DIY Grocery Bags from a Tote Bag Activist

| 8/22/2008 3:42:09 PM

Tags: grocery bags, DIY,

morsbagsPlastic grocery bags are a real thorn in my side. They just burn me up. According to, over 1 million plastic bags are consumed per minute globally. Disgusting, isn’t it? I was so sickened by the whole thing that I decided to join after I made my own grocery bags. Now I am a grocery bag activist. That’s right. My inner teenager is digging this new gig. No long trips to Washington, D.C., sunburned shoulders, or picket lines for this girl. Instead, I simply sit behind my sewing machine with a few stacks of fabric, a tall glass of sweet tea, and some classic rock blasting. is on a mission to get the general public using reusable bags and I want on that bandwagon, folks. Their pattern (available on their website) is easy to follow and makes a great grocery bag. I added a little fabric hook on the tote to make loading the bags at self-checkout much easier. Thus, the cloth grocery bag hangs in the plastic bag rack while you load it up with goodies.  Now just make a few extra bags and give them out to friends or perfect strangers.  Whatever floats your boat.  Get your material from sale bins, consignment shops, and remnant tables from fabric stores. This keeps costs low and means that there is even less waste. It’s double the recycling with some mighty fine gift-giving included!

If you want a bag with a little more room for large items, you can follow my own design which I based around a brown paper bag. Here’s what you need:

1 yard of durable fabric (machine washable denim, canvas, or some other wonderful stuff)
Scissors (fabric scissors will make your life easier, trust me)
Pins (I like the kind with colorful little heads on them because I'm often in need of a nap when I start sewing and can't find the little boogers... flashing lights and pointed arrows would sure help)
Iron (You know, that thing to press your clothes with)

First measure and cut out the following:

(1) 37” x 14” rectangle (the body of the bag)
(2) 8” x 15” rectangles (the sides)
(2) 4” x 39” rectangles (the handles)
A little scrap of fabric to fold, sew, and make into a hook

Pin the sides to the body of the bag so that the bag is inside out and sew around the seams. Now fold down the top of the bag about ½ inch. Sew that down, turn it right-side-out and get ready for the handles. How easy was that? If you didn’t have to carry the thing, you could stop right now!

Pinned Bag

Now fold the 4” x 39” strips in half lengthwise, press them with your iron, and sew a seam finish to enclose the raw edges. Fold the ends of each strap over about ½” and sew. Now you are ready to attach the silly things!

Measure 1 ½” from the sides of the bag and pin the straps in place. Be sure that the straps aren’t twisted and sew them into place. Sew a square with an X in each strap end where it attaches to the lower portion of the bag and the upper portion.

Bag Loop

Now, take a little scrap of fabric. Choose your own adventure here. Roll it and sew it lengthwise. Now sew it onto one side of the lip of the bag so that it creates a little loop that sticks out of the top of the bag.

Top of Bag

Cut a piece of cardboard to fit the bottom panel.  It won't last forever but it will help your bag maintain a sturdy base.

Finished Bag

Voila! You are finished. Feeling just groovy? Well, you should because you totally rock.  Now just remember to bring these babies with you when you go to the grocery store.  My advice?  After you've unpacked your groceries, put the bags in the trunk of your car.  Trust this voice of experience... you feel very silly after spending all that time and effort making the dadgum things only to leave them at home on shopping day. 

I included a picture of the shopping bag I made for my husband, an Army Ranger, who is WAY to manly to carry those flowery pastel grocery bags.  I used some green denim and then found some of his old name tapes to sew on.  He loves them.  I got MAJOR brownie points for those, let me tell you.

Manly Bag

One lucky commenter will get a handmade grocery bag as a thank you.  Tell your friends.  Winners are selected using and will be announced before the next posting.  The winner must then email me ( with their address.  I will not hunt you down because I am currently drowning in green beans (Please send help.) and can't leave my pressure canner long enough to accomplish such a feat.  So check back often to see if you won and to read all these wonderful articles and blogs on!

