Kawaii Bento Lunch Bag Tutorial

Take a peek in my bento lunch bag!! Yup, it’s Totoro looking back at ya’. 


I am in love…with sewing! In my younger years, I was not very good at it…so my mom told me. I must say in her defense that she is a talented seamstress…drafting her own patterns…sewing pants, dresses, & shirts for 7 of us kids. So I accepted her critique. But enter into the present day when she spotted the baby futon I was working on … and exclaimed “oh, you’re better than me!” And with that simple statement, she released my soul from the shackles of sewing insecurity…haha!

I am happily into sewing the many beautiful sewing patterns found in my Japanese craft book collection. Oh yes, I don’t mind hurting by brain and squinting my eyes to decipher those tiny pattern drawings. There are many times I just don’t get it…but am finding that it’s better if I simply follow with a sew-along.

By looking through my many books, I now realize that sewing is like cooking…with simple fundamentals at hand, patterns can be tweaked to create many different looks. And with learning more, I hope to blend techniques to create even more delectable looks. I’m not there yet but am very excited to learn more.

The kawaii bento lunch drawstring bag is one that I’ve looked at for a long time and finally…finally decided to give it a try. This bag can be given a more sophisticated look by simply changing up the fabric and made for other purposes such as a project bag by changing the size. And because I love pies, I’m thinking of making a pie taker!

Okay, ready? Let’s get started on the tutorial based on my interpretation of a couple of different Japanese patterns:

Kawaii Bento Lunch Drawstring Bag Tutorial

Sewing Seam is ¼” except for Drawstring pieces which will have a ½” seam for the sides

Body Piece
  1. Cut fabric & Interfacing (opt) :  10.5” (width) x 14.5” (height)
  2. Note : Instead of interfacing I used flannel.  It works well for stability without adding too much bulk at the seams.
  3. Apply interfacing according to manufacturer’s instructions.  (optional)
  4. Fold fabric in half, right sides facing.  Sew sides.
  5. Sew boxed corners :  Flatten corners so it looks like the one in the pic.  Be sure the seam is centered.  Open sewing seams.  Snip the top if that helps to flatten the seam.  Press down. Measure 4” width.  Draw sewing line. Sew. Cut off excess. I leave ½” of fabric on bag.
  6. Set body piece aside. 

Lining Piece
  1. Cut lining fabric : 10.5” (width) x 14.5” (height)
  2. Fold lining in half, right sides together.
  3. Sew sides leaving a gap on one side for turning.  For the side with the gap; first sew 1 ¾” from the top; then leave a 2 - 2 ½” gap, then finish sewing side.
  4. Sew boxed corner as done for body.
  5. Set lining piece aside. 
Bag Handles
  1. Cut one fabric piece & interfacing (optional): 5” x 13 ¾”, then cut in half : 2.5” x 13 ¾”
  2. Note: If you want a wider handle, cut the fabric 4x the desired width
  3. Note: The stiffness of the bag handles will depend on the type of interfacing used.  I think a medium fusible interfacing should be okay for this bag.
  4. Fold fabric in half and press.  Fold over sides towards center. Then fold over again. Press. Top stitch 1/8” lengthwise along the length of the straps of both sides
  5. Set aside. 

Drawstring Piece
  1. Cut 2 pieces : 11.5”  11.0" (width) x 5.5” (height)
  2. Stitch both sides stopping  2 ¾” from the top,  USING an  ½” SEAM
  3. Press seams open.  Turn over edge to hide raw edges. Press. Sew.
  4. To make the casing for the drawstring:  Turn over the top edge ½” 1/4" and press. Fold over again about 1 ½” to fold the casing.  Stitch in place. 

Putting It All Together

Straps Placement : Measure 2.5” from each side for strap placement.  Place the straps at the markings; aligned with the top edge.   Pin straps in place then baste with a few stitches.

Joining the Drawstring piece with the body : Place the body inside the drawstring piece; right sides together.  Pin top edges together and sew.  Pull up the drawstring piece. Press the joined edge and top stitch along this joined edge on body side.

