Feel free to adapt template sizes as needed to accommodate varying sizes of snack food packaging, size of fabric available, and size of your preferred sandwich bread!
MATERIAL & TOOL LISTS
1/4” or 3/8” elastic
Button (3/4” or bigger)
Needle (for attaching button by hand)
Printed template from this tutorial
Approx 7.5” x 17.5” for sandwich, 6” x 12” for snack of each of the following (plus small scraps for button reinforcement tab):
- Mylar lined snack packaging
- Fabric (I recommend using non-stretch cotton or cotton blend similar to fabric used in quilting. Also, the fabric can be pieced if you would like to use scraps. Be sure to use a fabric dark enough in color that the text, logos, and pictures contained on the mylar packaging won’t show through. If you want to be super-environmentally friendly, fabric from old pillow cases or shirts can be repurposed for this project.)
- Wonder Under (Common brand name for paper-backed double-sided interfacing. Can be purchased by the yard or in smaller packs found on the notions wall at fabric stores).
Sewing Machine (zig-zag stitch recommended)
Iron and ironing surface
Linen-type tea towel or fabric scrap for use during ironing
ABOUT MYLAR SNACK PACKAGING
What is it?
My answer: Plastic-like bags that are silvery, shiney on the inside, used to package many snack foods.
What types of products come in mylar packaging?
Many kinds of packaged foods come in mylar bags, especially foods of the “snacking” variety:
Potato chips, SunChips, OREOs, Chips Ahoy, Clif Bars…
What types work best for these reusable snack containers?
Size: Bigger is better, but piecing of mylar can be done. I suggest splitting the pattern into sections based on the folds, ironing the fabric and interfacing to the pieces separately, and using seams where folds would have been.
Thickness: I have found that slightly thicker bags are easiest to use because they can withstand ironing at a higher temperature. Thinner bags can still be used, but be sure to do an “Ironing Test” to find the correct temperature. (See below: Tips for ironing mylar bags)
How does one obtain enough mylar snack packaging to make lots of snack containers?
If your pantry does not often contain cookies and chips, don’t fret because someone else’s does! Don’t be afraid to ask family, friends, and co-workers to save these types of packaging. Just explain that you will be repurposing the material and you won’t get too many strange looks.
Also, when attending potlucks or BBQs, don’t hesitate to mention to the host that you would like to take home any empty chip bags after the event.
Tips for preparing and cutting mylar bags
-The mylar packaging can be rinsed and washed before cutting, but I find it easier to wash out after it has been cut open.
-If the bag is not torn or badly damaged, the easiest approach is to cut along the seams (top, bottom, and back)
-If the bag is torn down the front or side, leave the seam on the back of the bag intact. Just trim down the seam flap to 1/8” or 1/4”.
Tips for ironing mylar bags
Once you have collected and cut the mylar bag, use a scrap of fabric, interfacing, and mylar to determine the highest heat setting that the mylar will tolerate before it begins to melt or distort in shape.
I also recommend laying a tea-towel or piece of scrap cotton fabric on top of the mylar when ironing, to diffuse the direct heat.
Here are the results from my own test, ranked from left to right based of their ability to handle heat from the iron. Do note that I still successfully used each of these to make snack containers, even though some required a lower temperature.
In my experience, the heat setting for most mylar is about 3-4 on a scale of 1 to 10. But since all irons are different, be sure to start at a low temp and work your way up!
Note: If you are piecing fabric or appliquéing, do so BEFORE applying interfacing. This will minimize stitches that pierce the lining. To the left is an example of an appliquéd strip of fabric I used on a snack bag to add some pizzazz.
Iron double-sided interfacing to selected fabric following manufacturer’s instructions, which will call for a high heat setting.
Be sure that your fabric piece is slightly larger than the interfacing, otherwise the interfacing will adhere to your ironing surface or iron.
Unplug your iron and set aside to cool off. The next time you use the iron it must be at a cooler setting, so be sure to allow adequate time to for iron to cool.
While iron is cooling, prepare your mylar material.
Place snack packaging on ironing surface with mylar side facing down. Peel paper off back side of interfacing, and lay interfaced fabric on top of snack packaging so that the interfacing is touching the printed side of the snack packaging. Again, if the material containing the interfacing is larger than, or hangs over the edge of, the mylar it could make a mess of your iron or ironing surface.
Lay tea-towel or fabric scrap atop the materials to shield from direct heat of iron. Use the iron on a low setting, activating the interfacing with gentle circular motions.
