How to Repurpose Old Cloth into Reusable Shopping Bags

How to Repurpose Old Cloth into Reusable Shopping Bags

How to Repurpose Old Cloth into Reusable Shopping Bags


Reusing old cloth to make reusable shopping bags is a great way to repurpose fabrics and reduce waste. Shopping bags made from repurposed materials are environmentally friendly, unique, and fun to make. This guide will walk you through the entire process, from choosing fabrics to sewing your own reusable shopping bags.

Gathering Materials

The first step is gathering the right materials. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Old cloth pieces: Look through old clothes, linens, curtains, etc. Focus on tightly woven cottons and cotton blends, which make durable bags. Silk and wool can work too. Avoid stiff fabrics like denim.

  • Thread: Use regular sewing thread that matches or contrasts with your fabric.

  • Needle: A standard sewing needle will do. Make sure it has a sharp point.

  • Scissors: Dedicate a pair of scissors for cutting fabric only.

  • Ruler: A plastic ruler helps cut straight lines.

  • Pins: Straight pins hold pieces in place temporarily.

  • Sewing machine (optional): A basic machine simplifies sewing. But bags can be hand sewn too.

  • Iron and ironing board (optional): Helpful for pressing seams flat.

Preparing Fabric

Once you’ve gathered materials, it’s time to prep the fabric.

  • Give fabrics a good shake to remove dust and lint.

  • Wash and dry fabrics to preshrink them before sewing. This prevents future bags from losing shape.

  • Iron fabrics to remove wrinkles and creases. This makes cutting easier.

  • Cut pieces to the desired size and shape using scissors and a ruler. Common sizes are 15″ x 15″ or 18″ x 18″ squares for sturdy bags.

  • Pin cut fabric pieces to hold them in place as you sew.

Sewing the Bags

Now comes the fun part – sewing! There are a few techniques to make sturdy bags:

Basic Square Bag

  1. Cut two identical fabric squares for front and back. Place together with right sides facing in.

  2. Sew up both side seams using 1⁄2″ seam allowance. Backstitch at start and end.

  3. Sew across bottom seam. Backstitch again.

  4. Turn bag right side out through one side. Poke corners out fully with a chopstick.

  5. Topstitch 1⁄4” from top edge for a nice finish.

  6. Make straps or attach handles.

Lined Bag

  1. Cut outer fabric pieces twice the finished size plus 1” seam allowance.

  2. Cut lining fabric the same size as outer fabric.

  3. Sew outer pieces together at side seams as above. Do the same with lining pieces, wrong sides together.

  4. Place outer and lining pieces right sides together, nesting seams.

  5. Sew all around top edge with 1⁄2” seam allowance.

  6. Pull outer bag through lining. Stitch top edge again near lining seam.

  7. Push lining neatly into bag and stitch handles/straps.

Adding Handles or Straps

Handles let you carry the bag easily. Here are two options:

  • Fabric straps: Cut rectangular strips 2-3″ wide x 20-24″ long. Fold lengthwise and sew long edges closed. Attach to sides of bag with loops of strap poking out.

  • Canvas handles: 10-12″ handles with clips can be bought and sewn directly to bag sides.

Reinforce attachments by topstitching over handles or straps a few times for durability.

Final Touches

Some decorative touches to make your bag unique:

  • Add pockets or dividers inside using contrasting fabric.

  • Sew on buttons, ribbons, appliques or other embellishments.

  • Make each bag different by mixing prints and solids.

  • Personalize with iron-on vinyl monograms, fabric paint or embroidery.

With scrap fabric and basic sewing skills, you can repurpose cloth into cute and functional reusable shopping bags. Get creative with fabrics and personalize each one!