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Cloth Shopping Bags?

 
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Anyone have some pictures of your cloth shopping bags you can share?  Creative, beautiful, functional?  

 
pollinator
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I don't have pictures of them currently (I'll try to get some) and they aren't cloth, but I do make them myself and they reuse something that would ordinarily be thrown away -- empty scratch and layer hen feed bags, dog food and cat food bags. (I used to get even more variety when we still had goats.) All of the bags these days are made of the same material that plastic tarps are made from so they are super durable to hold things in (they have to be to hold 50 lbs. of assorted feeds). I just cut the tops off to make them a bit shorter, then fold and sew that cut off bit into the handles. The sack itself gets sewn into a square-bottomed shape for convenience. They hold as much or more than a normal grocery bag (the old-fashioned large paper kind) so taking a few to the store brings home a whole bunch of groceries. Best of all, they're recycled and don't end up in a landfill. I do have a lot of empty feed sacks though (hundreds collected over the last 10 years or so since feed stopped coming in paper sacks) and can't use them all as bags, so I'm considering sewing them together to make tarps or house wrap, etc. They're far too useful to throw away.
 
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Deb Stephens wrote:I don't have pictures of them currently (I'll try to get some) and they aren't cloth, but I do make them myself and they reuse something that would ordinarily be thrown away -- empty scratch and layer hen feed bags, dog food and cat food bags. ...........They're far too useful to throw away.



Deb, that is so very awesome!

I would love to see some photos!

To perhaps encourage more people to try this, can you make one or two and photograph journal the process?  We would be ever so grateful!

How long will it take a person doing it for the first time, that is very familiar with a sewing machine?

Now that you have done it a few times, how long does it take you to do "x" number??

Thanks
- C. E.
 
r ranson
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A brilliant idea!

This is going to solve a huge problem my friend's workplace is having due to the new no single-use bag policy that s coming in this summer.

Yes, please. Pretty please share photos!
 
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I'll get some pictures tonight. Me and another lady made them to sell years ago. Turns  out people won't pay 10.00 for a cloth bag, no matter how well made when they can buy a crap one for 1.00 that lasts4 months before ripping. I had no energy to market them better, I'm still using them.
 
r ranson
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A few years ago, the shops tried to give away reusable bags, but had few takers.  Now people are happy to pay between four to twenty dollars per reusable bag, depending on how good they are.

Starting in a month, the city dictates a minimum price of $1 per bag and that the bag must last a minimum of 100 uses and be washable.  Zero single use plastic bags permitted at the till.  This is a huge step for our local community.  I love the idea of having a big thread of photos of our most loved reusable bags.

 
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We love our  Trader Joes zipping freezer bags



Ours are anywhere between 7 and 10 years old, and they still work great. Some have some holes/rips along the top seams, mostly from us over-filling them. I could probably easily darn them, I just haven't gotten around to it. They insulate well, hold a lot, and are easy to carry. We have three of them, and they'll hold over half a cart of food. They also have a little pocket under the "lid" of the bag where you can put in an ice pack to keep your food cold. We would often bring some icepacks from home to put in the bags to keep them cool if we were doing an all-day shopping trip during the summer.

I'd love if they were made of natural materials, but they are really sturdy, as as I already have them, I'll probably be using them for many more years to come. If anyone were to make a zipping freezer bag out of natural materials (maybe wool for insulation?) that was nice and big and durable like these, I'd probably buy them, just to add to our collection so we can fit all of our groceries into nice, zipping, insulated bags.
 
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These are the bags that I make in the style of which you are speaking.  I would muxh rather buy feed in cloth or paper, but the plastic bags make really durable grocery/garden totes.  I typically recycle old thrift store cloth into liners with pockets and such.  They sell really well at craft shows and combined with egg sales my chickens produce income.
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Bag
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Another bag
 
Pearl Sutton
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This is one of the bags I made, out of lightweight upholstery fabric.
Finished width: 20
Finished height: 16
Gusset depth: 5
Strap length: 31
All seams rolled under for neatness, reinforced stitching

I tried to write up how to sew them, but I'm not managing it, it's not complex, but I sew like some people breathe, and am waving my hands "just do this" and it isn't coming through in words. So here are pics, an inside out one, a shot of one of the bags full of stuff (seeds!) Sorry it's stitched with white, makes it hard to see what was done there. I have put 2 gallons of water in these bags, and it carries them. I haven't managed to kill any of them, and I have abused them daily for around 10 years now.




