Learn How to Make Simple, Reusable Market Bags

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Washable, Reusable, DIY Bags!

DIY Bags

I use reusable bags whenever I can to save on plastic. I bring my own to grocery stores and most anywhere else that I shop.

Sometimes reusable bags aren’t washable and they get soiled from things like meat juice or spilled milk. Solution: It’s actually very simple to make your own that can be washed.

There are many ways you can make these – with or without a sewing machine!

Basic Materials Needed

I have to admit, I have a cheat method. I go to yard sales, thrift shops, and even the college free store to pick up old tank tops. Yes, that’s my secret. They have pre-made handles and can be stitched or tied together on the bottom very easily. They are machine washable and durable. Look for those that are not too worn and still have some life in them. Cotton is the best choice since it can be washed. Also look for wide straps. Those little spaghetti straps might look cute when you wear them, but they won’t hold up to a gallon of milk, which often weighs 8 pounds!

Process number one (Sewing Machine Needed)

Step 1

Turn your tank top inside out. Optional: Insert pins along the line where your seam will be.

DIY Bags 1

Step 2

Stitch a zigzag along the bottom edge, then another straight seam above that. The zigzag will keep the bottom from fraying and will help keep the other seam together.

DIY Bags 2

Step 3

Cut off any excess material if needed. (The tank top used for the picture was a little long, so the stitching needed to be a few inches up from the bottom.)

DIY Bags 3

Step 4

Stitch across bottom corners with a zigzag stitch to reinforce.

DIY Bags 4

Step 5

Turn right side out and enjoy.

DIY Bags 5

Process number two (No-Sew Method)

  1. You can still make a sturdy market bag even without a sewing machine!
  2. Turn your tank top inside out like in the previous method. Then carefully cut the bottom into 3 inch strips that are 1 inch wide.
  3. Tie the back strips to the front ones. This is the same method you use for no-sew tie blankets.
  4. Stop with that row if the bottom is tight. If there are gaps, tie the strips to the next line over, like you would do for braiding. The second tie set will ensure that there are no holes for things to fall through.
  5. Turn right side out and enjoy.

Cute Smaller Bags

You can follow the same process and make cute smaller bags using children’s skirts. I’ve found cute denim shirks, zebra print ruffled skirts, and flowered full skirts. They usually have a lining, so sew (or tie) the liner together and leave the top skirt layer alone. If there is no liner, stitch the bottom of the skirt together. To finish, add webbing or thick ribbon for the handle (I cut apart old web belts for this).

Caring for Your DIY Market Bags

Caring for these bags is simple – toss them in the washer with the rest of your clothes. Dry in the drier or hang outside on the clothes line. Once dry, keep the market bags in your vehicle so they’re ready for your next shopping trip.

Have you made your own market bags? What sort of method or materials did you use? Please share below!


About Debra Maslowski

Debra is a master gardener, a certified herbalist, a natural living instructor, and more. She taught Matt and Betsy how to make soap so they decided to bring her on as a staff writer! Debra recently started an organic herb farm in the mountains of Western North Carolina. You can even purchase her handmade products on Amazon!

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  1. Vicki says

    I’ve been weaving my own bags, using up my stash of acrylic yarns, but this is an easy way to not only make up new bags, but recycle old clothes at the same time. Wonderful! Plus, I have a couple of bags from the 80’s, and am always finding odd bags around the house and repurposing them for shopping. (A cool aside: In this small town, the local grocery store gives you a .05 cent credit for every bag you bring and use; the clerks let me know when I forget my bag!) One more hint to remember to use your bags: after unloading, put the empty bags on the door knob; it’s much easier to grab them on the way out. Then I throw them on the passenger side floor, so easy to grab at the store.

    Again, thanks for the great idea about tank tops. Love it!

    • Debra Maslowski says

      Thanks Vicki! I have such a hard time remembering to take them back out to the car. Now, with them on the door knob, I’ll be remembering them for sure! And yes, some stores do give a discount, or like Aldi, for example, they charge you .05 per bag. If you buy a lot of groceries, this can really add up!

  2. Ivana Grace says

    Out here in the lovely city of Bellingham, WA, distribution of plastic bags was BANNED several years ago, so we have had to go ‘cold turkey’ with alternatives…cloth, paper, and ‘carrying your own stuff in your hands’ can be quite a challenge, but breaking the plastic ‘habit’ is worth a little inconvenience until we remember to pack those spare bags as we leave the house/car! I’m kinda proud of being a ‘bag-lady’!

  3. suzanne says

    I do something I’ve heard called a French seam. I leave the tank top right side out & sew a straight seam across the bottom, about a half inch from the edge. Then I turn the bag inside out & sew another seam about 3/4″ from the bottom, then turn it right side out. Now i have a completely finished bottom on the bag.
    I like picking up a really cute tank tops–like batiks –and doing them this way. Cute little tanks on clearance or at the thrift stores make great bags for kids too. They can also make a nice gift for someone trying to break the plastic bag habit.