Think Twice Before You Throw That Package in the Trash Bin!
Check out Claudia's creative possibilities before you crowd the landfill :)
Hi, I'm Claudia from Creative Upcycling. I save plastic bags, small and large. I love their bright colors and cheerful fonts. I wash them, dry them and store them in the hopes that inspiration will strike. Here I share one of those inspirations -- an upcycled tote bag.
Make a Simple and Strong Tote from Plastic BagsTo make a simple tote, you need two large plastic bags. I chose 20-lb litter bags because I have a never-ending supply (thanks, kitties) and because I love the colorful image on the front.
The first step is to wash the bags thoroughly. It's easiest if you cut the bags apart first, so that they lie flat like a piece of fabric. You can wash them in the bathtub and then hang them to dry. (Last summer, I hung them outside on a clothesline.) When the bags are dry, trim the bags into rectangles. Size doesn't matter, as long as both rectangles are exactly the same. These rectangles will be the front and back of your tote bag.
Next, lay one of the bags on top of the other, right sides together. Sew them together at the bottom, leaving at least 2 inches on either side of the seam. The extra selvage will make the bag's bottom stronger. On the right side, top-stitch along both sides of the seam. This will help keep the bottom flat.
Put the right sides together, and sew the side seams. This time, you only need to leave an inch on the edges.
To create a flat bottom, fold each corner so that the side seam lines up with the bottom seam. You'll end up with a triangle. Sew across the bottom of the triangle, about 1 1/2" inch from the top. Then snip off the peak.
Turn the bag right-side out. To finish the top edge, fold it over 1-2 inches. (I used scotch tape to hold the edge in place). Sew the edge down. I added another row of top-stitching.
You're almost done! All that's left are the straps. I used the back of one of the litter bags, cutting two strips 3 in. wide and 22 in. long.
Fold over 1 inch of the strip toward the center. Use scotch tape to hold the strip down. Then fold the other edge on top of the first fold and tape it down as well. Then stitch along both edges of the strip, making sure to catch the raw edge in the seam.
Take one of the finished straps and position one end inside the top edge of the bag, 3-4 inches away from the side seam. Tape the strap down and then sew it in place. Reinforce the seam by making a full square, like this. Repeat for the other 3 strap ends. Make sure the strap isn't twisted before you sew the ends down.
Ta da! You've made yourself a fun upcycled tote bag!
A Plastic Bag "Quilt"
But wait, you're saying, all I have are a bunch of small plastic bags -- the kind that hold frozen peas, crackers, and raisins. Can I make a tote bag out of these? Certainly! All you need to do is make a plastic bag "quilt" first.
To make mine, I grabbed some bags from my stash.
First, cut the top and sides off each bag.
Then cut apart the front and back at the bottom. You're left with two pieces of "fabric." The pieces don't need to be the same size, unless you want that kind of design.
Once you've cut apart all your bags, put them on a large flat surface. This is the fun part! Push the rectangles around like puzzle pieces, until you end up with a design you like. Here's mine. I like the bold primary colors and clean lines.
Before you head to your sewing room, take a quick photo of your design. That way, you won't have to remember what goes where. Next, starting with one row, take the first two plastic "swatches" and sew them together. It's easiest if you lay one raw edge on top of the other. When you have two long rows, sew them together (right-sides together). You'll end up with a large "quilted" rectangle like this. It will be the front of my tote.
(You're right, somehow while I was sewing, the popcorn row floated to the bottom.) Next, create another plastic "quilt" the same size for the bag back. Then just follow the steps above for the simple tote. Here's my patchwork tote:
It took about three times as long as to construct as the simple one. But I love the way it looks.
Sewing Tips for Working With Plastic
- Wash and thoroughly dry the bags before you store them. (I keep mine in a cardboard file box.) Otherwise, you'll end up with a sticky, smelly mess.
- Before sewing the tote itself, take leftover plastic pieces and experiment with your sewing machine's tension setting.
- Plastic is stickier than fabric, so it's doesn't move smoothly under the sewing foot. Gently pull the plastic to keep it moving. Start seams about 1-2 inches from the top edge so you have something to grab. Then turn the seam around and finish the seam from the other end.
- It's almost impossible to rip out a seam without damaging the plastic. If you make a mistake, try just trimming off the seam and making the bag a bit smaller.
- Use clear Scotch tape to keep the plastic in place instead of pins.
- Leave your perfectionism outside the sewing room door.
Thanks so much, Claudia, for those awesome upcycling project tutorials! Our future earth will certainly thank you for your creative waste-reduction efforts. Claudia's got tons more upcycling ideas on her blog, Creative Upcycling; one of my favorite posts is Joy of Packaging. You can also find her at her shop and her Facebook page!
This post is part of the Spring Greening Month Series. Find out why I'm hosting this event, and see more Spring Greening Month posts here.