Thursday, October 27, 2016

Free Pattern for Reusable Shopping Bags -- Easy Enough to Make for Yourself, Pretty Enough to Give as Gifts

Isn't this cute?

There is a growing trend in the United States to "go green," which means doing your part to conserve energy and resources. Environmental groups offer many suggestions for how to be green. Here are a few:

  • set your thermostat down a few degrees
  • take shorter showers
  • eat one meatless meal per week
  • don't buy bottled water
Sure, those are all things that we as individuals can do. They're easy, and don't cost anything.

But communities are also getting into the movement. Recycling of paper, plastics, and glass is becoming commonplace. And some towns, especially large municipalities, are placing a ban on plastic grocery bags. If you shop in Olympia, Washington (for example) you need to either bring your own reusable bag or pay 5 cents for a paper bag.

Unfortunately many reusable bags are made of plastic products, so although they do not go into the landfill, their manufacture uses petroleum products (so are they really green?) and they aren't washable. But I have designed a 100 percent cloth bag that is reusable, washable, sturdy...and it's gorgeous!

Materials and Equipment you will need
  • 1/2 yard canvas or duck in your choice of color (I used black)
  • 2 3/4 yard 100 percent cotton webbing (1.25 inches wide)
  • scrap of color fabric for contrast (at least 6.5 inches by 16.5 inches)
  • long pins to help with positioning webbing
  • heavy-weight thread for machine stitching
  • steam iron and ironing board
  • sewing machine
  1. From the canvas cut a rectangle 15 inches wide and 34 inches in length.
  2. Fold over 1 inch on the top and bottom of the rectangle (on the short side). These two edges will be the top edge of your finished bag. Iron. Stitch 1/2 inch from top edge. Your rectangle is now 15 inches wide and 32 inches long.
  3. The next step is probably the most difficult, but don't worry. I'm here to guide you to the finish line with written instructions, a photograph, and a diagram.
  4. Place the canvas right side up on your work surface, long edge facing your tummy. Starting at the upper right-hand corner, begin to position the cotton webbing onto the canvas. You will need to pin in place as you go.
  5. Think of the webbing as a continuous circle. The cut end of the webbing is pointing to the left and that is where the circle begins.

    Moving from left to right, the webbing will be extended to the finished edge of the bag, will then be pointed downward to form the handle, and then positioned to continue the circle, reading from right to left.

    At the other finished edge the 2nd handle will be formed, and then the webbing is re-positioned so that it is reading from left to right.

    Trim the end of the webbing is that is abuts against the first end where the circle began. Don't worry about this--the joint will be covered up with a decorative piece of fabric.

Here is the canvas with the left and right (east and west) sides turned and stitched. The long top and bottom edges (north and south) are raw edge. Positioning of the webbing began in the upper right-hand corner.

A closer look at the left-hand side. Note that the webbing is one continuous piece. This contributes to the stability and strength of the completed bag.

And here is a diagram which gives precise measurements:

If I were to stitch up the sides I would have a perfectly functional tote bag -- a black on black, boring tote bag. I don't do boring. So here is the next step to transform your bag into a one-of-a-kind that will have people asking "WHERE DID YOU GET THAT?"

  1. You will need a piece of fabric 7 inches wide and 16.5 inches long. Fold up the top and bottom edges (long edges) 1/2 inch. Iron to set the fold.
  2. Place your tote bag face up on your work surface, with the area where the ends of the webbing are joined at the top.
  3. Pin your decorative fabric to the front of the bag and carefully top stitch the top and bottom edges to the canvas. (Take care at the places where you will be stitching over the webbing. It is thick and could make your needle jump). Here's a photo of my tote bag with the decorative fabric stitched on.
  4. Next, stitch up the sides of the bag. Fold the bag in half horizontally, right sides together. Use a half-inch seam allowance.
ALMOST DONE! -- Here is the bag, ready for the side seams to be sewn. 

Trust me, if I can do this, you can too.

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