Tutorial: Re-Usable Market Bag

We’ve all seen the new bags that every store under the sun carries now.  Target, Cost Plus, Vons, even Sur La Table has them….They want you to use their re-usable bag, and why not?  They don’t have to pay for the paper bags to put your stuff in anymore…and you have to buy the new re-usable bag!  Can you say Marketing Genius?
I love the bags by the way…depending on what type of material they’ve used.  I have one from Sur La Table that is fabulous, and I find it is the one I reach for continually when I want to pack a day’s worth of snacks for the park or crafty supplies for a trip to grandma’s.  It’s just that it says SUR LA TABLE on it….It’s not personalized to my liking.
So, when I ran across this bag fabric at Joann’s a few days ago, I went to work to try to figure it out.  It is a breathable fabric that is mildly stiff.  And the best part, IT DOES NOT FRAY!!!  They had about 10 different prints to choose from and it’s priced at 2.99/yard
For the first one, I decided to pretty much replicate the Sur la Table bag, to make sure I liked it’s shape and size… and oh buddy, is it ever great!  We had a nice little ceremony for the Sur la Table bag and retired him to the garage to store stuff…he’ll be okay out there…  :)
I started by getting all the dimensions and adding the seam allowances.  Let’s get started
  • 1 Yard of main fabric
  • 1/2 yard contrasting fabric
  • coordinating threads
  • 1 piece cardboard cut to 11 1/2″ x 6.5″
Start by cutting your main fabric pieces.  These will be the front, back and side of the bag (Cherries)
Cut 2:  14.5″ wide and 17.5″ tall (front and back)
Cut 1:  8.5″ wide by 49.5″ tall  (side—one long piece)
For bias tape: cut and piece together enough for 2 – 3/4″ x 51″ finished pieces .  If you are unsure how to make your own bias tape you can go here for a great tutorial.  Or you can buy pre-made tape.
For the straps and inside cardboard bottom cover (Zebra)
Cut 2:  2.5″ x 60″ (Straps)
Cut 2:  12.5″ x 8.5″  (Bottom Cardboard Cover)
***Keep your iron on the polyester setting (medium)***

Begin by making the straps.  Real easy step…. just iron them down, right sides together matching long edges and sew with a 1/4″ seam.  Do not sew the short sides, so you can turn it!    Insert a safety pin in one end and push thru until you have your strap turned right side out


Take your front and back panels and iron down the top (14.5″ side)
1/2″ and then 1″ over, creating a hem.  Do this on both pieces
Edge Stitch on top and bottom of hem.  Do other panel the same way
Now take your side panel (49.5″x8.5″ piece) and do the same.  Iron down 1/2″ and then 1″ to make a hem, and edge stitch in place
Ther’ ya go…Edge Stitched top and bottom
Now, grab a ruler or measuring tape and position the straps as shown.  make sure your raw edges match at the bottom.  Really, this fabric is very easy to work with, so no worries.
Starting at one side of the strap at the bottom, just start edge stitching up the strap.  When you get to the top, and it’s just strap, don’t panic!  Just keep going (IMPORTANT:  MAKE SURE YOUR TENSION SETTING IS ON MEDIUM HERE!)  and stitch allllllll the way around to the other side.  When you get there, just turn it around and do the other side, and…..
Voila…..stitched straps!!
And…If you want, you can put an X at the top where the strap and
top intersect….for extra stability.
Now, go do the other one the exact same way and then come back
Now, take your bottom fabric, the one to cover the cardboard, and with right sides together, stitch 1/4″ seam on long side and both short sides, leaving one long side open
And slip that sucker in there
Now, take the unsewn side of the cardboard cover and match it to the raw edge of one of the front panels (ya know, the one we just sewed straps on to)
and baste it in place with a 1/4″ seam
Now, take one of the front panels ( I started with the non-cardboard one) and pin it to the long side panel.  That’s right….WRONG SIDES TOGETHER!  How ya like me nahw?
Just pin, pin ,pin…all the way around, curving it as you make the turns.  You should end up on the other side, matching up perfectly.  Now sew a 1/2″ seam this time, taking time on the curves…..just go slow and lift where you need to….no worries!
Now, clip your seams to 1/4″ alllllll the way around.   Pin the other panel to the other side of the side panel.  I started this side by pinning the tops first so if there was any discrepancy….
I could compensate for it at the bottom.  If you do run into any gappy fabric,
just slowly ease it in at the bottom.  Also, just make sure to keep the cardboard free.  It’s a little cumbersome to work with, but really totally worth it for the stability….you’ll see
OK, now here is the bag stitched and lookin’ good, but it’s missing something right?
Now, I didn’t even know if this part was gonna work, but it was sooooo simple.  This fabric makes it easy to do.  I don’t know about you but I HATE pinning bias tape on…we’ll we are breaking some rules here.  Just take the tape and push it up about and inch beyond the top and bend it over (sorry no pic) and sew it down
And just keep the tape close to the seam and just stitch it right on…quick and simple!  Stitch it around the entire bag, and then do the same thing on the other side
And you are D-O-N-E !
Look how it collapses!
Take a peek inside
Now, go make one or two….and if you do, add it to the
flickrpool so we can all see
Have Fun!
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  1. says

    I love it! I saw the fabric on the shelves at JoAnn’s a few months ago, but even with a coupon, it still didn’t make sense (in my mind) to make one. The cost to make one, over the cost of buying one for $2 or less at one of the stores (my bag from Trader Joe’s has lasted for years!), didn’t make it worth it. One of the downsides of sewing, don’t you think? Love the tutorial! Thanks for adding it for those people who would prefer to make their own, rather than buy from a big box store.

