Instructables

FASTEST RECYCLED T-SHIRT TOTE BAG

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Picture of FASTEST RECYCLED T-SHIRT TOTE BAG
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!
 
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Step 1: STEP ONE

COLLECT THE FOLLOWING SUPPLIES:

-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

-Scissors

- 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.
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mooconnor10 days 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 :)

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ttowngirl2 months ago
I would consider using the two sleeves as "handles" or Using them to reinforce the handle of the project using the sewing machine - :)
GO GIRL SCOUTS!! :))
KwartzKitten2 months ago

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.

emartel15 months 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.

yyu55 months 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 yyu55 months ago

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

casey321b yyu55 months 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.

nhamby8 months 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...
dstill478 months 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 .
Chloe81 year ago
brilliant idea! I want to make it for my friends too.
matula1 year ago
nice one. it works.
lrohret1 year ago
Definitely the best shirt-to-bag ible! Well done, and congrats on the gold award!
love this idea great way to repurpose
charmom151 year 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!
Holly
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. :)
SMBonante4 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! :)
daesgirl2 years ago
I made 4 of these today! Thanks! Now to find more shirts!
1Dforalways2 years ago
sweet i'll use this as a sleepover bag
jvitanza12 years ago
erdunke2 years ago
what a bright idea...I Like it.
Awesome idea! I tried it with an old sweatshirt and because I don't have a sewing machine, I hand stiched the bottom.The whole thing took me less than an hour! I even added a cute little felt flower for decoration! So fun and cute. Thanks for sharing!
I don't have a sewing machine either, but want to do this, thanks for posting that hand sewing works.
eelo2 years ago
This was a great idea that I used in my classroom. One of my male students experimented with a larger shirt to make more of a backpack/sling. He cut a larger (deeper?) neck opening and the larger shirt made a bag big enough to sling over his shoulder.

Thanks, and congratulations on your Gold Award.
Mauigerbil2 years ago
Thumbs up! A GS shirt!
bridgetrat2 years ago
Thanks for the great idea! We will be using this with our Daisy/Brownie Girl Scout troop for their service project: making 100 activity bags for the pediatrics dept at the local hospital!!
Troop2032 years ago
Congratulations on your Gold Award - it's a huge achievement!
I just wanted to let you know that my Cadette troop will be using your instructions to assist our sister troop of Daisies and Brownies to make these bags.
Your project is still helping sister scouts years later! Thank you!!
for real thats it wow im amazed and in love
thanks
abibby2 years ago
Just made one of these bags from an old plain navy blue polo shirt, it literally took minutes to make - fantastic!!

Going to find something nice to brighten it up now.
kforester2 years ago
You can add ruffles by using another shirt even a different color too!!
sheather382 years ago
My daughter's Junior Troop made one each a few weeks ago at a sleepover and loved it. They have decided to make these for their Bronze Award and passing them out with instructions inside during cookie booths. They already have over 100 t-shirts donated. Thank you so much for the idea and easy to follow instructions! Troop 19, San Jacinto Council
kmcnaron2 years ago
Thanks for the wonderful idea and super simple and clear instructions. Made a "test bag" tonight with my 10 year old daughter. She was able to do it herself with minimal help threading the sewing machine and she LOVES the results. She used her favorite t-shirt that she had grown out of, and it is big enough to hold the new junior girl-guide and her journey book. I will be using this with my junior girl scouts in 2 weeks. THANKS --- awesome Gold Project.
(Troop #815, VA Skyline Council)
This is one of the smartest ideas I have seen! Love it! Will be doing this with my Junior Girl Scouts this year. Keep up the good work and congrats on your Gold Award. (from Troop #387, VA Skyline Council)
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