Introduction: Make Your Own Onestringbag

Picture of Make Your Own Onestringbag

Time to take your green grocery shopping to next level. Make your own onestringbag: small reusable fruit and veg bags for your grocery shopping.

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 and now open sourcing how to make them to encourage others to do the same!

Step 1: Materials & Equipment

Picture of Materials & Equipment

Sewing machine
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!

Cotton String
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

Picture of Cutting the Fabric

The first step and the final size of the bags depends on the width of the material you get. Unless the fabric is flawed in places, or cut a bit crooked by your retailer, the entire fabric will be used to minimise wastage. The fabric will be divided up by folding and cutting. So exact measurements are not all that important - it's about dividing up the fabric into equal pieces.

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.
(pic 3)

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.
(pic 4)

Cut along the lower folded edge.
(Pic 5)

Fold the right edge of the fabric to the left.
(pic 6)

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.)
(pic 7)

Fold the fabric from the bottom edge to the top
(pic 8)

Weigh down the fabric and cut the bottom edge along the fold.
(pic 9)

You will then have 8 pieces of equally sized fabric cut out ready to sew.
(pic 10)

Step 3: Insert the Draw String

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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!

Picture of 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!


damac (author)2016-02-16

Hi TanTan,

Your bags are great. Are you still selling them? Where can I purchase them from?

MKEg (author)2015-05-11

Plain lightweight cotton would work well, too, though you'd have to zigzag the edges, or turn them under twice, or pink them (use the funny scissors that cut in a zigzag) to keep them from ravelling.
Bonus is that cotton comes in lots of prints & colors.

Also, for any project, if you don't have your own fabric stash look to the remnant bin at your favorite fabric store. I used to work for one of the major fabric & craft chains in the USA, and for most fabrics any leftover piece that's under a yard long would be made a remnant... which means it's half price!

MKEg (author)MKEg2015-05-11

Other fabric suggestions ...
Look for the athletic mesh used to make football jerseys (or get a jersey from the thrift store), or there's also the mesh like used to make lingere laundry bags, which is sturdier than tulle.

Neither will ravel, and both should have holes large enough to run a ribbon through for a drawstring so you don't even have to turn the top down. (But if you do, that makes it stronger - put the ribbon through both layers.)

bethiecow (author)2007-11-05

I absolutely love these! I just finished my first one. =) The tulle I bought doesn't seem too strong though; I gave it a good tug before I started to work with it just to test, and it ripped. I should have bought the kind with smaller holes. But still, the bag seems very sturdy (tested it with several small red potatoes). Just might not be good for really really heavy fruit or produce! My own fault though; I'll know better next time!

Btw, I am a novice seamstress and was nervous about using tulle with my machine, but didn't have a single problem. =) I was done in no time!

MKEg (author)bethiecow2015-05-11

You could also use a double layer (or 3, or 4) of netting.
If you want to get fancy, use different colors to make it pretty. :)

ArtisticBabe (author)2007-10-05

I love this idea! Plus it makes functionality so colorful. I would be afraid to use tulle on my sewing machine in just two layers. I make petticoats for costumes and I know the machine can get very tempermental when it comes to sewing things that are thin. What about using a thicker cheap chiffon?

tantan (author)ArtisticBabe2007-10-08

I've just had some email with that same problem. I think I might be lucky with my machine and that it has been recently repaired (he did a great job too!).
I'm going to try some experiments with different stitching and also have a look at the chiffon you've suggested.
I've tried calico (for those who want a natural fibre) and though it sews well, the final bag is much heavier (and will add to the grocery bill!).

Had a quick look for problem solving sewing machines:
I think both these site may have the exact same information!
Perhaps this might help:
Fabric puckers: Fabric is too sheer or soft. > Use underlay of tissue paper.

But that seems a bit wasteful...

KayakChickee (author)tantan2008-04-21

Just a suggestion. When you buy your material, ask the clerk what type of sewing needle to use. I know there are specific type needles for specific type fabrics and they really do make a difference. Just a thought.

MKEg (author)KayakChickee2015-05-11

Lighter fabric = smaller / thinner needle
Heavier fabric = larger / thicker needle

Knit fabric = ball-point needle (& pins, if you can)
Woven fabric = sharp pointed needle & pins

Some brands of machines will only take their brand of needle, which is a pain, but something that should have been highlighted when you bought it.

cloudtoucher1 (author)2009-09-25

What about using the netting from those bath scrubbies that come unraveled? I have several, and they're only tubes. Maybe cut the tubes into sections, sew one end shut and insert a drawstring in the other end, and it should hold most produce.

