This is a GREAT way to upcycle old t-shirts and tank tops or make use of cute shirts from a thrift store or yard sale. They're easy to make, washable, light weight, and very versatile.
Possible uses include:
- shopping bag
- beach bag
- laundry bag
- book bag
- extra roomy casual purse
- recyclables bag
- lingerie bag (on a coat hanger) in closet
- put several of these bags into one and use as a pillow!
What you'll need:
- 2 t-shirts or tank tops close to each other in size and in relatively good condition regarding seams and overall condition of fabric
You want this to be a sturdy bag so pick sturdy shirts. I use 2 shirts to increase durability and to have the reversibility feature.
- good sewing scissors
- ball head sewing pins
- Fray Check
- sewing machine with a stretch stitch but preferably a serger or overlock machine
- 18 eyelets or grommets with setting tool
- 1.5 yards of 1/2-inch ribbon or cording or even a long shoelace
Step 1: Prepare Shirts
Make sure the shirts are clean and relatively free of rips, tears, or loose seams. Sleeves don't matter too much in this project, although you may want to save them for another project or use them to add a pocket to the bag (!). But be sure the main shirt is sturdy so that you will have a sturdy bag.
Make any repairs necessary using your sewing machine, serger, overlock, or needle and thread prior to beginning the bag construction.
If your shirt has sleeves, remove them. Cut along the seam line, toward the body of the shirt such that the seam material remains on the sleeve rather than on the shirt.
Step 2: Close Shirt Bottoms
Turn the first shirt inside out and lay flat so that the bottom hems are even from side to side. You might want to pin the hem line in place, depending on how confident you are in your sewing abilities. If you are not using a serger or overlock machine, trim off the hem fabric to reduce the amount of fabric in the bottom of the bag. If you are using a serger, the machine will do this for you so you can skip this.
Using your sewing machine or serger, sew a seam from one side to the other along the bottom edge of this shirt to close the bottom of the shirt. (You now have a bag, of sorts.)
Turn this first shirt right side out.
Repeat for the second shirt, but leave this one inside out.
Now you have 2 bags, one of which is inside out.
If you have used pins, be sure to remove all pins at this point. You don't want to leave any of them around to cause problems with your finished bag!
Step 3: Join the Shirts at the Arms
Slip the second shirt inside the first shirt. Remember, the second shirt is inside out and the first shirt is right side out. This means that from the outside of the bag, you see the outside of the first shirt. From the inside of the bag, you see the outside of the second shirt. The bottom seams from the previous step (and the insides of both shirts) will be completely hidden.
Now, pick an arm hole: right or left. Working from the shoulder seam down toward the armpits of the 2 shirts, carefully match together and pin the armholes of the 2 shirts together. You may need to do a bit of trimming here if the shirts are not exactly the same size. Not to worry. This is a very flexible and forgiving project.
Once you are happy with the pinning, it's time to sew. If you are using a regular sewing machine, use a stretch stitch with a wide zig zag and some colorful thread. You're going to see this thread on the finished project. If you're using a serger, I recommend wooly nylon in the loopers for a decorative finish. Either way, start at the shoulder and stitch the entire perimeter of the armhole to join the shirts together.
Repeat for the other armhole.
The resulting 2 armholes now form the handles of the bag. There will be visible stitching but, since you've used a stretch stitch, the handles will have some stretch, too.
Step 4: Join Shirts at the Neckline
The final step to completing the sewing of the bag is to sew the 2 necklines together.
You'll want to cut away any neckline finishing like ribbing just as you cut away sleeves and hems.
As you did with the armholes, start at the shoulder seams and pin the two necklines together, snipping away excess fabric as needed to fit the 2 shirts together.
Use a stretch stitch on a regular sewing machine or use your overlock and sew completely around the neckline.
You now have a bag with no access to the inside / wrong side of the original t-shirts.
Clean up any dangling threads. I like to use Fray Check on my knots as a safety precaution.
Now, you have a reversible bag!
Step 5: Set Grommets
I like for all bags to be closeable by some mechanism just to prevent things from getting away.
For this bag, I elected to use grommets and a ribbon to tie the bag closed. You could do a casing for a drawstring or just leave this off.
Lay the bag flat on a table front side up with the shirt side seams to the sides and the neckline to the top. Just under (maybe about 2 inches under) the original armholes, draw an imaginary line across the top of the bag. Evenly space 9 pins along this line across the front of the bag.
Flip the bag over, and repeat above for the back of the bag.
You should have 18 pins evenly spaced around the bag.
Following the directions for the grommet tool you have, set the 18 grommets, one at each pin location.
Step 6: Lace Up the Bag
Starting at one side seam, insert your chosen drawstring into the grommets on either side of the seam. Then, tie a secure square knot, leaving the loose ends of the drawstring outside the bag. This will ensure that the drawstring cannot be separated from the bag.
Now, lace the two ends of the drawstring through the remaining grommets. One end across the front of the bag. The other end across the back of the bag. The ends will meet at the other side of the bag.
At this point, tie a knot in each end of the drawstring to prevent it from unlacing.
To close the bag, simply pull the drawstring ends outward and tie.