What You Need
Material - we found an old rice sack at the thrift store for a whopping $.69! An old pillowcase (not too threadbare, though, you'll want it to be sturdy enough for groceries), some burlap, canvas---whatever you can get your hands on! We were excited that the sack we found was already the approximate shape that we wanted our bag to be.
Knitting hook (optional)
1. We sized the bag we found down a bit as our first step. This is also a necessary step if your material isn't already in "bag" form. Turn the bag inside out (or place the "right" sides of the fabric together, leaving the "wrong" sides facing out) and sew the three sides of the bag. To achieve a straight seam, we pinned our material along a straight edge to guide our sewing machine.
2. After creating a seam across the bottom (which we went back over at the edges to reinforce) we trimmed the excess fabric, being sure to leave enough in the hem to prevent it from pulling apart. If your material frays easily, you'll want to put at least a double seam across the edge. We already had seams on the sides of our bag, so we only had to sew the bottom of ours.
3. We then trimmed a large section off of the top of our bag which made it a bit more appropriately sized and provided the fabric that we'll use for the handles. If you don't have additional fabric that matches, have some fun finding a contrasting or complementary fabric for the straps.
4. We then needed to hem the top of our bag for a clean, neat line. We undid the side seam just a bit to allow us to fold the fabric down about 1/2" and create a seam all the way around. We pinned it for accuracy, and then sewed the side up again when we were done.
5. We then cut the extra fabric that we were left with in half, for two handles. For each handle, fold the entirety of the fabric in half, and pin it. Run a long seam along the length of the handle, essentially creating a tube of fabric. You'll turn this inside out for a cleanly sewn handle. This is where the knitting hook can come in handy---it helps to push the fabric through as you are turning it inside out. *Note, the narrower the handle, the more difficult (or darn near impossible) it is to turn inside out. We'd suggest creating a tube that is at least 1 1/2" wide. For heavier fabric, allow an even wider strap. Ours was pretty narrow, and was a little more difficult to flip than we anticipated.
6. Once you've finished your handles, you'll want to sew them to the bag. Measure the distance you'd like your handles to be located, and pin them to the inside of each side of the bag. When sewing the handles in, we created a box with an X in the center, really giving it a lot of reinforcement. We then trimmed the excess handle, and turned our bag right-side-out.
7. Voila! We now have a much needed reusable shopping bag (with a bit of an homage to our home state! Yeehaw!) that cost us a whopping $.69 and just under an hour!
Additional Notes: We realize this is a very elementary sewing project, which is why we like it! We're pretty handy, but would never consider ourselves anywhere near seamstress-caliber. So take a look! Even if you "don't sew" or think you couldn't possibly create something of this nature, give it a shot! And if you're a master sewer, we know this is a simple project, so any hints, tricks or tips are welcome!
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(Images: Jessica Blake Tata)