Introduction: Opening a String-sealed Bag Without Scissors

Picture of Opening a String-sealed Bag Without Scissors

Occasionally in life I've come across one of those string sealed bags - you know the kind that are IMPOSSIBLE to get to open. Often times they seal big bags of rice, or large sacs of dry ingredients and when I come across them I have been able to get them open every 5th time or so without frustration. Most of the time though, I resort to just cutting the whole top of the bag off to avoid the trouble!

I know this feeling well, and so when I was recently at a farmer friend house he to show me the mysterious trick to opening these string sealed bags without any scissors, knife or special tool required! For him it's a necessity as he opens several of these string sealed grain feed bags every week to feeds his chickens and cows.

Meanwhile, my world has been changed - I hope yours will be too!

Step 1: Examining the Bag and String

Picture of Examining the Bag and String

It seems the trick lies in which side of the string you start unraveling from. But to me it all looked the same, until I was told what to look for.

Take a look at the string closely on both sides of the bag. On each side there is a different stitch.

  • On one side: there is a doubles-stitched string
  • On the other side: there is a single-stitched string

In order to open the bag, make sure the single stitch side (second photo) is facing you.

Step 2: Pick the 'right' Side, and Pull!

Picture of Pick the 'right' Side, and Pull!

To open the bag now, you literally have to pick the RIGHT side of the string. (just remember, right single-stitch side is correct, and left is not).

Steps to open the bag:

  1. Again make sure you turn the bag so the single stitch side of string is facing you
  2. Looking at the single stitch side and follow it to the far right end of the string.
  3. Undo the first little loose knot by pulling the string tail out of the loop.
  4. Pull the tail of the string gently and it will slowly unravel the stitching.

The string should come off in one piece without any fuss!

Note: if you pick the other side (left side with single string facing you), it will be frustratingly impossible!

I hope you find this helpful! For me, after coming across string bags every once in a while, its a really satisfying feeling to be able to open this type of bag quickly and easily! Plus, now I can open grain feed bags like a pro - and the cows really appreciate that !


NeightR (author)2016-01-02

As a person who brews beer at home, I buy my barley in 55 lb (20 kg) bags to save money. Much like you I get it right every fifth time. Glad to have learned the technique to get the bag open the right way.

NeightR (author)2016-01-02

As a person who brews beer at home, I buy my barley in 55 lb (20 kg) bags to save money. Much like you I get it right every fifth time. Glad to have learned the technique to get the bag open the right way.

christiankel (author)2015-09-23

thanks i love instructable teams

jeanniel1 (author)2015-09-22

Ah, it's the RIGHT side with the single line to unravel and open the bag! It was always 50:50 whenever I did it before. Ha ha!

jegner2 (author)2015-09-10

Great tip.

satoko68 (author)2015-09-08

I learned this trick while living in South East Asia because all of our rice bags were stitched like this. With my other half being Asian & eating rice with every meal, we had to buy huge bags, so this was a very much necessary life skill. Sounds like the simplest thing ever, but I was surprised when we returned to my country of birth several years later to see how many people were hacking their bags apart to get into them. The looks on their faces when I showed them how to do it properly was priceless LOL :-)

hammer9876 (author)2015-08-30

The story is that back during the Depression (1930s), cotton feed sacks were sewn together like this. Not only were the sacks taken apart so that women could make clothes or quilts out of the fabric, but the strings were kept to tie quilts together.

244 Jake (author)hammer98762015-08-30

this is the stitch I was taught to wrap up and store electrical cords. Use it by plugging both ends together, place your hand through the the loop and pull another loop, over and over again.

The cord is more then one third shorter, and the cord is not twisted during the next use, and rolling into one loop would have done.

- 244 Jake

TinkerJohn (author)244 Jake2015-09-02

Nooooooo!!! I've just gone and watched some vids on this looping cords idea and... Eeeeek!! I work in the music/arts/theatre industry and if anyone did this with ANY cable, they would be 'shot'!! You should never bend a cable like that and knot it and close loop it like that as you'll damage the strands inside and over time it will eventually break. You should loop the cable up using the 'over-under' method. Easy to deploy when needed as you simply hold one end and throw out the rest of the cable and metre after metre of cable will lay itself out completely straight every time.

