Introduction: Make Your Own Grocery Bag

Picture of Make Your Own Grocery Bag

I've seen a lot of tutorials for grocery totes and bags and the like but I never found one that I thought was easy enough for someone like me to follow. There is an excellent one on Craftster that makes a t-shirt bag almost exactly like this one but it uses a very different technique for constructing the bag. This one may not end up as refined but I think it might be easier for some sewers to follow.

Step 1: Cut Out Your Fabric

Picture of Cut Out Your Fabric

You can use an existing bag for the pattern. Just cut off the seams at the top of the handles and the bottom seam. Then cut up each side so you have a pattern to use that looks not unlike a wife-beater.

You need to cut four pieces of fabric total, two of the lining fabric and two of the outside fabric. I pulled some quilt fabric out of my stash to make this bag and I used two very different fabrics so the inside and outside would be easily distinguished.

The Debbie Mumm chicken fabric is for the outside of the bag. The black chicken wire print is the lining fabric

Step 2: Sew the Sides

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Pin the outside fabric right sides together and sew up the both sides. Do the same for the lining fabric.

Step 3: Press!

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Open up the fabric and press the seams to one side. A note about pressing: Do it. And take your time about it. You'll brand yourself an amateurish noob if you neglect this. Precise pressing is the difference between something looking hand-crafted and something looking like it was homemade by a ten year old girl scout.

Step 4: Put It Right Sides Together

Picture of Put It Right Sides Together

Now turn the piece with the outside fabric right-side out. In this case, it's the fabric with the chickens on it. I don't see what Debbie Mumm finds so fascinating about chickens but my mom sees it too, so this bag is for her. Love you, Mom!

Put the outside piece inside the lining fabric so you've got the pieces right sides together. You should be looking at an unsewn inside out bag. If you're not, maybe you should quit now because it only gets harder from here.

Step 5: Pin the Top of the Bag

Picture of Pin the Top of the Bag

Starting at the side seams, pin the lining to the outside. Pin all the way around, leaving the top of the handles open. Match up the curves. Take your time. If you cut your fabric while sober, the curves should practically match themselves up. If you didn't, FSM help you.

Make sure the seam allowances of each layer point in opposite directions. This is why we pressed the seams to one side.

Step 6: Sew the Top of the Bag

Picture of Sew the Top of the Bag

Sew the lining to the outside without sewing across the tops of the handles. Leave them open for now.

Clip the curves and trim the seam allowance. You want the seams to lay pretty flat when you turn it right side out and clipping the curves helps facilitate this. Lumpy and puckered is for Perez Hilton's ass, not your grocery bag.

Step 7: Turn the Bag Right Side Out and PRESS!

Picture of Turn the Bag Right Side Out and PRESS!

Turn the bag right side out and tuck the lining inside the bag where it belongs. It will look rumply but we haven't pressed yet.

Press the seams flat. You might have to stick your hand inside the open top of the handles to press the seams out evenly. Then get in there and flatten it out. Go all the way around and concentrate on getting the curves smooth. I find it easier to press from the inside of the bag.

This step is critical. I think I mentioned that already. If you forgot or skipped that part, here it is again. A note about pressing: Do it. And take your time about it. You'll brand yourself an amateurish noob if you neglect this. Precise pressing is the difference between something looking hand-crafted and something looking like it was homemade by a ten year old girl scout.

Step 8: Top-Stitch

Picture of Top-Stitch

Top stitch around the outside of the bag, skipping over the tops of the handles. This will keep the layers from sliding around and give your onions and Lucky Charms a nice smooth ride. Leave the handles open; we'll get to those last.

WTF is top-stitching? Basically it is sewing close to the edge, through all the layers, on the outside part of the bag, all the way around. I shoot for just under 1/4 in. from the edge. Try to be neat; you'll be able to see this from the outside.

At this point, you've got the top nearly finished.

Step 9: Make the Gusset and Sew the Bottom

Picture of Make the Gusset and Sew the Bottom

Turn the bag inside out so the lining fabric is on the outside. To make the gussets, fold the sides of the bag over towards the center as illustrated. Pin the bottom so it won't slip when you sew. It might seem counterintuitive to fold the bag this way but when you right the bag and push the corners out, you'll have perfect gussets. Be careful to fold so that the handles are folded just shy of the halfway point. If you make the folds too large, the inside corner of your bag will show out of the top. Not a tragedy but goofy-looking and irritating if you're a perfectionist like I am.

