One of my most popular posts, is a little download I quickly whipped up one day while sewing myself a reusable shopping bag. I certainly never expected it to be pinned over 11,000 times!! Unfortunately though, the post itself was just for the template for the handles, and linked to an external tutorial. A tutorial that has since disappeared from the internet, and I get multiple requests each week for a full tutorial. I finally found the time to sit down and work through the method today to take photos and re-share the full tutorial. These bags are super easy to whip up, and make for great gifts. My mum still uses the one I made for her all the way back in 2009!
For this bag, you will need to cut 2 of the main fabric and 2 of the lining. Use the template (download here) for the handles, and then use a rotary cutter and ruler to cut the body to length you prefer. You will also need to cut 2 pieces for the storage pocket. This is dependent on the size of your bag, so will be measured and cut further into the tutorial. For the sample bag I made for this tutorial, I used a fat quarter from my stash, and end up with a smallish bag. For a proper-sized shopping bag, I would recommend using 1/2m each of the exterior and lining fabrics.
Place one main fabric piece and one lining fabric piece right sides together and sew the middle “U” shape. Then sew the other curved seams BUT ENDING APPROXIMATELY 1 1/2 INCHES BELOW THE TOP OF THE HANDLES. This allows you to sew the top of the handles later. Clip the corners and turn right side out and press. Don’t top-stitch at this stage.
Place the two units created above on top of each other, exteriors together. Work the handles one at a time. Open the gap left in the side seam above. Pin the outer corner of the main fabric, right sides together. Match the seam and pin the lining at the exterior corner. Keeping the lining away, start sewing across the main fabric, and then across to the lining.
Flip the handles right side out again, and you should have completed handles with a gap in the side. If you don’t want to topstitch, handsew the openings closed on each of the handles. If you do want to topstitch, just ignore the openings for the time being. I like to press the seam allowances under and pin the opening closed while I work the rest of the bag.
Now we are going to go onto making the pocket to allow the bag to fold up into itself. This is optional. If you don’t want to do this, just skip the next few steps. The pocket piece size will obviously depend on the size of your plastic bag though. To get this size, I folded it up as I would fold it then measured that size and added some more. It gets quite bulky as when it is folded up into the pocket, the whole thing is turned inside out. My pocket piece for this bag made from a fat quarter is is 5.5″ x 12.5″. To make the pocket, fold in half (right sides together) and sew the two side seams. Turn right sides out and press. I also like to topstitch across the top fold.
Find the centre of the bag and the centre of the pocket’s raw edge. Line up the two centres, then pin and sew down the two sides to the main fabric only – NOT the lining.
Now put the two main pieces together and the two lining pieces together (right sides together). Match bottom corners and the handle seams, and sew the side seams.
Turn right side out and place the lining in the main bag. Press side seams and topstitch around the handles and the bag’s opening (if you didn’t handstitch openings closed before). The topstitching will close the openings.
Now to make the gusset. Fold the handles in half and place the side seam parallel with the handle fold. Repeat for the other side. Sew across the top of the handles to keep in place, in the seam so the stitching is almost invisible.
The final step is to close the bottom of the bag with a French seam. With right sides out, sew across the bottom of the bag (making sure to catch the gusset in the bottom seam):
Trim the seam allowance then turn inside out. Sew across the bottom encasing the seam allowance. Make sure the gusset is tucked neatly and straight on both sides.
Turn your bag, right side out and it is now finished.
To fold it into the pocket, place the bag pocket side down. Start by folding the sides in, and then fold down into thirds. Flip the pocket inside out to encase the folded bag.
If you make one of these bags, I would love to see the end result! Drop a link in the comments, or tag me on insta – @barefootcrafter.