Introduction: T-Shirt Tote

If your mom is anything like mine, she never let you get rid of all those old t-shirts from camps, school field days, etc.

Well, this project is a great way to turn these objects of sentimental value into something she can actually use!

This bag can be made from any size shirt, and can be sewn by hand or sewing machine! Don't worry if you're not an expert at sewing, this project is pretty forgiving. I also include instructions in most of the steps for those of you with sewing machines, or those who want to trick things up a little!

Step 1: What You Will Need

2 T-shirts of the same size.

Two spools of thread in the color of the two shirts, or some wild crazy color that will show up against the fabric

Pins and at least one needle

Scissors

Measuring tape or ruler

Chalk or pencil, something that will mark the fabric and wash off

Newspaper for a pattern (not necessary, but can make measuring and cutting easier)

Step 2: Cutting the Shirts

Look at your shirt and decide how much of the pattern you want on there. Most shirts are going to have the pattern centered on the front. Measure from the bottom of the neckline to where you want the bag to stop, be sure to stop about 4 inches from the bottom (if you are using a really small shirt, it's okay to have less than 4 inches at the bottom, just don't have less than 3.) Then measure between the shirt sleeves.

Here's where the newspaper comes in handy. From the newspaper, cut out a square in the measurements you just took. That will help you cut more quickly and easily, and keep all the squares uniform.

Cut off the strip at the bottom of the shirt that won't be part of the square you just measured. Make sure to cut it off so that when you are finished, it is still a circle of fabric. Then cut through one side of the circle so you end up with a long strip of fabric. When you do this to both shirts, you will have two long strips of fabric. (If you are confused, see picture.)

Lay the shirts out flat, pin the square to each shirt in turn, and cut through both layers of fabric (the front and back of the shirt.) When you are done, you will have four squares of t-shirt fabric!

Step 3: Creating the Handles

Okay, take the two strips of fabric you cut off in the last step. One of the long edges of the strip should be the bottom hem of the shirt, and the other edge (the one where you actually cut) is called the raw edge.

Do this to each strip separately: Fold the raw edge in so that you have folded the strip in by one third (see picture if you are confused.) Then fold the edge with the hem on top of your first fold, so the strip is about 1/3 as wide as it was before, but much stronger. Sewn right, these strips will stretch but never break!

Using the contrasting or bright color, sew two parallel lines down the length of the strip. If you are using a sewing machine, this is a good part to use a fancy stitch to make it look a little cooler.

Step 4: Adding Pockets (optional!)

If you want the inside of your bag to have pockets, now is the time. If you don't want pockets, you can skip this step.

Jersey is a great fabric because it doesn't fray, so pockets are really easy and should take only a few seconds.

Cut out whatever number or shape of pockets you want out of the scraps of the contrasting color t-shirt. There is usually enough fabric left on the sleeves for this.

Then lay out the back of one of your squares (the side of the t-shirt that isn't going to be on the outside.) Pin the cut out pockets wherever you want them on the square. I recommend putting them near the middle.

Get thread that will show up on the pocket fabric, and sew your pocket! (Remember not to sew the top.) People with sewing machines, this is another great place to use a fancy stitch.

NOTE: If you are adding pockets, be careful where you sew the handles. You don't want to sew through a pocket.

Step 5: Sewing the Tops of the Squares

Get the four squares out and match them up.

Here's some more sewing vocabulary- the side of the fabric that will show is called the RIGHT side, the side of the fabric that won't show is called the WRONG side.

Match up your squares and put them so that their RIGHT sides are facing each other and the right way up. So if there was printing on the front and back of your t-shirt, the printing should be facing each other, and you shouldn't see any at this point.

Sew only the top of each pair of squares, about half an inch from the top.

Then flip them inside out and you'll see the printing again.

Step 6: Attach the Handles

Get your handles out again, and put them with the contrasting color squares. Pin each handle about one and a half inches in from the edge of the square. If you added pockets, this is when you need to be careful about where your handles go.

Please see the pictures as to how the handles will look when you have finished pinning them to the square.

