When you go to the market next, take your reusable shopping bag - but take these bags too! We fill our reusable shopping bags with smaller plastic bags or paper bags (maybe re-use a few times then throw away).
With the exception of access to a sewing machine all the materials are cheap and easy to find - you may already have most of what you need. Look to things you have left over to use first.
4 years ago I started shopping at the local market and made my own shopping bags to re-use. But I found that I was still filling up this bag with lots of smaller disposable plastic and paper bags! I bought some netting fabric and made my first bags for weighing my fruit and veg. And I've been using them ever since. Since no one else noticed, I decided it was time to spread the word and get more people interested so I started making them to sell on my website www.onestringbag.com and now open sourcing how to make them to encourage others to do the same!
Step 1: Materials & Equipment
Not essential but you will be there a long time sewing by hand without one, and the stitches won't be as tight.
Ask around friends and relatives, there is bound to be one hiding in a cupboard somewhere, or you may even find some one willing to sew them for you!
Otherwise you will need a needle to thread, (and maybe a few band-aids for poking yourself).
To hold the string in position while you sew.
Dedicated fabric scissors are best for clean easy cuts. If buy or borrow a good pair of scissors don't use them for paper as you will blunt them!
Use cooking twine or any other string you prefer for the draw-string.
Cotton or polyester thread
to sew with.
Fabric for the bag
1m of fabric will make 8 bags. Their final size depends on the width of the fabric.
Recommended: tulle netting. It's the tutu netting used for costumes. It comes in lots of bright and interesting colours.
If you get together a group of friends you can buy a metre each of different colours and then swap bags so you all have different colours!
Or if you have odds of fabric about the place you could just square up the pieces and start sewing right away!
If you want to buy it, tulle usually comes in 2 sizes.
One is flat () and one is folded (the folded is usually about 145 cm wide).
Tulle is an easy fabric to use as the cut edges do not fray easily and will require minimal sewing.
It also means you can store your fruit in these bags and they will have air-flow around them.
If you have used a different fabric you may need to fold the fabric an extra time to prevent raw edges of fabric from fraying away. These instructions have been written for tulle netting, so sewing and finishing is very quick and easy.
To make a cool branding tag (makes the bags look a bit special).
Step 2: Cutting the Fabric
The example shown here is for a tulle netting 145 cm wide which is folded in half on the roll.
In the image it is shown folded in half already, with the selvage edges together at the top of the picture. (the selvage edge is the sealed edge of woven fabric that prevents it from unraveling.)
(pic 1 & 2)
Lay out the fabric on a large clean surface (make sure it is folded in half as shown in the picture). Trim off crooked edges to tidy up the fabric.
The solid lines indicate a final cut edge, the dotted lines indicate a final fold. This shows where all the cuts will be made. You can use this as the pattern and start cutting or continue folding as shown below to help you make edges to cut.
Cut along the lower folded edge.
Fold the right edge of the fabric to the left.
Weigh down the fabric and cut the right edge along the fold.
(Take a moment to weigh down the fabric to keep it from moving around and going out of line, you might use some weights like books to hold the folded edge flat.)
Fold the fabric from the bottom edge to the top
Weigh down the fabric and cut the bottom edge along the fold.
You will then have 8 pieces of equally sized fabric cut out ready to sew.
Step 3: Insert the Draw String
Take one of these pieces of fabric.
You may need to consider your fabric now and decide if you need an extra fold to protect raw edges from fraying.
For the draw-string, cut a piece of string the 16cm longer than this long edge.
Take the long edge of the fabric and fold down about 3cm, tucking the start of the string inside the fold, using a pin to hold it in place.
If you like you can prepare the other pieces in this way to speed production.
You do not need to pin down the fabric all the way as it will be very easy to hold the string inside the fold as you sew with a sewing machine.
Step 4: Set Up Your Sewing Machine
Most machines are similar, but refer to the owners manual for correct set up and use.
Step 5: Sewing in the Draw String
Begin at the pinned end to start your stitching.
Do a tight zig zag to secure the start of your stitching.
Hold the string into the fold and continue to sew the folded edge closed.
Do a tight zig zag to secure the end of your stitching.
Step 6: Sewing the Bag Closed
Take the fabric out of the sewing machine. Remove the first pin (if you like).
Fold the fabric in half so the two open ends of string meet
Do a tight zig zag to secure the start of your stitching.
Sew down the side about 1cm from the edge.
Insert the piece of ribbon near the bottom corner in the line of the stitching or folded around the edge of the fabric.
Zigzag at the corner of the almost complete bag.
Turn the fabric 90 degrees and continue sewing to the end.
Reverse stitch from the end and finally do a tight zig zag to secure the end of your stitching.
Step 7: Finishing
Trim long threads.
Tie a knot in the string to close it.
The fabric may be stiff at first to pull the draw string closed (depends on the fabric) and it may need a wash to soften it. Cold hand wash preferred, they will soften over time.
Step 8: Mass Production?
Now imagine making hundreds of the bags in a sweatshop for only a few dollars an hour.
Would you expect some one else to do that for you?
Being sustainable isn't just choosing the latest green thing - we must think about how the objects we use are made.
Who made them and where?
What they are made of?
And then later what happens to them when we are finished with them?
Are they biodegradable?
Can they be recycled?
Start asking your retailer these questions too.
Step 9: Impress Your Friends!
Take your bags to the market and dazzle your local retailers with your keen green shopping when you hand them your fruit and veg for weighing.
After 4 years I STILL get comments!
Your bags will be washable and reusable many many times over.
Now that you know how to make them - make them for your friends!
They make great presents!
And help spread the idea!
Step 10: Nothing Lasts for Ever: Repair...
Nothing lasts forever, so take some care of your bags in use and don't put sharp objects in them.
Repair them as much as possible when they get damaged.
If you find a better fabric to use - please let everyone else know!