AstralQueen (author)2009-09-09

Right, I've made some out of lace curtains. :D

zyphrstar (author)2009-08-29

It looks as if between the starting zig-zag stitch and the ending zig-zag stitch that you are using an average straight stitch. Is this correct?

tantan (author)zyphrstar2009-08-30

that's right - just a straight stitch :)

0jack (author)2009-08-24

Excellent idea. I have been fussing for a while over what to do for produce. I had been using old sheeting & reclaiming onion/orange bags. I have tulle from my child's tutu days that I will reuse for this. Sewers having trouble with the tulle might find they have luck sewing a thin strip of scrap cloth between the two sides of the channel for the string & along the seams. This would add a step of pinning, unless you have clever fingers. I often have plenty of narrow scraps from 'squaring off' large pieces of cotton before washing & sewing. Obviously, twill tape or bias tape will do as well, but I hate to 'buy to consume less' if I can avoid it. :) Trim off any excess and enjoy your 'reinforced' bag.

AstralQueen (author)2009-08-16

i made this by hand using my old organza curtain. i used twine for the string. they look kinda rough but they work well. i've also bought samples of organza bags (big sizes) online and use them as grocery bags. they're cheap and mass produced; if i take care of them they should last ages!

flannery (author)2009-06-29

Hi tantan, Thanks for posting your article. I use bags like this to organize much of my clutter, at least it looks organized when in pretty bags. I've been using the Tidy Tote mesh bags from the Dollar Store which are similar but only come in green. Now I'm inspired to make my own in different colors. I particularly liked the yellow one with contrasting red thread. Very snazzy. Thanks!

bluenebe (author)2009-06-14

This is a great idea. They look pretty...and save so many plastic bags from being used!!! I will try making a few from an old curtain. Thank you!,

lusciousnis (author)2008-10-25

What a wonderful idea! Thanks so much for sharing- look forward to trying your instructible out! I think it's still a great idea to sell them. Even thought you've 'given away your secrets' :), not everyone has the time nor inclination to make every project they see. Sometimes convenience is king. If you can make a wonderful, environmentally friendly product easily accessible, I think more people will use it! Thanks again!

compwalla (author)2008-10-04

I saw this on the sidebar of my grocery bag tute and I knew I had to make some. I used regular green tulle and my machine didn't have any trouble with it at all. Once I got them cut out, it was maybe 5 minutes of sewing per bag. And the feedback from the checkers at the grocery has been universally positive. Thanks for sharing your spark. They are terrific bags!

midwife_nic (author)2008-07-30

Hey there tantan, I love your onestringbags, i always get a positive comment from the girls at the supermarket and i can just put them into the cupboard or fridge with the fruit and vegies in them, due to the nature of the material the air can still circulate and my produce doesnt go mouldy as it would inside the dreaded plastic bags. ps i also love the colours. Thanks for being a great citizen and posting your idea here for everyone to use. Nic xox

delicate_secret (author)2008-07-14

Such a clear, well-written instructable! For fabric options-- I have been using bags made of thrifted sheer curtains. Less than $1 for gobs of curtain fabric AND keeping some polyester out of the landfill!

healthylife4God (author)2008-06-29

Wonderful. I made a set of these today in a bright purple netting. I used lime green polka dot ribbon for my tag. They look really cool. I added a purple bead to my drawstring just to add a touch of sparkle. Thanks so much for sharing.

nomax (author)2008-06-11

Wouldn't it be a idea to use double layer of fabric (slightly shifted, not the same orientation) - this way you would get a) stronger bag with b) maybe nice (or strange) looking moiree effect?

altmaker (author)2008-03-24

i fail to see why you would sell them over the internet... then just LET the person make it themselves. Also, whats to stop somebody else improving the bag, then selling it on? its a great idea, but the way you've produced it... Ah well, its your choice. i really like the bags though, they're very colourful and easy to use, and soon i'll be making one myself :] *bookmarks*

kailee56 (author)altmaker2008-04-28

I cook and have cookbooks with recipes from restaurants and bakeries that I like. That has not stopped be from going to these restaurants or stopping by the bakery. I love to read "how to" books, but I know that I do not have the strength, skill, desire, equipment, materials, and/or time to make a lot of the things I read about. I do know that when I come up with or come across a solution to something, I get joy out of sharing it. I am excited about what I have discovered and just plain want to share. The joy of sharing is a reward in itself. My latest "discovery"? After you clean your shower, put Rain X on the doors and tiles. A quick rinse and wipe is all it will need to keep it sparkling without the water spots and soap scum showing up. I actually stopped another woman in the auto section of a major store to share this tip after I tried it and found out it worked.

