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Reusable Fabric Shopping Bag Patterns

As I begin to write this comparison, I know I have tried at least three different patterns across the web for reusable shopping bags. Here we go. I will list them, briefly describe their construction, share any changes I made, share any difficulties and share what I liked or didn’t like. Then at the end, I will share how I make fabric shopping bags now, combining techniques from them all.

vintage fabric shopping bag

Vintage Fabric Shopping Bag from Better Homes and Gardens

Basically, this is a very easy 4-step bag! The pattern calls for vintage fabric, but of course you can use anything from your stash or that you find at the thrift store. The only downside to this is that it is not very sturdy, as written. I advise choosing a heavier fabric, such as denim or corduroy for the outer and also enlarging the width of the straps. You need 1/2 yard each of the outer and the liner, which is enough to make the straps also. If you’re going to add pockets or enlarge the bag, you should start with 3/4 of a yard of each to be safe.

wardeh's corduroy tote

The bag is constructed by putting together the outer and the liner separately. Then you construct the straps. Then you put it all together according to the very easy instructions — inserting the raw ends of the straps into the bags between the outer and inner (whose raw edges have been pressed to the wrong side a half inch), 3 inches from the side seams. Then sew it all together with two lines of top stitching.

I made several changes to the pattern to tailor it to suit my needs. I thickened and reinforced the straps, changed the dimensions, squared the bottoms, and added pockets. Read at my blog to see more details on the changes. The brown corduroy bag to the left is one of the bags I made using this pattern, but with corduroy as the outer and with the other changes I mentioned.

Wardee's cloth grocery bag

Jan Andrea’s Cloth Grocery Bag Pattern

This bag is so easy and I learned quite a bit from following this pattern. You start by taking apart a paper grocery sack, and using that as the pattern for the dimensions. You sew the inner and outer together using one side seam — yes, one side seam — and a bottom seam. And, the seams are French seams, which results in a totally finished look inside and out.

I found that with doing the French seams, there is alot of bulk to sew over when crossing seams, so I advise using a “hump-jumper” — a needle case works great, no need to buy a special tool — to keep the presser foot level.

When I used this pattern, I went back and tacked down the gusset triangles on the inside of the bag. I did this by hand, with needle and thread. It only took a moment and it made me feel better! I decided after making the bag pictured, that a wider handle would be better.

jeans into grocery bag

Fabric Grocery Bag From Recycled Jeans

This pattern is actually a video. And, really and truly, you start with a pair of jeans. Once when my local thrift store was having a $1  jeans sale, I really stocked up and made a bunch of bags. But usually, jeans are around $3.50 per pair, which is still a good price for a bag, if you’re not counting labor (which is the case when you sew for yourself… everything always takes more time than you think!) When shopping for jeans, choose wide-leg or straight leg jeans, at least 19″ total width (my preference). You’ll do fine with a smaller width if you’re after a smaller bag.

The bag front and back are each created from the bottom of a leg, opened up at the inside seam. The handles come from the buttocks area. 😉 The downside to this pattern is that there is no lining.

The instructions are very clear and straightforward. The only point where I was confused for a moment was where the lady says to measure the width of the pant leg and multiply it by 2 and use that dimension for the height of the bag. Well, if the pant leg wasn’t cut open at that point, you would multiply by 2. Since the pant leg IS cut open, you wouldn’t want to double it; you must use the same dimension for the height of the bag. You will know what I mean when you watch the video. Then come back here to read that again; it will make sense.

Conclusions

At the country store where I sell my fabric grocery bags, they request that I always make lined bags. Since I actually prefer to make bags from recycled jeans (I think they look cool with the coverstitched side seam in the middle of each side of the bag) I have begun adding a lining to those bags. This involves cutting out lining pieces to match the dimensions of the opened up leg pieces, then constructing it along with the outer and putting them together as in the instructions for the Vintage Fabric Shopping bag (1st pattern listed above). I don’t make any changes to the straps.

All three of these bags are super fun to make and you’ll learn so much from each. When you’re done, you’ll be able to pick and choose the best of each from what worked best for you, your fabric, your time and your needs.

Even though I sell my fabric shopping bags, I don’t sell too many and I don’t recommend it for a great money maker. It is not a great use of time, in that you can’t really charge what your time is worth. But it is fun and that’s why I do it. I think it is fabulous to be able to construct these fabric shopping bags for your family. That is worth it.

If you have any questions about any of them, feel free to ask!

7 Comments

  1. Christine

    Hi Wardee,

    This is a little bit confusing, as I thought at first I was reading something that Sylvia had written, but it seems it was you writing all along.

    Anyway, I have been wanting to make fused plastic bag fabric into reusable, and washable, bags. Or, possibly to use the fused plastic as the liner, to a still washable bag; groceries can be messy, and I want to avoid harboring pathogens from things like meat. Then today, I got an idea. Why not re-use the plastic from the Morton Softener Salt bags to make washable grocery bags? We already know they would be strong, since the bags are constructed to carry 40 lb or 50 lb of salt. I was thinking of using a de-constructed paper grocery bag for sizing; making the plastic bag just slightly larger all around. I could then line the plastic with a regular paper grocery bag if I wanted to. Have you heard of anyone using softener salt bags? It would be a good way to use that heavy duty plastic that I feel bad throwing out (although I do actually recycle it, but would rather use it than recycle). This is the first place I came to read about bag making, so I may do a little more poking around.

    Thanks for the really thorough information. I will be sure to use it.

    Yours in homemaking,

    Christine

  2. Everett Zamzam

    it is a pleasure for me visit your blog.

  3. Kay

    Here are a couple more sites:

    http://www.thecreativethimble.com/files/Grocery_20Bag_20rev_200108.pdf

    http://www.craftster.org/forum/index.php?topic=177482.0

    I haven’t made these yet but am thinking about doing so.

    • Wardee

      Thank you for sharing the links, Kay!

      Love, Wardee

  4. April

    I have several I bought, as I felt I could not make them for 59 cents each, which is what my grocery store was selling them for.

    I do like the idea of making them from jeans, but I don’t wear my jeans out–my daughters do, but bags made from them would be too small.

    However, my husband does manage to wear out about 2 pairs of bib overalls a year. I have saved those. I have tried to find a pattern to use them, without sucess. I can make a pattern easy enough, but I am not creative enough to come up with one to use part of the seams and such in the bibs. I am thinking the bib straps would be great handles, and the front chest pocket would be good for storage also.

    Somehow these bibs should be reconstructed to make great shopping bags or beach bags…

    Any ideas???
    Thanks,
    April

    • Wardee

      April,

      I think those bibs would make great shopping bags! You have the straps already made. Just follow the video for how to turn the bottoms of the legs into the bag sides and you’re good to go! Let me know if you hit any stumbling blocks.

      Love, wardeh

  5. Kay

    I have been using the reusable shopping bags about a year now. Here is a pattern that I use. I’ve made three and am working on another.

    http://sentimentalstitches.net/wp-content/uploads/2008/12/so-sew-easy-schlep-bag.pdf