244 Jake (author)TinkerJohn2015-09-08

Oh YES! you way in

When you roll the cable up, your way, 90% of people plug in one end, then grab the other end and walk to where the power is needed or to be used, weed eaters, drills, lights ect.. This in general creates twist near the ends, which damages the cables. Other power cord users will notice twisted cable near the ends of their cables after 10 to 20 uses.

The fun part in the way I was taught is you can plug in power, walk with the other end of the cable to the work area without having to unroll all the cable. The cable does not tangle, only uncoils what is needed. This is great when most of my power cables are 12 ga. 100 foot long. I have two cables that are over 10 years old and are as good as new. Oh, power cords rolled up this way never tangle when dumped in storage boxes.

Try it once or twice when no one is watching.

But Warning the unwinding must be Started by pull out both ends together.

Very Best Regards to All

- 244 Jake

hammer9876 (author)TinkerJohn2015-09-02


TinkerJohn (author)hammer98762015-09-03

You got it hammer9876!! :)

loony1 (author)2015-09-05

Thanks for the nicely worded instructable. I had sadly resorted to opening all of these bag types with a knife or of sheer frustration; one time in like thirty I would get it right somehow.
You've defined this to get it right every time.

lgooms (author)2015-09-02

It -IS- satisfying! Do you mind if I link to this in my onion bag to kitchen scrubby Instructable?

jessyratfink (author)2015-09-02

No more fighting with huge dog food bags!! YAY!!!

This is awesome, thank you for sharing. :D

tomas75a (author)2015-09-02

Finally I know how to do it! :) Thanks!!

pechenique (author)2015-09-02

Whyyy didn't I find this yesterday when I was trying to open my bag of flour! Great instructable, thanks!

kenyer (author)2015-09-02

Thank you, I needed this. I knew this, but not exactly, so after trying to pull all the wrong strings, I grab the scissors again :P

clem79 (author)2015-09-01

Another one of life mysteries answered. Thanks

nytowl520 (author)2015-09-01

The stitch is very similar to a crochet stitch, just with thread/string through material rather than with yarn in a project, if anyone is familiar with crocheting. It works well when used to store extension cords, too, as someone else mentioned. No more tangled cords!

(We have chickens and other critters, and not all of those feed bags have a helpful little arrow at one end saying "open here," so this is something we had to learn unless we wanted to carry scissors or a knife with us every time we opened a feed bag.)

You did an excellent job of explaining what to look for and how to undo the stitch, kudos to you!

t.rohner (author)2015-09-01

My malt bags are sewn together two colored... this helps.

jlyvers743 (author)2015-08-30

Thank you. It was always a mystery. I had just had a fight with large back of cat food. Not next time!

ghavel (author)2015-08-28

Ok, Whatever contest you enter this into.... you win!!!

charles543 (author)2015-08-27

This is a basic chain stitch. There is also a double chain stitch and a locked chain stitch and maybe others. They are sewn with 2 threads.

The double chain stitch has loops from the top thread that go through the fabric. The bottom thread has loops that go through the loops from the top. once the correct end is found, the bottom thread pulls out leaving the top thread free to pull out.

I have encountered a chain stitch where the top and bottom threads must be pulled together 1 stitch at a time

thundrepance (author)charles5432015-08-28

[charles543] .... YIKES!! o^8 >

i'd probably have the contents of THAT bag all over my lap or feet!

JohnKDouglas (author)2015-08-28

I was shown this when I worked on a farm in my teens, since long forgotten. Thank you for restoring my sanity, I'm no longer embarrassed opening a bag of potatoes in front of my children!

wmwinkle (author)2015-08-28

Hi,Old rancher here. My dad taught me this. Never figured to make an instructable of it but looks like it tickled a lot of folks. Guess us "dumb" farmers and rancher do know a thing or two. As Pop used to say you just need to be 10% smarter than the cattle.

anlek (author)wmwinkle2015-08-28

Your Pop sounds like a good man! :)

Gadget93 (author)2015-08-28

This is a very practical instructable. I knew there had to be some trick to penning such bags. Thanks.

