A friend of mine has a small farm and had saved up a massive stack of feed bags from her cows knowing that something crafty could be done with them. Of course, something crafty can be done! I went to work using bags from cows, birds, dogs, and I think I have a cat one somewhere.
Step 1: Here We Go
1 feed bag
Rope or something to use as handles - good sources are Goodwill, Goodwill Outlet (the bomb for deals if you don't mind digging through endless bins), and the Habitat For Humanity Store.
Step 2: First Order of Business
Wash that thing out! Who knows where they've been and there are lots of funny little bits in there.
Step 3: Getting Started
Fold in the sides of the bag and lay it flat.
Look at your bag and decide how big or small you'd like it to be.
Then with a straight edge and a marker draw your cutting lines on top and bottom. Keep in mind that an inch (or three in this case) will become the bottom of the bag, depending on how wide the sides of the bag are so allow enough at the bottom that your picture will still be on the front. The top will also be turned down approximately a 1/2" so allow for that also.
Step 4: Keep the Scraps
What has been cut off from the top and bottom can be used to form a pocket and guides for the handles.
Step 5: The Thread
These little tote bags are supposed to be fun so no need to match or coordinate the thread. Go a little wild, add some more color.
Step 6: The Pocket
Look your scrap pieces over and decide what you think will become an interesting pocket for the outside.
I put my pockets on the back of the tote bags so I don't hide the picture. The back is pretty boring anyway with ingredient lists and whatnot so a pocket is a good way to add interest to the back.
Step 7: Bottom Seam
Turn the bag inside out and lay bag flat, and sew the bottom seam. I do about a 1/2 inch seam.
Also, remember to check which end the pocket opening faces since both ends look the same. Nothing slows down a project like seam ripping because you sewed the wrong side shut. I know these things from experience.
Step 8: Making the Bottom
Slit each side of the bottom seam so it can be opened up flat.
Flatten out the side of the bag so the bottom seam runs down the middle of the bag. You are going to sew a seam diagonally across the side which will make a flat bottom to your tote.
The side of the bag has three creases, one down the middle and the other two which form the outside edges of the side. These are your guides. I've marked them in black to help make them more visible. The bottom seam should run down the middle of the center crease so it will end up in the middle of the bottom when it is finished.
With a ruler make sure you have an equal number of inches on each side of the center crease so the bag stays square. In my case I put the 8" mark on the center line and wiggled it a bit so I had 3 inches on either side. Draw a line and sew. When finished, trim down the seams and turn the bag right side out and you should have a nice flat, squared up bottom.
Step 9: Making Handle Guides
You can either attach the handles directly to the bag or make handle guides just to keep it interesting.
To make the guides use your scrap pieces. You will need 4 of them, I made mine 5" long so I had plenty to work with but you can make them shorter.
Because my scraps weren't very long I cut 2 pieces 10 inches long and 2 1/2 inches wide then cut those in half to make 4 pieces.
Fold in thirds the long way and zigzag down the middle.
Step 10: Finishing the Top of the Bag
This can be done all in one step.
Fold down top about 1/2" to make a finished edge and pin
Fold guides in half, measure in 2" from outside edge and pin in place.
Sew with a zigzag stitch around the top. I go back and reinforce the guides because they will be taking most of the stress from the weight of whatever is put in the bag.
Trim off any excess length from the guides after they've been sewn in place.
Step 11: The Handles
Cut the rope to any length you would like your handle to be.
Feed through the guides.
Zigzag stitch the ends together so they don't unravel. I then bound mine with a little embroidery floss to neaten them up a bit.
Step 12: And There You Have It!
These can be made in all different sizes and shapes and make very sturdy totes.
I found over-sized zippers in a thrift store that I used as handles on a couple of the bags. The possibilities are endless.