bento bag + utensil mat tutorial part 2


Lake (3 years-old) painted the mat above for his daddy, who loves all things with wheels & generally likes to move along a very, very fast track.  I had the boys paint the cut fabric first with acrylics, then let them dry overnight.  As things got close during Christmas, we also pulled out our craft blow dryer & whipped out 2 mats in an hour, from start to finish.

This is a classic Japanese-style lap mat, & the boys (3 & 7) helped with the measuring, cutting, painting & sewing.  It is a beginner project that can be look many different ways, depending on the fabrics & the paint.  I'd like to make a set with a bit of patchwork out of some woven ikat fabric from the mountains of Mindanao, which my father collects for me.  It's a very rewarding project for the littles.   Watching their efforts come together as a totally clean, giftable, practical item really excites them.  Of course, I'm all about encouraging basic-needs-generation through the actual act of basic-needs-generation. 

I limit the color choices for toddlers to 2, 3 max.  It's a great chance to teach basic color theory by letting them discover how two colors come together to make another.  It's just magical to watch that unfold the first time.  That's what they say, "Did you know, that SOMEHOW, it"  Magic.

Utensil Place Mat

(2) rectangles of fabric, 16 1/2" x 10" - front & back
(1) rectangle of fabric, 3 1/2" x 4 1/2"   - pocket
1-2 tubes Acrylic Paint
Brushes, Foam Brushes
Plastic Plate (optional - the acrylic will peel off when it's dry, so it can be used again)
Newspapers or craft paper to cover work surface

Sewing Machine



1.) Cover the work surface.  Paint the fabric.  We just did the front, but you could do any of it.




*Tip* If you have a baby, I recommend (1) matching plate + (1) pastry brush + (1) cup of yogurt.




2.) Turn the pocket piece right side down.  Iron in the bottom corners.  Fold over the sides & bottom 1/4".  Iron.




3.) Fold down the top 1/2", iron.  Holding the sides in, sew along the bottom edge of the top.



*Tip* If you're doing a bunch, just sew right through, no need to clip until your done.  This can cut tons of your sewing time.



*Tip* A set of hooks next to my machine helps hold all the bits I need while keeping my work surface clear. I have two of these, one above the other, & they have a small shelf with a ditch to hold cards & pictures.  They're from Ikea.  You could recycle a mug rack, too.  That little pencil case with the Black Apple Cameos holds my rotary cutter.  The little carved birch box holds extra machine needles.




4.) Place pocket on front near the bottom. You may need to pin it in place.  Starting at the upper right corner, sew down the side, bottom & up the other side.  Backstitch at beginning & end.




5.) Place the top-center of pocket directly under your needle.  Sew down middle of pocket, backstitching top & bottom.




6.) Place the front & back right-sides together.  Using a 1/4" seam allowance, stitch around mat.  Leave a 6" opening.




7.) Trim corners.  Turn inside out, poking out corners well.


8.) Iron it flat.  Use the iron to fold in the seam opening.




9.) Stitch along edge of entire mat, backstitching well at beginning & end.



Mahal got this rich look by using a foam brush & plenty of paint.


Wallah! Take care not to iron the acrylic directly.


10.) If you're using denim or canvas, then you can cut a large napkin, 7" x 10", & just stick it in the wash to fray the edges.  Trim off extra string.  Otherwise you can hem your napkin by folding in each edge 1/4", then again 1/4".  Stitch down to hem.


Place it all inside your bento bucket & go!