Monday, May 12, 2014

Tote Bags from T-shirts

I like to carry reusable tote bags to avoid wasteful plastic bags at the store. The reusable bags sold at the grocery store are flimsy and fall apart after a few uses. The sturdier tote bags with fun designs are great, but cost an obscene amount. I make my own tote bags from t-shirts I find on sale at thrift stores, or that I get tired of wearing. It would be the perfect way to upcycle a favorite t-shirt your child has outgrown.

When buying t-shirts, I always look for great images that I think would make an awesome tote bag. I am careful to make sure that the image sits low on the shirt. If it is too close to the top, I will either have to cut off part of the design, or have very short handles on the tote.

I have found that children's t-shirts are the best for making totes. Girls/women's shirts are sometimes made out of thinner material and will therefore not be suitable for totes for carrying canned goods. They will still be good for carrying knitting projects or other light items. Sturdy kids shirts are perfect grocery bags. Large adult shirts are awkward to use for grocery shopping, but are perfect for beach bags.

permanent marker or chalk
thread and needle OR sewing machine
buttons, lace, pins, old earrings, etc (optional)

First lay your t-shirt out. Align the hems so everything lays flat. Some shirts will hang crooked, so you may have to tug and pull at the shirts to get them lined up. Doing so will give you a better looking tote bag.

Look at your t-shirt and envision your tote bag. Are you looking for something to sling over your shoulder? Then you'll need to have longer straps than if you just want a tote to hold in your hand. Evaluate the design of the t-shirt. You want to make sure that you are not cutting off a good part of the design, and optimally that you are framing the print to make it stand out well. Along the collar and sleeves, draw the tentative lines of where you want your handles. Start conservatively. You can always cut in further than you initially drew, but if you draw them in too small, you'll be left with marks on your tote.

 Cut at the lines along the collar and sleeves. Sling the shirt over your shoulder or hold it at your side. Do you like how it fits? If it is too tight, draw new lines and cut again.

Once you have the handles how you like them, look at the bottom. Many women's shirts flare out at the bottom. These look funny once sewn, so you would want to trim in the edges to a curve. For children's t-shirts, you can usually just sew along the bottom seam and it will lay fine. Cut the bottom to an appropriate length. If this will be a tote to hold in hand, hold it at your side. Does it hang too close to the ground? If so, cut the bottom higher for a shorter bag.

Turn the t-shirt inside out. Sew along the bottom hemline. I sew over the edge several times to make a secure hem so my groceries don't rip out the bottom.

Holding the tote in one hand and one handle in the other hand, gently tug at the handle. This will stretch out the hem slightly and curl the edges. Repeat on the second handle. You don't have to sew the handles if you use t-shirt material as it will not fray.

If you want, you can decorate the tote. You can sew on buttons in a complementary color, or add lace trim to the handles. You can even simply fasten an earring that lost its mate or an old button or pin that matches the theme of the tote. If you have a plain colored tote, you could add a patch or draw on it with permanent markers.

Originally published on: Homegrown.

Shared on:
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  1. I have made a couple of these out of t-shirts that are just too nice to cut up for either rags or my t-shirt rug project.

    God bless.

    1. I do the same thing. I use the t-shirts that are ugly or really worn for rags, but for the super cute ones that maybe have a small tear at the bottom or something, these totes are perfect!

  2. Awesome! These look like they would work great! ....Now on to raid the kids' dressers!!! :D
    Thanks for sharing~ Wendy

    1. They really do great! I have been using mine a lot, even to carry books and other heavy items. They hold up really well.


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