tantan (author)altmaker2008-03-25

:) I spent four years thinking that this was just such an obvious idea some one will make them one day! When I see something cool I make it for myself too, and it took me a while to realise that some people can't do that, and some don't want to. In reality i sell very few over the internet. And that's ok because I'm not doing it to become a millionaire. It would take a big risk of money and time to make it a big enterprise and the materials i would like to see it made of are still being developed. I wasn't particularly interested in running a business. But I am interested in spreading the idea! I do sell a couple through my site and that helps seed the idea in a new location. Where more people will see it in use and hopefully copy it! My main aim is to get people making them - improving them - and keep it unviable as a big business opportunity. Unless of course some one smart does it with a really green material and then ensures they are not made in sweat shop conditions. This would take a big investment So it works out for the best if people everywhere just make them! There is actually another pair of girls around Melbourne making them identical to mine - i'm sure they saw me using them at the market just before i started selling them ;) but then again - it really is such a simple idea why wouldn't any one come up with it!

kailee56 (author)2008-04-28

Thank you for such a simple solution. I am now the proud owner of the cutest "Dancing vegetable" bags around. I call them that because I recycled the tutu to the ballerina costume that I made for my daughter when she was 3. She's now 26 and I doubt she would use the costume for her daughter when/if she has one. Anyway....The bags are great and include the sequins and beads that I had individually sewn onto the tutu, since "sparkles" are "so pretty", even when one is no longer 3. PS My sewing machine didn't have a problem with the tulle, and my tulle was pre-washed (being 23 years old I thought it deserved that) and soft as can be. If I got close to an edge, as I tried to avoid sequins, the zig-zag would give me a rolled edge effect, but did not jam the machine. Now the sequins and the bead centered in each.......well that's another issue. :)

kimland (author)2008-04-22

you are so wonderful for sharing this instructable! Thank you very much!! I can't wait to use some of my surplus tulle for this project (I have a 7-year-old daughter, so tulle is something we have "around the house.")

ShadowGirl (author)2008-03-27

I like the idea of using netting rather than light-weight cotton bags - the checker can quickly see what's in the bag. I have plenty of material around, but I think I'll use the color "green" for the organic veggies and another color for all other items.

how_may_i_help_you (author)2008-03-25

I know this may sound a little weird but, great photography like, with some of the other Instructables the pictures just make it more confusing. Good Work

annaharris (author)2008-03-20

I think these are great and I have come up with another use for them too. I have a toddler with plenty of toys with little pieces (eg. jigsaws) and these bags work well for keeping all the parts in the one place. I just tie the top closed so they don't fall out. Sweet idea.

clamoring (author)2008-02-03

Hey fantastic instructable! I made some for a Thing a Day project so I thought I'd share my results.

maplepapercuts (author)2008-01-13

This is such a great idea - I hate using the plastic bags for my fruit and veggies - I always feel so hypocritical when I stick them into my fabric grocery bags. I try reusing the plastic ones but these are a great alternative! Thanks for sharing!

jessyratfink (author)2008-01-04

Yay! I had been wanting to do something like this for a while. This is perfect. I'm so happy this was featured on the front page. :D Thanks for a great instructable!

FrugalSewing (author)2007-08-24

I have yards and yards of tulle that was given to me. I will be trying these.

gowithflo (author)2007-08-19

I love the colors , they would make me excited enough to remember to bring them along to the store, wonderful pictures too.

emakhoul (author)gowithflo2007-08-24

hi im eyad i want to test this

alygerharter (author)2007-08-22

This is so cool! I can't wait to show them off at the supermarket (:

canida (author)2007-08-19

What a great alternative to those ubiquitous plastic veggie bags! I'll have to make some of these.

chasmyn (author)2007-08-19

Yay! Great instructable! I already have cloth bags for myself, but I'm going to use this to make some for friends and family as gifts!

uncoiled.tiger (author)2007-08-19

Brilliant - I've been using these bags that are actually meant for keeping your socks together when doing your laundry (not quite sure how many odd socks you have to have before you feel as though it's time to buy a special laundry bag for socks). It's made of a tough fabric mesh with a zip and is particularly good for bagging soft fruit that easily marks and bruises. Excellent every day usable though :) nice work.

timotat (author)2007-08-18

Very Cool. I like that little branding tag.

tantan (author)2007-08-18

After i published I saw the reuse-me produce bag as a related instructable!

Sorry bess! Well done for getting it out there!
Make sure you make them for all your friends too :)

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