  2. says

    Oh how I love your fabric choices. We don’t have a Joanne’s here, so I’ll have to look around and see if I can find some bag fabric myself.

    I can’t wait to make my own, I hate feeling like a walking advertisement for all the big box stores (green or not).

    I’m going to have to officially add this to my On the List post this week.

  3. says

    I love this fabric! I have a similar (purchased) bag that just broke so I think you just gave me a way out 😉

  4. says

    This is great. Will make a great matching diaper bag and bibs, well just in case your kids are still in that age. Need to look for that fabric

    • says

      I have just looked at your etnrie blog and am in love! Your projects are adorable. You have a definite gift and are so talented. You are quite an inspiration. Happy Stitching!

  5. says

    Your bag is much more festive than the generic store branded ones you buy in the store. Thanks for the tutorial. I came across you blog via SWeeT cHarLi’s link up.

  6. says

    Very very cute. I love how you’ve made it so cute! I always tell myself I need to start using re-usable bags, but just can’t bring myself to buying them. But since yours are soooo cute, I think I will just make some! Thanks so much for linking up!

  7. says

    Hi Susan! I’ll be featuring your tote tomorrow. Stop by and grab a featured button if you like! Thanks again for linking up to The Sunday Showcase! ~ Stephanie Lynn

  8. says

    Good Day,

    I just wanted to let you know that I have linked to this great tutorial on my blog Made by Lolly and hope to make some for myself soon.

  9. says

    I was really excited to try this… I bought the fabric and cut enough to make 2. Only to get to the part about attaching the sides and the dimensions do not match AT all. I guess no one in the comments has really tried to make it because no one seems to think it is a problem. According to my math the side should be 16+16+14 = 46″ (not 36″).

    Also, if you don’t need color you can use ground cover fabric from the hardware store, it is the same stuff!!

  10. says

    I think Amber is correct on the math part for the side flap (and that change affects the length of the bias tape too). Also, the 50″ that you’re calling for, for the strap piece isn’t as long as the piece you’ve shown appears to be.

    I say that because in all the pictures of the bag, the strap appears to be about 3″ short of the total length of the bag. The bag is 16″ high that would make the folded over strap half about 12″ – 13″ long (top of bag where handle is attached to center of handle). If the strap is made the 50″ you’re calling for, there would be only 9″ of folded over strap and would only come about 1/2 down the side of the bag. (50″ to start – 16″ for both sides of the strap that are attached TO the bag = 18″ for the unattached handle = 9″ for each half of the handle when it’s folded over, instead of the 12″-13″ it appears the folded over handle is in the picture.

    A second note: while an experienced sewer would realize that they needed to sew a 1.5″ seam on BOTH ends of the side piece, a novice sewer would not. Just thought someone would need to know ahead of time to hem both edges of the side piece before they sewed it together and realized that they needed to put in a second hem – on the opposite end from the one they’ve already made.

    Not having sewn this, I’m only doing the math on paper, but it does seem that the side piece needs to be about 49.5″.

    (1.5″ hem on one top edge of side piece +
    1.5″ for hem on other top edge of piece +
    16″ one long edge of front/back +
    14.5″ bottom edge of front/back +
    16″ other long edge of f/b piece = 49.5″ total length for side piece of the bag.)

    This also affects the length of the bias pieces. They will have to be about 51.5″ long to allow for 1″ at the start/finish of applying the tape leaving 49.5 to go around the edges of the bag.

    The bag is beautiful and you’ve done a great job. The pictures are clean and a more experienced sewer can see the details in what you’ve done. Sometimes in doing the tuts, things get changed and we forget to note it (or like me, TRANSPOSE the numbers! lol). 3 cute punks “helping” wouldn’t have ANYTHING to do with that! 😉 BTDT

  11. Anonymous says

    I made shopping bags years ago that are still being used today, before this fancy “bag” fabric… I used outdoor “lawn furniture” fabric (it came in colourful stripes).

    One suggestion, I’ve never put a bottom in mine, but you should consider using coroplast or some other lightweight washable plastic instead of cardboard so that you can wash your reusable bags. You could also consider sewing your bottom panel differently, if you sew both sides & leave the ends open, you can slip stiffener in and out the “sleeve” as required for washing or replacing – although it won’t look quite so finished as the way you did it.

  12. Lisa Coleman Salisbury says

    I know this is a super old post, but I just found it doing some searches around for grocery bags. I'm wondering about the washability of this fabric? Have you had to wash them? I hate having to throw away the reusable bags when something spills–especially meat. I wanted to make some washable ones and am wondering if this fabric fits the bill.

  13. Arlene says

    I like to use upholstery fabrics for the bags. They make strong excitingly pretty bags. On the outside of the bags you can add more decorations before you sew it together.

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