Bring Your Own Bag, from an old T-shirt

I’ve been thinking about how I always forget to bring my own bags when I go shopping because grabbing them is an extra step I have to take when I run out the door. But I always have kids clothes in my purse because I need them and they roll up small. That led to the following break through– I should make bags out of kid’s shirts. Here’s a tutorial that will show you how to make some bags that will roll up this small so you can always have one or two on hand:

bags-rolled-up

First off you need to find some small sized t-shirts. I haven’t tried it with a large shirt because I was concerned that the knit would be so stretchy that anything larger than a youth large would be unsupportive. If anyone tries out a larger size and likes it let me know! The second thing you need is a fat quarter of quilting cotton to make the straps. The quiting cotton makes sturdy straps and keeps the knit from unraveling or rolling down when your bag is full of stuff. Obviously you need scissors or a rotary cutter, thread, a good ruler and about 30 to 40 minutes depending on how much of a perfectionist you are (I’m not a perfectionist!).

Start by cutting the sleeves off the t-shirt and cutting across the chest and back about 2 or 3 inches above the lowest point in the sleeves. Here are two examples, the black rose is a tank top and the blue penguins is obviously a t-shirt.

how-to-cut-t-shirt

rotarycutter

Next, turn the decapitated t-shirt inside out and sew the bottom hem together, stopping 3 inches from each side seam. I used a straight stitch and a zigzag stitch. I also did not undo the hem in the bottom of the shirt because this seam needs to support a lot of weight, especially if you are planning to use the bag to go grocery shopping and fill it with cans.  The open edges are folded side seam to bottom seam and sewn together starting 2 inches up and going diagonal toward the bottom seam. A photo is very helpful in explaining this:

sew-bag-hem

Then when you turn the bag right-side out you get a seam that looks like this:

bottom-of-bag-hem

That’s the toughest part, now moving on…

You’ll need to make bias tape for the straps. You can buy this but it’s not going to be as wide as I prefer for bag straps and you don’t get as many wonderful choices in patterns and colors. I folded the fat quarter of cotton into a triangle like a bandanna and lay the folded edge along the straight line of my cutting mat. Then I used my 2 inch wide ruler and rotary cutter to cut 4 inch wide strips on the bias. I got 4 shorter strips from the fat quarter and 2 triangles left over for my scrap box. To make 3 and a half foot long strips I joined two of the shorter strips in a V shape, right sides together.

biastape1

Then I sewed it with a quarter inch seam on my machine.

biastape-on-machine

Lastly, I pressed it in half with my iron, then turned the raw edges into the middle and pressed again. This gave me one inch wide biased tape.

bias-tape-iron

Using 12 inches of the bias tape, encase the sleeve edge that was cut off to make a finished edge at the top of the bag. I could have been more exact about this, but since the tape was so wide I just opened the tape, put the raw edge inside, folded it closed and zigzagged about 1/8th an inch from the edge of the tape to catch both the front and back with one pass.

make-bias-trim-edge-sleeve

When both sleeves are done it looks like this:

sleeve-bias-finished

Finally, use the last 2 1/2 feet of bias tape to make the top of the bag and the straps. Start by sewing the bias tape over the raw edge on the front of the bag with the same technique as the sleeve edges. Make sure that you start about 1 1/2 inches past the bias trim on the sleeve edgesfor stability since the quilting cotton is sturdier than the knit, and you want to keep the raw edge of the bias trim from fraying.

begins-sewing-strap

Zigzag all the way across the top of the bag. When you reach the end of the bag top there should be a long strip of bias tape folded closed with nothing inside it. This is the strap, zigzag stitch it until there is only four inches left.

strap-four-inches

Open the bias tape and fold the raw edge in about one inch. Then connect this end of the strap with the starting point by enclosing the starting point in the folded over end. This should be done off of the sewing machine because you need to fiddle around to make sure all the raw edges are folded in. Once you’ve achieved that, and you’re certain that the strap is not twisted finish zigzagging until you are back the the starting point. Zigzag the overlap closed for stability.

connect-strap-ends

Repeat this for the back strap and you’ll have an awesome bag that looks like this:

finished-bag

The straps are long enough to throw it over your shoulder if you’re using it as a purse or pack. And they’re flexible enough to tie into a knot to hold groceries inside.

bird-bag

Be green, be stylish, reuse your own stuff! Make one and let me know how it works for you.

monkey-bag

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3 Responses to “Bring Your Own Bag, from an old T-shirt”


  1. 1 Jeannette January 5, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    This is great!!! I may have to try this, because I’m always forgetting my bags or using them for something else and then not having them available for shopping. And they’re really cute. 🙂

  2. 2 devona January 5, 2009 at 1:48 pm

    Jeannette, you always find ways to make a project your own, so if you make one and change anything let me know. 🙂


  1. 1 How to make a simple kid’s paint smock « Recycling at its Cutest Trackback on January 21, 2009 at 9:02 pm

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Creating unique fashion from fortunate thrift store discoveries. And otherwise making our house a home, on the cheap.

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