Introduction: Upcycled Tshirt Market Bag (Easy and Super Low Sew!)

Picture of Upcycled Tshirt Market Bag (Easy and Super Low Sew!)

I have a pile of tees from various road races and have always said that I'll turn them into a tshirt quilt... but that may never happen, so I'm doing the next best thing and upcycling them into market bags to take to the farmer's market! 
This is an easy project that's so low sew that you could even do it by hand if you wanted to (or maybe "have to" because you don't have a machine).

P.S. If you're like me and hate to waste anything, check out my dog toy tutorial to use up the scraps from this project ;-)

Step 1: What You'll Need:

Picture of What You'll Need:

A tshirt (it doesn't need to be heavy duty thick cotton, but I wouldn't use a super light weight shirt)
Scissors or rotary cutter
Cutting mat (optional but very helpful)

*Note: the size of the shirt will determine the size of the bag. If you only have a large shirt and want a smaller bag, then check out the alternate instructions on Steps 2 and 3. 

Step 2: Making the First Cut

Picture of Making the First Cut

We will be using the hem of the shirt as the top of the bag in this project, so we'll need to cut away the top of the shirt to become the bottom of the bag. Sounds a little confusing, but I promise it's really simple! 

1. With the shirt right side out (words showing), fold the shirt in half lengthwise. 
2. Draw an arc and cut off the neck and sleeves (or you could be really wild and crazy and just cut away!)

Note: I plan on using the inside of the shirt as the outside of the bag so that the words are not showing, so my directions reflect that choice. If you want the words to show (though they'll be hard to read) then just reverse my directions.

Alternate instructions for smaller bag (sorry no pictures, but easy to do):
Instead of cutting on the sleeves and neck away, trace a rectangle that is a little smaller than the size bag you want (because remember, it will stretch).
Have one edge of the rectangle on the bottom hem and another edge along one of the folded sides (to minimize sewing). 

*Don't throw your cut off scraps away, you can turn them into a fun dog toy that will keep your furry friend entertained for hours! 

Step 3: The Only Sewing Step!

Picture of The Only Sewing Step!

Here comes the only sewing step -- and it's almost a french seam! Ooo la la!

1. Pin the curved part that you just cut and sew it shut using the presser foot as your seam allowance. 
2. Turn the shirt inside out (words on the inside now), and top stitch it down. 

Alternate instructions for smaller bag (sorry no pictures, but easy to do):
You will have one extra edge to sew -- the side seam. 

Step 4: Making the Handle

Picture of Making the Handle

Flip the shirt around so that the hem is at the top and measure about 2 - 2.5 inches down from the hem to cut a long slit for the handle. I made my cut about 6 inches at first (in this picture), but then decided that I'd like to be able to carry it on my shoulder, so I lengthened the cut to about 14 inches. You can cut the handle to be as long or short as you want.  

Step 5: More Cutting

Picture of More Cutting

Here's where the fun begins.

1. You can either measure out your cuts of just start making slits in the shirt -- this is a very forgiving project. Since I wanted to write instructions, I used a ruler and basically followed these guidelines:
- Start about 4 to 5 inches below the hem, draw 1.5 to 2 inch lines with about half an inch of space in between the lines. 
- Some of mine were right on the edge, so I made them about half the length of a regular line. 
- Space the rows 3/4 to an inch apart. 
- Try to stagger the lines in each row to make the bag pull apart more easily for a better market bag effect. 

2. You will be cutting through both layers of the bag at once, so you can either use scissors to cut the lines or use a rotary cutter. I found the rotary cutter made it much easier and quicker. 

*No brainer, but thought I'd mention it anyway... if you sewed up one of the side seams, make sure you don't cut thru it! 

Step 6: Stretch and Use!

Picture of Stretch and Use!

