"The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem. Do you understand? "

-Captain Jack Sparrow


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Cheap & Easy Fabric Produce Bags

I've been using my set of fabric grocery bags since I made them this summer, but I still kept using the plastic bags from the store for fruits and vegetables. Every time I pulled one off the roll, I thought, "I have got to make some of these." And then by the time I get home, I'd forget.

I finally made 9 of them this weekend. And they cost me exactly nothing because I reused a sheer curtain that we'd replaced.

2008 01 19 010

You can either use tulle or sheer fabric, but really I think the sheer is much easier to work with. The only requirement is that they be see through and lightweight. Sometimes they have sheer curtains at the thrift store, just take em home and wash well in hot water. If you can't find those, tulle is probably going to be cheaper. You can get 4 bags out of one yard, which costs 2 bucks.

Also, if you want them to be painfully cute, you can decorate them with some handmade stamps. I carved up some broccoli and onions special for this project.
P8130064

So, on to the directions.

-First, cut the fabric into rectangles that are 17" by 27", which makes a finished bag 15" tall by 13" wide (with double hemming). You can easily make them bigger or smaller, though. (If any of the edges are excessively frayed, cut that off first before cutting to size.)

-Then you need to hem any sides that are not on the selvedge (finished edge) to keep the whole thing from unraveling over time. You can do it one of two ways, both shown in the picture below. If you need a better explanation of the double hem, check here. If you use the tulle, don't bother with the hemming, just sew the whole thing with a fairly tight, straight stitch. (Note- I've changed this from the original recommendation of a zigzag because straight stitches work much better on tulle. Sorry, August!)
2008 01 19 002 copy

-Next fold in half hamburger-wise (as opposed to hotdog-wise... does anyone else remember this brilliant instruction from elementary school?) and pin. In the picture below, the right side is the bottom of the bag and the left is the top.
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-When you sew the side and bottom, start sewing about an inch down from the corner. Also, it's best to sew where the fabric is doubled up on itself, basically somewhere along the hem.
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-Once you've sewn the bag, make the channel for the twine by folding down and pinning the top edge like shown.
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-Start sewing where shown in the picture, folding the fabric evenly down as you go.
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-By the time you've gone all around the top and returned to where you started, you'll have created a channel like this. The openings to the channel are underneath my right finger and thumb (please excuse the paint on my hands, we've been painting Randa's room this week.)
2008 01 19 006

-All you need to do to finish the bag is to tie a knot in some twine, push a safety pin through it and feed it through the channel. Leave about 2 or 3 inches hanging out on each side and tie it in a knot. When you want to close up the bag, just do a slip knot.

Oh, and one more thing. I weighed one bag on the kitchen scale and it's total weight was 0.4 ounces (as compared to the plastic bag which was 0.1 ounces).

That's it.

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Related Posts-
Cheap & Easy Fabric Grocery Bags
Produce Stamps for Produce Bags

43 comments:

dig this chick said...

horray! love it and will make some. The see through thing is key...we never learn and reuse yogurt and sour cream containers for leftover storage. Later, we find not-so-cute science fair projects.

Raw Vegan Mama said...

I love these even more than the grocery bags! Thank you so much! I am sending the link to mom so she can make me some! Hahaha!


Maybe she can pass it on to my grandma so she can make them for her church craft bazzar! :)

RVM

Jennifer said...

Sigh... my husband refuses to allow cloth bags for produce. I've been buying and saving produce in the net plastic bags and saving it. It's been working pretty well, and is luckily husband approved. (It needs to be, since he's the one that shops).

Crystal & Co. said...

Perfect! I've got tons of tulle and it's the kid's naptime.
:)

Lanea said...

What a wonderful idea. Thanks so much for the tutorial.

FinnyKnits said...

Awesome, yes. I will make some of these, too. And then I will stuff them in my canvas/old tshirt/giveaway fabric bags for use at the grocery store so that I don't have to go,

"Damn. I really hate having to use these naughty plastic bags for my carrots.I guess I'll just throw them randomly into the cart and hope they don't fall through the cracks."

Which they always do.

mmmm, brains said...

Thank you!! I JUST posted about wanting to make my own produce bags! How fortuitous!

mama k said...

I never thought of old curtains! I have seen several tutes for using tulle and planned on making some eventually. Thanks for the great idea. I always see sheers at the thrift stores.

Green Bean said...

