Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Turning old t-shirts into "green" bags, sacks: a simple tutorial.

It's easy to get wrapped up in the "green" movement. Buying things that are made from recycled materials and "eco-friendly". I personally hate when people refer to something as "green". It's a brilliant, but terrible, marketing ploy that made someone millions of dollars. With all this attention to the environment people seem to forget that buying something you don't need, regardless of what it is made from, it still wasteful. Buying less and using what you have seems to make a lot more sense to me.

I try my best to use only what I need, buy things that can be used for more than their original purpose. No one is perfect, and I'm not saying I'm not a consumer, because I am, but cutting little corners when possible makes a big difference. Did you know that the average American family accumulates 60 plastic bags in only four trips to the grocery store! Instead of buying "green" bags, the canvas or cloth sacks that stores are now mass-producing in factories all over the world much like manufactured clothing, make your own!

Easy solution: make grocery sacks from old t-shirts!

Here is a simple tutorial for the most inexperienced sewer. Anyone can make these! They take maybe 20 minutes, and can be used for a trip to the grocery store, a carry-all bag, an overnight bag,.. anything! I love using mine when I go to work at the bar. I have my purse, my makeup bag, a book, a light cardigan, and who knows what else.. just throw it in and go! Plus it folds up so easily, I keep a few in my car for any unplanned trips to the thrift store or market. Plus they are so easy to wash!

Start with a t-shirt. Makes sure it's in good condition.
Cut off the sleeves.
You can save time, or if you don't know how to sew very well, by using a muscle tank, or a tank top!
Cut off the collar about 1/4" below the seam. Cut both pieces of fabric.
Both pieces are cut. If you want the opening to be deeper, just cut an inch lower.
Turn the shirt inside out and pin the bottom closed.
Sew along the pin line.
Beside this straight seam, on the side where there is excess fabric, zig zag all the way down. 
Now to give the bag some depth. Fold the bag such that the bottom seam runs vertically and the corner of the bag is a point, as above. The longer the seam you are going to sew, the deeper your bag will be. I measured 4" and marked it with  tailors chalk. 
Stitch over your chalk line. Always make sure you back stitch your seams so they don't unravel with wear and tear!
This is what your corner will look like. You can cut this to 1/2" past the seam but it's fine to leave it like this.
Now that the bottom is finished, you just need to sew the sleeves and the neck. These will become the straps. Simply fold over twice and top stitch.
As you are sewing, stop and fold over the next 6", less if you are more inexperienced, then guide it under your presser foot.
Trim all the loose thread and turn your bag right side out, and YOU ARE DONE! This is what the bag looks like from the bottom. Notice the depth the corner give it.
See how the arm holes become your handles!
The perfect tote.
Easy access to your things. 
Now this shirt that you may have gotten rid of because it ever worn becomes a cute bag you can use all the time!

It is estimated that worldwide plastic bag consumption falls between 500 billion and 1 trillion bags annually! That's almost 1 million every minute! It's unreal how much waste that is. Most grocery stores, Walmarts, or Targets have cardboard bins at their entrances where you bring back your used plastic bags to be recycled! While this is better than just throwing them away, it's much better to just not get them in the first place. So if you do have to use plastic bags, please bring them back! Only .5% actually get recycled. 

I hope everyone realizes the impact they can have with simple changes of habit. Every little bit helps!

Enough of my preaching. Hope you all enjoyed this tutorial. I'm trying to do more household projects and things for beginning sewers. It'll be a few days before I have another entry. A co-worker is on emergency leave from work so I'm back to David's Bridal for a few days. I can't wait to jump back on that industrial sewing machine; I've missed it!! Then I'm bartending all weekend. 

But now it is time repurpose some more clothes for my site!
Have a great night everyone.

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  1. This is awesome; I may have to do it with an old tee! Loving your tutorials :D

  2. I heard somewhere that the average life span of the normal shopping plastic bag is 10 minutes. It is useful for 10 minutes before it is thrown away and just takes up space in our landfills...

  3. Thanks Meg! Good luck!!

    Very true, Ryan.. they're also banned in some third world countries where they are used for latrines. A few years ago they clogged up the sewers and a ton of people died from the sewage overflowing. :/ Plastic sacks are no good!

  4. Wow, great tutorial and information on the plastic bags.

  5. wow..genius! thanks for sharing wife will love this...

  6. Hi Sally!
    I made one last night, and loved it!
    here's the link of mine:

  7. Hallo Sally,

    das ist eine klasse Idee und besser als jede und hübscher als jede Plastiktüte und un besser für unsere Umwelt ist es auch.

    LG Manja

  8. What is a top stitch?