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 useful...next 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"!
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Pbs535hi18 days ago

I will try your instructions, sounds real easy.

nuthara3 months ago

it is awesome!!!

AnnJ35 months ago

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!)

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

dawnjordan77. made it!7 months ago

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

Snellingkorey7 months ago

what a great way to use old/baggy tshirts

unicornaz1 made it!8 months ago

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,,

jenpl38 months ago

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

davidbarcomb9 months ago

Cool idea. Thanks for sharing

LoveToCraft11110 months ago

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

Dolphina210 months ago

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.

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)

mooconnor1 year ago

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!!

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

ttowngirl1 year ago
I would consider using the two sleeves as "handles" or Using them to reinforce the handle of the project using the sewing machine - :)

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.

emartel11 year ago

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.

yyu51 year ago

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

emartel1 yyu51 year ago

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

casey321b yyu51 year ago

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.

nhamby1 year ago
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...
dstill471 year ago
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 .
Chloe82 years ago
brilliant idea! I want to make it for my friends too.
matula2 years ago
nice one. it works.
lrohret2 years ago
Definitely the best shirt-to-bag ible! Well done, and congrats on the gold award!
kcampbell172 years ago
love this idea great way to repurpose
charmom152 years ago
I love this idea!! Thanks!
Thank you for posting this. These are indeed some fantastic ideas. You are indeed very green. They will also be useful for our family room decorating; thanks again for sharing with us.
I love your Gold Award Project!!! Congrats!! This is definitely an example of the current "Take Action" projects and Truly a sustainable project!!! Thank you for educating us at the same time as providing us with directions to make it happen.

I tried to download the pdf file but it won't let me for some reason. Is there a way I should be doing it other than trying to just push the button that says "download pdf"? or should I contact you personally for the pdf file?

I have twin girls and they are currently working on their gold award projects. My younger daughter is starting her silver award project.

Again Congrats!
My Mom's in a nursing home/rehab facility and how nice would it be to make these for the residents to put on the back of their wheelchairs. I'm definitely going to make one for Mom. Would be a good GS project. :)
SMBonante5 years ago
If you use the "zig-zag" style stitch, it makes a re-enforced seam, so it would be stronger. I would agree with going over it twice anyways...but I've found that the zigzag setting (Don't know what it's technically called) makes a stronger seam than the straight stitch.
When I want a really strong seam, I usually do a straight stitch for the first seam, then use the zigzag for the second go. That's definitely what I'll do when I make these!
Thank you =) I'll use that on my bag now
It's technically called a zig-zag stitch! You were spot on! (We sewers are a practical lot.) The primary advantage of using the zig-zag stitch instead of a straight stitch is that it has more give and stretches with the knit fabric. Straight stitches are more likely to break if the material stretches a lot. (Like if you put milk in this bag instead of chips!) Generally, it's always best to use a zig-zag stitch for reinventing t-shirts. I love this site! This is my first comment! Yay, people with sewing machines who aren't afraid to use them!
This will make a fantastic project for my multi-level troop!
Cool 'Ible! I made one of these and I love it! :)
daesgirl3 years ago
I made 4 of these today! Thanks! Now to find more shirts!
1Dforalways3 years ago
sweet i'll use this as a sleepover bag
jvitanza13 years ago
erdunke3 years ago
what a bright idea...I Like it.
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