Sew your handle in a color thread that won't show up as much along the two lines you sewed before. Sewing each handle along two lines will make it much stronger.

Also sew the handles in a horizontal line where they meet the top of the purse. This will give them added strength.

Don't worry if the handles seem short, they will stretch a little when you put things in the bag, usually enough to put over your shoulder.

Step 7: Finishing the Bag

Now pin the right sides of both squares together, making sure the ends of the handles match up at the bottom. Sew all four layers together on the sides and bottom, making sure to sew the bottom twice to reinforce it.

Take the pins out, turn it right side out and...

Step 8: Finished Bags and Other Options

Here's the finished bag, and another bag I've done.

If you want to embellish it with flowers, see my other instructable. I like to add the flowers on, because you can use scraps left over from any project, just like mom would want you to do.

Feel free to message me with any questions or improvements, this is my first instructable.

Happy Mother's Day!

Comments

author
Tiah77 (author)2012-01-14

This looks amazing, and since this will be my first real sewing project, I HOPE IT WORKS!

author
nhanusova (author)2011-08-12

super:):)

author
proglitz (author)2011-07-11

This is very cute! I just used your instructions to make one with an old mickey mouse shirt that turned out great! Thank you :D

author
missunni (author)2010-08-07

would i be able to make this with one shirt? by using both the back and front?? because i only have one black shirt.. and my other shirts arent the exact same size...

author
Jent13 (author)missunni2011-05-13

Coats and Clark has free instructions on how to sew with only one t-shirt but it calls for ribbon. http://www.coatsandclark.com/Crafts/Sewing/Projects/Accessories/CS0047+Tshirt+tote.htm There is also a youtube video called T-Shirt Tote with Coats and Clark (it is the same as the pattern on coats and clarks website it just shows/explains more) at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TUkaGGep-5c

author
preethiblossom (author)2010-06-20

wow ...great instructable...have many old t- shirts...time to wash them and use them....

author
squeaka1342 (author)2010-01-23

thanks that cleared it up... but i have anothah question :) sorry im new to instructables... so, when you say in step 5 'sewing the tops of the squares' do you mean hemming them ? not sewing them together right? im dumb i know :)

author
squeaka1342 (author)2010-01-18

i dont really get how the handles go on... do they go all the way around the bag?

author
Shamora1288 (author)squeaka13422010-01-18

 No, the handles meet each other at the bottom of the bag. The handles are made of two separate strips that you put on each of the squares that make up the majority of the bag. I always make sure that I match the placement of my strips on the bottom of the bag so they look like they go all the way around. 

When you have the matching squares sewn together, but not sewn to each other, thats when you put the handles on. EX. If you are using a blue shirt and a white shirt- you cut two squares out of each shirt so you end up with four squares, blue blue, white white. The blue gets sewn to the blue and the white to the white so you are basically reinforcing your squares. Then you place the handles on the squares and sew. Then the squares get sewn together with the handles already attached. 



author
Shamora1288 (author)Shamora12882010-01-18

 If this still isn't clear, PLEASE let me know and I will take more pictures. 

author
lenalandmine (author)2009-10-05

This. Is. Brilliant. ..I think I love you. :]

author
ANTQNUT (author)2009-08-29

CUTE! I love the design on your t-shirt u made the bag out of!!! great job!

author
oops555_8 (author)2009-08-22

I totally love this idea!!! it's super cute and I kinda also need a new bag for school! lol! Plus I have tons of old shirts that I don't rele use anymore! thanx a ton!

