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The global market place is quickly changing for the greener!  Every year, more people are choosing environmentally friendly options in their day to day living, and one of the fastest growing green markets is for reusable grocery bags.  Although there are many available on the market, I thought it would be fun to show you how you can design and make your own custom fold away reusable grocery bag.

I made this at Techshop!

Step 1:

You will need:

1.5 yards of rip nylon fabric for the bag
.5 yeards of rip nylon fabric for the pouch
fabric scissors
pins
thread
sewing machine
a pen, pencil, marker, or tailor's chalk

Optional:
a zipper, snap, or some other kind of fastener 

Step 2:

First, plan out what size you want your bag.  Mine is 20" wide, 16" tall, and has 12" long handles
When I drawing your pattern out on your fabric, keep the fabric folded in half with the bottom of your bag on the fabric fold line.  By patterning it this way, you will end up with a much stronger bag since there is no seam along the bottom where all the weight typically is.  Also, you will save yourself some time sewing later on.

I made mine slightly larger than a typical grocery bag  with much longer handles (12" long and 3" wide) so I can put it over my shoulder when necessary.

Once you have your pattern drawn, cut it out, making sure to cut both layers at the same time.

Step 3:

Next, we will want to trace out the handles to make a reinforcement layer so our handles are strong and secure.

Keeping your first pattern folded in half, place the top of the handles on your fabric (which should still be folded in half) lining the tops of the handles up with the folded side of the fabric.  Trace the shape of the handles onto the fabric, going down about 5" below where the handles end.  Once you have this drawn out, cut it out.

Step 4:

You should now have 2 patterned pieces:  1) The Bag and 2) the handle reinforcement

Step 5:

Set the reinforcement piece aside for now.

Pin the tops of the bag handles together and run a basic stitch across it.

TechShop happened to have quite a few sewing machine feet to choose from, so I am using the 1/4" seam foot which keeps my seam lines nice and straight.  If you don't have a 1/4" seam foot, you can also use a standard sewing foot.

Step 6:

Once you have the tops of your handle sewn together, flip the bag inside out so you have the finished side of you seam facing up.

Align the reinforcement piece with the bag handles so you create a giant O, pin the pieces together, and then sew together.

Step 7:

Now, flip the reinforcement around so you have your nice finished seam showing.  If you are using a nylon, you might find (like I did) that your fabric will not sit flat.  If this is the case, once you have your handles flipped, simply pin it again and run another seam around the edge to help hold it flat.

Step 8:

To finish the out sides of the handles you will have to make a fold in hem.

This is where you take each of the unfinished sides of the fabric and fold them inside the handles at least a 1/4" so when you run your seam along, the machine will catch all the layers and give you a nice clean finished edge.

Once you have it all pinned, sew them together

Step 9:

Finally, we pin and sew the sides together.  

I made a double fold hem on the inside of my bag.  In addition to giving it a cleaner finish, it also strengthens the seam.

To make a double fold hem, I first pinned my sides together and made a simple seam leaving 1/4" seam allowance.  Once I had both sides sewn, I folded each seam over itself twice and pinned the seam in place.  Once they were pinned, I sewed them and was left with a nice finished edge.

Once this is done, flip it inside out and you have yourself a nice reusable grocery bag.

Step 10:

Now we start on making the pouch that will let us fold our bag away when not in use.

You can make your own design for this part be anything you want.  I went with a heart.
The sizing of the pouch can very depending on how big or small you decided to make your grocery bag.  To get a rough estimate of size, I bunched my grocery into a little pancake and could see I would need approximately 6"x6" envelope for my bag to fit. 

First, I made a stencil out of paper and traced it on my fabric.  

When you cut your pattern out, make sure to leave 1/4" to 1/2" of fabric for seam allowance

Step 11:

Next, I cut my shape in half and traced it twice onto the same fabric.  When I was tracing it, I added a 1/2" to the part of the design I cut in half.  This will give me a flap I can later attach velcro or a snap of some kind to keep the pouch closed when it is in my purse.

When you cut your pattern out, make sure to leave 1/4" to 1/2" of fabric for seam allowance

You should now have 5 cut out pieces of fabric.

Step 12:

Take both sides of your shape tops and pin them together.  Once you have them pinned, sew the two sides together, leaving a small opening so you can turn it inside out when you are finished.

Then, do the same with the two bottom parts of your shape.

After those are sewn together and turned inside out, take your one solid shape and hem the sides (as I have done).  You could also choose to use a serger to finish the edges so they do not fray.


Step 13:

Now that you have all the sides of your pouch done, it is time to sew it to your grocery bag.

First, take the one solid shape and pin it where you would like it on the front of your grocery bag.

Next, take the bottom half of your shape and pin it on top of the solid, making sure to line all the edges up.

Then, take the top of your shape and pin it on top of your solid shape, also making sure to line the edges up (and remember, we made the bottom and top of the shape a bit longer to allow for a flap over edge)

Once you have everything pinned into place, sew only around the edge of your shape.

Step 14:

The last step is to attach some kind of closing device.  Once your bag is done, pack it away into the little pouch in the front.

Mark where you would like to put your clasp and sew it on.  You could use anything from a zipper, to a snap clasp, to velcro.  I decided to use a snap clasp.

Once your closure is attached, you're done!
I love this design - very smart!

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