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
  • Lisapfoust

    OMG, I love this!! Will spend my weekend trying it out!

  • Prodriguez007

    Thank you so much. I just made one from my favorite vacation shirt. It’s already being used. :)

  • I make bags with old umbrellas. Just remove ll the metal strings

  • Yousew2

    SEW cool! I have done this many times and teach it my youth classes – they too carry everything!


    please help me i cannot do

  • Amburrp91

    This is really cool. I’vealwys wanted to make a bag, but don’t have any skills in sewing. These bags are easy to make, quickly! Thanks for the tutorial.

  • becca

    YES!! already excited to start going through old clothes

  • Guggaduse

    but when your daughter needs a new bag and you don’t have the money to buy one, making one with items you already had is a terrific option :)

  • Nacerabouh

     It looks beautiful! thank you so much :)

  • erin

    this is really great, plus you can use the sleeves as really simple headbands, if you trim them a little and/or decorate them!

  • Leah Smith

    this is soooooo cool.

  • Rosie

    this is like the best idea i have seen in the longest time! i have at least 2 garbage bags full of t-shirts that don’t fit me anymore that I am going to transform into bags!!!!

  • This a wonderful idea – especially for those little t shirts that my niece wore when she was a baby and my sister won’t part with.  Thank you!

  • Christy Richard

    Very cool. I so cant wait for this. I bought my boyfriend a nice tshirt he loved for his bday. he wore it that night and it accidentally got ripped at the sleeve. But it cannot be fixed. Only made into a muscle shirt. He does NOT wear those. So this is absolutely perfect. Better than tossing the shirt in the garbage. I also have a Twilight T-shirt that got messed up. I dont wanna toss it out, but I could use this idea. Thanks so much for sharing. Awesome.

  • Ms. Alice

    totally going to try this with some of my old school shirts i dont wear anymore

  • Mawcawn

    cute idea!

  • Hailey

    Tried it…. nailed it(:

  • Wendi Glazier

    Love it it’s a great way to keep some of those tee shirts that you just don’t want to get rid of because you liked them so much but at the same time you don’t wear it I plan on making these soon.  Thanks

  • Autumn9908

    Haha i just made one, and I wanna make more but all i get are hand me downs…TO THE THRIFT SHOPPE!!

  • Kmathews3719

    I saw this and just had to try. I think the only mistake is that I used one of my sons shirts, im going to try again with one of mine. LOVE THIS, and I will be defiantly using these as gifts. :D

  • Smiles

    It also works great with shirts with it non-removable pit stains. (sounds gross, I know) But you cut out that part and get a great bag from a shirt that most people would no longer want to wear

  • Bnmthomas5

    My thoughts exactly for the upcoming school year.  Great lesson on going green and it’s no-sew!  Love it

  • Silva Resman

    I like what you do and I like your vivid photos!

  • Too Good …..  thanks

  • Marilyninmaine

    I love this idea.  I sewed the bottoms and sewed the cutoff sleeves into a smaLL drawstring BAG to put the beg bag into.

  • Margeaux_ribit

    This is so creative!  Love it!  I’m an old t-shirt re-user too. I can’t help but fall in love with my t-shirts.  Thanks so much for the idea.

  • heather

    sp cool i love my new bag

  • Heather

    think im going to make a few more

  • Brittany_hammond11

    You could always line the inside of the bag with duct tape to close the holes up. Then blow dry the tape to make sure it stays in place. :)

  • Alamorosa36

    wow amazing

  • Shirleycrossing

    I made this from a t-shirt my boyfriend was going to throw out (it had a big rip in the arm pit, plus pit stains).  He was so impressed when he saw the bag, and wants me to show his mom how to do it!  

    I used the sleeves to make tee-shirt yarn which I made into a headband.  Love old t-shirts!!!

  • Memethewonderdog

     I am very interested in the idea of making those stupid plastic shopping bags illegal ( damned oil companies). Would you be able to find the legislation language that was used in that “bill”? I may like to leave this legislation as my legacy to my fellow Pennsylvanians in the USA. I have metastatic breast cancer and my brain tumors are getting worse. If I could get a movement of recycling and show people that one person can make a difference it would make me feel like I did something for the greater good!  You can contact me at memethewonderdog@yahoo.com
     Thank you so much Alex, I hope you get this!

