I’m going to begin this post by making a very soon-to-be obvious statement. I am not a seamstress or “sewer-person” of any kind. I am what you would call a novice at the skill. My lines aren’t straight and my techniques aren’t perfect but I am having a lot of fun getting the hang of using my sewing machine recently handed down to me as a gift. It’s an invaluable skill to have and it’s mighty rewarding making something from some pieces of fabric. I’ve been trying my hand at some beginner projects lately and this post is about one of them.
An eco-friendly re-useable shopping bag is a simple project that you can use any durable fabric for to make it. This particular bag has a flat bottom rather than a V-style bottom which I personally prefer because items tend to fit inside it better. I’ve been really trying to make my life more green and environmentally aware so this was an extra rewarding project for me because it cuts down on those nasty plastic bags. All this for the price of about $4 worth of fabric and thread; can’t beat that. The following is how I made my shopping bag:
No fancy materials needed for this project. The bag stays open so no zippers or buttons are needed (unless of course you want them to close). What you do need is some fabric that makes you happy to look at, matching thread, a pair of fabric scissors, pins, measuring tape (I used my fella’s manly one but most of you probably have the normal sewing kind) and a fabric pen which is a useful tool for this project to mark and cut straight lines. You’re also going to need an iron later on to make some straight edges for pinning.
I choose a happy looking fabric from Ikea that looked perfect for perusing produce stores and farm markets. Ikea has a really inexpensive collection of fabric to choose from but the choices are somewhat limited so if you want a better selection keep an eye on your local fabric store for a good sale. I wanted to spice my bag up a bit so I went for a different fabric for the side pieces; a green and white striped fabric. The front, back, and bottom of the bag will be cut from one long main piece of fabric and you will sew the sides on separately. Measure according to the size of bag you want to make and remember with every piece of fabric you cut you should leave about an inch on each side for the seams.
Next you need to cut your side pieces. Measure according to how big you want your bag to be. The side pieces will need to be as tall as your main piece of fabric when it’s sewn together and the width of the bottom of your bag (plus the inch extra for seams).
Cut the side piece in one long strip twice the size that you need for one side, then cut that piece in half to make the two even sides:
Now’s the time for your trusty iron to heat up and make its guest appearance.
Iron down all those sides that you left an inch gap for when you cut your fabric. This makes it a zillion times easier to pin and sew later.
Once you’ve ironed down all your sides, center and pin the two side pieces to your main piece of fabric. You want to attach the sides perpendicular to the bigger piece. See the pictures below:
When the pieces are pinned in the center it will look like a lower case “t”.
Make sure you have an even crease with your pins and then you’re ready to start sewing.
You want a strong stitch for the bottom of your bag because it’s going to need to carry some hefty weight. I used a tight V stitch then went over it again with a small straight stitch:
I was told by someone who actually knows her way around a sewing machine that this was an effective way to make a strong and sturdy stitch. "In Mother in-law we trust"
Pretty straightforward but this is how your bag should look once you’ve attached the bottom of one side.
Going around the corner can be a little tricky. I pinned up the sides of the fabric together then sewed a straight tight stitch:
This is how the side looked when that line was stitched. Everything that wasn’t the bottom of the bag I did in this tight straight stitch.
Complete the other side and you’ll have an entire side of your bag finished!:
When the bag is turned the right away around you can see your bag really starting to take shape, it’ll look something like this.
Repeat the exact same process for the other side of your bag and both sides will be looking sharp.
Next step is going to be hemming the top of your bag for a crisp and even seam all the way around. Pin down the entire length of the bag making sure that it all sits at an even height (which may mean it looks ugly on the inside but it can be cleaned up later).
Hem down the length of the bag the entire way around and the base of your bag is now complete. Onto the handles!:
I cut one long length of fabric about two inches wide then cut that same piece in half like I did earlier with the side pieces for even length.
If you want to reheat your iron so the sides sit perfectly flat go for it. I skipped that step out of pure eagerness to complete my bag. It isn’t crucial but either way you want to sew down the top width wise to make a crisp seam.
Then pin each side down about a half inch in and sew both sides.
This is an excellent example of my less than perfect sewing abilities but it gives you the general idea of how it should look.
After that is complete fold your handle in half and sew straight down the side. I went over this twice just to be sure it was extra strong. Repeat these steps for your second strap and you’re ready to attach it to your bag base.
The handles will need to equally if not stronger, than the bottom of your bag so really have at it with the sewing. It’s a good idea when attaching your handles to do an X stitch like the one above. Be sure you sew all four ends of your handles at the same length within the bag so the straps are even when you carry it.
That’s it. Your bag is all finished! Don’t forget the pat on the back for a job well done. Now you just need to hit up the stores and fill your new bag with goodies.
Hope this was a helpful tutorial for you guys and you have fun making your very own!
(All photos property of Reckless Bliss)