You rock! As soon as I get my hands on a sewing machine (one of my goals this year), I'll give these a go.

Leeanthro said...

These look great. Don't know if I will *actually* get around to making them, but the intention is there.

The grocery checkers always look annoyed at me when I don't use a plastic bag. Come on, If I've got 3 kiwis, do I really need to put them in a bag?

Anonymous said...

LOVE THESe!! We just bought some reusable bags from Whole Foods for $.99, but I think I will make some of the produce bags to go with it.

Carolyn said...

Thanks for sharing this great idea! We try to use canvas sacks for groceries every trip but didn't have any reusable produce bags. And sometimes I do feel the need to bag greens or other produce. But I hate using those plastic ones, even if we do reuse them till they fall apart.

I have some sheers that aren't needed anymore for their original purpose and they'll be perfect for a few produce bags. Think I'll give the extra bags to some like-minded friends. Thanks again!

Lorrie said...

I have been making and using my own grocery bags for quite a while now. Yesterday I was shopping and I needed to use so many of those produce baggies that I disgusted myself. I decided I was going to find instructions someplace to make my own. When I typed in "tutorial to make reusable produce bag" in google your site was the first one up! Thank you for this tutorial I will be making dozens of these. I plan on giving them as gifts with my reusuable grocery bags!

esp said...

I've been meaning to do this for quite some time. Your directions are VERY clear and easy to understand. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Aren't curtains made of flame-retardant fabrics? I don't know how they're made flame-retardant, but I have a bad feeling it's not eco-friendly...anyone have any intel on that?

Wendy said...

Anonymous, ecologically speaking, I think it's important to remember that I'm repurposing this fabric. I'm pretty sure it's better for the environment if I find a use for these rather than put them in a landfill. However, when it comes to our personal health, you may have a point. I do wash everything at least once in super hot water before I begin sewing, though. Not sure if that'll remove all the chemicals or not.

monART said...

I like your pins and you patience ;-)
I've made and use morsbags:
http://kadotje.blogspot.com/2007/12/green-swapwoo-hoo.html

Jane said...

OK so these are genius! Sometimes I purposely get plastic bags at the grocery store because we use them for our trash. However, there is no good repurpose for those flimsy filmy produce bags! These are awesome! Gonna look for sheer fabric at the thrift!

Hovawart said...

I have done these as well, with old curtains or who knows what from the buy-by-the-pound thrift store (Goodwill Outlet here). Maybe they used to be bridal veils, or mosquito netting, or...? Anyway, to the person worried about health effects--remember there are health effects to using plastic bags....

Properties in Dubai said...

I have been using linguire washing bags as my produce bags for the past few monthes without any problems. The cashier can see everything in the bag since they are a light mesh material and they zip closed. I found them at a local dollar store at 3 for $1. They don't really hold larger produce like celery or lettuce very well which is where these painted bags would come in handy.

Rachel R. said...

I think that polyester and nylon fabrics are not typically treated to be flame-retardant - they are automatically assumed to be flame-retardant, as plastic fabrics don't burn - they melt.

August said...

Hi there! I don't even remember how I came across your blog now... I have been waiting to make these though and finally today, I got out the tulle and I tried. I have never sewed with tulle before...check out my results here (no.. i'm not spamming you.)

Anyway, after one bag, I've given up on trying to make anymore out of tulle. Any suggestions on how to sew zig zags without it all bunching up on me?

Thanks for the tutorial too! You rock!

Miss Shawna said...

I was wondering if there were any pictures with produce in the bags so I could see them for size reference. This is a great idea and very cute.

Anonymous said...

Hello all, I'm so glad other people had the same idea I did! Well, almost: I only use natural fabrics so what I'm using is silk organza. I've been using these produce bags I made, some with cotton tape handles, for about 2 months and am very happy with them. I wish other shoppers would take notice and do the same. See photo with tomatoes in the bag here on my flickr site: http://www.flickr.com/photos/brigittepicart/2950252148/in/set-72157608114544870/

I didn't make a drawstring, I just copied the bags the store is using.

You can find silk organza at aurorasilk.com at $10/yard if you buy 5 yds and a bit more if you buy less yardage.

Stefanie said...

Thanks for the awesome tutorial! I tried my hand at these last night with some organza I got on sale at Joanns. I had a really rough time cutting it straight and sewing straight seams though. My thread tension was all wonky.

For what they are though, I don't think it really matters. Here's my bags if you'd like to see them.