It's possible that looking up videos of how to make a messenger bag might be similar designs.
If anyone wants, I can try to write it up, it's just hard to explain easy to see things, and I don't do video....


 
Pearl Sutton
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Christopher Owensby: NICE work!! I love them!!

Some of my bags had pockets, or zippers (or zippered pockets)lace or ribbon etc. The upholstery fabrics were bought from a place that sold to upholsterers, we bought their small cuts cheaply that others couldn't use. Learned fast to not get thick fabric, makes lovely bags but not on my small machine. Details were scraps from my stash, or thrift store finds.

We were ahead of the trend curve, when we were trying to sell them, no one was buying cloth bags, they weren't cool yet, must have been about 2004. I hate sales and my health was really bad, she was REALLY bad at it, we weren't finding anyone who liked to sell who wanted to play, so we gave it up, I'm using the stock that's left for myself, after giving away a bunch. Have never managed to rip one. I carry tools in them sometimes :)
 
Christopher Owensby
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Deb Stephens wrote:I do have a lot of empty feed sacks though (hundreds collected over the last 10 years or so since feed stopped coming in paper sacks) and can't use them all as bags, so I'm considering sewing them together to make tarps or house wrap, etc. They're far too useful to throw away.


Deb, I have a corner in the basement devoted to just storing feed bags.  By the time I get all MY empties folded and stacked, I have friends and neighbors bringing their feed sacks as well.  It is truly amazing what people will bring to you when they know you recycle.  There are so many feed sacks now that I have been considering the tarp option myself.  They definitely make good table covers for applying finish to furniture as well.
 
Deb Stephens
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Christopher Owensby wrote:

Deb Stephens wrote:I do have a lot of empty feed sacks though (hundreds collected over the last 10 years or so since feed stopped coming in paper sacks) and can't use them all as bags, so I'm considering sewing them together to make tarps or house wrap, etc. They're far too useful to throw away.


Deb, I have a corner in the basement devoted to just storing feed bags.  By the time I get all MY empties folded and stacked, I have friends and neighbors bringing their feed sacks as well.  It is truly amazing what people will bring to you when they know you recycle.  There are so many feed sacks now that I have been considering the tarp option myself.  They definitely make good table covers for applying finish to furniture as well.



Yes, it really is amazing how people will bring you things like that. We put out a call for egg cartons because we are getting something like 40 eggs a day and had no place to keep them. Now we have so many egg cartons we could use them for insulation! :) As for feed sacks, those are pretty amazing too. I constantly find new uses for them -- even sometimes using them in lieu of regular garbage bags when we have something particularly heavy or nasty that needs to be thrown away. The regular plastic bags are so flimsy, but you can really stuff these things and they won't tear. Not my favorite use for them, but good to have on rare occasions. I've opened them up to make drop cloths for painting as well -- again they hold up better than thin plastic drop cloths, they cost nothing and can be re-used for a really long time before wearing out.

I still wish feed came in paper sacks like it used to because you can always burn the paper or use it as mulch in the garden, and you don't have so much plastic going to landfills, but if it is going to be the sack of choice for the feed suppliers at least I can do my part to keep it being useful and out of the landfills (at least for a bit longer.) I'm glad you're doing the same!
 
Nicole Alderman
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My Scratch and Peck feed sacks are made of paper! I love laying them down and covering them with mulch. Hopefully they'll stay paper--since they sell organic feed, they just might!
 
r ranson
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Most of my feed sacks are paper but I found one that isn't.  

This is my first attempt at making a bag from the feed sack.  The bottom of the sack was sewn on too high, so I turned it upside down.  But then I thought it didn't look so good upside down, so I turned it inside out and finished it that way.  Not bad.  Also, this puts the smooth side on the inside.  

