Are you looking for a great, low-cost recycling project to do at home or with a group?This is IT! This is a great way to use last season's team t-shirts or a previous year's event t-shirts! Re-purpose an unwanted t-shirt today and easily turn the shirt into a re-usable tote bag.

With just two quick seams and some fast cutting---you are finished! These t-shirt totes are strong and washable! Use for groceries, library books, tennis balls, gym clothes or pool supplies---use for anything you need to carry!

Did You Know.... Plastic shopping bags are typically used less than 30 minutes and only 1 % are recycled. The average American adult uses approximately 288 bags a year, or 22,000* in an average lifetime...make and use a Recycled T-Shirt Totebag today! *Source: 2008 Piedmont Environmental Alliance, NC

This is my first Instructable- any comments are appreciated. I am doing this recycling project for my Girl Scout Gold Award- I hope to share the information with as many people as possible! Thanks for your interest- 

UPDATE: Thank you for your support and words of encouragement- I have successfully completed my Girl Scout Gold Award Project!  Thank you for helping me spread the word-
just say no to paper or plastic!

Step 1: STEP ONE


-Heavy weight cotton T-shirt (heavy weight fabric & Youth size XL or Adult S or M work best)

~ 3- 5 straight pins

- Pencil or pen

- Dinner plate


- Sewing machine

Step 2: STEP 2

Picture of STEP 2

-Choose an old t-shirt and smooth it flat on a table. Use scissors to cut and remove the sleeves---make sure you leave the seam in place---this keeps your tote strong!

Step 3: STEP 3

Picture of STEP 3

-Position a plate about halfway over the neck opening of the shirt. Trace the plate with your pencil or pen. This will be your cutting line to create the opening for your tote bag. Cut along the traced line with the scissors.

Step 4: STEP 4

Picture of STEP 4

-Turn the T-shirt inside out and pin the bottom of the T-shirt-- along the hem--- closed.

Step 5: STEP 5

Picture of STEP 5

-Use the sewing machine to sew the bottom of T-shirt hem closed. Reinforce your tote bag by sewing over this seam a second time!

-Your bag is now sewn closed! As a variation you may consider adding a "gusset" at the bottom corners- as several commenters have- that's where you sew across the corner at at right angle so that the bottom of the bag has more depth and is not just flat---it "boxes" the corners of the tote bag.

-Another variation to consider....see the picture below of the pink t shirt tote bag. My friend and I added pockets to the tote by using the cut away sleeve scraps and fashioning them into pockets. We added the three pockets onto the front of the tote! These are more decorative than time I add pockets, I will make them deeper.

Step 6: STEP 6

Picture of STEP 6

-Turn the shirt right- side- out. YOU just made your own recycled tote bag!
Fill it with groceries, gym clothes, pool supplies, library books, etc! Keep one handy in your car!
T-shirt Totes are Machine Washable, Reusable and Strong! Just say NO to "paper or plastic"!


OneBirdieMa (author)2016-06-26

Hi! Good idea. BUT I object to the characterization of plastic bags as of little worth and less value. Years ago Rubbermaid made a small trash can that was designed to use those d****d plastic bags, with a means of looping the handles to hold them in place while the trash was added. (Pic attached -- one with six or eight bags in place, one empty, laying on side, one with only one bag.) I only found out about them after they were no longer in production, but there are still a lot around (far as I know) and they are THE best way to utilize the bags that inevitably make their way home with any of us. The difficulty with reusable items like T-shirt tote bags is they require maintenance (washing and drying, if nothing else), they take up space (they have to be stored somewhere when not in use), if not used/remembered/whatever, weight of guilt is added to, etc. Which isn't to say I won't use this idea -- and sew by hand 'cause my machines are mothballed right now -- and be happy with the results 'cause I do have some neat old T-shirts . . . .

Shhhhhh (author)OneBirdieMa2018-01-13

Theres people out there who dont mind carrying or storing there bags... I rather make them then waste money on plastic..

SallyJ7 (author)OneBirdieMa2016-09-02

I found it at Amazon, but can't post the link here?

Search Amazon for plastic grocery bag trash can

jabony1269 (author)2016-06-26

If you sew across the bottom of an old tank top, you don't need to do anything else.

MaurieV1 (author)jabony12692016-07-26

So smart! That hadn't crossed my mind :)

swiperfox (author)MaurieV12017-03-19

That would be a 1-Step Tank Top Tote Bag.

peggytosha (author)2016-06-26

Your 6-26-16 email included the link to this '2-Step T-Shirt Bag'... which can be made in 6 steps.... Still easy, but... Just sayin'!!!

Xieda (author)peggytosha2016-06-28

I believe the two steps are "Cut off sleeves" and "Sew up the bottom". =)

Mrs Fixit (author)2016-06-27

I'm going to make bags from grankids old t-shirts for their toys.

ClareBS (author)2016-06-26

Good instructable, nice and easy project that could be made by anyone. Congratulations on your Gold Award.

sarawelder (author)2016-06-26

nice and simple!

KayB31 (author)2016-06-26

Good idea!

