HOW TO MAKE A RE-USABLE SHOPPING BAG (TOTE BAG)


Sustainable. Re-usable. Pretty and strong! By sewing your own shopping bags, you are helping to reduce single-use plastic bag use! Simply pack the bags with your shopping - fresh produce, tins, boxes, packets and jars - at the store (or market), then carry your shopping safely home by hand (or place into your shopping trolley). The fabric bags are easy to use and easy to wash, simple to sew and a great way to recycle fabric, and they make great gifts!
   
MATERIALS:
o Strong non-stretch fabric (i.e. clothing, bedlinen, etc.) – duck, drill or upholstery fabric is recommended.
o Pen or pencil or chalk
o Ruler
o Fabric scissors
o Rotary cutter and cutting mat OPTIONAL
o Sewing machine
o Thread to co-ordinate with the fabric
o Pins
o Iron and ironing board
   
NOTES:
o Making your own is much cheaper than buying re-usable shopping bags, which retail for around AU$30 each!
o Around 50cm of fabric will make 1 x regular tote bag, and around 70cm will make 1 x large tote bag (this varies, depending on the fabric bolt width).
o An old quilt cover makes many shopping bags and is a great way to reduce waste!
o Remember to wash your fabric before cutting them as some fabrics may shrink.
o Want to add some embellishments? Wash the fabric, stamp, stencil or sew on fabric before cutting, pinning and sewing into shopping bags.
o You can make shopping bags any size you want! Add 2cm to the final bag width and 5cm to the final bag height to allow 1cm hem on all sewing sides (and allowing extra for the top double hem).
o Sizes may vary due to being handmade.
o Use different coloured fabric for each side, or even a different fabric for the handles or lining! We like making the handles match with the outer printed fabric, and the lining and pocket/patch matching in a plain coordinating fabric.
o The handles are calculated by measuring against yourself for fit when carrying, plus an extra 10cm to allow for handle hemming and sewing into the bag.
o Store shopping bags all together before visiting the store, or perhaps keep them sorted    - we made 5 or 6, and stored in one of the bags so they were easy to get out at the store to use. You could make a carry case with a drawstring to hold all your bags if you like, but we just fold into quarters and stuff into one bag 
o Making lots of shopping bags? Cut them all at once, press all the handles and then pin all at once to sew etc. to make them quickly and efficiently. We sort into thread colour bundles to save changing machine threads too often!
o Hand wash shopping bags in soapy water and hang to dry before storing (or wash in a large produce bag on cold machine wash). Remember to dry well and iron if you like before storing. 
o Remember to put them back into your bag before your next shop.
o Shopping tote bags can be used for many other things around the home! Smaller sizes are perfect for craft projects and the regular size makes pretty cute book bags!
o Why not make some extra bags and share with your family, friends and workplace.
o Pay it forward: teach someone else how to make their own re-usable shopping bags to reduce plastic bag use in your community!
        
Regular size tote bag
with short handles
and square base
STEP 1: Work out what size/s of shopping bags you want to make. 
  
REGULAR TOTE BAG
Ideal for: small to regular sized shopping items, 1-2 heavy items, books, etc. Can hold 2 x 2L milk for example, tinned or boxed food, or 2kg of fresh produce easily.
Fabric size: 
37cm (w) x 41cm (h) x 2 pieces (bag front and back) 
12cm (w) x 41cm (h) x 2 pieces (bag handles)
Bag size: around 35cm (w) x 38cm (h) excluding handles.
  
LARGE TOTE BAG
Ideal for: regular to large sized shopping items, 4 x 2L milk, cereal boxes, canned food etc. Weight capacity same as the regular bag, but handy for larger items that won’t fit in the smaller sized bag. Handles are longer, to hang from the shoulder or tie as required.
Large size tote bag
with long handles
and box bottom base
Fabric size: 
52cm (w) x 53cm (h) x 2 pieces (bag front and back) 
12cm (w) x 70cm (h) x 2 pieces (bag handles)
Bag size: around 50cm (w) x 50cm (h) excluding handles.
         
CUSTOM TOTE BAG
Ideal for: the perfect size for you! Make bags as large or small as you want – longer or shorter handles, allow an extra 5cm or so in the fabric if making box bottom (sits flat) bases to your bags. Add lining if you like (cut 0.5-1cm smaller than outer bag fabric).
Handle final width x 4 determines the cut fabric size.
Fabric size:
___cm (w) x ___cm (h) x 2 pieces (bag front and back) 
___cm (w) x ___cm (h) x 2 pieces (bag handles)
Bag size: ___ 50cm (w) x ___cm (h) excluding handles.
   