I'll take it to My friend's company next week and if they think it will work for their business, I'll make a better prototype and see how long it takes to make.  If it's economically feasible I'll make a bunch for them.  Too bad I just took a load to the dump.  Mixed plastic can't be recycled and we needed space.  sigh.  Isn't that always the way?
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What we have around here are boomerang bags, they are lovely hand sewn bags which hang in shops and you can borrow them and bring them back: http://boomerangbags.org/
 
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I have plenty of shopping bags, but what I'm short on are LONG produce bags.

This picture gives a start of an idea of what I like:

(From How to Go Plastic Free)

I like the light muslin or flour-sack/dish-towel-type thin cotton for produce bags similar to what's shown here. It works pretty well to keep things in the fridge. Plus, I do think the finer cotton works better than the mesh re-usable produce bags.

The thing is, most produce bags are tiny, like those in the upper right-hand corner of this picture. I like to buy BIG bundles of chard, or kale, or a BIG bunch of beets with luscious, leafy greens; or big, long, fat leeks. That means I'd rather have a sack as long as for a baguette (maybe the length in the upper left corner?) but at least three times as wide.

I have quite a few cloth bags that organic sheets came in, made out of the sheet material, that even velcro closed, but they are only long enough for short things - even scallions/green onions often stick out the end of them.

Hope I didn't go too far off-topic, R. Ohhh, what if you sold an entire handmade kit like this for someone's car - where it all snugged together just so? That would be a gift I'd buy for family and friends!

(Edited to fix zero waste/plastic free kit picture link.)
 
Nicole Alderman
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Hmmmm, I wonder if large muslin swaddle blankets could be repurposed into grocery sacks?

I got some of these swaddle blankets when my daughter was born. They are HUGE, thin, and sturdy with some stretch to them. (They have more stretch if they are put into the dryer, which tends to make them bunch up.)

I'll take a picture of one of mine hanging on the line...
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Nicole Alderman wrote:Hmmmm, I wonder if large muslin swaddle blankets could be repurposed into grocery sacks?

I got some of these swaddle blankets when my daughter was born. They are HUGE, thin, and sturdy with some stretch to them. (They have more stretch if they are put into the dryer, which tends to make them bunch up.)

I'll take a picture of one of mine hanging on the line...



Ooo, that sounds like a good size!!
 
Nicole Alderman
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My kids were all about having a photo shoot, LOL! This is one of the Swaddledesign organic swaddle blankets we got a little over 1.5 years ago. No holes or tears, despite much use!
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Here you can see how it's slightly transparent (i.e. you can see my son about to burst forth from behind it)
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And how flexible it is.
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Here you can see it compared to my 4.5 and 1.5 year olds
 
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I still remember when the flour and some feed sacks were beautiful printed fabrics.  My Grandmother made kitchen curtains and dresses for the grandkids out of them (back when girls still wore dresses to school).   Not wrinkle resistant though, they had to be ironed.  If not so prone to wrinkling, would have made great shopping bags.  

 
Pearl Sutton
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Jocelyn Campbell: Oooh, cool idea for all the bag makers! I think it would be neat to sell sets and loose sizes of useful bags! I'll keep that in mind, and pass the idea on to some others too! Me being me, and liking all the niches of things I use filled, I think I'd want some bags looser weave, some tighter, as well as different sizes, depending on what I wanted to store in them. Now you got me thinking about bag making again!
 
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I appear to have found my people!!!  <3
I live in a place where I get crazy looks for using reusable bags, but I'm hoping that within a few years plastic shopping bags will also be banned/restricted here and I'll be riding the new wave!

The bags above are great, I also have plastic dog food sacks that I hate to use just to put the trash out in, I may have to try making some of my own.

I will get my shopping bags out of the trunk of the car later and do a photo shoot, but I have canvas ones I've been using for 20+ years (and got used, so who knows how old they are), knit string bags I've made, and everything in between.

For produce, one thing I have done is occasionally purchase string bags of potatoes (onions, etc, they ones that come in nylon nets for 1 or 3 pounds, for example) and save the bags. These make great washable, reusable produce bags in the supermarket. If one day they become unusable, I can make a dish scrubby out of them, but they seem to last and last, and when they get nasty they can just be washed.
 