Joining the Lining : Fold down the drawstring piece to expose the top edges again.  Place the bag/strap/drawstring piece into the lining; right side of lining to wrong side of drawstring piece. Sew along top edge.  Pull bag through gap.  Make everything pretty.  Sew gap close.

Insert drawstring cord through casing: Cut 2 cords; each 23.5” long.  Attach a safety pin to one end of the cord and pull cord through casing until the both ends of the cord are on one side of the bag.  Tie ends together.  Pull the second cord through so that the ends are on the opposite sides of the bag.  Tie ends.

Remember how I mentioned earlier about blending techniques?  Here’s one to try next… to create a bag with a crochet bottom and the drawstring piece technique in this tutorial.

A New Grandfather

I don't remember when I grew 'old-er'.  I still can't grasp the idea that I'm beyond the 20-somethings, 30-somethings, 40-somethings, mumble...mumble...mumble.  I still like cute things like Hello Kitty. (By the way did anyone out there find my Hello Kitty watch that I lost in Berkley?)  I love Harry Potter movies (and yes, I read the books too), Star Trek the Movie, and The Big Bang Theory.  I have a Totoro stuff doll and coin purse.  I wear tank tops most of the time.  So does age really matter?  Answer: Only when you look yourself in the mirror!

I always thought I'd be a young grandmother.  But alas...time is a'ticking and no grandkids are in sight.  The closest thing to a grandchild is my son's cat. (whom we adore !)

On the other hand, my boss who is REALLY old, is going to be a grand daddy.

I wanted to make a gift for his new grand daughter. I decided on a baby futon (a Japanese baby comforter).  This is a special gift tied to memories of my own son with his very own baby futon; made in the traditional manner; purchased at a fabric store with roots dating back to the late 1800's in Hawaii.  Imagine that!  (A bit of trivia - the store's owner is credited with making the first "aloha shirt".)
Here's my cutie with his baby futon

Over the years, I've sewn 7 or so baby futons.  It's a struggle each time but worth every bit of sweat in the end. The pattern is quite simple but the inside batting is a bear!

I'd like to say that this is the 'traditional' way of sewing a baby futon, with a pattern of over 30 years in keeping. The futons of yesterday were stuffed with cotton batting layers but today, polyester rules and I do have a secret to share on batting...so stay with me.

 Pretty In Pink Baby Futon

Baby Futon (The "how to" is for personal use only and is most likely copyrighted)

  • 1 yard for the center panel 
  • 1 1/2 yards for the backing
  • 3 layers of Cotton Batting
  • 2 skeins of embroidery thread
Center Panel
  • Cut off 17" from 45" width 
  • Final size : 28" x 36" 
  • Mark centers on each of 4 sides of fabric
  • Keep cut off piece for another project
Seam Line : I used a 3/8" seam line but a 1/2" seam line is good too.

  • Fold & pin the two short sides of the fabric, right sides together. The folded fabric will be 22 1/2" (half of 45" width) x 1 1/2 yards
  • Sew the pinned edge, leaving a 20" gap in the center to pull cover and batting inside out in a later step.
  • Cut the folded edge and open up the backing.  (the edge that you sewed is now the center seam of the backing)
  • Mark the center of each side of the backing
Sewing the Panel to the Backing
  • Place the center panel and backing right sides together
  • Match the centers and pin
  • Here comes the tricky part with the corners: After pinning the front panel to the backing, you will find an excess of fabric at each corner.
  • Match the corners of the panel while joining to the backing fabric. The fabric excess is still there but don't worry about it for now. (see pics below on how this will be addressed)
  • I drew a seam line on the center panel to use as a guide for sewing.  I sewed up to the seam line on one side of the corner, then stopped, then continued sewing. You can keep sewing without stopping if you like. 
 The corner of the center panel will look like this at this point. (The pic is ugly..sorry about that)

Finishing the Corners

 This is the futon cover at this point. Note the excess fabric at the corners.

Draw a seam line from the corner of the backing to the corner of the front panel. Sew down this line. Cut excess. 