Don't forget to stop in and visit the Razor Family Farms Web site . 

11/4/2008 9:49:03 PM

Great bags! I also hate those plastic bags! Walmart is selling these large black fabric bags for a buck! They say "Plastic? Paper? NEITHER!" They are plain so I decorated mine up all around the tops with extra ribbons and trims I had left over from all the handmade purses I make. Girls at the checkouts go GA..GA.. over them and seem to have fun filling them! Unless you have access to enough scrap fabric, you just can't beat buying these bags for a buck! Not too long ago, $100 worth of groceries would fill the 10 bags that I have.

9/29/2008 10:18:10 PM

Hello, Glad to have found your site. Your reusable totes are very good looking and a wonderful idea! Please enter my name in your delightful drawing. Many thanks.....Cindi

aly in ga
8/27/2008 8:05:34 AM

I live "just down the road a piece" in Gwinnett County. Your blog has been very inspirational and I can't wait to try out a few of your tips and recipes. Thanks for sharing a bit of your life.

janet in mi.
8/26/2008 11:02:04 PM


jean teller
8/26/2008 4:30:28 PM

My sewing skills leave a lot to be desired - however, several of those extra tote bags I've collected over the years are now serving extra duty as grocery sacks. After I unload the groceries, the bags go into the largest one, which is then placed next to the door to the garage. Of course, there are times when the bags stay in the house and don't find their way to my car's trunk for several days. So, I now keep a mesh bag in the bottom of my purse. Works wonders for the shopping trips for one or two items at the grocery store or the discount store. Love those personalized bags, Lacy!

linda sue
8/25/2008 8:57:58 PM

Hot diggity - I think the grocery bag(s) are great - hate those plastic things - they end up all over our fencelines. You are clever to make something so useful bet your family and friends will all be doing the "hint hint" action for holiday gifts.

hank will_2
8/25/2008 4:17:22 PM

Back in the dark ages of the first oil crisis, and during my boat building and leather working phases, I sewed scores of grocery bags and all manner of tote bags from cotton canvas that was left over from sewing sails for some boat project or another. On some sacks, I added hand-stitched leather bottoms. I refrained from tooling the leather though. But, none of my sacks could compare with the beauty of these, Lacy. My design was more cumbersome to sew as well. What fun.

8/25/2008 12:37:37 PM

Looks like a very neat bag-and definetly a great idea!!

8/25/2008 11:02:59 AM

Ooh! Too cute! I'm game for green....

8/25/2008 10:56:44 AM

Lacy, My hats off to ya girl! You could sell those bags! I am not exactly what you would call..."good" sewing! My mom, on the other hand, is very good at it! She could probably whip these up with her eyes closed! Another classic rocker!!!!!! I love AC-DC, Aerosmith, and George Thorogood. Listening to music while i'm doing anything seems to give me more energy, and keep me going! Keep it coming with all these great ideas!!

8/24/2008 8:29:48 PM

This is just in case my comment doesn't show up, I had to sign up after I commented.

8/24/2008 8:27:19 PM

Pretty bag. I have been interested in using those, but wonder how practical they are for meat and messy things. Do you buy meat at the store and take it home in these? Shelli

8/24/2008 8:26:37 PM

Pretty bag. I have been interested in using those, but wonder how practical they are for meat and messy things. Do you buy meat at the store and take it home in these? Shelli

8/24/2008 6:06:38 PM

Great idea..of course I like most of your ideas! you are amazingly creative. I am trying to get into the habit of using a cloth bag for fruits/vegies. I don't have enough of them to use for my total shopping yet. Love the bags.

holly, the knitter
8/24/2008 1:20:24 PM

There is nothing you can't do!

