Introduction: T-shirt Bag Buddy

About: I am a high school English teacher. When I can find the time, among my other hobbies, I like to sew and upcycle t-shirts. A few years ago, I re-discovered how much I liked sewing in high school with the help…
My husband and I wanted a bag buddy to store our plastic shopping bags.  Like many people, we reuse our plastic bags around the house or  return them to the store for recycling.  I came up with this idea to up-cycle an old T-shirt into a bag buddy.

Step 1: Gather Your Materials

Obviously you will need a T-shirt.  I recommend using a  large.  And XL shirt might make your bag buddy too big, but you can always take in some material (as you will see later).

Otherwise, you will need basic sewing tools: a ruler or yardstick, scissors (a rotary cutter and cutting mat are not necessary, but they are extremely helpful for straight cuts), straight pins, and a sewing machine.

You will also need material for two drawstrings.  I found loops of t-shirt fabric on clearance at a local craft store and that is what I used for my drawstrings.  However, you could use bias tape, cut your own t-shirt loops (by trimming a 1-inch section off the bottom of another t-shirt, cutting it into one strip, and tugging on it so that the ends curl in), ribbon, yarn, or any other material that would function like a drawstring.  A drawstring threader is also helpful if you have one.  If not, you will need a safety pin.

Step 2: Create T-shirt Rectangle

You are going to be making a large rectangle from one side of the shirt.

Start with the shirt laid flat.  Cut off one of the sides entirely, just inside the sleeve seam (make sure you do not remove the bottom hem).  Repeat with the other side.

Then, cut across the top of the shirt just below the neckband.

This should leave you with a large rectangle and two layers of the shirt.  Remove the layer you don't want and set it aside.  In my case, I was using the front of the shirt, so I kept the front and set aside the back.

Note:  if you are using an XL shirt, you might want to adjust where you cut the sides in order to leave yourself with a rectangle approximately 17" across.

Step 3: Sew the Top Casing

You need to sew a casing for the top drawstring (you will use the bottom hem for the bottom casing).  Do this by turning your shirt over so that the wrong side is facing up.  Fold the top down approximately 1".  Pin this in place and take it to your sewing machine.  I used the second line from the left of my presser foot as a guide.  Sew a straight stitch to create a casing about 1/2" wide.  Make sure you remove all of the pins, either as you go or once you have finished.

Step 4: Thread the Drawstrings

Take the material you have chosen for your drawstrings and prepare one strip, approximately 1 yard in length (if you are using a t-shirt loop, just cut it into two pieces since it will stretch).  Find your bottom hem.  There should be a small opening where you can thread your drawstring.  If you have a drawstring threader, this is the perfect opportunity to use it.  If you do not have a threader, attach a safety pin to one end of the drawstring and slowly work it through the casing.  Repeat this process for the top casing that you created in step 3.  Straighten out the shirt so that the shirt lays flat again and the ends of the drawstrings hang out (see picture).

Step 5: Create the Tube

Make sure your t-shirt is right-side up.  Fold one long edge over to meet the other long edge.  Don't worry that the ends curl--T-shirts do that.  Straighten out the edges as you go and pin in place.  Return to the sewing machine.  Be careful not to sew through the casings or drawstrings; you must make sure to sew below the top casing to just above the bottom hem (or bottom casing).  When you are finished, remove the pins (if you didn't remove as you went) and carefully turn the tube right-side out again. 

Step 6: Pull the Drawstrings Tight and Tie

Pull your top and bottom drawstrings tight and tie.  You want the top to be large enough to stuff bags into and the bottom to be just large enough to pull out one bag.  The ties can always be loosened to add more bags at a time (top) or to empty the bag buddy completely (bottom).

Step 7: Stuff, Hang, and Enjoy!

Stuff your bag buddy full of those plastic shopping bags (you might want to open up the top drawstring while stuffing and then re-tie).

Hang your bag buddy in a convenient location.  You can hang your bag buddy from the top drawstring (I double knotted mine so the loops would hold better) and wait for the next time you need a plastic bag.  The bags easily pull out from the bottom of the bag buddy.  Adjust your bottom opening as needed. 

And remember to open it up from time to time and take all those extra bags in for recycling.