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How to Make Reusable Bags

| 3/31/2011 4:32:11 PM

Make Your Own Grocery SackWith spring upon us, I find myself anticipating something I’ve missed in the winter months: the outdoor farmers market. Who doesn’t love a leisurely walk through the booths, where one can smell and sample freshly baked goods or feel the quality of crisp vegetables? With that in mind, I have a summer resolution: to show up to the market with chic, handmade style. I have promised myself to learn how to make reusable bags.

While you can always purchase reusable bags, it makes more sense to recycle them from items that are destined for the recycle bin anyway. Especially taking into consideration the recent study that claims plastic bags may be more earth-friendly than cloth or paper because it takes less energy to process plastic, we should recycle our already-used material to make cute and handy totes.

My research has led me to what may well be the most adorable bag on the ’net: a recycled grocery tote designed by Dana Willard. In Willard’s blog, she outlines the steps necessary to make one. Mind you, it looks rather complicated ─ you have to melt plastic sacks together with an iron and subsequently sew together the resulting “fabric” ─ but the final product is totally worth it. Willard’s reusable bags are functional, fashionable, waterproof and easy to clean with your favorite anti-bacterial agent.

Why relegate yourself to carrying bags when you could walk around with a sophistocated basket? If you’re an avid newspaper reader (or, OK, even if you’re not), it’s hard not to be impressed with Jeffery Rudell’s idea to make a basket out of old newspapers. He weaves strips of the New York Times together to make a durable basket. Rudell’s finished product doesn’t boast handles, but they would be easy to fashion from additional newspaper strips; just make sure you reinforce them with some strategic sewing. Double the life of the basket by spraying some finish on it and perhaps lining the interior with plastic or cloth.

I’ll admit that both the recycled grocery tote and the newspaper basket will take some time, but this no-sew plan to make a T-shirt bag should be a snap! Have some duct tape, scissors, and staples handy ─ along with a worn-out or unwanted t-shirt. Within minutes, you’ll find yourself with an enviable, market-ready tote.

Of course, going to the farmers market or your local co-op isn’t about having the best sack, it’s about getting the highest quality food. With that in mind, though, I want the caliber of the vessel that holds my groceries to be equal to that of the groceries themselves. With a little time and creativity, it’s preferable and possible!

Maxie Coale
4/6/2011 2:07:29 AM

I've been using reusable bags for years already. It costs really cheap and is definitely better than using plastic. For those certified green greenies, this is a great resource because nothing says sustainable living more than creating your own reusable bag. :)

4/5/2011 3:46:06 AM

Here's another quick way to make a tote bag; and it even has built in handles. Start with a sleeveless mens undershirt (a.k.a tank top or muscle shirt). Turn the shirt inside out and stitch back and forth across the bottom until you have 3 or 4 rows of stitching. Neatness doesn't count, but strength does. As long as you don't try to carry 10 or 20 items of canned or jarred goods, the "handles" should survive without reinforcement. If you get something too heavy for the handles, it's more than likely too heavy for the bag itself. This bag would even be better if it were made of hemp, as the fabric is stronger than cotton.

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