A lot of people are intimidated by a sewing machine, or even the thought of sewing, but as someone who is basically self-taught, I can tell you that it really is easier than it seems! The fancy, more complicated machines might have something of a learning curve, but for very simple projects with just straight stitches on a nice woven fabric, I think just about anyone can pick it up! If you’re looking for an easy project, here’s a really fun, really quick tutorial for a practical little lunch wrap! Note: This is a beginner project, but it does assume some very basic knowledge of sewing/your sewing machine. You’ll need to be able to thread the machine as well as stitch with it. I’ll cover the very basics in another blog post soon!
2 fat quarters (or 2 pieces of cotton fabric approx. 18″ x 21″ or approx. 1/2 yard)
Fabric Shears / Scissors
Step One: Choose Fabrics
I had to include this as the first step because this is one of the most fun parts of the project! I absolutely love fabric – and I have probably a much bigger fabric stash than is strictly necessary – and get way too excited fawning over pretty new patterns. If you’re not into the sewing “scene” and don’t really know where to find fabrics and don’t care about fabric designers, that’s fine! Go to your local quilt shop and just browse, or go to one of the big craft stores like Jo-Ann’s. Even Wal-Mart has fabric! My recommendation is to go with pre-cuts instead of yardage. Fabric is typically sold by the yard, and for this project we’ll need approximately a half yard. To save yourself some effort, though, you can buy two fat quarters.
Normally fabric is cut from the bolt, and the width is always going to be the same (this varies by the bolt, but often it’s somewhere around 45″) and the length is going to be what you ask for. For a quarter yard, that’s going to be 9″ long. A fat quarter instead is a yard cut in half with a vertical cut, then those halves are cut in half again with a horizontal cut. The size doesn’t matter too much, it really depends on how big you want your wrap to be!
If you’d like to look at some really lovely, nicer fabrics, here are a few online fabric retailers:
Step Two: Cut/Trim Your Fabrics
Once you have the fabrics you’d like to use picked out, it’s time to make sure they’re the same size! (Note: you can use the same fabric for front and back, but I like using two different prints.) If you’re cutting it yourself, this part is easy – they’ll already be the same size! But if you’re using pre-cuts, you’ll probably want to trim them up. Before cutting or sewing, iron your fabric so it’s smooth and easier to work with. Wrinkles can make it harder to make your fabric even when you’re trimming! So first, place your fabrics right sides together. The right side of the fabric is the side the pattern is printed on. The wrong side is the lighter side that typically won’t be seen in a project. So line your fabrics up right sides together. I like to start from the selvage edges if your fabric has them, just line up your clear quilting ruler and trim with your rotary cutter (or scissors, if that’s what you prefer).
Then, use that edge to trim the rest to make sure it’s square. Line up one of the lines on your ruler with the edge you just trimmed, and use the ruler’s edge for the next side you’re trimming. That’s how you square up your fabric! Continue until all sides have been trimmed and the two pieces are the same size.
Step Three: Sew Together
With your fabric still lined up, right sides together, pin around the edges. This is not totally necessary, but for new sewists it can really help keep things lined up – one less thing to worry about!
Then take your fabric over to the machine and go! Sew straight down all three sides, from edge to edge with a 1/4″ seam allowance use a 2.5 stitch length (often machine default). Many machines will have a marking on the needle plate you can use to guide your fabric.
IMPORTANT: On the last side, do not sew all the way down! Leave an opening 3″ wide in the middle. for turning the piece right side out. Make sure to backstitch before and after the opening.
Sewing Tips for Newbies:
- Don’t push the fabric through. The feed dogs on your machine are doing that work for you, all you need to do is guide the fabric.
- If you’re having trouble with your seam allowance, use a piece of washi tape on your machine to mark it to make an easy to see guide!
- Backstitching means going backwards over your stitches to strengthen them. Use the wheel on your machine, or many machines now have a backstitch button or setting.
- Don’t sew over your pins! Pull them out before they get to the needle. Stop sewing if you need to, it can be dangerous if a needle hits a pin – it could break.
- If your stitches look off, with loops on either side, you may need to adjust the tension on your machine.
- Use a neutral thread that matches the fabrics.
Step Four: Turn Rightside-Out and Press
Use the opening you left to turn the wrap rightside-out. I often clip the tips of the corners off so the points are neater and sharper. If you have trouble getting your corners turned, use a knitting needle or something similar to poke them out. Once your wrap is the right way out, take it back to your iron and press flat. For the opening, gently fold the seam allowance in and press.
Step Five: Topstitch
This will close the opening and add a nice decorative touch. You can use the same thread, but I like to choose a contrast thread that will add some interest. This is why I mentioned you’ll need some knowledge of your machine – you’ll need to be able to change the thread and bobbin. So choose your thread, something that will pop and look nice with your fabric.
Start somewhere unobtrusive, like near one of the corners. Sew down the side with a 1/4″ seam allowance, until you get about 1/4 from the end. With your needle still down in the fabric, lift your presser foot and turn the fabric.
Continue all the way around until you meet back up where you started. Backstitch at the start. If desired, press again.
And then congratulations! You did it!
This is a really easy, fun project, and it takes very little time to complete. I also really love it because it’s very functional. As a working mom, I take my lunch to work most days, and I like having something cute to wrap it in! (When I have a bigger lunch, I also have a Spiderman lunchbox, too!) This is inspired by a wrap for a bento box, a common lunch in Japan. If you’re interested, here’s a brief history of the bento box. I normally just tie the corners in a little knot (see first pic), but there are a lot of ways to wrap and tie – like this!
Thanks for reading my tutorial, please let me see if you make a cute lunch wrap! If you have any questions, leave a comment below and I’ll try to help! If it’s a sewing machine problem, I can try to direct you to some useful resources, but I have a Brother CS-6000i, so if it’s any other machine I might not be much help!