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 ;-)
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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 ;-) 
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Thank you. That is awesome!! You are very creative.

purelily (author)  lilianaelliot1 year ago

Awww, thanks!! =D

astockton1 year ago
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)  astockton1 year ago
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 ;-)
This is awesome! I'm already making one right now!
purelily (author)  Devin Snyder1 year ago
Yay, hope you love your bag!!
sheinonen2 years ago
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)  sheinonen1 year ago
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!2 years ago
That looks really cool!
purelily (author)  Renee!1 year ago
Thanks!! =)
LFXG2 years ago
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)  LFXG1 year ago
Ooo, super cute idea!! I'm definitely going to try that! Thanks Liam =)
DeeRilee2 years ago
I love this!!! <3
purelily (author)  DeeRilee1 year ago
Thanks!! =D
dvivster2 years ago
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)  dvivster1 year ago
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)
tsyphers2 years ago
I am going to make some out of old shirts for camping and the beach.
purelily (author)  tsyphers1 year ago
Ooo, I hope you do! Sounds like you're going to have some fun with them on your travels!
jrnuerge2 years ago
I love your idea.....am 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)  jrnuerge1 year ago
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 ;-)
MeNmyShadow2 years ago
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)  MeNmyShadow1 year ago
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 =)
Wynd2 years ago
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)  Wynd1 year ago
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!
kalimo2 years ago
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)  kalimo1 year ago
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!
CrystalDyes2 years ago
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)  CrystalDyes1 year ago
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 ;-)
costumer3412 years ago
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)  costumer3411 year ago
Thanks costumer, and you're right, this project is great for holey and stained tshirts!
lisascout2 years ago
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)  lisascout1 year ago
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 =)
farldarm2 years ago
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!! beth@bethnray.com

purelily (author)  farldarm1 year ago
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 ;-)
sheinonen2 years ago
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.
sunshiine2 years ago
I must try this! It is such a pretty little thing! Thanks for sharing and do have a splendorous day!
purelily (author)  sunshiine2 years ago
Thanks again sunshine! Btw, I'm going to steal your word "splendorous," I just love it! =)
I am delighted that you love the word splendorous! I stole it from my lovely daughter so don't feel bad! Keep shining!sunshiine
I do love this idea, Im already thinking of which t-shirt to cut up and try it with!
purelily (author)  jlittlejohns2 years ago
Ha ha, maybe one that's already hole-y so that you have less cutting to do ;-)
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