Photo taken by Heidi Marshall

Reusable bags can be found everywhere these days. You’ll find them mixed in with handbags, at the airport, or by the checkout line. In most cases, those available in grocery or department stores range between 99 cents and $2.99. Other places (such as the airport) will charge you $10 and up for one of theirs.

While using a reusable bag is a great thing (and certainly better than the “paper or plastic?” issue of the past), the cost of them can add up fast—especially if you buy a handful from each store you go to. Say you buy 5 bags, at a cost of 99 cents, from every store you regularly shop at, which would equal $4.95 per store. For the sake of the article, we’ll say you might go to an average of 9 different stores on a regular basis, including: grocery, retail chains (such as Walmart), and maybe a couple of random clothing stores. The amount you spend on 5 bags per store ($4.95), times the number of stores you go to on average (9), equals $44.55—that’s almost $50 spent on reusable bags alone!

Fortunately, there is a way you can still get reusable bags and eliminate the cost of them: by making them at home, and I’m going to show you exactly how to do that. If you have any old clothes, towels, or other fabric (such as curtains) lying around, you could easily turn them into different sized reusable bags. This is a great way to reduce your spending, reuse something old or worn out, and you could even donate them or sell them (thus, recycling).

Before I start on the instructions, however, I want to make 2 things clear:

  1. The thicker the fabric you use, the more durable and sturdy your bag will be. Thin fabrics may make it easier for the bag to rip or fall apart, and they might not be able to hold as much weight as those made of thicker fabrics.
  2. A lot of pattern instructions may tell you to clip the seams, press the seams, add lining, or use bias tape. I will not be doing that in these instructions. If you want to do those things, or add anything extra (such as pockets or closures), that is up to you. Thesesteps will simply give you a very basic idea of how to create a reusable bag.

Now, on to the instructions! I should also probably add that each step will include links to pictures that go with most of the steps (to show you how the progress should look, more or less).

1. First of all, you will need to measure and cut your fabric. I used an old/damaged pair of blue jeans to make my bag and I cut the fabric into 7 pieces:

  • 1 front piece (14 inches wide, 16 inches long)
  • 1 back piece (14 inches wide, 16 inches long)
  • 2 side pieces (10 inches wide, 16 inches long)
  • 1 bottom piece (10 inches wide, 14 inches long)
  • 2 handle pieces (3.5 inches wide, 16 inches long)

You can adjust the width and length of each piece to what suits you.

2. Next, you’ll want to pin together the 16 inch long edges of the front piece and one of the side pieces with the right sides together. This means that the parts of the bag you want to be on the outside (such as a picture or words, or basically the nice looking part of the fabric) will be placed together (click here for a picture of the right side vs. wrong side of fabric). Once they are aligned and pinned, sew along the pinned edge. When you are finished sewing the pieces together, if you flip it over, it should look like this. You’ll notice that you can see the seam but not the stitches.

3. Repeat step 2, except this time you’ll be pinning together the back piece and the other side piece.

4. Now, you should have 2 larger pieces: the front connected to the side, and the back connected to the other side. What you’ll want to do in this step is pin the other edge of the front piece to the other edge of the side piece that’s connected to the back piece, and then sew them together.

5. Now you’ll have a really long piece sewed together that should go something like: back piece, side piece, front piece, side piece. Take the back piece and pin it to the only remaining edge of the last side piece, and sew together. If done correctly, the fabric should roughly look like a box shape, with the side pieces on each side and the front and back pieces between them.

6. In this step, you will be pinning the bottom piece to the bag. Make sure you match the sides properly (long edges of the bottom should be pinned against the front and back pieces, shorter edges should be pinned to the side pieces) and don’t forget to pin the right sides together. This is basically what it should look like (the wrong sides are out).

7. We’re almost finished! Now, we are simply going to hem the opening at the top. Just fold in the sides, pin and sew. You can adjust it to whatever you’d like. Mine was about 1 inch, which you can check out here.

8. Now we’re going to deal with the straps (or handles). The first thing you’ll want to do is hem the long sides of each handle. Just fold, pin and sew like you did in step 7. They should look something like this when you’re done.

9. The last step! You are simply going to pin the handles to the bag and sew—that’s it! Well, almost. Take the bag and find one of the top corners, which connects a larger piece (the front or back) with a side piece. Measure about 3 inches along the top edge of the larger piece, starting at that corner. This is where one of the ends of the handle will be placed on the inside of the bag. You’ll want to do the same at the opposite end of the same piece. Fold the handle ends, pin and sew. It should look something like this. Then simply repeat this step for the other large piece/handle, and you are done!

That’s all the basic steps on How to Make a Reusable Bag. I know the outcome might seem a bit crude, but as stated before, you have the option of adding extras once you’re finished (or as you go along). Feel free to add lining, batting, pockets, buttons, zippers, or whatever else you feel like. If you get stuck on a step, check out the pictures or post a comment and ask for help!