Note: Resist the urge to over-iron during this stage. The interfacing will adhere easily to the fabric because it can integrate with the thread fibers. Attachment to the snack packaging will be somewhat superficial, as it is a non-porous surface. Even after the interfacing seems attached to the snack packaging, you will be able to peel them apart if you try (but don’t try!). Sewing the edges, as demonstrated later in the tutorial, will help prevent the layers from separating.
Use the selected template from this tutorial to trace and cut the interfaced materials.
Using a scrap of fabric and interfacing, cut out a Reinforcement Tab (see template). The reinforcement tab should be fabric and interfacing only, without the mylar layer. If you have leftover fabric that has been ironed to the mylar, you will likely be able to peel it away from the mylar for use as the reinforcement tab.
Center the tab on the mylar side of the top flap, and iron on the low setting using the tea-cloth between the iron and the mylar.
**This is the part of the photo tutorial making where I made a mistake by not following my own directions (gasp!). Accidents happen, right? This is a great reminder that this sewing project is about function, not perfection! If you make a mistake, channel your inner Tim Gunn and “Make it Work!”
Ideally, you want to cut out and apply the Reinforcement tab prior to sewing the snack/sandwich container. When done correctly it will look like the photo above. If you make the error I did, you can make a circle for the reinforce, and iron it on after you have stitched the item, as in the photo.***
Next, fold the material where shown on template. I recommend using a fine object to score the fabric prior to folding. (Scoring means running a fine, but not too sharp, object along a ruler to make it easier to fold something in a straight line. I recommend a mechanical pencil with the lead retracted or the tine of a fork.)
Set your sewing machine to a zig-zag step that has a wider stitch than its length. On my machine it’s a width of 4 and length of just over 2. If your stitch length is too short it will cause too many pierces in the mylar, which is not recommended.
Note: If your machine does not zig-zag, use a stitch length 3 and stitch each area twice with 1/8 inch between the stitch lines.
With the material unfolded, stitch the squared end as in the photo to the right.
Re-fold the bottom portion of the material, and begin stitching from the bottom left corner, curving around the top flap and back down to the bottom right corner.
Note: Pinning the material at this stage is difficult and not recommended. If you must pin the folded portion, try to only pierce the mylar in the outer-most edge of the material where the stitches will be.
I recommend back-stitching the following 4 areas to ensure sturdy construction:
Cut two pieces of elastic to match the width of your finished container. Attach with zig-zag stitch approx. oneinch from the bottom and top of the container as shown below.
You will want to stitch the elastic over and back a few times to make it sturdy.
The elastic can be stretched very slightly to fit the width, but stretching is not necessary.
If the elastic is too tight, the container will not lay flat when empty.
Hand sew the button on the front of the flap, ensuring that the stitches are within the reinforced area on the back of the flap.
And you’re done! Yippee!
Note: To fasten the flap for use with snacks and sandwiches, slide the flap under the top elastic band, then slip the bottom elastic band over the button. The elastic allows the flap to adjust slightly to the size of the food.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Are these washable?
Absolutely. Hand washing is recommended, but I have successfully sent a prototype through the dishwasher. I did not, however, use the “heat-dry” setting on the dishwasher. If you are looking to be more green by packing your lunch in re-useable containers, I’m assuming you have ditched the “heat-dry” anyway! Either way, prop the container open after washing to facilitate air-drying.
What types of foods can these containers handle?
The containers can be used to store a variety of foods, but keep in mind that they are not sealed as tightly as a zip-lock bag. Remember back when we packed our sandwiches in the plastic fold-top bags? These are similar, and aren’t recommended for wet foods.
Recommended: sandwiches, carrot or celery sticks, chips, crackers, cookies, pretzels, popcorn, nuts, trail mix… etc.
Not Recommended: anything semi liquid that could cause a mess in your lunch bag if it leaked.
How can I convince my child to bring these home from school each day?
Have your child help pick out fabric colors and buttons for the containers, or if old enough, allow them to help sew the containers. This will give a sense of pride and ownership in their containers, and hopefully more likely to remember to bring them home.
Why mylar? (A note about food-safe packaging…)
There are many discussions on the internet regarding what is or is not acceptable for use as a food container. While many people have strong feelings about not using plastics of any kind for food storage and transport, I feel comfortable using the mylar packaging presented in this tutorial as it is already a common element in the US food distribution system. If you are not comfortable using mylar, fabric material such as non-coated ripstop nylon can be supplemented (interfacing optional), but it will not have the stiffness of the mylar lined container.
Be sure to specify to your printer not to change the scale upon printing (For example: Page Scaling should be set to NONE). Use the guide circles at the bottom of page 1 and top of page 2 to align the template (second page should be on top. Placing the paper on a well lit window will help if you cannot easily see the printed guides through the paper.