Reusable grocery bags : DIY pattern & tutorial

Easy way to make Reusable Grocery Bags with your favourite fabric for shopping - this bag can be carried on your hands while your handbag is on your shoulders.

Tutorial 1 -Easy Grocery bag

grocery bag pattern and tutorial for shopping everything

Tutorial 2 -Grocery bag with a flat bottom

grocery tote bag -reusable

As part of sharing household duties, my husband proposed that he will do the grocery shopping. I didn’t agree – that is my privilege. I love shopping for groceries.

I love walking along the jammed aisles of the supermarket and decide on what I want to buy from all the options available for even the common salt with the deliberation and seriousness of a government official deciding on the many bids before him. Everyone has a weakness!

And with the proposed banning of plastic bags, I have decided to make a reusable fabric grocery bag for myself that I can carry in my hand while my shoulders carry my handbag.

You see, I was using tote bags earlier to buy groceries but carrying two bags on your shoulder, especially when one is overfilled and overloaded is very uncomfortable – have you tried it? It is doubly tacky carrying bags on both shoulders.

So here is my version of the handheld Grocery bag – one you can make in half an hour or less (if you are fast in selecting fabric and cutting which takes a lot of time for me) and for which you need only the bare minimum sewing knowledge to make it yourself.

How to make a hand-held Grocery Bag

Step 1. Grocery Bag Pattern

Cut out the fabric pieces for the grocery bag.

You should choose a sturdy fabric for this bag like canvas, cotton duck – you will be carrying heavy things in it. If you have medium weight fabric choose to use two layers of the same fabric ( and treat it as one as you sew – like you would do with underlining when sewing garments)

18 inch by 15.5 inches for front and back; Side panel - 51 1/2 by 6 inch and 2 handles 12 inches by 3 inches - for making the grocery bag
Cut out 1)18 inch by 15.5 inches for front and back -2 nos; 2)Side panel – 51 1/2 by 6 inch 3)2 handles 12 inches by 3 inches

Step 2. Make the handles

With the 3 inches by 12-inch pieces you have cut out – make two handles – simply fold the side edges to the inside, press together in place and then top stitch. You will get a 1-inch wide bag handle (Here is a post on the different types of Bag handles you can use)

grocery bag sewing -sew the handles first with the 12 inch long pieces

Step 3. Prepare the grocery bag body

Fold the top edge of the two bag body pieces twice to the inside and stitch in place.

You should first fold the top edge 1/2 inch to the inside and then again fold 1/2 inch.

grocery bag sewing tutorial -finish the top edge of the front and back panels

Zigzag/serger stitch the other edges of the pieces to finish them neatly on the inside as well.

make grocery bags pattern

Step 4. Join the handle to the bag

Find the center of the top edge. Mark two inches to either side of this center.

Fold the short edges of the handle to the inside and join it there.

Attach the handles to the grocery bag top edge
Attach the handles to the top edge of the grocery bag

Make x stitches to attach the handles so that they are really secure

Step 5. Prepare the side panel

If you do not have a 51.5 inch long fabric piece which is 6 inches wide, join as many fabric panels as you want to get this dimension.

Fold the short edges ( ends) of this panel 1/2 inch first and then 1 inch. Stitch in place.

Finish the top and bottom and side edges of the long panel by turning to the inside and stitch

Turn the long edges of the piece to the inside (once) 1/4 inch and stitch in place.

sewing grocery bags

Step 6. Join the side panel to one of the bag body pieces

Keep the side panel on top of the side edge of the one of the bag body piece and topstitch in place.

The stitching should be very close to the edge till you reach the end when you will have to slant the stitching slightly(1/4 inch)- see the white line in the picture below.

Top stitch the long panel to the side of the front panel
The side panel is kept along the side of the front panel of the grocery bag – top stitch in place

Now turn the side panel to the back. This is done for easy manipulation of the corners

Turn the panel to the back
Turn the stitched panel to the back partially

Manipulate the corner to make a mitered corner.

Create a mitered corner by manipulating with your hand
Manipulate the corner into a mitered corner

PS: Do not leave the fabric edges unfinished as I have done – zig-zag finish – it shows on the inside : (

Pin the mitered corner in place

Pin this corner in place. 

Start from the other side (left in the picture) and follow the same steps.

Stitch the other sides same way

Stitch in place.

Do the same maneuver for the other corner as well. Pin in place the corner into a mitered corner as earlier 

Now stitch the bottom edge in place, securing the corners as you stitch.

making a grocery bag

Join the other bag body piece to the other side of the side panels the same way.