The corners on the backing will now look like this. 

  • Cut one cotton batting to fit size of futon (approximately 35" x 43"); set aside
  • Turn futon cover inside out, where wrong side of the center panel is facing up
  • Place the remaining two layers of batting over the futon cover with 7" extending over the sides
  • Tear off corners by hand.
  • Fold over 7 inch overlapped batting towards the center.  
  • Place the batting that was set aside on top for a smoother layer
  • At this point, the fabric is on the bottom and the batting is on the top. To get to the opening to turn the futon inside out, grab the futon cover and batting on one side and roll up towards the center. The opening will now be visible. 
  • Stick your hand into the cover and reach for two corners on one side. Grab the fabric along with the batting and pull towards you and through the gap part way. Then repeat for other side. Then pull all the way through. Or find a way that works for you.
  • Fix the batting as needed. Fill the corners will more batting.
The Finishing 
  • Sew gap closed
  • Tack down the top with embroidery thread: Measure and mark where you want to tack down. Thread needle with a 5" strand of embroidery floss. Start at a corner where the front panel meets the backing. Poke down through the top and back up again. Tie into a top. Trim.  Add one tack at the opposite corner, then 2 more tacks in between (4 tacks in a row).  Repeat tacking with 4 in a row up to the opposite end of the cover.  The tacking helps to keep the batting in place. 

  • Add tassles to the corners : Cut a 1 yard strand of embroidery floss. Thread through the needle; moving the needle towards the middle so that you end up with 2 strands. DON'T KNOT.
 Sew 5 loops

Without cutting the thread, wind up the thread to the top
To finish off, turn fabric towards the back of the futon, slip the needle through as shown above. Pull needle through to secure. (my loops are uneven which is bad thing!)


What you say? ... you want to know the secret I promised about the batting? Okay, for the softest, most "huggable" baby futon use the batting inside a JUMBO pillow.  ( I bought one on sale at Sears for half price) You will need to carefully 'delayer' the batting then fold it to fit the cover (with the 7" extension as indicated above). 

Just look at all this SOFT, CUDDLY batting...good secret huh?

Now and go a make a memory for that special someone...


    Try and Try Again

    I am watching America’s Got Talent.  The two most adorable boys, Future Funk, are doing an incredible break dancing routine.   I can’t help myself from smiling.  This is how I watch The Big Bang Theory, with a smile.  When my spirit is running on empty,  I turn to You Tube to watch The Big Bang Theory snippets for a laugh, a sure fire way to bring me back to the moment by letting go of whatever was of bother.  I am miffed that the actors will be at the San Diego Comic Con without me.  As god is my witness, I’ll be there next year!! 

    Working on ‘cute’ projects make me smile too.  Who could resist making the kawaii bunny pouch from the ever popular Zakka Sewing book?  Take a look at the craftzine.com site for an authorized release of the bunny pattern and instructions here.

    It only took me 5 tries to get it right.  I am a beginner at sewing so this project was a bit more than my skill level.  But it’s so cute, I had to keep trying.

    Here’s my first try…the pattern was too small and I had trouble sewing the curves ... LOL ... what the hell is this?

    Here’s another try… I think I see a bunny being born!

    I searched the internet for HELLLLP , finding only a couple of bloggers with pics of their pouches. … sigh.

    But be patient  my little grasshopper, for as a caterpillar evolves into a butterfly so does the bunny (huh?)

