How to Make a Canvas Lunch Bag from Scratch

By Brittni • Updated on 11/08/2023

Make your own canvas lunch bag!

Two canvas lunch bags with simple designs, sitting on white table with fruit and a drink

I don’t know why., but I love canvas lunch bags. They just feel so classic and cool imo.

And since it’s back to school season already, I made some and thought I’d share how.

So, whether you have kiddos at home or are just looking for an excuse for a new lunch bag, I have you covered with a DIY canvas and leather version that works for adults and kids.

They’re sewn from hand painted water-resistant canvas, so you can mess with the dimensions, designs, etc to get it just right for you (or your kid).

Here’s how to make your own!

two canvas lunch bags sitting on a white counter, with leather closures

Instructions for making a canvas lunch bag from scratch - cutting, sewing, and embellishing

Supplies for Canvas Lunch Bag

  • medium to heavyweight canvas (11.5 in x 29 in makes one lunch bag)
  • fabric paint and paint brush (if creating your own design)
  • fabric wax sealant – optional (I use Otter Wax, which you can get on Amazon)
  • leather strap or scrap (see dimensions needed in step 7)
  • gold button and screw back
  • leather / fabric hole punch
  • measuring tape and marking chalk
  • sewing machine

How to Make a Canvas Lunch Bag

1. Prepare the canvas fabric.

Start by measuring and cutting a 11.5 in x 29 in piece of canvas.

If you’re painting your own design on the canvas or dyeing the canvas a solid color, now is the time to complete that process.

You can use fabric paint, a little water to thin out the paint if desired, and a paint brush.

OR you can dye the entire piece of canvas using this technique: how to dye natural fibers. Wait for it to completely dry before moving onto the next step.

2. Cut and fold.

Once cut, fold the canvas in half and pin, as shown in photo.

3. Fold and sew.

Next, fold the top edges down 1/2 inch and sew a straight line (1/4 inch from the edge).

Backstitch at the beginning and end of each side.

4. Sew the sides.

Then sew a straight line on both sides (1/4 inch from the edge), leaving the top open.

Backstitch at the beginning and end of each side.

5. Fold and sew.

Next, match up the bottom corners of the bag to each other (as shown in the photo) and fold, forming a diamond shape. 

On both corners, mark a line 2 in away from the corner and then draw a horizontal line 4 in across.

Sew over the lines and cut off the corners, leaving a 1/2 in edge.

6. Turn right side out and iron.

Turn the bag right side out and press out all four corners.

Then, form the bag into a lunch bag shape and iron all four vertical creases from the bottom corner to the top of the bag.

Also, iron a horizontal crease from each corner on the bottom allowing the bag to stand on its own.

 7. Cut leather strips.

 
To add finishing touches, you’ll add the leather strap and button closure.
 
Cut one strip of leather 5 inches long and 1/2 inch wide. And one very small piece of leather that is 1/2 inch wide by 1/2 inch long.

8. Attach the button to the leather.

Next, attach the button, screw back, and 1/2 inch square piece of leather you just cut, 4 inches down from the top of the bag (on the front).

You’ll have to use a hole punch for all the pieces. See photo for how assembly should look.

9. Sew the leather strip.

Finally, sew one side of the leather strip to the back of the lunch bag and punch a hole toward the bottom of the loose end.

You should now be able to roll the top of the lunch bag down and close it by hooking the other side of the leather onto the button closure.

two lunch bags with painted designs on them, sitting on table with food and drinks

How to Make your Lunch Bag Water Resistant

If desired, you can finish the lunch bag off by making it water resistant with a fabric wax sealant, like this one.

Just follow the instructions on the packaging to cover the canvas in a protective wax layer.

It’s really easy, but does take some time to complete.

Depending on the strength of your sewing machine, you may be able to complete the wax step prior to sewing (like at the end of step #1). If not, you can wait until the bag is completed.

striped canvas lunch bag on white table with blue background

Two canvas lunch bags sitting on white table with blue background
Canvas lunch bag sitting on table, with painted squiggle lines in various blues and greens

Photography Amelia Lawrence

All in all, this canvas lunch bag project is a great beginner / intermediate sewing project. And can be endlessly customized based on your interests.

The leather closure makes it easy to open and has a more sophisticated vibe for adults. But also feels cool for kids. If the leather feels to formal though, you could always swap it out for a colorful nylon strap. 

What do you think of this back to school project?! Would you ever make your own lunch bag for work?

Looking for more DIY projects like this one?

Here are a handful of favorites handpicked for you…

15 comments | Click here to reply

Hi Bev. Since they’re canvas, they’re totally washable…although the leather strap may not be able to run through the washing machine. So, if you wanted something that you could easily toss in the wash, you may want to skip the leather strap and opt for a canvas strap instead. Hope that helps Bev. Great question!
-Brittni

Brittni

How cute! Can you wash these? How do you keep it clean?

Bev

[…] before sewing if you wanted something with more of a pattern. Kind of similar to what I did for the DIY lunch bag project, but with leather instead of canvas. All you’d need is textile paint and a paint brush. So […]

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These turned out adorable! I love them so much!

Elizabeth Mayberry

Awesome! Happy to hear that Natalia. Let me know how it goes.

Brittni

I am doing this! Not only it is stylish, but also sustainable, and I could not love it more for it. Thank you for sharing!

Natalia

Thank you Wendy. That was exactly the intention. 🙂

Brittni

Wow, what a fab alternative to plastic! And super easy to do too.

Thanks for sharing.

Wendy,
www.thecraftyco.com

Wendy

Love the idea of having kids decorate the canvas themselves, Seana. Such a great idea! And yes, totally! My intention for these was an alternative to paper bags. 🙂

Brittni

I love this little project. Each child could decorate their own, which might mean they are more invested in making sure they bring it home each day:) I love the leather strap. Nice alternative to paper bags that end up in the trash, and a bit sturdier as well. Thanks for sharing!

Seana Turner

So beautiful bag,I loved
https://thepinkpineappleblog.blogspot.com

The pink pineapple

I should send this to some nanny friends to do with their summer kiddos. So cute!
x0x0 Caro
http://thecarolove.com/

caroline

Thanks Michelle. I wanted to make them super basic, so they’d work for adults or kids. But they do kind of have that old school vibe, huh? 🙂

Brittni

They look so old school, I love the idea!
https://www.makeandmess.com/

Michelle
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