Recycled Grocery Totes

Ready to go green? Then say goodbye to your old grocery bags by melting them into something cute. After all, plastic is the new plastic, right?

Skill Level: Beginner to Intermediate

* plastic grocery bags
* Parchment Paper
* Fabric for handles and decor (optional)
* Iron

We’ll be fusing layers of old grocery bags together to create a stronger “fabric” for our new bags. Let’s get started!

1. Gather your mound of old grocery bags: Try and use a better quality of plastic bags. They should result in a stronger finished “fabric”, with less holes, and a brighter white color:

I chose to only use the white portion of my bags. I have seen many versions which include the store logos and look pretty cool. I referenced this and this when learning to fuse plastic. Some VERY impressive ideas in there. A dress? LOVE it.
Okay, so…..

Cut the bottom, top and sides off of your bag.

Lay the long rectangular sheet flat. Repeat the process with 8 bags and lay them all on top of each other. Then sandwich them between two pieces of parchment paper:

This is the tricky part, so I won’t sugar coat it. It took five tries before I got this right and was very ready to GIVE UP. But I tried it one more time and it worked!
You need to play with your iron settings and the number of plastic layers you have. I found that the “cotton” setting on my iron and 8 layers of Target bags were the perfect balance (for me). Your iron will react differently, so start by ironing small portions of your bag layers to see what it does. It will get little wrinkles as it melts together. But it shouldn’t shrink and shrivel up too bad. If that happens, your iron is too hot.

I found that the best way is to start at the bottom and press the iron up, to get any air bubbles out. Keep your iron moving constantly around on the plastic. Periodically check under the parchment paper to see if it’s working. When the front side looks fused, flip the sandwich over and repeat the process on the other side. Whichever side you want to be the “right” side of you fabric, you should iron last. That will result in a smoother finish (while the underside will be more wrinkled)

When you’re all done, it should look like this, a large sheet of plastic:

Continue the process so that you have sheets of this new “fabric” to work with. I made 6 sheets for my 4 bags (which means almost 50 Target bags!)

2. Cut out your bag pieces. Take your long sheet and fold it in half to see how much bag you can get out of it. You can make your bags as small or large as you like.

With my sheets of “fabric” and judging how many bags I wanted to make, I chose these dimensions for my bag.
You will need:
(2) front and back pieces (11×11)
(3) side and bottom pieces (11×5)
(2) handle pieces (21×2)
(picture shows some finished elements that will be explained in steps below)

Cut out your bag pieces using a rotary cutter, cutting mat, and ruler.

3. Personalize your bag with words. Using your computer (or drawing by hand), print off the letters you want to put on your bag. If you own a scrapbooking machine, this would make the process much faster.

Trace the letters onto your fabric with a marker. If your fabric is lightweight, double-layer it or add interfacing to the back to give it more strength. I double-layered mine. Trace the letters backwards, so that there are no leftover pen marks when you flip them over:

Cut out the letters and sew them to the front of your bag. Start with the middle letter so that your word is evenly spaced on your bag:

I chose to use a contrasting blue thread:

Continue sewing all the letters to the front of your bag:

4. Sew your Straps.
Adding fabric to the straps is optional. I like the splash of color. So,cut two fabric strips slightly larger than the straps (makes it easier to sew them together, without having to be as precise).

Sew the plastic straps and the fabric together, on the outside of the fabric. You won’t be turning anything inside out with this project.

Then using a contrasting thread, serge off the edges of your straps.
* This is an optional step. If you don’t have a serger, just trim the edges of your straps OR zigzag the edges to keep the green fabric from fraying.
* Squeeze a dab of Fray Check on the ends of your serged edges to keep them from unraveling. I was out of Fray Check, so I just left the edges as-is. Over time though, they will slowly unravel at the ends.

To make your handles stronger and easier to hold, fold the middle portion in-half and sew it down:

Decide where you’d like the straps on your bag and pin them down:

Sew around your straps, in a square pattern:

Then sew an “X” across each strap, to reinforce the attachment:

It should look something like this:

5. Sew your bag together.
Serge JUST the tops of your Front, Back, and two side pieces. * If you don’t have a serger, leave them plain or do a zigzag stitch.

Then, starting with your Front and bottom pieces sew the two together, right on the outside of the bag:

Do the same with the Back and the bottom piece:

Serge off both seams on the outside of the bag. * if you don’t have a serger, leave it plain or do a zigzag stitch.

This part is slightly tricky. Sew one of the side pieces to the Front of your bag. Start from the top, go down..

…and when you get to the bottom portion, lift your presser foot and shift the bag a bit so it continues to sew all the way around….

….and then continue it up the Back side of the bag too:

Do the same with the other side of the bag. And serge off the edges. * if you don’t have a serger, leave it plain or do a zigzag stitch.

And…. you’re done!

If you’re up for more, try a medley of variations. One for each food group:

This fits a one Gallon Milk jug perfectly. Enjoy!

Source: Dana Made It


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