Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tutorial: Reusable Shopping Bag from a T-Shirt

The countdown is on. Starting this September 1st, my current home of Santa Monica is banning any and all plastic grocery bags. Anyone caught even THINKING about a plastic bag will be immediately sentenced to eight and a half years of sifting broken glass out of beach sand with their teeth, without parole.

I kid, only because my neighborhood grocery store is being quite serious. I went shopping there several weeks ago to find the parking lot plastered with no less than thirty plastic bag deadline signs. I have never seen that many signs there for anything. Ever.

I already have some reusable grocery bags in my arsenal, but since this ban is taking effect soon I thought I'd better make some more. So I converted one of my many old collegiate t-shirts.

It's really easy to turn an old t-shirt into a durable shopping bag. You can even make one of the sleeves into a drawstring pouch hidden inside to keep your foodie tote contained and organized when not in use.

I always seem to be schlepping something somewhere [curse of the crafter], so this bag is going right into my car for my next trip to the grocery store. I'm ready, SanMo.

Reusable Shopping Bag from a T-shirt
old tshirt
3 yards of double fold bias tape
thin cotton or nylon cording (string works)

First turn the tshirt inside out and sew the bottom closed just above the finished seam of the t-shirt bottom.

Next, fold each corner so that the seam you just showed forms the center of two triangles. Mark off a 4" line and sew, backstitching at the beginning and end.

Turn the tshirt right side out. Using a chalk pencil, roughly mark out the shape of a tank top on the top of your tshirt. It works best to make as much of the "handle" portion as straight as possible. I used the bottom of the sleeves as reference for how far to cut down.

Cut along your lines, going through both sides of the shirt at once.

Technically at this point you could be finished [yay easy!], but if you add bias tape around the edges your bag won't deteriorate and stretch out as fast. So, get your bias tape. I used some vintage tape I scored at an antique mall in my Ohio hometown. It was only single fold, so I had to iron it in half first.

Starting at one of the t-shirt's inner shoulder seams, hold the bias tape around the raw edge of the t-shirt and topstitch it down through all the layers.

Keep going all the way around the edge. When you get back to the beginning, trim the tape so there's a little overlap...

...fold and finger press the raw edge under, and sew it down, backstitching at the end.

Repeat the bias tape treatment with the two other raw t-shirt edges.

And now again, technically you could be done. But don't you want an attached matching drawstring storage bag? Take one of the t-shirt sleeves you chopped off. Make sure it's right side out and mark a rectangle on it as shown below, leaving the finished sleeve side open. The size doesn't matter very much, I just made mind as big as I could without crossing the armhole seam.

Sew the rectangle and trim the excess.

Turn the sleeve so the seam you just sewed is on the inside. The machine-finished sleeve hem should now be on the outside. Using a yarn needle, thread your string or thin nylon cording through the threads of the seam, like a casing. I used twine, but its prickles made it a little hard to pull through. I'd recommend thin cotton or nylon cord.

Let the two tails hang out and there you have it! Drawstring pouch with one seam!

Now let's attach it to your shopping tote. Turn the tote inside out so you see the original bottom of the tshirt. Put the edge of it just inside the drawstring pouch.

Sew the tshirt edge to the drawstring pouch with a 2 inch seam, backstitching at the beginning and end. This seam must be in the seam allowance of the t-shirt seam and BELOW the drawstring on the pouch.

Now you can stuff the shopping bag into the pouch when it's not in use and - perfect! - it's neat, tidy and stored.

NOW you're done.


  1. I'm new to your blog and I'm LOVING it! I also love that that grocery store doesn't use plastic bags at all!

  2. i'm so glad you like it!! and yes the whole city has banned plastic bags. paper or reusable only.

  3. What a great tutorial - it combines my loves of shopping, sewing, and being green! I like it so much, I included it on my blog... http://darlingadventures.com/?p=635

  4. Thanks so much for the great instructions! We're going to use this as a fundraiser for Relay For Life in the fight against cancer!

  5. Great tutorial, thanks for sharing. I'm going to make one :)

  6. great post and i really happy to see this kind of reusable bags blog. thanks for sharing this one


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