Trying to save the earth one step at a time said...

I was motivated when I learned about the garbage swirl the size of Texas in the pacific ocean thats mostly plastic to find some of these bags so
THANK YOU--- I was just about to spend too much at a natural store when I have a pile of this material at home.

Megan said...

Lately I have resorted to grabbing one of the store's plastic bags, fill it with one set of whatever (carrots, bell peppers, etc) and then carefully piling my other produce on top of the plastic bag. They are big plastic bags and can hold a lot. Yes, I think the checkers are annoyed but not so much at Whole Foods or PCC. :-)

Anonymous said...

I'm wondering if these wash OK? I've been a bit worried by news reports about the bacteria breeding in reusable bags (if they're not washed all the time) and wonder how this type of sheer bag would hold up to constant washing?

Wendy said...

Anonymous, I wash these all the time. Usually if it's held something dry, like peppers or onions, I'll just toss it back in the bag, but if it's gotten wet or dirty (which is most of the time), I wash it in hot with a load of kitchen towels. Not one of them has unraveled in the slightest in over a year. I'm frankly surprised at how well they've held up.

Crystal said...

Thank you for sharing your expertise! I have some tulle ready to sew and your instructions are great.

Stacie said...

Thanks for the instructions! I recently picked up some incredibly cheap sheer curtain material on clearance. I wasn't quite sure how to go about making bags out of it until now :)

Maureen said...

A couple of years ago I made produce bags from old tea towels that were being discarded. Some are cotton and some are linen, although they probably weigh a bit more than the tulle/sheer fabric, they're easy to sew. I too get funny looks from the checkers, but fewer all the time.

My favorite shopping victory is taking in my flour and other storage containers to our local organic food store. I get a tare weight for the container, and fill them with flour, granola, sugar, spices - no charge for the container, and NO waste! Yay!

sandisam said...

What a brilliant yet simple idea! Why didn't I think of it. Although I've made my own shopping bags etc for ages I've still had to use those horrid little plastic things for some veggies. I love to find different ways to re-use & recycle. Thankyou. I'm off to my mother's house with a pair of scissors - she has nets up at every window :)

VanBurenMom said...

Awesome... I was just looking at this curtin and wonder what I could do with it... Now I know!!!! I am a "hand sew" girl so my stiches wont look quite as neat as yours LOL but I think I will use some metalic tread I have kicking around that would look cute as a contrast to the fabric!

Jessica Brown said...

What a brilliant idea! I've always felt terrible using those plastic bags, when I'm such a stickler for the reusable bags!

Anonymous said...

thanks so much for the great idea, i have been reading 'no impact man' and been wondering what can i use to avoid those horrible 5 min plastic roll bags. this is perfect!!!! i love it.

Anonymous said...

I actually made some of these a couple of months ago out of a sheer remnant I found at Goodwill and some bias tape I had on hand (and some pulled out sweatshirt ties discarded by my adults-when they're in their twenties I feel silly calling them kids). I thought I was being really original!! We like 'em!

JILB said...

Just beware with some thift store sheers. Years ago some were made with fiberglass if I remember correctly.

Anonymous said...

These look wonderful. If anyone wants something to do with those annoying plastic bags, I have seen another post- http://www.ccthita-swan.org/pdf/Crocheting_bags.pdf
that gives suggestions on how to crochet them into totes! I'll be heading to the thrift stores to get some sheers and make some produce bags!

Martivir said...

My mom was wondering what she was going to do with all the left over tulle that she had from my brother's wedding. I had come across these instructions while looking for a reusable grocery bag pattern a few weeks ago. I now have 10 yards or so to make produce bags out of. If I hadn't seen your blog it would have probably been sitting there for years before a new use came up for it.

Astrid said...

Love this tutorial. Have my yard of tulle, and am about to give it a go...!

neilinda said...

Don't have a website... just writing to ask if your machine is a Kenmore? i had an old one - made of metal, and it was wonderful. It has bitten the dust (to many problems to fix), so i bought a new one - made mostly of plastic... not happy with it.
Hope you will treasure what looks like a good old metal machine. :)
:)

Pearlie Mcilvaine said...

Recycling is definitely the trend nowadays, and creating something new out of something old is one way of doing it. I think the best part of it is that you won’t have to spend anything for it. You just have to let your mind run wild and let your creativity work for you. Anyway, the produce bag looks great! What is the maximum weight it can carry?