    And here she is...ahhhh..finally

    And here are my pattern notes to hopefully save you a bit of grief :

    The Pattern
    • Scan page into Photoshop Elements/Photoshop/Similar Programs
    • Crop page down to pattern
    • Double size of pattern
    • Add to width, about an inch
    • Save “Pattern”
    • Crop body, flip horizontally, do a save as  (Once you double the size of the pattern, the body/lining/ear will no longer fit on an 8 ½” x 11” sheet)
    • Go back to “Pattern” and crop lining, flip horizontally, do a save as
    • Go back to “Pattern” and crop ears, do a save as
    • Note: I wish I could share my set but there are copyright issues with doing that : at least I think there are and  better safe than sorry.  
    • But here are: Dimensions for My Final Resized Pattern: Please use measurements as a general guide since the 'iffy' part depends on how much you crop the initial pattern :  Body Size (5.767 width x 10.247 height), Lining (4.47 width x 9.937 height), Ear (2.797 width x 6.437 height)

    Sewing Curvy Curves
    • Print another set of pattern for body, lining, and ears (see pic below)
    • Cut down to seam line
    • Use this set to trace sewing lines onto fabric/interfacing
    • Machine sew zipper.  Hand sew body following drawn on sewing lines. (but if you're more an experienced sewing person then you go ahead and machine sew the entire bunny)
    • Note: This step was the key in getting the curves right 

    Etc Etc Etc
    • Used interfacing instead of batting
    • 2 strands of embroidery thread for attaching ears with a blanket stitch

    I plan on making more of these guys now that I have the hang of it.   Thank you Zakka Sewing people.


      Deconstructed Pouch

      A cute pouch made in ...... no, not China...Go Vietnam!

      This pouch was to cute to resist ... but my true motivation for my purchase was to deconstruct this little guy to investigate its assembly.  I was a bit hesitant to take it apart for I've taken things apart before without ever figuring out how to put it back together again...sort of like Humpty Dumpty.  But as some wise person said...nothing venture, nothing gain.

      Deconstructed Pouch

      Figuring out this pouch wasn't as bad as initially feared.  The construction is similar to zippered pouches with a lining to hide raw edges.  Each edge was marked with a sharpie to help with reassembling the pouch matching, ie., "side a" (outer fabric) to "side a" (lining).  It worked! Whewwwie

      I will attempt to describe how to assemble one of these cuties.  Where words fail, I hope the pics will be of help.  If not, just let me know of any troubling spots.

      Materials and Prep Step:
      1. Cut one piece of outer fabric and lining : 9 1/2" x 4 1/4" (For this pouch, deer=outer)
      2. Add interfacing (optional) 
      3. Overcast edges to stop fraying (optional) 
      4. Zipper = 5" 
      5. All seams = 1/4"

      Step 1:
      Sandwich zipper between the outer fabric and lining.  (Lining faced up, Zipper faced up, Outer fabric faced down).  Pin both fabrics to top edge of 5" zipper.  (There is an excess of zipper that you trim later).  Sew with zipper foot.

      Step 2 : 

      Top stitch (optional).  Lay fabric apart and press. At this point the outer fabric (the deers) on on one side of the zipper and the lining is on the opposite side.

      Step 3:

      This is the step that hard to explain in words but here goes:  Grab the opposite side of the outer fabric and fold over towards the zipper. Do the same for the lining.  Pin both fabrics.  Use zipper foot to sew.  Top stitch (optional).

      Step 4 :
      The outer fabric and lining will form 'tubes' by positioning the zipper in the center.

      Follow the next steps if you want to add a trim to the bottom of the pouch:
      1. Crease the sides of the outer fabric to use a guide for trimming placement
      2. Place trimming between the two creased lines and baste in place : pic below : The trim is in the center of the pouch.

      Step 5:

      Pin the bottom, outer fabric and lining together, and sew across using 1/4" seam.  Trim excess zipper.

      Step 6 :

      Open up your pouch and place the strap at the top of the pouch close to the zipper.  Baste in place.

      Step 7 :

      The end is near.  Pin across the top as shown in the picture above.  Leave a gap in the lining to turn inside out later.  IMPORTANT: Open the zipper half way to also turn pouch inside out.

      I sewed from left to right, across the zipper, up until the second pin on the lining. 

      Step 8 :

      Pull pouch through gap in lining, then pull through zipper.  Sew the opening in the lining. 

      Step 9 :

      Drum roll please....

      Use this tut as a basic pouch pattern and change up the size, making it smaller, larger, longer, wider...
      I'd like to see your pouches ... so leave a note with a link to your creations...till then, enjoy.