Make Your Own Tote Based On A Plastic Shopping Bag

Plastic shopping bags are sure handy. If only I didn’t feel that twinge of guilt whenever I don’t stop the bagger and say, “Paper, if you don’t mind…” Or better yet, if I had the brains to remember to bring my own dang bags! But I do reuse mine as garbage bags, or to pack a lunch, or, or, or. But they rip pretty easily, and really, they aren’t the most attractive packaging on the planet. So why not make a cloth version? After all, I do have a huge stash of fabric spilling out everywhere a little fabric somewhere in my house. Flattened bag, cut in half and trimmed.

Cut the “welds” off the top of the handle and the bottom of the bag. Cut the whole bag in half down the middle, as shown, and trim the sides of the handle part. (In retrospect, I should have made the handles narrower by trimming that right-hand curve in a little. Sewing that narrow curve was kind of a pain.) This is your pattern. The cut will go on a fold, and you’ll make 2 pieces. Put the pattern on the wrong side of the fabric so you can use a pen to mark your cutting lines. image Once you have your 2 pieces, align them wrong sides together and sew a narrow (1/8″) seam.

Wrong sides together...

Wrong sides together…

...and right sides together, to hide the raw edges inside the seam.

…and right sides together, to hide the raw edges inside the seam.

Then flip things inside out, and sew a 1/4″ seam, to hide your raw edges.

Now fold the handles at the top, the way they are on your original plastic bag. Follow this alignment down to the bottom, and pin & stitch that puppy shut. Then bind it with some non-bias tape made from matching scraps, because it’s too early in the morning to realize I could have just turned the bottom up once, then folded it, and stitched it shut with no raw edges showing. Next time.


All lined up.


If you look close, to the left of the handle, you can see my learning curve with the cutting mat. I should have used scissors on the tight curves, because I gouged out little chunks with my rotary cutter. Oops. Good thing it’s reversible.







So, anyway, here’s how I did the binding on the bottom. Cut some strips, about 1.5 to 2″ wide. I had some selvedges to use, so I made them go on the ends, and joined a little middle section to make it long enough. When you’re joining binding like this, always do it on the diagonal, that way the chunkiness of the seam is spread out. I would have used bias tape, but I don’t want this to stretch, and there are no curves to make bias tape necessary.

image image image Stitch the binding tape to one side, close to the edge. (You can also see how I tried to tuck in the raw edges at the corner.) Next, wrap the tape around to the other side, and pin in place. Then tuck in the raw edge of the tape, starting at one end, and re-positioning the pins as you get to them. The 2 edges are off-set; this is on purpose. Then flip the bag over, and stitch along the line between the binding and the bag. imageThis is the finished seam from the other side.

On to the handles! Zigzag the raw edges, turn them under, and straight-stitch them down. image image image You can see in the third picture how the narrow curve is kind of wonky. That’s what I was talking about in the pattern-cutting pictures above. I was lazy, and didn’t use bias tape to finish the raw edges at the top. I justify it by believing it’s less bulky this way… but really I think tape would have made the bag look more finished. I would probably have had to make the curves more gradual, though.

image image Final stretch! Now sew the handles together at the top, right sides together, like the pic on the left. Then fold the seam allowance to one side and fold the handles in half, as they are on a plastic bag. Stitch across below the seam allowance, pivot, stitch up to the first seam line, and stitch back to the start. Now the handles are joined, and the seam allowance is nicely contained.

Here’s the finished product!

PS: Holly, recognize the cloth?? :^)

image image


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