DIY utensil roll for brown bag lunches

I don’t mind telling you I failed spectacularly at keeping my 2013 resolutions, especially the ones about healthy eating. Oops!

But I shall persevere for 2014 nevertheless. Thus, I have vowed to commit to brown bag lunches on the days I teach at the studio. As with all things in my life, my new resolutions have somehow all managed to relate back to sewing.

finished utensil roll

I made this little fabric utensil roll so when I make my salad-in-a-jar (I saw it on Pinterest!) I have something to eat it with. A missing fork is all I’d need as an excuse to buy (delicious, fatty, expensive) takeout instead.

It’s pretty, eco-friendly, and ridiculously easy and fast to make. I made this one in about an hour, including pausing to take pictures for the tutorial!

gather materials for utensil roll

step one: gather materials
I used a lightweight denim for the self (the outside), a bright magenta cotton for the lining, and a pretty floral print for the pocket.

For the self and lining, cut two rectangles 9.75″ x 14.75″

For the pocket, cut one rectangle 9.75″ x 13.75″

For the strap, cut one strip of fabric 22″ x 3″

I also used lightweight, woven fusible interfacing (Pellon SF 101) on the back of each piece except for the strap. Some people wouldn’t bother with interfacing for such a small thing, but I pretty much use it on everything.

mark lines for silverware slots

step 2: make the pocket
After applying interfacing, fold the pocket in half lengthwise, so it is still 9.75″ wide and about 7″ tall. Iron it flat to form a sharp fold along the top edge.

Mark the stitch lines for the utensil slots by measuring 2.5″ from the left raw edge, and then 2″ from the first mark.

press creases into fabric to use as a stitching guide

I chose to have 3 slots in my utensil roll, (2 for flatware and one big one for a napkin or condiments) but you could make as many as you like.

To ensure straight lines when you stitch in the slots, use a hot steamy iron to crease the fabric where you intend to stitch.

stitched slots for utensils

Pin the pressed pocket to the lining, with the raw edges along the bottom matching. Stitch the pocket to the lining along the creases you made, forming the slots for your utensils.

Start from the raw edge and sew towards the folded edge of the pocket. At the very top of the fold, leave the needle down in the fabric. Lift your presser foot and rotate the fabric to sew in the opposite direction. This way, you get reinforced stitches without any messy thread ends to deal with.

sew in a 45 degree angle at one end

step three: make the strap
This sort of strap is a favorite of mine, but if this seems too fussy there’s no reason you couldn’t use a ribbon for this job, or even a bit of elastic and a button.

To make the strap, fold the strip of fabric in half lengthwise, with right sides together, matching the raw edges. Sew the long edge together with a 3/8″ seam allowance, and sew one short end at a 45 degree angle. Leave the other short end open.

Make sure to backstitch at the open end, and reinforce the points of the angled end.

trim off the seam allowance

Trim off most of the seam allowance on the strap, and then turn it right side out.

A little something I learned turning narrow tubes (like the straps on a bow tie)…it’s actually easier to start from the pointed end than from the open end! Turn it in on itself using your thumb, and then push the point towards the open end of the tube using something with a blunt tip, like a pencil eraser or the end of a paintbrush. Works every time!

attach strap to right side of pocket

Press the strap carefully, making sure the seam stays to one edge. Attach the raw edge to the right side of the prepared pocket with a zig zag stitch, about 5″ up from the raw bottom edge.

If you want to use an elastic loop and a button, attach the loop of elastic here instead (maybe 2″ long?) and sew a button on the right side of the self, the same distance from the bottom, but about 1″ away from the edge.

leave an opening

step four: sew it all together!
Sew the self and the prepared lining together with right sides facing, using a 3/8″ seam allowance.

Leave a 3″ hole at the top, and make sure to backstitch at the beginning and end of this hole, and at all four corners. Take care not to sew over the strap!

I like to reinforce all seams, by sewing right on top of them with a slightly longer stitch.

trim the corners

Trim the seam allowance in the corners to a point, and turn the whole thing right side out.

Do a little finger pressing to flatten out the seams, and to make sure the corners are flat and square, and that the raw edges of the hole are tucked inside.

Press carefully.

finishing stitches

The last step is to close up the hole! If you’re feeling fancy, use a blind stitch to close the hole invisibly. I simply topstitched close to the edge, with a backstitch at both ends.

I also decided to stitch in the fold line, about 4.5″ away from the finished top. This forms a flap that will cover your utensils and prevent anything from falling out once everything is all rolled up.

fold flap down to cover utensils

That’s it! Pack your lunch and your fork, knife, chopsticks, whatever! Put a napkin or little condiment packs or a bag of tea or anything you like in the large pocket.

Feel smug that you are eating healthy, being eco-conscious AND conquering your new year’s resolutions all at once!

finished and rolled up

As always, I’d love to see the ones you make.


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