8/24/2008 1:09:38 PM

What a cute bag. I just came across your family blog via the down-to-earth blog and followed you right over here. Our family is just starting to farm our little piece of land here in California. I look forward to reading more on your blog. Thanks for the inspriration! Angela

8/24/2008 12:12:22 PM

Cool! Since I have no idea how to use the sewing machine my mom once gave me... I guess I'll just have to win from you! ;)

8/24/2008 8:55:01 AM

Great post. I have been using cloth bags off and on since the early 80's.... yes, when some of you readers were just dreams! I am not as consistent as I would like. You inspire me to do better! Thanks Christina

8/24/2008 8:47:11 AM

So, I wonder how many of these I'd have to take with me? For a two week trip,I need twenty to thirty plastic bags. Now, of course,that would mean twenty to thirty less bags in my bag-girl (or garbage cans!) That's a lot of sewing. I do have a couple of bags that I could use to start my collection. But, boy, that bag of yours sure is cute! I'd love to have it for myself. :)

8/24/2008 5:04:38 AM

I have wanted to begin carrying cloth bags rather than use plastic and this bag looks like the perfect bag to begin the change. How pretty! THANKS for the chance.

8/24/2008 12:41:44 AM

Hi Lacy, I really like the idea of the tote bags for the grocery store and storing them in the car. If the people are having trouble remembering to take them back out to the car then perhaps a box set up by the back door with a sign that the kids can make up that says (don't forget me too!?!?). This could get the young ones involved. They could also have their own little totes to help mom out. The bag for your husband is really well done. I am sure he is very proud of you. Is he going to start a campaign at work? What is good enough for the army should be good enough for the public. Lacy you are full of ideas. Your energy is boundless. Keep up the great work inspiring the public with your work, common sense (most don't have or to lazy) and love for humanity and its' people. It only takes one to get the ball rolling!?!? Great job!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

8/23/2008 6:28:21 PM

Lacy, I am so with you on this bandwagon. It's taken awhile, but we've finally gotten in the habit of putting them back in the car after a shopping trip so that we have them the next time we need them. It took awhile to get my husband in the habit, but now he's the one that always remembers to put them back. I knew he'd finally arrived just the other day after we checked out at the grocery and he looked around and said "don't you just feel smarter than these people using all those plastic bags?" :-0 And making them from scratch is so much smarter than paying the high prices some places charge for them.

razor family farms
8/23/2008 12:55:59 PM

Hi Robin! I love that you are into using reusable totes and your refusal to accept plastic grocery bags is super! Thank you so much for your wonderful comment! Blessings, Lacy

8/22/2008 10:18:14 PM

Hey Miss Lacy! :) You know me, I love non plastic/paper shopping bags. lol When we go to the store and forget our bags we place all of our items back into the cart after the checker has rung them up. I refuse to accept another plastic bag in my life. I still get puzzeled looks from checkers, but not nearly as many as six months ago. We started in January. :) Take care, Robin

razor family farms
8/22/2008 6:50:41 PM

Hi Cindy! I have a few totes from trade shows, too. I love them! I'm glad I could help with the whole "keep 'em in the trunk" thing. Right on. Thank you so much for commenting! You never know... you could end up with another tote bag to add to the collection! Blessings! Lacy

cindy murphy
8/22/2008 6:27:09 PM

Once more, Lacy, I'm amazed at how much energy you have! I've got gobs of tote bags. No, I didn't make them; I don't sew. Bags from annual trade shows, from the girls' school; totes I've received as gifts, and ones I've purchased because they were on sale at too good a price to ignore. Large, medium, and small - I've got a tote bag for every possible use. "Now just remember to bring these babies with you when you go to the grocery store." That's my problem - all my totes sit packed inside the biggest, waiting for me to remember to take them with when I go to the store. It's at the check-out I realize I left them at home. Although, I'll never sew my own bags, thanks for the put-em-in-your-trunk-tip. That's a diy project I can actually do!

mother earth news fair


Feb. 17-18, 2018
Belton, Texas

More than 150 workshops, great deals from more than 200 exhibitors, off-stage demos, inspirational keynotes, and great food!