Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Perfect Reusable Bags

Snow Bag 19There was snow for Christmas (yay!) and then it all washed away in the rain before New Year’s Day. (boo!) I really like the white outside until about March and then I want it to go away. {If only I was in charge…sigh!} I was sad to see it go, but I know we have a lot more in store this winter and maybe into the spring—you never know around here!

My children take their snow boots and snow pants to school each day during the winter. It’s a big deal because it is the only way they can play on the actual playground. Without snow gear, they are stuck on the blacktop only. Like many of their friends, they have always carted their stuff back and forth in a reusable shopping bag from our local grocery store. Perfectly fine, but…
Snow Bag 29

When I found “shopping bag” fabric at JoAnn’s, I was ecstatic because I could finally make cute bags for snow gear.  The fabric is very inexpensive and the bag is quick and easy to make. I used the store bags as a guide to make these since I was informed that they are exactly the right size.

Tutorial Picture copyMaterials
2/3 yard utility fabric for bag
1/3 yard utility fabric for handles and trim in contrasting color
coordinating thread

Cut all fabric. I cut all of the strips 60 inches long (the width of the fabric) and then cut off the excess as I went along. I didn’t want any pieces to be sewn together to make the length because I think it is stronger that way.

You will need the following:
Bag Front and Back – cut 2 pieces 13.5 inches wide x 14 inches tall
Front Pocket – 9 inches x 12 inches
Bag Sides and Bottom – 8.5 inches x 45 inches
Straps – cut 2 straps 4 inches x 48 inches
Bias Tape (trim) – 2 pieces 1 inch x 40 inches (I called it bias tape, but it really isn’t since it isn’t cut on the bias.) You can also use purchased bias tape instead of making your own trim.

Cutting Diagram

To make straps, fold fabric in half lengthwise with right sides together. Sew edge with a 1/4 inch seam to make a long tube. Turn tube inside out and iron flat with the seam on one side. ( I highly recommend the Turn-It-All tube turning tool. I have used it for years and it is the BEST. My kit was purchased at JoAnn’s.)

Please note that this fabric is kind of plastic-y and will melt easily. Iron on the lowest setting or use a press cloth or do both.

Topstitch both long edges using an 1/8 inch seam allowance. Do not worry about the short edges since they will be sewn down later.
Snow Bag 1

Fold the top edge of the pocket and the front and back bag pieces down (towards the wrong side of the fabric) about 3/4 of an inch.
Snow Bag 2

Sew in place using a 5/8 inch seam allowance. I used a double stitch (5/8 and 3/4) for the pocket. This fabric doesn’t fray so I didn’t worry about folding the edge under or serging it. You could trim it with pinking shears if you are concerned about the way it looks.Snow Bag 3

Center the pocket piece on the front bag piece. Using a zig zag stitch, sew in place close to the edges on each side of the pocket.
Snow Bag 4

Sew strap in place along the sides of the front piece. The bottom (raw) edge of the strap should line up with the bottom edge of the bag.
Snow Bag 8

Be sure to cover the edge of the pocket completely and leave at least 1/4 inch for seam allowance along the outside edge of the front bag piece. Sew from the bottom of the bag to the top ending even with the stitching line on the front bag piece top edge.
Snow Bag 5

Using a ruler, draw a box with an X through it. Use this as a guide to sew reinforcement stitching along the top of the handle to prevent it from pulling away from the bag. The top edge of your box should be in line with the stitching line from the front bag piece.

(Incidently, I used pencil and it doesn’t wipe right off—you may want to use disappearing ink or a light chalk line.)
Snow Bag 6

Loop the strap around to the other side of the front piece and repeat the last step to sew the other side of the handle on.
Snow Bag 7

Sew the strap onto the back bag piece the same as the front except there isn’t a pocket. Be sure the strap is the same distance from the edges as the strap is on the front piece so that the handles line up when it is finished.
Snow Bag 9

On the side piece, fold the top down and sew in place like you did on the front and back bag pieces. Only do this on one end. The other one can be done when you get close to the end of sewing it in place so that it is exactly the right length.
Snow Bag 2

Using a 1/8 inch seam (or close to the edge), sew the side piece to the front piece with wrong sides together. Start at the top of the bag and go down towards the bottom. When you get about 2 inches from the bottom corner, remove from machine to make the corner.

Pull the fabric around the corner as you hold the part you just sewed firmly in place.

