DIYdiy projectskate pruitt

diy project: kate’s notebook lunchbag

by Grace Bonney

oh i love this time of year. this month’s theme is definitely going to be back to school, because who can help but be at least a little excited about the start of fall and a new year for students everywhere. send your favorite student to school (or work) with this notebook lunchbag! this is completed in a jiffy and is very inexpensive. much like that pristine first page of a new notebook, the hardest part is deciding what to write on it. have fun! –kate

CLICK HERE for the full project after the jump!


1. striped canvas fabric (1 yard)
2. sewing machine
3. red and cream thread
4. black fabric marker
5. ruler
6. scissors



1. take your fabric and lay it on a flat surface. measure and cut out a large rectangle that is 34.5 x 33 (the 34.5 should be cut parallel to/along with the stripes, and the 33 should be cut perpendicular/through the stripes). this will be for a bag that is 8.5″ x 11″ (of course!) and 7″ deep. actually, the bag is really 12″ tall so that when you fold over the top and clip it shut you still have a 8.5″ x 11″ writing surface on the front.

2. cut out four 12.5″ squares from each corner of the rectangle. this leave you with a cross shape that is the shape of your bag with .5″ seam allowance on all sides.

3. using cream thread, hem the top of each flap by folding down .5″ into the inside lining of the bag.

4. draw a light vertical pencil line 2″ from the right edge on both the front and back of your bag, on the side of the fabric faces out (the outside of your bag). sew a line of red thread down this pencil line from the very top of the fabric to the bottom of the flap that makes that side of the bag. this is the guideline of your “notebook” paper.

5. now turn you fabric so the inside of the bag is facing out and sew each flap to the flap next to it, sewing in .5″ in from the edge (you can use cream or red thread for this, i used red). when you are finished snip the excess thread and flip inside out.

6. you now have your bag complete!! you can write whatever you want however you want with your black fabric pen. if you want to write it first with a light pencil and then go over it to ensure good penmanship, feel free!



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  • C- there is a wonderful little Brother machine at WalMart for 125.00 that will do more stitches than you could ever learn. I have it right next to my industrial straight sew machine.

  • I think I will borrow this to make a set of napkins as a gift . Love the idea – makes me think of one of my favorite works of art (John Baldessari’s “I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art”

  • i made one yesterday with my little sister :) it was a lot of fun. thanks so much for this project!
    with the scraps i kept one as a napkin to put inside and with the other scraps i made a little pillow, to use when picnicking or a late night star gaze.

  • Hey,
    Thanks for this great post ! But I’ve got a problem here. I’ve been trying to figure out how you had that excess to flap over and clip shut? It seems like the bag should have 12″ after cutting off .5″ parts from top. Or should I cut off 1.5″ from top so that I could have 11″ length?

    confues with this part;
    “the bag is really 12″ tall so that when you fold over the top and clip it shut you still have a 8.5″ x 11″ writing surface on the front.”

  • hey teresa and banu –
    to answer your questions: fabric marker does not wash out. and banu, the bag is folded over an inch, but the clip goes down past that on the bag. the clip is overlapping some of the 8.5″ x 11″ writing surface. sorry if the way i worded it made it unclear.

  • i love this idea for a lunch bag. while I was looking at the picture you have for it I noticed a jumbo binder clip… would you mind telling me where you aquired it?

  • What imagination you have! This lunch bag is amazing. Particularly with the Bulldog clip. If I could only sew!

  • How sweet that bag is! I am going to make one, too, but with a small additional feature, as I imagine that clip can easily get lost by a young child. I would like to find a way to attach one arm of the clip to the side of the bag. The clip can then hang inside the bag when lunch is removed. Any good ideas on how to do that? Elastic cord?

  • I love this idea! I have tons of this fabric in my stash. Look out friends with children, this may be the gift of the year. Thanks!

    The bullclip is the only I’d have to switch out. Maybe a fabric paperclip button? Any ideas?

  • I’m thinking I’ll finish the inside seams with some double fold bias tape, which will really prolong the washable life of this bag.

    It could also easily be insulated. Make a sandwich of front fabric, right side down, insulation, and lining right side up. Do some quick quilting, then cut out the extra squares. (Instant pot holders!) Sew up, right sides together, then enclose all the raw edges with bias tape.

  • As a schoolteacher who just found bento boxes and made a commitment that this year I will stop work and eat/enjoy/laugh at lunch, I MUST MAKE THIS BAG FOR MYSELF AND ALL MY TEAMMATES (with different colored “ink” and our names)! Won’t it be too perfect for us? Even the kids will be jealous of our bags. Great idea and thanks a million for sharing it. :D

  • Has anyone been able to find fabric similar to this online? I want to make this as a gift for my friend and I can’t find anything similar at all. :(

  • This fabric is ticking and is usually found atany place that has quilting materials. Also available in red. Pillows use to be made from this material

  • Just picked up my ticking fabric at Jo-Ann fabrics. It was in the Utility Fabric section and they had loads of it in red and the color shown above. I can’t wait to do this project!

  • I had a challenging time working with my granddaughter to make this unique lunch bag! I ended up getting my cousin who is a real seamstress to tighten up my flaws. I guess my granddaughter used it ….. I am not sure. But it is definitely a great lunch bag.

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