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In the spirit of Gabby and Grandma Go Green I decided to make my own re-usable cloth bag this weekend. (Read author Monica Wellington’s interview here, and enter to win your own signed copy of the book here). I roughly followed the simple instructions at the end of the book, though used my sewing machine instead of sewing by hand and added a few extras. If you don’t sew, have no fear! I am by no means an expert seamstress. My sewing skills date back to a junior high 4-H class and I am notorious for eye-balling instead of measuring, sewing crooked lines and frequenting the seam-ripper…but the end product usually turns out pretty good! While you need some (very) basic knowledge on how to work your machine, this is a perfect beginner project for a mom or a crafty kid, and you can always sew by hand if you desire. With a little cutting, pinning and sewing simple straight lines, you’ll make your own bag in no time!
First, find some fabric. To make this the ultimate green project, I looked for fabric I already had that could be re-purposed. For the body of the bag I found a pretty old fabric shower curtain I had stashed away….I’ve already made curtains from this fabric for a small bathroom window in my house. For the detail, I found a stained button-down shirt that I couldn’t bear to throw away, glad I kept it!
Next, cut two rectangles from the fabric, whatever size you want, to make the body of the bag. My bag is roughly 14 x 16 inches.
I decided to add a stripe across the top of the bag using the shirt fabric. If you want to do this, cut two 2-inch strips of coordinating fabric at least 1/2 inch longer than the width of the bag. Then, fold the edges under about 1/4 inch and iron the crease.
Pin the strips two inches down from the top of the bag onto the front of each rectangle.
Sew a simple straight seam along the top and bottom edge of the strips removing pins as you go.
After sewing on the stripes, I also added an ivory ribbon down the center using the same technique.
Now, you’re ready to sew the bag together. Line up the rectangles, outside facing in (this is important!) and pin together along the edges.
Back to the sewing machine! Sew the sides and bottom of the bag together starting from the top of the bag and remove the pins as you go. The only thing tricky about this is the corner. All you have to do is lift up the presser foot while the needle is still in the fabric and turn the fabric 90 degrees. Easy peasy!
To finish the top edge of the bag, fold it over (the bag should still be inside out) and firmly iron the crease.
Sew a simple seam along the top edge of the bag repositioning the open top as you go – it will feel like you’re sewing around a big circle.
Almost done, just need to make the handle! Gabby and her Grandma make a handle using ribbon which would be very simple. For added strength, I decided to make the handle out of fabric. Cut two 2-inch strips of fabric to the desired handle length. Fold one side in then the other side twice for a finished edge. Iron the creases and sew down the fold to keep in place.
Pin the handles to the bag, make sure they are even! (the bag is STILL inside out)
Sew the handle to the bag. I used a square/criss-cross technique for added strength, not difficult, just more lifting up the presser foot and turning the fabric.
Now trim the raw edges, turn the bag right side out (finally!) and iron the whole thing. I added a few buttons to the bag for a finishing touch.
Ready for a day on the town!
Some other ideas:
- Make a gym bag out of old but still-intact T-shirts.
- Cut up that old, ripped nylon jacket and sew a cute little lunch-bag for school.
- Traveling? Use an old sheet to make a big re-usable laundry bag. It folds up nice and small for the way there and won’t rip open when stuffed full of clothes like a plastic trash bag…and you can throw it in with all your dirty laundry.
- Go through old clothes and linens…if it’s too stained to donate, you may still be able to use it for something else…like a bag!