Friday, November 26, 2010

Babybites column: Lunchbox pretties!!

This week my BabyBites magazine column was a "DIY or Buy" special - something you can either give a go yourself, or buy from a local crafter and support the handmade community.

"Lunchbox pretties" explores reusable kids (or parents!) lunch bags. With reduce, reuse and recycle such an important lesson for our kids, I loved the idea of reusable fabric lunch bags banishing my piles of plastic snack bags the minute I heard about them. The most popular style being made by several handmade crafters are lunch bags made of vinyl – specifically, oil cloth, which is made from a vinyl material set onto cotton mesh and is durable and washable. Simply choose a colour or pattern for each child, reuse the bag at school each day, and teach them good habits about recycling and picking up their left overs off the mat!

More than just useful for sandwiches, you can use them for storing cut fruit; chips and crackers; biscuits; whatever you use plastic bags for usually.

This seems like a neat idea you can have a go at yourself. I found this incredibly simple tutorial on children’s television show Sticky TV’s website. Oil cloth is perfect for projects for young sewers because it doesn’t fray and doesn’t need hemming, so you can even get your child involved. To buy oil cloth you’ll need to visit a specialist fabric store – shop around because the price varies dramatically – or hunt out a bargain on Etsy or "Me Too Please" in Australia, and get it posted to you. Me Too Please is the online retail store of local importer BenElke, who not only sell Mexican oil cloth by the metre, but also make products made of oil cloth including lunchbags like the ones I've pictured here. Their lunchbags are handmade in a sheltered workshop for people with disabilities in Sydney, through the Endeavour Foundation, which makes their products even more meaningful to support.

Alternatively, if you'd like a bag with lots of features, you could buy a pattern, like this one from US designer Heather Bailey, or follow a fabric tutorial like the one here on Vintage Mum/Modern Baby and use a cotton outer and a nylon lining and velcro for the top.

If learning a new craft just seems too much, you can also buy them from local crafters: as mentioned check out Me Too Please, or Edan Rose in Australia (her lunch bags are pictured here and the colours are so yummy!) or ‘She Wears’ on (Although not lunchbags, one of my colleagues at the Devonport Craft Market, Cat Taylor Design, also makes gorgeous zip purses out of oil cloth- check them out too).

There’s still some debate about using plastic with storing foods, and the argument covers traditional cling film, zip lock bags, manufactured chippie packets… and even the types of laminated fabrics I’ve described above. So if you have concerns, 4Myearth is a new New Zealand owned and operated company that has sourced a special, highly technical fabric and is making lunch wraps and bags out of these. Check them out too!


  1. Ooh! They look delicious enough to eat! Nevermind the food! lol
    No, I haven't sorted out the white ink pad problem yet - I'll let you know if/when I do. :)

  2. BenElke in Australia are the local importers of mexican oilcloth and get there's made through the Endevour Foundation, which provides employment for handicapped or autistic sewers.

  3. Hi Anon, thank you so much for introducing us to the lovely designs at BenElke. I have exchanged emails with Ben now and added a comment in about their products into my story. I really love the fact that they work with the foundation to hand make these products in their sheltered workshop right in Sydney. Thanks so much for linking us up.


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