I love grocery bags. OK, I love tote bags in general, but specifically, I love grocery bags.
Years ago, I made a bunch of canvas shopping bags, way before it was cool or trendy and when everyone thought you were a tree hugging hippie dippie for wanting to do something so strange as *not choose paper OR plastic* (freak!). Back in the day, I was a first year grad student and desperately poor, I made 5 bags per person and gave them to my family as Christmas presents. My design? I basically took a brown paper bag, opened it up flat, added a 1/2 inch seam allowance to it, and sewed the cut fabric into bags. I even went so far as to double stitch the seams to make sure that they wouldn’t pull out. They are sturdy – and ugly, and took a long time to make. I still use them and they are far superior to the freebee canvas bags that I have gathered in other places. Those tend to shrink into a useless size once they go through the wash (as if groceries don’t leak occasionally?) and are even uglier than my homemade ones.
Lately, there have been lots of trendy designs out in blog land and in the enviro land. Google comes up with 139,000 hits when you put in “reusable shopping bag” – very few of which come from recycled or even sustainable products. Some are very trendy and expensive, like the “I’m not a plastic bag”, others are ugly while others are cheap and promote a specific grocery store.
Ultimately, I’m rather cheap while at the same time I’m environmentally proactive. Sometimes it makes for a difficult combination… And sometimes, I’m downright obtuse when it comes to a simple design. So, recently, I chanced on this bag pattern from Wisdom of the Moon… Simple, recycled, and with a flat (and easy!) bottom!
In the end, I changed a few simple parts of her design… First, for my first bag, I didn’t use a sheet. I had garage saled a piece of fun fabric for probably 25 cents – upon measuring it, it turned out to be the requisite 18 x 42 inch size. This is also about the same size (for all ye other math brainiacs out there besides me) of a 1/2 yard of 45 inch fabric, just in case you, too, covet yard sale yardage. Second change – I knew my fabric would ravel as it is 100% cotton and I’m lazy and didn’t want to hem the giant rectangle like she suggested. My solution? Go stash diving and come up with extra wide bias tape and sew that over the raw edges at the same time as sewing them together. Easy breezy and added an extra degree of stability to the sides. Plus, I had somehow missed the hemming part in her directions the first time I read them. =) Third change – instead of adding canvas in the seam at the top where the handles go, I cut a 1 1/2 inch width of pellon iron on fabric stabilizer (in the stash) and then ironed that a 1/4 inch or so from the top of the bag on the wrong side. I ironed the 1/4 inch edge over the top of the pellon, then folded the entire edge over at the bottom of the pellon – so stable and no raw edges. My handles are also garage saled canvas and I have to say, were easy to make and comfy!
End result? Hubby thinks that the bag is too girly for him to use… But I love it. Way more fun than the beige canvas. I have gone stash diving and found more fabric, some fun canvas even, that will become bags.
I also thrift stored some fun fabric for a quarter that I’m trying to convince myself to use for bags and not a curtain in the new house. We’ll see what happens…