You are finished with your Grocery Bag sewing.

DIY grocery bag

Now onto shopping.

grocery bag pattern

How to make the Grocery Bag with a flat bottom

reusable grocery tote bag

In the movie Aquaman there is this scene where the king of Atlantis decides to throw back all the plastic waste (and other pollutants) deposited in the ocean bed back at earth as weapons. So poignant and well deserving. Oceans must have had enough in real life too and this scenario may happen sooner than later. But even if we are aware of the looming problem, are we willing to do enough to stop the plastic menace? Can you do something concrete to curb the ever increasing plastic usage? (Ref 1)

The first thing that should go from every home is the one-time-use plastic bags we carry from shopping malls and super markets. They sure do accumulate and are a real clogging thing on the environment. Here is a tutorial to make a Grocery shopping tote bag that is roomy enough to carry a lot of things but still look good enough to carry on your shoulders as you go shopping. The picture of the bag above has 5 kg of rice, 2 kg of flour, and various other packets stuffed inside and still has room for some more. So you know how much it will carry!

Step 1. Cut out the Fabric pieces for the bag

Follow the picture below to cut the pieces for the bag. You need to choose a thick densely made fabric for this. Canvas works best. Check out this post for a list of thick and heavyweight fabrics.

for grocery tote bag sewing tutorial you need 2 front and back pieces, one bottom piece and 2 side gussets and 2 handles
Cut out front and back pieces, one bottom piece and 2 side gussets and 2 handles

2 pieces of Bag body measuring 12 1/2 inch width on one side and 17 inch on the other. The bag body length is to be 17 inches.

2 pieces of gusset pieces for the sides 17 inches long and 5 inch width

1 piece as bag bottom 12 1/2 inch long and 5 inch width.

2 pieces for the bag handles 25 inches long and 5 inches width.

Step 2. Sew the Bag bottom in between the bag body pieces

Keep one of the bag body piece right side up. Keep the bag bottom piece right side down- along the 12 1/2 inch edge. Join together with a 1/4 inch seam allowance.

grocery tote bag sewing tutorial- sew the bottom piece in between the front and back pieces
Sew the bottom piece in between the front and back pieces

Keep the other bag body piece and the above joined piece together (right sides together) and stitch together at the 12 1/2 inch edge.

sew the bottom fabric between the front and back pieces

Step 3. Sew the side gussets

reusuable tote bag for shopping - sew the gussets between the front and back pieces at the sides
Sew the gussets between the front and back pieces at the sides

You have to sew the three sides of the gusset to the bag body. Keep one of the side gusset piece along the sides and stitch.

You should not stitch the whole gusset in one go – when you reach the corners stop 1/4 inch from the edge.Then start again.

reusuable grocery tote bag DIY tutorial - when you are sewing the gussets take care when you reach the corner

This will create neat corners. Do this for the other side as well.

Do not forget to back stitch and anchor thread every where you stop. The picture below shows how the gusset looks after it is stitched.

grocery tote bag tutorial - the gusset is sewn between the front and back pieces

The bag body will look like this now.

Step 4. Finish the edges inside

There is no lining inside this bag so you will need to finish the fabric edges of the seam allowances inside now. You need to do this for the bag to look neat inside, as it does outside.

You will have to either use a serger or use the zigzag stitch in your sewing machine to finish the fabric edges inside. It will also strength the seam.

You may also want to make another stitch along the seam to double strength the seam if you mean to carry things like the 5 kg rice I have

Step 5. Make the Bag handle

Take the handle fabric. Fold the 2 long edges to the middle.

grocery tote bag handles - fold the side edges to the inside

Fold again by the middle – you will get a folded fabric which measures 1 1/4 inch.

diy tote bag for groceries - make the handle but folding the fabric strip edges to the inside - top stitch in place

Stitch the edges – stitch along both the edges.Finish the short edges with zigzag stitch.


Step 6. Sew the top edge and Attach the bag handles

Mark to keep the bag handles 6 inches apart by the middle of the top edge.

grocery tote bag

Fold the bag top edge twice to the inside and keep the bag handle to the inside of this edge and stitch in place.

Fold the edge to the inside with the handles
Stitch the handles

Make an x stitch to really strongly attach the bag handle.

Other than making this tote bag and carry it every where, What simple things can you do today  to reduce the plastic problem ?