I used a finishing stitch across the bottom to make it very secure. You don't want your onions or canned beans falling out onto your toe. If you've got a serger, you can use that or you can zig-zag. Whatever you do, be sure and use a stitch you're sure is going to hold.

Step 10: Now for the Handles

Picture of Now for the Handles

While you've got the bag inside out, sew across the tops of the handles. They'll be right sides together if your bag is still inside out. Which it should be because I didn't tell you to turn it yet, did I? Make it sturdy but don't go crazy.

Step 11: Fold the Handles and Pin

Picture of Fold the Handles and Pin

Now turn your bag right side out. You can see the gussets on the sides but the handles on the top are still really wide. It will be hard to tote three or four of these at a time plus the raw edge is still exposed on the other side. We're going to strengthen the handles and make it easier to carry multiple bags. Because if you're like me, I like to make as few trips out to the car in the rain as possible.

Fold the handle in half with the top-stitched seams going towards the inside of the bag. Pin on either side of the top seam and keep pinning until you're about three inches down from the center on both sides.

This will leave a nice folded edge that lines up perfectly with the gussets. Because there are multiple thicknesses at the very top of the bag, make sure you fold those seams in opposite directions or you'll end up breaking a needle which will scare the ever-loving crap right out of you. Not that I would know from personal experience or anything.

Step 12: Finish Off the Handles

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This is the cool part: Sew from pin to pin across the center seam along the existing top-stitched line. If you quilt, think of it as stitch-in-the-ditch. If you don't quilt, I'm sure you're still a nice person. You are making *cloth* grocery bags, after all. Now you've got a handle that's easy to carry and the raw edge of your handles are secured inside the fold.

Step 13: Ta-Da! You're Done!

Picture of Ta-Da!  You're Done!

And there you have it! Your finished grocery tote is all ready to carry your onions or deodorant or sugar-coated breakfast cereal home from the market in style. You can jump in your Hummer, point it towards your McMansion, and feel good about "going green." Or jump in your Prius and head towards your solar powered yurt and feel good about "keeping green." You know which one you are.


ChrisedaC made it! (author)2014-09-08

This instructable was not only easy and detailed but also very entertaining. I actually chuckled at a few places. Thanks for that. I love that I can launder these. Other reusable bags can get a little...funky. I also love that I can make these out of old clothing (son's outgrown clothes). I find them easy/comfortable to carry when heavy and full and they hold quite a lot. Great Job!

compwalla (author)ChrisedaC2014-10-02

I love those! The shirts add so much character. This would be a really great way to upcycle garage sale shirts. One of the drawbacks to these bags is that they use a relatively large amount of fabric and can be expensive. Upcycled shirts from a garage sale or from your own closet would cut the cost per bag dramatically. Thanks for commenting! :)

ChrisedaC (author)compwalla2014-10-02

Thanks! I forgot to mention that I used an old flat bed sheet that I had put away for a future drop sheet. So thrift store/garage sale sheets give a lot of fabric too and you don't have to deconstruct them. Cheers!

markeymark69 (author)2013-01-31

You truly have a gift of writing using voice! (I have taught 4th grade and one thing i teach is using your voice in your writing-making it authentic and as if you were speaking it...which you do superbly!) I love the little "extra bit of fun and sarcasm" in each step! Truly the best instructions I have read. Thank you for your great detail and making me laugh while learning...I'll never look at chickens the same again!

jennymeyer made it! (author)2017-05-11

I love this bag! I have given them to friends and they love them too! Thank you so much for the great instructions!

kaught made it! (author)2017-02-28

Funny instructions. I saw these instructions a while ago but when I saw this fabric at my local fabric shop I had to make it. :)

jamescoolohouse (author)2017-01-30

These look AWESOME! Thanks for putting this out there, going to try and make a bunch with some fun, funky fabric - and be the stand-out in the grocery line. :)

MargieS24 (author)2017-01-16

I used a Serger and surged the bottom, I'm a beginner sewer and didn't want my groceries to hit the floor. Since I'm a beginner i had no idea what you were talking about the sides so I just sewed the top seam and left them the way they were. Every thing else was easy to understand. Thank you !

DiamondZ2 (author)2015-11-24

I didn't like the instructions, could you re word it please because this tutorial seems amazing but it is very difficult for me to understand what the sentences are trying to mean

DebbieR30 (author)2015-10-08

I was looking for a project that our ASG group could make after a meeting AND continue to use once it was finished. This is PERFECT! It took me a total of 30 minutes (including pressing!) to sew this. I am thinking of doing some decorative stitching on it before sewing the bottom and handles together, hmmm........!!

