Bag Hag: How to Make Reusable Grocery Bags with Old T-Shirts (in 10 Minutes)

Reusable grocery bags in 10 minutes, that won’t cost you a dime? I’m in! What about you?

Closeup of an upcycled grocery tote, made with old t-shirts.

Does anyone else have an overflowing drawer of old t-shirts that have never seen the light of day? Upcycle old tees into reusable grocery bags that won’t cost you anything to make. And they’re so, so easy too. Even if you’re a total beginning sewer, you can recreate this project without any trouble. I promise.

There’s only a couple lines to be sewn to make these reusable bags for groceries and more. The rest is just clever cutting. Which means this is not only a great beginner sewing project, but also an eco-friendly (and budget-friendly) one.

Oh, and did I mention this project literally takes less than 10 minutes to make? Can’t beat that. Click through for the tutorial.

A women holding a neon green polka dot grocery bag.

A before and after photo of an old t-shirt that was made into a reusable grocery bag.

Materials for DIY Grocery Tote

  • old t-shirt
  • thread
  • sewing machine
  • scissors

Reusable Grocery Bag Instructions

1. Turn an old t-shirt inside out and sew a zigzag stitch in a straight line across the bottom of the shirt opening, 1-2 inches up from the very bottom. Backstitch at the beginning and end for extra strength.

Then, for extra strength, run over the zig zag stitch a second time. Since this bag will be used for items that can sometimes be heavy (groceries), it’s a good idea to give it that extra reinforcement with a second set of stitches.

2. To create more finished looking corners, add a zigzag stitch at a diagonal on each corner, as shown in photo. Then cut off any excess fabric.

*This step isn’t actually required, but it does make the bag a little cuter, imo. It also prevents tiny things from getting stuck in the corners of the bag, which always annoys me.

3. Next, cut off the sleeves and the neck area as shown in the photo, for a one handle option. For a two handle option, see cutting technique below.

4. Next, sew a zigzag stitch across the top, where the collar was, to create the strap.

Just like in step one, be sure to backstitch at the beginning and end and go across the stitching at least twice for extra strength.

5. Cut off excess fabric and turn the bag right side out.

What else can I make with old t-shirts?

There are honestly so many other things you can repurpose old tees for, but here are a few DIY ideas…

  • My 15 minute reusable produce bags are a great option for any kind of scrap fabric, t-shirts included. And you can toss them into your reusable grocery bag before heading to the store.
  • This DIY utensil wrap is another good one for taking reusable utensils on the go, so you can skip single use plastics, like straws and plastic silverware.
  • Last but not least, my fave project of all for reusing scrap fabric and old clothes: DIY unpaper towels. If you’re thinking about making the switch from paper towels to reusables, this easy sewing project is the way to go. And I also included a no-sew option if you’d prefer to go that route.

Steps for sewing a grocery bag from an old t-shirt.

And here’s the different handle options that you can do. Either one handle or two…

Image showing two different ways to cut a t-shirt to make a reusable shopping bag.

Use these grocery bags to replace plastic bags at the store or use them as extra storage in your car, etc to keep items from rolling around in the trunk, etc. You could even use them as a regular tote / light purse option if you’re feeling crazy.

A neon green polka dot shirt made into a tote bag.

Detail photo of striped grocery bag, made from a t-shirt.

Polka dot shopping bag, detail shot.

Woman holding a coffee and a striped grocery bag.

Before and after photo of t-shirt turned grocery tote.

DIY Reusable Grocery Bags with an Old T-Shirt

Use these grocery bags to replace plastic bags at the store or use them as extra storage in your car, etc to keep items from rolling around in the trunk, etc. You could even use them as a regular tote / light purse option if you're feeling crazy. There's only a couple lines to be sewn and the rest is just clever cutting, so this project literally takes less than 5 minutes to make.
Total Time10 mins
Keyword: diy, eco-friendly, grocery tote, sewing, t-shirt, upcycled
Servings: 1 grocery tote per t-shirt
Author: Brittni
Cost: $0

Equipment

  • sewing machine
  • Scissors

Ingredients

  • old t-shirt
  • thread

Instructions

  • Turn t-shirt inside out and sew a zigzag stitch in a straight line across the bottom of the shirt opening, 1-2 inches up from the very bottom. Backstitch at the beginning and end for extra strength. Then, for extra strength, run over the zig zag stitch a second time.
  • To create more finished looking corners, add a zigzag stitch at a diagonal on each corner, as shown in photo. Then cut off any excess fabric.
  • Next, cut off the sleeves and the neck area as shown in the photo, for a one handle option. For a two handle option, see cutting technique below.
  • Next, sew a zigzag stitch across the top, where the collar was, to create the strap. Just like in step one, be sure to backstitch at the beginning and end and go across the stitching at least twice for extra strength.
  • Cut off excess fabric and turn the bag right side out.

Notes

What else can I make with old t-shirts?

There are honestly so many other things you can repurpose old tees for, but here are a few DIY ideas...
  • My 15 minute reusable produce bags are a great option for any kind of scrap fabric, t-shirts included. And you can toss them into your reusable grocery bag before heading to the store.
  • This DIY utensil wrap is another good one for taking reusable utensils on the go, so you can skip single use plastics, like straws and plastic silverware.
  • Last but not least, my fave project of all for reusing scrap fabric and old clothes: DIY unpaper towels. If you're thinking about making the switch from paper towels to reusables, this easy sewing project is the way to go. And I also included a no-sew option if you'd prefer to go that route.
Tried this recipe?Mention @paperandstitch or tag #paperandstitch!

Sewing Liz Scoper
Model Stephanie Reagan
Photography Brittni Mehlhoff

Think you’d give this upcycled project a try? Do you have any old t-shirts in need of some repurposing?

21 comments | Click here to reply

Hi! I’m a super SUPER beginner/novice at sewing with basically no experience so I’m sorry if this question is stupid! With the one handled option I’m unsure how you are to sew that handle together. I see how to cut the sleeves off but it seems like if you just sewed the remaining piece at the back of the neck hole to the remaining piece at the front of the neck hole, they are quite different sizes (the front of the neck hole being longer because of the shape of neckline and cuts). Is this how you’re supposed to sew them together to create the single strap? Thank you so much in advance for any advice!

Christina
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