Lolman4000 (author)2015-08-28

Thanks! I could never figure it out!

thedud (author)2015-08-28

Bravo !!!!

Cela fait des années que je massacre des sacs de charbon de bois alors qu'i suffisait sans doute de réfléchir un peu.

Merci de l'avoir fait pour moi.

amcsherry (author)2015-08-28

thank you so much , my cats also thank you. It was all just random up to now and sometimes it worked so well but most of the time it did not. can't wait to open the next bag of rice or cat food

marc.deloor.5 (author)2015-08-28

They should give you a statue... Thank you !

JohnTheBeloved (author)2015-08-28

Thanks for the Post, Can be sometimes frustrating opening these bags(Other times I am just lucky not knowing how I did it), But what about if one already somehow loosened(I have uneasingly lossed about 1/4 of the bag) some of the stitch, Can it still be loosed like you said

Transmitterguy (author)2015-08-27

Luke, you have passed this test nicely, to be a Jedi night, we move to the next.

madebyedward (author)2015-08-27


What about when there are TWO strings?

sharniw (author)madebyedward2015-08-27

yes, the bags we have here (Australia) seem to be 2 string seams. They look similar though and I use a system of placing the bag with the flat stitching facing me and attack the threads on the right. The trick is to tease the ends loose before pulling. This video on YouTube demonstrates the technique better than I can.

anlek (author)madebyedward2015-08-27

madebyedward, have you checked the other side of the bag?

londobali (author)2015-08-27

Same like most post: i've seen people do it, but when i find a bag like this only sometimes i figure it out.. And when i failed I always though it was not the kind of stitch so i just cut it open..
Now i know better.. :D
Thanks for sharing!

mumzy4 (author)2015-08-27

You are truly the little things in life that make a difference..LOL

billysmom0 (author)2015-08-27

My sister and I make quilts and we use sheets for the backs. This works on the sheets to take the top and bottom seams out. Amazing. As soon as I saw this, I ran into my sewing room and dug out a sheet so I could try it. It's a little trickier to find the starting point, but once I did, the whole thread came out in one neat little pile. Thank you SO much. This will save lots of time and seam rippers.

gaprilday (author)2015-08-27

Oh my - I have wanted to share this info for years. Thank you for making it come true, BUT-- NO one has mentioned all those nice strong strings you can keep now. Wind them around a finger and tuck them in a zip lock in your 'utility' (aka junk) drawer. You will always have a string when you need one.

marhar (author)2015-08-27

I've always been able to open these bags nicely about 50% of the time. Now it seems so obvious to look at the single-stitched side... Thanks and Nice Job!!!

ianduncan_qld (author)2015-08-27


Jislizard (author)2015-08-27

I knew there was a way of doing this but by the time I am trying to open a 65 litre bag of compost I am too dirty to Google it. Cheers

namora (author)2015-08-27

I have, for a long time, known that the string secured the bag with a chain knot but the ends were always so frayed that only occasionally could I unravel the chain and always with a unwarranted sense of satisfaction. Knowing which end to start on is a huge unravelation. Thank you ever so much.

dauphin1974 (author)2015-08-27

NICE. I knew it was a slip-knot, but I never had the patience to do what you explained. I get charcoal bags for the grill with this. Thanks!

Alpha_geek (author)2015-08-27

Until now I had a 25% success rate in opening the string seals.

Not any more ... many thanks ... :-)

professorbootyxxx (author)2015-08-27

This is so easy, but I could never figure it out. Thank you.

oceanrig (author)2015-08-27

Thanks able to reuse bags up at my Allotment for my spuds

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More by anlek:How to find the hard boiled eggFinding a good shower while on a road tripOpening a string-sealed bag without scissors
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