There will be excess fabric poofing up that doesn’t turn the corner. Grab this part and press it together.
Snow Bag 10

Flatten the “poof” so it is out of the way of the corner. The fabric at the corner will be pretty flat and will still make a corner.
Snow Bag 11

Carefully sew around the corner being sure to make a sharp corner by using straight lines. When you reach the corner (about 1/8 inch away from the edge), stop with the needle in the fabric. Lift the presser foot and turn the fabric 90 degrees to the right. Put the presser foot down and continue sewing a straight line 1/8 inch from the edge.
Snow Bag 12

By making this little fold for the corner, your bag will be able to stand on its own.
Snow Bag 13

Continue sewing the side piece along the bottom edge of the front piece. Make another corner as you sew from the bottom of the front up the other side towards the top. As you get close to the top edge (about 3 inches away), stop and trim the side piece to the correct length with enough fabric to fold it over and sew down the top edge with a 5/8 inch stitch line. Then, finish sewing the side to the front piece and your pieces should line up perfectly.

Repeat this whole process (minus trimming at the end because it is already done) with the bag back piece and the side piece. This one is a little more difficult because there is more bag in your way as you try to navigate the corners. Go slowly and carefully. The edges do not have to be exactly perfect because you are going to cover them with the bias tape or trim.
Snow Bag 14

Trim corners.
Snow Bag 17

You can purchase bias tape (single fold) if you would like, but I wanted mine to match exactly the same. Also, the bag is surface washable and pretty easy to wipe clean and purchased bias tape wouldn’t clean quite as easily. It’s entirely up to you, but here is how to make the trim (which is not actually bias tape) if you choose. (I used the term bias tape but it is NOT correct since this is not cut on the bias. Because the fabric is not very stretchy, nor does it need to stretch, I didn’t think it would matter much and I was right. Sorry to use it interchangeably—it really isn’t.)

Using a nearly cool iron, iron the edges (about 1/4 inch—I wasn’t exact) of the trim towards the inside.
Snow Bag 15

Fold it in half again and iron it flat. It will pop right open again, but the crease will hold for the next step.
Snow Bag 16

Fold about 1/4 inch of the top edge down and then place the edges of the bag inside the trim and hold in place as you sew it down. You will sew through everything at one time.

Go slowly around the corners and pull the trim in place as you go. This fabric will “bend” or stretch around the corners just fine.
Snow Bag 18

The trim takes about as long as the rest of the bag put together takes, but I love the way it looks when it is done!Snow Bag 23

You could add a clasp of some sort, but experience tells me that children are more likely to get their things in the right spot if they have less steps to take to get it there! And, the bag is deep enough to keep everything tucked inside.Snow Bag 21

So get to work—you’ve got some gorgeous shopping bags/snow gear bags just waiting to be made!
Snow Bag 24
and filled!
Snow Bag 22
Isn’t it pretty?
(I'm linking to THESE great link parties!)
handmade projects


Stef,  said... January 4, 2011 at 1:49 PM  

I love these. So Hip too! I found your site through Tip Junkie! I'm your newest Follower ;)


Unknown,  said... January 4, 2011 at 3:53 PM  

So super impressed! What a great tutorial! Thanks for sharing and love the fabric you used. We too have to pack snow gear for recess. :)

Nancy,  said... January 4, 2011 at 4:12 PM  

I love the bag. I saw the fabric and joann's last week. I was debating on making some grocery bags out of them. So much cuter than the ones with the store name in big print across the bag!

Cortnie,  said... January 4, 2011 at 6:14 PM  

So cute! I've been telling myself for about a year that I should pull one of those bags apart and make a pattern out of it! It would've just been one more thing I didn't finish! haha! Glad somebody did it!

Stacey,  said... January 4, 2011 at 8:16 PM  

Awesome! I had no idea Joanns sold that type of fabric! So exciting. I can't wait to make them now. Thanks for sharing.

Gina,  said... January 5, 2011 at 4:01 PM  

Fabulous! I use the regular recyclable bags for everything BUT groceries so it would be great if I could make some without the logo. I'm going to stop at JoAnn's tonight and see if they have them or if they can have what I want shipped to the store. I refuse to pay $5.95 for a yard of fabric that costs $2.99! I haul my work stuff, my lace supplies, my painting supplies, mail...everything. It would be great to have them prettier but I do love the function and cheap cost. Great project! Thank you for sharing it.