ChristineH106 (author)2016-06-26

Might be a good idea for school kids next year if they hand sew them instead

Great job

lnocella (author)2016-06-26

Clever and simple! I like it! Well done!

somas2 (author)2016-06-26

really it is so much use full in india good idea..

somas2 (author)2016-06-26

really it is so much use full in india good idea..

missystory (author)2016-04-19

What a great idea! Thank you so much for sharing and congrats on your Girl Scout achievement!

Tomaszhetman (author)2016-03-12

I like this solution. Sam I have to do this for yourself.

Cool are shown a variety of other ideas for using T- shirts

Certainly be useful to many people.

davidbarcomb (author)2014-11-17

Cool idea. Thanks for sharing

Bri_Rowe35 (author)davidbarcomb2016-03-07


jenpl3 (author)2014-12-21

I would add a pocket for my phone, a deeper pocket for my grocery list and a pen and keys. I love the idea.

Bri_Rowe35 (author)jenpl32016-03-07


JudithB16 (author)2016-03-06

Congratulations on your Gold Award. From a 20 year Cadette leader/Senior advisor. I know just how hard you girls work for those awards.

bmcelik made it! (author)2015-11-08

worked out great! I used old toddler shirt and worked just fine. It was on the small side. You can hand sew if you like. I did.

swaggygurl36 (author)2015-10-13

This is a great project

Pbs535hi (author)2015-08-14

I will try your instructions, sounds real easy.

nuthara (author)2015-05-17

it is awesome!!!

AnnJ3 (author)2015-03-28

Sew your seam about 3 inches from the bottom and then cut slits about 2
1/2" long then tie the strips together to give it more character! (Same way you
do the no-sew fleece blankets!)

stephanie.owen.9828 (author)2015-01-31

We made this as part of earning the Household Elf badge at Brownie Badge Day. Thanks for the great instructions!!

dawnjordan77. made it! (author)2015-01-29

I made this today. LOVE IT!! I also added a pocket to the bottom seam to tuck it into when not in use.

Snellingkorey (author)2015-01-06

what a great way to use old/baggy tshirts

unicornaz1 made it! (author)2014-12-31

I used the sleeve for a pocket, sewing it wrong side out to the back of the bag,, fold the bag into it , an it comes out right side out,, , added a clip to clip to purse or what ever,,on this one I croceite it,, in other bags, I just use the nice seam edge of the sleeve, so many ways,, to make it work,, thanks for your info,,

LoveToCraft111 (author)2014-10-24

Great. I love this. I have a lot of t shirts and will need this for a quick bag every now and then. Thanks.

Dolphina2 (author)2014-10-09

I made two tote bags, but one i flipped the top over a little and sewed it. I think it made it look better, because you never now when the top will become threadbare and start unraveling.

janet.wilcox.94 (author)2014-09-07

don't you have to finish the neckline you cut out somehow? Seems like it would stretch or fray. ( I realize it is a knit)

mooconnor (author)2014-07-22

Rather than calling it recycled I think it is called up-cycled. Either way they are not in the landfill!! Also, I live in Austin, TX and plastic bags have been banned!! I love the idea of these bags because they are washable!!

ghostrider8605 (author)2014-07-14

love this idea. I have plenty of shirts I can re-purpose now. made my first
one :)

ttowngirl (author)2014-05-24

I would consider using the two sleeves as "handles" or Using them to reinforce the handle of the project using the sewing machine - :)

KwartzKitten (author)2014-05-19

Thanks for the instructable! I have some old theater shirts I want to keep but can't wear anymore, and I'm considering something like this.

emartel1 (author)2014-02-21

also if you want one but have no extra shirts, do to good will or savers, you can purchas them there at dirt cheep prices and your helping other by spending $$$ there.

yyu5 (author)2014-02-12

That's not recycled, you're sewing things into that. If you're using new things to do it, you're not recycling.

emartel1 (author)yyu52014-02-21

im pretty sure she used the sleeves as pockets. so she did not add anything extra to the shirt.

casey321b (author)yyu52014-02-20

The point of recycling is to reuse as much as possible to save material. Sometimes you need to add to it but it doesn't change the fact that most of it has been repurposed. Things like recycled containers or those plastic recycled benches all have material added to them because it's practically impossible to make something out of 100% recycled material.

nhamby (author)2013-12-04

These are so cute and helpful. I am lazy so I cut the bottom in strips and made a fringe out of it instead of sewing it. Bought little girrls tee shirts at the dollar store with a pretty neck for the top...fancied it up a lot...

dstill47 (author)2013-11-20

I love this idea. We live in an area which bans plastic bags, so these will do the trick. I serged the seams as well as the handle area, so everything is nice and strong. What a great way to recycle .

Chloe8 (author)2013-06-09

brilliant idea! I want to make it for my friends too.

matula (author)2013-03-04

nice one. it works.

lrohret (author)2013-02-21

Definitely the best shirt-to-bag ible! Well done, and congrats on the gold award!

kcampbell17 (author)2013-01-24

love this idea great way to repurpose

charmom15 (author)2012-11-28

I love this idea!! Thanks!

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