STEP 2: Measure and mark fabric. 
  
REGULAR TOTE BAG
2 x (37cm  x 41cm) (bag front and back) 
2 x (12cm  x 41cm) (bag handles)
2 x (37cm  x 41cm) (lining) OPTIONAL
1 x (15cm x 15cm) (patch/pocket) OPTIONAL
  
LARGE TOTE BAG
2 x (52cm x 53cm) (bag front and back) 
2 x (12cm x 70cm) (bag handles)
2 x (52cm x 53cm) (lining) OPTIONAL
1 x (25cm x 25cm) (patch/pocket) OPTIONAL
  
CUSTOM TOTE BAG
2 x (___cm  x ___cm) (bag front and back) 
2 x ( ___cm  x ___cm) (bag handles)
2 x (___cm  x ___cm) (lining) OPTIONAL
1 x (__cm x __cm) (patch/pocket) OPTIONAL
   
STEP 3: Cut fabric to size/s.
REMEMBER TO CHECK THE PRINT DIRECTION AGAIN BEFORE CUTTING ANY FABRIC!
TIP: A rotary cutter (and cutting mat) makes cutting fabric very quick and accurate. Always replace blade cover when not in use to prevent injury.
   
STEP 4: Prepare handles.
Press handle fabric flat. Press in half horizontally then open. Press each horizontal edge in to the halfway mark, so that both sides meet in the middle. Fold in half to enclose the raw edges and press flat. You should now have a long rectangular strap with the raw sides concealed inside. Fold and press both ends 1cm over, and pin or clip into place. Trim folded edge on an angle. Repeat with the second strap.
TIP: If you’re making several bags, press all of the handles together to save time.
   
STEP 5: Prepare patch/pocket (if using). 
With the right side of the fabric facing downwards, press 0.5-1cm of each side of the patch/pocket piece (onto the same side of the strap).  Trim or press corners.
   
STEP 6: Sew handles.
Starting at one end, straight stitch along the folded edge and across all sides, removing pins as you go and reverse stitching a few stitches when you begin (and end). Each strap should have one “wrong side” with the folded/pressed ends sewn into place, and one “good side”. Trim thread ends.
   
STEP 7: Sew sides of bag and lining (if using).
With right sides together, pin the two sides and base closed. CHECK THE PRINT DIRECTION. Sew around 0.5-1cm around the two sides and the base, in a straight, zig-zag or overlocker stitch, removing pins as you sew. Leave the top open. Trim thread ends.
NOTE: If lining your bag, go to Step 11 (bag base finishing) next, sew the corners as preferred for both the bag outer and lining, before continuing with Step 8. 
   
STEP 8: Fold down the bag opening. 
Fold and press 0.5-1cm of the bag opening. Fold down a second time, 2-3cm (or the width of the bag strap as a guide). Press flat. The raw edge of the bag opening should now be concealed.
   
STEP 9: Attach handles and hem bag opening.
Pin the handles into place and check positioning. We like pinning around 12cm from either side for both the regular and large tote bags. Handle positions should match on both sides and the “bad side” of the handle ends should be against the bag hem to conceal the raw side of the handle end. Pin lining into place with wrong sides facing each other (handles should be positioned between the outer and inner fabric). Stitch 0.5cm around the whole bag opening, reverse stitching a few stitches when you begin (and end) and reverse stitching over the handles a few times for reinforcement. Repeat a second row of stitching around the opening approximately 0.5cm from the other side of the folded hem, double stitching over the handles again for added strength. Trim thread ends.
   
STEP 10: Add patch/pocket.
For pockets, stitch across the top of the pocket in a straight line, reverse stitching a few stitches when you begin (and end) that side. Pin into place on the right side of the bag, with the good side of the pocket facing outwards. Stitch across the two sides and base of the pocket, leaving the top open. Stitch across all four sides for patches. Trim thread ends.  
   
STEP 11: Bag base finishing
Use an overlocking stitch (or tight zig-zag stitch) and repeat for both corners of the base.
Square bag base: Leave corners square!
Angled bag base: Measure a triangle across each bottom corner. Sew across the triangle. Trim excess fabric.
Curved bag base: Use a round item (like a bowl or cup) to trace a curve on the bottom corners. Sew on the curved line. Trim and discard the corner.
Box bottom bag base: match the bottom seam with the side seam, and flatten to form a triangle. Stitch across the triangle. Trim and discard the corner.
    
STEP 12: Turn bag inside out (right way out).
Turn the bag right way out and press flat.
Your re-usable shopping bag is now ready to use. Enjoy! 
 

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