risk here. I know my mother reads my regular blog, but I don't think she's found her way over here yet. And yesterday I finally figured out how to make her Christmas gift, since she and my dad are fairly avid picnickers. It's sort of a dilemma, one which I'd love suggestions from other crafty bloggers on: if you blog about your projects, and you would love to make what you've figured out accessible to other crafty bloggers who might like to try the same thing, and you're crafting stuff for gifts, and the people you're making the gifts for read your blog...what do you do?
Anyway, Mom, if you're reading this, stop reading, okay? There. (Even though you already saw the subject line. But then, you'll be surprised enough if I actually finish the gift by Christmas, right?)
I think I've mentioned before that my kids' school has gotten on board the "waste free lunch" train, which I was freaked out by at the time but which now I think is awesome. I've explored some of the different options, reusable containers, and so forth, but the various paraphernalia can add up in cost and didn't look too difficult to make, so here's a pattern/instructions for making your own sandwich wraps and snack bags. The amount of trash we can avoid generating by ditching brown bags and plastic baggies and all that packaging is really surprising--and it's easy once you get the hang of it, much like an awful lot of the green stuff I've tried!
The sandwich wraps are modeled after the Wrap-N-Mat, which I have to say at the outset is a wonderful thing and which I highly recommend if you're at all not-inclined to make your own, or if you're an iota less cheap than I am. But the homemade ones work pretty well too! They are made with two layers, one in a decorative fabric and one in a material that is food-safe but also wipes clean easily.
Reusable Sandwich Wraps:
What you need:
- a square of plain cotton or cotton-poly fabric, 13" or 14" on each side. (The Wrap-n-mat is about 12.5"; I personally like to make them bigger, 14" is a nice size for bigger sandwiches but still works for smaller ones.
- a square of water-resistant/repellent fabric or plastic, the same size as the cotton one. I used rip-stop nylon, the kind used for making tents,, at about $6.99/yard at the fabric store, and 1 yard at 58" wide will make 8 of these. You could also probably use the stuff that backpacks are made out of. Pre-wash your fabric! I don't know what they treat these with at manufacturing. Another solution is to--no kidding--use a large cut-up ziploc bag for the inner layer. They sew fine, they wipe easily, and I'm told they even go through the wash with no problem. If you're very concerned about chemicals and don't want anything even vaguely synthetic touching your food, there are some folks who make these wraps just out of natural fabrics, without any water-repellent layer; I'd think this could get messy, depending on what kind of sandwiches you make, and/or they'd dry out fairly quickly, but YMMV.
- Sewing machine and thread
- Velcro strips (Strips, not dots. We'll explain why later.) (Important: if you're using iron-on velcro, read step 5 before you sew anything!)
How to make it:
- From each corner of your squares, cut off about a 3-inch triangle so you have a non-equilateral octagon. (Just a fancy way of saying that the main sides of the "square" will still be longer than the newly-cut-off ones. Doesn't really matter--if the symmetry appeals to you, make 'em all the same...
- Starting on one of the long sides, sew the two fabric octagons together around seven sides, leaving one short side unsewn for turning. If your fabrics have a right side and a wrong side, you want the wrong sides out for this part. Also: these fabrics tend to be slippery, so you'll probably want to pin them together--it should be obvious, I guess, that if you're working with impermeable plastic, you don't want to poke pin holes in it or they'll be there forever!
- Turn the wrap right-sides out. If you're less lazy than me, it would be a good idea to press them (take into consideration your non-cotton fabric--you'll need a low heat for this!) flat before the next step, and make sure all 8 of your corners are nice and crisp. For the lazy-posteriored like myself, I get a lot of mileage out of a squirt bottle of water instead, which enables a sort of faux "pressing" of seams.
- Fold under the open edge of the octagon and sew it closed using a "topstitch" effect; continue topstitching around the entire wrap. OR: if you wish, especially if you're using a plastic layer you can't easily sew velcro onto,, you could insert the end of one of your velcro strips into the open section before stitching it closed (the "sticky" side should face the nylon-plastic layer of your wrap); that's how the Wrap-N-Mat does it. I tend to wait till it's done and put the velcro flat on the fabric.
- At this point it's time to attach your velcro. The reason you want strips instead of dots is that sandwiches come in numerous sizes and even shapes; having some flexibility on where to close it enables you to snugly wrap sandwiches of various sizes. (This is probably the only area where the original wrap-n-mats leave me a little high and dry; I tend to make a lot of "artisan" type bread, which is generally pretty irregularly sized, and I often need more flexibility than the wrap-n-mat even gives. That's why I opt for the larger 14" wraps; it just works better for me. The Wrap-N-Mat itself is in the 12"-13" range and is folded/manufactured in a very "square sandwich" kind of way.) Hand-sewing is the way to go here. Fold your sandwich wrap closed so you can see where you want the velcro to go. Sew it in place. (Important: If you are using iron-on velcro, you need to attach the velcro to the cotton before you sew the thing together! An iron hot enough to fuse the velcro will melt your nylon!)
- If you're giving this as a gift, here I actually would (and will) break out the iron and iron it all nice and flat and pretty.
Reusable Snack Bags
What You Need: This is actually a lot more flexible than the wraps, because you can pretty much use whatever size fabric you have, depending on what size bag you want to make. Let's just say you want a snack bag that's 5 inches wide and 4 inches high. (In the pictures, you see the one I did that's a good bit larger, because that's I suspect what my mom is more likely to find helpful--she usually does picnics for more people than just one kid's lunch!)
- a rectangle of cotton fabric that's about 11 inches high by 6 inches wide.
- a rectangle of water resistant fabric (nylon, ziploc bag parts, see above) the same size.
- velcro strips or dots. (Important: if you're using iron-on velcro, it must be attached before you sew things together, or you'll melt your nylon/plastic!)
How To Make It:
- (optional) With the top two inches of each rectangle, cut your flap. This could be curved, decorative, or even just left as-is.
- Assuming about a three-inch flap at the top of your bag: with right sides together, sew just around the flap. Turn right-side out and press the seam neatly. (Or be lazy like me and don't.)
- Your nylon/plastic layer is going to be the lining of the bag: fold the bottom up so that it overlaps the bottom of your "flap" sewing section by about half an inch, with the right sides together. Sew up the sides (using the same seam allowance you did for the flap). Make sure you don't catch any of the flap stitching in these seams.
- The cotton layer is the outer layer of the bag: fold the bottom up as in step 3 only on the opposite side; repeat side seam sewing.
- 5. Flip the outer layer so the right side is facing out, and tuck the lining layer into it. You should now have what looks clearly like a snack bag only with raw edged sticking up in front. Fold these inwardly to hide raw edges, and sew across the opening to close it, and continue topstitching around the flap as well.
- Attach velcro as desired.
You could probably vary your attachments too--I bet for either the bag or the wrap you could do a button and elastic loop, which also would leave room for varying-sized sandwiches/snacks. (This might take some experimentation; I wouldn't want to squish my sandwich!) A long elastic loop to wrap around the whole sandwich would also probably work, as would ribbon or string ties...if anyone tries this, I'd welcome info on the variations you used!