TracyC2 (author)2015-07-08

Made this with thrift store fabric and thrift store flat sheet. I think I got enough to make about 8 more! Total, $6.47 :-) It was a lot easier than I though. Thanks for the tutorial!

MKEg (author)2015-05-11

I love this tutorial!!!
Not only is it the next thing to dead easy, it's _funny_! (I don't consider it 'dead easy' because it has a lining to fuss with. Not good for a complete beginner, but pretty darn close.)
And the pictures are good quality, add a lot to the explanation.

I already have quite an armada of cloth bags I've picked up at garage sales, but will consider making some your way for gifts. I could put the person's name on the middle of one side, by the handles, and include some mesh produce bags.

Love the ideas from other commenters about using old shirts, sheets, and esp. garage-sale finds of both of those. Thrifty!

JuneR (author)2015-05-07

DangerPlate made it! (author)2015-02-28

I love my new bags!

RonnieCXE (author)2014-11-14

Here are mine! Tag says "Ugly Maddie Original ". This was so VERY VERY easy to do! I ended up using the scraps to make small pencil bags to go with my "book bags"! Thanks for this!!!

LisaK2 (author)2014-11-09

This bag is so cute and I love the chicken fabric.

catherene.avery (author)2014-11-05

How about the grocery getter for a name for the tote

Pickory (author)2014-10-11

I am going to do this now. Been looking for a step by step. And yours is fun. Thank you

angela.cooper.94617 (author)2014-09-01

Love the pattern, but do not want to "Go Pro" so I cannot have it. I know you are making money from your blog, but I hate the "bait and switch" tactics. I don't think I will revisit your blog.

Angela, I do not make any money from these bags or the pattern. Every instructable on this site is loaded by members and we do not get any reimbursement for uploading tutorials. You should be able to see every step and all the instructions one step at a time without buying a pro membership.

katjoy made it! (author)2014-05-06

yay! here's mine.

compwalla (author)katjoy2014-10-02

I love your fabric choice! So pretty. :)

luvyvvega (author)katjoy2014-09-03

hi, your bag is so adorable. i love the print. what kind of cloth did you you use in this bag? thanks!

compwalla (author)luvyvvega2014-09-04

Thank you! It is a Debbie Mumm print from a very long time ago. Like from the late 1990s old so I doubt it's still available anywhere. But Debbie Mumm is still designing fabric so if you like her style, check out her new lines and see if something appeals to you.

rvan alstyne (author)2014-07-05

Awesome instructable! Easy to follow and made a great bag. Am making several to sell at church fundraiser and needed someway to put my never use stash to some good. :-) Thank you!

golfster4 (author)2013-02-10

I can't find in the instructions how much fabric to buy for the grocery bag. I am probably looking right at it but these old eyes are missing it! Thanks!

katjoy (author)golfster42014-05-04

she says to take a grocery bag you already have, and cut open the seams. Then, to figure out how much fabric you need, measure the open bag laying flat, and double it for both sides, then double that for the inside and outside fabrics.

knottystitch (author)golfster42014-03-13

you use a tshirt

katjoy (author)2014-05-04

I have to say, this is the BEST tutorial I've seen so far (haven't looked that long, though) on the exact type of bag I want to make. I already had the idea, just got stuck. You helped me get unstuck - thank you! I even "pinned" it. :-)

laislabonita (author)2013-04-02

you have no idea how many grocery bags i made thanks to your instructables,thanks,God bless!

Kaber (author)2011-12-02

Great instructable. Thanks! I add "button holes" on the handles, so they can be hung in the holder for the plastic bags at the end of the bagging area. I also do a shor top stitch on the bottom side fold. Just 3 inches up each side.

lzalma (author)2011-08-11

At first I thought I f***ed it up, but then figured it out (hey, it's late and I shouldn't be up sewing anyhow). I did have a little Perez Pucker, but mostly out of being lazy. But it still came out nice if I do say so myself! Easy instructions and sturdy bag! Love the tutorial!

TiGRe812 (author)2011-06-20

FSM - Ramen!

RaNDoMLeiGH (author)2011-02-21

I french seam mine and only line the handle/top area. If you skip the gussets, they can hold two gallons of milk without breaking a sweat. I sew across the bottom corners instead (box-style).