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Here are just a couple of bags I've made over the years. I've also made a lot from recycled denim curtains. If any of you have ever been to an Old Navy Outlet store (I worked at one) They used to have denim curtains that covered their stock above the racks. When they switched to the tarp style curtains, the manager gave me all the denim ones. I then washed and folded them in my sewing room. I used them to make shopping bags, dresses, and of course to repair jeans. The first bag is one made with some denim table covers (also from Old Navy, free) and some recycled upholstery fabric. the second bag is made with recycled coffee bags from a roaster, and some of the denim curtain material. So basically these two bags used recycled materials and cost me just the thread and time to make.
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cloth bag from recyled fabric
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bag made from recyled coffee bag
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another view of coffee bag
 
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Not a shopping bag, but a bag made for bread. I used an old cotton pillow cover (because that was the right quality of cotton, difficult to find nowadays). After sewing I rubbed it with a mixture of bees wax and some oil. As you see it's a very easy pattern
 
Tereza Okava
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okay, instead of taking pics of all my bags I present two that are really easy to make (relatively) and the one that just keeps on giving....
most veggies I can buy by the unit (head, especially) and don't need plastic bags, I just throw them in the shopping bag. You can see a string bag I knitted, a canvas one I received, and in the back there one of those nylon potato netting bags that I use for things that must be weighed.

this pic is also something I made when I was at my mother's house visiting and found a spool of garden thread. I dont have a pattern but it was surely something i found online searching "turkish stitch" and i think i made it before I learned how to knit in the round it is seamed.  (it holds soooooo much, in this case weeds I picked for the rabbits-- it would appear to be inside out. what can i say, i'm classy like that)
Ah, and the pattern for the blue bag can be found on Ravelry, I'm pretty sure. (more pics there also https://www.ravelry.com/projects/torque/the-string-bag - let me know if they can't be accessed)

I am thinking that the blue bag is at least 10 years old, the green one 13+, and that canvas one I've had since I was pregnant. My kid is 18, and the bag wasn't new when I got it.
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Ah, I have been searching for this thread, and 'voila!' someone liked my post here and up it popped. Thank you.

I ran across this really cool, international organization called Morsbags - https://www.morsbags.com/ - whose tagline is "Sociable. Guerrilla. Bagging."

(You can also find them on Facebook, here, if you do that sort of thing.)

I found them from this article, Morsbags - saving marine life one bag at a time.





The three things about Morsbags are:
1. "pods" are groups of volunteers who get together to make the bags
2. "guerilla giving" of the bags is a thing - they are never for sale
3. the morsbag label on each bag helps spread the idea

I like the idea of getting together in meat space to do something awesome like this and thought some in this thread might enjoy the idea, too. Plus, and more to the point of this thread, perhaps, those links have lots of pics of beautiful bags made by Morsbags pods. I wonder where they get the fabric. I haven't read up on more details about the group(s), though I wonder if some pods get textile cast offs from manufacturers.

On a related note, my daughter was in a 4-H sewing group for kids when she was about 8. They made bags with short handles to donate to seniors at a senior residence. The short handles made them easier to hang off a walker or wheelchair. It was a great service project.

Shout out to the plastic-free July challenge thread for even more awesome inspiration.

 
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I envy those of you who know how to sew. I never learned. However, back in the mid to late 80s when there were few offerings of reusable bags, I landed on Equinox LTD (https://www.equinoxltd.com/product/organic-canvas-grocery-bag/). I made a phone call (remember those?) to ask about the grocery bags. If I remember correctly, it was after normal working hours and I got the owner. I asked why the handles didn't go all the way down and across the bottom of the bag for strength. He said they tested them and didn't think they needed to given the strength of the cloth. Further, he said he just built a backyard grill and had carried them full of bricks. I remember stating I'd never be in that position. Anyway, I ordered some and loved them. That fall, I ordered more for Christmas gifts for everyone on our list. The bags I gave my folks have seen light duty indeed...as in almost none. But some recipients did the same thing giving them as gifts for years.

