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How to make a Fabric Shopping Bag (without gusset or lining)


Bring your own stylish fabric shopping bags wherever you go and avoid nasty plastic - just make sure you return them to your car ready for next time! I prefer the long handled tote style as they can be worn over the shoulder and are much more comfortable to carry. They can also hold heavier items than plastic, are washable, and they're a great way to express your own personal sense of style - rather than the name of the shop you've just been in! 

By using left over fabric you will also be recycling something, I used our old duvet cover to make this two-tone shopping bag, along with some wax cotton wraps! If you don't have enough fabric laying around try a local charity shop for something that you like and earn extra good karma points in the process! 

The design is as unlimited as your imagination! You could use old patterned skirt or curtain fabric for a vintage look, tartan always looks great, or something with some sparkle to brighten up the weekly shop.

Buy Sewing Pins on Amazon now!Buy Sewing Pins on Amazon now!


What you'll need:Buy Tailors Chalk on Amazon now!Buy Tailors Chalk on Amazon now!

Clean fabric of your choice

Pen or tailors chalk


Sewing pins

Buy Cotton Thread on Amazon now!Buy Cotton Thread on Amazon now!

Needle & cotton thread to match your fabric, or to contrast depending on your design.

    (use nylon thread if using synthetic fabric and for extra strength)



+ optional but recommended - a newspaper to cut out as a template 


Step 1.

You want 2 x panels of fabric for the bag sides (whatever size you want your bag to be + 1 inch extra all round), and 2 x long strips for the handles.

To make sure the handles are strong and comfortable make the strip around 4 inches (10 cm) wide so it can be folded in on itself twice, the length is up to you! I like mine long enough to carry comfortably over my shoulder as it's much easier to carry around. Measure the length you need by holding the fabric against you and over your shoulder or use a tape measure. Mark the fabric into the dimensions you need with your pen or chalk, be careful not to ruin what will be the visible part of your fabric if using a pen! Alternatively draw the panels onto newspaper and cut it out to use as a template. 

Remember to allow enough length on the handles to attach them quite far down the bag itself for a strong connection and allow an extra inch in the bag panel dimensions for creating the seams. 


Step 2. 

Cut out your fabric panels and handle pieces. If using the newspaper templates, pin the paper to the fabric to prevent it slipping and cut carefully around it. Lay the bag panels out in front of you with the intended outside pattern face down. 

Step 3.

Turn the top edge of the fabric inwards byaround 1/2 an inch (1 cm) and carefully pin along its length. If you struggle to hold it in place as you go try running an iron along the fold to create a sharp crease, this will encourage the fabric to hold the edge better. Make sure to keep the line as straight as possible, check it as you go and re-pin any wonky areas.


Step 4.

Sew a straight seam along the folded edge.

I sew everything by hand as I just can't afford the space of a machine on board Waki but go ahead and use one if you have one available! Don't forget to remove the pins.


Step 5.

Lay the panels out on top of each other so that the bag would be inside out. Pin around the bottom and sides making sure to keep it all straight. Again give it a check over and re-pin any areas that need adjusting. 

Step 6.

Sew a straight seam around the pinned areas, keeping the top open of course! Remove the pins. Turn the bag inside out so that it is the right way round and admire your handiwork for a moment - even if the stitchings not straight! The next one will be even better! :D

Step 7Step 7
Step 7. 

Lay out the handle strips with the outside pattern down. Folding along its length, fold the fabric inwards by about 1/2 inch (1 cm) and use the iron to crease in in place.


Lay the strip back out in front of you and fold the other side inwards to just under 1/3 of the way across the fabric's width. Again use the iron to form a crease so that it stays roughly in place.

My handles were made from the bottom edge of the duvet cover utilising the button strip.My handles were made from the bottom edge of the duvet cover utilising the button strip.


Fold the remaining side of fabric over the large creased length and pin in place, keep the initial 1 cm crease tucked under as you pin over it so that it either meets or sits slightly shy of the edge of the strip. 

Check the straightness of the handle strip and adjust any areas that aren't straight.


Step 8.

Sew a straight seam along the pinned handle and remove your pins. Repeat steps 7 & 8 for the other handle and remove the pins.

Step 9. Position your handles. Step 9. Position your handles.


Step 9. Turn your bag back inside out and lay it out in front of you. Decide where along the top of the bag the handle needs to be attached to hold it level, be evenly spaced, and the correct length, and mark the places  with the chalk. Pin one end of the handle to the bag, make sure that you don't accidentally pin through both pieces of fabric! Check that the handle strip turns in the direction you need to hold comfortably and pin the other end to the spot on the bag. 


Step 10. Attach handlesStep 10. Attach handles


Step 10.

Sew the handle onto the bag side by sewing a rectangle with a cross in the centre. This ensures that the weight of any goods in the bag is spread over an area rather than pulling on just a few stitches which could cause the bag to tear! 


Step 11.

Repeat steps 9 & 10 for the other handle and remove the pins.


You are now finished! Turn your bag back the correct way around to admire, and get to the shops!



* Cheeky Cheat! *  If using an old duvet cover or pillow case save yourself some time & effort and make use of the existing sewn seams by using the corner.


Don't want to wait? Or perhaps feel you need to look at another bag for some inspiration! We won't tell! :) You can never have enough shopping bags anyway. Treat yourself to a pretty one like the large Owl Shopping Bag on Amazon >Buy the Large Owl-Print bag on Amazon now!Buy the Large Owl-Print bag on Amazon now!





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Sarah is a UK artist and writer with a lifetime interest in camping and survival techniques.

Living the #vanlife since before it was a hashtag and touring on two wheels with her husband Ryan, they have a wealth of camping and motorcycling knowledge to share, and know a thing or two about packing light! read more

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