Those temporary $2 non-woven fabric cheapo POS they sell to Hummer-driving greensters don't even start to compare to the awesome washability of your very own skull-print grocery bags. I use mine, not just feel great about owning it. But then, if you're buying the nonwoven kind, you're probably not the sort who remembers to put them back in the car after unloading them.

I made a little pouch with a ribbon closure from matching fabric (actually, the cut off from between the handles). When in use, I just throw the pouch into the bag. You can also use a hair elastic to keep it folded up between uses.

Very nice instructable. You remind me of my 9th grade home ick teacher with your constant reminders to press, press, press. LOL that's the only time I ever iron anything other than table napkins.

jmccolley (author)2009-12-30

FSM??  Are you a member of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster?  I like you even more now!  You are hilarious.  I'm going to make one of these bags right after I make my kids some super fashionable lounge pants.   Thanks for taking the time to make these instructions.  I can't follow patterns or sewing books to save my life, you really explain things very well for a newbie sewer like myself.  

compwalla (author)jmccolley2009-12-30

Why, yes. I am a devout Pastafarian. So nice to meet up with another lucky soul whose been touched by His Noodly Appendage. RAmen, my friend and Happy Sewing. If you have any questions about this or the other tute, don't hesitate to give me a shout.

May the Sauce be with You,

Kaber (author)2009-07-07

Thanks for the instructions. have you tried top stitching those side folds? I like to do that when I make the more 'box shaped' grocery bags. I wonder if it'd work on this one. I just made one following your instructions (but adding 2 inches each direction & sans chickens). I plan on another. I'll have to try top stitching the side folds....

iliketocraft (author)2009-06-30

I just made one and it turned out fantastic. Thanks so much for a fun and funny and earth friendly project.

bhan (author)2009-06-28

Enjoyed the detail and the humor.

happytoo (author)2009-06-06

Thank you so much for the "detailed tips about ironing " your sense of humor made it easier to follow

compwalla (author)happytoo2009-06-06

Glad you enjoyed the tutorial. :)

Lemony Goodness (author)2009-05-16

This is amazing! I actually saw this post on Craftster ages ago, but i never got around to finishing my bag.. It was looking pretty awesome, but I was quite busy at the time.. perhaps now I might be able to finish it! Really, it's an amazing tutorial and I will happily make many of these in the future! Thank you again!

gingeryaudas (author)2009-04-28

What a beautiful Instructable! And perhaps easy enough, thanks to the clear instructions and precise images, for even a 10 year old girl scout to understand! This one is definitely marked as one of my favs and got a 5.0 rating!

cyndyluro (author)2009-04-05

Had seen your tutorial late last year and vowed to make it and did not. However, now on Spring break and just thinking that all of the old clothing I have to sort through would make wonderful totes for storing the things I want to keep and shelve. So not only are the bags good for green shopping but also good for green organization. Think of the money and trees I will save by not buying cardboard storage boxes.

vshaynes (author)2009-03-16

Well designed and well documented. Thank you for sharing and congrats on your win.

gluless (author)2009-02-17

Of all the grocery bags on here, this is my fav! I also love your snarky 'tude and great instructions. This is on my "list" of to dos. Thank you and congrats on the win!

sewbiz (author)2009-01-09

sewbiz thanks for great tute I have now made approx 20 in sets of 5 for daughters and friends I love to go green and now you can do it in style

blissclaire (author)2008-12-24

yay! i did it! although my handles are a bit uneven (due to it being christmas eve night) because of my procrastination of making this amazing tote! this is my first official project with my sewing machine, and im glad that i was able to do so without totally banging my head in! instructable was great, and i appreciate the time you put into making it! hopefully it will take me less than 4 hours from start to finish next time!!

compwalla (author)blissclaire2008-12-24

Awesome! Welcome to the Sewists Cult. Once you get in, you can't get out. :) I'm glad for your success! Once you make one, the others will be faster.

fallenwitch (author)2008-12-15

I'm up way too late to be coherent, but I'm sitting here trying to follow your tutorial. It's a wonderful, smart , stylish little green bag. But what I loved most about this whole experience, was your snarky attitude and terrific sense of humour! Congratulations on a hard hitting chicken bag tutorial. I enjoyed it, and will be constructing one at a sewing machine near someone very soon! Thanks for ride. It was marvelous.

About This Instructable




Bio: Texas State Democratic Executive Committeewoman, SD31
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