I was inspired to make this bag after reading about the City of San Fransisco's ban on plastic shopping bags. It is made from pillowcases which are readily available from thrift stores and yard sales in many colors and patterns. A set of these would make a wonderful gift for an eco-conscious friend. They fold up very small to fit in a purse or a pocket. You could even fit one in a large envelope and mail it to your friend!
Step 1: Materials
2 packages of doublefold bias tape
matching or contrasting thread
plastic shopping bag & large piece of paper (for making pattern)
scissors, pins, sewing machine, iron
Step 2: Making the pattern
Cut plastic bag up both sides, across bottom and across the tops of the handles. You will need one half of the bag to make a pattern.
Draw 2 lines an inch apart at the bottom of your paper.
Line the bottom of the plastic bag up with the top line. You will need the inch below for seam allowance. Make marks at the top of the bag opening and the sides of the handles.
Remove the plastic bag and draw straight lines for the handles. Lay the pillowcase on top of your pattern, to make sure you make the pattern as wide as the pillowcase. Fold the paper in half. Draw curves at the bottom of the handles on both sides. Cut the pattern along those lines and unfold. I extended the length of the straps, but you can make them shorter if you like.
Step 3: Pin and cut
Pin the pattern to the pillowcase as shown. Cut the pillowcase along the pattern to make straps. You don't cut the sides or the bottom of the bag, just the shapes for the straps.
Step 4: Apply the binding
Pin the bias tape around the opening and the sides of the handles. It is not necessary to bind the tops of the handles. Sew the binding on, close to the inside edge. Press.
Step 5: Sew the straps
With WRONG SIDES together, fold the straps in half, and make pleats at the bottom. Take a look at the picture, and at a plastic shopping bag to see how to fold it. Press the pleats in with an iron. Pin and sew across the bottom of the bag, and the top of the straps with about a 1/2" seam allowance.
Turn the bag inside out and with RIGHT SIDES together, sew across the bottom of the bag and the tops of the straps again, using a 5/8" seam allowance. The bag will look kind of strange at this point. This will create a "French Seam. It is very strong, and all the raw edges will be encased in this seam. Turn the bag right side out, and enjoy your shopper!