I am still using most of the bags from the original fleet as well as others I bought along the way. And carrying bricks? Oh yeah...I did that as well. I've also carried cement blocks, rocks, and any number of non-grocery items. I've broken a single handle over the years and that was because I left a bag of tools in a damp location for three years and it slightly molded and weakened the handles. I washed it and tied the handle straps together and am still using it as well. I have friends who are still using theirs from the original gifting as well.

Who knew they would last this long?

Anyway, kudos to those of you sewing bags. We have avoided countless thousands of bags over the last 30+ years with reusable bags.
 
echo minarosa
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BTW, I notioced on the Equinox site that they still have the bags they sold back then. This is what I started with ages ago and referenced above:

https://www.equinoxltd.com/product/equinox-logo-grocery-bag/

 
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I like those bags made from repurposed feed and coffee bags. The cool art is one of the most fun things about those. I would love to make some for our future farm store, and was wondering if there are any legal restrictions one needs to be aware of when making products that might show names or logos of the original business on them? Is this even something to worry about?
 
gardener
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Andrea Locke wrote:I like those bags made from repurposed feed and coffee bags. The cool art is one of the most fun things about those. I would love to make some for our future farm store, and was wondering if there are any legal restrictions one needs to be aware of when making products that might show names or logos of the original business on them? Is this even something to worry about?



I had not seen this thread earlier - I have made dozens of cloth bags till today. I might show some of them, I use them daily (also fold-up totes to stuff into your pocket when you go for a walk or have in the bike/car for unexpected shopping/foraging occasions).

Regarding your question:
This is something I would investigate further. Maybe coffee companies are not so fussy, but I know that people got into trouble when upcycling jeans and showing or selling the resulting bags with the logo still recognizable.
 
gardener
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Just prior to Covid Oregon implemented a plastic bag ban. There were a lot of creative ideas. I used the French string bags. I did see an older couple using a vintage Denver Post newspaper boy's bag The husband was loaded down by the wife and his hands were free for two extra bags. Now because of Covid we're back to plastic for safety.
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pollinator
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As for the logo, most consider it free advertising if it is UPcycling.  Vanity brands didn't like their logos on something they considered beneath them.  There are reselling rules around use of trademarks that say it has to stay in original form, yada yada.  I have heard of people getting cease and desist letters for selling on etsy.  

 
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I made a no sew purse out of a kitty litter bag. I used a food saver to do the seams. It's been a long time and I have no pics nor the bag. I don't know if it would work on the chicken feed bags or not. You are limited by size that fits in the food saver and what plastics will melt.  I may have put some seams through it more than one time. I may have run seams 1/4 inch next to another seam. It was surprisingly strong.
 
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This is my own bag which Ive made a few of over time from reclaimed fabric. It starts as a 'normal' size bag, and if you end up buying more than you expected, it grows to twice the size. A good idea pre-Christmas also for holding the longer length of wrapping paper etc
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pollinator
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When my wife and I visited Kauai the first time many years ago we discovered that plastic shopping bags had been outlawed there.  We purchased a couple of shopping bags while there and still use them today.
Since then, my wife has made many bags from all types of materials.  My favorite bags are from feed bags.
We both carry these bags in our vehicles all the time so when shopping we can use them.  I forgot them a couple weeks ago and still feel bad about having to use the plastic bags.  I asked for paper but the store did not have any.
 
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I found the book "Sew Cloth Grocery Bags" by Teresa Pechel very helpful - subtitled "Make Your Own in Quantity for Yourself, for Gifts, and for Sale". Nice cutting layouts for minimal waste, and tips for batch-sewing efficiency.
 
Becky Weisgerber
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Agh - PESCHEL, not Pechel.
 
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A quick bag, although small. Take an old pair of jeans and cut the legs off. Turn inside out and sew the cut end shut.  Sew the waist band to the hemed end to make handles and turn back right side out. These are also good without the handles to put jumper cables in your car. My mother started doing this about 70 years ago
 
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I use the chicken feed bags as liners in dog food can boxes. to put  4 # pots in to grow for the garden, also as a bag  I made to collect from the garden
 
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