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Upcycle Tutorial – Environmental Bags

Say No to plastic! That is our new mantra, right?

When we think Green bags, what comes to mind? Those ugly, bland ones in garish colours, with some corporate log stamped all over it, offering fresh promotions to someone other than you. They might be practical, but more often, ugly. Or they get dirty and you can’t erase the marks, no matter what detergent you use.

Furthermore, I am inclined to prefer to drink my own ‘home-grown’, filtered water, rather than tap water, at my workplace, and thus, carry several drinking flasks to work, which becomes unwieldy in a regular handbag. My local, liquor store carry-bags have several interior compartments that are just perfect for holding bottles of wine, or, in my case, stainless steel drink flasks. Normally I carry 2-3 of these water flasks, which clank around noisily as I walk, and get dented or scratched in a normal tote bag.

However, carrying Liquor store carry bags into work each day, gives out the wrong message to my colleagues. “Look at her: she just can’t keep out of the Liquor store!!” I could almost hear it whispered about in the corridors of my workplace, each day. There had to be a better approach, I thought.

I have already shown you how to create a new shopping bag out of old clothes and fabric scraps here in this tutorial, but another solution to going plastic free and reducing plastic waste is to “Upcycle” the ‘green’ bags, by adding a pretty fabric cover which is machine washable. This gives me the chance to use some pretty fabric from my stash and get a stylish tote bag in the process. Here is how I did it:

Step 1

Grab some iron-on batting or interfacing, and a piece of pretty fabric (slightly larger than the bag’s measurements) or two, that is if you want to add a pocket on the outside to hold keys, phone etc etc.

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Step 2

Try out a few combinations until you are happy with the contrast of fabrics and colour schemes. Keep in mind they should complement the colour of the green bag itself.

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Step 3

Cut a piece of interfacing the dimensions of the bag. Now cut the fabric to fit the bag not forgetting to add a 1/4 inch hem allowance on all sides. I find it works better if I iron the hem allowance under, before I sew it. Tacking also helps keep the fabric in place. It will be impossible to sew the complete four sides of the bag, with the machine, as the bag is already assembled. So some hand sewing will be required in those places that your sewing machine foot cannot reach.

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Step 4

If you are attaching a pocket, cut, trim and hem before you sew the fabric to the front and or back of the bag. Iron on the interfacing etc…. you already know how to do this….

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Sewing in progress.

Tip: Use a strong/thick needle for sewing this bag. They make them tough and that will break a #80/90 gauge sewing needle.

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Step 5

Repeat on the back side of the bag. As I said, use a strong/thick needle for sewing this bag. They make them tough and it will break a #80/90 gauge sewing needle.

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Step 6 (optional)

The pocket looked  a bit plain, so I added a heart motif applique, for contrast.

That’s it…. all done, and I do like to take this everywhere now. Holding my lunch and water allowance for each and every work day. The bag fits in at the workplace in a way the Liquor shop carry- bag did not!!!

I hope this gives you some ideas to ponder about.

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13 thoughts on “Upcycle Tutorial – Environmental Bags”

      1. Not as big as yours it appears. We have your standard recycle bins that go out next to the trash cans. There’s the metal/aluminum place. I still feel like it could be better.

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  1. Great idea and how kind of you to do a tutorial. I have so very many bags since I’ve been collecting them since the late 80’s. Everywhere I went to a new store that offered them, I picked one up. Even my daughter and son have some of my collection. I collected bags from bookstores as they were offering cloth bags more heavily stitched than grocery bags. I went to lots of bookstores. Even libraries offered cloth bags to advertise. I do have a couple of those wine bottle bags but they have the grocery store name on them. I have patterns to make my own but just never quite get there. ;( A little lazy these days. It’s a great idea to carry extra water in them. I like my own filtered water too. Keep at it. We need fewer plastic bags. I just read Disneyland is no longer going to put straws in their drinks. Good think I carry my own reusable straws. 😉

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    1. The plastic free campaign is gathering force and not before time, Marlene! You and I have been doing our bit for the environment for about the same length of time, ie. since the early 80’s. Once you see how detrimental and wasteful disposable single use products are, you start to avoid them in any way you can. I think the resurgence in the quilting movement helped. There was a use for lovely quilted bags, and we can also thank advertisers as well. They created the bags as promotions, but we can use them for multiple purposes. Grocery shopping, clothing bags, tote bags, storage bags. I collect pine cones in them for my wood heater! I always have some in my handbag and car. I very rarely use plastic nowadays, except for the doggy poo bags, and now even those are biodegradable. I have to get on to the steel straws. I don’t usually buy drinks, as I have my own water with me, and drink that. Every soft drink known to man seems to have an inordinate amount of sugar!

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      1. I have steel straws but cannot use them. First, they won’t stay put as I can’t clamp down on them. I’ve tried them, silicone and paper. So my solution is to always carry my own plastic straws that I wash at home and reuse. I cut some short for coffee or tea, even wine. It’s been almost 8 years with the same box of straws and when I’m out with my daughter, she asks me for one as well. There is a place for them but I think we have just gone overboard. Hospitals have to dispose of so much to avoid being sued for cross contamination. The nurse at the hospital where my sister recently had surgery was delighted when I brought out 2 straws for myself and my sister. She said the amount of plastic going into the trash was abhorrent but there was nothing they could do. Even space blankets that would warm the homeless had to be tossed to protect the hospital. What is wrong with us? Growing up in Germany, groceries were always brought home in cotton mesh or cloth bags that we carried. It was natural for me. I think we’ve lost our way. BTW, I don’t drink soft drinks. It leaches calcium from the bones and they give it to children when they are forming theirs. ;(

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        1. You are right on all fronts, Marlene. Cloth bags, space blankets donated to the homeless, B.Y.O plastic straws and keep away from soft drinks. More saggy advice! In bars now if I do have a drink that is not wine, I am going to refuse the straw altogether. I know you need to use then, Marlene, but I certainly don’t have to, so why have I been using them? As long as the glass is clean there is no need.

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