Liz,  said... January 5, 2011 at 4:51 PM  

I love this! You don't find cute reusable bags like this one for sale. I am excited to make me one. Thanks for sharing. We will be featuring you over at our blog ziggycrafts.blogspot.com

Lisa Nelsen-Woods,  said... January 6, 2011 at 10:45 AM  

My husband uses a branded store bag to tote he stuff to work, because the messenger bag I bought him is "too heavy." You gave me a great idea for his Valentine's day gift!

Angela,  said... January 8, 2011 at 4:37 PM  

It is gorgeous! Just gorgeous! I love it! I use reusable bags when I go shopping. I found a few pretty pink ones at Home Goods 2 years ago that I use alot. I also have some heavy duty ones I bought at Tractor Supply.

arkie,  said... January 8, 2011 at 11:04 PM  

Very cute! Great instructions! I didn't know you could buy this type of fabric in such pretty colors! Thanks!

Anonymous,  said... January 9, 2011 at 2:16 AM  

great tutorial and such a cute project! thanks so very much for linking up on Craft Schooling Sunday, great to see you!

Lorena,  said... January 9, 2011 at 12:19 PM  

I love this tutorial!! thanks for sharing! beautiful colors for the bag!! stopping by from T rose link party!, ciao

Lorena,  said... January 9, 2011 at 12:19 PM  

I love this tutorial!! thanks for sharing! beautiful colors for the bag!! stopping by from T rose link party!, ciao

Mariel@ www.sexymodeststyle.com,  said... January 9, 2011 at 11:26 PM  

easy to understand tut!!! Thanks!!!

Come and link this up over at


and i am having a $15 dollar giveaway that you will love!

Jill,  said... January 10, 2011 at 12:05 AM  

Wonderful! Much prettier than the store bought ones! And a nice straightforward tutorial too!

I'd love if you linked this to my weekly 'round tuit' post at:


Hope you have a lovely week!

Jill @ Creating my way to Success

WilliamHenry,  said... January 10, 2011 at 2:03 AM  

Wow! Cute bag, These bags are more strong than plastic bag. Thanks for sharing with us!!

Reusable bags

EllensCreativePassage,  said... January 10, 2011 at 7:52 PM  

I saw that fabric at JoAnns too and will need to go get some! Great simple project...thanks for sharing!

Ashlee Marie,  said... January 11, 2011 at 10:56 PM  

It's such a cute bag! You did a great job, and that fabric is great. Thanks for linking up to Topsy Turvy Tuesday's!

Stephanie Lynn @Under the Table and Dreaming,  said... January 13, 2011 at 5:41 AM  

This is a wonderful idea! Thanks so much for sharing the fabulous tutorial and linking up to The Sunday showcase party - I have featured this today. Stop by and grab a featured button if you like. Hope you have a wonderful week ~ Stephanie Lynn

Anonymous,  said... February 6, 2012 at 8:13 PM  

I'm thinking to make these with PUL fabric inside to make them water-proof and add a zipper across the top.

Virginia Celoria,  said... April 2, 2012 at 3:57 PM  

What a great tutorial, it combines my loves for sewing, shopping, and being green! I like it so much, I ended up including it on my blog... http://darlingadventures.com/?p=635

CraftyMummy,  said... August 28, 2012 at 5:13 PM  

Great tutorial! Just wanted to let you know that I shared your post over at my blog today: http://thecraftymummy.com/2012/08/sew-a-green-shopping-bag/

Anonymous,  said... January 12, 2020 at 12:12 AM  

I love this tutorial! May I ask exactly what type of fabric you purchased? I am looking for the material online and I am not seeing specifically utility fabric. Is it canvas, vinyl, oilcloth? Even a link to a sample would be greatly appreciated!

Tammy @ she wears flowers,  said... January 12, 2020 at 2:52 PM  

This is a utility fabric I purchased from JoAnn Fabric store. For a while, these fabrics were popular and they came in lots of different colors and designs. I don't see them much anymore. This is a link to something similar in solid colors: https://www.joann.com/olyfun-10-yard-bolt/zprd_14065353a.html#start=1

I would think that any fabric with little stretch and a good weight would work well for this project. Oilcloth is another option and you can find lots of gorgeous prints online. It tends to be a little more heavyweight/thicker than what I used.

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