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Every first day of school or preschool, my daughters get new backpacks and lunch boxes. These items get nasty and worn out from year to year, so replacing them is necessary.
Now, embroidered lunch boxes are expensive to purchase. Thus, one of the first things I started doing when I got my embroidery machine was embroidering and monogramming lunch boxes myself!
If you want to personalize lunch bags, too, I’ll show you how to monogram a lunch box in this embroidery machine tutorial.
Picking a Lunch Box: Not All Will Work
I grabbed two great, soft lunch boxes from Walmart on back-to-school clearance for $2 each this year!
Not all lunch boxes or lunch bags will work perfectly for this project, though.
If you have a single-needle embroidery machine, pick a lunch box that unzips or unbuttons enough for you to get it onto the hoop of the machine. You also need to make sure you can embroider on the front only because you don’t want to stitch the two sides together!
If you have a pocket on the front of the lunch box, unless you remove it with a seam ripper and sew it back on, you have to embroider on top of it, thus making the pocket nonfunctional.
And lastly, you’ll need to check the material that’s insulating the lunch box. My lunch box had a thin layer of foam padding, which was easy for my machine to stitch through. If your insulation is very thick, pick a new lunch box or test a small area before stitching to ensure you won’t hurt your machine.
Lunch Box Embroidery Supplies
Here’s what I used for this project, but there are many other options as well.
- Embroidery machine and my biggest hoop
- Stabilizer: tear-away stabilizer (love pre-cut sheets!)
- Needle: 75/11 embroidery needle
- Thread: 100% polyester embroidery thread
- Temporary fabric adhesive (Odif 505)
- Marking tools
- Embroidery monogram design (check out these free embroidery machine fonts and my Sew What Pro monogram tutorial if you want to learn to make a monogram.)
A Note on the Best Stabilizer for a Lunch Box
Most lunch boxes are made from canvas or other stable fabrics. This means you have your pick of stabilizers to use!
Since I dislike residual stabilizer on the back, my favorite two types of stabilizers to use for lunch boxes are tear-away stabilizer (using temporary fabric adhesive spray) and sticky self-adhesive tear-away stabilizer. I’m running low on the sticky stabilizer right now, so I opted for regular tear-away stabilizer.
If you find that dense designs are sinking into your lunch box surface, try adding a layer of water-soluble topping to the top of the lunch box. This gives the stitches more support and keeps them from burrowing in.
How to Monogram a Lunch Box
The lunch box I took pictures of for this tutorial is where I embroidered my daughter’s first name using the built-in letters on my Brother SE1900 embroidery machine.
The embroidery process is the same if you’d rather add a 2- or 3-letter monogram to the lunch box instead of a name! (My younger daughter got a monogrammed lunch box.)
1. Preparing to Embroider
First, mark your lunch box where you want the embroidery design to go.
I like to mark long straight lines horizontally and vertically. I use my chalk wheel on dark fabrics and a water-soluble fabric marking pen on light fabrics. The chalk dusts away after embroidering, and the pen is easily removed with water.
If you have a hard time visualizing where you want your monogram or design to go, print out a template from your embroidery software, cut it out, and play with the location.
2. Floating the Lunch Box
I recommend floating this project rather than hooping, which is VERY difficult on a single-needle machine.
It’s important to float the lunch box with the bulk of the lunch box to the left of the machine head. (You may end up squishing the lunch box and moving it around if it’s hooped to the right and constantly running into the body of the machine.)
To float the lunch box, hoop one piece of tear-away stabilizer in a hoop big enough to accommodate the bulk of the lunch box front.
If using sticky tear-away adhesive, score the top layer off. If using regular tear-away, spray a light layer of Odif 505 (or another fabric adhesive) onto the stabilizer. Then, press the inside front of the lunch box onto the stabilizer.
If you have a hard time eyeballing the center of your hoop, first draw horizontal and vertical lines on the stabilizer to denote the center of the hoop. Then, try to match the center of your lunch box’s markings with the center of the pencil lines.
3. Setting Up the Machine
Place the embroidery hoop into your machine.
If you feel your lunch box is unstable, add painter’s tape around the borders or pin the sides to the stabilizer. The fabric adhesive kept mine in place well enough, so I didn’t add anything extra.
Next, check that the loaded design is oriented in the correct direction relative to the lunch box. Then, line up your embroidery foot with the center of your markings on the lunch box.
Lastly, preview the design to ensure the lunch box will clear the head of the machine on all four sides. If not, readjust the design placement.
4. Embroidering on the Lunch Box
Check that you have the right threads and needle set on your machine. Then, lower the presser foot, and press start!
I gently held the layers of the lunch box as it first started to embroider to make sure there would be no shifting during stitching.
After the first hundred stitches, I was able to stop babysitting it. Since my designs were all one thread color and fairly simple, these lunch boxes were done quickly!
5. Finishing Touches
Remove the stabilizer from the hoop and carefully tear it away from the inside of the lunch box.
Trim any jump stitches on the front with small, sharp scissors, and wipe off or wash off any markings. And that’s it! You’ve now learned how to monogram a lunch box with your embroidery machine!