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Friday, 16 October 2015

How to Make a Grocery Bag

The recent change in the law that means shops no longer give out plastic bags like they used to, has left me caught out a few times. Whilst I've had a big bundle of strong bags ready for the weekly shop for a while now, I haven't yet made the adjustment to taking a reusable bag with me every time I go to a shop. Yesterday, I got caught out in Wilko - arguably, I could have just paid 5p, or, bought myself a big reusable bag at the till. But instead, I stubbornly balanced everything under the buggy (goodness knows what I'll do for carrying stuff when Charlotte gets too big to need it) and headed home.

Last minute tea supplies  - pizza and chips!
Being a fabric fan, I wanted a prettier solution to the gap left behind by the disposable plastic bags at the tills, and here it is.

I was given this gorgeous Kokka print by my school mum friend, Leanne. I'd been saving it for I don't know what, and yesterday the penny dropped - I will enjoy the excuse to bring these dolls out with me wherever I go, so the humble grocery bag is not such an insult for good fabric after all.


You will need
Half a metre of some nice strong fabric
Optional - 35 cm x 15 cm piece of contrasting fabric for the pocket/storage bag
Optional - 30 cm bias binding to make the bottom corners tidy on the inside of the bag

Cut the pieces for the bag
Fold the fabric in half widthways, so that the selvedges match together. 
With double thickness, cut a 10 cm wide strip off the selvedges. You now have 2 pieces of fabric to make handles. 

Make the handles
Iron them in half lengthways. Unfold. Iron again, with the two raw edges folded in to the middle. Iron the two shorts ends under by 1 cm, so the wrong sides are touching. Now carefully fold everything in so that all raw edges are tucked neatly inside. Sew the handle shut by top stitching a big rectangle all the way round, about 2 mm from the edges. 

Make the bag
What is left from the half metre of fabric will form the bag. We are going to use French seams - if you haven't tried them before, you'll love them. Well, you'll feel pretty smug about how neat your finished bag looks on the inside. Keep the fabric folded in half (as it was for cutting the handles), wrong sides together. Sew the bottom and side, using a 5 mm seam. Trim any whiskery threads from the edges - you don't want them in your way for the next step. Turn the bag out, so the wrong side shows, poke the corners out, and give the whole thing a careful press. With a straight stitch length 2, stitch all three sides this time (adding in the folded side to the sewing process) with a 8 mm seam. 
Form the corners. Separate the sides by pulling them apart and squishing them to form equal sized triangles at the corners - a bit like a beach hut. You can choose any measurement you like for this step - I like the volume that 12 cm across gives the finished bag. Take time to carefully line up the bottom seam with the side seam - I find the easiest way is to hold the tip of the corner tightly, and then open up the bag and check the seams match nicely on the right side. Push the seams one either side of each other, so you share the bulkiness a bit. Pin and draw a line and sew across it. Chop off the excess fabric - tidy the raw edges by zigzag stitch, and, if you want to, binding them with bias binding. 
Form the top of the bag by pressing it under by 3 cm and then 3 cm again. Pin in place and put to one side while you make the inner pocket/storage bag.

The pocket/storage bag
Make a hem on one of the short edges of the pocket piece. If you want to embellish the pocket with any ric rac or pom pom trim (and why wouldn't you), now is the time to add it. Fold the fabric so it is almost in half, right sides together, but leave 3 cm sticking out on the short edge that has been left raw. Sew the sides and turn the pocket out. If you feel inclined to make a hook to hang your bag with when it is in its little storage bag, you can do this easily by sewing a piece of ric rac or ribbon in a loop pointing down on the back of the pocket (along the short raw edge).

Assemble the bag
Tuck the pocket inside the pinned hem at the centre of the top of one side of your bag. Pin in place, and sew all the way round the hem, keeping close to the bottom folded edge. I also top stitch close to the top edge of the bag, as I think it looks nice. Position your handles to wherever you like the look of them, making sure they are centred. Pin and sew in place, using the rectangle with a `x' through it design shown. 

Ta-dah! Now take your bag out shopping and show off at the tills. 

Now I need never be caught without a bag again
(until I forget the child and the buggy)
Admittedly, this is not the most complicated of things to make - and I am sure most people reading could work it out for themselves. But sometimes, it's nice to have the thinking done for you so you can just get on and make the thing, no? I hope you like the functional storage pocket - I'd love to see some pictures if you decide to add some pom pom or other joy to brighten up your grocery bag.


  1. What fabulous fabric. I am currently making shopping bags too. After being caught out too!

  2. I have made some tote bags from upholstery material which gives a bit of soft protection - good for books or kindle, sunglasses and a bottle of water for the beach or odds and ends round town. For big shopping I still have those re hessian bags for life but I am thinking hard about replacements as a couple are failing after 5 years or so of hard use! Blogger Trish Wish

  3. Ooo, yes-always nice when someone else has done all the workings out! And I love the idea of adding a little pom pom joy to a grocery shopper...