Are you looking for a great, low-cost recycling project to do at home or with a group?This is IT! This is a great way to use last season's team t-shirts or a previous year's event t-shirts! Re-purpose an unwanted t-shirt today and easily turn the shirt into a re-usable tote bag.

With just two quick seams and some fast cutting---you are finished! These t-shirt totes are strong and washable! Use for groceries, library books, tennis balls, gym clothes or pool supplies---use for anything you need to carry!

Did You Know.... Plastic shopping bags are typically used less than 30 minutes and only 1 % are recycled. The average American adult uses approximately 288 bags a year, or 22,000* in an average lifetime...make and use a Recycled T-Shirt Totebag today! *Source: 2008 Piedmont Environmental Alliance, NC

This is my first Instructable- any comments are appreciated. I am doing this recycling project for my Girl Scout Gold Award- I hope to share the information with as many people as possible! Thanks for your interest- 

UPDATE: Thank you for your support and words of encouragement- I have successfully completed my Girl Scout Gold Award Project!  Thank you for helping me spread the word-
just say no to paper or plastic!

Step 1: STEP ONE


-Heavy weight cotton T-shirt (heavy weight fabric & Youth size XL or Adult S or M work best)

~ 3- 5 straight pins

- Pencil or pen

- Dinner plate


- Sewing machine

Step 2: STEP 2

-Choose an old t-shirt and smooth it flat on a table. Use scissors to cut and remove the sleeves---make sure you leave the seam in place---this keeps your tote strong!

Step 3: STEP 3

-Position a plate about halfway over the neck opening of the shirt. Trace the plate with your pencil or pen. This will be your cutting line to create the opening for your tote bag. Cut along the traced line with the scissors.

Step 4: STEP 4

-Turn the T-shirt inside out and pin the bottom of the T-shirt-- along the hem--- closed.

Step 5: STEP 5

-Use the sewing machine to sew the bottom of T-shirt hem closed. Reinforce your tote bag by sewing over this seam a second time!

-Your bag is now sewn closed! As a variation you may consider adding a "gusset" at the bottom corners- as several commenters have- that's where you sew across the corner at at right angle so that the bottom of the bag has more depth and is not just flat---it "boxes" the corners of the tote bag.

-Another variation to consider....see the picture below of the pink t shirt tote bag. My friend and I added pockets to the tote by using the cut away sleeve scraps and fashioning them into pockets. We added the three pockets onto the front of the tote! These are more decorative than time I add pockets, I will make them deeper.

Step 6: STEP 6

-Turn the shirt right- side- out. YOU just made your own recycled tote bag!
Fill it with groceries, gym clothes, pool supplies, library books, etc! Keep one handy in your car!
T-shirt Totes are Machine Washable, Reusable and Strong! Just say NO to "paper or plastic"!

3 People Made This Project!


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212 Discussions

Hi! Good idea. BUT I object to the characterization of plastic bags as of little worth and less value. Years ago Rubbermaid made a small trash can that was designed to use those d****d plastic bags, with a means of looping the handles to hold them in place while the trash was added. (Pic attached -- one with six or eight bags in place, one empty, laying on side, one with only one bag.) I only found out about them after they were no longer in production, but there are still a lot around (far as I know) and they are THE best way to utilize the bags that inevitably make their way home with any of us. The difficulty with reusable items like T-shirt tote bags is they require maintenance (washing and drying, if nothing else), they take up space (they have to be stored somewhere when not in use), if not used/remembered/whatever, weight of guilt is added to, etc. Which isn't to say I won't use this idea -- and sew by hand 'cause my machines are mothballed right now -- and be happy with the results 'cause I do have some neat old T-shirts . . . .

Rubbermaid plastic grocery bag trash cans.JPG
3 replies

Yes. I have one of those waste bins. I've recycled all my life - since long before the word was invented! - and now find to my horror that I have to BUY plastic bags to put in my kitchen rubbish bin. I re-use plastic packaging instead, when I can, or try to do without, but do have to sometimes use BOUGHT plastic bags for the first time in my life. I also never used plastic dustbin bags - until our local council refused to collect refuse unless it was in a black plasic bin bag!!!!

Theres people out there who dont mind carrying or storing there bags... I rather make them then waste money on plastic..

I found it at Amazon, but can't post the link here?

Search Amazon for plastic grocery bag trash can

If you sew across the bottom of an old tank top, you don't need to do anything else.

2 replies

That would be a 1-Step Tank Top Tote Bag.

Your 6-26-16 email included the link to this '2-Step T-Shirt Bag'... which can be made in 6 steps.... Still easy, but... Just sayin'!!!

1 reply

I believe the two steps are "Cut off sleeves" and "Sew up the bottom". =)

I'm going to make bags from grankids old t-shirts for their toys.

Good instructable, nice and easy project that could be made by anyone. Congratulations on your Gold Award.

nice and simple!


2 years ago

Good idea!

Might be a good idea for school kids next year if they hand sew them instead

Great job

Clever and simple! I like it! Well done!


2 years ago

really it is so much use full in india good idea..


2 years ago

really it is so much use full in india good idea..

What a great idea! Thank you so much for sharing and congrats on your Girl Scout achievement!

I like this solution. Sam I have to do this for yourself.

Cool are shown a variety of other ideas for using T- shirts

Certainly be useful to many people.