Repurposing T-shirts into Reusable Bags

Reusable bags have become trendy since consumers are trying to reduce waste, stores are working to cut costs (and sometimes charging for shopping bags), and  governments are starting to ban single-use plastic bags (sometimes specifically non-biodegradable plastics).

There are myriad reusable bags available for purchase, with appealing designs and convenient features, in some cases, such as those that fit into a little stuff sack and can be clipped onto other items so they’re easier to carry…and to remember to take and use.

(Art by Dan Lang, a great artist for hire! delstudios.net)

Many of these aren’t as ecologically sound as they seem, since few are made of recycled, post-consumer recycled or organically-grown natural materials. Many are also made overseas in factories without verification of good labor and environmental conditions, and importing them adds fuel and emissions impacts.

The most environmentally beneficial reusable bags are probably sitting in our homes. Most of us have at least one…but may forget to take them when we need a bag.

The second best option is one you make yourself from reused, repurposed materials. T’shirts and tank tops are ideal since they’re easy and often plentiful. Here are a few I’ve made, some from garments that aren’t fit to wear anymore, and others from t-shirts I never really wore. (The latter category mainly involves t-shirts from racing events, which I decline if given the option, or otherwise send to my Dad to wear working on the family homestead, but I’ve wounds up with some that wouldn’t fit him. Refusing and reducing, or finding a wearer for good clothing is preferable to repurposing it if it’s wearable, IMO.)

A few tips:

For t-shirts, I cut off the sleeves, turn the shirt inside out and sew the bottom and armholes. I sew a straight seam twice, then a zig zag, since I don’t have a serger and want a secure seam. I reuse the sleeves as a pocket. I cut off the sleeves, turn them inside out, sew them together at the raw edges (making a tube), sew the bottom, then attach the resulting pocket to the neckline of the shirt/bag. I strong old shoelaces in the neckline to make a handle. Two shoelaces strung from opposite sides make an easy cinch sack type, 2-handled bag. If the shirt is longer than I’d like the bag to be, I cut off material on the bottom to size, then make that into a pocket or smaller bag to go with the t-shirt bag.

Tank tops are easy to repurpose. Just turn inside out and sew across the bottom. Again, I sew a straight seam twice, then a zig zag, since I don’t have a serger and want a secure seam. If the tank top straps are thin or worn, you might add material to reinforce them for handles.

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