Friday, December 17, 2010

Handmade Gift Idea: Reusable Shopping Bags

These awesome tote bags are one of my most favorite projects to do. When reusable shopping bags became really popular, I loved the idea of creating my own personal alternative to wasteful plastic bags. I decided to make up several more to give this year as Christmas gifts so here is the pattern I came up with awhile ago.

Following this pattern, one yard of fabric can make two shopping bags. The finished size of the bags are around 16"w x 18"l. The first step is to fold the yard of fabric long ways. (If you get a yard of 44" wide fabric this will be the length of the folded or long edge).

Next cut the fabric as follows. (The bottom edge shown in this picture is the folded edge). From one side (the left in the photo), cut four 3" wide strips, then divide the remaining fabric into two 16" wide pieces. The large pieces will be the bodies of the bags and the 3" wide strips will be your straps.

First is to construct the straps. Take the strip to an ironing board and turn one long edge over 1/4" and iron.

Then turn the other raw edge into the middle of the strap and iron.

Lastly, take the first folded long edge and fold it over so it is overlapping with the other side. Iron and pin. Repeat this with both (or all 4 straps if you are doing both bags at once) straps.

Next is to sew the straps. Starting on the center fold, sew the strap three times to make sure it is good and secure.

Now it is time to work on the bag. Take your long piece of fabric over to the iron and fold over one of the short sides of the fabric and iron.

Fold over the edge again, approximately 1", and then tuck one of the straps under this fold. Make sure the underside of the strap (side with the seam) is facing down during this step. I place the outer edges of the straps 4" in from the edge of the fabric. Pin the straps and seam. Do this with the other short side and a second strap also.

Now sew along the folded edge you just made. I used a zigzag stitch but a straight stitch would work also.

Next flip up the straps and sew a strong box around the end of the strap. To sew the strong box sew around the 4 edges of where the strap overlaps the edge of the bag and sew an X between these 4 edges.

Repeat this process for both side of the bag and both of the straps. Once this is done your bag should look like the below picture -- a long piece of fabric with finished handles on the ends.

Next we will be making the bottom of the bag kind of flat (to spread out some of the grocery weight) by folding the sides once before sewing. Fold the bag in half with the wrong sides on the inside and the straps aligned with one another. Pin 1" up on both sides of the open sides of the bag.

Then holding where these pins are flip the bag wrong side out.

Below is a side shot of what the sides will look like once you have done the folding.

Now pin up the two open sides.

Sew up the open sides of the bag, sewing over your pinned folds. I sewed the seam twice then cut the raw edges with pinking shears to prevent fraying.

The bag is now finished so turn it right side out and enjoy! (Or go back and finish the other bag you already cut the pieces for!)

I made a total of 6 bags this time around. Below are my fun fabric choices and how they turned out. I am excited to give some of these away for Christmas!

So will you make some of your own reusable shopping bags? Have you made some already? If so how did you make yours and do you have any tips? I would love to hear from you in comments below.

Hope you all enjoyed this project,


I linked up this handmade gift idea to the following blogs:


  1. I need one of these :) come on over and link up to MMM!!

  2. Hi,

    Nice posting. Beautiful and unique designs of resuable bags. Thanks for giving nice descriptions of resuable bags .Keep sharing.

    Reusable Shopping Bags