Reusable Shopping Bags

Earth Day is this week.  According to the all-knowing Wikipedia, this year will mark its 40th anniversary.  The thing is, I don't recall hearing a peep about Earth Day until the last couple of years or so.  I understand the concept of appreciating and protecting our planet, but I don't know what the official way to celebrate is.  I feel like I've been missing something all these years.  In light of this, I decided to focus on my personal crusade to use fewer plastic bags.  I would like to say I don't use them at all, but I only remember to bring my own about every third time I shop.  Sometimes I try to catch the cashier and tell them I don't need a bag at all, but if they've already started the bagging process it goes in the trash, totally defeating the purpose.

I carry reusable shopping bags in my car that I've bought various places, but they're not cute.  I realized if I had bags I loved, it might make me remember them more often.  Lacking a pattern, as I often am, I measured one of my store bags and made my own.

You'll need strong fabric, like denim or home decor fabric.  Got a set of old drapes?  I had some leftover home dec fabric from my daughter's pink/green/brown period.

Bag 1
Bag 1

Cut one piece 21" x 38" for the body.  You'll need a piece 3" x 106" for the handles.  Rather than try to find a continuous piece of fabric that long, you can sew together several pieces.  Lay them together as shown in the picture, stitch diagonally, trim and press. 

Bag 2
Bag 2

My handles happen to be about 2" short, because I ran out of fabric.  They're pretty flexible that way.  Fold each edge of the handle in 1/2" and press.  Fold the entire handle in half and press again.  Unfold one end, fold raw edge in 1/4".  Lay the other end across, forming a giant loop, making sure there are no twists. 

Bag 3
Bag 3

Fold it back up and stitch through.  I seriously need to put "New Ironing Board Cover" on the list of projects.  Ugh.

Bag 4
Bag 4

On the bag fabric, fold each short end under 2" and press.  Fold raw edge in 1/2", press again and stitch close to inner fold.  Lay the bag fabric out, right side up.  Find the center on each long side.  Find the center of the handle, opposite your connecting seam.  Lay the handle over the bag, matching centers, and pin down 7" from long raw edge, facing open side of handle toward the center of the bag.

Bag 5
Bag 5

Halfway through pinning the handle down, I decided an outside pocket to hold receipts, coupons, shopping lists or change would be handy.  Cut a piece of fabric 6" x 9".  Fold the bottom edge up 1", then under 1/2" and press.  Fold the top up 2", then under 1" and press.  Stitch across the top, close to the inner fold.  Don't stitch the bottom yet.  Lay pocket on the bag with the top 3" from the upper edge of the bag and edges under the handle.  Pin.

Stitch close to both edges of the handle, all the way around, starting with the open side.  Stitch an X shape at the top edge of the bag over each handle for reinforcement.  Stitch across the bottom of the pocket.

Bag 6
Bag 6

I made one of these, overcomplicated the side seams, slapped my forehead and said "French seams, duh!"  With wrong sides together, stitch a scant 1/4" seam down each side.  Turn with right sides together and stitch again with a generous 1/2" seam.  Simple.

Flatten the corner with the seam in the middle.  Measure 4" from corner and draw a line across.  Pin in place.

Stitch along line, then again 1/8" away, closer to the corner.

Bag 8
Bag 8

Turn and press.  You can lay something in the bottom if you'd like.  I used plastic canvas for one of mine.  You can also use cardboard, either covered in fabric or not.  Fill with groceries and save a plastic bag!

Bag 9
Bag 9