Wednesday, June 23, 2010


When you think that the average family returns from the grocery store with 10 or more plastic bags, that’s a lot of plastic. It’s bad for our environment and ends up adding more costs to the food budget. (You are, of course, paying for those bags – they’re aren’t gifts!) The same plastic shopping bags are used about 30 minutes from the store to the home, and then they’re stashed somewhere, and usually end up in landfills. Even with recycle bins at the big stores, only about 1% ever get recycled.

Plastic bags are a big source of pollution, and in some areas of the country, they have even prohibited their distribution at grocery stores. Reusable bags don’t contribute to pollution. For this reasons, many stores sell the reusable cloth bags at a cost of $.50 to $1.00. But, of course, to help the environment, you need to be organized enough to have and carry your reusable bag or bags when you go shopping.

The good news is that you can your make your own shopping bag from a recycled t-shirt with almost no money and with just a couple of hours of work. It’s a great way to use t-shirts from a previous year. So, here I include instructions on how to re-purpose an unwanted t-shirt into a reusable shopping bag.

Your shopping bag will be the exact same size as the recycled t-shirt, and any good-sized t-shirt will do fine. Your need for sewing skills are negligible. With some cutting and just two seams – hand or machine sown – you’ll create your bag. The part left where you removed the sleeves and the scooped out neck will fashion the handles for your bag and the bottom part will hold your groceries. You’ll use it for grocery shopping, but it also can be a tote bag for all kinds of things like library books, cleaning supplies or anything else you need to carry around. The plus is that your t-shirt bag will be strong and totally washable!

You’ll need only a few tools and materials:
Heavy-weight cotton T-shirt
Sewing machine or hand sewing needles
Large mixing bowl (to help trace out the circles to be cut)
Water-erasable marking pen

Here's how to make your t-shirt bag:

(If your not sure whether your t-shirt is clean or not, put it in the wash before you begin this project.)

First, turn the T-shirt inside out. Line up the bottom hem of the shirt, use pins to hold the front and backsides together, and sew the bottom edges together. All the sewing is done with the shirt inside out. To have stronger seams that hold up better, add an extra line of stitching. You may also want to box-in the corners. You can do this by sewing a triangle across the corners at the bottom of the bag.

Next, flip the shirt right side out and lay it flat on table. Make sure all the seams are lined up and place the mixing bowl below the neck hole. Using the marking pen, trace the edge of the bowl. Cut along the outline. This is the opening to your bag. Make sure that the scoop that you cut out is large enough to fit the groceries into the bag.

Then, line up the hems on the sleeves and cut off both arms, including the sleeve seams. Use pins to hold the edges together while you make the cuts. These will form the handles for your shopping bag. For extra strength, you can reinforce the handles of your bag by stitching across the shoulder seam once or twice.

Luckily, most t-shirts are made of knit-jersey and don’t usually fray, but, if you like, you can hem the edges of the t-shirt bag - that will give it a more finished look. (I crocheted a simple chain stitch all around the edges to give it a more finished look).

Turn the bag right side out again and your ready to go shopping.

There are all kinds of variations that you can do to have a more attractive bag. You can:

Fashion your bag so that an interesting logo is displayed on the front of your bag.

Decorate your bag with embroidery or a crocheted edge. (I single-crocheted an edge around the entire bag including the handles. It took about 5 hours, but the result was attractive and it made the bag much stronger.)

Use pens to write a “get green’ slogan on your bag – something like: “ I used to be a t-shirt.” or “I’m not your usual plastic bag!”

Add two pockets to the bag using the material from the t-shirt sleeves. Make the pockets as deep as possible so that they can hold a lot of small items.

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