1 yard of cotton canvas duck, upholstery fabric, or denim – 54” wide
Cutting mat, rotary cutter, 6” x 24” Omnigrid ruler. I am a quilter so these materials are second nature to me and make the cutting out process very quick and simple.
Do not prewash the fabric. Ironing will eliminate wrinkles or folds in the fabric.
1. Lay the fabric out with the selvidges together. Mark the top and the bottom of the fabric (the ends cut at the fabric store) with pins.
Cut off the selvidge off both edges. They are usually ½” to ¾” wide.
Measure and cut two strips of fabric the full yard length of the fabric that are 2.5” wide. These will be your handles. Set aside.
2. Open the fabric and fold the bottom to the top. You will now have a piece of fabric that is 54” wide and about 19” tall (remember, it’s folded at the bottom). Make sure the fabric is lying flat and cut two strips 20” wide.
Fold is at the bottom of the picture. Raw edges of fabric on the sides and top.
3. Cut two strips 6” wide. These will become the insert for the bottom of the bag to give it a little more strength. Set them aside until later.
4. Fold so the right side of the bag fabric is together. Match the top edge of the fabric and pin the sides. Sew ½” seams. Strengthen the seam by doing an overlock stitch. If you have a serger you can do it all in one step.
5. The bag should still be inside out. Create the gusset at the bottom of the bag by pressing the bottom corners of the bag into a V. Draw a line across that V. I like a 5” wide base so my line is 5” long. Make sure you use the side seam as a guide to center your ruler. You should have 2.5” of the new seam on either side of the side seam of the bag.
6. Turn the bag and using your fingers, open up the gusset at the bottoms of the bag. Some people like to trim the points off the gusset seaming. I leave them…your choice.
7. Head to the ironing board. Press the side seams and the bag. At the top of the bag iron a ¼” fold all the way around the top of the bag. Fold another inch and press.
8. You’re ready for the handles. You will only need one strip of the handle fabric to create both handles you’ll need for one bag. I personally hate to sew a ¼” seam on a handle and then turn it inside out so I cheat. I head back to the ironing board and press a ¼” fold on either side of the handle pieces. Then carefully fold the handle together (wrong side of the fabric inside) and press. Sew a straight seam on both sides of the handle about 1/8” from the edge.
9. Fold the handle piece in half to find the exact center. Mark with a pin, then carefully cut into two equal length pieces. Overlock stitch the ends of both handle pieces.
10. Placing the handles on the bag is easy. First, you’ll need to find the exact center of both sides of the bag. Here’s an easy way to do it…Holding the bag open at the top, match the two side seams together. If you hold the fabric out you will now have the dead center of each of the two sides of the bag. Mark with a pin.
11. Lay the bag on your work table and measure out exactly 2.5 ” to the left and right of the pins marking the center. Pin the handle on the inside of the bag using the pins as your guide. Make sure it is straight and is inserted only 1” down (use the ironed fold as your guide). The handles should be exactly 5” apart.
12. Sew the top of the bag and attach the handles. I prefer to use the darning zig zag stitch on my machine, but a regular zig zag stitch works well. I sew just under the 1” width of the folded edge all the way around the bag. When you come to the handle pieces slow down the machine since you are suddenly increasing the thickness and machines don’t always like it. Using a jeans or denim needles is a good idea for this portion of the project.
13. Bar tack the handles…I keep my stitch as wide as the original zig zag stitch, but shorten the stitch length. I sew one bar tack at the top edge of the bag over the handle and a second one on the same stitching line that went all the way around the bag.
14. All you have left is the bottom insert. Fold the bottom insert pieces so the right sides of the fabric are together. Sew a 3/8” seam. You want less bulk, that’s why the seam is narrower. Turn right sides out and press. Measure the gusseted box at the bottom of your bag. It should be 5” wide and 13” long, but if it isn’t make sure you cut your plastic to the appropriate size.
15. Cut the plastic needlepoint ‘canvas’ the correct size for the base of your bag. If you’ve sewn your bottom gusset correctly it should be 5” x 13” so that’s what I cut mine at. Cut two per bag. Slip the two pieces of plastic inside the bottom insert. It’s a tight fit so it helps if you pull the sides up at the side to slip it in. Make sure you’ve pushed it all the way to the end. Lockstitch the open end and trim off the excess fabric. Slip bottom insert into your bag and you are ready to go shopping!
Suggestions…Once you’ve made your first bag any others will go quite quickly. It is easy to cut a bunch of bags and go into a mass production routine, completing the same step on a stack of bags before going on to the next step. Get creative with your fabric. I’ve used striped upholstery fabric, geometric printed canvas duck, off-white canvas duck, and denim. I personally prefer the canvas duck. I also like to mix and match my fabrics into my handles.
These bags are easy to make and will keep you from having to drag those plastic bags home from the grocery story. I just fold up a few homemade bags and stuff them inside of another bag before I head off to do my shopping. One of these bags can easily hold twice as much as the plastic sacks do. If that’s a bit too heavy for you, downsize your bags a bit...cut them 16” wide instead. Remember to remeasure your bottom insert…it will be smaller.