Thursday, June 4, 2015

How to Make a Tote Bag from Old T-Shirts

Hi, everybody! I'm Paige from Little Nostalgia and I'm back with another easy sewing project. And I define easy as "if you can sew in a straight line, you can do this." Now that the weather is (mostly) cooperating and we're starting to spend a lot of time outside, I like to have a summery tote bag I can grab for snacks, water, sunscreen, etc. I wasn't finding anything at the store that made my heart sing, so I thought, heck, I'll just do it myself. You can grab t-shirts from the back of your closet or hit up a thrift store to find a cute pattern.


  • Two old t-shirts
  • Scissors
  • Rotary cutter
  • Ruler or other straight edge
  • Straight pins
  • Sewing machine
  • Cotton tape
  • Fusible web (optional)
  • Fusible interfacing (optional)


Step 1: 
To make this project extra simple, we're going to make as few cuts as possible. Take your scissors and cut along ONE of the side seams for each shirt, going all the way up to the sleeve. Leave the other side attached.

Step 2: 
After you've cut one of each side seam, lay each shirt flat on your cutting mat and use your straight edge/rotary cutter combination to go horizontally across the shirt. Basically what you're doing is chopping off the sleeves and collar, since those parts don't make a great tote bag. You'll be left with two rectangles of fabric like so:

I used two medium-sized shirts and ended up with rectangles that were about 15" x 32", but depending on how big you want to make the bag and the size of the shirts you use, your measurements will vary.

Step 3: 
My navy shirt was on the flimsy side, so I opted to add some fusible interfacing to the back of it. This part is 100% optional. After that was done, I pinned my layers together with the fronts of the shirts facing each other. You'll want to be looking at the back of the fabric while you sew.

Sew a 1/2" seam around the perimeter of your t-shirt pile, leaving a few inches open at one end so you have enough room to flip everything right side out.

Step 4: 
Fold that big rectangle of fabric in half and decide how you want to close up the left side and the bottom. 

If you have a heavy duty machine and aren't worried about sending so many layers under the needle, rock that straight stitch to close her up! If you're me with a regular ol' machine that's kind of temperamental, let's discuss the virtues of fusible web.

This is a fabulously durable no-sew product that you sandwich between the seams and press with a hot iron. There are multiple varieties out there, but I'm a fan of Dritz Fusible Bonding Web for Heavy Fabrics, which has the extra bonus of being machine washable and dry cleanable.

Step 5: 
Hammer time! I mean, handle time. Grab your cotton tape and decide how long you want those straps to be. Again, this will vary based on your height, the size of your bag, etc., but I cut mine into 26" strips and sewed them to the outside using a straight stitch. Be sure you fold the ends under so the cotton doesn't fray and look scraggly. If you prefer the straps to attach on the inside, you can also do it that way, but make sure you choose a thread that will coordinate with the outside of the bag.

Once the handles are in place, you have a new tote bag! I'm really happy with the size of mine--about 14"x16"--and because it's jersey it's soooooo soft. It's making my other, scratchier tote bag look bad.

This would be a cute way to memorialize a shirt that doesn't fit the kids anymore, or a fun surprise for a sports fan who thought their old jersey was out of commission. Or, you know, you could just make one because you saw a shirt you liked at the Salvation Army thrift store  that wasn't your size. :-)

What do you like to make out of old t-shirts? Have you ever made your own tote bag?

About the Author: 
Paige Ronchetti is an interior decorator and blogger who writes about DIY projects, decor inspiration, and personal style over at Little Nostalgia. When she's not blogging, she's working with local clients through The Room Kit, her budget-friendly interior design business. Her favorite books are Harry Potter. Follow along on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

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