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Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Yesterday I sent my friends home with several boxes of stuff and I was looking for some bags to put it all in when I had a break through. I had gotten my sewing machine out earlier, which must have reminded me of an idea for making bags out of old tee shirts that I had a while ago. I grabbed an old shirt and had one whipped up in about a minute! I was really surprised at how easy and effective it is. Here's a step by step guide to making your own shopping bag from an old shirt.

I started with an old black shirt and turned it inside out. I guess it doesn't really matter what side you start on with solid colors, but if it had a print on the front you would want to start by turning it inside out. This way, the seam on the bottom is inside the bag and the print shows on the outside. 

I ran it through the machine along the bottom of the shirt. I just ran it through a couple times with a straight stitch but depending on how strong the bag needs to be, you may want to choose a different stitch.

I then folded the shirt in half and cut along the lines shown above.

When you open it up it looks like this.

To test it out, I turned it right side out and got all this stuff from the other night to put inside it.

It worked nicely. The knit fabric will naturally curl in on the handles and along the raw edges. The creative possibilities for this are many. You could put a seam on the edges or handles, cut it in to any shape, use any crazy print, add pockets on the sides, zippers or buttons on the top.. 

After making a few, I found that longer medium-large tee shirts make the best ones(for my purposes). You could make them of any size, depending on what you need it for. You can take in the side seams that go from the arm pit to the bottom on a larger shirt, but you must use a zig zag stitch or something else on these vertical seams that will be able to stretch with the fabric when its full of stuff. I also found that the handles will stretch out a lot if you put lots of heavy stuff in it. This can be solved by just sewing the handles together at a shorter point to make them the desired length. If they are long enough, you can put them over your shoulders like a back pack, and if the contents isn't too heavy you can even stack several on top of each other on your back. I'm not sure about their longevity. The thin cotton fabric suggests that they may tear at the handles or rip easily if treated roughly, but part of the appeal of these bags is that they're easily replaced. Bags that are made from shirts that are made from natural fibers(cotton, hemp, etc.) are compostable. You can cut it up and throw it right in the compost pile with the scrapings from last night's dinner or in my case, the peppers and cabbage from the other week that I never got around to cooking.

It literally took me about one minute to cut along the lines and sew the bottom shut. It is so easy, anyone could do it. You could even make one sewing by hand in just a couple minutes. This will be a long term solution to the problem I have of never having enough bags at the dumps or not wanting to send people home with my good bags. There are plenty of places to get old tee shirts for free(or for less than a dollar at any thrift store if you don't dumpster dive or just prefer to buy things). These will be wonderful tools in coming weeks when school lets out. I can easily carry six or ten empty bags with me and fill one or two at each dumpster, putting filled bags in my car as needed.

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