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alisonlu (author)2009-07-27

What do the pockets look like?

author
makeme12 (author)2009-06-30

really nice! im gonna try this

author
elizahleigh (author)2009-06-25

I absolutely LOVE this and will send this link to all of my fellow greenies over at www.greenwala.com (the online green social network). Just a heads up to all crafty people out there -- Greenwala just launched 3 new contests and one of them centers around the best eco-themed t-shirt design. The winner gets $250, too! Hope someone here will enter..apparently your chances of winning increase since the finalists are decided by the community, so friends can help bump you up in the ranks. I can't wait!! Say hi to me there and I'll vote for your entry, too!

author
TheDodgyLodger (author)2009-05-01

I learned from an old Dutch woman that instead of chalk or pencil, use those practically useless soap slivers left over from a bar of soap. When you mark the fabric it leaves a really nice visible line and disappears easily with water.

author

Thats a great tip, thank the old Dutch woman for me!

author

I did, and she was happy to hear all the thanks. She also told me that the soap line disappears with mere steaming of the garment or piece when complete, so BONUS!

author

Thanks Dutch woman!

author

schweet!!!

author
Treelan (author)2009-04-29

I can't wait to try this! Thanks!

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Treelan (author)Treelan2009-05-18

Made my first one yesterday. It is a bit narrower at the top than the bottom (uh, my fault!) and still needs some finishing touches. But it was fun to make and super easy! Got some compliments on it at work, too! Thanks for the great little Instructable!

author
3legdog (author)2009-05-06

You could also use an old belt (especially a cloth one) to make handles. I lined my bag by sewing denim to the back of the t-shirt square- just cut out the thigh part of an old pair of jeans. It is very strong with the lining, plus the belt handles don't stretch.

author
david30 (author)2009-05-01

I really do like the way you explained the project. Guess what? I maybe be a man but I am pretty sure the feminine side of me will sure make wonders to create a piece of art for my one and only mom in the world. Dedicate this project for her.

author
Black Ethel (author)2009-05-01

This is a great idea! But may I make a suggestion? Some old t-shirts are a little thin and the fabric may rip if you over load the bag. Couldn't you strengthen the bag by using both the front and back of a t-shirt to double the material? It'll make the sides thicker and withhold over loading. I'm going to try this to see if it works. Thanks for the instructions!

author
Shamora1288 (author)Black Ethel2009-05-01

I'm so glad you are going to make it yourself! I do use both sides of the t-shirt, as seen in steps 4 and 5. This pattern is all about making it a strong bag, you're right. And who hasn't asked their mom to carry something for them?

author
pie popper (author)2009-04-30

this is really gr8. you explained it perfectly. i like it!

author
sondanced (author)2009-04-30

Another great sentimental utility project! thanks so much for sharing. I had held onto my son's t-shirts over an 18 year span... so for his 18th birthday, I made up a quilt with all the shirt fronts appliqued onto it. There were so many, I made matching pillows to go with! He loved it, he's 35 and still has it! The backs left over were made into a braded rug.

author
Shamora1288 (author)sondanced2009-04-30

That's awesome, I've always wanted to make a quilt out of these. You can also use the quilting technique to make great and cheap curtains. Good idea for a college student.

author

yes, my brother has had many penn state shirts over the years, and last year my mom made him a penn state blanket out of them!

author
pacaboco (author)2009-04-30

Love this idea! So much stronger with the handles than other designs I've seen! And the flower finishes it perfectly! How long do you make the handles? Thanks!

author
Shamora1288 (author)pacaboco2009-04-30

I'm glad you like it! I usually make the handles as long as the bottom of the shirt is wide, because the bottom of the shirt becomes the handles. But if you are using a really small shirt, you might want to add some length on. You can do this by cutting off a strip of fabric from the sleeves, or anywhere else there is room, and sewing it on to the end of one of the long strips. Then you just fold the strip over and sew as shown. I recommend that the handles be around 50 inches long at least. But just use your judgement.

author
KnittinLady (author)2009-04-30

I love this!! You have done a great job explaining it!! can't wait to try it out this weekend!!!

author
tanvi solanki (author)2009-04-30

This is so cute.. adding the lil flower with badges & buttons & stuff looks so cool.... Great going....

author
Doctor What (author)2009-04-29

I love this! I have an old "no stank you" T that I love, and I can't wear it anymore! Now I can use it all the time! This is an amazing project!

author
NSomNia (author)2009-04-28

LOVED this!!! It was so much fun and easy :)

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