Streeeeeetch the shirt lenthwise to help the shirt ravel up a bit. If you have time, it's even better if you wash and dry the bag. 
It's now ready for a trip to the market... or in my case, a crochet meetup event ;-) 


Delhia (author)2016-05-15

I love this idea!! Beach bag, grocery bag, kids toys! The possibilities are endless!! And i love your "French Seam " reference! Ooo la la!!

lilianaelliot (author)2014-02-10

Thank you. That is awesome!! You are very creative.

purelily (author)lilianaelliot2014-02-10

Awww, thanks!! =D

astockton (author)2013-08-02

I was at a Sunday school meeting, and our new director had been cleaning out the supply closet. She had three or four boxes of t-shirts from a previous craft project she was going to get rid of. I asked her for the shirts,and everyone in the meeting laughed at me. I said, "I'll make the project and then I'll show you what I am making." It's been two months and I've given them all bags and they apologized for the snickering. Thanks for this wonderful project!!!

purelily (author)astockton2013-08-02

Thanks for sharing your story! I'm so glad that you won everyone over with your bags! Maybe you can teach it as a VBS craft next summer ;-)

Devin Snyder (author)2013-07-22

This is awesome! I'm already making one right now!

purelily (author)Devin Snyder2013-08-02

Yay, hope you love your bag!!

sheinonen (author)2013-06-25

Love this! It would look really cool to have another shirt inside, not cute, so that the colors contrast and that way the nothing would fall through the holes.

purelily (author)sheinonen2013-08-02

That's true! I gave one to a friend and she told me her cucumbers kept falling out!! I will have to line hers next time ;-)

Renee! (author)2013-06-24

That looks really cool!

purelily (author)Renee!2013-08-02

Thanks!! =)

LFXG (author)2013-06-24

An addition to this that will take it from low-sew to no sew.
Before you start cutting the slits, cut up both layers together from the bottom 3" slits every half inch. Now tie together the pairs of strips in a reef knot and not only do you avoid sewing but also have also added decorative tassel detail to the bag


purelily (author)LFXG2013-08-02

Ooo, super cute idea!! I'm definitely going to try that! Thanks Liam =)

DeeRilee (author)2013-06-23

I love this!!! <3

purelily (author)DeeRilee2013-08-02

Thanks!! =D

dvivster (author)2013-06-23

Great project!! Do you think it is possible to use an old sweatshirt that i have but never wear? Do you think it would be too thick?

purelily (author)dvivster2013-08-02

Hmmm... good question. I've never tried it with sweatshirts, so please let me know if you give it a shot!
(I would try it, but down here in Orlando, I don't get too many sweatshirts gifted to me for crafting :-P)

tsyphers (author)2013-06-23

I am going to make some out of old shirts for camping and the beach.

purelily (author)tsyphers2013-08-02

Ooo, I hope you do! Sounds like you're going to have some fun with them on your travels!

jrnuerge (author)2013-06-23

I love your going to make some! Do you think it would work if you left it as a t-shirt to wear over another colored one? Or, does it have to stretch out in order to get the cool slits? JR

purelily (author)jrnuerge2013-08-02

Sorry for the delayed response to your question! I think it would look really cool as a shirt to wear layered over another one or a tank. And you can stretch it a little or a lot to vary the sizes of the slits.. it's a very forgiving project and anything goes ;-)

MeNmyShadow (author)2013-06-23

Great idea!! I am also a non-waster and appreciate a useful idea for tshirts because sometimes there is an emotional attachment to them and you really hate to use them for rags. This is a clever alternative since bags are used for everything!! Like holding all the tshirts you are saving for your next stroke of genius, haha Thanks!!

purelily (author)MeNmyShadow2013-08-02

I'm so with you... I have a hard time turning my beloved tshirts into rags. (Now my hubby's tees are a different story!) Besides, I'd rather be crafting than cleaning =)

Wynd (author)2013-06-23

I really love this :D I have a lot of great shirts that either don't fit, or are something I would not wear [like animal print]. This is something I am going to try ;) Maybe I will make myself a purse type, thank you for the inspiration!

[ps, totally voted for you!]

purelily (author)Wynd2013-08-02

Thanks for your comment and your vote Wynd =) I hope you do make a purse type one... I get so many compliments on mine when I whip it out, I'll bet a purse would be even cuter!

kalimo (author)2013-06-23

I love how the bag looks! But I'm worried that it will start tearing when actual groceries get put in. Do you think one of those bags could handle the weight of a watermelon or a gallon of milk?

purelily (author)kalimo2013-08-02

You know, I've never tried putting anything quite that heavy in the bag, but mostly because I don't use bags for things like that. I just carry it to the car without a bag. However if you need to have it hold heavy items, another commenter suggest lining it with another tshirt and that would certainly reinforce it!

