DIY Grocery Bags from a Tote Bag Activist

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Plastic grocery bags are a real thorn in my side. They just burn me up. According to Morsbags, 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 Morsbags online 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.

Morsbags is on a mission to get the general public using reusable bags and I want on that bandwagon, folks. Their pattern (available on Morsbags) 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)
  • Thread 
  • Iron (You know, that thing to press your clothes with)
  • cardboard

First measure and cut out the following:

(1) 37 inch x 14 inch rectangle (the body of the bag)
(2) 8 inch x 15 inch rectangles (the sides)
(2) 4 inch x 39 inch 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!

Now fold the 4 inch x 39 inch 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 1/2 inch and sew. Now you are ready to attach the silly things!

Measure 1-1/2 inch 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.

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.

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.

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. 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.

Don’t forget to stop in and visit the Razor Family Farms.