January 25, 2011

Ten minute no-sew recycled t-shirt bag!

Tutorial time!  I got a gig teaching a recycled t-shirt project at the library a few months ago, with a request for a recycled tee bag – the only bags I’d made from tees in the past had required sturdy sewing, and I didn’t want hand-sewing to be the only thing holding the bottom closed in a class version of the bags, so I started brainstorming about some kind of hand-sewing-friendly or no-sew bag idea…. and here’s what I came up with!

No-Sew T-shirt Bags! No-Sew T-shirt Bags!

The simplest version of these bags is great for smaller tees, or the more light-weight kind of girl-tees – just turn the bottom of the shirt into a drawstring and tie it closed!  As you can see, even with a not huge tee, this will still leave a significant hole in the bottom of your bag, but for purposes like grocery shopping, this size hole shouldn’t really matter…

No-Sew T-shirt Bags!

But to make smaller holes, just make more than one of them!  Here’s a bag bottom with 2 holes:

No-Sew T-shirt Bags!

And now for the actual tutorial – for this one, with the step-by-step, I will be making the bottom with 3 holes.  So, start with a t-shirt that you don’t wear anymore, or a fun one you found at a thrift store.  Besides a tee, you’ll also need scissors and a safety pin.  That’s it!

No-Sew T-shirt Bags!

Cut the sleeves off, but try to make a somewhat straight line, and go in a bit from the seam – these lines will be the sides of your straps:

No-Sew T-shirt Bags!

Cut some strips from those sleeve pieces – about half an inch wide, the length of one time around a sleeve is good, and as many strips as the number of holes you’ll be making in your bag bottom. (I’ve made bags with 1, 2, and 3 holes, but I haven’t tried more than that.)  Pull the ends of the strips to stretch them out and make them curl in:

No-Sew T-shirt Bags!

Cut the neck out to become your bag’s opening – the way you cut this can depend on your tee’s picture (if there is a picture), and also the shape you want your bag.  Just make sure you cut a big enough opening to fit things through, for a functional bag:

No-Sew T-shirt Bags!

You could make it rounded, V-shaped, or squared like this one:

No-Sew T-shirt Bags!

Now the top/straps part is done, time for the bottom.  Snip slits in the hem part of the tee bottom – as many slits as you want holes.  3 slits, below, is for 3 holes, for a single hole, like the yellow one at the top, just cut one slit, and for 2 holes, snip 2 slits.  The slits should be equally spaced from each other, but the spacing doesn’t need to be exact – I just eyeballed my slit placement, no measuring:

No-Sew T-shirt Bags!

Now stick a safety pin through the end of one of those strips you made, and start running it through the hem, through one of the slits:

No-Sew T-shirt Bags!

Run it through to the next slit (or all the way around and back to the beginning, if you’re making a single hole) and pull the cord so it’s centered-ish:

No-Sew T-shirt Bags!

Tie the hole closed as tightly as you can, and tie a tight knot:

No-Sew T-shirt Bags!

Now repeat those steps for the remaining sections, one slit to the next, tie tightly.  This is after the second hole is closed:

No-Sew T-shirt Bags!

For an ultra sturdy bag bottom, tie one cord strand from one hole together with one strand from the hole next to it, tightly, and repeat for each strand (as many of these knots as the number of holes you have; ignore this step if you’re making a single hole), so that the holes are all tied to each other.

No-Sew T-shirt Bags!

Now, you can choose whether you want the t-shirt cord ties hanging down at the bottom, or hidden on the inside.  To hide them inside, bring them through the center, then tie bows on the inside so they don’t fall back through.  Or, tie bows on the outside if you prefer (or you could just cut the cords short and skip the bows):

No-Sew T-shirt Bags!

My finished Sonic bag!

No-Sew T-shirt Bags!

The 1-hole version of this project takes more like 5 minutes, but the more holes you have, the longer it takes (by a few minutes) – it’s my favorite kind of project: 100% recycled materials (in this case, just the tee and nothing else!), minimal tools, quick+easy, and a super useful finished product!

No-Sew T-shirt Bags!

I made these for everyone in my family as extra bonus xmas gifts – my mom just told me she’s been using hers all the time and they are stronger than she would have expected.  I even used my family’s bags to wrap their gifts in, to save on paper wrapping waste and because it looked fun!

No-Sew T-shirt Bags!

I failed to show you this idea before the holidays, but you can always save it away in your memory (or bookmarks) for your next gift-giving occasion.  I hope you love this project as much as I do!  Now go and make lots of them so you’ll never be without a reusable shopping bag again!

No-Sew T-shirt Bags!

Filed under: general crafts,gifts,quick project,tutorials — leethal @ 3:56 pm
  • Absolutely love this! Thanks for sharing!

  • alaina

    my daughter loves them

  • ber

    I found it works best to cut slits alnong the bottom and tie it like a fleece blanket. i didnt liked the round bottom so i did that

  • Craftgirl233546

    I think this was a great idea. I used it to make an old shirt useful again. I found it hard to use the safety pin and taped one end of the strip to a pencil and pushed it through. This was great idea!

  • ncgrl231us@yahoo.com

    I love this idea. I stumbled on this when I was looking for different directions on how to make tshirt scarves. Thank you for sharing!

  • Krista

    Every time I’m in Seattle I forget about that- but I think it’d be better to just get used to carrying one here up north… Honestly, these bags look so cute I’d probably just carry them around instead of a purse and have it with me at the grocery store already…

  • Jade West

    This was confusing for me but it worked out in the end and i love it!