CrystalDyes (author)2013-06-23

Instead of T's with sleeves, have you thought about using sleeveless T's? Most have a more open neckline and don't need anything more than sewing the bottom and doing the slashes. The top is already finished with shoulder straps making great handles. I did this some time ago after viewing an Instructable for grocery bags. I shopped the thrift stores for Plus size women's sleeveless T's. Small sizes just doesn't get it.

purelily (author)CrystalDyes2013-08-02

I like how you think CrystalDyes!! I am working with tshirts that were donated to me that would otherwise be in the trash, but tank tops and sleeveless tees would definitely work! Btw, don't worry, I never waste a single scrap of fabric, so the parts of the shirt that are cut off for this project are repurposed into my other projects ;-)

costumer341 (author)2013-06-23

Verrrrrrry clever! And guys, don't be afraid to make and use these yourselves. This way I get to save one of my favorite t-shirts that I unfortunately put a hole in.

purelily (author)costumer3412013-08-02

Thanks costumer, and you're right, this project is great for holey and stained tshirts!

lisascout (author)2013-06-23

Love it! Super easy! I have a question - if you fold it like an accordion and cut on either side of the folds, don't you get the same effect but don't have to measure your cuts? Like a snowflake?

purelily (author)lisascout2013-08-02

It's funny you ask that because my friend tried doing exactly what you said and it wasn't perfect, but it totally does work and is faster than cutting each line one at a time. Maybe we just need to figure out where to fold and cut better. If I get it right, I'll update this tutorial. Btw, snips are recommended for cutting that many layers at once, your hands will thank you =)

farldarm (author)2013-06-23

Great Idea for shirts!! I am going to try this later today.
P.S. If you are interested in having a t-shirt quilt made, let me know. It is a good reason for my best friend and I to spend a weekend together. I believe our prices are VERY reasonable!!


purelily (author)farldarm2013-08-02

Thanks Beth, I'm sure your bag turned out great since you're used to working with tshirt material already! I've always thought about making a quilt too, but just haven't gotten around to it. You should write an instructable for it ;-)

sheinonen (author)2013-06-25

Love this! It would look really cool to have another shirt inside, not cut, so that the colors contrast and that way the nothing would fall through the holes.

sunshiine (author)2013-06-18

I must try this! It is such a pretty little thing! Thanks for sharing and do have a splendorous day!

purelily (author)sunshiine2013-06-19

Thanks again sunshine! Btw, I'm going to steal your word "splendorous," I just love it! =)

sunshiine (author)purelily2013-06-19

I am delighted that you love the word splendorous! I stole it from my lovely daughter so don't feel bad! Keep shining!sunshiine

jlittlejohns (author)2013-06-18

I do love this idea, Im already thinking of which t-shirt to cut up and try it with!

purelily (author)jlittlejohns2013-06-19

Ha ha, maybe one that's already hole-y so that you have less cutting to do ;-)

cupcake0 (author)2013-06-17

wie griegt man die blau

purelily (author)cupcake02013-06-17

Ooo, what language is this? I would love to translate it to see what it means!

omnibot (author)purelily2013-06-17

I'm thinking german.

purelily (author)omnibot2013-06-17

I put that in Google translate earlier, but it was either a bad translation or not German. I tried to auto-detect the language as well, and Google guessed Afrikaans, but I don't think that's right either. Thanks for the thought though! =)

My German is really bad, but I think he/she is asking you how you got the bag to be so blue.

Thanks vigo! If you're right... then I should answer that "Ich habe ein blaues Hemd" ;-)

Blackie Ray (author)2013-06-17


purelily (author)Blackie Ray2013-06-17

Awww shucks, thanks!! :o)

HelmutHound (author)2013-06-17

Ah! How does that not rip when you have it fully loaded?

About This Instructable




Bio: personalized gifts // fun wall art // logo designs // party supplies // I ❤ creating things that spread joy & nurture meaningful connections. Shop here ?? *********************************************** I ❤ designing ... More »
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