Take drinking water in a stainless steel bottle, every where you go – Refuse to succumb to buying water in plastic bottles, unless you absolutely have to. Bottled water is one of the number one plastic pollutants. When you read that ” It takes 450 years for a single use plastic  water bottle to break down” it makes sense.(Ref 2)  

Use old newspaper to wrap waste.

Get your ice creams in a cone, not the plastic cup.

Carry your own mugs to office to get coffee. The paper cups you use still have a plastic lining inside and is just as bad. 

Buy more stainless steel containers and store food in them rather than in plastic containers.

If ordering food home through food delivery apps or carry takeaways insist on “No plastic containers”; I would have said ‘make food at home’ but that is easier said than done.

Ref 1 : I read that Plastic is dangerous for earth here and here

Related posts: 30 different types of bags ; Make a shopping bag

sew shopping bag


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Author: Sarina Tariq

Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.

16 thoughts on “Reusable grocery bags : DIY pattern & tutorial”

  1. The idea of drafting a perfect bodice pattern was so exciting until I saw the size ranges. Would you be able to tell me how to increase or add to your blog, for 56″ bust! Yes, I know – but I bet there are hundreds of folks who are like me with an ample top and need help altering or better yet make my own basic bodice top. I have been trying for 2 yrs to do it – and wasted a total of 26 yds of fabric trying. Please help!!! And thank you …

    • Hi Kris
      Is it the armhole measurement that you are concerned about. Can you checkout these posts Basic bodice pattern ; Armhole measurement. Hope that you are able to draft a good one from these measurements. You can use an old bedsheet or something for making a muslin before wasting new fabric.

  2. I have been sewing for over 50 years. I am also a writer. I can understand why Sadie left her reply. I was thinking about novices when I read your instructions. Your instructions are not as clear as they could be for them. Also, your instructions are a wee bit wordy. Is this what Sadie meant? But there are other things to consider:

    In your instructions you begin by saying: Step 1 Grocery Bag Pattern—–

    Cut out the fabric pieces for the grocery bag.

    Then you start talking about the type of fabric one should use——

    You should choose a sturdy fabric for this bag like canvas, cotton duck – you will be carrying heavy things in it. If you have medium weight fabric choose to use two layers of the same fabric ( and treat it as one as you sew – like you would do with underlining when sewing garments).

    The above information should be at the very beginning of your instructions as suggestions to the type of fabric one can but. That information should not be part of your instructions. Perhaps this is one of things that concerned Sadie.

    Usually, when one shares instructions, he/she starts by listing or showing photos of all the items needed for the project. Then he/she shows a photo of all the pieces to the pattern.

    If you do consider revising how you state the instructions for the novices, the best thing to do is look at how other people have written their instructions.

    I hope this helps.

    Lastly, your photos are very crisp and clear. That is always helpful for a novice. Well done!

    • Hi Emma
      Thanks for taking the time to write this. When I read what I have written I do not get the mistakes, however many times I read it. It is only when others point out that I get it. I will read the post again and make the necessary changes so that even a novice can make it easily. ACtually it is a very simple construction which is why I wrote it as easy for novice sewists : )

  3. Hi Sadie,
    I am a male newbie to sewing and I found your instructions super easy.
    I have been sewing for about 6 months and find it relaxing espicially when listening to smooth jazz or classical music.
    Keep up the good work.

  4. Sarina, your so kind as usual! Thank you for the gift of a shopping bag pattern. Instructions were easy and straightforward. Not sure how you can simplify it further. People can also buy one. Shopping bags are not expensive and in some cases, free. This is a cute bag.

    Keep up the good work. Learning a lot about making things 🙂

    • All of it. The instructions are given in a wah that suggests that we are pros. It needs more breaking down. Bag is cute tho

    • hi Sandy
      And here I was thinking it is the easiest thing I have ever made : ) The bag consists of two rectangle pieces joined together with a middle panel – no lining, no turning inside out, no metal parts – just top stitch the panel in place joining the whole thing – the only difficult part is the mitered corner – so I thought!.
      but I guess for a beginner—–

    • Hi Sarina,
      It might be a beginner sewist who doesn’t know what some of the terms are. I actually just jotted a few notes on a piece of paper and was very satisfied!
      I had just told me mom this afternoon I wanted toi make a good looking bag for when I travel as I have celiac disease and travel with my own back up food. I’m tired of looking dumb with a paper sack! 😀 I want to make it out of some nice Pendleton wool so I look extra swanky and you saved me from figuring it all out! Thanks!

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