  • Claire

    Thank you very much for this awesome idea.
    I’ve translated it in French on my blog

    I love my new bag.

  • Kynk

    I just want to say how excited I am to see this! I can’t wait to try it out! I’m a crochet person, and am getting into sewing. I have recently got int recycle/upcycle/save the earth typoe stuff and want to start bring my own grocery bags. This idea is super super awesome!! Thank you!

  • Could you possibly make a video on this? I’m confused about how you’re supposed to thread the strip through the seam. Thank you. :)

  • Love the idea! Thank you for sharing. :)

  • cceezzaarr

    wow i will defo try that

    Thanks !!

  • katieoct30

    Awesome idea! Just tried it out with a neon green shirt and it turned out really well!

  • Traci Burns

    And they are washable!!

  • Amanda Sandalwood

    This is awesome! A great idea that I’m going to try :)

  • Glenda

    Saw another version of this where you cut strips on the bottom and knot them to each other (front of shirt to back) to seal the bottom of the bag. The picture had a long fringe at the bottom but that would cut into space available. You stretch the pieces before knotting.

  • Tara

    Yeah…think again before “giving it to someone in need”. Unless you hand the shirt to someone, you have no idea where it ended up. 80% of clothing donations end up at textile recycling companies and 30% of those clothing items recycled end up as industrial cloth. So this is a MUCH better alternative where someone else doesn’t profit. Do a little research and know where your stuff is going.


  • toni

    this is a great idea! I have a large mens t shirt with wome great words printed on it and have been wondering what to do with it …. I’m going to make this right now…thanks!

  • angie

    smart idea, clever upcycling

  • Gale Martin

    I luv this blog!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Extremely helpful.

  • Rhonda

    This is wonderful. We are doing a Maker Month at my library and this is perfect for our t-shirt hack program.

  • hazelvenom

    you all have valid points. Giving to those in need is a good idea, if the person hadn’t thought of that, and is wanting to, there is nothing wrong with providing that option to people, but people that decide to keep their shirts as you have and recycle them in this fashion, there is nothing wrong with that either. I have a few shirts, I bought and own and have a right to do with what i want. I donate often, but there are shirts that I am selfish with and I still love, but cannot wear, and I figure, what a great way to save money, and keep what i love. you both have valid points, but should be less offensive in stating your opinions to each other.

  • hazelvenom88

    you could always try making multiple holes on the bottoms so that they are smaller holes.

  • Nemo

    Hi! I just wanted to tell you that it works with four holes as well :D I just tied them really really tight and pulled them even more together with some more scrap fabric :)

  • Craftisgraftis

    It’s a German word for above, over, or across. It’s mostly used now-a-days to describe something as “very/really (whatever)”. In this case, uber creative is meaning very, or really creative. Hope that helps. :)


  • Ozzie

    Thank you so much for your very creative idea. I want to make these and donate them to teens/children/moms at the homeless shelter. Heading to Goodwill after I run out of t’s in my closet!! The little girls will like for their toys and treasures in a small t-shirt too! I was looking for no-sew bags and this is perfect and great for the environment -using old T-shirts and not using plastic!! If you have more ideas, please share. Many thanks.

  • Shana Robbins

    But then it’s not washable. :/

  • Aria1011Mongumery

    I love the idea.Able to help me with my middle school idea,simple and fast thanks for the idea.

  • aguila

    I really love…thanks for this beautiful idea…lovely…

  • Haylie

    This is a great idea!! I might give one to my brother with his college logo on it!! Have to try.

  • sakshi

    I just made ds and my husband loved d idea although hez got saddy on losing his old tshirt..thank u for d inspiration!!

  • MyMineDoesn’tWorkThatWay

    Can you make to bag inside out, so that the strings will naturally be on the inside?

  • Saba Ahmad

    i would like to say FANTASTIC

  • Erin

    Just did it, didn’t take longer than 3 minutes, I showed it to my mom, she was so confused! She was like “where did you get that?” and I told her I just made and she didn’t understand that I didn’t sew it, haha awsome!

  • interplaycouture

    Awesome. This is real creative.

  • michelle

    wow that’s perfect! i have those t-shirts i don’t really use, but they are pretty and i kinda like them, so this idea is perfect, it looks so nice. thanks!

  • ashley

    very excited about trying this! we need a easy peasy roomy tote for our frequent trips to the library. i home school my daughter so this is something we can actually do together! a cool art project and great way to teach her about reusing! ty ty ty xoxo

  • Debra

    Demoing your bags at the Occoquan Arts and Crafts Show this weekend and selling to benefit our Little Free Library. Thanks! Will be giving you credit and have a link to this page on my info cards. Best! Debra The Preservation Statiion. 204 Union Street Occoquan VA.

  • I totally love this DIY idea and that I don’t need to sew anything! This will be so helpful for us in CA with the new ban on bags.

  • paw

    I’M using it for my homework and it will look nice

  • lansing1964

    awesome idea I cant wait to try it many thanks

  • margarita

    How much did you charge for a bag? I think our Scouts could do this as a fundraiser too!

  • Peggy McMahan

    I’m gathering ideas for my crafty hands to make for gift giving. I love the “use it as gift wrap idea.” This is definitely on the ‘must do’ list. Thanks!

  • Cansa Anne

    Very cool it looks, the same I have also done so. At the moment I tried the simplest but much less nice http://www.open-youweb.com/how-to-make-at-shirt-bag/ see how this will come out again.

  • kobold koboldowski

    It’s akologic and it don’t need a lot of tine i love it

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