  • today and always

    OMG!!!!!!!!! i LOVE this just did it along with it and it made a perfect bag.  then i did it with four holes and that works even better!!!!! <3

  • Yvonne Y.

    I love these bags, too! The one I am using now is dark purple and I left the pocket on.  Then added a couple of tassels with beads tied around the front part of the handles. The tassels were cut from the left over sleeves. Cut them about 1″ wide then pull to make them curl.  My  grandkids use these bags as backpacks when ‘going to gramma’s house’.
     BTW, I found some tee shirts at the dollar store to make smaller purses for upcoming church bazaar.  No-sew is a good thing!

  • Mackenzie Ingle

     this sounds perfect! When i go vacationing i can pack me a few of my homemade pies! There blueberry~ :) Thankz for the idea! love it~

  • Jasmine

    LOVED this!! I was able to use a t-shirt that the boyfriend bought me awhile back that i never wore because the logo/picture was so huge that it was super unflattering..but now I have an awesome Kid Cudi bag :)

  • Veronica

    I think this person is absolutely right. I think recycling one or two sentimental shirts is a good idea but maybe donate the rest, I donate a lot of my clothes and my children’s clothes to homeless shelters and other charities that directly distribute clothes to people who need it, not salvation army or goodwill. I can see how someone who deals with a lot of poverty would see someone cutting up perfectly good shirts and have a little heartache about it.

  • anita

    Thank you so much for this idea!! I have a few autographed band tees that I have grown out of. I couldn’t even think of parting with them but this is a great way to re-use them!!

  • This is amazing! Such a fun way to re-purpose an old tee. So fast and simple, just made my very first one–way to beat boredom for a few minute at least! :)

  • I stumbled upon your website here, love the t-shirts and the idea. I however put a seam in the bottom of mine along with gussets. Used a shirt of my daughters. Great idea and great concept. Why give something like a much loved T-shirt to someone other than back to the original owner we all need nice bags to be used for one thing or another.

  • i was Stumbling and found this project, I’m so in love with this bag aka wrapping paper that I’m using for Birthdays and Christmas…Thank you!!!

  • Olivia

    I tried this and it worked SO well! It really was incredibly easy, although it did take me longer than 10 minutes. This was truly the perfect solution for a particular t-shirt that was too big for me. Thanks so much!

  • Hoping you got the info you inquired about. Blessings

  • Kayleigh Gerrard

    This would be great using yarn or ribbon to turn a tank top (UK vest) into a bag too! :) Thanks for the tutorial, just made my first one out of a top I loved the pattern of, but it was too itchy to wear!

  • her

    awesome! thanks! ;)

  • I live in Seattle, WA, and plastic bags are now being taxed. The result is more people using re-useable bags, and fewer stores even offering plastic bags at all. Its a start!

  • I am getting ready to go to a retreat for teenage girls, and this is the craft I’m bringing to teach them to do! Thank you for posting – I am giving out the web address for this as well, so you’ll get due credit! We found a great sale on brand new plain-colored Tshirts at a local outlet store – they were $.87 a piece, and when we bought 200+ of them, they gave us a discount, plus we had a 20% off coupon for our entire purchase, plus tax exempt for the organization! We got our shirts for less than $.50 a piece after all that! The girls are going to love this! No-Sew and not many supplies made it perfect for our event! I’ll update later and let you know how it went!

  • katia dimoulakou

    thanks a lot for this tutorial! I did it and it’s really very cute!

  • I found this page looking for a duct tape bag, and I think I’ll combine the two and make the bag more sturdy. Thanks for the ideas!

  • Auntie Lisa

    But who are any of you to say what someone should or should not do with their clothes. Really? If I have one hundred t shirts and I decide to make one hundred bags out of them that would be MY business because they are MY t shirts. She didn’t have to share this craft at all. Enjoy it or move on. Sheesh! (BTW~ Thanks for sharing this idea. I stumbled upon this site looking for ideas for recycling tees. :~D )

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