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I constantly strive to share with you ideas on how we can lessen or eliminate completely plastic use in our daily lives. Plus I love sharing handy things that help me every day. So today I am going to share a tutorial on how to make a reusable shopping bag. This is basically just a DIY way to making a lined tote bag that folds up into a pouch for you to fit in your pocket or purse.
How To Make A Reusable Shopping Bag
Over here in the UK, supermarkets and shops have been charging money for their plastic bags for some time in an attempt to reduce plastic usage. But I still see a lot of people that do not bring their own bags and rely on buying plastic bags from the grocery store every time they shop.
Thus I was inspired to create my own DIY foldable reusable grocery bags tutorial. This is a pretty easy idea to sew, and maybe by learning how to make reusable bags, other people may reduce their plastic use too.
Plus, I love the fact that sewing your own will let you be able to totally customise your accessories. You can make this bag in whatever pattern fabric that you choose. Make it a true reflection of your character, and make a unique bag that no-one else will own.
What Material Should I Use?
The material you choose for your diy reusable grocery bag does depend on how strong and how rigid you want them to be.
If you want an easily foldable but quite flimsy bag for light use and light items only, then making this out of cotton or polycotton is fine. The resulting grocery bag will be light and easy to fold. But it won’t really be suitable for carrying too much weight.
You could choose to add interfacing to the outer fabric if you want a little more sturdiness to the bag. Or you could choose to use a sturdier fabric such as cotton duck, cotton canvas or twill. However do be aware that this will make the bag thicker and chunkier when folded.
Need a waterproof bag? Why not use ripstop or PUL as the outer and lining? Again though, these can make the bag more bulky once folded.
Today I personally am going to be using an old upcycled polycotton duvet cover. My first choice for any zero waste project is always going to be to try and make something out of material that would normally be going into the trash. And polycotton is so unsound environmentally that it is best to upcycle polycotton into new items that can be used again and again. Old duvet covers are perfect to upcycle into cloth bags.
So do you want to find out how to make a fold up shopping bag? Well, let’s get on with the tutorial!
You Will Need
- Material for the bag – fabric as discussed above.
- Pins, scissors or rotary cutter, a measuring ruler and coordinating thread (if you wish)
- A sewing machine
- A tube / loop turner or knitting needle for the handles
How To Make A Shopping Bag
There is no shopping bag pattern with this tutorial. I have put the sizes of pieces I used, but do feel free to change these to suit making your own bags, whilst still following the steps here to sew a shopping bag.
Today I really wanted a good size of bag. So I cut
- 2 pieces of pre-washed outer material to be 17inches by 21 inches (43 cm by 54 cm)
- 2 pieces of inner fabric 17 inches by 21 inches (43 cm by 54 cm)
- 4 pieces of outer fabric 31 inches by 2 inches (78 cm by 5 cm)
The long pieces are for the handles, and irrespective of whether you have interfaced the body of the bag, you may want to interface one side of the handle pieces to give some sturdiness. I didn’t though.
Got fabric scraps left over? Read this linked post for a whole load of ways to use up every last piece!
Sewing The Outer Bag
Place the two bag outer pieces right sides together and pin if you need to. Using a 3/8 (1cm) seam allowance, sew around 3 sides of the bag. You can leave these seam allowances with raw edges. Or you may want to pink, serge or overlock the raw edge of the seam allowance at this point to prevent fraying.
Next, we are going to create the flat base to the bag.
At each lower corner, pull the sides of the bag away from each other. This creates a triangle with the corner of the bag at the tip.
Imagine or draw a line that creates the triangle 3 cm from the corner.
Sew a line of stitching along this line, reinforce and backstitch this too.
Once you push the bag the right way out this should create the flat bottom. (I usually check before going to the next step!)
Cut off the extra fabric between your stitching and the old corners of the bag. This reduces bulkiness.
Repeat with the other corner of the outer bag
Turn the outer bag right way out, push out the corners with a pointed instrument, and give it a good press with the iron.
Sewing The Inner Bag
This time put the right sides of the fabric together and sew around the 3 edges, but leave a gap of around about 4-5 cm in the bottom side of the inner bag. (P.S. do start at the top edge, the black line on the photo are just for illustration of where to leave a gap)
Create the flat base to this inner lining just as you did with the outer layer. But leave this inner bag inside out.
Making The Handles
Next in this shopping bag tutorial it is time to form the handles.
Take 2 long pieces and put them together right sides facing. Using a narrow seam allowance (mine was about 1/4 inch) sew down each of the long sides of the fabric. Again you can serge or pink this seam allowance to stop the raw edges fraying.
Then using a loop turner or a knitting needle, turn the handle the right way out. (this can be challenging, so be patient!)
Press the handle with an iron so that it lays flat, and so the folded edge of the seams are straight at each side. If you like you can top stitch down the handle to add stability, but I didn’t for mine.
Attach The Handles To The Outer Bag
Next, measure the top of the outer bag and make marks equidistant from the centre point of the top of each side. Mine were about third and two-thirds of the way along the top on each side, at 5 inches and 12 inches along.
Take one handle and attach each end to the marks on one side of your bag, tacking into place. Then repeat with the other handle on the other side of the outer bag.
And Sew The Inner And Outer Layers Together
Take the outer layer (which is right side out) and place it inside the inner layer (which is inside out)
This means that the handles are sandwiched in-between the layers of the bag – and that with right sides of the bag facing each other. Ensure that the side seams match up and pin.
Then, using a 5/8 inch seam allowance, sew all the way around the top of this, to attach the lining to the inner.
Pull the whole thing through the hole in the base of the lining created earlier.
Then either use a slip stitch, or sew the gap closed with some coordinating thread very close to the edge.
Press the top of the bag, making sure that the lining and outer are evenly distributed.
Finally, I like to topstitch around the top edge around 5mm from the top. This ensures that the lining doesn’t slip, and also reinforces the handle areas.
And that is how to make a reusable shopping bag!
Here Is My Finished Tote Bag
In retrospect, my handles may be slightly thinner than I would like, so maybe in the future I will use 3 inch strips for the bag handles.
I like to make a pouch for the foldable grocery bag to be stored in. The easiest way how to make cloth bags for storage is this tutorial on making an unlined drawstring produce bag. I made one for the shopping bag in a matching fabric.
(The dimensions of fabric that I used to make my pouch was 9 inches by 9 inches.)
I folded the tote bag neatly and placed it inside the storage bag.
And they are a great idea of things that you can sew to sell – find some more ideas here!
I hope that you have enjoyed this was tutorial on how to make a reusable shopping bag. Do you think that you will have a go at how to make a tote bag and incorporate a DIY shopping bag into your daily life?
What is your view on how we can reduce plastic use in our society? I love to hear your comments. Tell me what you think below, or do find me on my social media channels
And please do pin this post for later.