What is it about bags and girls? Can we ever have enough bags? Even the least fashion conscious person like me would jump with joy at the prospect of getting a new bag. And I decided to make one today. A girl has gotta do what a girl has got to do. If you want a bag, go make it yourself.
While all the other types of bags are more than alright for other purposes, for shopping you need a different kind of bag – one which is sturdy but lightweight enough to tuck into the other bags you carry, to be taken out when you want it ; one which will stand on its own when kept some where, with a flat bottom; which you can wash and maintain easily and is still presentable enough to be taken anywhere.
Making this kind of bag is super easy – otherwise, I would not even go there. So here is the pattern – if it could even be called that.
If you are up to a little bit more sewing you can check out this grocery tote bag sewing tutorial with expanding gussets on the sides and a flat bottom – just as easy to sew.
How to sew a Shopping bag
Step 1 Cut Fabric
Main fabric for the shopping bag body: Choose your bag fabric. You can choose any type of fabric for this bag. If it is too thin, you may want to cut two layers and treat as one as I have done. If you have canvas, duck cloth etc you can use a single layer and it will be good enough. Medium thin fabrics are easier to embroider.
The dimension of the Shopping bag
Cut out the fabric as per the pattern given below – ie. 32 inch long and 15 inch wide fabric piece. A bigger fabric piece will yield a bigger shopping bag. Increase the dimensions for a bigger bag. Another dimension I like is 40 inches by 15 inches – this makes an 18 inch long bag.
Cut two of these if you are using a thin fabric like dressmaking cotton etc
Straps / handles for the bag: Cut out two strap pieces of length 30 inches length and 4 inches wide. The strap should be made of tough fabric – it needs to handle all the weight you will carry. You can use interfacing to give strength to the fabric, if it is thin. Or use webbing if you cannot bother to make the straps.
Fasteners: You will also need a magnetic snap set – if you do not have this you may want to use a 2-inch velcro strip to keep the bag top edge closed. Skip this if you want a simpler one and do not bother about closing
Interfacing : If you are doing embroidery you may need a small piece of paper thin interfacing behind your work to give stability and strength and to avoid sagging.
Step 2 Embroidery
Embroidery can add a new dimension to your cloth shopping bag and make it distinct from the bags everyone else is carrying. The fact that you made your bag is distinction enough but embroidery is the extra garnish
To do the work that I have done on the bag, simply draw a circle with a big lid in your kitchen with chalk (or disappearing ink pen).
Draw some small circles to represent flowers. Now add details like petals and leaves and vines all around the circle. If you want symmetry, draw on a paper with more are about placement and copy or copy from a design book
Start the embroidery with the flowers. Use the full 6 strands of the embroidery thread on a needle for the embroidery ( Otherwise you will never finish the work – but if you have the patience for delicate work, go ahead and attempt needle painting which is really exquisite) Each petal is done in a monochromatic colour scheme. Check out the post on colour combinations to see one you prefer to follow.
Step 3 Attach Snaps
Simply fold the fabric by half, the wrong side up. I am using two layers of fabric for the bag because I have thin fabric ( which is why it is showing white and blue; blue is the inside layer)
Now fold top edge to the outside by 2 inches – on both sides. Finger press the fold. This is how much you will fold and stitch the top edge of the bag.It is done for indication.
Open up the fabric; keep it good side up
Take the snap – separate the parts. The projecting part of the snap will be attached to the side which you mean as the front of the bag – where you did embroidery
Mark the center of the fabric 3/4 inch down from the fold line where you finger pressed. Make small cuts on either side of this mark to insert the snap teeth. You also need to keep a small piece of interfacing underneath your fabric where the snap will be placed to make the place stronger ( the same way you interface under buttons).
Make accurate markings for the snaps for either side- they should match for them to close without distortion.
Step 4 Shopping bag Handles/straps
Keep the fabric pieces for the handles right sides together and stitch to make a tube. Now you need to turn this tube right side out
You will need something real sturdy like a nappy pin to turn this tube right side out. I could not find one, so Iused a very sturdy needle and 6 strands of embroidery thread anchored 2-3 times on the short edge to turn the tube.
Move the needle blunt side (eye side) to the front, till you reach the other side. Push and pull and coax till you get the tube right side out. You may wish you never started sewing this shopping bag, but donot lose heart. It will turn all right
Another easy way (on hindsight) would have been to just turn under the side edges and top stitch.
Press and top stitch the handle on either side to make it even sturdier and flat.
Your troubles are not over. Make another one. You need two.
Step 5 Attach the handles
Keep the bag piece wrong side up before you. Fold the top edge 1/4 inch. Keep the handle on the fabric as in the picture below, till the finger pressed fold line. Turn under the top edge along with the handle to the fold line.
You will have to use tacking stitches with your hand sewing needle and thread to keep the handle fixed this way till you sew it in place. Pins would not cut it – they would not hold this thick layers.
Do this for the other side as well. Attach the handles on the other side of the bag also
Sew the top edge.
Step 6 Sew the sides
Stitch the sides of the bag. (Red lines are stitching lines)
To make the flat bottom you want for the shopping bag, take the bottom corner. Measure 1.5 inch ( more for more depth) from the corner, as in the picture. Mark a straight line .
Stitch along. Do this for both corners and you will get the flat-bottomed shopping bag.
Related post: Make an easy Grocery Shopping Bag