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


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!

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